A few years ago we decided to take a California road trip with our girls. I love to travel internationally, but there is also something special about a family road trip in the United States.
There is so much to see right here in our beautiful home country! Unless you are truly a nomad, you can't see it all at once, or even in the same year. For this trip, we decided to see the California coast.
Our oldest daughter graduated from high school just before we left, receiving a scholarship for the six remaining classes she needed to complete her AA before moving on to college.
This meant A) our time at home with her was limited and B) depending on which school she chose, we may never be able to afford a vacation again!
California Road Trip
We started our California road trip by flying into Los Angeles and staying at the Marina Del Rey Marriott. We loved the outdoor seating area at this hotel and found a great little restaurant within walking distance for dinner. The Marriott would be our home base for the next couple of days.
A friend was kind enough to take my family on a tour of the Disney Animation Studio. I had been able to visit before, but my daughter hadn't. As she was going to school for animation, it was really special to see the Studio.
Of course, we couldn't visit the area without a trip to Disneyland, so that was on our agenda for the next day. Though we live just 90 minutes from Walt Disney World, there is something so magical about Disneyland.
I do have to say, I have the keys to the kingdom when it comes to finding the best food in Disney World!
This was our second trip to Disneyland. We met a couple there the last time we visited while dining at Wine Country Trattoria at California Adventure. Believe it or not, we've kept in touch with this couple during the year, and when they heard we were visiting again, they asked us to meet them for drinks at the 1901 Lounge followed by dinner at Club 33. Talk about magical!
The next day we headed out of the city and began our drive up the coast to Santa Barbara, eating lunch at a little restaurant called the Savoy Cafe & Deli that was featured on The Food Networks Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.
The Santa Ynez Marriott was our next stop on this California road trip, and we were ready to chill. The Marriott put us pretty close to Solvang, a cool little town with lots of shops, restaurants, and of course, wine tastings, so spent a little time exploring the next day. We had planned to visit Firestone Winery and Fess Parker Winery, two of our favorites, so we spent an hour touring and tasting before heading to Cayucos for dinner. The views were so spectacular! Of course, the coast is gorgeous, but some of the homes were just incredible, too. It looked so much like Italy!
The Cayucos Beach Inn is a little different than our normal hotel, being Marriott and Hilton fans, but my kids loved it. We dined at Schooner's on the beach the first night and it was honestly one of the best meals I have ever had.
We had a blast kayaking in San Simeon early the next morning. Horseback riding the next day provided spectacular views of the mountains. The weather in that area was is fabulous, and we felt really comfortable after a little instruction from the staff at Outback Trail Rides.
The weather was so wonderful. Coming home to the Florida humidity would not be fun.
We headed to Linn's Fruit Bin that night for dinner. I didn't know what to expect as the name kind of threw me, but this is a not to miss spot! Be prepared for an incredible meal!
We headed out the next day for the spectacular drive along the coast. If you do a California road trip, plan to make a lot of stops - the views are breathtaking! We drove along Big Sur and stopped for appetizers and a glass of wine at Nepenthe where the views, again, are unbelievable.
My older daughter spotted a whale spout and had quite a crowd gathered waiting for the next spotting. We saw it about five times. That was our first time seeing whales.
I saw whales up close for the first time in British Columbia, when staying at Nimmo Bay Resort.
Before heading to the Monterey Marriott, we made a quick detour to see Carmel by the Sea. Now I have another place on my list for next time!
Our main reason for visiting Monterey was the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It was on the list of musts for my older daughter and was well worth the visit! The jellies were amazing! Watch for seals on the rocks near the water. That's not something we get to see in Florida!
Next on our agenda was the 17-mile drive. My husband also wanted to see Pebble Beach Golf Course. Correction: He really wanted to play Pebble Beach, but that was not on the schedule for this trip! Again, the views were unbelievable.
Speaking of views, we spent the following night in San Francisco, and watching the fog roll in was crazy. We had dinner at a seafood restaurant down at Fisherman's Wharf. I'd recommend doing some checking before you visit. Our meal was very pricey and just above mediocre.
Of course, Fisherman's Wharf is a very touristy area. The next day we stopped before driving out of the city to see the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. We were, after all, tourists.
Finally, the last leg of our trip, we drove to Sonoma and went zip lining in the Redwood Forest, which was a total blast. Did you know Redwoods easily bend because of their shallow root system?
Cline Cellars is very kid-friendly, with a museum and a bird zoo on site. We had no problem letting our teens head off to explore while we did a tasting.
It's always a good idea to check into age limits when visiting wineries as some don't allow kids. Even when you're planning a California trip with younger kids, wineries can be fun.
If you're thinking about a California road trip, just do it. I can't recommend it highly enough. Visit the Sonoma County Tourism website to get ideas for itineraries. You can sign up for the newsletter, too.
Like our content? Follow us on Pinterest!
Have you ever taken a long road trip? Where did you go? I'd love to get ideas!