DiscoverCalifornia Now Podcast
California Now Podcast

California Now Podcast

Author: Visit California

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The California Now Podcast explores the people and places that make California a unique travel experience. Host Soterios Johnson, veteran radio journalist and former host of NPR’s Morning Edition on WNYC in New York City, has recently moved to California and is using his journalism skills to learn every fascinating thing about his new home state. He interviews travel experts, chefs, local guides and many others on his journey of discovery. For more ideas on California travel, go to
106 Episodes
On this episode of the California Now Podcast, host Soterios Johnson talks to two insiders about the latest and greatest happenings at California’s theme parks. Along the way he also discovers tips and tricks for extracting maximum value from a theme park visit, as well as recommendations for tasty treats you can only get on the other side of the turnstiles.  Johnson first interviews Robert Niles, founder of Theme Park Insider. Niles shares the newest developments in California’s theme parks, including thrilling new rides, special anniversary celebrations, and exciting park expansions. Niles also highlights his personal favorite theme park attractions across the Golden State—roller coasters, live shows, and more. After that Johnson chats with family travel expert Katrina Hunt, who offers wallet-friendly tips for optimizing your theme park experience. Hunt discusses ways to unlock the best deals, shares money-saving strategies, and explores when it might make sense to pay extra to skip the lines. She also reveals some of the must-try theme park treats, from beloved classics like Disney’s Dole Whip to limited-edition snacks.
On this episode of the California Now Podcast, host Soterios Johnson speaks with Mike Love and Al Jardine, founding members of the most California band of all time, The Beach Boys.  “So much of our music was inspired by California itself,” Love explains during the first segment of the episode. Reflecting on the essence of the California Dream, Love highlights how The Beach Boys’ lighthearted and carefree music resonates across generations and geographic boundaries. “Those songs evoke such good vibrations and such positivity. It’s just miraculous that we’re still able to create that good vibration to this day,” he shares.  Johnson then chats with Jardine, who shares stories about the band’s early days and comments on the group’s continuing appeal more than six decades after they started out. “[It’s] without a doubt the songwriting genius,” Jardine says, adding that the band also owes much of its success to “the wonderful comradery and the family connection.”  Both stars conclude their interviews by taking the California Questionnaire, answering a lightning round of questions about their love for the Golden State.
On this episode of the California Now Podcast, host Soterios Johnson delves into the wonders of Tuolumne County with insights from three area insiders. First, Johnson chats with Madi Broxham, co-owner of Local Collective, a vibrant shop in downtown Sonora that showcases more than 50 makers from Tuolumne County. Broxham describes her inviting boutique/eatery, and offers recommendations including the Cookies and Confluence, an Oreo-espresso milkshake. Broxham goes on to describe Sonora, a one-stoplight mountain town nestled among green rolling hills and steeped in history. Offering insider tips, she highlights must-see attractions, family-friendly activities, and dining and lodging options in the area.  Next up, Johnson explores Columbia State Historic Park with interpreter Caleb Masquelier. “If you walk into the park now, you're going to see the largest collection of Gold Rush–era buildings in the state of California,” Masquelier explains. The immersive state park experience features a historic stagecoach and staff who wear period-correct attire. Masquelier also discusses the park's educational programs, from captivating gold mining demonstrations to immersive historical tours.   Lastly, Johnson speaks with Elisabeth Barton, co-owner of Echo Adventure Cooperative, which offers socially and environmentally sustainable guided adventures in Yosemite National Park and the Sierra Nevada. Barton highlights the county’s diverse terrain, from its lush valleys to towering peaks: “You go all the way from 1,000 feet of elevation to 10,000 and above.” She goes deep on Echo Adventure Cooperative’s bespoke outdoor experiences, including fly fishing, backpacking, rafting, snowshoeing, and more. Barton passionately discusses their dedication to accessibility through their adaptive tours, specifically designed for individuals seeking accessible activities and community building.
On this episode of the California Now Podcast, host Soterios Johnson learns about Orange County’s wide range of travel offerings from three locals. First, Johnson engages with Chris Epting, a seasoned travel writer and historian known for his extensive works on Orange County. Epting sheds light on a few lesser-known attractions, from live oak forests to the county’s only grove of redwoods, each with intriguing histories. Epting also shares insights on local beach culture and the charming towns that dot the coast. “Every beach city here has such a different personality... Each one of them is really worth a visit," he explains. Epting also shares his favorite eateries, as well as a few quirky attractions from the past—including the tale of a fake ski mountain. Next up, Johnson talks with Chelsea Raineri, style and home editor at Orange Coast Magazine and the host of its podcast, The Zest. Raineri discusses Orange County’s standing as a premier shopping and fashion destination, highlighting everything from luxury shopping malls to local boutiques. She raves about South Coast Plaza as a world-renowned shopping destination: “They have more than a dozen West Coast–exclusive boutiques. It's incredible,” she remarks. Raineri also explores alternative shopping experiences, from bargain hunts to vintage finds, and shares her personal favorite shopping spots in the area. Lastly, Johnson chats with Leslie Liao, an up-and-coming stand-up comedian with Orange County roots. Liao shares her unique journey from corporate life to comedy, influenced by her upbringing in an Asian household amid local skater and surfer culture. She recommends comedy show venues and secret pop-ups for catching a show, and expresses her love for performing in her hometown: “I love an O.C. crowd. They are there to laugh and drink and smile, and I couldn't love them more,” she enthuses. Liao wraps up by sharing her go-to restaurants in the area.
Discovering Lake County

