I almost can’t believe it, but 2023 is nearly over.

This is our last newsletter of the year, so I wanted to thank you for starting your morning with our coverage of our favorite state.

It has been a delight to be able to travel across California and learn about its strange history and fascinating people, and to share those tales with you. Many of the most memorable moments of my year were while reporting for this newsletter: meeting the world’s oldest aquarium fish, eating my way through San Francisco’s Burmese restaurants, visiting migrant camps at the Tijuana border, seeing an ancient lake come back to life in the Central Valley and learning everything possible about our transfixing state flower. It’s an honor to do this work.

Today, I’ll be sharing some of what you told me about the best part of your year. Hearing from readers, especially about the details and small pleasures of your lives, is one of the best parts of my job. I hope you enjoy reading these notes as much as I did.

See you in 2024 — I’ll be back in your inbox on Jan. 2. Happy New Year!

“My husband, Paul Batchelder, turned 90 this summer. Paul has been an avid fisherman all of his life, so we had tables at his birthday party with fishnets and goldfish. Hors d’oeuvres were served in sushi boats.” — Paddy Batchelder, Gualala

“One of my greatest joys this past year has been getting into stand-up paddle boarding, often taking my inflatable board down to Donner Lake, a short, five-minute drive from my home, to start my mornings. What a delight it’s been to go out for a spin on magical, glass-like water.” — Kelly Bathgate, Truckee

“My husband and I were invited to rendezvous with a friend in Los Angeles over the July 4 holiday. We booked a rental home in Venice and promptly joined the locals as they celebrated among the famed canals. I never knew about the famed Venice Rubber Ducky Race in which hundreds of tiny, yellow floaty ducks are dropped from a bridge. This is not a fast race; it is mind-boggling in its swirling slowness as the duckies ebb and flow down the canal. Interference by genuine amphibious birds made it more thrilling. The true joy was with the people, though. This was honestly the most wholesome, laugh-out-loud family goodness I have experienced in years. Made me proud to celebrate being an American.” — Lynka Adams, Napa

“Happiness has been found in my own backyard. I sit on my small patio atop Potrero Hill and enjoy the lovely, mostly succulent garden that my boyfriend has created and maintains. I sometimes invite a friend over for a cup of tea or an afternoon cocktail, but otherwise I read in my Adirondack chair or nap in my hammock. I used to race around to galleries and museums, theater and films, and/or parties and events. Now, as a septuagenarian, I am content to watch the hummingbirds frisk in the burbling fountain, the clouds cross the sky and the neighbors’ trees dance in the breeze.” — Jim Van Buskirk, San Francisco

“I live in Los Angeles, and for several years I’ve taken vacations to La Jolla Shores. I love that it feels like a small town, but it’s close to all of the San Diego attractions. For years, I’ve wanted to go with my childhood best friend and her family, and we finally made it happen this June. The best part of the trip was that we had time to just be together. We sat on the beach, reading and listening to the waves. We had a barbecue at which my friend, who’s a teacher, got to spend time with a grad student at U.C.S.D. who was once one of her third graders. One night we had dinner at Piatti, an Italian restaurant that has a big tree in the middle of the patio seating area. We had the kind of intergenerational engaging conversation that had us thinking, laughing and looking up to see that they were closing up the restaurant around us.” — Rebecca Scott, Los Angeles

“My husband was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer near the beginning of the year, which means 2023 was one of the hardest years I’ve ever had. But I’ve realized there is joy in not just overcoming adversity, but also in the community that builds around you to bolster you in times like these. Friendships have strengthened. Neighbors have become family. People near and far have reached out to offer their support. And I’ve pushed myself and developed a resilience I wouldn’t have otherwise known was there.” — Olivia Pires, San Diego

The holidays could be a perfect time to visit the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which is offering extended hours in December and January. Admission is also free to L.A. County residents after 3 p.m. on weekdays.


The best songs of 2023.


What are you looking forward to in 2024? Milestone birthdays, travel to new places, a new hobby?

Tell us your hopes for the new year at CAtoday@nytimes.com. Please include your full name and the city in which you live.


Parks across California will offer a host of guided hikes on New Year’s Day as part of First Day Hikes, an annual national initiative that encourages people to see the country’s natural wonders at the start of the new year.

In California, guides at more than 60 parks will lead visitors on hikes, walks and other outdoor activities through the state’s vast natural environment on Jan. 1. Visitors can choose from more than 80 hikes at a wide range of skill levels, including a five-mile woodland climb in Angel Island State Park and an off-road drive through the dunes of Ocotillo Wells in San Diego.

Whether you’ve set ambitious New Year’s resolutions or you’re simply looking for a fun day to follow a long night, the great outdoors beckon. Find details about the event and stats for each hike on this interactive map on the California Department of Parks and Recreation website.


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