The Central Valley (also known as the San Joaquin Valley) is about as far as you can get from movie stars in stretch limos. This hot, flat strip of farms, dairies, fast-food joints, cheap motels, and truck stops stretches for 225 miles from Bakersfield to Redding. The 18,000-square-mile valley is central to the economy of the Golden State, in part because of its cultivated and irrigated fields, orchards, pastures, and vineyards.

The major traffic arteries through the valley are Highway 99 and I-5. Highway 99 links the agricultural communities, while I-5 provides access routes to the attractions in the valley. Rivers cutting through the valley offer fishing, boating, house boating on the delta, and white-water rafting on the rapids. And once you get off the freeways, the valley's spectacular landscapes provide unrivaled natural beauty. Many visitors drive through in spring just to view the orchards in bloom.

The Central Valley also stands on the doorstep of some of America's greatest attractions, the most well known being Yosemite National Park. The Central Valley town of Visalia is the gateway to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, and Fresno is a popular overnight stay for travelers heading in and out of the Sierra National Forest.