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California Bucket List

Here’s your daily travel guide to the best adventures and experiences in the Golden State. Each of these essential California adventures has been tried and tested by a Travel section staffer or contributor.

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Family-friendlyHigh Sierra

Pace the barracks at Manzanar, where 10,000 Japanese Americans were held during World War II

Why: On this barren, windblown patch of the Owens Valley, more than 10,000 Japanese Americans endured a painful home-front chapter of World War II -- a mass incarceration that U.S. leaders have conceded was wrong. The National Park Service has remade the site, at the foot of the Sierra Nevada, as a place for contemplation of war, liberty, prejudice and endurance.

What: It was early 1942, about 10 weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered more than 110,000 Japanese Americans be incarcerated in internment camps. Walk through the two reconstructed barracks and mess hall, which are full of displays and signage explaining daily life in the camp. Watch the 22-minute film in the visitor center, "Remembering Manzanar."

Reconstructed barracks. (Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)
Reconstructed barracks. (Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Browsing the displays, you'll learn the details of daily life, from mess hall menus to the fruit crates that families converted into furniture. You'll also read NPS researchers' conclusion that "no person of Japanese ancestry living in the United States was ever convicted of any serious act of espionage or sabotage during the war." The exhibits include a 1988 news clip of President Reagan declaring the camps "a mistake" and offering compensation for survivors of internment. (Park rangers opened Manzanar as a historic site in 1992.)

Take the 3.2-mile driving tour around the periphery, and pause at the cemetery, where a tall monument is etched with Japanese characters.  

Where: 5001 Highway 395, Independence. The site is 6 miles north of downtown Independence, 219 miles north of downtown L.A.

How much: Free.

Info: Manzanar National Historic Site

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