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Spring in The Napa Valley is the perfect time for getting outdoors and up-close-and-personal with blooming wild mustard and budding vines. Conservation organizations, nature-minded hotels and sporty tasting rooms serve up exciting adventures in the great outdoors with treks that include biking, kayaking, art and yoga.

Trees Hwy 29 SMALLCanopy of trees on Hwy 29Connecting to the LandDedicated to the preservation of the Napa Valley, the Land Trust of Napa County has successfully protected 26,000 acres of pristine wilderness, designating these spaces as public parks and recreational areas featuring fabulous vistas and wildlife corridors.

Throughout the year, the Land Trust offers unique and invigorating field trips, from hikes to wildlife sanctuary explorations or jeep-led tours. On April 29, 2012, the Land Trust began offering a free six-mile "Maggie's Peak Trail Run." The new hike features a trek up the mountainside to the dramatic Devil's Well waterfall and into a serene redwood grove. And this spring and summer, the Land Trust kicks off its new MemberSeries program focused on new ways to connect with the Napa Valley's protected lands, including a 90-minute yoga/meditation session at Archer Taylor Preserve, a century-old redwood forest, and field trips involving lessons in outdoor art and photography. For a schedule of events, brochure and hike sign-up, please visit www.napalandtrust.org.

Tasting the TrailsCycling enthusiasts can pedal over to Velo Vino, a St. Helena tasting room celebrating both cycling and wine, for the sportiest wine tasting in the Napa Valley. Serving Clif Family wines alongside group or custom biking excursions, Velo Vino offers monthly, complimentary cycling adventures suitable for both moderate and advanced riders, ranging in distance from 35-50 miles. Recent rides included cycling along the 40-mile Franz Valley loop on March 24, and on April 21, participating riders biked the 38-mile Old Toll Road route.

Art Inspired Hikes at di RosaSpring is the perfect time for art and nature lovers to visit the di Rosa museum and explore its significant collection of Northern California art. Beginning in April, di Rosa is offering a series of Spring Nature Hikes (April 28, May 5, May 19 and June 9), where guests join experienced guides for the rare opportunity to hike to the top of Milliken Peak at di Rosa, the highest summit in Napa Valley's Carneros region. In addition to sweeping views of the North Bay, hikers' gazes will be entranced with sculptures along the trek to the peak. The hike is moderately strenuous and children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult.

Also offered at di Rosa, every Saturday at 10:00 a.m., April through September, is the two and a half hour "Art and Meadow" tour, which includes a tour of di Rosa's Main Gallery, Historic Residence, and Sculpture Meadow rich in flora and fauna, including resident peacocks. Highlights include the wildly colorful outdoor art populating the meadow, courtyard and 100 year-old olive grove, featuring sculptures by Viola Frey, Mark di Suvero, Gordon Huether, Ray Beldner and the world's tallest file cabinet (Minuet in MG) by Sam Yates. Hikes are free to members, all others $15. For more information about the hikes and tours visit: www.dirosaart.org.

Stay and Hike the Day Away PackageAt the eco-friendly Bardessono hotel in Yountville, a LEED Platinum certified property, the "Hike the Day Away" package includes annual membership for two with the Land Trust of Napa County, which provides access for hiking on private lands and opportunities to enjoy unique members-only excursions. The Bardessono also offers amenities that encourage environmentally friendly adventure, such as complimentary bike rentals for guests and an electric car recharging station. For information and reservations visit http://www.bardessono.com.


(TravMedia.com contributed to this article)


Editor's note: Links to the websites of Napa Valley wineries, as well as websites of hundreds of lodging and dining options will be found in the North Coast section of Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.

Avalon Harbor SMALLAvalon Harbor.

Located 22 miles off the coast of Southern California, Santa Catalina Island is accessible by boat from three southern California ports; San Pedro, Long Beach and Dana Point. It's better known to most as just Catalina Island. Most residents live in the town of Avalon and some in the coastal village of Two Harbors. Avalon is clean and safe and offers the quintessential beach town and island adventure.

Blessed with clear blue waters and Greek-isle scenery, Catalina Island is a Shangri-La. This laid back island town is chock full of places to eat, drink shop. Catalina has a wealth of natural and cultural resources, unique animals and plants found nowhere else on earth. Sightseeing opportunities are numerous and varied from escorted tours around town, adventure rides into the interior, jeep eco tours, hummer rides, to ziplines, rock climbing and undersea adventures. Independent activities are plentiful, camping, hiking, snuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, spa treatments, beach lounging, golf, motor boating, parasailing, fishing boat rides down the coastline and more.

Weather on Catalina Island is temperate, and average annual precipitation is low. Summers are dry and warm. With weather seldom an issue in Southern California, Catalina is an attractive destination year round, with alluring special events. Many of Catalina's annual visits travel in summer, but others select other seasons for special events, promotions and the best travel deals.

