What's great in wine, beer, fine dining,
places to stay, & places to visit
in California State

planetarium Market St 1906 AcademyMarket Street dawn morning of earthquake.

Prepare to be moved! Earthquake, a major new exhibit and planetarium show, opened at the California Academy of Sciences on May 26, 2012, taking visitors on a kinetic journey toward understanding these super seismic phenomena and how they fit into the larger story of our ever-changing Earth. Occupying the entire west hall of the Academy, the exhibit will feature a number of large-scale installations, including a walk-through model of the Earth, an enclosure for live baby ostriches (yes, there are surprising connections between earthquakes and ostriches!), an earthquake simulator resembling an old Victorian home, and an interactive space designed to teach earthquake preparedness. Concurrently, a new planetarium show will launch audiences on a breathtaking tour through space and time—flying over the San Andreas fault before diving into the planet's interior, traveling back in time to witness both the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the break-up of Pangaea 200 million years ago, and much more.

"San Francisco—and California too—are no strangers to the awesome power of earthquakes," said Dr. Greg Farrington, Executive Director of the Academy. "By showing visitors the science that underlies these natural events, we want to encourage preparedness and help visitors understand how the great movements of the continents have produced the landscape we call home today and the life around us."

The 8,000-square-foot Earthquake exhibit is located next to the Rainforest dome and will continue the new Academy's tradition of light-filled, airy exhibit spaces integrated with live animals and public programs. The exhibit will run for several years.

Walk-through Earth

Entry into the Earthquake exhibit is through a dramatic, 25-foot-diameter model of the Earth. Venturing through an oversized crack in the planet's crust, visitors will find touchable geology specimens and interactive stations explaining the basics of plate tectonics. Activity deep inside the planet drives the motion of tectonic plates on the Earth's surface, resulting in the earthquakes we feel and the continental movements that happen more slowly—over millions of years.

How Land Shapes Life

The break-up of the supercontinent Pangaea roughly 200 million years ago resulted in two large landmasses: Laurasia (present-day northern continents) and Gondwana (present-day southern continents).  The second section of the Earthquake exhibit will focus on the diverse life forms that evolved and spread out across Gondwana, showing visitors that the same earth processes that cause destructive earthquakes in the human timescale can also provide constructive conditions for life in the geological timescale.

Live ostriches, ancient fossils, plants, and mounted marsupials (mammals with pouches) will illustrate the shared legacy of India, Antarctica, Australia, South America, and Africa, which were once joined together. For example, the iconic ostriches of Africa are large flightless birds in the ratite lineage, whose closest relatives live in South America and Australia. Like many African animals, these birds may never have evolved if Africa hadn't broken off from Gondwana and drifted away. To tell this story, the Academy will be hatching out live ostrich chicks, which will be on display in the exhibit until late 2012.

Earthquake Simulator

Following a brief pre-show, visitors will enter an earthquake simulator designed to look like an old Victorian home in San Francisco. Inside, simulated views of the downtown skyline and sounds of the World Series baseball game will transport guests back to 5:04 pm on October 17, 1989—the date and time of the infamous Loma Prieta earthquake. A sudden sustained tremor, followed by a brief aftershock, will give visitors a sense of what this ground-jolting event felt like.

But the experience doesn't end there—the views of downtown will darken and change, and the sounds of the radio will give way to a rooster crow and the clip-clop of a horse-drawn carriage. For a second simulation, guests will travel farther back in time, to 5:12 am on April 18, 1906, the date of the most devastating earthquake in San Francisco's history. About 32 times stronger than Loma Prieta, this event brought the "Paris of America" to its knees, and the ensuing fire destroyed thousands of buildings, including the original Academy home on Market Street.

Earthquake Preparedness

What should you do before, during, and after an earthquake? The final section of the exhibit will address these questions through hands-on activities. Visitors can identify crucial items for home preparedness kits, such as food, water, and hand-crank radios, participate in an impromptu earthquake drill, and learn what to do after an earthquake (for example, checking for hazards and turning off the gas meter). This section will also include a resource station offering additional preparedness advice from partner organizations.


