State Of CaliforniaCalifornia Bars Nightlife and Entertainment.
California. For many, California is ‘the dream’. It’s where you’d live if you won the lottery. It’s home to movie stars, rock idols and football heroes. It conjures up images of blonde, bronzed beach babes; thousands of miles of golden sands; endless A list parties; and equally endless sunshine. It’s where you can be a waitress one day and a top model the next. Is it true, or just a fantasy? Well, expecting that a visit to California will change your life is daft, to be honest, and living there if you happen to be victim to a forest fire or earthquake makes the attractions of Rodeo Drive seem rather irrelevant. But as a destination? As a destination, California offers just about everything and anything you could possibly want – particularly when it comes to nightlife. California is also known as the Golden State…and so it should be. It shines – day and night.
The most populated US State, and the third largest in size, California is situated on the West Coast and bordered by Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, and Mexico. Its four largest cities are Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose and San Francisco, though its capital is Sacramento. Historically, California was admitted to the Union in 1850 as the 31st state, after being given up by Mexico two years earlier – which coincided with the California Gold Rush that dramatically increased the population of the state. California has a rich native American heritage, at one time inhabited by over 70 tribes, and was claimed by the Spanish in the 16th Century who settled missions along the coast of what was known as Alta California. In 1821, following the Mexican War of Independence, Alta California became a remote region of Mexico. Not so remote these days! Today California has a multi-cultural population of nearly 38m and a gdp of some $1.8trillion.
California boasts some of the most diverse scenery of any US state, from gorgeous golden sand and rocky beaches on the Pacific coastline to the snow-capped mountains of Sierra Nevada in the east, with deserts and forests to the southeast and northwest. The Central Valley is one of the world’s most fertile farming regions, growing around one-third of America’s food. As a vacation destination, it offers unparalleled variety; here you really can ski and ocean swim or bodysurf on the same day; enjoy the fantasy, futuristic entertainment of Disney or discover original, historic and emotive areas; shop til you drop or mooch around the many artists enclaves; hike through some of the world’s most beautiful backdrops and watch the sun go down on a quiet beach….or sleep all day and party all night! www.visitcalifornia.com is a great site for discovering California and its 12 regions, and is a must if you are planning to travel within the state.
Nightlife – wise, California is hard to beat with many of the state’s – no nation’s – best venues waking up as the sun goes down. It’s a state that has a particular reputation for blues and jazz and comedy clubs; countless international stars of stage and screen started here. San Francisco’s Fillmore is both a museum of music and a live music venue and is a superb summary of California’s musical culture. Clubs offer every type of music and every type of dancing style imaginable, from ballroom to salsa, from hip hop to rock and roll. The problem is not what to recommend, but what to leave out.
California Highlighted In redFoodwise, California can be as healthy or horribly heart-threatening as you like (which is obvious when you’re on the beach!). Its fertile farmlands, superb vineyards and huge variety of international cuisine resulting from such a diversity of cultures, creates a wonderfully rich choice of restaurants, cafes and bars/pubs offering food. San Francisco with its Italian restaurants and Chinatown; San Diego with its Asian and Little Italy zones; the French restaurants of Santa Barbara; and the ‘in’ Fusion cuisine of Los Angeles, such as you’ll find at Twist in N Highland Avenue in Hollywood (Asian) or Roy’s in S Figueroa St (Hawaiian). LA is the birthplace of fast food and you’ll find as many restaurants offering burgers and fries as classy, sophisticated alternatives. Many of them offer 24 hour breakfast menus, so if you fancy pancakes and maples syrup or bagels and cream cheese at 10pm, it’s possible. So, just forget counting calories while you’re here, it’ll kill you trying!
If you had to choose one city in the world where nightlife is the heart and soul, it would have to be Los Angeles. This is a city which never sleeps; where its residents work hard and play hard and expect a high standard of entertainment – whether it’s dining, drinking, or dancing. It’s a highly competitive scene, though, and consequently changing all the time; venues change hands, change names, open up, close down. Places are ‘in’ one week and ‘out’ the next and the best way to check out what’s what is to go onto www.losangeles.com.
Of course there are places that never change and remain firm favourites; clubs like Airliner on N Broadway, Arena on Santa Monica Blvd, The Kids Cotton Club on N Cahuenga Blvd, and The Ruby on Hollywood Blvd; brilliant bars including Irish Brennan’s in Westside, Tiger Lilly in N Vermont Ave , Los Feliz, Big Wang’s hip sports bar in N Cahuenga Blvd, Hollywood and The Shack in Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica; jazz venues such as Harvelle’s on 4th St, Santa Monica, Cafe-Club Fais Do-Do in W Adams Blvdrill on W Sunset Blvd; comedy clubs such as the Laugh Factory. Hollywood, Westwood, the Valley, Long Beach, Santa Monica and LA’s other beach suburb cities all have their own flavour – just waiting for you to taste.
