When it comes to waxing poetic about California, certain spots tend to get the most love. Among them: the palm-tree-lined beaches of Los Angeles, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the stunning waterfalls and granite mountains of Yosemite National Park.
But I was recently struck by how many of you sent me charming emails about your love for lesser-known corners of California. You wrote to me about why you adore where you live, from Rancho Mirage to La Mesa to Davis. Your notes were a beautiful show of appreciation for the diversity of experiences of Californians, and I’m happy to share a sampling of them.
Here are some of your notes, lightly edited:
“This morning I opened the blinds in my bedroom and a brown bear was wandering through my yard. Sometimes a bear will stop by my birdbath for a sip of water. I came to Tahoe for a visit over 40 years ago and stayed. “I have never tired of its natural beauty.” — Judith Graham, South Lake Tahoe
“Before I moved to Merced from the Santa Barbara region 15 years ago, I had never heard of the Central Valley city. It is like a secret town with secret joys once you get a few minutes away from the freeway: peaceful bike paths along various creeks, a lake that’s terrific for kayaking and sailing, beautiful historical houses and a huge sky for stargazing above the orchards and fields . I can record a locally made bagel in the morning before work, join the wine-tasting class at one of the wine bars on Main Street in the early evening and then see a live performance at the Merced Theater at night. The people who live here are very friendly, and Merced has a vibrant service organization culture. “If you know how to look, there is a lot of ‘gold’ to be found in this community.” — Belinda Braunstein, Merced
“I consider it a badge of honor that I’ve now lived/survived a dozen summers here in Rancho Mirage, in the California desert, including several 120-degree-plus days. A cooler climate is less than an hour escape up the nearby mountains, which I can’t say about the heat and humidity in my native state. In return, I get wonderful weather for most of the rest of the year, the beauty of the desert and mountains and weeks full of fairs, festivals and events. I also have easy access to all that Southern California offers, which I now think would take a lifetime to fully explore. And when it gets hot, I can always jump into a pool with a cold drink nearby. “I can’t imagine living anywhere else.” — Jeffrey Clarkson, Rancho Mirage
“I’m an early morning person, so from my ridgetop home in La Mesa I get to watch the sunrise every day. San Diego County mountains are aligned nearly north and south so the location from my perspective changes during the year. In high summer, the sun appears each morning from the southern flank of Cuyamaca Peak, but as the year progresses it reaches as far south as Lawson Peak. “I’ve lived in this area since 1969 and I never tire of looking east at the skyline every morning.” — Tom Mooney, The Table
“I live in an area of Davis called Village Homes, a community of about 200 families that surrounds a village green. I’ve lived here for the last 11 years since my husband of 42 years died. Village Homes is perfect: with narrow streets, off-the-street parking, few streetlights, and connecting bike and pedestrian paths. The houses are small, the yards are small. I can sit in my living room and watch people of all ages walk by. My immediate neighbors get together for dinners, take care of each others’ yards, collect mail and just in general look out and care for each other. “I am so very lucky to live here.” — Kathryn Shack, Davis
“My favorite spot in California is Point Loma — a neighborhood in San Diego. We have lived here for 25 years. There is so much beauty here. I love to run north and then turn west and wow — there’s the ocean. Some days it’s foggy and not as much to see, but many days it’s clear and sunny and so shimmery and beautiful you just feel glad to be alive.” — Laurie Berman, Point Loma, San Diego
Where we’re traveling
Today’s tip comes from Sue Stack, who recommends visiting the Traylor Ranch Nature Reserve and Bird Sanctuary in Penryn, a 30-minute drive northeast of Sacramento:
“I love the Traylor Ranch bird sanctuary. Walking there, a person can see granite outcroppings with holes for acorn-grinding and many native oak trees (the source of the acorns). “This relatively small preserve was a cattle ranch in the 1960s and ’70s but is gradually returning to a more ‘natural’ state.”
Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.
I’m thinking about how Californians celebrate Thanksgiving. By the beach? With sourdough stuffing?
Email your Golden State Thanksgiving traditions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. Please include your full name and the city in which you live.
And before you go, some good news
For those wondering whether your neighborhood is cool as you think it is, Time Out has spoken. And for residents of San Francisco and Los Angeles, you might have been onto something.
Last month, Time Out released its annual list of the 40 coolest neighborhoods in the world, and two California neighborhoods, the Arts District in Los Angeles and the Richmond District in San Francisco, were ranked highly.
The rankings are formulated through a combination of crowdsourcing and editorial selection; This year, the publication received suggestions from more than 12,000 people who nominated neighborhoods in their areas with that special X factor. The selections were then won based on the expertise of editors and locals, and the final rankings were determined by factoring in characteristics like community and access to green space.