Tag Archives: California

The most beautiful spot in California that you’ve probably never heard of… Highway 395 might not be on your radar for a California summer road-trip, but here’s why it should be

Looking for an alternative to the well-trodden Highway 1 this year? On the eastern side of California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range lies U.S. Highway 395, home to outstanding scenery and geology. This incredible road skirts the intersection of arid desert, rolling sagebrush and alpine mountains, with cragged mountain tops soaring 12,000 feet high. Each turnoff shelters some of the Sierra’s most compelling – and strangest – sights, and a very different side of California to what most people imagine. 

Nestled in the two million acres of Inyo National Forest are dozens of remote wilderness trails lined by some of the oldest trees in the world (bristlecone pines). The high-altitude town of Mammoth Lakes is a must-visit. It hides expansive valleys, crystal clear lakes, natural hot springs and wildflower-lined mountain hikes, bursting with colour. The region provides refuge and critical migration corridors for plants and animals to survive climate change.

The Mammoth Lakes Basin has great hiking trails and even better views. Our favourite is Parker Lake – a fascinating, wildflower-trimmed trail, tucked in a small canyon overshadowed by the 12,000 ft. craggy peaks of the Sierra Crest. Visitors can also take the mountain gondola from the Main Lodge to the summit of Mammoth Mountain for spectacular views out over the surrounding mountains and the Minarets.  Mammoth Mountain is California’s largest (and highest) ski resort, but in the summer and autumn months the mountain’s epic ski runs make way for mountain bikers and hikers. It’s a perfect spot for those looking to escape into the wilderness and enjoy the laid-back California mountain life. 

In the town itself, visitors can hit up Mammoth Brewing Company, makers of award-winning craft beer since 1995. Since you’re driving US 395, it’s only right that you order the IPA 395, flavoured with juniper and sage. 

Further up the 395 lies the magnificent 1 million year-old State Reserve Mono Lake, with its otherworldly ‘tufa towers’ (mineral formations) that rise up out of the water and look like you’re standing on the moon. This ancient inland sea is saltier than the ocean and harbours a thriving but fragile ecosystem of interdependent plant and animal species, some of which are found nowhere else in the world but Mono Lake. 

Carry on north to Bodie, one of the largest unrestored ghost towns in the U.S. Preserved in a state of “arrested decay”, visitors can wander amongst deserted buildings that were constructed in the 1850s when gold fever gripped the Sierra before being abruptly abandoned when the gold rush mining boom went bust. Our one tip? Don’t take anything from the park – eager visitors who have lifted a souvenir have been known to be haunted upon leaving Bodie.  www.visitmammoth.com

Sustainable Tourism Grows in California 

According to recent statistics, 87% of vacationers care about sustainability when they travel. In California, destinations from North to South have embraced regenerative tourism, offering visitors a host of feel-good travel options.PLAY

Redwood Wonder

The Redwood Forest area in Del Norte County is a natural wonder worth seeing and preserving. With Redwood Rides Adventure Outfitters, visitors can tread lightly with their “leave no trace” wilderness ethics whether mountain biking through the forest, running the rapids on the Smith River or casting a line from an ocean kayak.

Bridge of Hope
The Sundial Footbridge on the Sacramento River in Redding is the first bridge that famed architect Santiago Calatrava designed in the U.S. The bridge links the Turtle Bay Museum to a 200-acre Arboretum. The bridge was designed to not harm the native habitat, with no columns in the river and translucent materials on the footpath to avoid casting shadows on the spawning ponds of the river’s salmon.

Cultural Connections
Learn more about the land and history of the Palisades Tahoe region on a cultural tour led by a member of the local Washoe Tribe. Visitors will learn about natural landmarks, native plants and animals and the Washoe way of life.

Giving Back
Travelers in Visalia that want to really connect to preserving nature can take part in conservation and stewardship volunteer activities with Sequoia Riverlands Trust, dedicated to preserving the nature of the southern Sierra Nevada and San Joaquin Valley. Visitors can help out in the Dry Creek Preserve plant nursery propagating native grasses and drought tolerant plants, or trail maintenance and tree planting crews at Kaweah Oaks Preserve.


Adkins Family Vineyards

Located in California’s Gold Country, Adkins Family Vineyards is a 100% solar powered winery that is on the path to also becoming a certified organic winery. The boutique winery has 35 acres of vineyards and is known for its Viognier wines.

