A Warm Welcome

Tips For Your Trip At California Welcome Center…

They arrive from the north, south, east and west and they all ask variations of the same questions: Where can I go? What can I see? What can I do while I’m here?

Vicki Nims, one of three tourism information specialists who staff the Anderson California Welcome Center on a daily basis, is ready with answers and even a few questions of her own. How much time do you have? Do you like to hike? How about fishing? Do you like waterfalls? Caves?

The questions and answers are as varied as the recreational and sightseeing opportunities that abound in the Shasta Cascade Wonderland Association’s 30,000 square miles of northeast California that its Welcome Center represents.

The important thing, though, is that there’s somebody to ask, says Laurie Baker, the Shasta Cascade’s general manager. “Instead of going to a website, they like having people give them advice,” she says of the Welcome Center visitors.

“‘What would you do?’ is a popular question. So many believe that the world is so digital that you don’t need people and can get everything from your phone, but people will always ask for directions and tips. They like getting the local expertise.”

If it’s a quick visit, Nims might suggest a trip to the Sundial Bridge or maybe a nice lunch at Anderson River Park. If they have a little more time, Lassen National Volcanic Park or McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park are options, along with Whiskeytown Lake.

Nims laughed as she recalled fielding a Shasta Dam question from one guest when another visitor asked about another attraction. “I said ‘I’ll help as soon as I answer this dam question.’” After seeing some raised eyebrows, she quickly rephrased her reply.

The dam, and Shasta Lake’s distressingly low level, are just two questions the Welcome Center fields on any given day. “People like to go to hidden waterfalls and they’re always asking about campgrounds and about fishing,” Baker says.

Given the number and variety of experiences available in the North State, the Welcome Center crew is never at a loss when it comes to tips for travelers—and lifelong Shasta County residents, as well.

For example: Spelunkers are given options like Lava Beds National Monument, Shasta Caverns or Subway Cave; fly fishers can be steered toward Fall River; hikers can follow the map to Lassen County’s Bizz Johnson Trail; oenophiles might be interested in Alpen Cellars high up in Trinity Center; gourmands may enjoy the Highlands Ranch Resort in eastern Tehama County; and snowshoers may be invited to clomp around on Brokeoff Mountain.

Visitors stop in on their way from Oregon or coming north from the San Francisco Bay Area and “we get a lot from Canada. It’s amazing how we get people from all over, other states and other countries,” Baker says.

Located at the southern end of the Shasta Gateway shopping center in Anderson, the Welcome Center is stocked with brochures, maps and colorful displays highlighting attractions throughout the region. Kids are invited to feed the rainbow trout in the waterfall pond or pose with “Joe Tourist,” the friendly mascot, or “Ed,” the life-size bronze Grizzly bear that guards the entryway. A gift shop is filled with souvenirs, hard-to-find postcards, hats, shirts, books and maps.

As a partner in Visit California, the state’s tourism marketing organization, the Welcome Center has plenty of information on California’s 11 other regions, ranging from the North Coast to Orange County.

The Welcome Center is operated by the Shasta Cascade Wonderland Association, which was established in 1927 to lobby for more roads in Butte, Lassen, Modoc, Plumas, Shasta, Siskiyou, Tehama and Trinity counties. It was hard to promote tourism when tourists had such a hard time getting to the North State, Baker says.

As bridges and highways took shape, the Association focused its energy on promotion, beginning with the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition held on San Francisco’s Treasure Island. •

Anderson California Welcome Center •
(530) 365-7500 1699 Highway 273, Anderson •

About Jon Lewis

Jon Lewis is a Redding-based writer with 37 years of experience. A longtime San Francisco Giants fan, his interests include golf, fishing and sharing stories about people, places and things. He can be reached at

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