SANTA CRUZ FOR FREE
Well, not quite. But here are a few free things to do in and around this middle-California city as recommended by the Santa Cruz County Conference & Visitors Center: (1) Free walking tours: learn about the history of Capitola, stroll through the Victorian neighborhoods of Watsonville; take in the outdoor art of Santa Cruz. Tour brochures are available at the Santa Cruz County Conference and Visitors Council. (2) Walk, bike or blade the scenic West Cliff. A 2 1/2-mile path overlooking a dramatic drop to the Pacific parallels West Cliff Drive. (3) Hike among the towering redwoods. A number of parks in Santa Cruz County are admission-free, including Pogonip, DeLaveaga, Quail Hollow Ranch and Fall Creek State Park. (4) Smell the roses at Roses of Yesterday and Today garden. Other admission-free gardens are the UCSC Arboretum and Bamboo Giant Nursery. www.santacruz.org; 831-425-1234.
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, near San Diego, is well known for its annual springtime display of wildflowers. According to the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau, the blooming period can last from two to six weeks, depending on the weather, but usually begins in mid-March. A hotline, 760-767-4684, can help you plan the best time to visit. Information is also available on the Web, www.anzaborrego.statepark.org
The Zion Human History Museum at Zion National Park has an exhibit about Chauncey G. Parry, a visionary who had the foresight to see the area's potential. He was a force behind the national monument's becoming a national park, according to park curator, Mark Herberger. He also promoted southern Utah as a location for many early movies. The exhibit will run four to six months. The museum is one mile from the South Entrance and the Zion Canyon Visitor Center.
For a directory of Historic Hotels of America, send a $4 check or money order to National Trust Historic Hotels of America, P.O. Box 320, Washington, DC, 20055-0320. Or request one online at www.historichotels.org