Friday, July 17, 2015


Every Friday, I am featuring a different state.  Blog readers are submitting their favorite spots in their states and it's a compiling a really fun travel guide to refer to!  So far we have had the A's:

California is a BIG state.  I can't imagine there is any way we can cover all the great things - but here is what readers sent me (all notes are from blog readers - not me!)!! 

Eats: the filling station - great burgers and everything else. It's right next to downtown which is so cute. You can walk around it then grab dessert at A La Minute. They make all the ice cream right there using locally sourced ingredients. It's AMAZING.

My favorite beaches to visit. Generally not crowded and super easy access. I always see Dolphins jumping out of the water off shore.
Balboa Island: a must do. So so fun!
The Crab Cooker: local, fresh seafood that's amazing and a great price.
Bear Flag Fish Company- the BEST fish tacos
TK Burger- Better than In N Out 
Rent a Duffy electric boat and cruise around newport harbor


In n out burger. They're everywhere, go any chance you can get.
Beaches: Huntington beach is usually family friendly. The pier is fun to walk down and Sugar Shack in Main Street for breakfast is amazing.
Balboa island is nice to walk around, and try a balboa bar, they're delicious.
Amusement parks:
Of course Disneyland is a must, but it really is a must. It will be crowded but it is every bit as magical as you hope it would be.
Knotts berry farm is great, but if you're doing both Disney and Knotts, you will be disappointed if you go to Disney first. Knotts is smaller and much less organized. But if your kids love the peanuts gang they'll have a great time.
Try to see a show at the pantages theatre in L.A. or the ahminson or if you're in Orange county go to the Orange county performing arts center (sergerstrom performing center for the arts).
South coast plaza in Orange county is the biggest mall I know of (in California). It's very high end, but still fun to shop at. When I was in Europe I remember thinking every high fashion store I saw in Paris was also at south coast. I know that seems braggy (and I'm not high fashion) but if you're in town it's fun to walk around. Fashion island in Newport is another fun mall. That one is outdoors.

Go eat at Santa Barbara Shellfish Company. It's on the end of the wharf and so good.
From here we drove up highway 1 (PCH) to Santa Cruz. It was AMAZING. You go through Big Sur and pass Hearst Castle. It's a great use of your time.

(Northern California, East Bay, Bay Area)
Cheeseboard pizza 
La Note for delicious french brunch


Pack a picnic and spend the day in Dolores Park

Pink ladies, Lombard street, coit tower, fisherman's wharf, golden gate, Alcatraz. It is all the things. The city shuts down pretty early, but the mornings are busy. We loved it. To get our barrings we did the two day big bus tour. You can ride it as many times as you want and it takes you to Sausilito.


1.The Mission in San Francisco.  Best mexican food ever! If you ask for queso, you'll get queso fresco. 

I love all Taquerias, but Taqueria Cancun owns my heart. If you're in South San Francisco, El Faro is


The best steak I've ever had. You don't even need a knife. It's a very pricey meal, not kid friendly but wonderful for date night. AND they have free valet! 

3. Little Lucca.

This is probably what I miss most about home. The most delicious sandwich. It's located on El Camino Real in South San Francisco. If you go on game day expect an hour+ wait. Totally worth it.

4.Sourdough bread. 

Doesn't matter where it comes from (I think Raymonds on Spruce in South San Francisco is best) just eat as much as you can.

5.Philz coffee.

You're welcome.

Things to do

1.Giants game!

The park is so beautiful. Not a bad seat in the park. Kid friendly! Parking is expensive so try and take Muni/bart if you can. Also, it gets COLD! The wind comes right off the bay so bring a jacket/banket/snow suit :)

2.Ferry Building.

Amazing market! Ina Garten made a stop when she was in the city. There farmers market, will ruin others for you.

3.The Academy of Science

Theres a living rain forest inside! This is perfect for kids and adults. Every Thursday night they adult nightlife. So fun!

