Travel Guides

Grand Junction Colorado Travel Guide

When most people think of Colorado they think of Denver and the Rocky Mountains. Skiers and snowboarders might think of Vail or Breckenridge. But I recently discovered a whole other side to Colorado…the western side!! A three day stay in Grand Junction Colorado is the perfect opportunity for hiking, wine tasting and dinosaur exploration. And who doesn’t love a little dinosaur exploration?!?

As with most of my posts, some links may be affiliates. At no extra cost to you, I may make a small commission on your purchase.

Colorado National Monument 

Your first stop should be the Colorado National Monument. There are hiking and camping options within the boundaries and a 23-mile drive on Rim Rock Drive. Depending on your available time you can adjust your itinerary. If you only have a couple hours you can do the 23-mile drive and stop a couple times to see Independence Monument and the sweeping views of the Grand Junction area. If you have several hours you can do the drive but make more stops along the way. You can do a couple of short hikes from the visitor center, explore the plants native to the region and see more of the rock formations.

If you have a whole day to dedicate there are a number of Colorado National Monument hikes and climbing options for you to choose. From climbing 450-foot Independence Monument, to an easy hike through Devil’s Kitchen (the hike is easier than the name implies!), or a number of more moderate and difficult hikes, there are a lot of options for everyone.

Travel Tip: If you’re not a fan of steep drop-offs, I recommend entering from the west entrance at Fruita. This direction allows you to drive Rim Rock Drive on the inside so you’re not quite so close to the edge! 

Dinosaur Journey Museum (Fruita)

If you’re visiting Grand Junction Colorado with kids the Dinosaur Journey Museum is a must-visit. Although full disclaimer, I also enjoyed it as an adult! Walk through the history of the dinosaurs, experience an earthquake and see a lab in action through the viewing window.

Travel Tip: This is a perfect indoor activity for a hot summer afternoon!

Fruit + Wine Byway (Palisade)

Plan to spend a half day driving the Palisade Fruit & Wine Byway. Depending on the season when you go you’ll have more or less stops based on what is currently being harvested. The great thing about the Byway is it can really be tailored to the age and interests of your family. If everybody is over 21, there are some great local wineries where you can stop for tasing. If you have younger family members you might want to stop at an alpaca farm and take an alpaca out for a walk through the peach orchards. The peach and lavender are an excellent choice for all ages. If you have extra time plan a stop at the Tilman Bishop State Wildlife Area for wildlife viewing.

Travel Tip: Peach season begins in August so if you’re able to make a trip then you’ll be treated to lots of yummy peach goodness! If you’re interested in visiting the alpaca farm through a literary travel lens, you can see how to travel through the pages of a book here.

Grand Mesa National Forest

Plan to spend a day exploring the world’s largest flat-top mountain, Grand Mesa. If you’re short on time I’d recommend planning a drive on the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway with a few stops along the way. If you have a full day you can explore the Byway and add in a hike or two, and even some fishing! In the winter you can add skiing to your itinerary at Powderhorn Ski Area. A couple stops I recommend not skipping are the Land’s End Observatory and the Land -O-Lakes Overlook. The Observatory is a ranger observatory on the rim of Grand Mesa in Colorado. From the top there are absolutely gorgeous panoramic views of the greater Grand Junction area. Take note that about half the drive to the Observatory is on a dirt road. The Overlook gives you just a small glimpse at the more than 300 lakes.

Travel Tip: It is really hot in the Grand Junction area during the summer. The temperature will drop 20 degrees when you head up to Grand Mesa so save this adventure for your hottest day. From Grand Junction, take I-70 east to exit 49, CO Highway 330. Turn right and drive for several miles until you get to Mesa. This map will also help.

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Lodi Wineries – Zinfandel Capital of the World

As a California native I’m always excited to explore more of my Golden State. Since I haven’t yet been able to make it up to explore the Lodi wineries, I asked Lisa Waterman Gray to share all the details with you! Grab a glass of wine and enjoy this tour.

