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If you are only going to be visiting San Francisco I would advise that you stay in San Francisco. Being in Oakland and having to travel to San Francisco would take an hour or more. Also if you go out at night in the city you would not have to worry about making it back to Oakland.
Pack a sweater! Because Santa Cruz is in California and a beach town, many people think it will be warm and sunny. Actually, it can get surprisingly cold. Also, don't count on swimming in the ocean, unless you wear a wetsuit. As with most of Northern California beaches, the water is freezing.
I've been to Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco. Los Angeles is good if you want to experience "Hollywood". Other than that, if you want to experience social beaches I would head to San Diego. If you want a really great city experience, nothing beats San Francisco. There is a lot to do in Los Angeles but be careful because places like ritzy Beverly Hills will very quickly go into some of LA's very ghetto destricts. Same with Hollywood -- past the main touristy area, the town becomes very ghetto. My experience is nothing feels quite as scary as downtown Los Angles at night. By all costs, stay clear of South Central. Venice is an interesting place and so is Santa Monica for some classic social, if not eclectic, culture. Traffic's horrible. Air is terrible. Hey, it's Los Angeles.
Big Bear Lake is an awesome town hidden in the mountains. I felt like I was in the Alps! I stopped there on my way to Las Vegas and Joshua Tree. I stayed for three days when I only planned to stop for the night. I went kayaking and hiked to Castle Rock which has great views of the lake and alpine forest. I'd love to come back in winter and try snowboarding!
The bus station is very near the airport just west of downtown. The Amtrak however pulls up to a spitoon in the middle of a tiny Native American reserve town half-an-hour out of town. This year in Late September, it's still over 100 degrees F every day. Tempe is probably a more interesting place for 20 somethings to hang out. Phoenix metro is very spread out but there are good desert hikes sprinkled throughout the neighborhoods. Just look for big hills and you're likely to find a trailhead. Phoenix is a hotbed for bar culture and you'll not be want for great happening friendly venues no matter your persuasion. September is also a good time to hit town and score a resort job. Apartments are cheap (compared to LA NY or SF for instance) and roomate situations are plenty. Aparently the one available hostel begs an alternative. If you have a car the 'burbs have $2-$3 second run movie houses. Some communities have cheap-to-get-in community pools but they may not be open all year…
Everyone thinks of Orlando as the city with a lot of amusement parks, but actually the amusement parks are all located south of the city (mostly around Kissimmee). The city itself has a great downtown with a lot going on and it's worth checking out.
Of course most visitors to Berkeley go to Telegraph to shop, but there are plenty of other areas that offer a completely different type of shopping experience, if the begging teenager/dirty hippie scene isn't your thing. Try College Ave (go several blocks past the dorms) and Fourth Street. Fourth Street is a bit trendier, but both are pleasant, though too yuppie-ish for some.
Albuquerque doesn't have much going for it except for the area called Nob Hill around the U of New Mexico. A funky, hip enclave of intreresting stores, restaurants and galleries.
There is a Farmers Market festival every Thursday in Fullerton, with music and lots of food. Great location for Disneyland, Knox Berry Farm, California Adventure, and other scenic adventures.
Polebridge is the most beautiful place in US. I have not been there since the late 70's, and I have never forgotten the beauty.
From all I have learned about Hyder, Alaska, it appears to be a great place to visit and possibly live. It has the best of two worlds -- one, it can be reached by road and then it in nestled in a remote part of Alaska. It is the farthest south that an Alaska town can be reached by highway!
Kauai is packed with adventures and it's easy to fall in love with the scenery. It's a small island without much in the way of nightlife or shopping, so I recommend coming here for farm work or camping. I worked on a small farm in Kilauea it was beautiful but don't expect the bus to get you unless you are in a very well traveled area, instead hitchhiking works fine. You are going to want to do the Kalalau trail for sure, it's intense and a bit intimidating. Make sure to give the trail plenty of time, you don't want to have to rush out from poor planning. I think Kauai isn't the best for clear waters of snorkeling or surfing, but hiking is your best bet. The many local farmers markets make cheap and healthy eating easy.
Miami Beach has great nightclubs that are open late. I didn't get much sleep but had fun!
Monroe is a beautiful little town full of friendly people. I would love to visit there again very soon
Arches National Park was full of wonderful sights. The La Sal Mountains are gorgeous!! I love Moab and will come back there someday.
Come visit for Christmas, if you can. On Christmas Eve, everyone's houses are lined with luminarias (paper bags with candles), and everyone walks through town and visits. It's a beautiful, non-commercial, community-oriented way to spend Christmas! Also, the best restaurant in town is Fuego, in La Posada de Santa Fé-- but it's VERY expensive. If you enjoy the arts or architecture, be sure to visit the Santa Fe Opera House. It's a gorgeous semi-outdoors building-- I saw Carmen there, and during her death scene, we were also watching a lightning storm. Cold, but fabulous! Santa Fe is a great place to visit. Be warned, however, that the shopping is expensive-- and if you don't like pretentious art galleries and boutiques, you probably won't enjoy shopping there at all.
I lived in Fort Stockton for six years. It's not a very nice place to live, but there are some interesting things to visit. The "world's largest roadrunner" welcomes you to town. Be sure and stop by the Comanche Springs pool. (It's much nicer than the regular city pool.) Also, if you are looking for great authentic Mexican food, try a little place called Mi Casita. Bienvenidos is another good one, more on the main road, but not nearly as good as Mi Casita. There are also several nice parks in town, as well as an historic fort, and several small museums.
Provincetown is a nightmare. Why is it that every hotel/motel/guesthouse/hostel makes you rent for minimum two nights? Want to pass through P-town for a nice overnight trip? Good luck.
Anchorage is a world class city. One of my 5 favorite cities in the US.
I grew up 8 miles south of Dawson in what was once the El Dorado community. We owned a 241 acre blackland farm. One can see "Tehuacana Hill" from my old farm. The bluebonnets are spectacular in the spring there!


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