Road trippin’ – California

With everyone’s Summer vacations underway, I am having major travel envy!  While I am planning a few trips for the near future, I thought I would share one of THE BEST travels I have ever had!  Our honeymoon to California!

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I know everyone always says “your wedding will be the best day of your life…”  I would agree that our wedding was amazing, but my husband and I both decided the best “day” of our lives thus far was definitely our honeymoon!  We were lucky enough to spend 10 perfect days traveling all throughout the state of California!  And although there are some things we wanted to do and places we wanted to go that we were unable to at the time, we still had the time of our lives!  And I suppose that means we just need to take another trip there so we can see what everything we missed. 😉

On this post I am going to show you where we were, where we traveled to and what we did each day!  I will also share recommendations for places to stay or places to eat that really impressed us along the way as well!

Day 1: Los Angeles

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Day 1 was pretty uneventful, and we were thankful for it!  After realizing that all the stress from planning the wedding was gone, we simply relaxed (and fell asleep) on the Santa Monica beach.  We walked around the pier and went to a few shops for a couple of hours but ultimately decided we should head to Anaheim so we could get a good nights sleep before our day at Disney!

Where we ate:  Since we were just looking at spending the day relaxing by the pier we ended up eating at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. since it was right there.  But I mean, how can you go wrong with coconut shrimp??

Day 2: Anaheim – Disneyland

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Being huge Disney fans (and getting engaged at Disney world) we knew we had to visit Disneyland on our honeymoon.  There are two parks in Disneyland:  Disneyland and Disney California Adventure.  We opted to go to Disneyland on the first day since it is such a classic! (Walt Disney’s FIRST theme park) For those who have been to Disney World, Disneyland is probably closest to Magic Kingdom.  So you know what that means… you get to meet PRINCESSES!!  Which of course was the first thing I had to do! lol  Disneyland was great, but the best thing about it would probably have to be NO LONG WAITS!  Granted, we did go on the “off-season”, but it was insane how much different it was than Disney World!  Our longest wait was maybe 30 minutes?

Where we stayed:  We stayed at the newly renovated Anaheim Hotel.  This was probably one of the best places we stayed during the whole trip!  Very nice, inexpensive, and RIGHT next to the Disneyland entrance!  (a 5 minute walk at most)

What we ate:  Outside of the park, we ate breakfast at The Pizza Press which was JUST added onto the hotel at the time.  In fact, that morning we were the only people in the restaurant because it was still so new!  And OMG!  What an amazing place it was!  The owner came out and asked us about our stay and congratulated us on being newlyweds.  The staff was absolutely excellent and made us feel right at home!  We went for breakfast that morning, loved it so much and decided to have it again for dinner the next night!

Day 3: Anaheim – Disneyland (California Adventure)

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Our second day at Disney was spent at Disneyland California Adventure.  This has to be my favorite Disney park I have ever been to!!  So much childhood nostalgia and lots of things and places to see!  Where I said Disneyland is equivalent to Magic Kingdom, California Adventure is equivalent to little pieces of all the other parks at Disney World (Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Epcot).  One of my favorite places inside this park was Paradise Pier!  It was designed to look and act as an old time carnival on the pier!  Which my old soul ate up!  Sadly, (but also happily at the same time) Paradise Pier was recently renovated into Pixar Pier!! Ahh!  So sad that Paradise Pier is gone, but so excited that they updated it to something so magical!  I cannot wait to go back and see how different it is now!

Where we ate:  We ate lunch/dinner inside the park at Cove Bar right on Paradise Pier.  The food was out of this world!!! And fairly inexpensive for a restaurant inside the park!  Sadly, along with the changing of the pier, Cove Bar was shut down 😦  I am not sure if they will move it or if a new restaurant will offer the same menu, but anyone who was able to eat there before the transition knows how amazing it was!

Day 4: Sequoias

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After a couple awesome days spent at Disneyland, we were off to explore out east!  A relatively fast 4 hour drive later and we were in Sequoia National Park!