Planatarium Show


Following its first two award-winning productions, Fragile Planet and Life: A Cosmic Story, Morrison Planetarium premiered an earthquake-themed planetarium show on May 26 in conjunction with the exhibit.

"Our all-digital planetarium has the ability to present complex topics—such as earth processes and the slow march of geological time—within a very visual, immersive environment," said Ryan Wyatt, Director of Morrison Planetarium and Science Visualization. "The new show harnesses the latest techniques in data-driven visualization to help visitors understand earth processes and think differently about living on our dynamic planet."

Starting at Point Reyes in Northern California, the show flies south along the San Andreas Fault until it reaches San Francisco. The Golden Gate Bridge fades away as the clock rewinds to 1906. The audience experiences an all-digital recreation of the 7.9-magnitude earthquake, followed by a scientific dissection of the event—including views of the underground fault plane and the propagation of seismic energy waves based on supercomputer simulations. Guests then embark on a high-speed tour of the past 200 million years, witnessing the formation of the Atlantic Ocean, flying over the cradle of humanity in Africa's Great Rift Valley, and visiting sites of historic earthquakes in India, China, and Japan—including the 9.0-magnitude Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. A planetarium presenter will bring audiences even more up-to-date during a live portion showing the latest seismic events happening around the planet—earthquakes big and small occur almost constantly. The show ends with a look at the modern building strategies used by scientists and engineers for a safer and better prepared future.

Scientific advisers and partners on the show include Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Geo Hazards International, San Francisco State University, Stanford University, University of California at Berkeley, and the U.S. Geological Survey. The show plays several times daily. For further information visit www.calacademy.org.


(TravMedia.com contributed to this article)


Editor's note: Links to the websites of hundreds of lodging and dining options in San Francisco & the Bay Area can be found at Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.


Stars Hollywood Walk of Fame SMALL CTTC10031816271387

Searching for Brangelina? Aiming to see movie-making in action? Here's where to find it all in the Golden State.

For more than a century, California has been the world's entertainment hotspot, ever since legendary director Cecil B. DeMille shot Hollywood's first major motion picture in 1913. Studios soon followed, establishing headquarters here, with filmmakers traveling statewide to take advantage of California's diverse landscapes—perfect for everything from cowboys and Indians to classic thrillers.

Now, a century later, the romance and glamour of Tinsel Town is as much a part of Southern California's allure as its fabled beaches. And other parts of the state sparkle with star power. Here's where to sample

the cinematic magic statewide.


1. Get inside the studios.

It's surprisingly easy to get a glimpse of L.A.'s thriving movie and TV industry. Major Hollywood studios are open to the public for tours, the biggest and splashiest being Universal Studios Hollywood, part theme park, part back lot. The studio's special VIP Experience is a must for movie and TV buffs, with exclusive visits to prop rooms and sets. Nearby, Warner Brothers Studios offers a Deluxe Tour with lunch in the studio commissary—a great place to spot stars. Paramount Pictures hosts two tours, including a four-hour option ideal for serious film fans that covers 100 years of moviemaking. Tours at Sony Pictures in Culver City explore the legendary MGM lot, where films like The Wizard of Oz and Spider-Man were filmed.


2. Hang out in movie-making 'hoods.

While people use "Hollywood" as shorthand for the movie industry, Northern California is also home to a thriving film community, especially for digital filmmaking. Pixar Animation Studios, located in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Emeryville and co-founded by the late Steve Jobs, is the wellspring of such digital masterpieces as Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., and Finding Nemo. Star Wars director George Lucas has long-been based in the area, and his Letterman Digital Arts Center is a buzzing hub of the city's Presidio, a former military base. Neither of these movie-making meccas is open to the public, though nearby eateries often attract people in the industry. Eavesdrop on conversations at Rudy's Can't Fail Cafe in Emeryville or at the Presidio Supper Club in San Francisco and you might overhear details of a movie in the making.


