Like many of our best discoveries, we stumbled upon the charming little town of Sausalito accidentally. Our children were complaining about walking all over the city of San Francisco, and how much their little tootsies hurt. I’m sure they were angling for a return to the hotel and some downtime involving an iPad, but we outfoxed them with a double-decker tour bus ride. The San Francisco double decker tour bus crosses the Golden Gate Bridge and then turns around in Sausalito for the return trip. In spite of being huddled together in pain from ears that were ringing from the whistling wind of the San Francisco Bay, we saw enough of the town that we knew we had to return for a proper visit. A little research discovered that there were plenty of fun things to do and places to eat in Sausalito.
Fun things to do in Sausalito with kids
What To Do in Sausalito
Visit the Sausalito houseboats
The 400+ Sausalito houseboats are located at the northern end of town in five marinas. If you have a car, it’s an easy exit of Highway 101. Enter via Gate 5, Gate 6 or Gate 6 1/2 road. I didn’t think it had the picture perfect charm of the Venice Beach canal-side houses but these houseboats are attractive in their own way.
The Sausalito houseboats are both varied in architecture and very colorful.
Fun fact: Otis Redding wrote his classic hit “Sitting On the Dock By the Bay” in 1967 when he was living on a Sausalito houseboat.
If you are going to be in Sausalito in September, check out the Sausalito houseboat open homes tour that runs annually. The homes tour is popular and so you need to book it early.
Get on your bikes!
We saw plenty of people cycling across the Bay Bridge but those winds are fierce! We decided not to follow their lead because it would have been too much for the children. OK, both the children and me, lets be honest – I’m a fair weather cyclist.
Cycling is an easy and fun way to explore Sausalito
For an easier bike ride, the Sausalito Multi-Use Path is a wide paved bike path that has been converted over an old railroad track (similar to the Shining Sea bike path in Upper Cape Cod). We found just like the Shining Sea bike path, you share the space with pedestrians and runners.
Go wine tasting in Sausalito
After all that exercise, it’s only natural to want to collapse on a sofa for some refreshment. The town has wine tasting opportunities thanks to its location near Napa Valley. We had the wine and the kids had some snacks.
Napa wine tasting is conveniently located near the Sausalito ferry.
Browse the art galleries of Sausalito
Or, better yet, multitask with an art gallery and wine tasting combo.
I’m a firm believer that wine tasting paired with art gallery browsing makes you more appreciative of the art.
The art galleries seem to be on the Bridgeway and Caledonia Street. FYI, the locals wanted to keep Caledonia street away from the tourist hordes so there was a time in the 1980’s and 1990’s when it wasn’t listed on the tourist maps.
Where To Eat in Sausalito with Kids
Among the many Sausalito things to do, you have to include hanging out in a good restaurant as one of its best pleasures. For a little town, there are a lot of great dining options that are also kid-friendly.
The Spinnaker is near the Sausalito Ferry and has great views of the harbour from the restaurant’s floor to ceiling windows. Expect lots of great fish and seafood, as well as some pasta and meat dishes. There is a children’s menu with the crowd-pleasing option of burgers and fries. You get amazing sunsets (so long as the weather is cooperating) at dinnertime.
If you have had your share of sourdough bread, then there are some great ethnic restaurants choices.
We love our Mexican food as you know. For lunch, we went to Copita located conveniently to the Bridgeway. Voted Best Mexican in the San Francisco area, we can attest the tacos are delicious. Copita is owned by celebrity chef, Joanne Weir, who has many books and television shows to her credit.
Avatars is another cool option that serves up Indian-Mexican fusion food. Seriously. I’ve never heard of this combination but its ingenious and delicious. For example, the Punjabi enchilada is a curry stuffed enchilada served with Basmati rice and peas. For the less adventurous child, there’s a children’s menu which offers up the simple pleasures of a grilled cheese sandwich.
The Casa Madrona is a small 4 star boutique hotel with great harbor views in Sausalito. It’s a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World. With children you can book a hillside cottage suite. Staff will help you with your luggage but it would be more sensible to leave most of your bags in the car.
Getting to Sausalito is pretty easy to reach from San Francisco via ferry or by car. One of the ferries to Sausalito goes from Pier 39/Pier 41 at tourist-central Fisherman’s Wharf. The ferry conveniently stops at Sausalito’s main thoroughfare, Bridgeway.
The San Francisco – Sausalito ferry
Alternatively if you are driving, Sausalito is the first stop across the San Francisco Bay after the Golden Gate Bridge. We stopped off on our way out of San Francisco to Muir Woods and further on to Napa Valley.