With its population of 3,696, Avalon is reminiscent of the villages that hug hillsides overlooking the Mediterranean. The town is great for strolling with a broad beachfront walkway that stretches from the Catalina Express mooring dock to Descanso Beach a mile away. In this easy atmosphere, Catalina offers the overnight visitor everything from tent-site camping to cozy beachfront hotels and bed and breakfasts, from family friendly inns to well-appointed condos, from charming cottage vacation rentals to an elegant four-star country Inn. There are luxurious oceanview suites and comfortable beach bungalows. Catalina Express packages with 21 properties that together offer a variety of lodging options coupled with boat tansportation, tours, meals and more.

Special events are held throughout the year on Catalina Island. The Catalina Chamber of Commerce keeps an updated calendar on its website (www.CatalinaChamber.com): Film Festival, Flying Fish Festival, Art Festival, Wine Festival, Jazz Trax Festival, Big Band Dances, Swing Dance in the Casino Ballroom, Concert Series, Golf Cart Parades, Museum displays. Sporting Events: Marathons, Triathalon, 50 mile Run, Billfish Tournaments, Scuba Dive Events, Motocross Race.

In its 30-year history, Catalina Express has ferried over 22 million passengers to and from Catalina. The fleet of eight high-speed boats carries passengers over the 22 miles in just about an hour, with up to 30 scheduled departures per day.

Catalina Express offers frequent departures from Long Beach, San Pedro, and Dana Point. The Express goes direct from the mainland to Avalon and Two Harbors at the Isthmus.

The Commodore Lounge upgrade is available on the high-speed catamarans. Lounge passengers enjoy priority boarding, comfortable seating in a more intimate lounge environment and a complimentary beverage with packaged snack served by cabin attendants.

The Captain's Lounge upgrade for up to eight passengers is available for private bookings; located on the top deck directly behind the captain, it includes a complimentary bottle of champagne.

Boat reservations can be booked online at www.CatalinaExpress.com or by calling 800 429-4601.


(TravMedia.com contributed to this article)


Editor's note: Links to the websites of some Catalina Island lodging and dining options, and hundreds more for Los Angeles/mainland options, can be found at Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.

The song lyrics say, "nobody walks in L.A," but everybody walks, bikes or skates in Redondo Beach. The following tour can be safely enjoyed by traveling on city streets or the South Bay Bicycle Trail and pedestrian walkway.

Redondo Beach Paddlers SMALLAnd some even paddle at Redondo Beach.

Sitting at the north end of Harbor Drive, the tour starts with the artist Wyland's famous mural depicting the California gray whale on the exterior wall of the AES powerplant building. The mural is one of the artist's largest and most extraordinary works. Don't forget to visit the S.E.A Laboratory and see local marine life close up. This highly regarded marine facility is free and open to the public.

Continuing south, walk, skate or bike to the Marinas in King Harbor. The four marinas may be accessed along Harbor Drive or through the main channel on the Pacific Ocean side. The marina area features a lively mix of ocean view restaurants, hotels, meeting facilities, and a variety of water sport attractions.

The tour continues with a stroll around the Redondo Beach Pier. The Pier became a popular tourist attraction in the early 20th century. Today, it is a popular fishing spot providing a splendid view of the Redondo Beach Harbor entrance. It is also host to many fine seafood and ethnic restaurants, a fresh fish market, gift shops and entertainment. And, just steps from the ocean is Veteran's Park, once the site of the glamorous Hotel Redondo, an architectural jewel of the 19th century. Today the park is a safe family destination with picnic facilities, play areas and ample parking. A colorful farmer's market is held on Thursday mornings.

South of the Pier to Vista del Mar is a broad walkway through a beautiful stretch of California state beach, with an unobstructed view of the Pacific Ocean. Called "The Esplanade," it is frequented by all types of fitness fans and leads to the charming Riviera Village Shopping district. Located at the intersection of Avenue I and Catalina, extending to Palos Verdes Boulevard, the Riviera Village has the amenities and ambience of a Mediterranean beach resort. Visitors and residents gather each day at the outdoor cafes and browsing among the boutiques, antique shops and art galleries is invited. Heading north again, the South Bay Bicycle Trail originates at the South end of Redondo Beach and follows the scenic coastline of the Santa Monica Bay, 19 miles to Santa Monica.

There is easy access to rest stops along the way at neighboring beach cities and public restrooms are provided throughout the route. For more information about Redondo Beach go to www.visitredondo.com.


(TravMedia.com contributed to this article)


Editor's note: Links to the websites of hundreds of lodging and dining options in Los Angeles and Orange County are available at Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.

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