Ready For A Vacation?

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The kids are back in school, perhaps your relatives and friends have left and soon the summer mood will change to a more normal lifestyle. Everyone else has had their vacation, now it's your turn!

The question is, where to go and what to do?

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The grand Golden Gate Bridge welcomes visitors from all over the world to ever-popular San Francisco.

If you are thinking of staying fairly close to home, consider California. September and October are some of the best months for good weather.

Start in San Diego with its great beaches, fantastic downtown area and the many attractions available to you. Every day there is something interesting happening.

Old Town is loaded with interesting restaurants and shops and is good for a late afternoon and evening. There is always some entertainment happening and the area makes for good, easy fun.

Balboa Park is another fascinating destination and close to downtown. There are several museums, great walking paths and the famous zoo is nearby. On Sunday afternoons, a pipe organ concert is presented in an outdoor theater.

Farther up the so-called "gold coast" are several charming coastal towns with activities you might enjoy and there are some nice motels and hotels to stay in for a couple of nights.

Long Beach has become a destination with many attractions, including the Queen Mary, which recently came under new ownership and has been refurbished. Stay a night in the old ship for a different experience.

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A trip to San Francisco almost requires a ride on the famed cable cars.

Los Angeles has everything. Whatever your interests are, you will find them in L.A. -- music, theater, museums, movie studios, television shows, perfect beaches, mountains and great weather. Go nuts eating different ethnic foods and enjoy evening theater. If you go deluxe, stay in Beverly Hills and share the rarified air of the movie stars, or stay along the beach in a fine resort, perhaps in Santa Monica.

Heading north out of Los Angeles, take Highway 101. Stop in Santa Barbara for lunch and then continue north to Cambria and San Simeon for a stop at Hearst's Castle. Take at least one tour here to get a general overview of this genuine castle the newspaper publisher created. There is the main structure housing many rooms for living, dining and social areas, plus indoor and outdoor swimming pools. There are also several guest cottages. And at one time, Hearst had a rather large zoo. It's all set in the rolling central coastal area, about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Nearby is San Luis Obispo, which in recent years has come into its own. It has enjoyed much growth and has a fine college, interesting shops and dining. You might consider staying a night in this area.

I have yet to mention the great wineries you will pass as you leave Santa Barbara heading north -- if you enjoy wines, stop at one or two of these and do some tasting.

North of San Luis Obispo the scenery becomes greener as you continue driving through the rolling coastal hills.

San Francisco is one of the favorite vacation destinations for travelers all over the world. Here you have an eastern-looking city in the west, wrapped around one of the greatest bays in America. If you like seafood, this is the place!

One evening go to Fisherman's Wharf and enjoy cracked crab or other fresh seafood delights. It's all wonderful. From the restaurant window you'll see the fishing boats pull in, delivering the day's catch. Nearby will be passenger and cargo ships entering the bay to find their way to the docks. San Francisco is built on hills and around almost every corner is something of interest. There is entertainment of amazing variety and interesting shops and restaurants everywhere. Italian and Chinese cuisines are a specialty in this city.

On the way home, if traveling by car, schedule a stop at Lake Tahoe. Seeing those crystal-clear waters is a must. The North Lake Tahoe-Truckee area is in the Sierra Nevada range, about 200 miles northeast of San Francisco, off I-80. In September, the crowds should be diminished, so a day or two in the area would be a pleasure.

Consider staying at the Cedar House Sport Hotel. It is European in style and less than a mile from Historic Downtown Truckee. Another good spot to stop for a stay is the Resort and Squaw Creek. Both places have Web sites where more details can be found.

On the lake you can rent boats or a kayak, or just drive along the shore and stop from time to time to enjoy the fantastic mountain scenery.

Tahoe is only an hour away from Reno, where you might stop for a little gambling and a show or two. Then you might wander on down to Las Vegas for some more of the same.

It is all out there for the taking.

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