Go Fish
You’ll know you’ve found Fish when you find the line running out the door. The popular Sausalito seafood spot is known for its fresh, sustainably sourced seafood at both its restaurant and market. In fact, they were awarded the Sustainable North Bay Award to honor their commitment to protecting wild fish populations and helping the local economy by supporting local fishermen.

Sustainable Sips
You’ll feel good about tasting your way through Temecula’s Ponte Winery portfolio knowing that the winery has been committed to sustainable farming and winemaking practices since the mid 1980s. Ponte uses composting, reduced water practices and natural pest controls in the winemaking process and is committed to energy reduction and recycling in all its facilities. The winery was the first in Temecula to achieve the Certified California Sustainable Winegrower (CCSW) designation.

Plotting the Future
The Plot in Oceanside is a plant-based restaurant that has cut its produce and dry goods waste to under 1%, an unheard-of number in the restaurant industry. The Plot focuses on whole vegetables, many of which come from the garden behind the restaurant. Don’t miss the Chicken & Waffles, whole grain waffles, smoky maple syrup, habanero shallot sauce, house cashew butter and crispy-coated fried tofu cakes.


Iconic and Sustainable

Known for amazing golf, luxury car shows and stunning ocean views, Pebble Beach Resorts are now also making a name for themselves as eco-friendly. Over 75% of the hotels’ energy comes from renewable sources and water conservation efforts include using the high-tech Rain Bird Cirrus irrigation system to water the famous golf courses more sparingly and sustainably. The resort also works diligently with the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and others to address incidental golf ball accumulation in the marine waters off Pebble Beach.

For Shore
Located just steps from the iconic Santa Monica Pier and with each room boasting ocean views, Shore Hotel is an eco-friendly hotel that doesn’t sacrifice luxury for sustainability. It was Santa Monica’s first LEED Gold Certified hotel. The pool is heated through solar energy and guest rooms are designed with energy reducing climate systems, low-flow shower heads and enough natural light to eliminate the need for using lots of lighting.

What’s Old is New
Two Bunch Palms might be one of the oldest resorts in Coachella Valley, but it’s one of the most modern when it comes to sustainability. The wellness resort was the first solar-operated hotel in the Coachella Valley and is the only carbon-neutral wellness resort in the nation. In fact, it has a 3.5-acre solar farm on property that not only saves energy, but also reduces the resort’s water consumption by 21 million gallons a year.

Go Green
The Ranch at Laguna Beach recently was rewarded with the highest level of certification in California’s Green Lodging Program. The resort employs a wide variety of eco-friendly practices including grinding used glass bottles into sand for its golf course bunkers and irrigating with reclaimed water, which saves 20 million gallons of water annually. The just-launched OC Tree Collective is helping plant trees throughout the area’s communities, while a new program encourages employees to collect organic waste for composting.  For more about how sustainable travel matters to California visit travelmattersca.com, and for more story ideas and inspirtation visit media.visitcalifornia.com

Get Outside in California’s Gold Country 

Hiking, biking, golf, rock climbing, water sports, skiing, snowboarding, camping. When it comes to outdoor adventure, the Gold Country has it all! Whether you are an adrenaline junkie or a nature lover, the region has something for everyone.

National & State Parks

California is home to nine national parks and close to 300 state parks. The gem of the National Park System, Yosemite National Park, is situated in the Gold Country with entrances from three counties: Madera, Mariposa, and Tuolumne. Yosemite may be best known for its magnificent waterfalls and breathtaking granite peaks, but the park is full of dramatic valleys, lush meadows, giant sequoias, and a vast wilderness. Visitors can hike, camp, bike, rock climb, raft or  just look up at El Capitan in awe. The state park system offers dozens of options for outdoor recreation including the Auburn State Recreation Area, Marshall Gold State Historic Park, Emerald Bay State Park, D.L. Bliss State Park, Donner Memorial State Park, and Calaveras Big Trees State Park. The terrain of Prairie City State Vehicle Recreation Area varies from flat grasslands to rolling hills to cobbled mine tailings – evidence of the search for gold in the 1800s – which creates exciting trails for motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles and 4-wheel drive vehicles.

