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Where to Go for a California Summer Adventure

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This advertising content was produced in collaboration between Vox Creative and our sponsor, without involvement from Vox Media editorial staff.

Tourists come to California seeking surf, sand, and sun, but natives know there is so much more to the Golden State than the (albeit stunning) coastline. From hot springs to pristine lakes, challenging trails to looming rock formations, California’s outdoors are a force to be reckoned with. Cap it off with perfect summer weather — brisk, cooler days in the northern half of the state, ocean breezes and sunny skies to the south — and it should be no surprise why Californians choose to spend their hard-earned summer days outdoors.

No matter where you live, there’s ample opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy all that the state has to offer. Choose your own California adventure: farmer’s markets, concerts, hiking, snorkeling, surfing, bonfires, and more await you. Grab a Peet’s Cold Brew and fuel up for your next outdoor adventure.

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1. Orr Hot Springs Resort

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13201 Orr Springs Rd
Ukiah, CA

Deep into the Big River valley in Mendocino County, Orr Hot Springs Resort checks off many natural retreat boxes. It has not only two hot mineral pools and two private tubs, but also a cold spring-fed pool and sauna and steam rooms. It offers day passes at more affordable prices than the posh spas in the area (score), but you can also stay overnight in a Middle Earth-esque yurt. It remains WiFi-free, so you can best unplug and admire the thick woods and abundant landscaping around you. (And it’s clothing-optional — but we’ll let you decide whether that’s a pro or a con.)

Orr Hot Springs Resort

2. Tomales Bay Oyster Company

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15479 Hwy 1
Marshall, CA
(415) 663-1242
Visit Website

Tomales Bay Oyster Company embodies all the classics of a San Francisco summer: road tripping, picnicking, bay views, and a seafood-driven mission. From the city center, the 50-mile pilgrimage ends with 12- or 50-piece bags of blue mussels, manila clams, and Pacific, Kumamoto, and gold nugget oysters. It’s a shuck-your-own situation in the company’s waterfront picnic area, with oyster knives, shucking gloves, sauces, and lemons also available for purchase if you don’t bring your own.

3. Mission Dolores Park

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Dolores St
San Francisco, CA

No San Francisco summer is complete without at least one picnic at the at the 16-acre Mission Dolores Park. It’s got the ideal skyline views and a fantastic cross-section of hipsters, families, dog walkers, and everyone in between. It’s easy to pick up provisions like a Peet’s cold brew on the surrounding streets — though enterprising individuals often sell the likes of pizza, cookies, “special” truffles and brownies, and all manner of beverages in the park itself.

4. Tilden Regional Park

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Canon Dr
Kensington, CA
(510) 525-2233
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The active Californians know to hit the trails in Tilden Regional Park, in East Bay. Its 2,079 impressive acres encompass nearly 40 miles of trails — not just for hikers and bikers but for horses too. On the west side of the park, Lake Anza offers a beach area for lounging and swimming as well as quieter areas for fishing. When you work up an appetite at the end of a whirlwind day? Fire up a grill at one of the 10-plus reservable picnic areas.

5. Off the Grid: Picnic in The Presidio

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Main Post
San Francisco, CA

San Francisco's most popular street food collective is back with weekly Sunday celebrations at the Presidio. Cycle over to the park, take advantage of the free bike valet, then make a day out of eating your way through the event's 26 vendors — this year including Sam's Chowder, Cochon Volant, DUM Truck, and Grilled Cheez Guy, among others. And don't forget Presidio Twilight on Thursdays, a similar but somewhat more grown-up evening affair with fire pits, more eats and live music, and stargazing.

6. Santa Catalina Island

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(310) 510-1520
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Catalina Island may just be your best bet for a day trip. Grab a cold brew on the go and get there on a roughly hour-long ride on the Catalina Express. The city of Avalon is just two square miles, which means you can hit up all the best spots without a car — or, if you’re in the mood, a golf cart. Off the streets, there’s kayak, zipline, glass bottom, and jeep tours to keep you busy for a full day outdoors.

