Hello everyone! I am back! I am sorry I haven’t updated this blog in forever, but I am back in Canada and I have so many things to share with you all. First of all, I had an amazing time driving all-around California. Just so you know, I think California is being unfair. It has everything! The beautiful white sand beaches, the mountains with enough snow for winter sports, the incredible landscapes, the desert full of adventures and things to discover, the delicious wine, the theme parks, the huge trees... Who thinks California should leave some for the other states, raise your hand! For all of you hoping to visit the Golden State, here is the itinerary of my latest trip to California. The trip was way too short and I wish I could have stayed longer and really explored all of the cities and parks that we visited, but it was also wonderful and I had the best time.
We were traveling for 17 days and drove all the way from Vancouver Island to San Diego and back. It was an awfully long drive, but we made the best of it and played some of the games I had prepared (we almost completed our licence plate map!) and it was worth it with all of the destinations we got to visit. I included the distance between each destination as a general idea, but the truth is, it is much longer than this once you add the exact address where you are going, and gas stops, and bathroom breaks (Still totally worth it, just giving you a heads up!)
Comox – Roseburg (1000 km)
The first day was spent in the car, from before the sunrise to way after the sunset. We left Comox, on Vancouver Island, at 6 AM for Nanaimo, took the ferry at 8:30 AM for Vancouver and drove all the way to Roseburg, Oregon, only stopping for food or gaz. We would have made it by 7 PM, but the traffic in Seattle was terrible and we only arrived some time after 11 PM.
Tip: If I were to do it again, I wouldn’t make reservations for that night. The last few hours were horrible. We were both exhausted and cranky after being stuck in traffic for five hours and I wish we could have stopped earlier. At the same time, I wouldn’t have wanted to drive more the next day so the reservation did push me to finish what we had planned.
Roseburg – Fort Bragg – Napa (800 km)
The second day is when the fun finally started. We left Roseburg early and headed to Fort Bragg. We crossed the state line and spent some time on the glass beach in Fort Bragg before driving to St Helena in the Napa Valley. It was, again, a lot of driving and not much else, but at least we were in California and the view was beautiful.
Tip: Be aware that it is illegal to fill up on gas yourself in Oregon and the gas stations close pretty early. If you plan on leaving early in the morning or drive late at night, plan a trip to the gas station before 7 PM to be sure you won’t run out while they are closed. We spent 45 minutes looking for a gas station that was open 24 hours.
Napa Valley – San Francisco (100 km)
We had almost the whole day to explore Napa Valley. We toured some vineyards, tasted some wine and drove around the valley. I was very impressed as I did not imagine it would be as big or that the mountains would be as beautiful. In the afternoon, we drove to the Golden Gate and took advantage of the perfect weather to explore the parks on either side of the bridge. Going to the Golden Gate right away was so efficient because we were going on it anyway and we didn't have to come back the next day. Plus, as we had no plans for the night since we didn't know exactly how long the drive would take with the traffic on the bridge, we got to stay as long as we wanted, explore the parks and take so many pictures.
No driving for us on the fourth day! We spent the whole day visiting San Francisco. We went to Union Square, Chinatown, Lombard St, Pier 39 and Twin Peaks. It was a long day with all the walking and going up and down… and up… and down. My favorite part was the view from Twin Peaks. With the perfect weather, we were able to see the whole city and the bay. It was beautiful!
Tip: If possible, leave the car at your hotel or park outside of the city. The streets of San Francisco are not fun to walk, but worse to drive in. Plus, finding affordable parking in the city is impossible. Walking and taking public transportation is the way to go in my opinion and will save you time and money. Plus, you might stumble upon some beautiful architecture, exotic plants or a nice Café while walking to popular attractions!
San Francisco – Carmel – San Luis Obispo – Santa Barbara (600 km)
The goal was to drive down highway 1 from San Francisco to Santa Barbara and visit Carmel, Big Sur and a bunch of cities on the way. Unfortunately, with the rain they had recently, most of the bridges in this area are unstable or simply closed for repairs. While we were still able to visit Carmel and San Luis Obispo, we had to do a huge detour, lost a lot of time and couldn’t visit Big Sur, which was very disappointing as it was one of the main things we were looking forward to on our trip. But, these things happen and we still had fun and saw some pretty incredible landscapes on our way to Santa Barbara.
Santa Barbara – Thousand Oaks (100 km)
The sixth day was spent visiting Santa Barbara. This was one of my favorite days as we didn’t have a lot of driving to do, the city is beautiful and although we had things we wished to see, we didn’t have a tight schedule to follow and were able to just walk around and take our time. The Old Mission, the Downtown Area and the Wharf were some of my favorites, but I totally fell in love with the Santa Ynez mountains in the backdrop. Three words: Beau-ti-ful! We then drove to Thousand Oaks, which is close to Malibu, but a lot less expensive and spent the night there.
