Smile and Say Cheese

Hilmar Cheese

Drop in on a Real California Cheese company—one of the largest such operations in the world—and watch them work with truly “big cheese” (in 640-pound crates).


At the Hilmar Cheese Company Visitor Center, you can watch a "mooovie" to learn how cheese is made, then practice your technique with hands-on exhibits, or dress up like a cheesemaking pro. Tour, taste various cheeses, shop, or grab a bite—from a Starbucks espresso, to ice cream and goodies from the deli.

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Explore Grizzly Island

grizzly island Tour expansive wetlands northest of San Francisco, with otters, falcons, and elk.

Making up over 10 percent of California’s remaining natural wetlands, the Suisun (suh-soon) Marsh , 35 miles northeast of San Francisco, is a massive environmental gem—nearly 116,000 acres of rich and diverse habitat for plants and wildlife. Sitting at the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers, it’s a striking area of low-lying islands and silent, sprawling tidal wetlands, and offers great hiking (trails are level and easy), wildlife viewing, and fishing.


Explore Bats in Yolo Basin

BatTourWithin the shadow of the capitol of California, the Yolo Bypass offers excellent wildlife viewing opportunities throughout the year. Thousands of migratory waterfowl descend upon this area during the winter months. Shorebirds, ducks and geese fill the skies with a backdrop dominated by the Sacramento skyline. During the summer large numbers of Swainson's Hawks can be seen foraging on the periphery of the seasonal wetlands.


Central Valley Museums

No Visit to a California destination would be complete without visiting one of the many museums. California has a reputation as a haven for people with creative minds, and you can see this in its multifaceted cultural offerings. Arts abound here in four main formats: large-scale, world-class organizations; smaller, quirkier museums, often showcasing the Golden State’s history and its abundant idiosyncratic subcultures (think surfers, Silicon Valley techno-wizards, and Peanuts aficionados).

When the weather hinders traditional camping activities (or not) stretch your mind with a visit to one of California’s museums. Need more encouragement? Check out 10 reasons to visit a museum!

National Yo-Yo Museum - Chico is located west of Highway 99 from 8th or 9th Streets. Situated in downtown Chico, the National Yo-Yo Museum houses the world’s largest working wood yo-yo at 265 pounds as well as some of the earliest yo-yos from the 1920's to present day. Yo-yos can also be purchased from Bird in Hand. Read more

Gateway Science Museum - Chico is located west of Highway 99 from E. 1st Avenue. Situated on the Cal State University Chico campus, the Gateway Science Museum features exhibits on local ecoregions, ice age skeletons and photography of the Sacramento River. Ice age skeletons on display were recovered in local caves near present day Lake Shasta and include the short-faced bear and saber-tooth cat. Past exhibits included Backyard Monsters, Life in Boiling Acid, A Big Look at Tiny Things and Endangered Species of Northern California. Visit

Bolt's Antique Tool Museum - Oroville is located east of Highway 70 from Montgomery Street. Situated in downtown Oroville, Bolt's Antique Tool Museum features tools from multiple industries and products. Exhibits include tools for blacksmith, farming, railroad, motorcycles, trucks, gas stations and more. Visit

California Automobile Museum - Sacramento is located off Interstate 5 from the Q Street exit. Situated just south of Old Sacramento State Historic Park, the museum features hundreds of automobiles and artifacts on display from an 1885 High-Wheeler bicycle to a modern day hydrogen-powered BMW. Vehicles include classics, muscle cars, exotics, Shelbys, Indy Cars, NASCARs, hotrods, European sports cars and more. Banquet facilities are available, including a 1950's-style ice cream parlor. Visit

The California Museum - Sacramento is located of Interstate 5 from the Q Street exit. Situated one block from the State Capitol, the museum focuses on the unique events and inspirational people that have contributed to California's legacy. Learn more about Ronald Reagan, Rita Moreno, Jackie Robinson, the Gold Rush, birth of Hollywood, 1906 San Francisco earthquake and more. Exhibits include a California Wall of Fame, Constitution Wall and the works of California artists. Visit

California State Railroad Museum - The Railroad museum houses historic trains and railroad industry artifacts. Train rides follow the beautiful Sacramento River. Read More>

Crocker Art Museum - Sacramento is located of Interstate 5 from the Q Street exit. This art museum features several floors of artwork comprised of African and oceanic art, Asian art, Californian and American art, European art, international ceramics, prints and drawings and photography. Read more>

Explorit Science Center - Davis is located off Interstate 80 from Mace Boulevard. This is a hands-on science museum that engages children and adults in scientific discovery. Read more>

U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame - Davis is located off Interstate 80 from Richards Boulevard. Situated in the heart of downtown Davis, the museum recognizes American cyclists and their contributions and significant achievements to the sport of cycling. The collection includes bicycles, photographs, awards, posters, racing apparel and more from the past three centuries. All cycling types are included from road and cyclocross to BMX and mountain biking. Davis is renowned as a cycle friendly town. Visit

