Great Escapes: Memorial Day Weekend

Explore the rugged northern coastline of the Stornetta Public Lands. PHOTOS COURTESY VISIT CALIFORNIA
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Road trips should be spontaneous and are best taken in a convertible with plenty of junk food stowed aboard and no schedules to keep.

While familiar haunts are favorite road trip destinations, the best road trips are to places you’ve never seen. You might need more than a three-day weekend to see some of these places, but that’s part of the adventure. 

California is a large and wondrous state, why not explore some of its hidden places and secret spaces?

Here are some ideas to truly “get away from it all” this Memorial Day. 

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

200 Palm Canyon Drive, Borrego Springs, 92004

Miles from SCV: 180


Borrego Springs, 90 miles northeast of San Diego, is one of the best spots for stargazing in California. 

You haven’t seen a night sky until you’ve seen it in the remote Anza-
Borrego Desert State Park. Surrounded by mountains and with a local focus on eliminating light pollution, this is the first International Dark Sky Community in California, making it a prime spot for stargazing. 

The beautiful night sky at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

During daylight hours, explore the town of Borrego Springs and keep an eye out for the cool statues of other-worldly creatures made by metal sculptor Ricardo Breceda. One of Breceda’s largest collections of work can be viewed in the city of Borrego Springs. As you drive through the roads in the area, you’ll see sculptures of wild horses in a nearby field, sabre­tooth tigers in pursuit and desert tortoises that seem as if they’re crawling through the brush. More than 130 metal sculptures are located in Borrego Springs. For more information, about the sculptures visit

Gilroy Gardens

3050 Hecker Pass Highway, Gilroy, 95020

Miles from the SCV: 340


The park is open and they are taking reservations.

To find the craziest trees you’ve ever seen travel to Gilroy, 40 miles inland from Santa Cruz. 

If you’ve heard of Gilroy at all, it is probably in relation to its world-
famous Garlic Festival, held annually in July. This year’s festival will be held July 23-25 and July 30-August 1.

However, there is more to Gilroy than garlic. Take in the elaborately grafted trees at the Gilroy Gardens theme park. Watch the trees twist and contort in fanciful ways that you have to see for yourself. 

The park, in California’s Central Coast, combines a unique adventure in Mother Nature with amusement park rides. The family-friendly theme park features more than 40 rides, many with produce-inspired themes, such as the Mushroom Swing, the Artichoke Dip, the Garlic Twirl (a no-brainer in the Garlic Capital of the World) and a water park. However, the world-famous Circus Trees, are really the highlight of this road trip. 


Murphys, California 95247

Miles from the SCV: 330


What? Where? Under-the-radar wine-tasting in California’s Gold Country can be found about 85 miles southeast of Sacramento. 

California has no shortage of wine country tasting destinations. But if you’re looking for a lesser-known locale for sipping, head to the quaint town of Murphys, where more than two dozen boutique wineries are open year-round. Murphys calls itself “The Queen of the Sierras.” 

Gold Country has a deep history (thanks to the prospectors) and impressive natural features.

The city also offers art galleries, antique stores and, on May 29 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. there is the Craft and Vendor Fair. Much to do.

Point Arena­ — Stornetta Public Lands

45500 Lighthouse Road, Point
Arena, 95468

Miles from the SCV: 490


This rugged northern coastline is perfect for whale-watching and enjoying the beauty of the Pacific Ocean.

Located about 140 miles north of San Francisco, the untouched beauty of Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands, contains 1,700 acres filled with dramatic seascapes. 

View the rugged coastline from the top of Point Arena’s 115-foot historic lighthouse, the tallest of its kind on the Pacific Coast. Depending on the time of year, you’ll catch glimpses of humpback, blue or gray whales coming up for air as they migrate between Alaska and Mexico.

The lighthouse is open along with their six vacation cottages.

Sierra Vista Scenic Byway

Miles from the SCV: 250


This hidden treasure starts at North Fork, 45 miles from Fresno, and is in the geographic center of California.

If you’re into granite domes, glaciated peaks and twisty scenic roads with barely any people around, drive this 100-mile stretch of road between Yosemite National Park and Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks. 

It is an epic alpine byway worth a road trip. You’ll immediately get a feel for what California looked like a century ago, and you can embrace the time-machine theme with stops at the Jesse Ross Cabin from the 1860s and Jones’ Store, which still doesn’t have electricity (but does have great pie). There’s lots to see and do, and if you dare, try a classic California rafting adventure.  

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