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History of California Wine

California has a long history of producing wine. Today’s thriving industry dates back to the state’s founding. If you’re planning a trip to the California wine country, bring a copy of one of our wine maps: California Wine Country Map Package, California Wine Map, Napa Sonoma Wine Map Wine Country Map, Quick Access Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles Wineries Map, and the California Wine Country Guidebook. 

From Missionaries to the Gold Rush

Grapes were one of the first crops planted when Spanish Franciscan Missionaries settled the first mission in California in 1769. Father Junipero Serra sent for seeds to be planted at the Mission San Diego de Alcala. As the vineyards grew, a new variety of grape was created known as the Mission Grape. It remained prominent in the region until the 1880s.

When the Gold Rush began in California in 1848, it brought an influx of people to Northern California. This moved the center of wine production and consumption from Southern California to Northern California. Seeds were planted in many new areas including modern day Napa and Sonoma counties. With winemaking a popular industry across the entire state, California Wine began to receive international acclaim. It was even exported as far as Asia and Australia.

Prohibition and the Judgement at Paris

In 1919, California’s wine industry took a devastating blow. The ratification of the 18th amendment banned the sale of alcohol. It was not technically illegal, however, to own or drink wine. Each home could make up to 200 gallons a year for personal use. This legal loophole created an increased demand for grapes that helped keep some wineries in business. The vineyards of grapes that had been cultivated for generations to create fine wine had all been torn down in order to grown cheaper, sturdier grapes that could survive transport. A select few wineries were also still able to make wine strictly for sacramental use.

When prohibition was repealed in 1933, the once thriving California wine industry barely existed. It would take years of winemaking to restore the area’s reputation, but a group from Northern California stayed committed. Even after they began making quality wine again, it was hard to get the world’s attention. Their big break occurred in Paris on May 24, 1976. A judging panel consisting of expert French wine tasters ranked California wines as best in a blind test against in the two most competitive categories (red and chardonnay). Time Magazine reported their surprising victory and demand for California wine took off again.

California Wine Today

Today the California wine industry is prosperous and continuing to grow. California produces more wine than any other state and is the fourth largest producer world-wide compared to other countries. California is home to over 2,600 wineries and over 527,000 acres of land is dedicated to growing grapes. While Napa and Sonoma are the most well known, California actually has 107 recognized American Viticultural Areas.

The wine industry has also brought an increase in tourism. Nearly 20.7 million people visit one of the state’s wine regions everywhere. Only Disneyland outranked visiting the wine country as a the most popular tourist attraction. Most wineries now offer tours, wine classes, or seminars, and more are beginning to offer more attractions. Some wineries have art galleries, displays, fine dining, and even theater performances on their property so even those who don’t consider themselves wine enthusiasts will thoroughly enjoy their trip.

If you’re traveling to the United States, bring a copy of one of our best-selling maps: California Wine Map, Napa Sonoma Wine Map, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles Wineries Map, California Road Map, Arizona Road Map, Route 66 Map, Grand Canyon Topographical Map, and Southern California Coast Map. 

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Top Attractions in Phoenix, Arizona

Any trip to the Southwest isn’t complete without a stop in Phoenix, Arizona. The fifth-largest city in the United States and one of the top tourist destinations, Phoenix is packed with things to do for all ages and interests. With sunshine and warm weather year-round, Phoenix is a great place to visit regardless of the season. Here are five of our favorite things to do near Phoenix. For even more ideas, check out our Arizona Road Map.

Desert Botanical Garden

Home to over 4,000 species of cacti, plants, and trees, the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix, Arizona teaches visitors about the beauty and life that grows in deserts around the world. Trails cut through 55-acres of the property, allowing you to see displays up-close. Our favorite trail is the Plants and People of the Sonoran Desert Loop Trail which features the plants Native Americans in the area once used as food, medicine, and even building supplies. A visit to the Desert Botanical Gardens is a fun way to learn about local history and the importance of our natural surroundings. If you visit on the second Tuesday of the month, admission is complimentary thanks to their Community Day program.

Heard Museum

With 12 exhibit galleries and a rotating collection of approximately 44,00 pieces, the Heard Museum is a leader in exhibiting Native American art. Their goal is to allow the artist to share their story and the meaning behind their art so people can better understand the Native American perspective.  The museum displays traditional and contemporary art, as well as items with historical or cultural significance. One of the most memorable exhibits is the collection of 1,200 katsina dolls. The carved wooden figures are incredibly detailed and hold an important spiritual value. Before you visit, check the calendar of events on the Heard Museum website. The museum hosts events year-round that invite local Hispanic and Native American artists to share their crafts and interact with visitors.

