I had always dreamed of driving up the coast in California. I had been to California twice. Once close to San Diego – I basically seen the airport and MCRD which is the Marine Corps Recruit Depot. The other time I basically got to see the Las Angeles airport and walk around Oceanside, which was nice. So after I graduated college, I decided to take a two week trip to travel up the coast of California! This vacation was definitely full of memories. It definitely didn’t turn out like we expected but it was still a good vacation.
We drove to Santa Rose, New Mexico and stayed the night the first night and then woke up and hit the road again to Phoenix, AZ. I was so excited to be in Phoenix because it was 70 degree weather and back at home it was cold (This was the first two weeks of January)! Go figure, as soon as we got out to enjoy the weather it started raining.
The next morning we would finally be in California! We made it to San Diego on New Year’s Eve day. I was so excited to be there for New Year’s and see the fireworks. We couldn’t check into our room until way later that evening because little did we know there was a football game going on or something and this huge group had 100 rooms blocked and they were all trying to check in as well. So we went and checked out Old Town. It was really neat to walk around and sight see.. until it starts pouring down rain. Of course! The hotel gives us some drink vouchers due to the long wait to check in. So we go have a drink and then finally get checked in! It was still pouring down rain and I wasn’t sure if we were going to get to see the fireworks or not so we just passed out at 9 pm California time.. on New Year’s Eve! How exciting.. not. Haha.
The next day it was a beautiful sunny day – a little chilly but nice. We spent the day at the San Diego Zoo. HUGE!! We didn’t even see probably half of it. Our favorite part was the sky lift.
Next stop was Laguna Beach. This was one of the places I was most looking forward to! It has always looked beautiful and I basically wanted to re-live my MTV Laguna Beach days.. haha. I did find Lauren Conrad’s parent’s old house from the show. It was HUGE and beautiful. We stayed at The Inn at Laguna Beach. Beautiful hotel right on the beach and right on Heisler Park. We spent quite a bit of time at the beach at our hotel. I checked out Thousand Step Beach.. got a little workout in with those 1,000 steps haha. Spent a little time at Alsio Beach which I wish we could have had a bon fire on the beach that night. It also had a playground for kids. My daughter loved swinging at the beach. We ate at the best little diner called Ruby’s Diner for dinner and breakfast because it was so good! I would have to say Laguna Beach was probably my favorite town. It was smaller and felt more ‘homey’.
We went up the road a little to Newport Beach and checked out Fashion Island Mall. I really liked this mall! It was worth checking out for sure. Beautiful! I also enjoyed a HUGE slice of cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory!
I was sad to leave Laguna/Newport Beach but excited to head towards Disneyland. We stopped in Long Beach first because my grandma wanted to see the pier she use to go on but it was closed so we didn’t really get to do anything but stop and see Queen Mary.
Finally, we made it to Anaheim and I knew a little girl who was super excited for Disneyland! I can see I’ve experienced Disney World and Disneyland and at least my daughter has now experienced Disneyland because honestly I don’t know if I’d go back.. haha.. no I would, I would just have to definitely go in a less busier time. I thought all the kids would be back in school the day we went because where I’m at, they would have been back in school from Christmas break. Not in California. Little did we know that the season pass holders had been blocked off from going all of December and they only had two days to use their passes before they expired.. so it was like busier than ever! We did a one day park hopper to go between Disneyland and Disney California Adventure and I so wish we could have done two days. It was so hard to do both parks in one day. We started at 8 am and ended the night at 11 pm and we didn’t get much accomplished. We did get to start the day at Disneyland and rode It’s A Small World and one other (kid) ride. We waited an hour in line to meet Moana and about 45 minutes to meet Rapunzel. We hopped over to Disney California Adventure and watched Elena of Avalor parade (which was pretty good). I went to get fast passes for Soarin’ and they were already sold out =/ We made our way back to Disneyland and watched the Christmas parade which was cute. We waited in line about another hour to meet Tinkerbell. We really wanted to go into Mickey and Minnie’s House and meet them but the line was like an hour and half. Crazy. The best part of the day/night was watching the Paint the Night parade. We had to wait an hour and half to have good seats but man if you ever go to Disneyland this parade is a must see. After the parade, we went back over to Disney California Adventure to finally be able to look around the park there and then we ended the night with the Fireworks & snow falling at the castle in Disneyland.
I was super excited to head to Los Angeles to see Hollywood so I could cross seeing the Hollywood sign and walking down the Walk of Fame off my bucket list. Even though it was a little freaky walking around and you’d see homeless people eating out of trash cans and some strange people, it was still cool to see Hollywood. We ended up in some neighborhood really close to the Hollywood sign! I would have loved to hike the walking trail that goes right up behind the Hollywood sign if time would have allowed!
