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368 posts
  • Family-friendly
  • L.A. County
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Why: It's the oldest surviving Bob's Big Boy. And no matter when you're reading this, it's open right now.

What: This Bob's opened in 1949, a gleaming, swooping, loopily grinning example of Googie architecture. Architect Wayne McAllister did dozens of Western restaurants and hotels in the same spirit, most gone now. 

But the building is just part of the fun. On Fridays (4 p.m. to 10 p.m.), its parking lot fills with classic-car lovers and their vehicles, offering a great throwback view of California car culture.

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(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Why: There's no better place to plot your Santa Barbara wine country adventure and -- if you're a carnivore -- sample steaks cooked Santa Maria style, over oak.

What: If you've seen the 2004 movie "Sideways," you might recognize this spot, a Buellton fixture since 1986. Besides a formidable list of local wines, the Hitching Post II features a long list of steaks, cooking according to Ostini family custom.

And outside, sprinkled between the horse farms and country-gentleman estates, more than 100 wineries and tasting rooms await. The region's wine boosters have organized nine routes for tasting that include Solvang, Buellton, Lompoc, Santa Ynez, Santa Maria, Los Olivos, Foxen Canyon and the Santa Rita Hills.

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  • Central Valley
Buck Owens' Crystal Palace.
Buck Owens' Crystal Palace. (Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Why: Not only does this place feature both kinds of music (country and western), it reminds the world how much the gritty, twangy Bakersfield sound has contributed to country music.

What: Buck Owens, who scored more than a dozen hit songs in the 1960s and co-starred on TV's "Hee Haw" for 17 years, opened this place in the 1990s as a concert venue, theater, museum, bar and restaurant.

It's had ups and downs since then -- Owens died in 2006 -- but it endures as a freeway-friendly destination (don't miss the big, bold BAKERSFIELD sign over Sillect Avenue)  for country diners and drinkers who don't want too much honky-tonk grit. Its Wild West-dinner-theater design includes a balcony level, dance floor and live music most nights. Cowboy hats and boots abound. 

  • Family-friendly
  • Central Coast
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Why: Land and sea meet splendidly here, with jutting rocks, hanging fog, shrieking gulls and sometimes backstroking sea otters.

What: The 17-Mile Drive at Pebble Beach has been a tourist attraction since the 1880s. The drawback has always been that it's a private road, so you have to pay $10 to drive it. And motorcycles are banned entirely. But wait.

Pebble Beach management allows bicyclists to ride the same route at no cost. And so, astride a rental from Bay Bikes or Adventures by the Sea by the aquarium in Monterey, you'll glide past sights including the Pebble Beach golf course; plenty of tide pools; perhaps some deer; and the Lone Cypress, longtime icon of the resort. The tree has lasted at least 120 years with a sea-lashed rocky outcropping as its pedestal. It even has its own parking area and viewing platform.

(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Why: In 2008, this quintessential California hippie band put its history in the hands of UC Santa Cruz's McHenry Library, and the public is invited to look and listen.

(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

What: The Grateful Dead Archive, also known as Dead Central, begins with an exhibition room, which in January featured scores of photos from the band's early days in the mid-'60s and a set of life-sized marionettes that starred in the band's first music video, "Touch of Grey" (1987). Don't miss the sculpture of the late guitarist Jerry Garcia's right hand, which is famously missing a finger. 

Then head upstairs to the library's Special Collections department, where more Dead treasures (including a tie-dyed T-shirt and a plush dancing bear) take up an estimated 500 linear feet of shelf space.

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  • Family-friendly
  • Central Coast
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Why: Some people come for the soup because they had it as kids 50 years ago. But you don't have to love the soup. Come, irony-loving millennials, for the classic kitschiness of it all. Or come, my fellow skinflints of all ages, for the adjacent inn's room rates starting at just $71 a night in the heart of pricey Santa Barbara wine country. In nearby downtown Los Olivos, you could probably spend that much on a bottle opener.

What: As California roadside attractions go, Andersen's Pea Soup is a beloved senior citizen. It opened in 1924. Beyond its original Buellton location, it has another (with a windmill) off Interstate 5 on State Route 33 at Santa Nella, and once there were restaurants in Carlsbad and Mammoth too.

The key elements here are the soup (waitress Tina Perez estimates 400 gallons are served on a busy day); the shiny copper-topped counters; the kid-oriented gift shop; and of course Hap-pea and Pea-wee, the chisel-and-mallet-wielding cartoon pea-splitters that personify the place.

  • S.F. Bay Area
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Why: In a food-obsessed city, no venue is foodier than this. Nice ocean breezes out back too.

What: From 1898 until the Bay Bridge connected San Francisco to Oakland in the 1930s, San Francisco's Ferry Building was a twice-daily stop for every trans-bay commuter. Then things got slow for 60 or 70 years.

But in 2003, the building had grown into a new life as a foodie haven, its long halls full of artisan shops and restaurants. Don't expect low prices, but do expect good quality and variety.

  • Central Coast
Halter Ranch tasting room.
Halter Ranch tasting room. (Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Why: The rolling hills around Paso Robles, once known for cattle, grain and almonds, are all about assiduously pampered grapes now, and the reputation of these vineyards and wineries keeps growing.

(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

What: More than 200 wineries dot those hills, so you could spend days tasting. (Preferably not August days, which often approach 100 degrees.) The Paso Robles viticultural area is known for Bordeaux, Rhone and Zinfandel varietals.

If you do a weekend, two good tasting-room bets are Halter Ranch Vineyard (20 minutes from downtown with a sleek, spacious tasting room that opened in 2016); and Derby Wine Estates, which opened in 2014 in downtown's historic and long-idle Almond Growers warehouse building (a.k.a. the Farmers' Alliance Building), built in 1922.

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Apple store, Infinite Loop, Cupertino.
Apple store, Infinite Loop, Cupertino. (Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Why: The shop at Apple's corporate headquarters carries goods you don't see in every other Apple store. Your geeky friends may go green with envy.

What: Apple headquarters in Cupertino -- an oval-shaped constellation of buildings known as Infinite Loop -- is closed to the public, except for its retail shop. But that shop carries a special reward for the free-spending, brand-loving faithful: Apple-branded shirts, mugs, pens and thermoses that other Apple stores don't carry. The style: sleek and minimalist, of course. 

T-shirts, Apple store, Cupertino.
T-shirts, Apple store, Cupertino. (Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

This store has continued to stock these items since a redesign in 2015 that substantially slimmed down its inventory. There's no word on what will happen when the company opens its new circular Campus 2, a mile east. It's due for completion in 2017 and is expected to complement the existing campus at 1 Infinite Loop.

  • Family-friendly
  • Central Coast
Aebleskiver, Solvang Restaurant, Solvang.
Aebleskiver, Solvang Restaurant, Solvang. (Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Why: A tennis-ball size dollop of dough. Some raspberry jam. And outside, a dusting of powdered sugar. This is no mere collection of calories. It's cultural.

What: Arne's Aebleskiver, the dessert described above, is a big draw at the Solvang Restaurant (and elsewhere in Solvang) because it's tasty and because it's an emblem of Solvang's enduring Danish history. 

This dates to 1911, when immigrant Danish educators put down stakes. Over time, the theme proved a big lure for tourists.