Visiting California is always a treat. When I was 12 years old I went with my grandfather. This was my first “real” trip on an airplane and without my parents. I’ll never forget it. I’ve been at least a dozen times to Cali and with each visit I’ve managed to see different sights and cities. Each trip offered something unique and each time I come home wishing to move there.
One of my favourite trips was the drive along the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to San Diego with my husband – that trip was meant to be the “once we have kids, we won’t travel as much” kinda trip – or at least our friends had warned us (boy, they were wrong). We are hoping to do a similar roadtrip again next year with the boys and we’ll plan the trip using the official Visit California iPad app to get the most of our time out there.
I’ll never forget the drive along the coast line feeling like you’re at the edge of the world. We stayed in small surfing towns like Pismo Beach and the charming Carmel by the Sea. Other times we’ve sipped and ate our way around wine country in Napa Valley and window shopped in Beverly Hills. We’ve even dined at what was once Julia Child’s home in Santa Barbara. One visit had us settling into a great hotel in JapanTown LA where we had to figure out a traditional sunken bathtub! What an experience!
A recent visit to California taken me to spots I have never visited before. My eyes grew even bigger this time as I fell deeper love with this state. On this trip , we concentrated on the southern regions. There was so much to see and do — I’ll be telling you about other areas like Temecula and Palm Springs in the next few weeks as I sift through all 500 of my photos. Seriously.
Since we flew into LAX airport, the immediate L.A and the surrounding areas offer up many great attractions. Here are a few things that are on my list of MUST SEE & DO!
CALIFORNIA SCIENCE CENTER – SPACE SHUTTLE ENDEAVOUR
If you want a WOW moment make sure you make a stop at the California Science Center where NASA’s Space Shuttle Endeavour has made it’s final resting spot. This remarkable space vehicle completed 25 missions into space, including the first service mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. It’s truly one of those awe-inspiring moments that you will never forget and I tell you, I got a little teary eyed at first glance. Visitors will learn about space travel and common everyday needs like “how does the astronaut go to the bathroom?” A real-life SPACE POTTY is there on display that explains it all. The California Science Center was selected to house this historical orbital vehicle because of their dedication to science learning and education.
DID YOU KNOW?
California has a strong historical connection to the shuttles, as all of the orbiters were built in southern parts of this state. The California Science Center is named by Forbes.com as the most popular museum destination in Southern California.
Venture out of the core and plan a day trip out to Long Beach. This town has a laid back vibe and offers plenty of things to do for the family. Long Beach originally was a Navy town and was considered the Coney Island of the west coast. It has been a favourite spot for Hollywood types to get away from L.A.. Locals bring their dogs to waterfront as they’ve got the only approved dog beach in LA county. It’s also bike friendly with designated boulevards and lanes. As for culture, you can visit the many museums here including the largest Latin American Museum. There’s no shortage of restaurants! But for a picturesque afternoon, take the family to Parker’s Lighthouse Restaurant in the Shore Village area. It has an incredible seafood menu to suit many tastes! I had the freshest chirashi sushi ever!
DID YOU KNOW?
Long Beach is home to the famous luxury liner, The Queen Mary, which has been converted into a museum, event space and hotel.
Long Beach has the world’s largest mural. Environmental marine artist, Wyland, completed Planet Ocean on the Long Beach Arena in 1993 with the Guinness Book of World Records certifying it as the world’s largest mural. It took four weeks and 3,000 gallons of paint to create it. In 2009, Wyland returned, broke his record and painted “Earth, the Blue Planet,” a rooftop mural on the arena spanning three acres; the project was completed in less than 24 hours.
The nation’s skinniest house is located on Gladys Avenue. Built in 1932 by Nelson Rummond on a bet that he could not build an inhabitable residence on the lot which measured only 10 feet by 50 feet. He built the compact house which is 3-stories high and 860 square feet.
