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California Now Podcast
60 minutes | 12 days ago
Road Trips: Route 66 and Beyond
There are more than 386,000 miles of road in California, according to the Federal Highway Administration. This extensive network of highways and byways crisscross the state and make road tripping an ideal method to explore the Golden State. On this episode of the California Now Podcast, host Soterios Johnson explores itineraries with several seasoned road trippers. He first talks to Active NorCal founder Zach O'Brien, who says there is endless adventure to be found amid the natural wonders in the North Coast and Shasta Cascade regions. From active volcanos to hidden waterfalls and ghost towns, a road trip across the northern part of the state can be an outdoor enthusiast's dream vacation. Next, Johnson chats with Traveling Newlyweds bloggers Alli and Bobby Talley, who share their favorite foodie finds, dog-friendly hotels, and attractions in the Inland Empire and Central Coast. And finally, Johnson connects with author and historian Jim Hinckley, whose knowledge of how to get kicks along the old Route 66 corridor is downright encyclopedic.
30 minutes | a month ago
Hollywood Icon Kevin Costner
Kevin Costner first fell in love with California from the back seat of his father’s Buick. As a child, his family would vacation by taking road trips across his home state, immersing themselves in the majesty of the High Sierra. Costner would eventually go on to become a Hollywood icon, winning two Oscars for directing and producing the 1991 film Dances with Wolves. He also starred in numerous other blockbusters, including Bull Durham, Silverado, and JFK. Despite all the glitz and glamour Hollywood offered, Costner never lost his love for the simple pleasures offered by the open road. Now, Costner has found a way to blend his love of road trips with his other passion: American history. He is the cofounder of HearHere, a mobile app that acts like a tour guide, offering up history, local insights, and hidden gems in an audio format that’s linked to your current location. Costner lends his voice to the effort, telling stories about everything from the Native peoples of California to the geological shifts that created the California coastline. On this episode of the California Now Podcast, the movie icon talks to Soterios Johnson about HearHere, shares some of his favorite Golden State destinations, and kicks off the new occasional feature on the podcast, The California Questionnaire.
43 minutes | a month ago
What If: Exploring California
What would you eat if you could elbow up to any table anywhere in California? Where would you go if you could take the ultimate kid-friendly Golden State vacation? And what California luxuries would you indulge in if money was no object? These are the questions host Soterios Johnson investigates in this episode of the California Now Podcast. The answers, in case you’re wondering, are nearly infinite, since the state is all about abundance and variety. Our host is first joined by San Diego–based food writer and frequent Guy's Grocery Games culinary judge Troy Johnson, who shares his favorite bites up and down the California coast. Next, Johnson talks to journalist Kelly Mickle for some tips on taking an epic family vacation. (Pro tip: Get up early to find the hidden gems.) Finally, Johnson chats with Dino Michael, Hilton Senior Vice President, to discuss over-the-top experiences ranging from perfectly situated hotel rooms to In-N-Out Burger runs in an Aston Martin convertible.
41 minutes | 2 months ago
California's Epic Natural Wonders
There are few places on earth than can claim the breadth of natural wonders and biodiversity that exist in California. You can find natural wonders in literally every corner of the state—from alpine forest to rugged desert to city sidewalk. This episode of the California Now Podcast is dedicated to the ecological wonderland that is the Golden State, and some of the most compelling ways visitors can experience it. First, host Soterios Johnson hops into a time machine of sorts to learn about the origins of the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles with paleoecologist Dr. Emily Lindsey. She shares all sorts of fascinating insights about this paleontological treasure trove—a spot in the center of Los Angeles where sabre-toothed cats and mastodons meet the 21st century. Johnson's next guest, horticulturist Jason Dewees, lays out some magnificent ways to marvel at California's diverse assortment of trees, including redwoods that practically touch the heavens, cartoonishly appealing Joshua trees, and majestic desert palms. Johnson's final guest is Obi Kaufmann, author of the acclaimed The California Field Atlas, who shares his unbridled passion for his home state's biodiversity.
