In California
Lonely Planet names Top 5 Secret Escapes
The variety of travel destinations in California  1continues to draw huge numbers of tourists each year and the Central Coast has to be among the favorite areas to explore. It's also where you can find the Top 5 secret weekend escapes in California, as recently announced by Lonely Planet.

As Lonely Planet says, "these local favorites are long overdue to emerge from the shadows of their famous neighbors - and, heaven help us, give Californians something else to brag about."

So what are the Top 5 secret weekend escapes in California?

Number 1 is Pacific Grove, near Monterey. Believe it or not, Monarch butterflies flock to the seaside village of Pacific Grove from as far away as the Rocky Mountains. But it's not all butterflies -- Lonely Planet names some great places to enjoy some exceptional food such as Vivolo's Chowder House, where you can enjoy the pan-roasted Monterey sand dab sandwich for under $10. "Blue Bottle Coffee awaits at Happy Girl Kitchen, where you can also take a pickling class or buy cardamom-infused pickled beets ready-made. At Tessuti Zoo boutique, no aquarium is necessary for octopus cocktail rings and African-print angelfish hand-sewn on the premises." Of course nearby is Pebble Beach Golf Course and the beauty of the ocean as seen from 17 Mile Drive -- worth a visit just for the scenery.

Number 2 is the Carmel Valley. Lonely Planet admits the area has gotten a little touristy, but "Carmel's rugged attractions remain, from the wind-sculpted Lone Cypress to Tor House , the stone tower and cottage hand-built by California's original nature poet, Robinson Jeffers. Photographers have obsessively captured Carmel's silvery coastal light for a century, notably in stunning prints by Edward Weston, Ansel Adams and Imogen Cunningham shown at Carmel's Photography West." Take the drive on Carmel Valley Road and enjoy the vineyards and foothills. There's lot to see and do in and near Carmel.

Number 3 is South Big Sur, where "Pacific Highway 1 skitters across narrow Bixby Bridge and twists along Big Sur's sheer sea cliffs. Redwood forests shade miles of protected parkland past Big Sur Village, building scenic drama to a coastal crescendo 12 miles south at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Turning sharply into a cove, Highway 1 suddenly reveals McWay Falls dropping 80 feet onto a cliff-lined beach."

Number 4 is Cambria, an incredibly beautiful little town near the famous Hearst Castle. Tourists flock to the area to see the castle -- once home to media magnate William Randolph Hearst -- but part of the fun is staying in town for awhile with perhaps an oceanfront lodging in Cambria. The shopping here is interesting, too: "There must be something in the water in tiny, creative Cambria village," Lonely Plannet says, "where you can browse locally hand-blown glass at Seekers Gallery, enjoy cross-cultural organic cooking in the garden at Robin's Restaurant, and hear acoustic soul fireside at Cambria Pines Lodge."

Number 5 is Paso Robles Wine Country, according to Lone Planet. The Santa Barbara wine country had its breakout when it was featured some years back in the movie Sideways and there's no denying the area is a wine-lover's paradise. But Paso Robles is more hidden and still, in some circles, a secret. "West of Paso Robles, Vineyard Drive winds into a hidden green dell lined with black, gnarled vines and red Rhone-varietal grapes. From earthy Syrahs to gravelly counoise blends, tastings at Rhone pioneer Tablas Creek get first-time tasters talking terroir like aficionados...Stay the night across the street at the historic Paso Robles Inn, where visitors have scrubbed up and wound down in sulfur hot springs ever since this town was a dusty stagecoach stop."
PHOTOS: Signposts to Paso Robles area wineries
PHOTO CREDITS: Photo by Cary Ordway
RECOMMENDED LODGING: For recommended lodging options on the California Coast, please visit www.californiaweekend.com
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