What we did:

  • Moro Rock– Ian will forever mark this hike as “the scariest thing he has ever done!”  But he also always adds, “it is so worth it!”  Just a quick 350 steps up the side of a huge piece of granite and you will be thousands of feet in the air looking over the valley and foothills of the lower Sierra Nevadas.  Such a breath-taking view!
  • Giant Forest– A mere 6,000 ft above sea level sits a vast montane forest filled with giant sequoia trees, spanning over 1,880 acres!  Walking among these trees that are approximately 150-280 ft tall, you feel so small!
  • Tunnel Log– This unnamed sequoia tree that once fell over due to “natural causes” was cut through and transformed into the now famous visitor attraction.  You can drive your car right under it!
  • General Sherman– This HUGE sequoia tree is the largest living thing on Earth by volume!  A must see!  A very convenient parking lot made it a breeze to walk to.  And while we were visiting, one of Ian’s wishes for the trip was fulfilled: getting to see a black bear!

Tip:  Make sure to stop by the welcome center and get a map (and maybe a few souvenirs).  The staff is SUPER helpful and will help you plot out a perfect itinerary for you to see everything you want to see!  With us only allotting one day in the sequoias, it was nice to see which places we had to make a priority over others.

Where we ate: On our way into the park we knew we HAD to stop and try In-N-Out Burger since we don’t have those near us in Cincy!  And it did not disappoint!  Be sure to ask for your fries and/or burger to be “animal style”!

Where we stayed:  We stayed in Fresno for each of the national parks since it was one of the closest cities to each.  We did not stay at a nice hotel though lol So I won’t mention which one we stayed in.  But there are plenty to choose from!

Day 5: Kings Canyon

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Connected to Sequoia National Park is Kings Canyon, a rugged glacier-carved valley located in the southern Sierra Navadas.  It is home to the deepest canyon in the United States at over a mile and a half deep! The majority of this day trip was spent driving on the edge of the rocks leading to the valley (which again Ian was not a fan of at first lol).  But it was such an amazing experience driving around each bend and seeing more and more of the gorgeous valley!

We also got to see the General Grant tree which is the second largest sequoia in the world!  It was thought that the General Grant was actually the largest tree in the world until the 1930’s where they found that General Sherman was slightly larger.

Where we ate:  Honestly, I cannot remember what we ate that day haha pretty sure we just ate breakfast at Denny’s and then packed some snacks for the road.

Where we stayed: In Fresno

Day 6: Yosemite

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One of my favorite moments of the entire trip was getting to see Yosemite National Park!  I have wanted to travel here as long as I can remember, and let me tell you, it did not disappoint.  I wish we had more time to spend there and were able to stay in the village, but I am happy with everything we were able to do though!

What we did:

  • Tunnel view–  We all have had moments that absolutely take our breath away, and this was one of them for me.  Driving into the valley of Yosemite you have to go through a tunnel in the mountain.  As soon as you emerge through the tunnel, this is what you see.  WOW.  Immediately after the tunnel is a little place to pull off to admire its grandeur.  Of course it was super tourist-ridden, which is to be expected, but we stayed for at least 45 minutes nonetheless to take in it’s beauty.  If we were the only ones there I probably would have sat all day on the edge just staring at the perfect panoramic view.  It is one of those places that makes you feel so small and insignificant (in a good way)!  Unreal.
  • Bridalveil Falls– Just down the road from Tunnel View is a place to pull off and admire Bridalveil Falls.  Yosemite is known for its waterfalls, and Bridalveil is the first one you can come to on your way into the valley.
  • Yosemite Valley– This valley is where all of the “tourist attractions” are homed, including the village and many hiking trails.  In the village is where you can see El Capitan and Half Dome up close and personal as well.  We also saw MANY rock climbers trying to scale up the side of these granite giants.
    • Village-  The village in the valley is where a majority of backpackers and other visitors lodge during their stay.  There are multiple hotels and other accommodations to stay at.  They are a bit pricier than other areas, but you are paying for the convenience.  If we were able to stay in Yosemite longer, we would have stayed in the village.  Also in the village are some restaurants, grocery stores and souvenir shops.
  • Yosemite Falls– Also in the village you are able to get access to Yosemite falls.  Yosemite Falls is among the top 20 highest waterfalls in the world, and is the highest in all of North America.  There is an upper and lower section of Yosemite falls, and combined the drop is 2,425 ft!

