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It looks as though gasoline prices may be trending downward in the weeks ahead, which are among the busiest of travel times of the year for American families.

Travel and fun are summer traditions, and even though world events and international tensions may not keep gas prices down for long, it’s a safe bet families will be taking advantage of any financial edge that pops up in the next couple of months.

We have a vacation suggestion for Central Coast residents, and it includes a built-in hedge against any sudden escalation in the price of gasoline — keep you travel and your vacation dollars as local as possible.

Think about it. Where in the United States will you find more vacation attractions than right here in California. And most of those fun, educational things are within easy driving distance of our Central Coast communities.

California is unique in that it has just about every type of geographical feature a person could want. We have deep forests at higher elevations and towering mountains. We have outstanding desert recreation areas, usually no more than a couple of hours drive from the coast and its spectacular Pacific Ocean beaches. We have major cities and quaint, Scandinavian-style villages.

In fact, one of the best examples of the latter attraction is right in our own Santa Ynez Valley. If you’ve never been to Solvang, and you crave a taste of Denmark, it’s just a few minutes down the road from us.

But if you want to get out and truly see the state, the personal finance website WalletHub has compiled statistics proving just how good a vacation spot California truly is. For example:

California ranks first in the nation when it comes to restaurants, movie theaters, amusement parks, performing-arts venues and fitness centers per capita. We are 14th best regarding the number of golf courses per capita, and 11th for casino experiences.

All of which equates to an overall first-place recreation/entertainment ranking for California. Florida is a distant second.

Compare that to North Dakota, which can be nice in the summer, but ranks a dismal 50th overall in restaurants per capita. You might fight some historic sites in Delaware, but good luck finding a movie theater. If you’re an avid golfer, steer clear of Alaska; too many big bears anyway. Mississippi is miserable for live theater, and Illinois has the worst access to national parks. New Hampshire is pretty in the fall, but forget parks access.

California and its communities spend a lot of money enticing tourists, and for good reasons, which are all underlined by the WalletHub report.

As individuals we often define our “fun” differently. But we can think of no good reasons to stray far from California — or from the Central Coast, for that matter — when it comes to planning and carrying out vacation plans.

Maybe you just want to see something new, or want to tour Civil War battlefields, in which case you’ve got a long trip in front of you. But we can almost guarantee that if you’re seeking family-friendly fun and relaxation, the farthest you’ll need to drive is San Diego or Del Norte County.

Here’s something else to consider — economists predict a slowing of the U.S. economy, which for most American families suggests budget belt-tightening. The time to see California, all of California, is now.

And the neatest part of such a strategy is that staying home means your purchases equal better tax revenues for the places we live.

Sounds like a win/win deal to us.

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