Goldfield Ghost Town

Goldfield Ghost Town is a 45-minute drive from Phoenix, but well worth the trip. The town was once a thriving gold mine, but like many others, fell into disarray when the mine closed. When you visit today, however, Goldfield is alive and thriving as it was in the 1890s. You can ride the only narrow gauge train still operational in Arizona, pan for gold, or have a drink at the local saloon. Performers even stage old west style gunfights throughout the day. If you enjoy the outdoors, there is also hiking trails, horseback riding lessons, a shooting gallery, zip-lining and even more in the surrounding area.

Phoenix Zoo

The Phoenix is the largest privately owned, non-profit zoo in the United States. Stretching over 125-acres of land in the Papago Park area, it takes an entire day to see the 1,400 animals living at the zoo. What makes Phoenix Zoo truly remarkable is the number of exhibits that allow you to interact directly with the animals.  You can visit monkey-village, the only walk-through squirrel monkey exhibit in the United States, meet the giraffes and feed them a snack, ride a camel, and brush the goats in the petting zoo. With a conservation mentality and a dedication to saving endangered species, the Phoenix Zoo is both educational and fun.

Plan a trip to Phoenix

Thinking of visiting Phoenix? You need our Arizona Road Map. 

Some of our other best-selling maps include: Southwest Indian Country Map, California Road Map, Napa Sonoma Wine Map, Route 66 Laminated Map. 

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History of NYC Holiday Traditions

New York City is the unofficial birthplace of modern Christmas traditions. When the Dutch set sail for New York, their ships were adorned with images of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of sailors and children. As America was settled and New York grew, the ideas of winter holidays were mixed into new traditions. St. Nicholas became a jolly old man ready to deliver toys to all the good children on Christmas Eve. If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in New York City in December, you should try some of these historical holiday traditions.

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Today millions of people watch the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree lighting every year on television. The specialty picked spruce trees range from 70 to 100 feet (the tallest was in 1999) and are elegantly decorated. The first Rockefeller Christmas tree came from much humbler beginnings. In 1931, during the Great Depression when most Americans were out of work, construction on the Rockefeller Center began. Workers pooled their money to buy a 20-foot tree for the community to share. As each man collected his paycheck, he added a homemade ornament, such as strings of cranberry or garlands made of paper that his family had made. The tradition carried on the next year, and by 1933, Rockefeller Center was open and the first “official” tree was lit. Two years later the ice skating rink was added below. The tradition has managed to adapt with the times. In 1942 at the start of World War II, three smaller trees had to replace one big one. In 1944 and 1945, the Rockefeller Christmas tree had to go unlit because of blackout ordinances. Each January the Christmas tree is donated, most recently becoming lumber to build homes for Habitat for Humanity. If you’re in New York City, you can find Rockefeller Plaza between West 48th and 51st street and 5th and 6th avenue. This years tree will be on display until January 7, 2019.

Holiday Window Displays

Another New York City holiday tradition is viewing the window displays that line the many shopping districts. During the late half of the 19th century, stores began to utilize their first-floor windows as a way to promote the products they were selling and bring more customers through their doors. Of course, this caused stores to put more and more efforts into their displays in order to outshine their neighbors, especially during busy times such as the holidays. In 1874, Macy’s made history by creating a scene from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin with porcelain dolls in their New York window.  People flocked to see the display and a new tradition was born. Stores all over New York City now use their space not to advertise a product, but to entertain and amaze tourists walking by in hopes their brand will be the most memorable. Modern displays involve rotating platforms, animatronic pieces, and life-size figurines. Make sure to pass by Macy’s on 34th Street and Saks Fifth Avenue for some of the most famous displays.

Dyker Heights Christmas Lights

A relatively more recent holiday tradition for New Yorkers is walking the streets of the Dyker Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn to view the decorated houses. Each one is decked in lights and lawn ornaments, leaving no space bare. Many recreate scenes from famous Christmas performances, such as The Night Before Christmas or The Grinch.  No one remembers exactly why it started, or when it spread from being a few blocks to an entire neighborhood. The best guess is the early 1980s, since by 1985 there were advertisements for guided tours printed in newspapers. Today professionals are hired to design the displays, costing homeowners anywhere from 1,000 to 20,000 dollars each year. Two of the most well-known houses are across-the-street neighbors on 84th street between 11th and 12th avenue. One house’s theme is always Santa Clause, and the others is the Nutcracker. Each year the designs become more elaborate and creative, unofficially competing in a expensive, but beautiful neighborhood game. Tour the Dyker Heights neighborhood this December to see just how far the limits of Christmas decorating can be pushed.