The second place that I really wanted to see in California was Santa Monica! We got there in time to enjoy the Santa Monica Pier. Took a little carousel ride and enjoyed a burger. I would have loved to ride more of the rides on the pier but no one wanted to ride with me! L After the pier, we made our way to 3rd Street Promenade to do a little shopping. It was nice but a lot of it was the same stores we have at home or that I had already looked at in Newport Beach. Santa Monica is beautiful. Would love to visit there again and be able to spend more than just one day.
We drove about 4 miles and we were in Venice. Oh Venice. What an experience. So, we got to Venice when it was dark. We booked a hotel on the beach. My GPS was not finding it. It kept sending us down this dark alley and it was very creepy with homeless people walking around. I called the front desk and sure enough the hotel was in this alley. What the heck!! We went to check in and little did we know it was an old bed and breakfast. We had so much luggage and there were no elevators. The closest parking was like a half mile away and we were expecting a parking garage. No. It was the beach parking lot and there were homeless people sitting all over with hardly any lights in the parking lot. AHH. We were really freaking. We finally sucked it up and went to check in and these guys were yelling at my mom and I as we were walking in and the guy at the front desk of the hotel said “Oh those guys won’t bother you. They may yell but they can’t do anything. It’s the Phoenix House and they are like one step away from being locked up in prison.” OHHH.. that’s lovely! I am freaking out at this point. They told us the view would be worth it in the morning. It was an old place but it was pretty nice and definitely spacious. They were right, the view in the morning was pretty! I wouldn’t say as pretty as Laguna Beach view but it was still a pretty beach view. Thankfully, it was finally sunny! We spent a little bit of the day at the beach before we headed up the coast some more. But oh the things you will see along the beach! 😉 I wish I could have rode bikes around the beach! Maybe next time!
I use to hate the Kardashians, but somehow I got sucked into watching it a year ago and now I find it kind of entertaining and humorous. So I wanted to drive through Calabasas and see what it was like in person. It was a very pretty town. We stopped at a mall there, but again it was a lot of the same stores, so we didn’t spend a whole lot of time there.
Making our way up the coast some more, we drove through Malibu. It was a beautiful town as well. We didn’t get to stop and see much of the town as we still had a ton of other places to stop.
My grandma wanted to stop in Oxnard and Ventura to eat some Fish & Chips and we kind of toured the town a little bit before we headed to Santa Barbara.
The next day we had like a 6 hour drive up the coast. I was so looking forward to this day because I had heard this drive was supposed to be a beautiful experience to get to drive up this part of the coast. We were driving to Santa Barbara to start and it was pouring down rain. We got out of the car to see the beach for a few minutes and that was about it! We got back in the car to make our way to Big Sur. I knew we were traveling on Hwy 1, but I did not realize we would be going through a mountain range and I did not know it was going to be a massive rainstorm! My mom and grandma were terrified the whole time. It was a little scary but only because of the rain. We ended up in a couple mudslides that we had to get in the other lane which was freaky when you were already on a narrow road and going around a corner and the ocean was right there beside you. We did not know how long until we had gotten to Big Sur and we couldn’t check it because there is no cell phone service the whole time.
Three hours later and we finally made it to Big Sur. It was still pouring down rain that I got out to take a picture and it just looked nasty. The ocean was all white and rough. It sucked!!
We then traveled on to Montery and ate dinner and toured the town just a little bit before we headed to Spreckels. My grandma use to live in Spreckels so she wanted to check out Spreckels and Salinas.
Then, we made our way to Santa Cruz and I was so excited to stay on the beach again. We had a super cute beach hotel room and again for the 2nd day in a row, it was still a massive rainstorm going on. So we didn’t get to enjoy Santa Cruz very much. I did get to see a beautiful sunrise the next morning before we traveled up to San Francisco. Ha. This hotel also had a huge shower with the double shower heads and oh my gosh I stayed in the shower forever!
After seeing a beautiful sunrise in Santa Cruz, we thought we were set to have a great day for San Francisco. We had heard that Hwy 480 was closed due to all the rain or something. So we took Hwy 1. This time it was a beautiful non-rainy drive. We made it about 18 miles outside of San Francisco where we had to sit in stand still traffic for 2 and a half hours because of a mudslide on Hwy 1. UGHH. FINALLY we made it! We walked across the Golden Gate Bridge! I loved it! I hated that it was windy and almost rainy (again!) but it was still an experience and I was able to cross that off my bucket list. It was really neat driving downtown San Fran and seeing the houses that you see like on Full House, which because of our mud slide stand still traffic, I did not get to go to the Full House house! ugh!
Our last stop in California was Bakersfield. My grandma had some family there that she wanted to visit with.
It was finally time to head to Vegas for two days!
On the way home, we were going to stay in New Mexico again to break up the drive but we had heard there was going to be a bad ice storm we would be going through closer to home so at the last minute we decided to just drive all the way through. We made it in about 23 hours and oh my gosh I hadn’t been so tired in my life after a two week trip and driving 23 hours with like two hours of sleep!
I have to say, even though the weather wasn’t the greatest for us, it was still an amazing experience and I was so thankful to finally visit California and see more than just the airports!