7. Laguna Beach

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While the Main Beach area has the densest concentration of shops and restaurants in this nine mile-long waterfront, coves like Crescent and Victoria Beaches are the quieter local favorites. Time your visit to the summer’s many art festivals and walks to get in some shopping and browsing after a refreshing swim in the Pacific.

8. Mar Vista Farmers Market

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Venice Bl
Los Angeles, CA
(310) 861-4444
Visit Website

This sizeable Sunday farmer’s market could be better described as a carnival, with DJs dropping beats, storytelling and workshops for children, and festivals like the Birthdaypalooza market anniversary celebration every August. You'll find virtually everything that comes to mind when you think of Californian farms here: organic produce, grass-fed meats, cheeses and honeys, and fresh flowers. If you’re not ready to head back after stocking up for the week, hit up one of the many food trucks and vendors and eat your lunch outside.

9. Dockweiler State Beach

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12501 Vista del Mar
Playa del Rey, CA
(310) 305-9523
Visit Website

While this stretch of coast may not be as well-manicured as others, it offers two things that most other beaches in the county do not: bonfires and grill space. That said, most spots on Dockweiler’s 288 acres are great for its other main draw: watching flights take off and land at Los Angeles International Airport, which lies just to the east.

10. Joshua Tree National Park

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Joshua Tree National Park is a local favorite for the outdoorsy type, thanks to its diverse and craggy terrain. The landscape is easily explored via hiking, climbing, mountain biking, and slacklining. Thanks to its dark desert skies, it’s also one of the best hidden gems for stargazing at night.

11. La Jolla Shores Beach

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La Jolla Shores
San Diego, CA

Clear, gentle waters and soft, powdery sand is a winning combo that makes the mile-long La Jolla Shores and the neighboring cove a local favorite for lounging and snorkeling or scuba diving alike. Much of the area off the shore is designated as an underwater park reserve, with leopard sharks, sting rays, and a whole lot of fish sharing the ocean with humans.

12. Ocean Beach

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(619) 269-2380
Visit Website

Let the tourists crowd the rest of the San Diego coastline — and instead, head to the eclectic, and quieter, Ocean Beach. A California burrito from Nico’s or a pie from Pizza Port is the perfect way to fuel a good surf or a long stroll down the pier extending 1,971 feet into the ocean. When the tide is low, it’s not hard to find anemones, hermit crabs, starfish, and colorful algae in the tide pools.

13. Humphreys Concerts By the Bay

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2241 Shelter Island Dr
San Diego, CA
(619) 224-3577
Visit Website

Humphreys Concerts by the Bay is a summer favorite for good reason — who wouldn't enjoy open-air concerts by the Shelter Island marina? If a crowded lawn isn’t your thing (or if tickets sell out fast), there’s still a very San Diego way to enjoy the music: kayaking, rafting, or sailing up with a mini-cooler (not allowed on concert grounds). After all, it’s not a bad way to enjoy a live show.

14. Balboa Park

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1549 El Prado
San Diego, CA
(619) 239-0512
Visit Website

Balboa Park is no ordinary swath of urban landscaping, thanks to the famed San Diego Zoo on the grounds, nearly 20 museums, and stately Spanish colonial architecture on its 1,200-acre grounds. There’s plenty to explore in the park, but on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday summer evenings, it’s also one of the city’s hottest spots for catching an outdoor concert.

15. TJ Oyster Bar

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4246 Bonita Rd
Bonita, CA
(619) 267-4577
Visit Website

Halfway between San Diego and the Mexican border, TJ Oyster Bar serves up some of the best fish tacos that you’ll find on the U.S. side of the border. Whether that’s because the owners first found success with a ceviche tostadas and fish tacos cart in Tijuana or because the no-frills establishment simply lets its seafood take the spotlight is beside the point. Opt for the 99-cent fried fish tacos for affordability or the slightly more expensive grilled fish version for a smoky upgrade. And the true locals know that when seating is scarce, it’s best to bring your takeout to Rohr Park across the road.

