August vacation ideas: California road trips to try

Table of Contents 🥗 Explore the ‘Salad Bowl of the World’🤿 Scuba in a Utah…

By Rachel Schnalzer
Design and illustrations by Jade Cuevas

Good morning, fellow Escapists. As air travel becomes more and more unpleasant, I hope this edition of Escapes offers you inspiring road-trip destinations you can use to plan your August vacations.

In this edition, you’ll discover the only warm-water scuba-diving spot in the lower 48 states, as well as an inside look at the “Salad Bowl of the World.” You’ll also read a travel writer’s account of riding the rails in Mendocino County and find out how you can attend a roller disco at a botanic garden.

As always, send me a note if you’d like to share recent adventures or travel tips.

🥗 Explore the ‘Salad Bowl of the World’

You may know the Salinas Valley is called the “Salad Bowl of the World.” But how much more do you know about the region’s farming industry?

Visitors to the Monterey area can learn about the Salinas Valley’s agriculture on a half-day walking tour of Pezzini Farms Artichokes in Castroville. Though the tours focus on how to grow artichokes, visitors will also learn about lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, Brussels sprouts and strawberries. The experience includes tips on cooking artichokes.

A complimentary tasting of either an artichoke cupcake or deep-fried artichoke hearts provides a delicious end to the tour.

Ticket prices for half-day Ag Venture Tours begin at $45 for adults and $35 for children. The tour is ADA-compliant and covers less than a quarter of a mile; bathrooms are easily accessible.

(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

🤿 Scuba in a Utah crater

Scuba diving in a geothermal spring. In a crater. In Utah.

That’s what travelers find when they visit the Homestead Resort, less than 50 miles from Salt Lake City. The crater, hidden inside a 55-foot tall limestone rock, was more than 10,000 years in the making, the result of melting snow and mineral deposits.

The Homestead Crater is the only warm-water scuba-diving spot in the lower 48 states, with temperatures at 90 to 96 degrees Fahrenheit according to the resort’s website.

In addition to scuba-diving, visitors can swim, snorkel and take paddleboard yoga classes. The water-wary are also in luck, with a self-guided tour covering the crater’s history, geology and archaeology.

Prices and hours for the Homestead Crater — accessible even if you’re not staying the night — can be found on the resort’s website.

Illustrated figures in yoga poses on paddleboards.

(Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

🛤️ Pedal through a Northern California forest

A few weeks ago, I included Fort Bragg’s Skunk Train railbikes in Escapes. Now, Times travel writer Christopher Reynolds is back with tales of his first-person experience riding the 19th century rail route.

He recently tried pedaling the “lightweight, four-wheeled, two-seat contraption” through the redwoods, part of a growing trend across the West. It’s easy to see the appeal: Reynolds explains that the experience “makes for a fascinating recreational Venn diagram, bringing together railroad nerds, the rails-to-trails movement, cycling geeks and travelers who will climb on a bike if the pedaling is easy.”

Skunk Train railbikes cost $250 per bike, which can accommodate two people.

If you’d love to ride a railbike but won’t be in Mendocino County this summer, don’t lose hope. “Across the U.S., these pedal-driven vehicles (some with pedal-assist, some without) are multiplying on idle or mostly idle railroad tracks,” Reynolds writes, “including some on the outskirts of Las Vegas, Sacramento and Carson City, Nev.”

A lone passenger pedaling a railbike through a redwood forest.

Fort Bragg’s Skunk Train has added railbikes that allow visitors to pedal on the tracks.

(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

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🕺 Roller skate in a ‘DiscOasis’

It’s not every day you get the chance to roller skate in a garden while listening to music picked by a Grammy-winning producer.

And yet that’s exactly what the South Coast Botanic Garden offers this summer.

The garden calls its “DiscOasis” an “outdoor theatrical journey of music, art, dancing, live performance, roller skating, and good times.” Visitors can enjoy the garden’s roller disco, as well as garden games, a retro arcade, food trucks and more

Music for the event is curated by Grammy winner and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee Nile Rodgers.

“DiscOasis” takes place from 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays through Labor Day weekend. Tickets can be purchased online.

📰 What I’m reading

  • Curious about what it’s like to travel alone? Don’t miss Victoria Carter’sessay “On Breakups and Taking Your Dream Adventure Solo” in Outside Online.
  • Californians are arriving in Montana in droves. But they’re not welcome, explains Tessa McLean in SFGate.
  • The latest 21st century lodging trend? Rehabbed 1950s motels, reports Necee Regis in the Washington Post.
  • German winemakers hang up broomsticks to “sweep aside drinking regulations,” writes Kat Barber, reporting on the regional custom in Atlas Obscura.
  • Your flight has been canceled or delayed. What should you do? Concepción de León offers advice in the New York Times.
The view from inside as an airplane taxis on a runway

An airplane taxis past the Tom Bradley terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.

(Associated Press)

📸 Photo of the week

A father and son fish on the banks of a river as the sun sets

Residents James Hathaway and his son Alex, 9, fish on the banks of the Snake River in Idaho Falls.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

🎸 Road song

Song: “Saint Claude” by Christine and the Queens

Favorite lyric: “Here’s my station, but if you say just one word I’ll stay with you.”

Best place to listen: On Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner train.

A train hugs the coast while people walk along a trail that runs alongside the tracks

A train runs parallel to the northbound San Clemente Coastal Trail.

(Ana Venegas / For The Times)