A ‘Taste’ of Lodi Wineries

In this cohesive ‘Zinfandel Capital of the World,’ individual families own most of 80+ wineries that thrive amid bountiful water in much of the Central Valley, and ‘delta breezes’ that create fluctuating temperatures. Many winemakers also follow the Lodi Rules – 100+ sustainable environmental, social, and economic winemaking standards. Here are five wineries that we visited during a small group tour: 

Eco-friendly wines from Bokisch Vineyards

Gregarious and welcoming, Markus and Liz Bokisch have produced grapes and wine here since the early 2000s. Nine wines reflect their deep affection for varietals they enjoyed while living in Spain, and the influence of volcanic soil. The winery is also Certified Organic.

Tempranillo was the first Bokisch Vineyards red, and the winery’s Zinfandel was the first Lodi varietal carrying the city’s name versus ‘California.’ Since 2012 the couple’s Tizona label has included specialty blends plus Malbec, Petit Verdot and Old Vine Zin. Their Terra Alta Albarino is widely available in markets as far away as Missouri. Bokisch Vineyards was also the first U.S. winery to crate Graciano. Served amid lush, natural surroundings wine tastings are $10.

Tasty sips at cozy Klinker Brick Winery 

At Klinker Brick Winery, fifth-generation grape growers, Steve and Lori Felten, produce grape varietals that include Grenache Blanc, Albarino, Dolcetto, Mourvedre and other varietals. Their efforts reflect a 100-year-old family tradition of producing top quality fruits. The pair also incorporates the expertise of winemaker, Barry Gnekow, and marketing wizard, Lynne Whyte Barnard.

This warm and inviting winery has won the Best of California competition and is renowned for its patented, award-winning Old Ghost Zinfandel. Klinker Brick Winery sells plenty of bulk wine too. And about the winery’s name? The façades of several nearby houses incorporate ‘Klinker Brick.’ 

Open-air tasting at Michael David Winery

Michael David Winery is another Certified Sustainable winery. A five decades-old pumpkin patch, herb and U-Pick flower gardens, and even chickens, share this 60-acre site – home to 12.5 acres of Carmenere grape vineyards. Fifth generation grape growers and winery founders, Michael and David Phillips, now work with sixth generation family members too. During 2018, Michael David Winery sold more than one million wine cases and The Seven Deadly Zins varietal has been ranked as the nation’s #1 Zinfandel. 

Multi-colored hand-painted murals decorate enormous fermentation tanks, and an expansive open-air room is a relaxed spot for wine tastings during nice weather. Colorful labels also decorate bottles of such varietals as Freakshow Zinfandel, Inkblot Cabernet Franc, and Petite Petit.

French and Italian varietals by Oak Farm Vineyards

Fourteen grape varietals grow across the 710-acre site of Certified Green Oak Farm Vineyards. Available in more than a dozen states, all publicly sold bottles carry a signature White Oak label. 

Natural wood and stone decorate the spacious, sun-drenched tasting room. Tasting samples include Petite Syrah, and Barbera reds (from Italy’s Piedmonte area) and crisp, clean Sauvignon Blanc crafted in stainless steel (originally from Bordeaux). There’s also an Estate Grown Chardonnay resembling Chablis, and a mellow Estate Cab. Oak Farm Winery also produces single vineyard Zinfandel. 

This is a lovely place to drink and eat, whether you purchase a $10 wine tasting or pay $30 for seated tastings with charcuterie. The winery now features a spacious and well-equipped commercial kitchen too.

Portuguese-style wines at St. Jorge Winery

St. Jorge Winery visitors will find varietals reflecting the family’s Portuguese roots. Owner, Vern J. Vierra, loves this land deeply, having made wine here with his father and grandfather since childhood. Wines were always at the family table too. St. Jorge Winery produces Tempranillo, Verdelho, Syrah and Touriga Nacional wine plus the area’s largest port selection. In addition, St. Jorge’s Old Vine Zinfandel descends from a 1914 vineyard.

Bottle labels and the tasting room have an Old World ‘feel.’ Ornate, decorative plaster surrounds large mirrors behind the marble-topped bar, as well as a massive roaring fireplace. And when Vierra talks about his heritage and wines, he glows with pride.

