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Explore the best of the West with these extraordinary experiences

Things to do along the West Coast — the best coast.
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Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Saturday, May 18. Here’s what you need to know to start your weekend:

Why the West Coast is the best coast

Long sandy beaches, expansive deserts, theme parks, snowcapped peaks, Chinatowns, hot springs, seals that bask on cityside piers, glacial lakes, tacos and forests that stay green all year long.

Those are just a few things that make the West Coast the best coast.

There’s something for everybody here, but only if you know where to look. And in the expansive (and expensive) thousands of miles from British Columbia down to Baja California, it can be overwhelming to start.

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Until now.

My colleague Christopher Reynolds and contributor Elisa Parhad put together a list of 101 best West Coast experiences to help you make the most of this coast.

You won’t find the usual Southland suspects on the list (Disneyland, the Getty or Santa Monica Pier, for example).

Instead, you will learn about destinations you’ve always wanted to visit or revisit, such as Carpinteria, where you can nuzzle an alpaca, or Seattle, where you can zip to the top of the Space Needle. Plus dozens you’ve never heard of.

A woman snuggles up to an alpaca
Alpacas, originally from South America, are stars of the tour at Canzelle Alpaca Farm in Carpinteria. Tour guide Karen Putnam shows the animals’ gentle side.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Christopher and Elisa included a helpful map to go along with the list. You can filter experiences by neighborhoods and categories (including entertainment, parks and trails, restaurants, shopping and travel). You can even sort by distance based on your location to find what perfectly meets your needs.

Ready to hit the road? Our features team created a downloadable checklist so you can keep track of your adventures. And in case you have a favorite adventure that didn’t make the list, we’d love to hear about it.

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If the map and list are still too overwhelming, we’ve got a cheat code for you: start your journey with Christopher’s top 10 list of the best of the West.

But wait, there’s more.

Add our 36-page zine “West Coast 101” to your library. You’ll find recommendations for the most inspiring and fascinating things to do on the West Coast. It’s the perfect size to pack in your travel bag and includes a checklist to mark off your adventures.

Newspaper photo cover and zine cover showing outdoor photography on a blue background with star illustrations and a stamp
(Lettering and illustrations by Jacky Sheridan; Los Angeles Times)

Here are just a few experiences to look forward to on our list:

  • Commune with whales in a Baja lagoon.
  • Thumb through pages at Bart’s Books under an open sky in Ojai.
  • Roam the electric superbloom that is Sensorio in Paso Robles.
  • Stand on a rim of a sleeping volcano at Crater Lake.
  • Soak in a floating hot tub in Seattle.
  • Tiptoe high above a misty forest on the Capilano Suspension Bridge in Vancouver.

The week’s biggest stories

A microscope image of H5N1 virus particles
A microscope image of avian influenza A H5N1 virus particles, in gold, grown in Madin-Darby canine kidney epithelial cells, in green.
(CDC Public Health Image Library)

Climate and environment

Campus protests

Crime and courts

More big stories

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Column One

Column One is The Times’ home for narrative and long-form journalism. Here’s a great piece from this week:

A photo illustration to reflect the economic state of restaurants in L.A.
(Holly Andres/For The Times)

The shocking state of the restaurant industry: ‘We can’t afford to be open. We can’t afford to be closed.’ The industry is facing a crisis as new legislation, inflation, higher wages and pandemic fallout have chefs and owners worried for the future of mom-and-pop restaurants.

More great reads


How can we make this newsletter more useful? Send comments to essentialcalifornia@latimes.com.

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For your weekend

Two women smile and clink their drink glasses together
Not far from Cal State Long Beach, Selva is fit for a celebratory meal with plenty of seating and a menu that blends Colombian and Californian flavors.
(Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times)

Going out

Staying in

How well did you follow the news this week? Take our quiz.

A collection of photos from this week's news quiz.
(Times staff and wire photos)

Which summer was the hottest in 2,000 years? Plus nine other questions from our weekly news quiz.

Have a great weekend, from the Essential California team

Kevinisha Walker, multiplatform editor
Christian Orozco, assistant editor
Karim Doumar, head of newsletters

Check our top stories, topics and the latest articles on latimes.com.

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