Best of the West: 10 trips that made my 2021 better

A vintage car traveling a road map.
(Illustration by Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images)

Like a lot of people, I mostly stayed within 500 miles of home this year.

However, my job is telling you about travel in the West, so I did wind up on a canoe in Yurok waters and at the outdoor bar at Pappy & Harriet’s in Pioneertown and ... well, I saw enough to put together a Top 10 list. Here are my favorite discoveries of the year, all of which are ripe for visits in 2022. They all include consumer tips.

Feel free to head to any of the photos or headlines below that speak loudly to you — or linger another moment for a quick preview of travel tips tucked into those stories.

The Tahoe road trip story tells you about the striking log cabin/industrial chic design of the Cedar House Sport Hotel in Truckee. In the Las Vegas piece, you hear about the new energy that the Circa Resort (opened in late 2020) has brought to the downtown area. From the Northern California story, you get details on great meals I had at the Boonville General Store (lunch, Boonville) and Fog Eater Cafe (dinner, Mendocino) and the lively new scene developing among the restaurants, bars and lodgings that line Fort Bragg’s gritty Noyo Harbor.

The San Francisco article points you toward the Japanese Tea Garden and SkyStar Ferris wheel in Golden Gate Park. The Europe-in-L.A. list is a celebration of locations designed to remind you of the continent, including Venice Beach and the big Burbank Ikea. (Since that piece came out, you’ll be happy to know that jousting has resumed at Medieval Times in Buena Park.)

The Skunk Train Railbike story is about a new way to roll through the Mendocino County forest — modified bikes on railroad tracks. The collection of desert photos shows just how much strangeness you can find in 48 hours out there. The college tour zooms through 11 nearly empty California campuses. In the Yurok canoe article, I tell how the Yurok people in Del Norte County have begun taking summertime visitors for cultural tours in hand-carved redwood canoes on the Klamath River. And the Bridge-to-Nowhere piece is an account of what to expect on the 10-mile round-trip hike to a lonely, idle bridge in the San Gabriel Mountains.