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  • The San Francisco Opera (tel. 415/864-3330): The first municipal opera in the U.S., with world-renowned productions and members, performs at the War Memorial Opera House, modeled after the Opéra Garnier in Paris. The season opens with a gala in September and runs through December.
  • The San Francisco Symphony (tel. 415/864-6000): The symphony is such a hot ticket, it's hard to get a seat in advance. If your concierge doesn't have any tricks up his sleeve, you can try to buy tickets at the door or from someone attempting to sell his at the last second.
  • The American Conservatory Theater (San Francisco; tel. 415/749-2-ACT [749-2228]): The A.C.T. is one of the nation's leading regional theaters -- the American equivalent of the British National Theatre, the Berliner Ensemble, or the Comédie Française in Paris.
  • The Monterey Jazz Festival (tel. 831/373-3366): The third weekend of September, the Monterey Fairgrounds draws jazz fans from around the world. The 3-day festival, known for the sweetest jazz west of the Mississippi, usually sells out a month in advance.
  • The Hollywood Bowl (Los Angeles; tel. 323/850-2000): This iconic outdoor amphitheater is the summer home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, a stage for visiting virtuosos -- including the occasional pop star -- and the setting for splendid fireworks shows.
  • Festival of Arts/Pageant of the Masters (Laguna Beach): These events draw crowds to the Orange County coast every July and August. Begun in 1932 by a handful of painters, the festival has grown to showcase hundreds of artists. In the evening, crowds marvel at the Pageant of the Masters' tableaux vivants, in which costumed townsfolk pose inside a giant frame and depict famous works of art, accompanied by music.
  • The Old Globe Theatre (San Diego; tel. 619/234-5623): This Tony Award-winning theater company has launched such Broadway hits as Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Full Monty, and Into the Woods.
  • Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival (Indio): This festival rocks for 3 days in April and draws crowds for its diverse lineup of over 180 acts, everyone from Kanye West and Arcade Fire to Lauryn Hill, Cut Copy, Robyn, and the Drums in 2011 alone. visit www.coachella.com.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.