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We gave you 40 places to visit in California this fall. You had opinions

Monarch butterflies cluster on tree leaves.
Monarch butterflies cling to the eucalyptus trees at the Pismo State Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove in January 2018.
(George Rose / Getty Images)

Dear readers, we are in a state of disagreement. The other day, when I pulled together my list of 40 top California destinations for fall, I left out some of your favorite places.

Bruce McDermott of Laguna Niguel wanted to see mention of the Monarch Butterfly Grove in Pismo Beach, where migration usually takes place from late October through February. Though the monarch numbers are down in recent years, McDermott writes, “thousands of butterflies are on view clinging to each other and collectively clinging to the eucalyptus trees next to the ocean.” And it’s free.

Martin Lucas of Long Beach recommended that city’s Museum of Latin American Art, where an exhibition (through January) explores the career of muralist Judy Baca, “an artistic figure that you can’t miss if you want to understand the history of the Chicano movement in Southern California.”

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A colorful painting of people walking along a path amid hills and small structures
“Migration of the Golden People” is part of the exhibition “Judy Baca: Memorias de Nuestra Tierra, a Retrospective” at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach.
(Judith F. Baca)

Bill Neil of North Hollywood proposed Amargosa Canyon, accessible by the China Ranch Trail in southeastern Inyo County. Brenda Roberts of View Park spoke up for the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach.

A masked child looks at the otter tank at the Aquarium of the Pacific.
Olivia Lakner, 5, checks out the otter tank at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Alan H. Simon of Sherman Oaks urged me to get to the Hollywood Heritage Museum.

Kenneth Fish of Huntington Beach was unhappy that his hometown apparently “doesn’t deserve a mention, even though thousands of people are here this week for the surfing championships. Have you even heard of the awesome air show coming next week?”

I had not. But now I have. And I’m reminded that the Huntington Harbour Boat Parade — a 59-year holiday tradition — takes place Dec. 11 and 12, followed by a nightly Cruise of Lights from Dec. 16-23.

Lights decorate boats for a holiday parade.
Small and large boats participated in the Huntington Harbour Boat Parade in 2020.
(Raul Roa / Los Angeles Times)

The good news is that many destinations readers are eager to visit already have prime spots on our summer outdoors top 40 list we assembled in May. Add up the lists and we have covered 80 great California places so far this year, despite everything. A winter list will follow in early December.

But wait. We have more readers to hear from.

“I won’t argue the merits of In-N-Out Burger,” writes Jon May of Lake Forest, noting its presence on the fall list. However, he continues, “I think a more unique experience is Original Tommy’s at Beverly and Rampart” — home of the chili cheeseburger — “or Philippe“ (famed for its French dip sandwiches in downtown L.A.).

Two men eat lunch at Philippe the Original.
Philippe the Original, in downtown Los Angeles, is known for its French dip sandwiches.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

It’s a good thing May chose not to argue the merits of In-N-Out, because I also heard from Elizabeth Courtney, reporting that her mother, the late architect Margaret Courtney, designed the In-N-Out headquarters, its “university” building and 28 of the chain’s restaurants.

Cynthia Schneider of Santa Monica cast a vote for Treebones Resort in Big Sur — “amazing yurts perched on a cliff over the ocean.”

John Stern of Mar Vista spoke up for the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento and suggested I try the San Diego Zoo, La Brea Tar Pits and a Venice Beach walk in fall, after summer heat has faded.

“Much more comfortable,” Stern wrote. “In fact, we were at the zoo a week ago and it was perfect weather for visiting.”

Jim Brain of Pasadena would like to direct your gaze to the Mt. Wilson Observatory in the San Gabriel Mountains. Besides the great view of the L.A. Basin, Brain writes, “the history of the 100-inch telescope is amazing. Edwin Hubble used it to discover other galaxies and was the first to witness the expanding universe.”

Meanwhile, Bob Wieting of Simi Valley looked closely at the musical bowls played as part of the sound baths at the Integratron in Landers. “Look, quartz crucibles!!” he wrote.

When not used in sound baths, Wieting said, crucibles are used in the growth of large single crystals of silicon for semiconductors and solar cells. Good to know.

Some readers weren’t satisfied at first. Robert P. Curtis, for instance, was glad to see Death Valley’s Badwater Basin on my list. But…

“How could you omit Dante’s View, which is located directly above Badwater?” Curtis asked. “The view from there and the temperature change (cooler) is amazing. One shouldn’t see one without the other.”

Jeremy Saraie of Los Angeles wrote to say, “I loved your fall 40 things to do list in yesterday’s Times. Honestly, as a lifelong Californian, reading through it made me quite emotional. Death Valley, North Beach, Union Station — all places I love dearly and have a fond place in my heart.”

That said, Saraie does have another spot to suggest: The Sea Ranch, in Sonoma County, a private residential (and vacation rental) area designed in the ’60s to be sensitive to its coastal setting but nevertheless spurred controversy over development and public access.

“To me, the fact that there are these debates about land use — even in a place where people so naturally mesh with their surroundings — is quintessentially Californian,” Saraie wrote. “I love walking around Sea Ranch and thinking about these things or just looking into the water. It is a mystifying place.”

And as it turns out, the updated Sea Ranch Lodge is to reopen in coming months. I might need to take a look.


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