43 minutes | 2 months ago
3 California Podcasts You Should Know
It's no secret that California has a lot to offer. But did you know it's a podcasting powerhouse too? Shows about the state, the people, the food, and the culture abound, highlighting everything from Gold Rush history to why some San Franciscans bristle at the term “Frisco.” On this episode of the California Now Podcast, host Soterios Johnson cozies up to some of those California-themed audio gems. First, Johnson talks to Walt Disney Family Museum's Bri Bertolaccini, host of the WD-FM podcast, and discovers that the museum has a treasure trove of Walt Disney audio recordings that tell fascinating stories about the man behind the Mouse. After that he connects with Desert Lady Diaries podcast host Dawn Davis, who found a spiritual connection with the California desert and decided to seek out others who had formed a similar bond. Johnson wraps up his audio tour of California-themed podcasts with Olivia Allen-Price, host of the popular KQED podcast Bay Curious, and the two podcasters chat about some of the quirkier aspects of the Bay Area—like its obsession with Dutch Crunch bread and why bison roam Golden Gate Park.
43 minutes | 3 months ago
California’s Fascinating History
California is a world-class destination for all sorts of travelers—including history buffs. Visitors can find rich historical gems in surprising and delightful ways, from hidden plaques in San Francisco's Portsmouth Square and Chinatown to Angels Flight, a still-operating funicular in downtown Los Angeles that dates back to 1901. Many California cities can trace their roots back to Native peoples, European explorers, the Gold Rush, and a melting pot of cultures that blended over hundreds of years. On this episode of the California Now Podcast, host Soterios Johnson delves into that history in three iconic California cities: San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego. Johnson starts out in the City by the Bay, connecting with author and San Francisco historian Gary Kamiya about how the city has played host to bootleggers, the Beat Generation, and everything in between. Next, Johnson speaks with Robert Petersen, host of the Hidden History of Los Angeles podcast, about some little-known aspects of La-La Land culture—including everything from Walt Disney’s favorite haunts to peacock crossings in Arcadia. Finally, Johnson talks to Bill Lawrence, president and CEO of the San Diego History Center, about how the confluence of San Diego's Spanish settlers, the military, science, and popular culture make for a fascinating history lesson—and a one-of-a-kind sightseeing experience.
45 minutes | 3 months ago
California's Delicious Diversity
In this episode of the California Now Podcast, host Soterios Johnson chats with three culinary insiders who represent different aspects of the state’s abundance. He first talks to chef Tanya Holland, owner of Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland, and a Top Chef alum. Known for her mouthwatering soul food, Holland has been expanding her culinary horizons via her new OWN TV show, Tanya's Kitchen Table, as well as her podcast, Tanya's Table. The multifaceted East Bay icon also shared details about her new projects with the James Beard Foundation and the Oakland Museum of California. Next, Johnson checks in with chef Claudette Zepeda, who's embarking on her own culinary adventure with her new Encinitas restaurant at the Alila Marea Beach Resort, Vaga. Drawing on her Mexican heritage but also incorporating the many cuisines she enjoyed growing up in Southern California, Zepeda revealed that she is on a mission to capture the essence of San Diego County’s eclectic culture. After that Johnson chats with food tour guide Lauren Herpich, who runs Local Food Adventures out of Oakland. From Jack London Square to the Rockridge neighborhood, she says you can eat your way across a whole world's worth of different cuisines, styles, and culinary experiences.