4.Union Square.

Great for shopping and checking out old school eateries. There is a lot of homeless people in this area. Do not venture west of Powell st. That's the tenderloin and you don't want to go there ever.

5.Grace Cathedral.

The most beautiful church ever! Theres a labyrinth inside and outside. Lots of space to walk and pray. Plus a park across the street if the little one gets restless.

6.Bay Area Discovery Museum.

This is right across the Golden Gate bridge in Sausalito. Tons of hands on exhibits and a great view of the bridge.

7.Montery Bay Aquarium.

About a 3 hour drive south of the city. I've never had a bad time here! The otters are so cute! And they have a giant octopus.

Tips and tricks. 

Parking is expensive and we all drive like lunatics. Best to take uber/cab/or public transportation. 

Wear layers! It'll be raining by the beach and Sunny in the financial district. The city can't make up it's mind. The fog, who goes by the name Karl has his own twitter account

Try and stay away from Pier 39/Fishermans wharf. It's a tourist trap and crazy expensive. 

Marin County: Muir Woods/Beach and Mt Tamalpais are all amazing and close to San Francisco
Eat Lunch at the Dipsea Cafe or Cafe Del Sol and take a stroller friendly hike out to the beach through Tennessee Valley in Mill Valley 
Marin Headlands for great shots of the Golden Gate Bridge, if you stop and take pictures and the continue down to the coast, visit the Marine Mammal Center to see sea lions 
Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito- AWESOME children’s museum
Delicious Ice Cream at The Scoop in Fairfax
San Anselmo Memorial Park- Castle Playground
Mi Pueblo for delicious Mexican Food in San Anselmo or Novato as well as in Sonoma County (Petaluma and Rohnert Park)


Sacramento has a fun downtown scene with great restaurants and bars. If someone visits I would recommend they stay in the midtown/downtown area (Hyatt, Sheraton or Citizen Hotel)
Restaurant ideas: Hock Farm, Mulvaneys B&L, Zoccalos, Paesano's, Ella

Bar ideas: Low Brau (German beer house), The Dive Bar (with real life "mermaids" swimming in a fish tank above the bar), the Mix (club/dancing), deVere's Irish Pub

To do: Second Saturday art/social scene once a month, visit Old (historic) Sacramento across the river, visit the state Capitol building, River Cats game (MiLB baseball), Kings game (NBA), Wine Tasting (Free in Amador County - approx 40 min away) and of course Napa (approx 90 min away), Apple Hill in the fall


 10 minutes from the beach and a small, college town full of bars and the most adorable downtown scene. It's considered the Central Coast and is approx 5 hours South of Sacramento and a few hours North of LA. It's home to Cal Poly State University and everyone refers to the town as "SLO." It's a "SLO" life, very relaxing beachy and pretty much perfect 75* weather year-round. 

Visit Pismo Beach, Avila Beach (both 10-15 minutes away) and attend the famous Thursday outdoor Farmers Market year-round. Shop, eat, drink downtown and stay at the Madonna Inn nearby. It's a super quirky hotel with every single room decorated differently. 
Other things to do: Hike Madonna mountain, eat at Firestone Grill for the best tri-tip sandwich ever and hit up the college bars at night for cheap drinks. 

SLO has a small airport but the best way to get there is probably via LAX airport and drive North. you'll drive through Santa Barbara which is AMAZING also and the view of the coast can't be beat. 


Francis Ford Coppola Winery The winery is beautiful and in a Castle and has a lot of Godfather memorabilia as well as memorabilia from his other movies.

Chateau Montelena (another Castle!)

Non-Wine Musts

My hometown of Santa Rosa is also the hometown of the creator of Snoopy (Charles M. Schulz) so Snoopy is a big deal here! The town has tons of Snoopy character statues in different businesses. The museum is pretty cool!