3. Follow in their footsteps.

Want to get really close to the stars? It's easy in Hollywood. Start along Hollywood Boulevard, where the sidewalk is inset with terrazzo and brass stars honoring legends of film, TV, music, and theater along the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Grauman's Chinese Theatre beckons with its fabled cement forecourt, where you can bend down and touch the hand- and footprints of everyone from John Wayne to Johnny Depp. Be sure to see how tiny Marilyn Monroe's hands were—and poke your pinky into the imprint left by her stiletto heels.

Next to Grauman's, a different close-up awaits at Madame Tussauds Hollywood, where you can pose next to incredibly realistic wax figures of stars like Jennifer Aniston and Julia Roberts. Nearby, the Kodak Theatre, home to the annual Academy Awards show, dazzles year-round with Cirque du Soleil's Iris, depicting the story of moviemaking through dance, acrobatics, and music.


4. Go on location.

Less than an hour's drive from Hollywood is Malibu Creek State Park, once home to a movie ranch that served as an international location: Korea in the movie and TV series MASH, Wales in 1941's How Green Was My Valley, and even outer space in the original Planet of the Apes. In the nearby Santa Monica Mountains, Paramount Ranch swung open its barn doors to moviemaking in 1927. Today, you can visit Western sets used for the long-running series, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, starring Jane Seymour.

Moviemakers have turned to locations far from L.A., too. Director Billy Wilder used the elegant Hotel del Coronado near San Diego for the Marilyn Monroe classic, 1959's Some Like it Hot (look for memorabilia in the handsome lobby). Santa Barbara County has been a favorite too, with locations chosen for films including The Graduate, Seabiscuit, and Sideways. Download self-guided tour itineraries, including an 18-stop Sideways ramble, at santabarbaraca.com.

Heading north, discover the land that Alfred Hitchcock loved to shoot. The iconic director filmed scenes for 1958's Vertigo at San Francisco's Mission Dolores and Fort Point beneath the Golden Gate Bridge. He also traveled north to the fishing village of Bodega Bay in Sonoma County for the creepy setting of 1963's The Birds (some scenes were shot at still-popular The Tides Wharf Restaurant). Also just north of San Francisco, spooky scenes from the 2011 version of Planet of the Apes were shot in Marin County' Muir Woods National Monument. For an overview of local film locations, consider the three-hour San Francisco Movie Tour.


5. Go where stars go.

From red-hot A-list mega-stars to one-hit wonders, the chances of spotting celebs goes way up in the place where they work, live, and play: Los Angeles. The ritzy shops lining ultra-luxe Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills attract stars with money to burn; visit midweek unless you want to see more gawkers than celebs. With trendy The Ivy Restaurant and edgy boutiques, nearby Robertson Boulevard is another hotspot. And celebs all need their java: The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf at Sunset Boulevard and Holloway Drive is a fabled haunt.

Stars also love the beach—after all, they can afford the houses. Intimate Malibu Country Mart is like a neighborhood shopping center for the gilded set. In sun-splashed Santa Monica, stars adore such oceanfront hotels as Shutters on the Beach and Casa del Mar. Peruse Montana Avenue's cafes and boutiques, too—fun even if you're not on the star prowl.

Another tip: head to Staples Center when basketball's L.A. Lakers are in town. Scan the crowds (bring binoculars—why not?) for stars, including courtside regulars Jack Nicholson and Leonardo DiCaprio.


6. Attend film and TV events.

Another great way to up your odds of seeing celebs is hanging out along red carpets heading into film festivals, award shows, and tapings. January's Palm Springs International Film Festival features screenings of Oscar contenders, with stars like Charlize Theron and Anne Hathaway blowing kisses to the crowd. The celebrated Santa Barbara International Film Festival shows world and U.S. premieres; past honorees have included Annette Bening and Angelina Jolie.

Every March in Beverly Hills, Paley Center for Media conducts PaleyFest, a series of screenings and panels with casts of such TV shows as Glee, Mad Men, and The Office. Other Paley Center events have included star appearances (think Jeff Bridges) and show previews.

Television shows of all kinds invite live audiences to filmings; peak season is August through March. Seating is limited but tickets are free, and tapings let you see Hollywood in action and favorite stars behind the scenes. For sources, check websites for specific shows, including Ellen and Jimmy Kimmel Live.

