With endless miles of orchards, vineyards, tomato fields and other crops, the verdant central Valley is known as California's breadbasket. Down the country roads around Davis, Stockton, Fresno and Modesto, you'll find roadside farm stalls and farmers' markets selling everything from homemade marinated artichoke hearts to braids of garlic. But agriculture is hardly the valley's only attraction. You can explore wide rivers and serpentine waterways on a raft or houseboat. Along the way, look for wildlife that relies on the region's natural habitats, especially during spring and autumn migrations. Try Sacramento national wildlife refuge in willows for winter waterfowl and, in spring, Carrizo plain national monument near Maricopa, also great for wild flowers.
Orchards push out clouds of pink and white flowers in fragrant displays from February to April. The suggested driving route shows off lush groves, orchards, vineyards and flower fields.
THE HAGGIN MUSEUM
Enjoy one of the state's hidden gems. This museum's art collection has plenty of masterpieces (Gauguin, Renoir); Albert Bierstadt's heroic paintings of Yosemite are unforgettable.
MAIN STREET LOCKE
Potter around the last of several small enclaves settled in the 1800s by Chinese immigrants who came to work for the gold mines and railways. This hamlet in the Sacramento Delta, a national Historic landmark, doesn't have the bustle it had 150 years ago, but you can still imagine its lively past while enjoying quiet walks past quaint, wood-framed buildings.
UPPER & LOWER KERN RIVER KERNVILLE
Thrill to the roar of white water. Several river-rafting outfitters offer trips - from one-day outings to multi-day camping adventures, on this spirited waterway.
WOODLAND OPERA HOUSE STATE HISTORIC PARK WOODLAND
A thrilling surprise in the region, this intimate gem of a performance space, built in 1885 and carefully restored, hosts a variety of musicals and concerts throughout the year.