Hiking & Biking

Yosemite National Park is home to many legendary hikes, whether you have your eye on conquering the summit of Half Dome or are looking for an experienced guide to take you on a multi-day hike through the High Sierra. The Hetch Hetchy Reservoir is a spectacular site and hikers can take a five mile hike to Wapama Falls. Submit trails completed in Tuolumne County to earn a virtual badge through Visit Tuolumne County’s Trail Heads Program. On the southern side, the Wawona Meadow Loop Trailtraverses one of the largest meadows in Yosemite National Park. The trail is horse-friendly, dog-friendly, and bike-friendly, too. Hikers and bikers on the Arnold Rim Trail will see breathtaking vistas with panoramic views stretching from Mt. Diablo in the Bay Area to snowy Mt. Lyell on the high eastern slopes of the Sierras near Yosemite. El Dorado County is home to arguably some of the most scenic hiking in the United States. At Sly Parkriders can roll through the Sierra foothills’ diverse woodlands with rewarding downhills on the 6.5-mile loop south of the lake or take the loop around the lake with a flat, double-wide trail suited for beginner and intermediate riders. The Lake Clementine Trail is a gorgeous panoramic hike along the North Fork of the American River that passes underneath the Foresthill Bridge, the tallest bridge in California, and leads to the cascading waterfall of the North Fork Dam at Lake Clementine. Several other hiking and biking trails are located throughout the Auburn State Recreation Area, including sections of the famed Western States Trail that traverses 100 miles from Squaw Valley to Auburn. Hidden Falls Regional Park in Auburn offers 30 miles of multi-use trails with great views for hiking, biking, and horseback riding.

The Tahoe Rim Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail are just two of the of the region’s vast trail networks boasting unimaginably gorgeous vistas. You’ll find beautiful hiking throughout the foothills with its rolling hills, diverse vegetation, and wildlife. Just east of Sierra City, the Pacific Crest Trail winds itself across Haypress Creek, then emerges at the Yuba River at Loves Falls creating spectacular waterfalls. The sleepy Gold Rush town of Downieville transforms into a mountain bike mecca with world-class downhill and cross-country trails. Downieville has become synonymous with seemingly endless single-track trails running through heavily forested ridgelines, canyons, and mountain streams and rivers and is the home of the 14-mile, 4000-foot descent of the world-famous Downieville Downhill.

“Down the hill” in Sacramento, bikers flock to the 32-mile paved American River Parkway Trail,  which follows the river from Sacramento through Rancho Cordova to Folsom. For more leisurely exploration, hop on tandem and four-some bikes that are big enough for the whole family in Old Sacramento. Rent a road or mountain bike to explore the trails around Lake Natoma in Folsom or just cruise on an e-bike around town. 

Water Sports

The American River through El Dorado County offers an unforgettable experience for water lovers. Made famous by the 1849 Gold Rush, this is the river where James Marshall first discovered gold. Today, the South Fork is California’s most famous whitewater river. Both the upper and lower sections of the American River promise great rapids and gorgeous scenery. The upper section of the American River quickly becomes a rollicking ride over countless rapids such as Meat-grinder, Racehorse, Triple Threat, and the infamous Troublemaker. The South Fork is an intermediate Class III adventure that’s appreciated by rafters of any age and skill level. The North Fork and Middle Fork of the American River in Placer County offer intermediate-advanced Class III-IV+ adventure with spectacular scenery. In Sierra County, the Yuba River provides great Class 4 and 5 whitewater rafting nearly all summer long. Bass Lake is a year-round vacation spot just 19 miles from Yosemite National Park’s south entrance. Bass Lake offers plenty of activities including swimming, water sports, and boating.

The Sac State Aquatic Center on Lake Natoma, home to world class rowing championships, offers an assortment of watercraft rentals from boats and kayaks to stand up paddle boards and windsurfers. If you don’t have your own, SUPs and kayaks can be rented at many points along the river. Families can enjoy California’s 4th largest reservoir, New Melones Lake –located off Highway 49. This beautiful environment offers endless gorgeous days of swimming, boating, kayaking, fishing, camping, hiking, biking, and equestrian trails. The Folsom Aquatic Center, open year-round, offers aquatic fitness activities including lap swim, lessons, aqua aerobics, and a water slide and kids pool activity area.

Rock Climbing 

Rock climbing is having a moment. Between films like “The Dawn Wall” and “Free Solo” and its inaugural spot in the Tokyo Olympics, it seems like everyone is getting into the sport—or at least watching! Gold Country is home to some of the best rock climbing in the west. Why not take a lesson from the Yosemite Mountaineering School? Guides will get you on the highest—or tamest—peaks of Yosemite National Park. While in the area, a stop at the Mariposa Museum and History Center to check out its newest exhibit that traces the history of rock climbing in the Yosemite Valley. Nearby, Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides provides outdoor enthusiasts of all skill levels the opportunity to experience rock climbing in Yosemite National Park, and the surrounding wilderness. Revered for their “Backcountry Gourmet” menus and signature “Alpine Start” coffee, this outfitter offers a first-rate approach to spending time in the backcountry.