Head north and you’ll find the wilder side of California – wilder geographically, that is – and some would say more spectacular in its rugged beauty. Here too, is the Bay region and the extraordinary city of San Francisco, with its charming steep streets, incredible architecture, laid back atmosphere and cultural diversity. A favourite city with gays, and once the hippy centre of America (there are many still there), San Francisco has weathered major earthquakes, the rise and fall of the dot.com industry, and serious racial tension, to become one of the state’s most popular destinations .
Like LA, there is plenty of nightlife choice here (though not quite as frenetic), including something you’ll find mainly in northern California: wine bars. The Hotel Biron Wine Bar in Rose St is a perfect example. Here you’ll actually find French and other international (as well as Californian) wines which wash down brilliantly with olives and caviar.
San Francisco’s best known romantic spots include the Empire Plush Room in the York Hotel (Sutter St), an intimate setting where you’ll find good live music, comedy acts and an excellent drinks menu. For panoramic views, head to Top of the Mark at the InterContentinal Mark Hopkins, Nob Hill. Once a penthouse suite, this is another romantic spot to enjoy cocktails and music.
Live music is big business here and there are both large and intimate spots to enjoy the best in blues, jazz, rock, swing and much more. Bimbo’s 365 Club on Columbus Avenue, with its 1930s style, has a different style of artist each night from jazz to hip-hop; but if Blues is your thing then head to Biscuits and Blues on Mason St or Boom Boom Boom on Fillmore St (which also adds in jazz, soul and R&B)
Want to dance – course you do. El Rio in Mission Street is regularly packed, with live bands on weekends and salsa on Sundays. All types of music are played here from punk to rock and roll on different nights of the week, so you’ll find something to suit at least one day out of seven! Nightly themes are popular in ‘SanFran’. The EndUp (6th St), and Cat Club on Folsom S both change the music most nights. Asia SF on 9th St has made its name by being a restaurant, bar and club, all with an Asian theme. You need to reserve here.
The hip, youthful crowd here means that sports bars are very popular and there are plenty to choose from, Bayside Sports and Bus Stop, both on Union St, and Greens on Polk St, are all recommended.
Ninety miles from San Francisco is Sacramento, California’s capital with a history that’s rooted in gold – first discovered in 1848 just 30 miles east of the city bringing thousands from across the globe to this city of dreams. Situated in a peaceful, pretty valley, and also known as the City of Trees, Sacramento is today a fast growing, modern mixture of cosmopolitan buildings, a 28 acre historic area recreating the Gold Rush era, excellent shopping, a thriving arts scene, wonderful outdoor recreational opportunities ‘on the doorstep’ and – naturally – fabulous dining and nightlife.
The choice is endless, but a couple of recommendations include the Monkey Bar in Capitol Ave, in with the ‘in crowd’ offering music and dancing, it’s attached to the popular Cafe Bernardo; Barcode, Arden Way, a chic silver and red club with two dance floors and music ranging from hip hop to house; and the Fox & Goose, 1001 R Street, a brilliant British style pub offering fabulous breakfasts and brunches. After you’ve been dancing til the early hours, what better to get you going again than eggs and bacon, English muffins and crumpets, and………..kippers (well, maybe not).
For something a little different, head to the Delta King Riverboat, a floating hotel moored in Front Street, Old Sacramento, for the Suspects Murder Mystery Dinner. Interactive theatre at its best, a quiet dinner turns into a “Who-Done-It” thriller where everyone is sleuth and suspect involved in trying to solve the crime. Dinner and package starts at $39.50 per person or $79 a couple (plus taxes and tips).
Flag Of CaliforniaCalifornia’s other main cities, and hot (or cold, depending on whether you’re there for sun or snow) destination spots, include San Diego, the oldest port on the West Coast; Palm Springs, the playground of the rich and famous and of course the fantastic array of winter resorts such as Alta Sierra, Bear Mountain, Mt Shasta, Sierra Summit, and Snow Valley.
It’s worth mentioning that après-ski entertainment does vary a bit in California, and if it’s extremely important to you, then check what goes on at resorts beforehand. For example, most of the ski areas in South California don’t have a base village because they are near a big city…so you tend to go back home at the end of the day. Towns local to resorts, such as Running Springs (Snow Valley) and Wrightwood (Mountain High) and Bear Lake (Bear Mountain/Snow Summit) all do offer entertainment – Chad’s Place and Tale of the Whale are both popular venues on the shore of Big Bear Lake – but don’t expect the glitzy glamour of LA! Similarly, at Sierra Summit, most head down to Shaver Lake, where The Sawmill (bar and steakhouse), The Sierra House (food and drinks) and Shaver Shake Lodge (music/dancing) are all popular spots.
Conversely, towns around the Lake Tahoe area – where California and Nevada meet – are pretty small (with the exception of Tahoe City which buzzes on most winter nights), so most nightlife centres on the ski resorts, which do have base villages and plenty going on there. Mammoth has more on site, such as The Yodler, Whiskey Creek and the Dry Creek Lounge piano bar.