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The view from the parapet of the neat lines of grape-festooned vines under a pale blue sky could easily fool you into thinking you were in Tuscany. If you look closer though, there were tell-tale touches to remind you that you were in the Napa Valley of California. Perhaps I noted that the lines of the vines were just too precise or the cypress trees were too well-clipped. Most tellingly, the castle and the grounds were lacking a certain amount of benign grime and neglect that rural Tuscany has never managed to shed. Although we were visiting Northern California with kids, we had a fabulous wine tour primarily because we chose to tour Castello di Amorosa, a family friendly vineyard in Napa Valley.
My kids had a blast visiting the Castello di Amoroso
The History of the Castello di Amorosa
From your very first glance, you can tell the Castello di Amorosa is a labor of love. Let’s face it, you have to be very rich and very committed to build a medieval Tuscan castle in California. Luckily for us, Dario Sattui, the owner of the Castello di Amorosa, is both.
Dario Sattui is a fourth generation vintner and also the owner V.Sattui Winery. His great-grandfather, Vittorio Sattui was an Italian immigrant who set up the winery in San Francisco in the late 19th century. The Sattui vineyard moved to the Napa Valley in the 1970s.
You could forgive yourself of thinking you were in Tuscany.
When Sattui bought the land on which he would build the Castello di Amorosa, it held a charming Victorian home on 170 acres. He kept the Victorian home as one of his homes and you can see it by the entrance up the hill to the Castello. Although he had originally meant to use the land to replant the vineyards that had once been there, he was also a lover of medieval architecture.
The flag bearing the Sattui crest flies over an artfully distressed tower.
After about 15 years of planning, Sattui had assembled a team of people he was happy could build him his medieval castle in California. He imported Austrian and Italian builders to California so that he could get the authenticity of building materials and workmanship he wanted. The work started first with the underground aspects in 1995. Along the way, Sattui ran through many builders and even more money in order to achieve his dream castle.
Sattui also wanted to show how medieval architecture had evolved from the 11th to the 13th century. So, for example, he built arches and doorways and then bricked them up.
My kids are fans of visiting castles in general. They were also on board with the whole vineyard in California thing because they had seen the 1998 movie The Parent Trap a zillion times. One of the twins that Lindsay Lohan plays, Hallie, lives with her father in a vineyard in the Napa Valley. I think the incongruity of a European castle in California passed my children by.
A Family Friendly Vineyard in Napa
The Castello di Amorosa was opened to the public in 2007. The pain-staking care that went into the work is obvious. Having seen a fair few European castles ourselves, there is nothing plasticky or Disney about this Castle.
The state of California stopped the winery from performing services at the Chapel because it did not have a proper license to do so. party poopers.
The builders used either actual remnants of European castles or built new parts using the techniques used by medieval craftsmen. There were 200 shipping containers sent to California filled with bits and pieces from French and Italian castles dating from the 11-13th centuries.
The 107 room 121,000 s.f. Castello di Amorosa is set on 8 floors (4 floors above and 4 floors below ground). Obviously the below ground floors are wine cellars and tasting rooms. The underground rooms alone run about 80,000 s.f. (or 2 acres).
One of the 5 lookout towers from which to throw burning olive oil when other California wineries attack.
Some of the cool medieval touches of the Castle include a drawbridge, a moat, an interior courtyard, 5 towers, a chapel and a torture chamber. Needless to say, my kids loved the torture chamber and instruments. There were some very cool things on display including an Iron Maiden dating from the Renaissance and an Etruscan helmet from before the Roman Empire.
That child has a wicked gleam in her eye.
The Great Hall took 1.5 years to complete and was created by 2 Italian painters! The tour guide was not precious about how the children behaved which I appreciated. They clearly had more faith in my children’s ability to not wreak havoc than I did.
The Great Hall has a a fireplace which is dated to before the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas.
A Photo Tour of Castello di Amorosa
The gates to the Castle open up onto gardens which lead to the moat and drawbridge.
The moat surrounding the Castello is very picturesque.
Ye olde Medieval Tuscan car park.
The inside of the beautifully-decorated Chapel which is the start of the tour.
The internal courtyard of the Castle.
A reconstructed original balcony from which a medieval lord would have addressed the crowds below.
Many antiques, like this ancient wine press, are scattered throughout the winery.
Even the basement wine stores are beautifully frescoed.
A small portion of the acres of wine storage under ground.
Farm animals wandered around the castle walls to the delight of the children.
You wouldn’t expect anything other than signs in Italian would you?