After visiting the Lodi wineries, you can learn about more things to do in the Lodi region, here. You can also explore California’s wine regions and AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) here. You can also explore more things to do in California here.

During the coronavirus pandemic, most wineries are closed to the public. Check individual web sites for updates. 

A Cajun Country Adventure

reflections in a Cajun Country swamp
So much of Cajun Country is defined by living life in a land barely above water, where cypress trees and alligators abound.

Your Cajun Country adventure is calling

For a laid-back but exciting getaway, a long weekend in Louisiana’s Cajun Country can’t be topped. So jump on a plane to New Orleans and head about an hour southwest to Houma (HOME-uh), La. You’ll tour a swamp, eat the unmistakably delicious Cajun cuisine, catch big fish, relax on a beach, learn about Louisiana marine life along a bayou, explore an oil rig, plus visit a rice mill and the world-famous Tabasco factory. You’re going to love it.

Stay at a piece of Cajun Country paradise in Houma, La.

peach brandy at Crochet House, Cajun Country headquarters
Sipping peach brandy next to the pool at Crochet House Bed & Breakfast.

Roxie Yonkey with Leland and Sally Crochet
Roxie Yonkey (center) of with Leland and Sally Crochet.

We’ll be based in a little piece of paradise, Crochet House Bed & Breakfast, 301 Midland Drive, Houma. We promise: You’ll feel at home in Houma. Once you step into their courtyard, all your worries will slip away. Relax in one of their hammocks (highly recommend), swim in the pool, soak in the hot tub, or simply sit on a lawn chair and enjoy the garden. In the morning, you’ll enjoy a fabulous breakfast. Leland and Sally Crochet are bilingual, speaking English and Cajun French. Many Francophones stay at Crochet House and listening to them converse at breakfast is delightful. Ask Leland for fishing tips.

When you say good-bye at the end of your stay, the Crochets will ask you to sign their guestbook and take a picture with them.

The beach at Grand Isle State Park, the best beach in Cajun Country
Birding, fishing and just enjoying the beach are the treats in Grand Isle State Park.

Day 1

Ride your Cajun Country airboat adventure

Catching crawfish in Cajun Country
On your swamp tour, you may meet a fisherman catching crawfish.

No trip to Cajun Country would be complete without a swamp tour. Call ahead for your tour at Airboat Tours by Arthur, 4262 Highway 90, Des Allemandes (des ALL-munds), about 40 minutes northeast of Houma. The swamps and marshes are home to over 50 bird species, including herons, egrets, and the occasional bald eagle. Alligators are visible from February through the end of October. Tours last either an hour or 90 minutes. A minimum of three people is required for a tour to leave the dock.

You’ll want to start or end your day here. Even though sunset tours cost extra, please consider taking one. You’ll find that watching a sunset through Spanish moss is magical.

Whenever you are on or near the water, wear a hat, dark sunglasses, sunscreen, and mosquito repellent.

Where to eat

Our next stop is the white sand beach of Grand Isle. On our way, we’ll eat, plus pack a picnic lunch with food from Spahr’s Seafood, 3682 Highway 90 East, Des Allemands, or Spahr’s at the Station, 16816 Highway 3235, Cut Off. What you should eat differs by the season and Louisiana has seven food seasons. If you’re unsure about ordering, ask the wait staff. The trip from Des Allemands to Cut Off will take 45 minutes.

Relax on Grand Isle, Cajun Country’s white sand beach

A toll bridge on Louisiana 1 connects Grand Isle with the mainland. Two-axle vehicles pay a $3.75 toll (PDF). Unless you have a GeauxPass, use the right lane to pay with cash, debit, or credit card. South of the bridge you’ll either turn right for Port Fourchon (For-SHOWN) or left for Grand Isle.

Visit Port Fourchon, home of oil rigs and world-class fishing

Port Fourchon, Louisiana’s southernmost point reachable by land. about 15 minutes from the bridge. The settlement is fascinating to see. Driving around the city is like visiting a major city in Star Wars. It’s a huge part of America’s oil infrastructure and a major transportation node. Before leaving Port Fourchon, pay tribute to those who have been lost at sea at the 16-foot tall “The Lady of the Gulf Seamen’s Memorial“.