Ok, that’s enough cold talk…let’s head back to the sun. Palm Springs is said to be warm and sunny 364 days of the year. Around 135 miles east of LA, into sunny desert country, this is where you’ll find the real life polo clubs (plus players and ponies as immortalised in Jilly Cooper’s ‘Polo’ )and pristine golf greens set against a lush backdrop of waterfalls, canyons, parks and gardens. Known as The Golf Capital of the World, with over 100 championship courses, this is where the rich come and play – and often where they have second (or third) homes. It’s a fabulous place to stay if you have the dollars and, steeped in Indian, Mexican and Western history, is an interesting region for visitors. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway – the world’s largest rotating tramcar – is a popular attraction offering a breathtaking ride up almost 6,000 feet to Mountain Station where, in winter, you an cross country ski and snowshoe. There are spectacular views from the Peaks Restaurant and Pines Cafe up here.
Residents and visitors here expect world class nightlife and entertainment…and they get it. One of the newest venues is the Copy Katz Showroom – a must do if you are here. Found in the heart of the downtown entertainment zone, Copy Katz presents a celebrity review featuring stars such as Whitney Houston, Barbara Streisand, Madonna, Michael Jackson and …Judy Garland (remember, its called Copy Katz!)
Much of the best nightlife here is in N and S Palm Canyon Drive. Here you’ll find Toucan’s Tiki Lounge (2100 N) which, as its name suggests, has a relaxed jungle theme. Enjoy live music here and varied entertainment including dancers and impersonators. Head to the South end for great bars, clubs and restaurants including Blue Guitar, Falls Prime Steakhouse & Martini Bar, Las Casuelas Terraza (fabulous Mexican food, margaritas plus jazz, rock and 80s music), the Village Pub and Saint James at the Vineyard Lounge. If gambling is your game, try Casino Morongo or Spotlight 29 Casino.
Palm Springs offers a vibrant nightlife, but wander out a little down Bellardo and Cahuilla Avenues, out into the surrounding hills and mountains of Palm Springs and you’ll find 24 or so historic inns (plus quiet hotels/B&Bs) where you’ll find some charming and unique spots to enjoy a drink and meal. They open to visitors the first Thursday after Thanksgiving and, celebrating this, there’s an annual Inn Walk starting at the Palm Springs Art Museum.
Seal Of CaliforniaBack to the coastline and heading south to the wide open, spacious beaches from Santa Barbara to San Diego; here’s where you’ll find the boardwalks inhabited by roller bladders, runners, and cyclists, and beaches full of ‘beautiful people’. Here celebrities hide away in their Malibu mansions and visitors hang around, just waiting to catch a glimpse of one of the them. Coronado Beach has been voted one of the best family beaches in the USA. It’s in San Diego, the sixth largest city in the US and an important naval and military base for many many years. It’s also a popular tourist destination, with its perfect weather and perfect setting of mountains, deserts and 70 miles of coastline, and variety of attractions including the famous San Diego Zoo and 85 plus championship golf courses.
The Gaslamp Quarter is one of the best areas for nightlife. Try Confidential in 4th Ave for tapas and cocktails; the Altitude Skybar & Garden at the Marriott for great views over the city; and Croce’s Restaurant and Jazz bar on 5th Avenue for excellent live jazz and blues; Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, 380 K St; and The Bitter End, again on 5th, where the classy and sophisticated drink martinis and dance.
Otherwise head downtown for an equally wide and appealing nightlife choice.
So, is there anything bad about California? Well, the weather can be somewhat unpredictable. The hot, high Santa Ana winds are usually behind the wild fires that can be so destructive, while the ‘Pineapple Express’ – when the jet stream collides with warm, humid air from the mid-Pacific – can cause unbelievably heavy rain and resulting mud slides. Then there’s the thick ground fog (Tule) which can lie in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys during the late autumn and winter, while fog generally is common along the coast from late spring to early autumn. But undoubtedly, the most uncomfortable time is ‘earthquake weather’, when it’s a lot hotter and humid than it ought to be. California, of course, has quite a earthquake history, thanks to the San Andreas fault which marks the boundary between the Pacific tectonic plate and the North American plate. It’s when the plates grind against each other that earthquakes are triggered. Since the first recorded in 1769, many of the major cities have been hit at sometime or another. Actually, they are happening a lot of the time, but are usually (thankfully) insignificant in magnitude. December 2003 was the last time a powerful earthquake hit (6.5 magnitude), affecting Los Angeles to San Francisco and killing two women. Prior to that, The Northridge Earthquake in Los Angeles in 1994 measured 6.7, killed 57 and injured 1,500.
Smoking (this is a good or bad thing, depending on your view) has been banned in all restaurants since 1994 and in bars since 1998. In certain areas of California, restrictions are significantly more widespread. In 2006 Calabasas banned smoking in all indoor and outdoor public places, except for a few designated outdoor smoking areas. This is thought to be the strictest ban in the nation. In 2007, having already banned smoking in parks, El Cajon extended this to city streets, restaurant patio areas, and outside shopping malls – just about as bad. Belmont also bans smoking in parks and other public places and has even extended it to inside apartments and condos…blimey!