If you’re traveling to New York, take a copy of our New York City 5 Boroughs Street Map and our Quick Access Manhattan Map. Both are clearly labeled to quickly guide you from destination to destination.

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Why You Should Travel During the Off-Season

Off-season travel earns a bad reputation. Many people assume that traveling to a summer destination during the winter months is somehow sacrificing the quality of their trip. While some popular tourist attractions may have seasonal closings, most stay open year round. Traveling during the off-season actually has many perks you won’t experience during peak travel season. 

Traveling to a popular winter destination? Check out our maps of New York, Boston, Palm Springs, Yosemite ValleySan Diego, and Southwest Indian Country.

Travel in Luxury

Many people associate off-season travel with saving money and stretching your budget. You can afford to travel to destinations that otherwise would have been out of your price range. Hotels and airlines offer drastic savings when you travel during less popular times. Another way of viewing the situation is that you can spend the same budget, but enjoy a vacation well above your normal level of luxury. Tickets to local attractions are commonly discounted in the off-season, but so are other services such as spa packages, private tours, or dinner cruises.  You can attend more events, or events that otherwise would’ve been too expensive. Where to find the best discounts varies by location, but sites such as Groupon are a great place to start.  

Travel Tip

Make sure to open an incognito tab when comparing prices for plane tickets. Many sites use cookies that track your activity. Every time you return to their site, the airline increases the price slightly to encourage you to buy sooner.

Greater Authenticity

When you travel during peak tourist season there tends to be a crowd of tourists everywhere you go. When you travel during the off-season, this is usually not the case. This means better views (and better photos!) when visiting famous sites. It also means tour groups tend to be smaller, so you’ll be able to ask more questions and get a more personalized experience. People in the service industry will have more time to talk, often offering  tips you won’t find online. Whether you like to sit in a cafe and people watch, or constantly be on the go, you’ll be mingling mostly with locals. This often exposes a different side to a city you would not have experienced surrounded by the bustle of other tourists. 

Travel Tip

Carry a paper map with you. When people recommend a place to visit, ask them to circle it on the map. You’ll gain a greater understanding of the area and often prompt them to remember other nearby places to visit.

A Different Weather Forecast 

Weather during the off-season is not always cold or rainy. Often traveling in the winter means experiencing weather different than what the region is known for. Depending on your preferences, this could be a great thing. If you’re not a fan of sizzling 100 degree heat, winter may be the perfect time for you to visit Palm Springs. The area cools to an average of 70 degrees Fahrenheit while remaining bright and sunny.  San Diego and Las Vegas are also known for their temperate climates year round. You’ll probably need to bring a jacket to visit the Napa and Sonoma Wine Country, but the foliage and scenery are just as beautiful as in summer. For other destinations, such as Yosemite Valley, the snow and cold are part of the appeal. Enjoy seasonal activities such as skiing, snow tubing, and ice skating. 

Travel Tip

Consider how much of your trip you plan on spending outdoors before you let weather be a strong deciding factor. Cities with cold and rainy weather are full of people who have learned to enjoy living their despite it. You may find there is plenty to experience regardless of the weather.

For help planning your next trip, shop our full collection of maps. 

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California’s Most Haunted

Alcatraz Island

Do you believe in the paranormal? Visiting these destinations may leave you feeling spooked. With long records of reported ghostly encounters, these historic sites are considered the most haunted in California.

For easy trip planning and navigation, shop our user-friendly printed maps.

The Whaley House

The Whaley House was built in 1857 by a businessman named Thomas Whaley who wanted to move his family from New York to San Diego. The two-story Greek Revival was the first of its kind in San Diego and one of the grandest in Southern California. In addition to housing the Whaley family and the Whaley General Store, other businesses also rented rooms because of its prime location in the center of town. Over the years the building held the first commercial theater, a billiard hall, the County Courthouse, a polling place, and more.