The Wine Tasting at Castello di Amorosa
You can’t go to a vineyard in Napa Valley without taking a winery tour! The Castello di Amorosa appreciates this fact which is what makes it one of the most family friendly wineries in Napa Valley.
Our tour group contained several children. When we went for the wine tasting, the children had their own separate table with snacks and colouring to keep them entertained. My children set upon the breadsticks like the ravenous zombies of Z Nation. On the plus side, there seemed to be a never-ending supply of grape juice and breadsticks.
A Vineyard in the sun
My husband likes to think of himself as a wine connoisseur. He has had wine shaped direct from the vineyards of South Africa, is a major contributor to the profits of a London French wine specialist and also is a member of a wine club. He thought the Il Barone Reserve produces by the Castello di Amorosa was superb.
I know nothing about wine except if I like it. Yes, reader, I liked it. A lot.
My kids thought these bottle pourers were great. The red wine dripping down the dragon’s head looks like blood.
Tips For Visiting Castello di Amorosa
The Castello di Amorosa is located at 4045 Saint Helena Highway, Calistoga California 94515. A very popular destination in Napa Valley, you should book tickets for the tour and the wine tasting well ahead of time.
Children under the age of 20 are permitted on the tours when accompanying an adult over the age of 21. There is a reduced price admission for children five years old and above. Thanks to the medieval nature of the rooms, strollers are not allowed on the premises.
The Castello di Amorosa in Napa Valley is an authentic medieval Tuscan castle.
Practical Info To Know Before You Go
We stayed at the Villaggio Inn and Spa in nearby Yountville. We rented our car from Hertz as per usual. You will need a car to get around in Napa Valley. Napa Valley have an excellent website geared towards making your visit easy to plan and enjoyable. (You would think all tourist bureaus would do the same!!).
Disclosure – We did not receive any form of compensation from Castello di Amorosa for our visit or this review. This article does, however, contain affiliate links about which more information may be found on the disclosure page.
The Terranea Resort in Los Angeles does not wow you so much as lulls you into a comfortable, self-indulgent experience. The gently swaying palm trees, the fireplaces lit up to ward of the nip of the Atlantic air, and the view of Catalina Island covered in hazy sunshine all provide sensory clues to your body to relax. It’s as if the warm wind is whispering in your ear “chillax bro, you’re in SoCal”. Although we only spent a few days of oceanfront bliss at the luxury hotel Terranea, we returned to London feeling as if we’d been away for a couple of weeks.
The Mediterrranean style Terranea let you enjoy the best of the near-perfect Southern California weather.
The Terranea Resort
The Terranea resort is enormous with 582 rooms set on 102 beautifully-landscaped acres. The size means that it can host lots of conferences and weddings (including a wedding for the contestants of US reality show, The Bachelor). For example, we were randomly chatting to people who owned a store on hipster road Albert Kinney in Venice Beach and they had just been to a wedding at the Terranea Resort.
The Terranea resort has a contemporary Mediterranean vibe.
The Terranea hotel itself is styled with a luxe Mediterranean vibe. Although landscaped well, it does look like a ‘hotel’ with one giant building stretching around. The front entrance does try to give the impression that you are walking into an an enormous home. The villas seem to have better cliffside views over the ocean than the hotel.
The view of the sunset from our hotel terrace was a highlight of our stay at the Terranea.
You pull your car up to the front of the Terranea and valet parking whisks your car away. As you enter the huge double doors, you are greeted by the sunny blue of a California sky. You really do feel like you are a world away.
The Terranea Spa & Fitness Centre
The Terranea spa and fitness centre is likewise a massive 50,000 s.f. of sybaritic luxury. You can take spinning classes looking out over the Pacific Ocean and hearing the crashing of the waves. I wish I could say I was motivated enough to have tried this fitness experience.
I felt my skill set was more suited to trying out the Terranea spa facilities. With 25 treatment rooms, I saw guests wandering around but it did not feel crowded. The spa treatments themselves were very good with experienced, knowledgeable therapists.
The Terranea Spa thinks of al the little touches that elevate a spa experience above the ordinary, such as ice cold towels and large lounge areas.
The Terranea spa is described as cliffside to make it sound better that there is no beach to speak of. You can hear the crash of waves from the upstairs spa lounge where I would have hung out more if only I had access to WiFi.
The entrance to the separate Terranea Spa
At the Terranea, I had a Vichy shower for the first time (where you are lying down as the shower sprays over you). There was something decadent about lying down on a therapy bed under a shower while looking out at the Spa pool and blue California sky.
