Hit a Central Valley beach for warm sun and cool water

Just about everyone who lives in Northern California is familiarwith the region's ocean-beach experience. First you set up yourtowel and apply sunscreen, despite the complete absence of sun.Then you venture into the water up to your ankles, and your feetpromptly go numb. When you attempt to retreat to your towel, youfind it has blown away. Time to give up and go get some hotchocolate.

Turns out it's a lot more fun to go to the beach in an areawhere it really is summer. In the Central Valley, it's sunny justabout every day from May to October, and it's so hot you'llactually want to get in the water. A plethora of rivers andreservoirs ― many of them uncrowded, especially on weekdays― means that a cool swim and the chance to lounge on a towelon the sand aren't far from the area's major highways.

One of our favorite spots is Lodi Lake, which has a well-runpublic beach, lifeguards, and a wading pool for kids. Though thelake is manmade, the oak-ringed setting couldn't be prettier. TheMokelumne River feeds Lodi Lake, so the water's plenty clean.

Info: Lodi Lake's swimming beach is open Tue-Sun (from $2per person; 1101 W. Turner Rd., Lodi; exit I-5 at Turner, about 10miles north of Stockton, and follow it east about 4 miles to thepark).

Four more inland beaches: www.sunset.com/inland

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