While the Whaley’s were financially fortunate, they suffered a series of misfortunes over the years. The youngest child, Thomas Jr., died of scarlet fever. The Whaley Store caught fire and was severely damaged shortly after. The Whaleys moved to San Francisco for ten years before returning to repair the house and begin new business ventures. Shortly after returning, the eldest daughter, Violet, was wed to a man who left her on her honeymoon. He was a con artist only interested in obtaining a large dowry. Returning in social disgrace, Violet fell into a depression and took her own life three years later. Again following a tragedy, the family vacated the home. It fell into despair for several decades until the oldest child, Francis, refurbished it and opened it as a museum of local history.

The Whaley family believed their house to be haunted immediately after moving in. Thomas Whaley even gave an interview to the local newspaper, The San Diego Union Tribune, saying he often heard the footsteps of a large man in boots throughout the house. Whaley believed it to be the ghost of a man named James “Yankee Jim”  Robinson who was hanged on the property after being sentenced to death for stealing a boat. Thomas Whaley not only knew the property was previously used by the county for hangings, but had even attended the hanging of “Yankee Jim” when he was considering buying the property. He thought the man he saw that day fit the physical size of the footsteps he heard. Visitors of the Whaley House still occasionally recall hearing these footsteps today. The ghosts of Whaley family members have also been sighted over the years, most often those of Thomas, Thomas Jr., and Violet.

The Whaley House is still open to the public for tours and paranormal activity is still reported. The Travel Channel’s America’s Most Haunted even called the Whaley House the most supernatural place in the United States. Ghost tours are offered at night at the end of every month, with more frequent tours in October.

Alcatraz Island

The Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary served as a high security prison from 1934-1963. Located on an island just over a mile off the coast of San Francisco, the United States government considered Alcatraz to be escape-proof because of the strong winds and choppy waters of the surrounding San Francisco Bay. Alcatraz earned the reputation of being brutal and inhumane with harsh treatment from guards and violence among inmates. While it is debated exactly who is haunting the prison, paranormal investigators agree they are inmates who died within the prison walls and are attempting to seek revenge for their suffering.

Prison guards were the first to experience strange occurrence at Alcatraz, recalling sounds of cell doors slamming in empty halls, the smell of smoke or cigars, and distant voices calling out. Occasionally visitors will experience similar hauntings. A recurring claim is the sound of someone strumming a banjo. This is attributed to be the ghost of infamous gangster Al Capone. He spent his last days playing the instrument in the bathroom to avoid being killed by other inmates.

Alcatraz Island is now a National Park and one of San Francisco’s largest tourist attractions. The penitentiary as well as other attractions, such as the guard’s houses,  the West Coast’s oldest operating lighthouse, and tide pools are also open to explore.

Winchester Mystery House

Following the death of her husband in 1884, Sarah Winchester inherited over 20 million dollars and nearly 50 percent of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. She moved from New York to California, purchasing a farm house in San Jose that would be under near constant renovation until her death in 1922. Some sources claim Sarah Winchester was instructed by a psychic channeling her late husband’s spirit to build a house for herself and the spirits of those who died by Winchester rifles. Others claim she moved for a fresh start and was building the house not for the spirits, but to escape them.

Regardless of her reasons, Sarah Winchester directed the construction of what became a seven-story mansion with no architect or master plan. Following the 1906 earthquake, the house was badly damaged and repaired into a final structure that was 4-stories tall with 160 rooms. The massive mansion has 40 bedrooms, 47 fireplaces, 47 staircases, six kitchens, two ballrooms, three elevators, two basements, and 13 bathrooms. Staff of Mrs. Winchester said she slept in a different bedroom every night and only used one bathroom, using the other rooms as decoys to confuse the spirits.

The Winchester House was a local sensation over the course of its construction. Following Sarah Winchester’s death, it was sold outside the family and turned into a museum. People flocked to see the peculiar house and the surrounding property and gardens were turned into Winchester Park. Stories of ghostly encounters by those who visited the property began to spread and soon the Winchester House had gained national attention as a haunted attraction. Magician Harry Houdini visited on Halloween in 1924 with intentions of dispelling rumors. Instead, he left saying he now had more questions than answers and gave the house the name “The Winchester Mystery House.”

The Winchester Mystery House and Winchester Park are still operational today. Even those who don’t believe in the paranormal will find the architecture of the building both fascinating and eerie. Hallways are like mazes, staircases lead to nowhere, and spider-web windows and the number thirteen are a recurring pattern throughout the design.


Global Graphics City-in-Your-Pocket Maps show an accurate layout of city streets with local attractions clearly labeled. Grab one before your next trip: Los Angeles & Hollywood, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and San Diego.

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