With a landscape as vast and diverse as the state of California, you’d think someone with a travel blog based in the United States would have spent more time there but I’ve honestly only been there a few times and always in major cities like San Francisco or San Diego. The truth is that California isn’t super accessible for Midwesterners. Flights are always expensive! And when the cost to get there is equal to that of flying to Europe or South America, sorry Cali, I’ll pass.
But every once in a while I have a good reason to visit California. Back in 2014 it was to watch Michigan State Football in the Rose Bowl and this year my cousin was getting married in Malibu.
I flew out of Minneapolis and met up with my parents and aunt who all live back in Michigan so I was super excited to see everyone for the first time in a while.
I hopped off the plane at LAX with my dream and my cardigan (sorry, I had to.) My parents and aunt were delayed out of Grand Rapids, Michigan so I enjoyed overpriced coffee and trail mix in the airport while I waited for them. After sitting on a shuttle bus that battled through traffic for 20 minutes to travel the mile and a half to the rental car location, we had our vehicle and were headed north on the 405 to our hotel in Calabasas. We’ve all heard stories of L.A. traffic and I lived in downtown Chicago for 5 years, but I was still shocked by how crazy the traffic was!
After a quick burrito at Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill, we headed to the trailhead for the Juan Bautista de Anza Trail that was right behind our hotel. We walked a few miles through the hills and capped off the night with some drinks by the hotel pool.
The next morning we drove down the road to Marmalade Cafe where I had one of the best waffles I’ve ever tasted!
From there we took our first drive through the Santa Monica Mountains to get to the ocean. The roads through the mountains are super steep and winding and I still don’t understand how they built giant houses on top of them!
Our destination was Zuma Beach which is apparently one of the largest and most popular beaches in the L.A. area. The weather was overcast and cool that day so it wasn’t very crowded. We then took a drive down a stretch of the famous Pacific Coast Highway. It wasn’t quite as amazing as I’d seen in pictures but I think you need to go further north to see the iconic cliffs instead of the backsides of houses.
That night we drove back up into the mountains for my cousin’s wedding. The venue was insane and I felt like I was on a reality TV show about rich housewives.
On our third and final day in California, I had yet another waffle for breakfast this time at Harold’s House of Omelettes in Thousand Oaks. I had seen a cool area for hiking nearby and Google maps said it had a waterfall so we were all in.
Wildwood Regional Park has over 27 miles of hiking trails. We did a loop that took us to Paradise Falls, along the river, past a water treatment plant and up to Lizard Rock. It ended up being about 5 miles and we gained almost 1,000 ft of elevation. It was so cool to see more of the California landscape!
That night, we headed into Santa Monica. Did you know that the Santa Monica Pier is the official end of Route 66? We didn’t until we got there. The pier had a very interesting crowd and it gave this Midwest girl a little bit of culture shock.
We had a below average dinner at an overpriced seafood restaurant near the pier. The food was meh but the company was great and I really enjoyed spending quality time with my parents and aunt.
And then I did something that I’ve said many times I’m too old to do by hopping on a redeye flight back to Minnesota. I was SO tired but remote work has made it a lot easier to roll out of bed and get my work done before rolling right back into bed.
This ended up being a lot longer of a post than I originally planned. What are your thoughts on California? Have you ever been and would you go again? There are some other regions I would love to visit. Specifically the National Parks and Northern region. Maybe I should take advantage of remote work and spend a few months exploring the West Coast? You never know!