The only thing I knew about Redding, California before visiting is that it’s the halfway point between Olympia, Washington (where I grew up) and Disneyland. Friends who’d made the long drive always stopped in Redding to spend the night.
That’s all I knew.
So, when VisitRedding.com reached out to me and asked if I wanted to come down and write about a frugal weekend getaway, I said sure! They initially wanted me to come visit in September, but for one reason or another that never worked out, so I went down in December. I brought Brent along so he could get a change of pace and so I’d have a travel buddy, and last Thursday, we flew down.
Most people who stop in Redding go by car. The city is right off I-5, and is the home of the furthest north In-N-Out Burger in California. But since we were going for just a weekend, we flew. We ran into our first snag at the airport. It seemed our flight to San Francisco was in jeopardy of not taking off. Something to do with the weather conditions in San Francisco, I guess. It worked out, though, and we were able to make our connection, which was good, because there wasn’t another flight from San Francisco to Redding for seven more hours. The San Francisco airport is fancy, but not somewhere I’d want to spend that much time.
There’s talk of opening up more flights from Redding, according to my contact at Visit Redding. Flights are coming to Los Angeles next year, and maybe Portland, or maybe Klamath Falls… they haven’t decided for sure. Their airport is the cutest airport I’ve ever been to, though, so if you do fly there, you’re in for an adorable treat.
We were given an itinerary, but it was late afternoon when we landed, and dark by the time we got to our hotel, so we saved our sightseeing for the following day, and went to a local brewpub (how Portland of us) for dinner. Woody’s has excellent food, and Brent enjoyed a sampler of their beer. The atmosphere was fun — date nights for some people, family dinners for others — and we felt happy and relaxed by the time we went back to the hotel.
Day 1: Parks and Recreation
After an awesome breakfast with Kallie from Visit Redding, we ventured a few miles out of town to Whiskeytown Lake, a National Park. We got parking passes at the visitor center and realized that not very many people venture out to the lake when it’s 40 degrees outside. Evidently, it’s a great place to swim in the summer, but we’ll have to take their word for that! We were bundled up. We asked at the visitor center what they recommended we do, and they told us to drive to a quick and easy hike (more of a walk, really) to a waterfall:
It wasn’t what you’d call a strenuous hike, but it was beautiful, and had it been even ten degrees warmer, we could have stood and stared at the falls for a long time.
But, we learned from the tour guides that we were in former gold rush country, and there was more to be seen. They highlighted the route we needed to take, and it was on the way back from the waterfall. If you want to do the same thing, go stop in and talk to people at the visitor center. They have better information than I do.
I should note that I am complete dork for 19th century American history, especially the romance of the west. Moving west with your family? Selling all your stuff and trying to strike it rich in the gold rush?
So we wandered around, and stared into this long-closed mine shaft:
After we walked around, feeling oddly like we were trespassing, since we were the only ones out there on a chilly Thursday in December, we stopped at one more town, and learned a lot about the gold rush in these here parts.
This is the town of Shasta:
Or rather, the ruins of Shasta (and yes, even though these are 19th, and not 9th, century ruins they are still ruins, okay?). We learned from these signs that Brent is covering, as well as from the museum across the street that is well worth the $3 entrance fee, that they found gold in mines near Shasta in the early 1850s, and it was immediately built up. It was an important stop for mule trains and stagecoaches and all kinds of other “Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman” things.
But then (cue ominous music), the railroad came.
Today, it seems ridiculous that a distance like six miles would be enough to kill a town, but it did, and swiftly. Shopkeepers saw a bigger opportunity where the railroad came, and they left. Also the gold ran out. So we got to hang out in this neat ghost town that was extra spooky because of the cloudy weather.
After being in the cold, we went to see a movie, which is not a particularly touristy thing to do, but it was fun.
Day 2: River Trail, a Bridge, and Birds
The next morning we woke up and went down to the river trail, an awesome path along the Sacramento River that extends for a lot more miles than we went on.
It’s great for biking, running, and just plain walking the dog. We walked for a little more than an hour, and made a loop. There was an inlet along the river where a sign said an otter lived, but he must have been out doing his Christmas shopping, because we waited for a bit, and we never saw him.
We did see a view like this, though:
Which, let’s be honest, is less exciting than an otter, but stunning nonetheless.
After we’d worked up an appetite, we went to (where else?) In-N-Out:
Double-double animal style (protein style for me, too, thinking about making room in my tummy for all those fries!) and fries well done. It’s a good thing this chain isn’t in Portland. Because it’s delicious.
After lunch, we still had a few hours before our afternoon flight was supposed to leave, so we went to the Turtle Bay Exploration Park. Actually, there were a couple things to see over there. One was, according to Kallie, a controversial pedestrian bridge: the Sundial Bridge.
Controversial because it was more expensive than any other pedestrian bridge, but it was also more awesome. A bridge that’s a sundial? Who cares if it’s only accurate for a few hours during the summer solstice? This was something to see!
The pictures don’t really do it justice — this bridge is awesome! You walk over glass (which somehow isn’t slippery even when it’s raining) to the other side, where there are more outside things to do. There’s an arboretum, I think? I didn’t stick around long enough to find out, because the rain had picked up momentum by then.
Back to the Turtle Bay Exploration Center. There was an exhibit on the bridge, which Brent read every word of, and more about the gold rush era, where you could find me. There was an aquarium with an exhibit on salmon, which is another of my favorite topics (in all seriousness, I blame my dad for educating me on the life cycle of a salmon at an early age). There was even an exhibit on animation, where you could put yourself on the Simpsons couch.
We’re far too sophisticated for that, so we skipped it.
Just kidding, here’s Brent:
The exploration park is big — and not just a fun hands-on museum indoors. We went outside, where we found a house full of parrots. Bring one-dollar bills to this, so you can feed these creatures!
Word to the wise: even if you wimp out and decide not to spend a dollar on a cup of what looks like a green Odwalla juice but is apparently nectar, there’s a decent chance that if you are standing close enough to your husband who is braver than you a bird might end up landing on your head and… um. Relieving itself of said nectar.
Not saying that happened to me, but I’m also not saying it didn’t.
All in all, Redding was a fun town to get to know, and if the weather had been better, we would have done more things outside. So, if your travels take you through Redding, maybe take some time and stretch your legs in one of the fun places to spend time in this town.
You might surprise yourself.