Discovering Lake County


On this episode of the California Now Podcast, host Soterios Johnson procures local insights on Lake County with three knowledgeable guests. First, Johnson is joined by Melinda Price, co-owner of Peace & Plenty Farm, one of California’s few saffron farms. In addition to highlighting what makes Lake County ideal for saffron farming, Price tantalizes listeners with descriptions of some of the saffron-infused treats available for purchase—including saffron lemonade, a local favorite. She details the experiences visitors can enjoy on her Kelseyville farm, including a picturesque seasonal lavender field that draws visitors from all over. Price concludes by sharing tips for exploring other great attractions in her community. Next, Johnson speaks with Angela DePalma-Dow, the Water Resources and Invasive Species Coordinator for Lake County, who also writes a column for Lake County News. DePalma-Dow elaborates on the freshwater lake’s ancient origins, noting, “there's been water at this site for about two million years.” She then dives into Clear Lake’s ancient ecosystem, which helps make it a world-class fishing and birdwatching destination. Lastly, Johnson talks with Tammy Lipps, owner of Ripe Choice Farm & Catering in Lakeport. Lipps offers a glimpse into the visitor experience at her six-acre property, which boasts a 1904 farmhouse and an abundance of organic fruit trees and vegetables. Delving into Lake County’s growing wine scene, the chef and farmer shares insights into the region’s wine history: “This was all wine country before Prohibition,” she reflects. Lipps recommends a handful of nearby wineries to visit, including one where visitors can hunt for Lake County diamonds in rich volcanic soil.
California offers endless ways to play, and on this episode of the California Now Podcast, host Soterios Johnson explores some of the reasons why California is The Ultimate Playground.  First up, Johnson is joined by Andrew Nelson, award-winning writer and editor for National Geographic Traveler. The Here Not There author discusses one of this year’s biggest travel trends, destination dupes, with a focus on where to experience them in California. Nelson explains why the Golden State is such a hot spot for destination dupes from all over the world. “[There are] so many different geographical features, so many different lively and vibrant cities of all sizes,” he says, “it seems only natural that so many of these destinations can be found here.” He shares several alternatives for the Riviera, Tuscany, the Galapagos Islands, and more that can be found in California. A seasoned traveler, Nelson also name-drops a few of his favorite unique travel destinations, from the Bay Area to the desert. Next up, Johnson talks with Jordan Kivelstadt, winemaker and founder of Bohemian Highway Travel Company, a tour operator crafting personalized wine country excursions in Sonoma County and Napa Valley. Kivelstadt sheds light on the historic origin of the company's name and shares some of the experiences guests can expect on his custom-crafted tours. “I’m going to get you out in a vineyard on an ATV with a winemaker hearing about the process, learning why grapes grow here, what the process of harvest is, all the way to the bottle,” he shares. One remote corner of wine country receives special attention on the show: “The Sonoma coastline is spectacular, and we have some of the best creameries in the world,” he enthuses. Beyond wine, Kivelstadt adds his picks on where to eat, stay, and play in Sonoma and Napa. Lastly, Johnson speaks with Martin Cate, owner of Smuggler’s Cove, an acclaimed tiki bar in San Francisco. A driving force behind the resurgence of tiki culture, Cate cites the history of tiki in California dating back to the 1930s. “It was just kind of a wild experiential setting that people weren't used to, and it became a sensation overnight,” he explains. The tiki expert lists several must-visit tiki bars in California and gives a rundown of what to expect inside, from tropical decor to a crash course on what to order. Moreover, the tiki mocktail scene is thriving, and Cate explains how tiki drinks lend themselves to being served without alcohol.
