CALIFORNIA — Despite high inflation and a looming recession, 2023 might just be the best time for Californians to hit the road as gas prices are finally falling from record highs and state gas rebates hit bank accounts statewide.

With beautiful sprawling beaches, historic neighborhoods, hikes to see fall foliage and immersive art installments — the state is full of experiences to be had and photographs waiting to be snapped. Mark the start of the new year by visiting a place you’ve never seen.

From Palm Springs to Ojai and all the way up to Sebastopol, here are 7 destinations you need to see in 2023:

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1. Palm Springs Art Museum – Palm Springs

Founded in 1938, the Palm Springs Art Museum is a place rich with history, art and culture.

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An immersive installation that was delayed by the pandemic is now on display at the Palm Springs Art Museum. Works on display survey Phillip K. Smith III’s two-decade run of spectacular experiments with light. Guests will have a chance to interact with Coachella Valley’s “experiments with light and change” through May 7, 2023.

“Inspired by the daily light phenomena of the desert, many works slowly shift from hue to hue as determined by Phillip’s precisely paced color choreography,” according to the museum.

2. Bart’s Books – Ojai

“Everything, under the sun.” That’s how Bart’s Books — the world’s largest outdoor bookstore — touts its inventory.

“Our serene, naturalistic setting embodies what attracts so many to the Ojai Valley: an emphasis on mindfulness, peace, and shared knowledge,” according to the bookstore.

The shop has been serving the community since 1964 and now hosts a collection of over 130,000 used and new books, ranging from rare out-of-print gems to well-loved paperbacks, according to the outdoor landmark.

3. Florence Avenue’s Trash Art – Sebastopol

Sebastopol’s three-block-long Florence Avenue offers imaginative sculpture and other art forms in the front yards of those who live along the block. The neighborhood installations are made from recycled trash, and depict playful, oversized figures.

While visiting this quirky and charming Sonoma County town, snap pictures of a rat at the wheel of a hot rod, a tea-sipping Mad Hatter, a joy-riding skeleton on a chopper, giant birds, and many more.

4. Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, Monterey County

There’s a reason this particular Central Coast gem is lauded as the crown jewel of the state parks system. Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is nestled at the northern end of the jaw-dropping stretch of California coastline known as Big Sur. It’s a short drive from Monterey, the state’s first city.

The reserve boasts cypress forests, panoramic Pacific views, a pristine white beach, and several miles of waterfront trails. Wildlife lovers might spot harbor seals, turkey vultures, sea otters — and you may spot a whale or two.

5. Hollywood Sign Hikes, Los Angeles County

Los Angeles is the backdrop for TV shows and films that entertain the world, and perhaps no symbol is more emblematic of the city’s entertainment industry than the Hollywood sign.

The sign — spelled “Hollywoodland” when it was erected in 1923 as a marketing ploy for a housing development of that name — quickly became a landmark in the City of Angels. It was rebuilt to remain on the hillside for posterity in 1978, thanks to the generosity of stars such as Hugh Hefner, Fleetwood Mac, Alice Cooper, Gene Autry and Andy Williams, according to the Hollywood Sign Trust.

5. Joshua Tree National Park – Joshua Tree

See desert lighting firsthand within this mystical park, which offers sweeping views of strange rock formations and the oddly contorted Joshua Trees themselves.

Joshua Tree National Park is a pet-friendly SoCal gem that offers much for the outdoorsman, photographer or traveler looking for a quiet, scenic getaway on its 800,000 acres, according to the National Park Service.

The park is home to dozens of trails for all skill levels and plenty of options for campers or rock climbers.

The park is named after the many Joshua trees that speckle its landscape. Look for the “twisted, spiky trees straight out of a Dr. Seuss book,” and you’ll know you’ve come to the right place, the National Park Service said.

6. Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

This one is a must for anyone who calls themselves a Californian. It’s not hard to see why San Francisco’s historic Golden Gate Park is the third-most-visited park in the nation, with an estimated 25 million visits per year.

This tranquil and scenic park dates back to 1870, spans 50 blocks and 1,000 acres, and boasts trails, gardens, lakes, buffalo, three children’s playgrounds, a windmill surrounded by tulips, the Conservatory of Flowers and the nation’s first AIDS memorial. If you’re willing to shell out a few bucks, Golden Gate Park is also home to several paid attractions, including the popular Japanese Tea Garden, de Young Museum and Segway tours.

At the very least — take a drive across the bridge in 2023.

7. Butterfly Grove – Pismo Beach

Want to feel like an actual fairy? Well, even if you don’t, Pismo Beach’s butterfly grove is a must for butterfly fans. This location within Pismo Beach along the central coast is home to tens of thousands of migrating butterflies.

Walk along this grove for an opportunity to see hundreds of fluttering wings at once. But remember, these are endangered creatures and it’s frowned upon to disturb them in their natural habitat in the eucalyptus trees.

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