A Sunday drive can be great in the springtime, especially when it leads to a fun, interesting locale, perhaps somewhere on the water or a historical spot less than two hours from home. Sound like fun? Let’s go!
Newport Beach is a wonderful place for whale watching. Springtime is best for viewing gray whales, as well as seals, dolphins, and other sea life. Kids and adults alike love watching giant whales leaping out of the water. The official term for whale jumping is “breaching,” and it’s breathtaking to witness. Newport whale watching tours are 2 to 2-1/2 hours long. Reservations are advised and can be made at www.newportwhales.com or www.daveyslocker.com.
Take the family cruising around the magnificent Newport Beach Harbor and Balboa Island. You can rent a 10-passenger Duffy boat or a 12-passenger pontoon boat. To pilot either, you must be over 21 years old and have a valid driver’s license. Reservations can be made at www.daveyslocker.com or www.newportpontoons.com.
The Battleship USS Iowa is permanently anchored in the Los Angeles Harbor in San Pedro and became a museum in 2012. The 887-foot ship was launched in 1942 and went into battle in WWII and the Korean War, and it protected Americans during the Cold War. During WWII, it carried 151 officers and 2,637 sailors. You and your family can go on self-guided or guided tours of the rugged USS Iowa daily from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, excluding Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. For tickets or more information, visit www.pacificbattleship.com.
Perhaps your idea of a fun getaway involves a family hike. Mount Rubidoux Park Trail, near downtown Riverside and the Santa Ana River, provides a trio of paved trails for pedestrians and bicyclers, the longest being 2.7 miles long. The trails are dotted with colorful spring wildflowers, lush plants, and unusual rock formations. Hike to the top of a massive granite hill to reach the Peace Bridge and Tower, as well as a large cross where Easter sunrise services are held each year. The view from the summit is spectacular.
Mt. Rubidoux Park is quite popular and located on Mt. Rubidoux Drive at 9th Street. It opens daily 30 minutes before sunrise and closes 30 minutes after sunset. It’s family and dog friendly, but dogs must be leashed.
Hiking not for you? How about exploring some interesting spots in Los Angeles? La Brea Tar Pits and Museum at 5801 Wilshire Blvd. takes you back 11,000 years when now-extinct creatures roamed the Southland. It’s still an active Ice Age dig site where you’ll observe scientists doing everything from working on prehistoric mammoths to digging up microfossils. The Observation Pit gives you a great overview of an active tar pit, while the museum is filled with mini to supersized preserved Ice Age fossils and specimens excavated from the tar pits. Stroll through the Pleistocene Garden filled with native flowers and plants that thrived there thousands of years ago.
Interesting fact: In 2006, 16 asphaltic fossil deposits were discovered during construction of an underground parking structure for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, a block away from the tar pits! La Brea Tar Pits are open from 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM daily, excluding major holidays. Visit www.Tarpits.org for ticket information.
Are you and your family more interested in old movie stars than old bones? If so, head to the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Hollywood Blvd. I bet you’ll find your favorite entertainers’ stars along the way. That will lead you to TCL Chinese Theatre, which opened in 1927 as Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, to see movie stars’ hand and foot imprints displayed outside of the opulent movie theatre. Kids and adults enjoy putting their hands and feet in the concrete impressions. Be prepared to be bombarded by a slew of often overaggressive superheroes, and if you take their photo, they’ll expect a tip.
These are just a few of the many nearby places you can visit year-round. Where will you go?
Terri Daxon is a freelance writer