Like many great love affairs, mine began in childhood. The details are sketchy, drawn from memory and from photographs in a family album, old Super 8s. Our two-toned station wagon is loaded up in the driveway of the Altadena, Calif., home, room for five, our gear and a black Labrador named Sheba.
Best times to visit the Golden Gate National Recreation Area - or not: December, January and February are the wettest months, bookended by November and March. If you want dry, June, July and August are your best bets. If you want warm, go in September.
The busiest unit in our national park system isn't a park at all. In fact, plenty of visitors never notice that they're in it - not when they're half-lost in the redwoods of Marin County's Muir Woods, not when they're deep into a conversation about robots at San Francisco's Fort Mason, not when they're roaming the vast beach flats of Fort Funston, near the San Mateo County line.
Back in 1881, wealthy Northerners decided to buy some lakefront land here and change the area's name from Osceola - after the chief of the state's Seminole Indians - to Winter Park to make the area more appealing to vacationers. Little would they know that a century later nearby Orlando would grab the attention of most of those vacationers as the theme-park capital of the world.
Downtown Salt Lake City is livelier than it used to be. City Creek Center, a 23-acre mall-and-housing redevelopment project (retractable roof, trout pond, completed in 2013) is a big part of that, as is the Greenbike sharing program, also begun in 2013. A loosening of liquor laws hasn't hurt, either. As I found on a three-night visit in November with my wife and daughter, there are at least seven craft breweries downtown. Granted, this might not be enough to deter you from that snowboarding/skiing vacation up the hill in Park City. But after the slopes, you could allow yourself a downtown overnight and a few hours of playtime - and you might be pleasantly surprised. The tab: $417 (excluding taxes and fees) for three nights at the Hilton Salt Lake City Center; $61 for light dinners at Squatters Pub; $9.95 per adult for admission to the Leonardo museum. Round-trip airfare from Los Angeles International Airport about $188, including taxes and fees.