Hit the beach and watch birds on Grand Isle

Reaching Grand Isle from the bridge or Port Fourchon takes about 30 minutes. Take a selfie with the Grand Isle sign as you enter The Town of Grand Isle. You’ll enjoy seven miles of beaches and walking the Grand Isle Birding Trail (PDF). Grand Isle State Park is at the end of the road. The park’s gates are open daily, but the hours vary. Entrance fees cost $3. Seniors aged 62 or over and children 3 or under are free. You’ll enjoy walking the park’s 2.5-mile nature trail.

Grand Isle is a fishing hotspot with 280 species available for catching during Louisiana’s various fishing seasons. The town offers three public fishing piers and a list of charter-boat companies. Adults 17 and older need a Louisiana fishing license.

Please remember that Grand Isle’s beaches face the open ocean. Because of its location, the beach has extra safety challenges. Read the park’s beach safety tips.

Day 2

Learn about culture in Cajun Country

Houma offers two places to immerse yourself in Cajun Country culture. Visit the Bayou Terrebonne Waterlife Museum (BYE-you TARE-uh-bone), 7910 Park Ave., for an introduction to Cajun Country. The hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays to Fridays. On Tuesdays from 1 to 4 p.m., you’ll hear the heartbeat of Cajun Country when local musicians play.

Take a class in Cajun Culture, including Cajun dancing classes, at the Terrebonne Folklife Center, 317 Goode St. The hours are Tuesdays to Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Join some Cajun dancing on the first and third Wednesdays from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

If you want to have dinner and twirl around the floor during a Cajun dance, Houma Travel has a list of options.

Boudreau & Thibodeau's in Cajun Country
Boudreau and Thibodeau are two fictional characters from Southern Louisiana like Ole and Lena from Minnesota. The Louisiana characters are slow-witted, but they make great food.

Where to eat in Houma

For lunch, try Bayou Blue Po-Boys, 1987 Highway 182. Eat the boudin (BO-dan) po-boy. It’s Cajun Country food deluxe. If they ask whether you want your sandwich dressed, they are asking whether you want lettuce, tomatoes, mayonnaise, and/or pickles. The hours are 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays.

For supper, try my favorite, Boudreau & Thibodeau’s Seafood Restaurant (BOOD-row and TIB-uh-dough), 5602 W. Main Street. Start with the alligator bites. (You bite them before they bite you.) Then try the Little Bit of Cajun sampler. You’ll bring home leftovers, which will taste even better the next day. The hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

For drinks, you will never go wrong with whatever variety of Louisiana-made Abita (ah-BEET-ah) Beer your restaurant is serving.

Living off the land (and sea) in Cajun Country
Fishing boats line the piers in Cocodrie.

See quirky sculpture and marine life in Cajun Country

Chauvin (SHOW-van) and Cocodrie (COH-coh-dree) are south of Houma along Louisiana Highway 56. On this 45-minute drive, you’ll often see more water than land. The lack of land is an eerie feeling. Your first stop will be eerie, too.

Chauvin Sculpture Garden

Bricklayer Kenny Hill began building Chauvin Sculpture Garden, 5337 Bayouside Drive, in 1990. By the time he was evicted from his property in 2000, he had constructed more than 100 sculptures to tell his “story of salvation”. named it the world’s 12th most amazing sculpture garden. The garden is open dawn to dusk. Please be respectful.

Cecil Lapeyrouse Grocery

You’ll think Time has gone into reverse when you drive up to Cecil Lapeyrouse (LAP-ee-roose) Grocery, 7243 Shoreline Drive, Cocodrie. Cecil is the third generation to own the store, which celebrated its centennial in 2014. Buy a Coke and a snack there, then take some time to relax on the porch or in their quirky garden. The hours are 5:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

View from LUMCON's observation tower
The terrain around LUMCON is utterly flat and a mixture of land, water, and marsh.

Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON)

Fourteen miles south of Chauvin stands LUMCON, 8124 Highway 56. The landscape is utterly flat and you’ll see LUMCON’s DeFelice Marine Center for some distance before you reach it.