This advertising content was produced in collaboration between Vox Creative and our sponsor, without involvement from Vox Media editorial staff.

1. Orr Hot Springs Resort

13201 Orr Springs Rd, Ukiah, CA
Orr Hot Springs Resort

Deep into the Big River valley in Mendocino County, Orr Hot Springs Resort checks off many natural retreat boxes. It has not only two hot mineral pools and two private tubs, but also a cold spring-fed pool and sauna and steam rooms. It offers day passes at more affordable prices than the posh spas in the area (score), but you can also stay overnight in a Middle Earth-esque yurt. It remains WiFi-free, so you can best unplug and admire the thick woods and abundant landscaping around you. (And it’s clothing-optional — but we’ll let you decide whether that’s a pro or a con.)

13201 Orr Springs Rd
Ukiah, CA

2. Tomales Bay Oyster Company

15479 Hwy 1, Marshall, CA

Tomales Bay Oyster Company embodies all the classics of a San Francisco summer: road tripping, picnicking, bay views, and a seafood-driven mission. From the city center, the 50-mile pilgrimage ends with 12- or 50-piece bags of blue mussels, manila clams, and Pacific, Kumamoto, and gold nugget oysters. It’s a shuck-your-own situation in the company’s waterfront picnic area, with oyster knives, shucking gloves, sauces, and lemons also available for purchase if you don’t bring your own.

15479 Hwy 1
Marshall, CA

3. Mission Dolores Park

Dolores St, San Francisco, CA

No San Francisco summer is complete without at least one picnic at the at the 16-acre Mission Dolores Park. It’s got the ideal skyline views and a fantastic cross-section of hipsters, families, dog walkers, and everyone in between. It’s easy to pick up provisions like a Peet’s cold brew on the surrounding streets — though enterprising individuals often sell the likes of pizza, cookies, “special” truffles and brownies, and all manner of beverages in the park itself.

Dolores St
San Francisco, CA

4. Tilden Regional Park

Canon Dr, Kensington, CA

The active Californians know to hit the trails in Tilden Regional Park, in East Bay. Its 2,079 impressive acres encompass nearly 40 miles of trails — not just for hikers and bikers but for horses too. On the west side of the park, Lake Anza offers a beach area for lounging and swimming as well as quieter areas for fishing. When you work up an appetite at the end of a whirlwind day? Fire up a grill at one of the 10-plus reservable picnic areas.

Canon Dr
Kensington, CA

5. Off the Grid: Picnic in The Presidio

Main Post, San Francisco, CA

San Francisco's most popular street food collective is back with weekly Sunday celebrations at the Presidio. Cycle over to the park, take advantage of the free bike valet, then make a day out of eating your way through the event's 26 vendors — this year including Sam's Chowder, Cochon Volant, DUM Truck, and Grilled Cheez Guy, among others. And don't forget Presidio Twilight on Thursdays, a similar but somewhat more grown-up evening affair with fire pits, more eats and live music, and stargazing.

Main Post
San Francisco, CA

6. Santa Catalina Island

Avalon, CA

Catalina Island may just be your best bet for a day trip. Grab a cold brew on the go and get there on a roughly hour-long ride on the Catalina Express. The city of Avalon is just two square miles, which means you can hit up all the best spots without a car — or, if you’re in the mood, a golf cart. Off the streets, there’s kayak, zipline, glass bottom, and jeep tours to keep you busy for a full day outdoors.

7. Laguna Beach

Redondo Beach, CA

While the Main Beach area has the densest concentration of shops and restaurants in this nine mile-long waterfront, coves like Crescent and Victoria Beaches are the quieter local favorites. Time your visit to the summer’s many art festivals and walks to get in some shopping and browsing after a refreshing swim in the Pacific.