Where we ate:  Again, food was not our focus on this trip, the sights and overall high that the trip gave us made me forget everything that was not Yosemite haha

Where we stayed:  After Yosemite we tracked over and stayed in Vellajo, which was THE WORST place we stayed the whole time lol  Luckily, we only had to sleep there.

Day 7: Napa and Sonoma Valley

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After all the hiking and sight-seeing in the National Parks, Napa and Sonoma Valley were definitely a change of scenery!  A much more relaxed environment, which was a great way to recover from all the physical activity we were doing at the parks!  Wine country was absolutely beautiful!  Rolling hills and bright skies were all we could see!

What we did:

  • Downtown Napa– We spent the morning strolling through the streets of downtown Napa, shopping at quaint boutiques, adorable coffee shops and just admiring all it had to offer.
  • Black Stallion Winery– When it came to wine-tasting we were advised to go to Black Stallion Winery, and let me tell you, I am so happy we did!  We had such a great experience with them!  They had lots of homegrown “winery tour” options to try.  Ian opted for the “mixed” sampler, and I got the “white wine” option because I despise red wines! haha But I loved all of the ones I tried!  Along with the wine, we got a cheese tray and we were living our best lives. haha The gentleman that helped us was so knowledgable and kind!  Once we told him that we were on our honeymoon he gave us a HUGE discount as well as a congratulations which made the experience even better!  The vineyard was absolutely gorgeous as well!  Would definitely recommend as an awesome place to get started on a wine tour in Napa!
  • Shopping- After a long day enjoying Napa we stumbled upon an outlet mall, and since we had nothing else planned for the night we though, why not?

One of the biggest disappointments of the trip was in Sonoma.  I have always wanted to take a hot air balloon ride, and since they are a staple in Napa and Sonoma I knew I HAD to make it happen!  We booked the flight and everything was confirmed, but the morning of the flight had to be cancelled due to poor weather conditions (the launch site winds were too strong).  This was one of the main things I was looking forward to on the trip, but “better safe than sorry!”  I hope to go back one day and make this happen!

Where we ate: We ate brunch at an adorable little French restaurant, Angèle Restaurant + Bar.  We ate out on the patio area overlooking the river, which was romantic!  The food was pricy, but we really wanted the whole “Napa experience”, and we were not disappointed!  I also enjoyed the STRONGEST mimosa I have ever had in my life! lol

Where we stayed:  Another horrible night in Vallejo! lol

Day 8: San Francisco

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San Fransisco was love at first sight!  Such a beautiful, kind, colorful and happy place to be!  I keep telling Ian one day we have to move there! Maybe one of these days I will convince him! lol

What we did:

  • Golden Gate Bridge– Since we drove into San Francisco from Napa we got to have the best entrance ever!  The Golden Gate bridge!  For sure a SF staple that you must see!  We missed the turn for the scenic overlook of the bridge and the city, but we did get to tour the visitor center on the other side, so that was a win!  And you better believe that we (scream) sang the Full House theme song the entire time we were on the bridge! lol
  • The Walt Disney Family Museum– This museum was INCREDIBLE!  We got to see an in-depth look at how Walt Disney and his brother, Roy Disney started the Disney empire!  So inspiring to see where they came from and what all they were able to accomplish!  It was so neat to see how much technology has changed but ultimately how they changed the animation game!  And I would be lying if I said Ian and I didn’t cry at the end of the exhibit where it discussed his death, and how much the world was going to miss him!
  • Ghirardelli Square– Parking was a bit outrageous, but hey, what can you expect from the city by the bay?  This little area was so adorable! Some of the most adorable shops I have ever been in, and of course we HAD to buy some Ghirardelli ice cream at their shop!
  • Alamo Square Park–  Sitting flat in the middle of all the hills of the SF streets,  Alamo Square Park is a great place to sit and take in all the views!  You can see the bay, see down each street and watch all the cable cars pass through!  This is one of the most famous spots in SF due to the numerous movie and television features it has been in!  During the Full House opening credits, it is at this park that they are having a picnic sitting right in front of the painted ladies!
  • Painted Ladies– These Victorian homes are one of the most photogenic things in SF!  Not only is the scenery around them simply amazing, the houses themselves are beautiful!  And the fact that they are all painted in a rainbow of different colors makes them that much more perfect!
  • Golden Gate Park– We actually were looking to visit somewhere else, but stumbled upon this park!  And we were happy we did!  This park is HUGE!  And lots to do!  Lots of beautiful gardens surrounding and lots of happy people relaxing, walking their dogs and just having a great time!