LUMCON is a research institution, and its DeFelice Marine Center offers various educational tours and seminars by appointment. However, if you just want to drive there, you’ll enjoy their self-guided tour and the views of the Louisiana marshlands. Standing on the observation tower while listening to the birds and the wind ruffling the grasses is a very peaceful experience. The hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. LUMCON hosts Science Talks at 7 p.m. every Thursday evening, which are also streamed live. Groups of 10 or larger are invited to schedule personal tours.

Where to eat in Cocodrie

The Lighthouse at Coco Marina, 106 Pier 56, is only a quarter-mile south of LUMCON. Try the Wine Island Shrimp and the onion rings, made daily with a special recipe. Sit in the cabana bar upstairs and watch the sunset while drinking their Bushwhacker, a frozen ice cream drink. The bar is decorated with items from marinas worldwide. Especially for parties greater than 8 people, call ahead for reservations. Hours vary with the seasons.

Be aware: Your phone or GPS may list the Cocodrie attractions as being in Chauvin. Just in case, the marina offers these directions.

Avery Island sign, a must stop in Cajun Country
Watch for the Avery Island billboard at Louisiana 14 and Avery Island Road.

Day 3

Petroleum and food factories in Cajun Country

No tour of Cajun Country is complete without a visit to Tabasco, the world-famous hot sauce. On the way, we’ll stop at the International Petroleum Museum & Exposition in Morgan City and Conrad Rice Mill in New Iberia. You’ll want to be on your way as soon as you finish breakfast since the trip takes 2 hours one way.

Visit Mr. Charlie, the Offshore Drilling Rig

The International Petroleum Museum, 111 First Street, is the only place where ordinary people are able to explore an offshore drilling rig. Tours start at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Mondays and Saturdays and last 1.5 to 2 hours. Admission is $5 for adults, $3.50 for children under 12, and $4 for seniors. Children under 5 get in free.

Where to eat in Morgan City

Head to Rita Mae’s Kitchen, 711 Federal Ave., and try the chicken and sausage gumbo. The hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays.

Tour the Conrad Rice Mill in New Iberia

At Conrad Rice Mill, 307 Ann Street, you’ll see a 20-minute movie, then walk through the oldest operating American rice mill. You’ll get to sample some of their products, which include gluten-free bread crumbs. The bread crumb process includes toasting the rice, which smells delightful. The hours are Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tours are at 10 and 11 a.m., 1, 2, and 3 p.m. The mill charges a small admission fee.

An egret flies away from nesting platform
In the 1890s, egrets had been hunted almost to extinction when their feathers became high fashion. The McIlhenny family created an egret refuge on Avery Island and helped save the white birds.

Explore Avery Island, home of Tabasco

If you enjoy Tabasco, you’ll adore Avery Island, 20 minutes from New Iberia. Join a Tabasco factory tour, visit the museum, and get a souvenir from the gift shop along Highway 329. The smell is wonderful, but sometimes the peppers in the air can be a bit much. Bring some tissues to gently wipe your eyes, then discard the used tissue immediately.

But there’s more! While on the island, you must visit Jungle Gardens, a nature lover’s dream. View flocks of egrets at Bird City, a section of Jungle Gardens.

Jungle Gardens and Tabasco tour combination tickets cost $12.50 for adults and $9.50 for children. Seniors and veterans receive a 10 percent discount. Tabasco and Jungle Gardens are open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except on major holidays.

Where to eat on Avery Island

Eat Southern comfort food infused with a Tabasco twist at Restaurant 1868! next to the Tabasco tour buildings. Build your own Tabasco Bloody Mary and bring home a souvenir glass. The restaurant is open from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily, except for major holidays and for private party reservations. Please check before making definitive plans.

Take a taste of Cajun Country USA

Now that you’ve experienced Cajun Country through our eyes, it’s time to book your trip. What are you waiting for?

Sequoia National Park: A Trip in Photos

I feel quite fortunate to live in a state that has nine National Parks, the most of any state! And I only live a couple hours from some of them so Sequoia National Park is the perfect weekend getaway for me. If I’m feeling really ambitious I can actually squeeze in a day trip but it’s necessary stay rather than driving home after hiking. Hopefully some of these pictures will inspire you to plan your own trip to Sequoia. Or to the National Park closest to you.