Another inside tip: During awards shows, producers loath empty seats on camera. So, when stars leave their seats to present or perform—or if they're just plain late—"seat fillers" slip into and out of the stars' seats on cue. And guess what? They're plain folks just like us. If you're in town during the Screen Actors Guild or other awards show, give it a shot by getting on lists at seatfillers.com.


(TravMedia.com contributed to this article)


Editor's note: Links to the websites of hundreds of lodging and dining options in Hollywood and Los Angeles can be found at Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.


With less than 400 California condors in existence, this endangered species is still an uncommon sight. Even rarer is the opportunity to watch condor parents incubate an egg, and raise a chick. That is, until now.

CondorCamChick 04.23 SMALLHe's on his wayVisit the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy's new web camera, Condor Cam (www.sandiegozooglobal.org/video/condor_cam), to see Sisquoc and Shatash, the first condor pair ever to be observed by the public, raising a chick on a live web camera set up in an off-exhibit area for condor care at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. For decades, field biologists, behaviorists and zookeepers were the only people able to witness a condor's parental behavior. This behavior has never been available for public viewing.

"For decades we've had the opportunity to work with this remarkable species behind the scenes," said Michael Mace, San Diego Zoo Safari Park curator of birds. "Beginning today, this rare experience is no longer for a select few. We invite you to watch, for the first time, this fantastic experience, the beginning cycle of a California condor's life, from the egg until it fledges."

Shatash, the female condor, laid the egg on Friday, Jan. 13 of 2012. As a standard practice at the Safari Park, every condor egg laid is moved to an incubator for safe keeping, and the parents are given an artificial egg to incubate. The incubation behavior of the parents continues as it would with their own egg, with the male and female taking turns incubating the egg.

In the incubator, keepers monitor the egg for embryonic development. In the last few days of incubation, the artificial egg is removed from the nest and replaced with the fertile egg, allowing the parents to help the chick hatch and immediately begin their parental duties.

The chick hatched in early March. Condor Cam viewers have witnessed rare moments such as the chick emerging from the egg with its white down feathers and a light pink, bald head and the parents tending its needs from feeding to clean up. When the chick is 5 to 6 months old, observers may also witness the chick's first flight! The chick continues to be tended to by its parents until it is approximately 1 year old. These are moments in the life an endangered species that very few people have ever seen.

Since the recovery program began in the 1980s, when there were only 22 condors left in the world, the Safari Park has hatched 171 chicks and released more than 80 birds in the wild. There are now more than 390 condors, half of which are flying free in California, Arizona and Baja California, Mexico.

The California Condor Recovery Program is implemented by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, zoos in the U.S. and Mexico, and U.S. and Mexican government agencies. Although listed by the federal government as an endangered species in 1967, the California condor population continued to decline, reaching a critical low of less than two dozen birds. In 1982, the condor breeding program was successfully established at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and Los Angeles Zoo. Today, two additional breeding centers are assisting with the recovery of the species at The Peregrine Fund's World Center for Birds of Prey and the Oregon Zoo. In addition, condors are part of an education program that allows guests at the San Diego Zoo, Santa Barbara Zoo and Mexico City's Chapultepec Zoo to see North America's largest bird up close.

The San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy is dedicated to bringing endangered species back from the brink of extinction. The work of the Conservancy includes onsite wildlife conservation efforts at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, and international field programs in more than 35 countries. In addition, San Diego Zoo Global manages the Anne and Kenneth Griffin Reptile Conservation Center, the Frozen ZooTM and Native Seed Gene Bank, the Keauhou and Maui Hawaii Endangered Bird Conservation Centers, San Clemente Loggerhead Shrike Breeding Facility, Cocha Cashu Biological Research Station, the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center, and a 900-acre biodiversity reserve adjacent to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The important conservation and science work of these entities is supported in part by The Foundation of the Zoological Society of San Diego.


(TravMedia.com contributed to this article)


Editor's note: If you're planning a visit to the San Diego area, you can find links to the websites of hundreds of lodging and dining options at Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.