Our road trip extending over most of the Western side of the US took us through Southern California, one of our favorite places we’ve visited so far.
If you’re looking for entertainment and dining options in SoCal, we’ve got you covered!
Our first thought when planning our trip through California was the laid back vibes and sandy beaches. Not only is there miles of gorgeous coastline, but also vibrant cities and beautiful desert regions such as Joshua Tree National Park.
We had an incredible time on this road trip and our daughter loved spending time near the coast (find me a two year old that doesn’t love the beach!). We’ve put together this list of highlights so our readers can have a better understanding of our experience and provide you with tips on where to visit in Cali!
Our absolute favorite experience while in California was visiting Los Angeles! The relaxed coastal vibes and nearby attractions gave us plenty to see and do. We’d highly recommend spending some time at the Santa Monica Pier. During our time here we strolled along the historic pier, which was full of interesting little shops and vendors as well as carnival rides and arcade games. Braelynn discovered Ski-Ball for the first time and made some new friends at the Playland Arcade.
We stopped for lunch at Mariasol, a beautiful Mexican restaurant at the end of the pier. The Seafood Nachos were perfect and the service was outstanding. Before heading into the city, we finished our time here by walking along the pristine beach and taking a dip in the salty Pacific Ocean.
*Pro Tip: For an ice cold drink or handmade ice cream, stop by Soda Jerks. The hand pumped soda is delicious!
We finished up the day visiting top tourist attractions and accidentally landing on the set of a huge Hollywood movie.
We spent a couple hours gazing at the names on the stars to find our favorite actors/musicians on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. We were nearing the car when we spotted a large crowd of 1960’s dressed people walking through the streets and yellow tape blocking off the route back to our vehicle. Curiosity led us through what turned out to be the set of Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt. Although we didn’t catch a glimpse of the headlining stars, we did accidentally end up outside the dressing trailers and walked through a scene while they filmed retro vehicles lining up along the streets. Talk about the ideal visit to LA!
Appearing in thousands of movies and photos, our last stop was maneuvering the wild and confusing streets of the Hollywood Hills to see the famous Hollywood Sign. It took us time but we were able to get as close as legally possible to the sign and enjoyed the breathtaking views before heading out of LA and back into the desert.
One of the more memorable experiences during our time here was Smith’s Ranch Drive-In Theater in Twentynine Palms. This was our first experience at a drive in and we enjoyed it so much, we made a second visit to see another movie the following week. The entire setup was very old school with nice concession options and admission pricing is cash only but just $5 per person for two full movies as they play back to back. The pricing is definitely worth it and it was a very neat experience as a family. For any of you that have toddlers, you know how hard it can be to see a movie in theaters with your kids, a drive in is the perfect solution.
Lastly, most of our evenings consisted of us exploring the wildlife and nature in Joshua Tree National Park. The trees and rock formations were very unique and the sunsets were as beautiful as they come. At night it felt like you could see every star in the sky at Sky’s The Limit Observatory, located just outside the North entrance to the park.
*Pro Tip: Entrance to Joshua Tree National Park was $30 per vehicle, but we opted to instead purchase the $80 National Park Annual Pass as this will pay for itself after a few visits. Arizona was next on our road trip so we knew we’d be visiting the Grand Canyon as well. These can be purchased at park entrances and allow unlimited visits to all 58 US National Parks for an entire year from the time of purchase.
It was everything we expected and more and was a truly memorable Southern California road trip as a family. This state has a little bit for everyone; beach lovers, photographers, nature enthusiasts, foodies, movie buffs, etc. We’ll be back next year to explore everything else The Golden State has to offer.