The Beach (60 km)
Day seven was our beach day! We drove to Santa Monica and parked there, then rented bikes for a ride to Venice. Both beaches are beautiful and Venice is definitely something to see at least once in your life, but I have to say I have a soft spot for Santa Monica. Every time I visit, I find myself imagining what life must be like for those who live there. I wish I could go for a run on the beach every morning (yeah right, like I could wake up to go for a run even once a week…) and see the sunset on the beach every night! The bikes were great as they allowed us to travel faster, but still stop to take pictures and browse through the tourist shops. Plus, my bike was sea blue and had a basket! So convenient! (I honestly loved that bike and would have kept it if I could. It's pretty and perfect for the beach)
Universal Studios Hollywood (35 km)
I’m not a fan of Harry Potter. What are you talking about?! It’s just a great series that I read a couple times and know everything about, no big deal! Seriously though, it felt like I was in Hogsmeade for real. There is snow and the buildings look exactly like they do in the movie and I had dinner at the Three Broomsticks and had actual butterbeer at the Hogshead. There was magic all around and it felt like I had died and gone to heaven! I had been to Universal Studios twice before and the Simpsons and Jurassic Park rides are a lot of fun and the Backstage Tour is great, but Harry Potter blew me away! … And I used to work in Disney World, I’m not easily impressed with theme parks. Definitely worth it if you are in California!
Hollywood – Disneyland (60 km)
We woke up on day 9 in the middle of Hollywood boulevard and with tickets for Beauty and the Beast at the El Capitan. Best day ever! The movie was amazing, the theatre seemed even more beautiful than the last time I was there (maybe it has something to do with the curtain made of Swarovski Crystals) and we had the whole day to see Hollywood. We went to the Chinese Theatre, the Dolbi Theatre where they shoot the Oscars, the Hollywood Walk of Fame and ended our time in Hollywood at the Griffith Observatory for some hiking and a nice view of the city and the Hollywood sign. In the middle of the afternoon, we left for Disneyland and spent the evening in the park riding Space Mountain and watching the fireworks, which have the same beginning as Wishes in Disney World and I might have cried a little bit… maybe… it’s a possibility…
Disney’s California Adventure
Day 10 was spent entirely in the California Adventure park. We woke up at 6 AM, after four hours of sleep to make it to park opening and stayed for World of Color (who would miss it?!). The Frozen Live show was wonderful, Cars is always super fun, but I have to say one of my favorites was drawing characters at Animation Academy. I guess I missed it since they closed it in Florida (please let it reopen once Star Wars land opens!!). And also Soarin’, and California Screaming, and Turtle Talk (how is it so much better in Disneyland?), and all the Disney food were magical!
Disneyland – San Diego (160 km)
Day 11 was spent doing everything we didn’t have time to do on our first visit to Disneyland two days before. The park was sooo crowded, like 4th of July crowded, but we still got to see the princesses and get our Beauty and the Beast book signed, do the Indiana Jones ride, Peter Pan, the Haunted Mansion and a bunch of other classics. We ate Grey Stuff, and churros, and pop corn (why is the Disney parks pop corn better than movie theatre pop corn? I mean, how is it possible?!), and spent about twice as much in food as all the other days of our trip combined, but it was worth it and delicious. Plus, eating (and reading Beauty and the Beast) makes waiting in line go by faster. After the parade, we drove to San Diego to be ready to explore in the morning.
We had another beautiful day in San Diego. We started our day in Balboa Park and rented bikes again as we had loved it in Santa Monica. Balboa Park is not the best place to travel with bikes… I recommend taking the free shuttle to the center and walking around so you don’t have to bother looking for a place to put the bike. Plus, the bikes are not allowed in certain areas and there are no bike trails. The architecture in the park though is incredible and I love seeing cacti as I never see any in Canada so I really feel like I’m on vacation every time I see one. We also went to Coronado to see the Hotel Del Coronado. It is a hotel from the Victorian era that inspired Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort. It is now an historical building and has been visited by a number of celebrities and politicians through the years. The beach at the hotel is open to everyone and truly beautiful.
San Diego – Death Valley (600 km)
Day 13 is when we started the drive back north while still making stops and detours to incredible destinations. We basically visited three national parks in three days. First stop: Death Valley. It was my first time driving through the desert and walking in the desert and it was an unbelievable experience that I will never forget. We also got to sleep in the desert, which was pretty cool.
Death Valley – Sequoia NP – Fresno (650 km)
The next day, we left the desert in our tank tops and shorts and drove all the way to Sequoia National parks where we arrived in our tank tops and shorts. And there was snow. Lots of it. And fog. Lots of it. So much so that half way up the mountain we could barely see the road in front of us and thank god for those white and yellow lane lines! After a short visit of the park, we drove to Fresno where we spent the night.
Fresno – Yosemite – Sacramento (450 km)
On this last day of exploring California we drove to Yosemite and it was pouring rain when we got there. It rained the whole day and so much that we only guessed where the mountains were. It was still impressive and we had a few good laughs about it. I will be back in California one day to see more of Yosemite that’s for sure! We later drove to Sacramento to get ready to leave California the next morning.
Sacramento – Portland (1000 km)
And here it had come, our last day in California! We left at 6 AM in the hopes of making it to Portland early so we could rest for the next day on the road. We also remembered to get gas before arriving in Portland so we would be able to hop on the highway and leave as soon as we were ready the next day.
Portland – Comox (750 km)
6 AM on the last day before work and we were on the road back home. Our goal was to leave Portland and hopefully speed through Seattle before the traffic hit. We got lucky and saw no hint of traffic the whole way to Vancouver. We even made it to Horseshoe Bay 3 hours in advance so we got to take an earlier ferry.
And that concludes, our two-week road trip to California and how I drove over 5000 km in 17 days. We had a blast! I will be posting articles about some cities and parks that we explored containing more details and pictures, but you can check out my Instagram @myjourneytoadventure for more photos of my trip and the ones to come. Also, I am thinking about starting to vlog. What do you think?
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