THE AQUARIUM OF THE PACIFIC
You can’t miss the fourth largest visited aquarium in the nation and the chance to touch live starfish, sea urchins, stingrays and sharks! The Aquarium of the Pacific displays over 11,000 animals in more than 50 exhibits that represent the diversity of the Pacific Ocean. Hands-on activities have animal lovers swoon over to learn more about ocean life and our planet. On my visit I had a chance to meet the latest addition to the sea lion exhibit. A yet-to-be-named pup was in quarantine behind-the-scenes with mommy and sister in a special family bonding moment safely away from other animals and people. By the way, the public can suggest names for the new pup and you can find out more information on the website!
DID YOU KNOW?
Penguins love playing with bubbles? I could have stayed all day watching them try to catch them! Plan on at least 3 hours here with little ones. They won’t want to leave!
VIP EXPERIENCE at UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD
You may have been to Universal Studios Hollywood but next time you go (with or without kids) I would suggest taking in the new VIP Experience. What was once only accessible to celebrities and high profile people, Universal Studios in Hollywood now offers an exclusive and behind-the-scenes experience led by specially trained guides. This experience includes opportunities to explore locations and sets closed to the general public and it also includes tours of their multi-story prop warehouse, foley stages and other studio facilities. Plan on 6 hours with this package and note that there are limited spots per day available for this experience.
DID YOU KNOW? The backlots behind the theme park has active working movie and television sets.
WHERE TO STAY – THE TERRANEA RESORT
There are so many wonderful spots to stay but this one along the coast is a sanctuary for the soul. Located in Rancho Palos Verdes just outside of the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, TERRANEA is an absolutely breath-taking property. The landscape is rich and has a diverse ecology. Once part of the Channel Islands, the Palos Verdes Peninsula shifted over millions of years and fused to the mainland coast of California. As a result, there is a unique collection of rocks and plant species that can only be found along this area and worth exploring. Catalina Island is visible from this resort. About 80 per cent of the rooms have ocean views on this sprawling 102 acre property that includes hotel, residential bungalows, villas and casitas. It’s a perfect spot for families as TERRANEA also offers an award-winning children’s programs. Unlike others, the kids programs can be customized to your needs and for all ages. Got a nature lover? Their experienced staff can take them over to the local tide pools at the sheltered cove just a short path walk away and it’s a prime location for whale spotting! Kids will also love the water slide at the family pool and make sure you stop by the pancake bar on Saturday mornings too! Golfers will be delighted as the property includes an award-winning, 9-hole, par 3 course and we don’t want to forget about the spa! Dining options are amazing here from the casual easy cafe for morning coffee runs to easy dining and more elegant offerings. The resort also houses an impressive art collection that showcases original local artists of past and present. At the end of each day, TERRANEA is marked by an ancient ritual – the ringing of quartz crystal Singing Bowls. Conducted on the terrace of the resort lobby, this sunset ceremony is known for healing and relaxation. I could seriously just stay put here with nothing else to do but walk the trails and breathe in the ocean air. There are more than 228 outdoor fire pits and fireplaces perfect for s’mores! They also have the most idyllic spot to take in the incredible sunrise and sunset over the Pacific Ocean every single day.
DID YOU KNOW?
The TERRANEA Resort property was formerly home to Marineland.
The original Bat Cave in the earlier Bat Man movies is located nearby and within clear view from the resort. Other movies have used this location in their productions including: Pirates of the Caribbean 1, 2, & 3, Pearl Harbor with Ben Affleck and Kate Beckinsale, Charlie’s Angels with Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu and Drew Barrymore, GI Jane with Demi Moore, The Aviator with Leonardo DeCaprio and many more.
CALIFORNIA OUTDOOR BUCKET LIST:
Want to experience even more? The Visit California tourism website and app has lots of ideas to help plan your vacation needs. Check these out…on my bucket list!
Bike the deserts of Joshua Tree National Park
Camp along the ocean-view bluffs in Big Sur
Hike Lassen Volcanic National Park’s “Bumpass Hell” trail along hydrothermal areas
Discover the awesome power of “Maverick,” surfing north of Half Moon Bay
Stay tuned! I’ve got more of California to share with you! But in the meantime, you can see more photos (located at the top of this post) from this first few days of my Southern California adventure!
What parts of California have you visited?
This post is not sponsored nor was I compensated. All opinions are my own.