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Travel Show Features Bargains in California

It might be the wrong time for a grand tour of Europe, but that doesn’t mean a nice vacation is out of reach.

Visitors to the Los Angeles Times Travel and Adventure Show on Saturday and Sunday swarmed aisle devoted to California staycations.

The booths devoted to European river cruises, African safaris, Eco Trip Nepal, as well as the Sandals and Club Med sites were simply not busy.

Perhaps the rain was to blame, or maybe the Los Angeles Marathon drew folks away from the Los Angeles Convention Center.

However, a rock-climbing wall anchored booths devoted to Yosemite and surrounding counties, where tour planners handed out brochures.

From the Sacramento Valley and areas rich in Gold Rush history came invitations to vacation on houseboats on the Sacramento River, take food tours through our state’s capital city, zip line through Moaning Cavern Park, explore caves and mines, whitewater raft down rivers, or enjoy dozens of wineries. Good starting points for information are VisitCalifornia.com and DiscoverGold.org.

Many events are near Hermosa Beach and won’t break the family budget. 

"We're celebrating our 100th birthday this year, all year long," said Sandra Hallmann at the Solvang booth. "We're just one tank of gas away."

Solvang, a Danish village in the Santa Ynez Valley just off Highway 101, is near the Chumash Casino and boasts its own wine country. Get more information at the Santa Ynez Valley Visitors Association website, SYVVA.com.

Between Ventura and Santa Clarita, is Fillmore—home to the Fillmore and Western Railway and other attractions. Want to enjoy lunch while solving a murder? The Fillmore and Western Railway also hosts outings with Thomas the Train, takes you back to the 1950s for a classic car show, or transforms into the Hogwarts Express.

"With gas prices, people are scaling back where they're going," said Maria Christopher of the nearby Rancho Camulos Museum.

A trip to Fillmore, with its railroad, balloon festival, golf course and wineries, "makes for a great trip."

Feel like pampering yourself? Desert Hot Springs now calls itself "California's Spa City." Dozens of spas make use of its healing mineral waters. It's only eleven miles north of Palm Springs.

Ridgecrest is off Highway 395 on the way to Mammoth, but during the Ridgecrest Desert Wildflower Festival, April 15-17, it becomes a destination in its own right.

Recent rains mean the flowers will be gorgeous. Museums, prehistoric petroglyph sites, tours of China Lake Naval Base, relatively inexpensive hotels and restaurants, plus booths and crafts, make for a great family weekend. And then there’s geocaching.

In geocaching—a world-wide sport these days—players use GPS receivers to track down treasures. Geocachers can find more than 20 special caches of swag during the Ridgecrest Desert Wildflower Festival.

“It’s quite a doable little weekend,” said Donna McCrohan Rosenthal, a local travel writer. “It’ll be fun. In this economy, it’s a real easy weekend trip.”

Some other upcoming events within driving distance:

  • The Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival, April 27-May 1, features Western Music, film tours, poetry, gear, food, and more.
  • The Planes of Fame Airshow at the Chino Airport celebrates 100 years of aviation on May 14-15. Real planes, on display and in the air, with historical displays and shows, food, etc.
  • The Santa Paula Citrus Festival, July 15-17, is like a county fair: contests, parades, pavilions and booths, rides, food, and fun.
Lainie Liberti March 23, 2011 at 02:38 PM
Wish we could have been there! I'm curious if there were groups talking about frugal travel, volunteering and alternate ways of traveling like couch surfing?
Vickey Kalambakal March 29, 2011 at 12:05 AM
Lainie, I notice you're in Mt Vernon, so I don't know if the travel bargains I focused on in my article would make sense for you. THey're all here in So Cal. Yes, there were many speakers, and some did discuss ways to cut travel expenses. I did not here the phrase couch surfing--not too surprising since the point of the conference was to get us all to part with our hard-earned cash and go somewhere. Dozens of travel specialists from the Auto Club were on there to help everyone put together a great vacation. I would suggest a great first step for anyone would be to use the advice of this excellent organization. Even if you're not a member, check out the Club's website in your area, and see if you can access their lists of local festivals and events.

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