A Road Trip to Some of California’s Hidden Gems

29 min
An exterior of the Magic Castle, a club for magicians. (Courtesy of the Magic Castle)

This week is our Hidden Gems show! This summer, forget the tourist traps and come along with us on a sonic journey to explore some of California’s out-of-the-way, cool spots that make this place we call home so unique.

Underground Lakes and a Vanished Church Await in California Cavern

For you adventurous souls who like to get your sightseeing thrills underground, California has a surprising wealth of caves open to the public — offering everything from walking tours to mud-caked spelunking. But subterranean tourism isn’t as new a concept as you might think. The very first California cave to open to the public, back during the Gold Rush, was in the Sierra Nevada foothills. And 170 years later, its unique sights are still as impressive as they were to those first candle-clutching visitors. Reporter Carly Severn was lucky enough to get a private tour.

An Apple Pancake as Big as a Pie? At This ’50s L.A. Diner, It’s True

The California Report Magazine’s host Sasha Khokha grew up in L.A., just a mile from LAX, and she takes us to one of her family’s favorite neighborhood spots. Dinah’s Family Restaurant has been serving up American comfort food for 60 years. Diners come for the fried chicken, liver and onions, and one-of-a-kind apple pancakes. With its “Googie” architecture — think The Jetsons: big red and blue stucco orbs jutting from the ceiling, rock walls, and vinyl booths — this quintessential LA diner has also been used as a backdrop for Hollywood.

What Happens Inside This Victorian Mansion in L.A.? Magic! Literally

The Magic Castle is a Los Angeles landmark, but it’s one that not everyone gets to visit. Since 1963, this ornate mansion has served as an exclusive clubhouse for magicians, illusionists and Hollywood celebrities…but KQED’s Jessica Placzek said the magic words to give us a peek inside.

Santa Cruz Museum Shines Light on the History of Surfing

The Santa Cruz Surfing Museum doesn't look like your typical museum — because it’s a working lighthouse. It’s also one of the first — and smallest — surf museums on the West Coast. Bianca Taylor takes us there.

Journey Back In Time With a Ride Aboard The Amador Central Railroad

Last stop on our hidden gems tour: Ione, a small Gold Rush town in Amador County 30 miles East of Sacramento. Tourists come here for the wineries and casinos, but on the second Saturday of most months, you can take a trip back in time. From Ione’s Main Street, we head South on Highway 104, following signs for Lane’s Station. That’s where reporter Asal Ehsanipour’s journey aboard The Amador Central Railroad begins.