Another disappointment on the trip was in San Fransisco.  We planned on also taking a ferry ride to Alcatraz to tour the prison, but we were stupid and did not pre-order tickets!  So the two days we had in San Fransisco the tours were completely booked up.  This was upsetting, but San Fransisco was so perfect that I really didn’t mind not being able to do that!

Where we ate:  For lunch we ate at a little diner in Ghirardelli Square, I cannot for the life of me remember the name and I can’t find it on their itinerary, so it may not even be there anymore!  But for dinner we ate at a place called MAC’D.  They were a “build your own” mac n cheese restaurant!  They offered all the toppings and ingredients you could imagine and you got to make it YOUR way!  Such a cool concept!  Though ultimately, we weren’t impressed with the food itself, we thought that concept would do amazing in Cincinnati!  Anyone want to open a new restaurant??

Where we stayed: We stayed at Lombard Plaza Motel, which was nothing spectacular, but after our stay in Vallejo it seemed like a 5 star hotel!! We had a great stay though! Most of our time in SF was spent out on the town doing things so we really only slept here, so it did it’s job!

Day 9: San Francisco/Monterey

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So happy that planned for a second day in San Francisco!  Wish we could have had a whole week to see it all! But I am so thankful we were able to do all that we did in such a short amount of time!  Once we were finished in SF for the day, we headed our way down the coast and ended up staying in Monterey.

What we did:

  • Fishermans Wharf–  This was a cute little tourist area filled with lots of shops and restaurants to go to.  We didn’t spend a whole lot of time here, but we wanted to make sure that we saw it!  I saw that they often hold events here, which I think would be a great time!  While we were there there wasn’t anything going on though.
  • Pier 39– This pier was connected/right next to Fishermans Wharf.  It had a bit more souvenir shops and fun little activities to do, but the best part was all the sea lions!  They were so cute!!  They were all sprawled out over a dock right by the pier and continuously fought and yelled at each other, it was hilarious! Can’t make it to SF?  You can watch a live stream of them here! lol
  • Lombard Street–  This is another famous landmark in SF!  This particular section on Lombard Street is dubbed “the crookedest street in the World.”  Where that is a bit of an over-exaggeration, it is still a sight to be seen! Ian and I both drove down the street and we also parked after and watched others drive down it as well!  It was hilarious to watch!  I think the 5 mph speed limit was even a bit generous considering how crooked the road was! haha
  • Full House house–  I have already mentioned everything about Full House famous locations, so you know we had to go see the actual Full House house!  This is the home that the Tanner family lived in for the show.  We did not actually get out and take a picture because we could not find any parking at all!  But it was still cool to drive by and see it!
  • Coit Tower– We ended our day at Coit Tower, which was a perfect ending because it overlooked the whole city!  And it just helped prove my point how spectacular San Francisco is!

Where we ate: We ate dinner at a LALLAgrill which was soooo cute and sooo good!  A perfect way to end a perfect day!  Ian and I love spicy/hot food, and usually nothing phases us, but their “firecracker fries” really made us look like wimps!  If you like hot stuff I would definitely advise you try those! Wow!

Where we stayed: Best Western in Monterey.  It was a great accommodating stay!  Monterey is usually a more expensive area, so for the price we got I thought it was a great value!

Day 10: Big Sur/Los Angeles

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This last day we allotted mostly for travel, since we knew we wanted to see the coastal highway (State Route 1) and all it had to offer.  When we were there there was road closures (not sure if they have reopened yet or not) so we were not able to see the whole coast, but we drove down the road as far as we could go before it made us turn around.  And I am so happy we did.  Along with Yosemite, these views were among the absolute best views I have ever seen in my life!  So awe-inspiring.  After our 5 hour drive from Monterey to Los Angeles we decided we should spend a little more time in LA to see what it had to offer.  So we decided to check out some of the “touristy” things in Hollywood.