36 minutes | 4 months ago
Trip Planning in 2021
When was the last time you took a vacation? Research shows that travel is profoundly beneficial to our mental health and productivity—and according to Expedia's annual Vacation Deprivation study, Americans are not taking nearly enough vacation. Compounding matters, researchers noted that 60 percent of respondents canceled or postponed their travel plans in 2020. January 26 is National Plan for Vacation Day, and even if you’re expecting to travel later in 2021, there's no time like the present to start dreaming up your next getaway. This episode of the California Now Podcast can help you get started: Host Soterios Johnson first talks to Expedia Vice President of Customer Marketing Nathan Lump about the many benefits of travel, including the joys of travel planning. Next, Johnson connects with Condé Nast Traveler West Coast Editor Rebecca Misner to discuss the latest travel trends, including “slow travel” and splurge-filled adventures. The third guest is author and illustrator Chandler O'Leary, who shares the many joys of road-tripping up and down the state.
35 minutes | 5 months ago
California Snow Adventures
Like so many things, the pandemic has added a layer of complexity to the typical California snow season. Mountain ski resorts and outdoor recreation areas have COVID-19 safety regulations in place and restrictions on capacity that make planning ahead and pre-purchasing passes essential to a successful winter getaway on the slopes. But as California Now Podcast host Soterios Johnson found out in this episode, skiing and other snow sports can be a safe and enjoyable activity for all ages during this tumultuous time, whether it's flying down the slopes on skis, boards, or tubes. Johnson opens with a discussion of the current state of Golden State snow play with Ski California president Mike Reitzell. Then he learns about the benefits and thrills of cross-country skiing with guidebook author and ski instructor Tim Hauserman. Finally, Johnson chats with Top Flight Family blogger Carmen Sognonvi, who offers up tips for having fun in the snow with kids—and without skis.
42 minutes | 5 months ago
Exploring Gold Country
Much of California's history is inextricably tied to the region that lies between the San Francisco Bay Area and the Sierra Foothills. Gold Country takes its name from the famous historical period that kicked off in 1848 with a Coloma carpenter's discovery of gold flakes in the American River. Today, this thriving collection of river cities and towns offers visitors insight into the past as well as a delicious taste of the present. On this episode of the California Now Podcast, host Soterios Johnson uncovers some of the best attractions Gold Country has to offer, starting with a quick history lesson from Sacramento City Historian Marcia Eymann. She talks about the thriving Native American communities of the pre-Gold Rush era, and continues on to discuss the Sacramento of today, a port city known as America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital. Johnson next speaks with travel blogger Preethi Chandrasekhar to get a first-time visitor's perspective of the region. Chandrasekhar immersed herself in Gold Country, visiting historic hotels, unique shopping destinations, and unforgettable outdoor spaces. Finally, Johnson connects with travel insider Nick Leonti, who offers up an impressive rundown of good eats—including craft beer and craft cider— that dot Sacramento and surrounding towns.
42 minutes | 6 months ago
Greater Palm Springs
Surrounded by majestic mountains and pristine nature preserves on all sides, the Greater Palm Springs area is a posh nexus of natural beauty, wellness, and culture. On this episode of the California Now Podcast, host Soterios Johnson learns about the iconic mid-century modern style of architecture that sprang forth from a burst of post-WWII creative energy. Tour guide Kurt Cyr offers his insights on these must-see marvels, sprinkling in details about Hollywood’s connection to the region and how visitors can practice COVID-19 safety while viewing stylish local homes. After that, Johnson speaks with Palm Springs Life Editor-in-Chief Steven Biller to get the inside scoop on the local art scene, al fresco dining options, and great lodging. And finally, Johnson gets a rundown of the best hikes and outdoor experiences from veteran hiking guide Jason Bruecks.
