Location: Southern California
Think this took me long enough? I can’t believe my family’s amazing West Coast vacation was a month ago already. With less than two weeks until I go to Ireland, I really felt like I needed to get this post up and finish talking about my time in California. That being said, you’ve already seen my 48 hour guide to San Francisco and the top tourist attractions in Los Angeles. This post is along the same lines. When we booked our stay in Newport Beach, we didn’t realize offhand that that’s an area, not necessarily a town. On most of our vacations, we allow plenty of downtime to sit at the beach, pool or even hotel balcony. It was way too cold in SoCal mid-February to even think of doing that, so we made sure our days were booked solid with walking around and exploring various towns.
If you’re spending time in Southern California, I definitely recommend waiting until maybe March or April that way the weather is warmer. I also highly recommend renting a car. Having a car made it so easy to pop in and out of the little towns as needed, and driving the Pacific Coast Highway is a treat in itself. And one more thing: for such a ritzy area – one of the wealthiest in the country – it is super casual. Sundresses and sneakers, jeans and t-shirts, you’ll fit right in.
Surf City USA!!! My mom was thoroughly disappointed that there weren’t loudspeakers playing the Beach Boys throughout the town. Aside from that, we had nothing to complain about. Huntington Beach feels like California vacation. Walk the boardwalk at any time of day and watch from above as people surf in and out of the waves. The little town is really adorable, boasting huge surf-brand stores like Roxy, PacSun, Vans and Hurley. If you need a caffeine fix, there’s a great counter in one of the surf shops called Java Point…very on-brand for the town.
I think if I had to pick a town in SoCal to call my favorite, it would be Laguna. We actually spent a lot of time here, coming back and forth as if it were our town. The beach in Laguna can be compared to no other. (PS – I’ve never watched Laguna Beach so I have no point of reference, but my sister was having major flashbacks to the show.) Laguna is actually huge! We thought we covered the walking distance of the town then realized on the other side of a hill there was more! Really cute shops, great coffee options and overall just really pretty sights.
Not to sound like a broken record, but I loved San Diego too! I guess I can just say it once now as a blanket statement: I loved everywhere we went and had the best vacation. There. Moving on. San Diego was a city unlike any I’ve been to before. Between the actual city architecture, to the beach with the seals and sea lions, to the incredible park…for such a small city they fit a lot within the limits. We didn’t go to the zoo or Sea World – not really into caged animals – but I don’t feel like we missed out. Also…people are not joking when the say you must eat the tacos in San Diego. We just walked into a place off the street, La Puerta, and it turns out they’re nationally ranked! Everything tasted like Mexican-Mexican food, not American-Mexican food. And if you’re a beer person, San Diego is the city for you: it’s home to the most microbreweries in the country. Maaaybe I’ll do a post specifically on San Diego. We’ll see if there’s time.
Tourist-version aside, LA has a lot to offer. What we seem to forget about – because of Hollywood – is the beach areas surrounding the city. Venice Boardwalk/Muscle Beach is a great, great area to spend time. It’s so unlike any of the more southern beach vibes…it feels cool. It’s kind of like a Coney Island: filled with Boardwalk vendors, kites, volleyball and basketball, but with perfectly clean beaches and beautiful mountains in the background. Also, on a whim we stopped by the Marina Del Rey beach. It may have been the nicest beach we were on all week. Perfectly soft, white sand, Pacific blue waters, no other people…truly remarkable and worth the visit.
Thanks to the Internet, my mom found out about the Mission San Juan Capistrano, so off to San Juan we went. I laughed when we got out of the car. The little town reminded me of an old western movie, where someone would kick a cowboy boot through the door of a saloon while a tumbleweed blows by in the distance. There were cacti everywhere, and of course, a Starbucks (why?!). Anyway, exploring inside the mission takes less than an hour, but if I lived locally, I’d totally bring books and spend all of my time there. It was so peacefully beautiful, in full bloom and just a wonderful place to find your calm. I definitely recommend visiting.
Balboa: home of the (overrated) chocolate-dipped, frozen banana. Also home to one of the prettiest marina walks there is. You’ve got boats in water on one side of you and beautiful homes in full bloom on the other. We could’ve walked this for hours. When it was time to eat, we had plenty of options but settled on the diner everyone recommended and we were not disappointed. If you take the ferry across from Balboa, you hit the Pier, which is exactly what you’re probably picturing in your head: carnival-type, kid-friendly, you know.
I’m sorry I only chose one photo to represent each trip. I didn’t want this post to become pages long! I promise you though, I have enough photos to last a lifetime and will happily continue sharing on Instagram (especially while it continues to snow in New York).