Fossil Discovery Center - Chowchilla is located off Highway 99 from the Avenue 21 1/2 exit. Situated across the street from the largest deposit of fossils on the west coast, this natural history museum showcases fossils found under a landfill in Madera County including the saber-tooth cat, mammoth, sloth, short faced bear, dire wolf and more. Over 15,000 fossils have been recovered from the site to date. Visit

Castle Air Museum - Atwater is located off Highway 99 from Buhach Road. Situated near Castle Airport, the museum features over fifty restored aircraft and other aviation artifacts. A few of these planes include a B-52, B-25 and B-29.  Visit

Arte Americas Casa de la Cultura - Fresno is located east of Highway 99 from Stanislaus Street. Arte Americas features cultural arts, concerts, gallery displays and an education center for Latino Americans. They have featured the works of poets, filmmakers, photographers and artists for over 25 years. Visit

Minter Field Air Museum - Bakersfield is located off Highway 99 from Lerdo Highway. Situated at the Shafter-Minter Airfield, the air museum features many warbirds including the P-51 Mustang, AT-6, P-38 and B-25. The museum exhibits include military photographs, uniforms, equipment, medals & patches, models and more. Visit

Buena Vista Museum of Natural History - Bakersfield is located off Highway 99 from Rosedale Highway. Situated in the heart of Downtown Bakersfield, the natural history museum promotes paleontology, geology, anthropology, archeology and biology of the area. Museum exhibits include the marine fossils of sharks, whales, sea lions, rays, turtles and more from when Bakersfield was the shore of the Pacific Ocean. Join an actual archeological dig at Shark Tooth Hill. Visit

West Kern Oil Museum - Taft is located off West Side Highway (Hwy 33). The museum is dedicated to preserving the story of oil in West Kern County. The museum exhibits include oil derricks, working pumps & drilling equipment, a saber-tooth cat and lots of pictures and other paraphernalia related to the oil industry. Visit

Editorial information provided in part by, a collection of native Californians and travelers who spend their time exploring California and sharing their discoveries.

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Rocks – A Family’s Passion

rock-museumThe family passion for rocks turned a hobby into a full time business when John and Terry decided to open a store utilizing the family’s extensive rock collection and John's jewelry making skills. This combination served Tehama County until 1993, when Bill came on board and really shook things up. Four years later, the business remodeled, adding an 800 square foot mineral and mining museum and additional retail and manufacturing space.

The Gaumer family interest in gems and minerals has been actively pursued for four generations as John O. Gaumer was a gold miner in Northern California for 25 years. His son Al continued the tradition with formal education in the field of mining engineering before returning to gold mining with his father and a lifelong pursuit of prospecting and rockhounding throughout the western United States.

Gaumer's Mineral and Mining Museum features fifty years and four generations of collecting. Beautiful, rare gem and minerals specimens from around the world , stone carvings, fossils, Native American artifacts, a fluorescent mineral display, and a detailed replica of an old mine tunnel complete with ore car, tracks and mining equipment. The free museum is open to the public during normal business hours; group tours are available for schools and special interest groups.

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Celebrate Winter at a Wildlife Festival

water-birdsWinter is the season to enjoy the spectacular migratory bird life along the famed Pacific Flyway, which extends. California’s Central Valley hosts dozens of premier wildlife viewing sites, where you’ll see Snow Geese, Tundra Swans, Sandhill Cranes, and a vast array of ducks and waterfowl that winter in the rice fields and wildlife refuges throughout the area.

A wildlife festival is the perfect way to learn more about these wildlife viewing areas.

The 14th Annual Snow Goose Festival in Chico takes place January 24-27, celebrating the arrival of thousands of waterfowl that come from the north to spend their winters in the temperate North Valley climate.  This four-day event offers an extensive list of field trips and interactive exhibits for kids and adults at the Masonic Family Center.

The 6th Annual Galt Winter Bird Festival on January 26 offers photo and wildlife-viewing tours, a children’s tour, photo workshops and free children’s art and crafts.

On February 9th and 10th, the 17th Annual San Francisco Bay Flyway Festival offers a unique opportunity to explore Mare Island on the north end of the bay, with guided hikes and tours, kid’s activities, and a wildlife art show.

California Duck Days, held at the Yolo Basin Wildlife Area headquarters in Davis on February 23, includes tours to seldom-seen areas of the wildlife area, an opportunity to go fishing and hold just-hatched baby ducklings plus dozens of interactive activities including duck calling, decoy carving and painting. A great resource for planning your route is the website of California Watchable Wildlife, This website features the state’s top wildlife viewing areas, which are marked by Watchable Wildlife’s brown binocular logo signs, along with a calendar of festivals and events throughout the state.  Visit

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