Redding, at the far northern end of the Sacramento Valley, got its start as a station on the Central Pacific Railroad. Modern travelers find it a convenient place to quickly refuel as they zip up or down I-5. But the city is also worth a longer stay, to enjoy nearby natural wonders and admire the dramatic swoop of its world-famous bridge.
The oohs and aahs echo throughout Lake Shasta Caverns, where a succession of rooms drip with stalactites, “cave bacon” (wavy, translucent mineral deposits), and other fantastical formations. Reaching the entrance requires a cruise across Shasta Lake and a shuttled excursion up a forested hillside, with stunning vistas along the way.
Like the subject of an old daguerreotype, Shasta State Historic Park seems frozen in time, giving visitors a glimpse of what life was like in the abandoned mining town of Shasta City. The Litsch General Store looks just as it did in the 1880s—packed with original inventory, including bottles of swamp-root elixir. At the courthouse, the wooden gallows provides a chilling reminder of Old West justice.
The 720-foot-long Sundial Bridge is not only a pedestrian promenade spanning the Sacramento River, but also one of the world’s largest sundials: At noon on the summer solstice, the shadow of its support tower lands on a plaque marked 12:00. The Brews by the Bridge festival (June 15) honors that occasion with craft beers, food trucks, and live music.
In 300 acres of indoor and outdoor exhibits focusing on natural and cultural history, Turtle Bay Exploration Park lets visitors goggle at a 60-foot Mamenchisaurus, feed rainbow-colored lorikeets, and step inside a Wintu bark house. The on-site Sheraton hotel offers animal visits in the lobby and tents for kids in the rooms.
Redding’s downtown renaissance has made room for a second Wilda’s Grill, an eatery beloved for surf-town vibes and creative hot dogs. The signature Buddha Bowl is a global hodgepodge of rice, beans, and greens served in a take-out box.