On this episode of the California Now Podcast, host Soterios Johnson heads across the Golden Gate Bridge to talk with three local experts about where to eat, shop, and play in Marin County. First, Johnson talks with Alex Fox, owner of Food & Farm Tours in West Marin. Fox delves into Marin’s history of sustainable and regenerative agriculture, tracing its roots back to the Gold Rush era. “A lot of people don't know Marin County was actually the very first agricultural hub of California,” she explains. Fox then elaborates on the experiences guests can expect on her tours, like shucking oysters, tasting local cheeses, and getting up close and personal with baby cows. Fox also shares her top picks for what to eat and do in the area, including where to find the best water buffalo gelato. Next up, Johnson is joined by Lauren Harwell Godfrey, an award-winning luxury jewelry designer based in Marin County. Her handcrafted, ethically sourced designs draw inspiration from ancient textiles and patterns of the African diaspora, and are highly sought after by collectors. Reflecting on her journey in building her brand, the designer mentions some notable individuals who wear her jewelry. “Kamala Harris actually has worn a lot of my pieces,” she reveals. Lauren also discusses Marin’s vibrant food scene, great local shopping, and her favorite places to spend time outdoors. “It's just a very special place,” she remarks.  Lastly, Johnson talks to John Finger, the CEO of Hog Island Oyster Company. Finger dives into his background as a marine biologist and what motivated him to establish his very own oyster farm in Marin County. He then shares the factors that make Tomales Bay ideal for oyster farming. “It's really about that exchange with the ocean, that nutrient-rich water, good tidal cycle in and out through the bay that really creates a great oyster,” he explains. Finger also recounts eating his crowd-favorite barbecue oysters with celebrity chef Roy Choi and director Jon Favreau on an episode of Netflix’s The Chef Show. Finger also shares a handful of his go-to outdoor activities and neighborhood spots around Marin County.
On this episode of the California Now Podcast, host Soterios Johnson speaks with five-time Emmy-nominee Margaret Cho. A lifelong Californian, Cho shares how her upbringing in San Francisco helped shape her career in comedy. “I was seeing comedians like Robin Williams, Paula Poundstone, and Dana Carvey all the time, and it was a really incredible place to grow up within comedy,” Cho explains. Cho also discusses getting back on the road for her Live & LIVID stand-up tour, showcasing iconic venues like The Largo in Los Angeles and San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall. “I'll do a show at the Comedy Store, and the other people on my bill are people like Sebastian Maniscalco, Tiffany Haddish, Arsenio Hall, Iliza Shlesinger,” Cho notes. “You'll see only heavy hitters because everybody comes to these clubs on a weeknight just to work out new material.” Cho also dives into her favorite offstage activities, including eating late-night Korean BBQ, attending cat shows, sampling omakase in San Francisco, and dining at Hollywood’s historic Musso & Frank Grill. “All of the wooden booths contain all of the stories of the old movie stars,” she says. “You can really almost feel the history in the booths.”
On this, the 100th episode of the California Now Podcast, host Soterios Johnson interviews James Beard Award–winning author, chef, and Netflix star Samin Nosrat.  The San Diego native and Oakland resident shares how she began her culinary career in Alice Water’s kitchen at Chez Panisse: “I started, and I was pretty much immediately just enchanted by this place,” Nosrat recalls. “I'd never worked anywhere like that, where everybody cared so much and was just such a perfectionist.” It was there that she came up with the idea for her New York Times bestselling cookbook Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, which would later become a hit Netflix series. “I saw that it was really these four elements, salt, fat, acid, and heat, that were kind of the points on the compass. And I even went up to one of the chefs at one point, and I said, ‘I think I understand now.’” Throughout the interview, Nosrat highlights recipes from her cookbook, names some of her go-to East Bay eateries, and celebrates the state's vibrant food culture, from local farmers' markets to ethnically diverse restaurants to her favorite spot for a bean-and-cheese burrito. Finally, Nosrat takes the California Questionnaire, offering insights into her culinary and travel favorites across the Golden State. 
Locals Guide to San Jose