As with most of my posts, some links may be affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you, I may make a small commission on anything you buy.

Sequoia National Park: The History

President Benjamin Harrison signed legislation on September 25, 1890 to create Sequoia, making it just the second US national park. He made this decision because he was trying to protect the trees from the logging industry. This reasoning made Sequoia a bit different from Yellowstone, the first national park, as it became a park with the purpose of protecting a particular living organism. This park is also home to the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states, Mt. Whitney, and more than 800 miles of trails.

I haven’t hiked all those trails so this is just a glimpse of the natural beauty found in Sequoia. Until you’re standing next to these trees, it’s difficult to fully grasp just how tall they are. Standing next to one of the trees I like quite small!! The General Sherman Tree is 275 feet tall and stands at the north end of Giant Forest.

If you’re planning your own trip to Sequoia National Park I highly recommend this Lonely Planet guide. In fact I’d recommend a Lonely Planet guide for almost any trip you take.

You can also check out my visit to Arches National Park in Utah.

California Missions: A California Challenge

Stretching more than 600 miles from San Diego, California up to Sonoma, California (just north of San Francisco), the Royal Road is an iconic California road trip. Known in Spanish as El Camino Real, this road connects all 21 of the California missions. Founded in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s it provided a way to connect the missions. Visiting all 21 of the California missions is perfect for history buffs, 4th grade Californian students, or anyone wanting to learn more about the history of California.

As with most of my posts, some links may be affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you, I may make a small commission on anything you buy through the links.

In 2018 I decided that I wanted to do more travel in my home state of California. And so the California Challenges were born. In 2018 I decided to visit all 21 of the California missions. I headed south to San Diego and as far north as Sonoma to cross all 21 off my list. So let’s hit the road and go visiting the California missions. If you want a sneak peek without reading the whole post, you can see the highlights on my Instagram story.

San Diego De Alcala

Located in San Diego this became the first mission when it opened on July 16, 1769. The gardens are beautiful and the grounds are peaceful. Since this was the first mission you are able to learn more about the origins of the missions while visiting San Diego De Alcala.

San Luis Rey De Francia

Mission San Luis Rey De Francia was founded on June 13, 1798 as the 18th mission. Named after King Louis IX of France, this remains an active parish. Not only can the church and cemetery be explored but also the grounds beyond the church to see what life would have been like in the early 1800’s.

San Juan Capistrano

This mission is located just a bit north of the last one, in San Juan Capistrano. It was the 7th mission and it was founded on November 1, 1776. (History lovers will appreciate the timing as it provides context for what was happening several thousand miles away when the Declaration of Independence was being signed) This mission is considered the birth place of Orange County and is known as The Jewel of the Missions. This was the largest structure built by the Spanish during their 65 years in the west and offers many interactive exhibits today.

San Gabriel Arcangel

Home of the first orange and tangerine trees in California, the San Gabriel Arcangel mission was founded on September 8, 1771. This makes it the 4th mission and was the first to produce wine grapes in Southern California.

San Fernando Rey De Espana

Founded in 1797, San Fernando Rey De Espana is located in the Mission Hills community of Los Angeles. It was the 17th mission and is the final resting place of Bob Hope.

San Buenaventura

Located in downtown Ventura San Buenaventura was founded on March 31, 1782 making it the 9th mission. It is not a very big mission, but it has an absolutely gorgeous courtyard.  This was the last mission founded during Fray Serra’s lifetime.

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Mission Santa Barbara

Mission Santa Barbara is said to be founded on December 16, 1786 as the 10th mission. However this is the only mission that has potentially two founding dates because Father Serra died before being able to confirm the founding date. This is also the only mission with twin bell towers.

Mission Santa Ines

I spent 24 hours in Solvang when I visited the mission, which was founded on September 15, 1804. It was the 19th mission and is located within walking distance of downtown Solvang.

La Purisima Concepcion

La Purisima is probably the most well visited of the missions as it is incredibly visitor friendly. The mission was founded on December 8, 1787 and is the 11th mission. There are quite a few interactive exhibits available at the mission and you can see various animals and workshops in action.

