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Run by two folks who used to work for Verve Coffee in Santa Cruz, this is downtown SLO's most artisanal coffee shop. But in a good way - friendly and enthusiastic, not snobby. Their affogado and chocolate milkshakes are as amazing as the straight-up cappuccinos expertly dispensed from the white Italian espresso machine. You can buy Scout's own specially roasted beans from Verve Coffee here too.
Unlike the cookie-cutter Italian restaurants that surround it on all sides, this ultra modern ramen shop, with black barstools and shiny metal interior design elements, stands out. The char-siu pork belly ramen bowl is a classic, but they've got other things on the menu, too, from vegetarian kim-chi ramen to smoked brisket steamed buns. Show up right when they open for lunch, or call ahead for a reservation.
If you've got a car in Santa Fe and love hot springs, make a reservation to visit this mountain onsen (Japanese-style hot-springs spa) tucked among the juniper and pinon pine trees on national forest land. Take your pick of public communal or private hot tubs for your soak, followed up by a massage or herbal body wrap.
In the northern Sonoma Valley, this hillside winery is a class act. You won't need to reserve ahead for a regular tasting, but if you want to impress a date or do something special with a group of friends, book a mountaintop tasting on the valley-view deck.
Probably the most popular and most often skied resort near South Lake Tahoe, this one is just about right in town. Catch one of the free in-town shuttles from wherever you're staying and ski the California or Nevada side of the ski resort. In summer, the gondola transports hikers and mountain bikers to the top.
This eco-conscious little aquarium below the Santa Monica Pier is a great place to take little ones and younger kids to learn more about the Pacific Ocean and local marine life. It's worth a detour inside just for the tide-pool touch tanks!
Hidden off LA's Sunset Strip, this faux French castle has been a legendarily discreet hideaway for movie stars, rock musicians and other famous faces for generations. Still today the hotel is known for its stellar service - there's almost nothing they'd say no to doing for you - and its romantic garden bungalows, ideal for naughty trysts.
In Las Vegas' strip-mall Chinatown neighborhood, this Japanese ramen shop looks like just another hole-in-the-wall. But its seats are always filled with hungry, satisfied customers gorging on big bowls of pork-broth noodles and pan-steam gyoza.
Malibu is lined with miles and miles of beaches, some with easy public access and some that private landowners would like to keep to themselves. But almost everyone can agree that this beach is one of Malibu's best. It's a drive north of town along Hwy 1, but worth the trip for sun and sand.
In the revitalized Funk Zone, south of the railroad tracks heading south from downtown to the beach, this is Santa Barbara's hottest restaurant in 2013. A seasonal, inventive Californian menu and zingy atmosphere are perfect for dates or dining out with a bunch of friends. If you can't score a table for dinner, try showing up early for weekend brunch.
Set up against the Berkeley Hills, this public park has a lot for kids to do, but adults too. Go hiking, swimming (in summer), bring a picnic or just cycle around.
My favorite city to visit in Laos, Luang Prabang feels like an Indochinese version of Japan's Kyoto. It's a temple city with contemplative riverside walkways, where monks and religious rites are a part of everyday life. Come here to unplug for a few days, swing in a hammock by the river and tour Buddhist sacred sites before hopping on a plane or a boat over the Thai border.
Hanging on a rocky perch above the wharf in beachy Santa Cruz, this seafood restaurant and bar is a class act. Not every dish is a knock-out, but the seafood is much better than anything you'll find on the wharf and the views are enviable. It's inside the Dream Inn boutique hotel. Happy hour specials are ace.
Full of California seasonal flavors, this restaurant in the mall near the ferry landing is one of Marin's favorite haunts, whether you're coming to nosh and drink at the bar or for a full meal. Farmers market salads, brioche bread sandwiches and fresh Pacific catch are all on the menu. If it's sunny, sit outside on the patio.