Locals Guide to San Jose


On this episode of the California Now Podcast, host Soterios Johnson explores the vibrant city of San Jose alongside four lifelong locals, creatives, and business owners.    First, Johnson talks with sisters Be'Anka Ashaolu and Jeronica Macey of Nirvana Soul Coffee. The co-owners share how their business has grown into a much-loved cornerstone of San Jose’s burgeoning coffee community. “There are just so many different types of people who feel comfortable coming into our shop, which was exactly what we wanted,” shares Ashaolu. The dynamic duo give Johnson the full Nirvana Soul experience, from taking in the shop’s vibrant atmosphere to a quick study in ordering off the extensive menu. “We have a honey lavender [coffee], but you can also get a banana chai or a white rose,” says Macey. Ashaolu and Macey also name a handful of their favorite local restaurants and black-owned businesses in the area.  Next up, Johnson talks with Jo Lerma-Lopez, the chef and owner of Luna Mexican Kitchen. Before delving into her restaurant, Lerma-Lopez shares stories from her time owning a neighborhood record shop and independent music label. “For us, it was really about making a change in the music industry and continuing to keep control of how Latino artists at English radio stations are represented,” she voices. The Michelin-lauded chef then discusses her holistic approach to cooking. “I just wanted to take food back to what was,” she says, “and we went thousands of years back to the foundation of our ancestors, which is corn.” Lerma-Lopez guides Johnson through Luna's must-try dishes and offers recommendations for other noteworthy restaurants and stops in San Jose. Finally, Johnson talks art and culture with Daniel Garcia, photographer, founder, and creative force behind Silicon Valley’s Content Magazine. As an artist himself, Garcia explains what moved him to create the publication. “I started Content Magazine in 2012 because I started running into a lot of artists that I felt like weren't getting recognition…so I was like, let's just tell the stories,” he says. The two discuss San Jose’s thriving creative scene, during which Garcia reveals the indie art galleries, under-the-radar museums, and unique live performances he frequents. Garcia adds, “I'm just really blessed to be saturated in a community where I can take in all these kind of different expressions from other people, and that really gets me going.”
First up, Johnson speaks with San Diego–based Alana Quintana Albertson about her latest novel, Kiss Me, Mi Amor. Albertson discusses how the Golden State’s diverse settings provide endless inspiration for her many romance novels. “I really use setting as a character, and I was contrasting La Jolla and Barrio Logan and different communities,” says Albertson. Albertson also shares a few sneak peaks of her upcoming works and names some of her top San Diego County spots for coffee, tacos, and books.  Next, Johnson is joined by Melissa Broder, author of the mystical desert tale Death Valley. The Los Angeles author and poet recounts how a traumatic personal experience in the California desert inspired her latest novel. “I was just going to Zabriskie Point where nobody—it's a very touristy area—nobody ever gets lost there. I got completely lost and did everything you're not supposed to do,” Broder recalls.  She tops off the conversation by sharing her favorite local boutiques, restaurants, and hiking trails.   Lastly, Johnson talks with South Lake Tahoe–based memoirist and poet Suzanne Roberts. The Almost Somewhere author recounts her experience hiking the John Muir Trail: “Those 28 days taught me that there is more than one view of nature, that nature is a place where we should be connecting and not conquering.” The experienced outdoorswoman also builds an itinerary for both a laid-back and action-packed winter weekend in her hometown.
On this episode of the California Now Podcast, host Soterios Johnson explores the endless allure of Inyo County and the Eastern Sierra with four in-the-know locals.  First up, Johnson talks with Brent Underwood, owner of Cerro Gordo, a former Gold Rush–era boomtown and mining operation nestled in the Inyo Mountains. Underwood starts off by sharing the thrills and daily struggles of living in a ghost town. “It's a lot of learning on the fly,” he says. “It's a lot of stressful days and logistical challenges, but I love it. It's probably the most interesting and fulfilling thing that I've ever done.” The entrepreneur dives into the town’s history, his plans for reviving the property, and how visitors can explore Cerro Gordo for themselves.  