26 JUN 2012: California seems to be in the spotlight year-round. Hollywood’s Tinseltown is a case in point but there’s so much more to this place than Entertainment Tonight. So when state reps arrived to T.O. last week, I was half expecting the glitz and the glamour; but instead what I discovered was another cool vibe from the Golden State.

It’s the summer of fun.

Jennifer Sweeney, Visit California’s PR manager, alongside 15 plus reps prepped local travel media on how to have fun.

If you think you’ve done the major destinations Jennifer quickly adds you need a return visit. “The California gateway cities...they have all changed.”

Now the fun bag:

Tri-valley (www.trivalleycvb.com)

Christie Simmons who hails from a sweet town named Pleasanton shines when asked to describe her home turf. “It’s the place of endless possibilities,” beams the PR & communications manager about the Tri-valley region’s tagline.

So picture this. Home to Mount Diablo State Park it’s the tallest peak in the Bay area. “On a clear day you can see the Golden Gate Bridge all the way up to Lake Tahoe in the Sierras so a great view of northern California.”

Wines are another big draw. There’s Livermore Valley, plus fifty wineries like the renowned Wente Winery, the country’s oldest continuously family-owned winery celebrating its 128th anniversary.

L.A. (www.discoverLosAngeles.com)

There’s never a dull moment around L.A. In between the star gazing, Carol Martinez, VP of Communications, adds travel agents will find this mega city affordable for their clients.

“You can do L.A. on the cheap,” she says. Carol’s top three things to do on the cheap:

1. Become an audience member at a free TV taping. “There are all kinds of different shows like Price is Right. If you win you might even come home with some money.”

2. Attend free summer concerts. There’s the L.A County Museum of Art, and the California Plaza.

3. Cruise the beach and catch some locals chillin’. (weight-lifting, skateboarding, surfing, etc...)

For new attractions head to Universal Studios which just released Transformers the Ride 3D, the simulated thrill ride makes you feel like you’re rocking out with giant robots.

Disneyland’s got the new Cars Land at Adventure Park which opened on June 15th.

SeaWorld has its new launch rollercoaster, Manta that simulates what a manta ray feels like going through the ocean at very high speeds.

Around San Pedro the USS Iowa is returning to the ocean park community. Now where exactly is San Pedro you ask yourself. “Its part of L.A.,” Carol laughs and adds, “We like to get confusing with the whole name thing. It’s something to do with the water. It’s all too complicated.” Now you can tell when you’re in Beverly Hills because the fire hydrants are painted platinum, she adds. It’s a novelty specialty item only in Beverly Hills.

City Pass (www.CityPass.com)

Deborah Wakefield knows ‘the best top-rated’ hubs around California because her company City Pass is in the business of selling bundled attraction tickets on leading venues in some of the best cities across North America.

For California, she’s got three distinct passes: San Francisco, Hollywood and Southern California.

“All of our city passes are valid for nine days with the exception of Southern California which is good for 14 days,” she starts as we begin the City Pass highlights. The reason for SoCal’s extra padding is due to accommodating pass holders to really enjoy places like Disneyland, Universal Studios and Seaworld.

The perk for pass holders is pretty sweet too. For instance you get to jump the cue, head to the gates saving valuable time for the attractions. “You save time and money at the top rated attractions so you are having more fun.

“We have a strong tour operator programme. It’s a 10 percent commission on ticket sales. (Tour operators) can buy tickets in advance at a discount and sell them,” Deborah notes.

Santa Monica (www.santamonica.com)

A great tip for travel agents, says Kelly Nagle, PR coordinator from the Santa Monica CVB, is its proximity to LAX. “People don’t know we are closer to LAX (try eight miles) than downtown L.A. And that’s non-freeway miles -- you don’t fight the 405 traffic.”

Considered the beach of L.A., this pedestrian-biking community is compact and ideal for shops and sightseeing. “You can walk to everything,” she adds. “Cyclists love the new full service bike center ‘the biggest in the nation’ that opened in November.”

Try the 22-mile South Bay Bicycle Trail that winds from Will Rogers State Park all the way down to Torrance Beach. “It’s a full day of biking next to the ocean,” she says, revealing her favorite past-time.

How’s it different from let’s say Venice Beach? “We have the Santa Monica Pier home to Pacific Park, the only overwater amusement park in California.” Plus Kelly notes there’s plenty of family-friendly beach activities and groovy nightlife.

Surf City USA

Surf dudes know this surf intimately. But it wasn’t until 1991 when Huntington Beach got its official nickname: Surf City.

“My boss developed the area. When he (Steve Bone) came to Huntington Beach he said why are you not marketing this to visitors? You guys are crazy,” laughs Madison Fisher, communications manager with the Huntington Beach Marketing and Visitors Bureau, describing one of California’s newer destinations. The big deal right now is the recent completion of a 1.5 mile expansion to the former 8.5 mile long beach.

Only 35 miles south of L.A., this SoCal town in Orange County is totally laid-back and is ‘the’ spot to watch boogie boarders, surfers, roller bladders and anybody else have fun. Surfer newbies will enjoy the gentler action of paddle boarding.

There "Proper Attire Required" means nothing but a T-shirt, shorts and maybe flip-flops.

“The Beach Boys-esque Dean Torrance (from Jan and Dean) is actually on our boards,” says Madison describing Dean’s strong staying power to the surf community. The duo’s classic ‘Surf City’ became a 60s iconic Rock’n’Roll medley.

No matter what California locale you poke around this summer, there’s bound to be a golden pick. You can’t go wrong turning back the clock to the summer of 1968 either. That’s the year travel wizards anointed California with the now famous moniker “The Golden State.”

To get your California trip planning started visit the travel trade portal http://traveltrade.visitcalifornia.com/

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Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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