8. Mar Vista Farmers Market

Venice Bl, Los Angeles, CA

This sizeable Sunday farmer’s market could be better described as a carnival, with DJs dropping beats, storytelling and workshops for children, and festivals like the Birthdaypalooza market anniversary celebration every August. You'll find virtually everything that comes to mind when you think of Californian farms here: organic produce, grass-fed meats, cheeses and honeys, and fresh flowers. If you’re not ready to head back after stocking up for the week, hit up one of the many food trucks and vendors and eat your lunch outside.

Venice Bl
Los Angeles, CA

9. Dockweiler State Beach

12501 Vista del Mar, Playa del Rey, CA

While this stretch of coast may not be as well-manicured as others, it offers two things that most other beaches in the county do not: bonfires and grill space. That said, most spots on Dockweiler’s 288 acres are great for its other main draw: watching flights take off and land at Los Angeles International Airport, which lies just to the east.

12501 Vista del Mar
Playa del Rey, CA

10. Joshua Tree National Park

Twentynine Palms, CA

Joshua Tree National Park is a local favorite for the outdoorsy type, thanks to its diverse and craggy terrain. The landscape is easily explored via hiking, climbing, mountain biking, and slacklining. Thanks to its dark desert skies, it’s also one of the best hidden gems for stargazing at night.

11. La Jolla Shores Beach

La Jolla Shores, San Diego, CA

Clear, gentle waters and soft, powdery sand is a winning combo that makes the mile-long La Jolla Shores and the neighboring cove a local favorite for lounging and snorkeling or scuba diving alike. Much of the area off the shore is designated as an underwater park reserve, with leopard sharks, sting rays, and a whole lot of fish sharing the ocean with humans.

La Jolla Shores
San Diego, CA

12. Ocean Beach

San Diego, CA

Let the tourists crowd the rest of the San Diego coastline — and instead, head to the eclectic, and quieter, Ocean Beach. A California burrito from Nico’s or a pie from Pizza Port is the perfect way to fuel a good surf or a long stroll down the pier extending 1,971 feet into the ocean. When the tide is low, it’s not hard to find anemones, hermit crabs, starfish, and colorful algae in the tide pools.

13. Humphreys Concerts By the Bay

2241 Shelter Island Dr, San Diego, CA

Humphreys Concerts by the Bay is a summer favorite for good reason — who wouldn't enjoy open-air concerts by the Shelter Island marina? If a crowded lawn isn’t your thing (or if tickets sell out fast), there’s still a very San Diego way to enjoy the music: kayaking, rafting, or sailing up with a mini-cooler (not allowed on concert grounds). After all, it’s not a bad way to enjoy a live show.

2241 Shelter Island Dr
San Diego, CA

14. Balboa Park

1549 El Prado, San Diego, CA

Balboa Park is no ordinary swath of urban landscaping, thanks to the famed San Diego Zoo on the grounds, nearly 20 museums, and stately Spanish colonial architecture on its 1,200-acre grounds. There’s plenty to explore in the park, but on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday summer evenings, it’s also one of the city’s hottest spots for catching an outdoor concert.

1549 El Prado
San Diego, CA

15. TJ Oyster Bar

4246 Bonita Rd, Bonita, CA

Halfway between San Diego and the Mexican border, TJ Oyster Bar serves up some of the best fish tacos that you’ll find on the U.S. side of the border. Whether that’s because the owners first found success with a ceviche tostadas and fish tacos cart in Tijuana or because the no-frills establishment simply lets its seafood take the spotlight is beside the point. Opt for the 99-cent fried fish tacos for affordability or the slightly more expensive grilled fish version for a smoky upgrade. And the true locals know that when seating is scarce, it’s best to bring your takeout to Rohr Park across the road.

4246 Bonita Rd
Bonita, CA