Lonely Planet's “Ultimate” List Loves on Local Gems

Several Golden States spots ranked among the top 500 "ultimate travel" destinations on the planet.

DEVOTED ARMCHAIR TRAVELERS -- and that's all of us, at some point, when we don't quite have the time or the funds or the you-name-it to hop on a plane and go somewhere far-off -- have many charms, but also one distinct quality that probably needs a bit of work. And it is this: We're prone to thinking that The Cool Stuff exists across the planet and The Day-to-Day Stuff exists in our sphere. This goes for every armchair traveler everywhere, just about, even if she knows the merits of her home turf, at least on occasion. But then along comes a list, a big list, an "Ultimate" list if you will, to remind all travelers, armchair and otherwise, that the goods are in our own backyards as well as thousands of miles away from us, around the very curvature of the earth. Lonely Planet has made 500 picks, picks that'll officially debut in October in its new "Ultimate Travel" book, and a host of California sights, many a pinch and a hop from the Bay Area, are on the roster.

GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE... is on there, hooray that, and Big Sur, too, and Redwoods National Park and Yosemite National Park. Alcatraz made the cut, which poses this question, a query that'll likely be answered once you have your hands on the book: Are any other two locations on the list as cheek-by-jowl as Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz? They must be among the closest, distance-wise, of all the entries. Los Angeles made a showing, too, with The Griffith Observatory, and there shouldn't be a SoCaler who'd argue that inclusion, what with the Art Deco wonder's hill-top stateliness and history. And, yes, the net was wide on this book: Both landmarks built by human hands (and ingenuity) and those that sprung from seeds, time, and wind are all on the wanna-go-there-now rundown.

YOU CAN SPY THE FULL ROSTER... here and there -- Boston News Time has all 500 up, while other places are highlighting local favorites -- or you can wait for Oct. 6, to get your hands on a copy. Or you can peek, in full, at the very tippy-top entries on the Lonely Planet site. (The site is inviting visitors to download the top five at no cost.) The Temples of Angkor is the #1 pick, just to whet your appetite for further armchair adventuring.

AND IT IS TRUE... that locals do fully know what we have in our backyards. We know we live among famous and beloved and mythic landmarks and natural wonders. Taking our immediate environment for granted is only something an armchair traveler does on the very rarest of occasions. Still, it is a lovely thing, on this treasure-filled ocean-y orb, to be reminded of all the amazing locations that are at arm's length. Lonely Planet, we raise our passport, sunscreen, and map pouch in gratitude.

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