Helicopter in Morgan Freeman and Sigourney Weaver- we've got a real-time episode of Planet Earth on our hands. More than 20,000 California gray whales (and a smattering of humpback, blue, and killer whales) are making their way along the Northern California Coast (en route from Mexico to Alaska) for their annual migration (in March and April). Dozens of pods per hour (each pod contains 20 or so whales) will be swimming by at a rate of 70 to 80 miles per day. Their journey -- one that should make you think twice about complaining about your next half marathon -- is 12,000 miles, the longest known distance that any mammal migrates on an annual basis.
Obviously, this is cause for a celebration, and Mendocino County, one of the best places to watch the action, is throwing down with a series of whale-related festivals in March and April. Whale-watchers can get in on weekend treats that span from chowder-tastings to microbrew samplings (Fort Bragg is home to The North Coast Brewing Company). Check out the full schedule of Mendo whale festivities here, which kick off this weekend with the Mendocino Whale Village Festival.
Those with Steve Zissou costumes should book whale-watching cruises aboard either Noyo Fishing & Whale Watching or All Aboard Ventures to get closer to all that spouting action (the whales spew vaporized water up to 12 feet high when they surface every three to five minutes).