Next, Johnson is joined by Bob Sigman, executive director of the Museum of Western Film History in Lone Pine. Sigman shares his insights into the rich Hollywood heritage of the Eastern Sierra region and what made Lone Pine in particular a filming hot spot for Western films. As Sigman explains, “The sun going from east to west over Owens Valley provided just a unique opportunity for filmmakers, not only to have the landscape, but to have variable light, whether they were shooting northeast, south, or west.” He also discusses the Lone Pine Film Festival’s evolution, popular exhibits, and how to experience the cinematic landscape of Inyo County in person. Lastly, Johnson talks to Brittany and Dave Holman, the husband-and-wife team behind Owens Valley Distilling Company in Bishop. The two share how the area’s magnificent rock climbing initially drew them to the area 17 years ago. “Bishop is literally a climbing mecca now,” Dave says. “I mean, you talk to any rock climber around the world, they will know Bishop, California.” The Holmans discuss the distillery’s origins, including the secret to their locally made spirits. The avid outdoor enthusiasts also give tips for enjoying Bishop’s epic surroundings. “If you love the outdoors, regardless of what your fitness level is—if you're just a car tourist trying to see some beautiful things or you're a hardcore athlete—there's just so much to do in this town,” Dave boasts. “It's incredible.”
 On this episode of the California Now Podcast, host Soterios Johnson heads to San Luis Obispo County to secure top-tier suggestions from three in-the-know locals.  First, Johnson chats with Jason Haas, partner and general manager of Tablas Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles. Haas describes how SLO’s unique landscape makes it perfectly suited for producing an array of award-winning wines. “The conditions here are amazing and we have the chance to make something tremendous really every year,” Haas says. The second-generation vintner also gives Johnson a crash course on Tablas Creek’s holistic winemaking philosophy before getting into personal recs around Paso Robles.  Next up, Johnson is joined by Jim Allen, director of marketing and communications at Hearst Castle in San Simeon. Allen discusses how the lavish estate came to be, highlighting the fascinating characters behind its inception. “Julia Morgan was a California native, a Bay Area architect. Mr. Hearst was also born in San Francisco, so [Hearst Castle] is a very California-created entity,” Allen notes. He goes on to discuss the incredible attention to detail and artistry that went into building the castle. “The indoor pool has 2 million hand-cut glass tiles from Venice, Italy. It took five years just to do this one swimming pool.” Allen also covers the state park’s most popular tours, its celebrity-studded past, and offers insider tips for visitors.  Lastly, Johnson talks to multi-instrumentalist Dan Curcio of the San Luis Obispo-based band Moonshiner Collective. A longtime local, Curcio explains how the area’s positive vibe continues to shape his sound. “I've been so inspired by the Central Coast, by California, just the lifestyle here and all the influences that we have around here, both musically and just in the natural surroundings,” he shares. Curcio also breaks out his guitar for a live performance of two originals, “Autumness” and “Good Company.” The local musician then shares some of his favorite stops in Cayucos, Avila Beach, Pismo Beach, and the city of San Luis Obispo
On this episode of the California Now Podcast, host Soterios Johnson explores the ins and outs of Humboldt County’s diverse offerings with three knowledgeable insiders.  First up, Johnson talks with Sebastian Elrite, who oversees a trio of oyster businesses in Humboldt County: Aqua-Rodeo Farms, Humboldt Bay Oyster Tours, and Humboldt Bay Provisions. Elrite discusses his bay-to-boat- to-oyster bar operation, sharing tips and stories from his educational boat tours. “We're able to go out to my oyster farm and do some fresh oyster harvesting,” he shares. “When we get those oysters landed, we'll go ahead and head back to the oyster bar at Humboldt Bay Provisions over in Old Town in Eureka and do a little tasting and have some local libations.” Going beyond bi-valves, Elrite also name-drops his favorite local restaurants and activities in the area.  Next, Johnson is joined by Kimberly Frick, co-owner of Redwood Creek Buckarettes, a horseback riding experience in Orick. A fifth-generation Humboldt native, Frick details the advantages of exploring Redwood National Park by horseback. “Most of our guests are very awe-inspired, they use the word ‘magical’ or ‘majestic,’” she says. “And on our particular trail, you're surrounded by a lot of [redwoods]. There's not just one or two, it's a whole hillside full of them.” Frick shares other options forexploring nature in Humboldt County, from hiking Fern Canyon to gondola rides in Klamath.  Finally, Johnson talks with Melissa Sanderson, publisher of The Ferndale Enterprise and owner of Humboldt’s Hometown Store. Sanderson discusses the joys of running a community newspaper, Ferndale’s ornate Victorian homes, and what it’s like to have Guy Fieri as a landlord. “The town itself is a historical landmark,” she notes. “We have more cows than people.” Sanderson also discusses shopping and unique dining experiences in the area.
Discover Yolo County