Armstrong Woods has giant Redwood trees with the oldest being over 1400 years old and the tallest being over 300 feet. It's a must!

Safari West: It's a Safari in California!

The Jelly Belly Factory: A popular spot for kids, they have tours all the time.

Santa Rosa has a fantastic downtown with a railroad square and a courthouse square. One of my favorite places to eat is Flavor Bistro:

I also love getting a cupcake from Sfit's Cupcakery:

Viansa Winery
Kline Winery (Free tasting!)
Visit the town of Sonoma, walk around Sonoma Square. Visit Sonoma Cheese Factory for free samples, check out the cute gift shops down the alleys. Great Taco Truck on Broadway. Kids and Adults will also love Sonoma Train Town. 
Old Chicago Pizza in downtown Petaluma
Powell Sweet Shoppe Petaluma (Candy and Gelato)
Domaine Chandon for picnic and champagne tasting. Absolutely beautiful location


Best place to grab a drink and watch the sunset downtown:
-Top of the Hyatt (inside, no outdoor space city and bay views)
-Bertrand at Mr. A's (indoor/outdoor city and bay views)

Best place to get authentic Mexican Food:
-Las Cuatro Milpas (1,000+ yelpers can't be wrong! We love this place. Its not formal at all. Be prepared for good food in a VERY casual may even see the mayor eating there!)
-Habaneros in Sorrento Valley- Sometimes the wait at lunch is over an hour to get your food after your order. Its worth the wait. Go for dinner. The wait is less because its located in a business park. 
The restaurants in Old Town are over-rated. If you must, Casa Gudalajara is your best bet.

Best Beach:
-Located on Avenida Del Sol on Coronado Island. There is a new restroom there and its right next to the world famous Hotel Del Coronado...without the expensive parking fees! Street parking here is free of meters.

Best Hotel for Families:
-San Diego really requires a rental car...and you will need a rental car to stay here, but its worth it. Homewood Suites San Diego Airport-Liberty Station- Free Parking (compared to $49 a night at other hotels!), free weeknight dinners, breakfast, beautiful views, easy access to Sea World, downtown, and the freeways to get where ever you need to go. 
-If you want a downtown hotel the Marriott Marquis is great and has a nice pool complex. 
-If you need a downtown hotel with a shuttle, the Holiday Inn Downtown is perfect for you, although its not in the "best" part of downtown San Diego, its still safe.

Hidden gems:
-New Children's Museum
-Birch Aquarium
-Balboa Park (especially the Reuben H Fleet Science Center and the Natural History Museum. **Avoid Tuesdays as it is "Locals Free Tuesday and the museums are crazy crowded) Have lunch at The Prado Restaurant and spend time taking in the beautiful Spanish Architecture.
-Farmer's Markets (there are all over San Diego 7 days a week)
-Two Words: Donut Bar!

Miguel’s Coronado (Mexican food)
In and Out (burger chain throughout California)
Peohe’s Coronado (Hawaiian/island food—upscale)
Rubios (fish tacos—chain throughout Southern CA)
 Hash House a go go
Hodads - best burgers
Lucha Libre Taco Shop

Places to Go:
San Diego Zoo (must do)
Sea World
Coronado Island, especially Hotel Del
La Jolla 
Harbor cruise or ferry over to the Coronado
Loma Lighthouse


Where to Eat:
AQUI- Affordable, family friendly Cal-Mex fusion with locations in Willow Glen, Campbell, Cupertino, Blossom Valley
Dolcetto: Small Italian bakery/cafe in Willow Glen

Where to Go:
Japantown: One of the few remaining Japantowns in the US, has sushi and ramen restaurants, specialty dessert places (mochi, shaved ice, manju, etc), an Asian grocery store, and a great coffee shop (Roy's).
Drive up Mount Hamilton: Has an astronomy observatory (Lick Observatory) at the top that older kids might be interested in.
Tech Museum of Innovation: Awesome exhibits for kids ages 5+ (Adults will enjoy too) and has an iMax theater as well. 
Happy Hollow Park and Zoo: A small zoo with a great petting zoo/barnyard area, kids rides, a carousel. Well-maintained, affordable and clean, but probably best for young kids (10 and under)
Rotary Play Garden: A gorgeous new playground that is fully accessible for children with disabilities (near downtown San Jose) 

