for Unconventional Women
for Unconventional Women
Okay, just to clarify, this really isn’t a teenage blog, but is about traveling with teenagers which is its own unique experience. Sometimes I miss the days when the kids were little and they’d pretty much just go along with everything, but then we find ourselves at Disneyland at 11:45 at night and the rides have no waits and the lights are sparkly and perfect and I’m kind of glad to be there with kids who are all taller than me and can stay out way later than me.
So about this road trip…we started on a Saturday and drove from Sacramento to Los Angeles down Interstate 5. The good news is that it was only about 6 hours. The bad news is Interstate 5 has got to be one of the most boring roads in California. Regardless, we made it to our destination and despite a snafu with our AirBnB (property manager’s fault, not AirBnB’s), we were happy to be staying in West Hollywood. When you live somewhere where walking to anything other than orchards is impossible, it’s kind of fun to stay where you can walk to coffee and dinner and bars and sightseeing.
On our first full day, we didn’t dip our toes in but rather jumped into the fun that is Universal Studios. I’m a born and raised California-girl but I had never been to Universal before and I loved it! Harry Potter world is SO MUCH FUN (yes, I’m a fan) and I can’t recommend it enough for other fans. The ride is amazing, the streets and buildings are charming to the extreme, and the shops are adorable (but expensive). We were given the advice to head to HP World first thing when we arrived (which was 30 mins after opening) because waits get long in the afternoon. It was decent advice, but when we found ourselves still in the park at 8:15 that evening (it closes at 9), we practically walked onto the ride for our second turn.
The two crazy things I learned at Universal Studios is the 1) it’s not actually that big, there are only about twelve rides, and 2) you do get to tour the actual studios. The studio tour was way more interesting than I thought it would be and they do a great job of giving you insight into the industry while also making it (quasi) educational. Note though, if you go, the tours are about 90 minutes, so plan accordingly.
On our third day, we headed to Disneyland which is, well, it’s Disneyland. It’s such an iconic California spot that we couldn’t not go. And truth be told, I think I could ride the Pirates of the Caribbean all day long if they let me; actually, I’d jump off and hang out in Port Royale for a while if it wouldn’t get me arrested. But alas, that’s not possible, so we hit all the usual haunts, including the haunted house, Space Mountain, the Star Wars ride, and all the others you associate with Disney. A word of advice, if you are going with teenagers, I’d recommend showing up about noon and staying until closing at midnight; like Universal Studios, most rides had no waits by the time we finished dinner (which was an uninspiring feast at the Bayou restaurant in (where else?) the Pirates of the Caribbean ride). Although there is an exception to that general statement and that’s the Peter Pan ride which, weirdly enough, had a thirty-five minute wait at 11:30 at night.
After four days in LA, we headed up to Santa Barbara to see my niece who is a junior at the university. She’s a fun, smart young woman and it was great to see where she spends most of her time. And I tell you, that campus ain’t ugly. Perched on a promontory in Goleta, CA (a few miles from downtown Santa Barbara), it’s more or less surrounded by beaches and ocean. One of my sons is interested in animal science and they don’t have a big program for that, but my younger son wants to be a marine biologist and they have a few beautiful, new buildings for that program and they get to study at the Channel Islands, a national marine sanctuary right off the coast of Goleta. If you have any budding marine biologists, I’d definitely put this university on your list to check out.
We stayed in an adorable hotel in Santa Barbara right on the water and the staff were SO LOVELY. Seriously, the staff at Hotel Milo were great, they made the place…they also had wine for us when we walked in the door. We didn’t get to spend much time walking around the town, but the hotel is right at the water’s edge of the main street so walkable to pretty much everywhere you might want to poke around.
After leaving Santa Barbara, we headed north again, this time to Cayucos, a small little beach town about fifteen miles north of San Louis Obispo. We stayed at a charming AirBnB that was in a seaside trailer park (which sounds weird, but isn’t) and which had million dollar views of the beach. There are a smattering of these charming beach towns along this part of the California coast including Cayucos, Morro Bay, and Cambria and you probably couldn’t go wrong staying at any of them but I do have an affinity for Cayucos and its blend of casual beachy-ness, good food, and the Brown Butter Cookie Bakery
We visited the Cal Poly (this trip was in part a college-tour trip too) and then headed up to Hearst Castle (link: http://hearstcastle.org/) for a tour. I think the pictures can speak to it better than I so I will just leave you with a few of those and the comment that 1) it was awesome to hear our guide talk so much about Julia Morgan (link: http://hearstcastle.org/history-behind-hearst-castle/historic-people/profiles/julia-morgan/), the architect who designed the castle and who was also the first woman architect licensed in the state of California, and 2) the views from the hilltop alone are worth the tour price—it’s truly breathtaking.
On our last day we more or less just drove straight home, up Highway 101. It’s a much prettier drive than Interstate 5 and I will say that making the West/East connection from Highway 1 (which runs along the coast) to Highway 101 which runs a little more inland (at that point) opened my eyes to something entirely new—the Paso Robles wine country. Driving along Highway 46, we passed so many gorgeous wineries and vineyards that even for this Sonoma County native were stunning. I definitely plan to revisit and go winetasting—it would make a great “Wanderful Weekend.”
About the Author: Tamsen Schultz is an avid traveler and prefers to seek out the different or unusual even when visiting some of the more tourist-heavy spots (Capuchin Monastery in Rome, anyone?). Her contemporary novels are set on the other side of the country from where she lives (which may or may not be an excuse to travel) and she’s currently writing an historical mystery set in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, which adds a new dimension to her obsession by giving her a reason to travel in both space and time.
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