Discover Yolo County


On this episode of the California Now Podcast, host Soterios Johnson plays tourist in his own backyard of Yolo County with three local business owners. First up, Johnson talks with Rafael Galiano, co-owner of Park Winters, a charming 10-acre estate that is a highly sought-after venue for weddings and events. Galiano gives Johnson a tour of the boutique property, from its historic Victorian B&B to its flower farm and seasonal restaurant. Galiano also shares insights into the town’s character and what initially drew him to this stretch of California countryside. “Aside from the geographic beauty, it's the community of people around us that have made it special,” he says. “I describe Yolo County as a breath of fresh air.” Galiano also gives his top picks for great eating and outstanding outdoor experiences in the area.  Next, Johnson speaks with Georgeanne Brennan, a James Beard Award-winning author and partner in L'Apéro les Trois tasting lounge in downtown Winters. The epicurean shares insights into what makes her business so special, from sourcing the best local produce to the gourmet tastings. “People tell us, ‘Wow—I feel like I’m in France,’” she says. Brennan also delves into her favorite neighborhood culinary finds before sharing info on some only-in-Winters events worth attending. Lastly, Johnson speaks with honey expert Amina Harris, the longtime owner and “Queen Bee” of The Hive in Woodland. Harris guides Johnson through some of the shop's unique offerings, including rare and local honey flavors, a mead tasting experience, and The Hive’s new weekend brunch. Harris also provides recommendations for exploring the best hiking trails around Yolo County. "You can walk up Putah Creek and see all kind of birds and river otters, turtles and egrets," she shares. "It's really terrific."
On this episode of the California Now Podcast, host Soterios Johnson chats with celebrity chef Antonia Lofaso, known for appearing on Bravo’s Top Chef along with recent appearances on Food Network's Beachside Brawl and Tournament of Champions. Lofaso explains her culinary philosophy and shares insights into her prominent Los Angeles restaurants—Scopa Italian Roots, Black Market Liquor Bar, and Dama. “We can have a menu that encompasses so many different regions and cultures while still celebrating the seasons with produce, because that's so California,” Lofaso explains. “And I think that's what California does really, really well.”   Lofaso also delves into Los Angeles’ vibrant food scene, naming her favorite bites around town. “I'm obsessed with Mother Wolf,” she shares. “I always have been. And if I just want pizza and pasta, I'm going to Mozza all day long.”  To cap off the episode, Lofaso takes on the California Questionnaire, giving listeners a glimpse into her Golden State passions. She touches on everything from her dream shopping spree to her ideal road trip, and even belts out a bit of her favorite Golden State song.
On this episode of the California Now Podcast, host Soterios Johnson dives deep into some of San Francisco’s most celebrated and lesser-known neighborhoods with three expert guests.  First, Johnson is joined by Evan Goldstein, master sommelier for the San Francisco Giants. With more than 30 years as a professional oenophile, Goldstein shares some fun on-the-job anecdotes along with his perfect wine and snack pairings at Oracle Park. “Sauvignon Blanc and garlic fries is one of my favorites,” he reveals. “And then, of course, you're going to have one of the renowned tri-tip sandwiches that we do. It's funny how people will freak out [about what to pair it with] if it's a sandwich, but if you tell them it's a steak, “Oh, I'll have a Cabernet with it.” Goldstein also explores San Francisco’s diverse wine scene, from trendy wine bars in the Dogpatch to neighborhood haunts in the Inner Richmond.  Next, Johnson reconnects with Bay Curious podcast host Olivia Allen-Price. The freshly minted author discusses her new book before getting into some under-the-radar gems in North Beach—including the Dear San Francisco revue. “It's kind of like Cirque de Soleil, but with a San Francisco twist,” she says. “It's a small theater, so you're really close to these people doing amazing tricks with their bodies that just will blow your mind. I went a couple weeks ago and I'm still thinking about it.” The podcaster also tells Johnson where to go for dinner and a show in sunny Potrero Hill.  Finally, Johnson talks culinary and cocktails with Lauren Saria, editor of Eater San Francisco. Saria shares a new way to enjoy a beloved city activity: a cable car bar crawl. After that, Saria breaks down her perfect Saturday—brunch spots, taco shops, and vintage stores included—in hippie haven Haight-Ashbury. The professional foodie also points listeners to some noteworthy happy hours and bars downtown, as well as some splurge-worthy restaurants. “In San Francisco, we are so fortunate because we have so many really lovely and special high-end restaurants where you can have a three- or four-hour dinner, and everything will be perfect” says Saria.
 [Note: For updated information on what's new at Golden State theme parks, see our more recent episode California Theme Parks 2024.] On this episode of the California Now Podcast, host Soterios Johnson learns what’s new at California’s top theme parks. To kick things off, Johnson chats with Disneyland Ambassador Nataly Guzman Garcia, a 13-year veteran of the resort who previously served as a tour guide. The two discuss Disney’s 100th anniversary celebration, new rides like Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, a musical event featuring the Avengers, her love of Dole Whip, and much more.  Next, Johnson levels up at Super Nintendo World with Jon Corfino, vice president of creative at Universal Studios Hollywood. Corfino offers a detailed look at the themed land, including Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge, an interactive ride that features cutting-edge technology. Guests will feel like they’re walking through a video game, Corfino notes, whether they’re eating a mushroom-themed dish at Toadstool Cafe or simply spotting the countless Easter eggs scattered across the attraction. Finally, Johnson is joined by theme park expert and travel writer Katrina Hunt. Hunt discusses everything from new coasters to her favorite foods in theme parks across the Golden State. She  also shares some cost-saving tips and simple ways to streamline your theme park experience whether you’re exploring Sesame Place San Diego or Gilroy Gardens.
Canadians in California

