Roadside Attractions and Hidden Gems

January 15, 2020

The Lake County diamond might be our official gem, but we’ve got plenty of off the beaten path attractions to hit on your next Northern California road trip.  From a chain of secret lakes to a museum dedicated to lunchboxes, Lake County is full of beautiful and bizarre hidden gems.

Lake County Diamonds at Six Sigma Winery. Photo: Lark Coryell

The Quirky

Fans of roadside attractions and kitschy Americana are going to love the northern shore of Clear Lake. On your way up Highway 20 (at 15th Ave in Lucerne), give Penny the Goose a wave. She’s a 16 ft tall Canadian goose covered in over 100k pennies who made her debut at Burning Man before landing in Lake County.

Penny the Goose
Penny The Goose. Photo: Roger Coryell

Another holy-cow-who-knew-this-was-here attraction is the Lucerne Castle. The massive (possibly haunted) former hotel is available for event rentals or a quick photo op from the street.
A couple of miles northwest is the tiny town of Nice (like the city in France). It’s there that you’ll find Clarke’s Collectibles Lunchbox Museum – nearly 1000 lunchboxes, and a cohort of clowns, toys, and modestly creepy dolls. The cheerful curator, Deb Clarke, is not always on-site, so shoot her an email in advance to schedule a showing.

If all that quirk has you tired out, end your day with novelty lodgings at Featherbed Railroad. The Upper Lake bed and breakfast is comprised of vintage train cars, and guests can choose between pirate, biker, romance, and Western-themed rooms.

Featherbed Railroad
Featherbed Railroad. Photo: Roger Coryell

The Classics

Don’t worry – if you’re not the type to put a sasquatch sticker on your bumper or pull over for the world’s biggest ball of yarn – Lake County has something for you too. Though its name is a bit of a giveaway, Hidden Valley Lake Golf Course is an under the radar gem.  With reasonable green fees, an onsite restaurant, and year-round play, it’s a great way to get outside and take in those classic Northern California views.

Enjoy wines from our Guenoc Valley AVA (near the border with Napa) along with some scandalous Lake County history at Langtry Estate & Vineyards. The bucolic winery was once owned by Lilly Langtry, a 19th-century actress and socialite who came out West following a high profile affair with Edward VII (then Prince of Wales). Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the grounds with a glass of Langtry Marsanne or petite Sirah.

Langtry Estate Winery

If you’re coming from Mendocino County or Highway 101, be sure to check out The Lodge at Blue Lakes. It’s a lovely stopover for Bay Area and Central Valley road trippers on a redwood adventure, and a destination in its own right. The quaint waterfront hotel offers electric boat rentals, welcomes dogs, and can accommodate families, weddings, and corporate groups. Smaller than our county’s no-so-hidden gem, Clear Lake, a trip to Blue Lakes offers a vintage feel and a slower, laid-back pace.