43 minutes | 6 months ago
Outdoor Spaces in California Urban Centers
Hiking gear may not be among the first items on your packing list for a trip to San Diego, Anaheim, Los Angeles, or San Francisco, but you won't want to forget these articles of clothing. When you're not visiting world-class museums or checking out the diverse restaurant and nightlife scenes, California’s urban gateways offer a range of highly accessible—and highly unique—outdoor experiences. On this episode of the California Now Podcast, host Soterios Johnson chats with a few folks who know their way around the great urban outdoors. First, he connects with San Diego guide Kenneth Lippman, who provides insights on everything from the historic Gaslamp Quarter north to the alluring beaches of La Jolla. Next, Johnson gets a feel for outdoor opportunities in and around Anaheim with Orange County journalist Gregory Nagel, who discusses the culinary offerings at the Anaheim Packing House as well as the al fresco shopping scene at Fashion Island in Newport Beach. Johnson's next guest, guidebook author Casey Schreiner, knows Griffith Park like the back of his hand. He shares a few hidden gems that you may not have known about in the famous sprawling Los Angeles landmark. And finally, Johnson looks northward to San Francisco and the historic Presidio, where celebrated chef Traci Des Jardins dishes on her favorite spots.
40 minutes | 7 months ago
Safe Travels During the Pandemic
Despite restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, travelers are slowly but surely turning their vacation daydreams into reality. And as we quickly discover during this podcast, California is ready for them. Host Soterios Johnson first checks in with San Francisco International Airport Public Information Officer Doug Yakel to get a feel for the scene at this busy travel hub. Masks and social distancing are top priorities, of course, but the airport has introduced a variety of other enhancements designed to help get the country moving again. Innovation is also the name of the game at Montage International, as Executive Vice President James Bermingham explains. Thanks to its Peace of Mind commitment, Montage Academy program, and partnership with One Medical, guests at Montage Laguna Beach and Pendry San Diego can relax with confidence. Finally, Johnson chats with San Luis Obispo brewery owner Hamish Marshall, who discusses safety protocols, entertainment pivots, and how California businesses can take advantage of the great weather.
37 minutes | 8 months ago
Celebrate California Farmers and Farmworkers
When it comes to agricultural output, California is truly the cream of the crop. The Golden State produces one-third of the nation's vegetables and two-thirds of its fruit. And those grapes you're enjoying, either in a bowl or in a glass? Odds are they were grown on a California farm. While the California sunshine, mild temperatures, and fertile soil make for optimal growing conditions, there would be no California agricultural industry without hardworking farmers and farmworkers. They toil day in and day out all year long to cultivate everything from juicy oranges and peaches to crunchy almonds. In recognition of those tireless workers, California Grown has designated October California Farmer and Farmworker Month. To mark the occasion, California Now Podcast host Soterios Johnson interviews farmers located in two of the state’s richest agricultural regions—the Central Valley and the Central Coast. Johnson first learns about the family history and traditions of a multigenerational peach and stone-fruit farm outside of Fresno. He then talks with an urban winemaker based in Paso Robles who got her start cleaning wine cellars. After that, he chats with a Central Valley grape and almond farmer who has been working the fields for 50 years.
41 minutes | 9 months ago
Northern California's Greatest Hits
In this special episode of the California Now Podcast, host Soterios Johnson looks back at some of the most memorable Northern California highlights from previous episodes. Join Johnson as he starts his journey with a tour of some of the trendiest boutiques in San Francisco and the East Bay before heading north to visit the farms that comprise the mouthwatering destinations along the California Cheese Trail. Subsequent stops include some farm-to-table dining in Sacramento, a bit of historical hiking in Butte County, and some fresh and flavorful seafood on the Mendocino coast. The episode wraps with a conversation about the spiritual side of Mount Shasta.
42 minutes | 10 months ago
Central California's Greatest Hits
In this special episode of the California Now Podcast, host Soterios Johnson revisits highlights from interviews conducted across the center of the state. Follow along as Johnson travels up the Central Coast, learning about the hidden gems of Ventura County, getting a taste of the bounty of Paso Robles wine country, sampling Julia Childs–approved bites in Santa Barbara, and discovering where to find an unforgettable cattle-wrangling adventure. Johnson also gets the inside scoop on how to make the most of a trip to the world-renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium. After that, the episode heads east into California's Central Valley, where our host gets a taste of the Bakersfield Sound at Buck Owens' Crystal Palace. The episode wraps up with a personal tour at Fresno's subterranean marvel, Forestiere Underground Gardens.
