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Originally published Saturday, June 9, 2012 at 7:01 PM

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Sample what's new in California this summer

From Golden Gate Bridge anniversary celebrations to new rollercoaster rides and the opening of Cars Land at the Disney Resort, there's lots new to do in California this summer.

Seattle Times travel writer

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There aren't many vacation spots you can reach by air for under $300 this summer, but if you live in Seattle, California is one of them. A few hours and you're there — walking across the Golden Gate Bridge, riding the new rollercoaster at Sea World or cruising Venice Beach.

No time change. No jet lag. No reason not to go.

My family has plans for a long weekend in San Francisco in July, and I'm already thinking of adding an extra day. My mom might like the historic Palace Hotel's tour and lunch (www.sfpalace.com), a bargain at $25 on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. I'd like to join SF Magazines "Best Foodie Tour Guide" GraceAnn Waldon on a walking tour around the Italian North Beach neighborhood (www.graceannwalden.net).

We should be able to afford both and lots more, given we took a pass on an expensive hotel and booked a two-bedroom apartment through Airbnb on the edge of Chinatown. Dim sum, here we come.

Need more ideas for a California getaway? Here's a sampling of what's new for late spring and summer:

San Francisco

The Golden Gate Bridge turned 75 in May. The big celebrations are over, but the Bay Area will be commemorating the anniversary throughout the year. The Bay Area Discovery Museum, California Academy of Sciences, California Historical Society and the Exploratorium are among organizations planning events. See www.goldengatebridge75.org. Sign up on the website for guided tour ($12.95), and spend an hour learning about how the bridge was built.

San Francisco is a mosaic of neighborhoods, and this is the season for street festivals. The 35th Haight-Ashbury fair (www.haightashburystreetfair.org) is today, followed by North Beach (http://northbeachbusinessassociation.com) on June 16-17; the Ghiradelli Square KidsBash (www.ghiradellisq.com) on June 30; and finally the big San Francisco Street Food Festival in the Mission District (www.lacocinasf.org) on Aug. 18.

Don't forget about the free daily walking tours around Chinatown, the Mission District, Fisherman's Wharf and other parts of town. Details at www.sfcityguides.org.

Prepare to be moved at the California Academy of Sciences 8,000-square-foot "Earthquake" exhibit, delving into the science behind earthquakes and how societies prepare and respond.

The exhibit includes a walk-through model of the Earth, an earthquake simulator resembling an old Victorian home and an interactive "obstacle course" designed to teach earthquake preparedness.

Tip: Visit the museum for its adults-only Nightlife event every Thursday, starting at 6 p.m. Admission drops from $29.95 to $12. Take in the exhibits sans the school groups, and enjoy drinks, music and food. See www.calacademy.org.

San Francisco tourism information: See www.sanfrancisco.travel, or call 415-283-0100.

Los Angeles/Anaheim

Get ready to open your wallet wider at the Disney Resort in Anaheim. The cost of an adult (10 and up) single-day pass goes up from $80 to $87.

Opening June 15 at the California Adventure Park is Cars Land, a 12-acre recreation of the fictional town of Radiator Springs from the 2006 Pixar film "Cars." The main attraction is Radiator Springs Racers, a high-speed adventure ride through Ornament Valley and the town of Radiator Springs.

Guests will enter the park along the new Buena Vista Street, a re-creation of 1920s California with Red Car Trolleys and the Carthay Circle Theatre, modeled after the site of the 1937 premiere of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." Details at http://disneyland.disney.go.com.

Competing for attention is Universal Studios' new $100 million, 3-D ride themed to the "Transformers" movies. Visitors ride along 2,000 feet of track, surrounded by 14 gigantic screens. See www.universalstudioshollywood.com.

If you haven't been to downtown L.A. for a while, time your visit to the second Thursday of the month for the Downtown Art Walk (http://downtownartwalk.org). Find your way to Spring and Main streets between Second and Ninth, and join the party.

Other notables:

• The California Science Center (www.californiasciencecenter.org) hosts "Cleopatra" through December, featuring 150 Egyptian artifacts including statues, jewelry and coins excavated from the former queen's lost palace in Alexandria.

• Visit a former smuggler's cache of Komodo dragons, Chinese alligators and Burmese tortoises at the Los Angeles Zoo (www.lazoo.org). The zoo's new LAIR (Living Amphibians, Invertebrates, and Reptiles) area opened this spring, the result of a two-year sting operation headed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Los Angeles Tourism information: See http://discoverlosangeles.com, or call 323-467-6412.

San Diego

Spend your beach time at Coronado Beach, named the No. 1 beach in the United States in the 2012 survey by "Dr. Beach" professor Stephen P. Leatherman of Florida International University.

SeaWorld's newest addition is Manta, opened in May. The attraction combines a look at underwater animal habitats with a half-mile thrill ride on a roller coaster shaped like a giant mantra. See www.seaworldsandiego.com.

Tamer is the San Diego Natural History Museum's "Titanic" exhibition, showcasing 200 artifacts retrieved from the wreck site. Details at www.sdnhm.org/exhibitions/current-exhibitions.

Lions Tigers & Bears, a rescue facility that provides a safe haven for unwanted and abused exotic animals, has opened a new Black Bear Habitat, a four-acre home for three resident black bears. Visitors are welcome for day tours or overnight stays. Advance reservations required. See www.lionstigersandbears.org.

So Diego Tours' newest culinary offering is Tequila, Tacos and Tombstones, a tasting tour of popular restaurants in Old Town State Historic Park. The walking tour combines dining with the story of San Diego in the 1820s-1850s. Cost is $45 per person. See http://sodiegotours.com.

San Diego tourism information: See www.sandiego.org, or call 800-463-0668.

Have a question or comment on travel? Contact Carol Pucci: cpucci@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @carolpucci

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