TORONTO — Like a breath of fresh air, California’s tourism partners arrived in Toronto recently to host a media reception during which destinations and local attractions shared what’s new for 2014:
- With 36 hotels ranging from high-end luxury to affordable beach bungalows, Santa Monica will welcome a new Hampton Inn in the next couple of years. And spanning just 8.3 miles, the city is gaining a reputation for being a bike-friendly destination (80% of visitors ditch the car upon arrival), with wide bike lanes and the 22 mile-long South Bay Bike Trail, the largest oceanfront bike path in the world.
- Coming this summer is world famous Madame Tussauds to Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. The new attraction will feature a colourful cast of figures including Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Zuckerberg. Also, Scarlet Huntington Hotel made its debut this past May following a US$15 million renovation, as did Hotel G, which recently completed an extensive two-year reno.
- Already making quite a splash in Greater Palm Springs is the new 244-room Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage, the first domestic U.S. opening of a Ritz-Carlton property in four years. Located on a 650-foot bluff, the hotel offers panoramic views, multiple swimming pools, fire pits, terraces in many rooms, and a 25,000 square-foot spa with 14 treatment rooms.
- In Los Angeles, the Ace Hotel has opened a new Broadway location featuring 180 remodelled rooms and a 1,600-seat entertainment venue that will showcase live performances. The city is also gearing up for the highly anticipated Despicable Me Minion Mayhem 3D experience at Universal Studios Hollywood, coming this year.
- One of San Francisco’s most popular attractions just got a whole lot bigger – and wilder. The Sea Lion Center is now open at PIER 39, featuring educational videos and daily classroom-style presentations led by naturalists. Visitors can even touch a sea lion and size themselves up next to a real sea lion skeleton.
- Redondo Beach has unveiled its new Harbor & Pier Walking Map, available throughout the King Harbor and Pier shops as well as at the Redondo Beach Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau. The map guides visitors from the Redondo-Hermosa bike path wall mural to the gateway of Riviera Village, and also features a camera that points out photo ops, running and walking paths, parking, rest rooms and shops and business.
- Surf City USA, otherwise known as Huntington Beach, is still basking in the afterglow of the grand opening of Vans Off the Wall Skatepark and Garage Skate Shop. Debuting this past March, this world class skatepark is free to the public and includes a skate bowl, street plaza, fully stocked skate shop and snack bar. The city will also celebrate 100 Years of Surfing with a year-long calendar of events, including a golf tournament, a remodel of the International Surfing Museum, and an attempt at breaking the Guinness World Record for most people riding a wave on one surfboard.
- SeaWorld’s 18-month long 50th Celebration is in full swing with new interactive experiences, shows, animal encounters and prizes. Opening in time for the kick-off was Explorer’s Reef, featuring multiple touch pools containing shark pups, rays, skates and little cleaner fish. Starting this summer, new shows like Shamu’s Celebration: Light Up The Night will be sure to draw crowds, while SeaWorld’s Surprise Squad continues to roam the parks each day, giving away prizes and special gifts.
For more information on what’s new in California for 2014, go to visitcalifornia.com.