Where to Shop:
Recycle Bookstore: Charming used book store complete with a resident bookstore cat (locations in San Jose and Campbell)
Therapy- a boutique with funky men, womens, childrens and home items (several locations in the Bay Area)


Things to do:
The Aquarium of the Pacific (This is the link to my post on it:

Visit 2nd Street - This is a cute area with a ton of boutique shops and restaurants. Some of my favorites include Super Mex, Taco Surf, and Michael's. (The first two are Mexican and the third is Italian.)

Mother's Beach - This is a really good beach for little kids. Technically it's actually a marina, but that's why there aren't any waves. There's a playground there as well to play on


Our favorite inn was The Colonial Terrace. It was the closest to the beach which allowed us to walk from there and then up the beach a bit to the beach at Seventh St.  After quite a steep hike, we enjoyed strolling along the quaint streets, window shopping and wishing. The cute little multi-million dollar cottages are beautiful to look at and imagine which one you would most like to have for your home. ;) A favorite eating spot is Jack London's Grill and Taproom. We love that Carmel is Very dog friendly. We have also stayed at Doris Day's Cypress Inn with our dogs.  The Nutty Irishman coffee and Chocolate Lava Cake are Delicious! Don't miss the 17 Mile Drive through Pebble Beach. Stop at The Spanish Inn for dinner at Roy's. The Monterrey Bay Aquarium is close by and worth a visit. Carmel is a must see for all.


The Sierra Foothills are called the Gold Country because this is where the California Gold Rush took place. Families flock to this area because there is so much for kids to see and learn- like gold panning, stage coach rides, gold rush living exhibits, gold mine tours, train rides at Railtown (where Little House on the Prairie was filmed) old-timey games and costuming, and TONS of historical sites. The foothills are very laid back and old-fashioned. And it's such a gorgeous area with the Sonora pass through the High Sierra and the ancient Bristlecone Pine. 

Yosemite National Park is insanely beautiful and such a testimony in itself to God's love! It will take your breath away. Degnans Deli in Yosemite Valley has gourmet sandwiches for picnics. 

Napa and Calistoga for wine tasting. V.Sattui is fantastic! Dean and Deluca is located right across the street. Such a fun store! 
For more "off-the-grid" wine tasting, Murphys is a great winery town and totally worth the drive from Napa. The food in Murphys is all good, but Alchemy is a local favorite. 


Visit Malibu- the Lumberyard, Paradise Cove, Zumba Beach, Pepperdine, Nobu for a nice dinner.
Neptunes Net for casual dining


-If you are road tripping from San Diego to San Francisco a great stop over is in Atascadero, CA. It is near Solvang, CA. Solvang is a great town to visit. The best hotel in Atascadero, hands down is the Holiday Inn Express and Suites. Clean, great rates, wonderful service.

-Driving from Southern California to Las Vegas...AVOID going there on Friday after about 12 o'clock noon...or it will take you twice as long...and AVOID driving from Las Vegas to Southern California on a Sunday after about will take you twice as long. It is literally a traffic jam on a 4-lane highway in the middle of the desert.

-California Gold Country is often overlooked when visitors come to our great state. Its rich in history and for 10+ year olds through grandparents...its a great place to learn and visit. We love Gold Country. 

-A lot of visitors come to Los Angeles, only. There is so much to see beyond LA, so definitely branch out...spend a day there, see Hollywood, Griffith Park, etc and then move on from the crowds and crazies...Los Angeles does not represent California well. 