40 minutes | a year ago
Southern California's Greatest Hits
In this special episode of the California Now Podcast, host Soterios Johnson revisits some Southern California hotspots, hidden gems, and mouth-watering local cuisine featured on previous episodes. It’s a whirlwind tour through sunny SoCal that focuses on quantity and quality and will no doubt inspire a future road trip. Listen in as Johnson secures detailed directions for a perfect family outing in San Diego’s Balboa Park, gets the inside scoop for visits to both the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and then talks to a master builder at LEGOLAND California. After that, Johnson gets a taste of Orange County's delicious Asian food scene from a Los Angeles Times food blogger before turning his attention to L.A.’s thriving hotel culture. The episode then heads east, with stops at the idyllic mountain town of Idyllwild and at the majestic Sunnylands Center & Gardens in Greater Palm Springs.
37 minutes | a year ago
California's Wide-Open Spaces
Do you dream about spelunking your way through a prehistoric cave? Is glamping under the stars more your style? Whatever your outdoor pleasure, you're sure to find it in California. And no matter how you choose to commune with nature, exploring by RV is a great way to go, according to Dyana Kelley, who heads up the CampCalNOW RV Park & Campground Alliance. On this episode of the California Now Podcast, she provides host Soterios Johnson with insider information about the state’s many campgrounds and RV parks, sharing a few favorites and providing listeners with essential tips. Next, Johnson talks to Pinnacles National Park Ranger Chris Symons, who discusses his favorite spots in the state's newest national park (minted in 2013). The diverse landscape of the park, he says, makes for some exciting hikes, breathtaking stargazing, and possibly a glimpse of the rare California condor. Also on this episode, Johnson talks to Matthew Doyle, who runs tours at Lake Shasta Caverns National Landmark. Formed by flowing water about 200 million years ago, this unique network of caves and caverns is an outdoor adventurer’s dream. From hulking stalactites and stalagmites to the glistening majesty of Shasta Lake, the views are unforgettable.
29 minutes | a year ago
Phil Rosenthal: Live in California
Phil Rosenthal established himself as a Hollywood player in the mid-1990s when he created the iconic sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond. But these days Rosenthal is perhaps best known as the host of Somebody Feed Phil, a Netflix travel show that chronicles his journeys — and dining experiences — around the globe. In a wide-ranging interview, Rosenthal took California Now Podcast host Soterios Johnson behind the scenes of his show, reflecting on his strong belief in the power of travel and the disarming aspect of his everyman persona: “I'm exactly like Anthony Bourdain,” Rosenthal quipped, “if he was afraid of everything.” Rosenthal dished on an upcoming episode that showcases culinary experiences in the San Francisco Bay Area, including a whirlwind tour through Thomas Keller’s culinary empire in Yountville. Rosenthal also shared some of his favorite haunts in his adopted hometown of Los Angeles, noting that his far-flung travels have inspired him to think of local spots in a totally different way.
44 minutes | a year ago
The Pacific Ocean and California Coast
Given its 840 miles of beautiful coastline, California's relationship with the Pacific Ocean is deep and abiding. And if you ask SeaWorld San Diego's Jody Westberg, getting up close and personal with California's sea-dwelling inhabitants is a great way to understand and appreciate the connection between land and sea. In this episode of the California Now Podcast, Westberg—who has helped rescue thousands of wild marine animals over the years—talks with host Soterios Johnson about conservation efforts along the coast. Johnson also chats with Lauren Bergloff, a tour guide at the oceanfront Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes. Terranea offers a wide variety of nature experiences along the shore, and Bergloff describes the benefits of tidepooling, kayaking, or simply walking on a trail that hugs the coast. The episode concludes with an interview with Allison Soergel, a conservation expert with the Monterey Bay Aquarium, who shares insights about this venerable institution’s ongoing research into marine life and habitats along the Central Coast. Soergel also underscores why Aquarium staffers are so eager to have conversations about conservation with visitors.
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