Canadians in California


On this episode of the California Now Podcast, host Soterios Johnson discusses why the Golden State is the perfect place for aspiring creatives with four notable Canadian expats.  First, Johnson talks with Janet Zuccarini, owner of the acclaimed restaurant Felix in Venice Beach. The Toronto-born restaurateur breaks down the dishes she loves and names some of the many A-list diners who frequent her Abbot Kinney eatery. Zuccarini also discusses where she likes to dine in Los Angeles, as well as a handful of her favorite California road-trip stops up the coast.  Next, Johnson chats with Eric Bauza, Emmy-winning voice actor who specializes in characters like Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Tweety. Bauza gives Johnson a live sampling of some of the iconic voices he can produce and recounts behind-the-scenes stories featuring the likes of LeBron James and Mark Hamill. Finally, Johnson speaks with Jason Couse and Wes Marskell of the alt-pop band The Darcys. Couse and Marskell give a live performance of two songs, “Trouble Found Me” and “Washed Away.” The pair talk music, list some of their favorite spots in L.A.’s vast food scene, and share what prompted them to relocate to the Golden State. 
Exploring Ventura County

Exploring Ventura County


Located on the southern end of California’s Central Coast and just north of Malibu, Ventura County is an unheralded Southern California destination that is truly worth a visit. California Now Podcast host Soterios Johnson interviews three guests on this episode, each with a distinctive take on the area.   To start things off, Johnson discusses skateboarding, BMX, and motocross with Valerie Ryan, vice president of fan experience and hospitality for X Games, which will be held in Ventura July 21–23. As Ryan points out, Ventura provides the perfect backdrop for the competition, and key events will be held with the Pacific Ocean in full view.   After that, the conversation heads inland as Johnson engages in a culinary-led conversation with Zoe Nathan, owner of a unique Ojai dining establishment called The Dutchess. This open-all-day eatery, Nathan explains, is a bakery in the morning, a café at lunchtime, and a Burmese restaurant at night. If it sounds a bit quirky, well, that suits the vibe in Ojai, an artsy enclave located 80 miles north of Los Angeles and 35 miles south of Santa Barbara.   The third and final guest on the episode, Lynne Andujar, is the editor in chief and CEO of the regional magazine 805 Living. Andujar shares some of her favorite experiences and attractions in Ventura, Ventura Harbor, Oxnard, and Thousand Oaks.
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