California has some of the finest and most beautiful national parks in our country. Now is the time, as we approach summer ’15, for many to get their car or SUV and visit Yosemite, Sequoia, Kings Canyon and Redwood national parks. Death Valley and Joshua Tree should probably be off the radar at this time of year.
However awesome those road trips to the parks could be, Angelenos might want to rethink the drive and stay close to home and visit Southern California’s urban sites and attractions. Your pockets are likely to retain more of your hard-earned dollars by staying local. Gasoline prices have recently spiked north of $4 a gallon and your overnight lodging and food bills for the family shouldn’t be as much concern by staying nearby. Undoubtedly, L.A.’s business owners and merchants would sincerely appreciate the patronage. It’s a win-win for both parties, as I see it.
This summer, instead of driving into overcrowded Yosemite Valley or muscling up the coast to see the redwoods, plan a weekend in Big Bear or Lake Arrowhead to beat the heat. There are plenty of campgrounds, lodging facilities, restaurants, ice-cream shops and mom-and-pop merchants surrounding the lakes anxious to accommodate you. Businesses will be glad you stopped by and spent a few bucks.
The family can rent bikes and boats. Dad and grandpa can buy beer, sodas and chips and go fishing with the kids. Plus, you’ll cut down on your gasoline bill considerably from a 700- to 900-mile or so trek to Sequoia or Yosemite to only a 250-mile round tripper.
Another great way to cool off this summer is to simply head west until land meets sea. Park your car or bikes and spend the day at the shore. Visit the Pacific Ocean – it’s older than El Capitan, Half Dome or Yosemite Falls, probably combined.
Our local beaches from Malibu south to Long Beach and beyond, help make Southern California a worldwide destination point. Throngs of families gather on summer weekends at Hermosa, Manhattan, Santa Monica and Venice beaches. Bring your towels, sunscreen, hats, caps, lounge chairs, umbrellas and books, and relax. Chances are if a hat or something else is missing, you can buy a replacement readily at one of the many shops lining the beaches. The Pacific can be very beautiful; it’s free to use and you won’t be turned away on overcrowded hot weekends.
The wildlife in our state’s national parks is spectacular. Meeting up with a few black bears along a trail or campground can be an eye-opening experience. Seeing a herd of deer run through a meadow at dawn or dusk can be a breathtaking, cherished moment in time. None of it can be diminished. But, if it’s animals and nature the family wants to see – there’s plenty to enjoy by staying close to home. Take the kids to the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens for the day at Griffith Park or drive to the spectacular San Diego Wild Animal Park. The park’s tram around the grasslands gets you close up to more animals than you could possibly see at any national park in a decade.
Another option: Take the family on a day hike into the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area on one of its many trails. You’ll experience great ocean views, scenic hilltop vistas, local foliage and wildlife as well as a great workout. Plus, it’s free.
This summer when temperatures burst well above 90 degrees – maybe the best thing to do is to visit one of L.A’s great indoor attractions. The entrance fees (if any) will pale in comparison with gas, food and lodging expenses on long treks with family and friends to those northern parks. There’s the Getty, LACMA, Norton Simon and Petersen Automotive museums, all worth visiting and touring. See Rembrandts, Picassos and van Goghs close up in the next few months and inspire your kids. Or, visit the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles or the California Science Center, both adjacent to USC’s campus. Take a tour of the special Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at CSC running through Sept. 7. View and witness parts of the oldest Bible discovered and one of the world’s greatest treasures uncovered.
This summer think again about getting into your car or SUV and driving all those miles – at $4 a gallon – to some of California’s national parks. Los Angeles and SoCal have a lot to offer the family. Our local merchants and attractions will undoubtedly be glad to open their doors, welcome you and accept your patronage.
Ted Lux formerly worked at a major investment firm. He is a graduate of UCLA and holds an M.B.A. in finance and has been involved in real estate lending in the L.A. area for more than 25 years. He is the author of investment book “Exposing the Wheel Spin on Wall Street.”