The California Now Podcast explores the people and places that make California a unique travel experience. Host Soterios Johnson, veteran radio journalist and former host of NPR’s Morning Edition on WNYC in New York City, has recently moved to California and is using his journalism skills to learn every fascinating thing about his new home state. He interviews travel experts, chefs, local guides and many others on his journey of discovery. For more ideas on California travel, go to www.visitcalifornia.com
California Theme Parks Summer 2023
On this episode of the California Now Podcast, host Soterios Johnson learns what’s new at California’s top theme parks. To kick things off, Johnson chats with Disneyland Ambassador Nataly Guzman Garcia, a 13-year veteran of the resort who previously served as a tour guide. The two discuss Disney’s 100th anniversary celebration, new rides like Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, a musical event featuring the Avengers, her love of Dole Whip, and much more.
Next, Johnson levels up at Super Nintendo World with Jon Corfino, vice president of creative at Universal Studios Hollywood. Corfino offers a detailed look at the themed land, including Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge, an interactive ride that features cutting-edge technology. Guests will feel like they’re walking through a video game, Corfino notes, whether they’re eating a mushroom-themed dish at Toadstool Cafe or simply spotting the countless Easter eggs scattered across the attraction.
Finally, Johnson is joined by theme park expert and travel writer Katrina Hunt. Hunt discusses everything from new coasters to her favorite foods in theme parks across the Golden State. She also shares some cost-saving tips and simple ways to streamline your theme park experience whether you’re exploring Sesame Place San Diego or Gilroy Gardens.
Canadians in California
On this episode of the California Now Podcast, host Soterios Johnson discusses why the Golden State is the perfect place for aspiring creatives with four notable Canadian expats.
First, Johnson talks with Janet Zuccarini, owner of the acclaimed restaurant Felix in Venice Beach. The Toronto-born restaurateur breaks down the dishes she loves and names some of the many A-list diners who frequent her Abbot Kinney eatery. Zuccarini also discusses where she likes to dine in Los Angeles, as well as a handful of her favorite California road-trip stops up the coast.
Next, Johnson chats with Eric Bauza, Emmy-winning voice actor who specializes in characters like Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Tweety. Bauza gives Johnson a live sampling of some of the iconic voices he can produce and recounts behind-the-scenes stories featuring the likes of LeBron James and Mark Hamill.
Finally, Johnson speaks with Jason Couse and Wes Marskell of the alt-pop band The Darcys. Couse and Marskell give a live performance of two songs, “Trouble Found Me” and “Washed Away.” The pair talk music, list some of their favorite spots in L.A.’s vast food scene, and share what prompted them to relocate to the Golden State.
Exploring Ventura County
Located on the southern end of California’s Central Coast and just north of Malibu, Ventura County is an unheralded Southern California destination that is truly worth a visit. California Now Podcast host Soterios Johnson interviews three guests on this episode, each with a distinctive take on the area.
To start things off, Johnson discusses skateboarding, BMX, and motocross with Valerie Ryan, vice president of fan experience and hospitality for X Games, which will be held in Ventura July 21–23. As Ryan points out, Ventura provides the perfect backdrop for the competition, and key events will be held with the Pacific Ocean in full view.
After that, the conversation heads inland as Johnson engages in a culinary-led conversation with Zoe Nathan, owner of a unique Ojai dining establishment called The Dutchess. This open-all-day eatery, Nathan explains, is a bakery in the morning, a café at lunchtime, and a Burmese restaurant at night. If it sounds a bit quirky, well, that suits the vibe in Ojai, an artsy enclave located 80 miles north of Los Angeles and 35 miles south of Santa Barbara.
The third and final guest on the episode, Lynne Andujar, is the editor in chief and CEO of the regional magazine 805 Living. Andujar shares some of her favorite experiences and attractions in Ventura, Ventura Harbor, Oxnard, and Thousand Oaks.
Exploring Mendocino County
On this episode of the California Now Podcast, host Soterios Johnson gets the locals experience in Mendocino County with three in-the-know guests.
First up, Johnson chats with Holly Madrigal, managing editor at Word of Mouth Magazine. Madrigal discusses the vast and varied culinary scene from Mendocino Village to Willits, including everything from trendy pop-ups to Southern vegan fare and classic seafood spots. She also shares where to head for a great pint of craft beer and the best fish and chips in town.
Next, Johnson talks with Wendy Lamer, owner of the Disco Ranch wine boutique and tapas bar in Boonville. Lamer discusses Anderson Valley’s wine region, her go-to spots for tastings, and some especially fantastic local purveyors. The connoisseur also takes Johnson on a tour through her shop, calling out her best sellers and some local restaurants worth exploring nearby.
Lastly, Johnson sits down with Jacob Halverson, the general manager of Mendocino Grove. Halverson walks Johnson through the 30-acre glamping site, dotted with safari-style canvas tents, beds, and personal fire valets. With seven state parks nearby, Halverson also discusses outdoor adventures available around Mendocino Village, including some of the best beginner mountain biking California has to offer.
Tony Hawk’s San Diego
On this episode of the California Now Podcast, host Soterios Johnson chats with Tony Hawk, the world’s most famous skateboarder.
Hawk, who recently appeared on an episode of Saturday Night Live, has deep roots in San Diego County and plenty of recommendations to share—especially along the North Coast region that includes Carlsbad, Cardiff-by-the Sea, Encinitas, and Del Mar. Hawk also dishes on his forthcoming Chick & Hawk restaurant, a collaboration with former Jeune et Jolie chef Andrew Bachelier.
To top things off, Hawk takes the California Questionnaire, revealing all sorts of personal insights, including his favorite Golden State splurge, his ideal road trip, and his sunrise-to-sunset ultimate dream day.
L.A. Chef Brooke Williamson
On this episode of the California Now Podcast, host Soterios Johnson talks with celebrity chef and TV personality Brooke Williamson. Since winning Top Chef season 14, Williamson has competed on a handful of cooking competitions, including Guy’s Grocery Games, Knife Fight, and Food Network’s Tournament of Champions, for which she was the first to win.
Williamson and her husband Nick Roberts own Playa Provisions in Los Angeles County’s beachside neighborhood Playa del Rey. The unique restaurant complex features four different dining concepts inspired by the city’s charming country marts. During her conversation with Johnson, the L.A. chef breaks down each, including the grab-and-go cafe King Beach, upscale seafood spot Dockside, ice cream shop Small Batch, and whiskey bar Grain.
The South Bay resident also took the California Questionnaire, sharing her favorite road-trip destinations, California song, outlet mall, and more.
Fun and informative podcast!
Whenever this podcast pops up in my new episodes list, it is always my first choice to listen right away!
Tips for learning about California and new spots to try are here- I’m a 3rd generation Californian, have a wine tour business and am a tour guide and I am always learning something new! Keep up the great work! I’m a true fan!
Gem of a Podcast
Love!!! The CA Now podcast gives fresh and fun insight into an incredible state. Every time I listen, I end up with another place on my never-ending California bucket list.
So much more than Disney!
Disney, San Diego, San Francisco... it’s not hard to find things to do in California but the beauty of this podcast comes from the small scale and tailored recommendations. Given by real life experts, each segment highlights something off the beaten path that appeals to people from all walks of life. From free events to solo travel to keeping kids occupied, there’s something for everyone to be found through these exciting travel tips.