-If you cannot get to Napa/Sonoma wine country...the Temecula Valley is really a good 2nd place (Its about an hour North of San Diego, hour West of Orange County). My favorite wineries are: Wilson Creek (Almond Sparkling Wine), Thornton (Champagne Flight), South Coast (grounds are amazing and the restaurant is great, their reds are also phenomenal!), Ponte (Grape Wood Pizza!).
A good place to eat in Temecula is Rosa's Cantina, not to be confused with Rosa's Tortilla Factory down the street. They have a great brunch! A wonderful, and romantic place to stay is at South Coast Resort. If you need a little bit more budget friendly, Temecula Creek Inn and Pechanga Resort and Casino are nice as well. Although I grew up in Temecula, I have stayed at all three hotels and love them all. 

RVing in California:
-If you plan to do ANY camping or visiting of California State Beaches or National Parks...reservations are no joke here. In the prime summer months, reservations for the entire month will be gone within minutes of the reservation period opening, so do plan ahead. 
-Many people come to "The West" and want to rent an RV for the first time and see the sites. Our family owns an RV and yes, its a wonderful place to RV in, BUT it requires skill to navigate the narrow, crowded interstates that move at 70+ MPH in bumper to bumper conditions. Campgrounds are difficult to get reservations at and parking along the road for the night is illegal. Parking a large RV somewhere (when using it as your vehicle for site seeing is also difficult) so you need to rent a car in addition to your RV. RVing is fun, but it is not cost effective. Fuel is over $4.50+ a gallon right now and RVs get 7-10 mpg on a good day, so definitely keep that in mind when planning your dream RV vacation up the CaliforniaCoast. A car is usually better...we always take our car up the coast and stay in hotels. Keeping realistic expectations is always best. RVs are better suited for "Grand Circle Tours" not San Diego, Los Angeles, Orange County, San Francisco, California Coast-style trips. :)

"My family lives in California and we never go outside the state for vacations.   Our favorite place is the central coast (san luis Obispo county).    Favorite places there include The Childrens' museum in San Luis Obispo, Tidelands Park in Morro Bay, and of course the beach (less crowded than southern California).   Favorite places to eat include Taco Temple in Morro Bay, McClintocks in San Luis Obispo, Lynn's in Cambria (great pies!) and Red Moose Cookie Company in Cambria.  "  - BROOKE

Lake Tahoe is a favorite spot for many of my friends.

17mile drive is a must if visiting the Monterey area. Get a meal at the clubhouse at Pebble beach and grab a table on the 18th hole for unforgettable food and views!

If your in the Stockton area.. You have to try The Market Tavern!! The best food ever!!!

Mexican food!! Pretty much any Mexican joint or restaurant in SoCal is going to be fantastic and authentic--Miguels on Coronado Island or Shelter Island is a great one specifically. Old Town in San Diego is another great spot for Mexican food (did I mention Mexican food is the BEST in CA? Like no other!) ;) Coronado Island is an absolutely darling town to visit--the infamous Hotel Del is a must--renting bikes and riding around the Island is one of my favorites. Encinitas in northern SD is another famous beach town. It has moonlight beach which is a great, family friendly beach with a park and full service snack bar. SoCal is a military town, so visiting the historic Midway Museum down on the harbor in SD is another great attraction and gives kids a great vision of what the Military does for us. So much more I could say...but I'll stop there for now. :)

The Griffith observatory in Los Angeles, Venice beach for the experience, Laguna beach for the beauty, Javier's Mexican in OC, Big Bear for the mountains and the lake, San Diego zoo, Coronado island in SD is fun...making me miss living in So Cal! I also loved loved going to Beverly Hills. It's just a fun experience to walk Rodeo Drive. California is its own world- northern and southern CA are completely different.

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley is absolutely beautiful. Not to mention they have Air Force One, Marine One and a piece of the Berlin Wall at the library. Definitely worth the visit no matter your political persuasion.

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