San Luis Obispo de Tolosa

Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa was the 5th of the missions and founded on September 1, 1772. It is worth visiting if you would like to see all 21 of the missions, but due to its location in downtown San Luis Obispo there is less to see than many of the other missions.

Mission San Miguel Arcangel

San Miguel Arcangel was founded on July 25, 1797 as the 16th mission. After being closed for nearly three decades in the mid-1800’s it was reopened in 1878. Today the mission is known for it its well preserved murals.

Mission San Antonio de Padua

Most of the missions are located along Highway 101 but this one will take you off the beaten path…and on to a military base. This was the 3rd mission and was founded on July 14, 1771. It is located in Jolon and be warned that because of its location, if you go in the summer it will likely be quite hot! You are able to book overnight stays if you would like to experience more of what mission life was like in the late 1700’s/early 1800’s.

Nuestra Senora de la Soledad

In its present-day surroundings Nuestra Senora de la Soledad gives you one of the best visuals of what the missions would have been liked when they were founded. It is out in the middle of rolling vineyards so you get an idea of what it would have been like when it was founded on October 9, 1791 as the 13th mission.

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San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo

Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo is located in Carmel and was just the 2nd mission, founded on June 3, 1770. This was said to be Father Serra’s favorite mission and it is where he passed away.

San Juan Bautista

Mission San Juan Bautista was the 15th mission and has been serving daily mass since June 24, 1797. This mission is uniquely positioned right on the San Andreas fault so it is quite a feat that this mission has never been abandoned.

Mission Santa Cruz

In its present day form there is a church located where Mission Santa Cruz was founded on September 28, 1791 as the 12th mission. Across the street there is a historical site where some of the mission activities would have taken place but very little is left of the original mission.

Santa Clara de Asis

Of all the missions I had the most difficult time finding this one because it is located on the campus of Santa Clara University. So it’s not as easy to plug into Google Maps. The mission was founded on January 12, 1777 as the 8th mission.

Mission San Jose

Mission San Jose is located in present-day Fremont and was the 14th of the missions, founded on June 11, 1797. It became known as the “Queen of the Missions.”

San Francisco de Asis

San Francisco de Asis was founded on June 29,1776 as the 6th mission. Located in the heart of San Francisco none of the surrounding land remains, but it is still a gorgeous church.

San Rafael Arcangel

Mission San Rafael was founded for different reasons than many of the other missions. Located further inland from San Francisco it was founded on December 14, 1817 as the 20th mission. Since it was located further inland it had much less fog and so was founded to be a place of medical respite.

San Francisco Solano

San Francisco Solano is located in Sonoma and is the furthest north of all the missions. The mission was founded on July 4, 1823 making it the last of the missions to be founded.

You can find more suggestions of things to do in California HERE. Or head here to see more of my California Challenges.

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Palm Springs Botanical Garden: A Secret Treasure

Palm Springs brings to mind mid-century modern architecture and the desert. So it’s only fitting to include a visit to a Palm Springs Botanical Garden. This is your chance to explore the wide variety of cacti and plants that call the desert home. You might think that one cactus is about the same as next but with about 2,000 different varieties of cacti around the world, Palm Springs is home to quite a variety.

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Palm Springs Botanical Garden

Established more than 80 years ago, Moorten Botanical Garden, is family owned and specializes in cacti and other desert plants. The botanical garden is also home to the world’s first cactarium. Admission is just $5.00 making this an affordable way to spend a morning or afternoon in Palm Springs. It is worth noting that the winter and summer hours are quite different. During the summer temperatures often climb into the triple-digits so during this time Moorten’s is only open in the mornings.

As you enter the garden there is a stone with the following inscription…

Take your time like a turtle…and you will see more.

I would encourage you to take time to enjoy these photos from this stunning botanical garden, head over to their site to see even more, and schedule a visit on your next trip to Palm Springs.

If you are planning a trip to Southern California be sure to check out these other things to do including a day trip to Ventura, the piers of Orange County, San Jacinto Valley and more. Also be sure to take some time in Palm Springs to check out all of the unique front doors!