In Placer County, Donner Summit is a must-do for climbers looking for quality and variety. This destination features trad, multi-pitch trad, sport climbing, and bouldering. Or head into the Auburn Quarry and scale the limestone cliffs of Cave Valley.

Cleared for Take Off my flight simulator experience

Anaheim just outside Los Angeles, USA is known as the home of Disneyland. But for those older children or adults that like the thrill of professional flight simulators, Flightdeck is the place to visit.   

The only female travel media journalist for a group of nine media to experience the trills it was a day of big surprises and first for me.

My first taste was to get fitted out in my air combat flight suit to fly my assigned F16 aircraft. The Instructor briefed us on the flight controls and the weapon system. All a bit technical but with a little help from the instructor anyone can master it. Then it was into the aircraft cockpit, strapped in by the ground crew, canopy down and radio checks with the tower. “Cleared For Take Off”. I push the throttle forward, afterburners on and I thunder down the runway skyward and bank left over the sea. All simulated but it feels real. After a series of flight manoeuvres under the instruction of the from the tower, the group of novice travel media pilots are ready for combat.

Target acquired missile lock. fire. I only have six missiles before I have to use the guns so have to be sure I don’t waste them.  Where is my wingman Top Gun, MAVERICK  (Tom Cruise)   when you need him, someone on my tail firing at me, release flares, so much to remember. A few strikes and I crash and burn on landing. Not my finest performance but I survived.

Next, at Flightdeck I progress to take the controls of a Boeing 737-800 jet. This fix-base simulator is categorised as high fidelity, an exact replica of a Boeing 737-800 with a 180-degree wrap around screen. Joining my flight simulator in the cockpit I sit the captain’s seat. The cockpit is full of buttons, switches, lights, alarms but calmly my instruct tells me what to do. We are landing the aircraft at Kai Tak International Airport the old Hong Kong airport with a low approach over the city at night.

Banking left Hong Kong comes into view out the cockpit window. My task is to keep us on the right flight track using the flight controls and looking at the instruments in front of me. My instructor is controlling the power, flaps and all those other technical things. We are begin our descent following the light, banking right very low over the city and then down the runway for a perfect touchdown. I have landed a Boeing 737-800 simulator.

Later in the week during my stay in Anaheim I got to meet my Wingman Top Gun MAVERICK (Tom Cruise).

If you are into planes, Flightdeck in Anaheim is a great place. Prices for the F16 Fighter Jet experience start US$59 and US$109 for the  Bowing 737. I really enjoyed the Bowing 737 experience and if you would like to see the video of my flight view here: Flightdeck 737

Flightdeck  www.flightdeck1.com

Explore where Hollywood is made – Silvija Travel Tips

The first day when arrived to IPW in Anaheim I had a sightseeing tour to Warner Bros Studio, one of the busiest working studios in Los Angeles.


Familiarity with the studio started in a warm atmosphere, guests were greeted in Hollywood with delicious snacks and Oscar images.


Tour Guides have brought us behind the scenes of a studio that has been in the world for over 95 years.

We went behind the lens and discovered the secrets of movie making magic.


Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood brought us closer than ever to the legendary entertainment we love, where the greatest names in entertainment made history.

Experience the excitement of a Hollywood studio featuring movies and TV shows

A lot of great impressions and cinematic secrets give us a great Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood

IPW Anaheim, California – Silvija Travel Tips

Tourism showcase IPW, organised by Visit USA, took place in Anaheim, California. Thousands of tourism professionals attended from around the world meet in America for a five-day US rundown.

Silvija Zalepugiene, Silvija Travel Tips with Jan Burress, President and CEO, Visit Anaheim

Brand USA shut down Downtown Anaheim early Sunday morning to greet hundreds of media delegates who had spent the next three days discovering America’s many tourism assets at IPW.

During the press brunch, the “Anaheim Gets Animated Street Festival” showed a glimpse of the sights, sounds, flavours and vibes

The highlight was a surprise performance from the incredibly talented Natasha Bedingfield who left attendees starstruck with stripped-down performances of her hit songs