What we did:

  • Big Sur– This is the stretch of coast between Carmel and San Simeon with rugged cliff drop-offs, hiking spots, beach pull-off areas and everything in between.  It is absolutely breath taking and so surreal!  Maybe that’s why they call it Big SUR?
  • Bixby Bridge– This is the picturesque bridge that you always see when people talk about Big Sur and the coastal highway.  It is also the bridge in the picture I took above.  Absolutely jaw-droppingly beautiful!  One of my favorite views the entire trip!
  • Hollywood Boulevard–  We figured we couldn’t go to LA without seeing a few of the Hollywood staples and tourist attractions.  But to be honest, now that I have been here, I do not care to come back to see this ever. haha  Just did not even have a fighting chance to keep up with Yosemite, San Francisco or Big Sur.
    • Hollywood Walk of Fame– I was a little disappointed that I knew almost NO ONE on the walk of fame!  Most of the names I guess were of producers and other people behind the scenes or something, but there were very few that I knew their names!  The only ones I saw that I really cared about were Walt Disney, Mickey Mouse and Elton John. lol
    • Grauman’s Chinese Theater–  It was neat to see this theater since it is one of the most sought-after theatre’s in Hollywood for studio premiers.  And it was even cooler to see some of the handprints outside the theater of famous people still alive and some that have passed on.  If there wasn’t SO MANY people there when we visited, I think I would have enjoyed it a bit more.
  • MILK Icecream shop– Oh goodness this story is one for the books, and honestly, if it didn’t happen then it really wouldn’t have been an “Ian and Kaitlin honeymoon”.  So, it was our last night in Cali and I wanted some yummy ice cream!  We googled different places and MILK had these ice cream sandwiches made with macaron crust (YUM) so we decided to make our way over there before heading to the hotel for the night.  Little did we know, with it only being a few miles away, in LA it would take us nearly an hour to get there!  We still made the trip, because why not?  So we finally got there and there was no parking lot near that we could park in.  There was a residential street right behind the building so we just parallel parked by the other cars on the street.  No biggie.  We wouldn’t be in there long anyway.  So we park, go inside and get our ice cream.  I got the “Fruit Loops” ice cream sandwich, which was fantastic!  We went outside and sat at a little table they had right outside of the door.  Ate our ice cream (and g
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    ot a few pics since it was so cute).  And then decided to leave, mind you it was maybe 10 minutes total that we were gone from our car.  We get back to the car and there is a ticket on the windshield for $65 parking violation!  So really we ended up spending over $70 on that dang ice cream!  Yes, it was good.  But not $70 good.

(I figured I would share the pic Ian took of me with my ice cream so blissfully unaware of what it actually was costing me haha)

What we ate:  Since we had such a long drive that took up a majority of the day that day we just got some fast food to eat and some snacks to hold us over until dinner! And since it was our last night I wanted to something big for dinner!  We ordered my FIRST EVER room service from our hotel!! I know, wow what a “big dinner”.  But hey!  There is a first for everything and I was super excited to get room service for the first time! haha

Where we stayed: We stayed at Hyatt Regency Los Angeles and it was FABULOUS!  Definitely our best stay the entire trip, which stank since we got there late and had to wake up early for our flight.  But I got to enjoy my dang room service dinner so I couldn’t be happier!

California was a dream!  If you haven’t been, I highly suggest you do!  There is so much to be seen and so much to do!  If you are not someone who wants to constantly travel around like we did on this trip, my two favorite places and biggest suggestions would be to visit either Yosemite or San Francisco.  I would go back to either place in a heartbeat!

Ian and I both agreed we are going to go back for our 10th anniversary and try to do everything we did on our honeymoon!  And most likely we will be able to experience with our future children which will make it that much more special!

Have you ever been to California?  If you visited somewhere other than somewhere I mentioned, where was it?  Did you love it?  Would you suggest us going?  I have two other road trips planned out in my mind that involve us going back to California to some of the spots we didn’t get to see, such as Joshua Tree down south or the Redwoods up north and would love to know if you liked it!

Photography by Auburn Artisan

5 thoughts on “Road trippin’ – California

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