To access the spa area you need to wear a plastic bracelet like the kind they give you at all-inclusive resorts. Only people with treatments at the spa or who buy a day pass can access the spa pool. The spa area is only for over 18s. I found the lack of WiFI in the spa itself annoying even though there is WiFi outside by the pool.
Chilling at a Terranea Resort Pool
As an adult you have a choice of which Terranea Resort pool you can choose. The Spa Pool is large, overlooking the ocean and has very comfortable loungers. You have limited access to the Spa pool because you need to be either using the spa facilities or have purchased a day pass. Another adults-only pool, Cielo Point also has a cliffside location.
The spa pool at Terranea has a fantastic setting next to the Pacific Ocean.
The Vista pool is for hotel guests only (you need a key card to enter). This pool is likewise limited for guests 13+. It has loungers similar to the Spa pool.
Pool side snacks and drinks enable you to just hang out and fully relax.
The Family Pool is probably the largest pool and has a water slide and splash area to keep the kids happy. Needless to say, it is not the quietest pool. The pop music blasted out over the speakers helps drown out the screaming kids.
The family pool is spacious enough to spread out.
The Terranea Restaurants
Terranea has no less than 8 restaurants. You have plenty of choice which is good considering the hotel is in the middle of nowhere. You’d need to drive 20 minutes to get into Palos Verdes for an In-N-Out Burger. And, after a long day of lazing by a Terranea pool, who wants to do that much exercise??
Although I did not get to try all 8 of the Terranea Resort restaurants, the quality of the food I had was invariably excellent. There was also all day in room dining. I really liked the ginger shot at the spa cafe as well as the smoothies at Sea Beans, another cafe.
The Terranea resort restaurants offer a variety of in-room, pool-side and restaurant options.
I loved that the Bar served breakfast cocktails supposedly “to take the edge off”. From what? Waking up on vacation? In any event, the Pimm’s Cup and the Elderflower Spritz sound too refreshing to pass up. Post-breakfast cocktail, I can assure you that I was as edgeless as an infinity pool.
The service at the restaurants was excellent. The whole experience of eating at a Terranea Resort restaurant isn’t cheap though. For example, a can of diet coke costs $5 and two chocolate chip cookies are £9. I felt sorry for the Malibu Barbie Babes drinking detox juices when they could be having the yummy cookies instead.
The Terranea does a good job catering to families with young children. There is a large family pool which has a water slide and splash area. Even the room-service menu in the hotel has children’s options.
Terranea also offers the option of both hotel and residential style accommodation. You may prefer the two-bedroom bungalows, three-bedroom casitas and large villas for a family holiday. At Terranea Hotel itself, children have the option of staying with their parents in their rooms or having inter-connecting rooms. Not many hotels have such a wide array of options for the family traveller.
The hotel rooms are spacious and have a balcony.
The clientele are your usual mix of Los Angeleno types, i.e., thin, attractive and fitness-obsessed. The resort is also pet-friendly in case you want to bring your four-legged pets with you. In fact, I saw more well-behaved dogs than children (well-behaved or not).
The resort is large enough to keep children occupied when they are not playing in the water. If you have children, you’ll know they can spend endless time in the pool. They can have a fully immersive Southern California lifestyle in the water doing things like, exploring tide pools, kayaking or stand up paddle boarding. On dry land, your kids can clamber over rocks on the cliff walks or take golf lessons at the 9 hole golf course. The hotel does have a kids club with assorted activities as well.
Location of the Terranea California
The Terranea Palos Verdes is in Los Angeles county. Palos Verdes, a suburb of the City of Los Angeles, is anywhere from 40 minutes to 2 hours from Los Angeles International Airport depending on traffic. The resort is popular with Brits for this reason. You do feel you are outside the city while you are technically not that far away. We went into the city of Los Angeles for our urban fix of street art and hip restaurants several times and found the route straight-forward. Be warned, you do pass through some scary looking cranes and industrial action as you need to go through Los Angeles Harbor (aka America’s port).
Luxury hotel Terranea Palos Verdes is a great place to unwind near Los Angeles.
Overall we found the Terranea a relaxing way to spend time in Los Angeles. Generally, I don’t consider time spent in Los Angeles particularly relaxing. Terranea provides a perfect sunshine break with all the amenities you would expect in a luxury resort and all the comfort and style you would find in Southern California.
You will need a car to get around in Southern California. We rented our car through Hertz from which we have a gold membership.
Just Go Places did not receive compensation of any type from the Terranea Resort or anyone else in exchange for writing this article. This article does include affiliate links. Your clicks, purchases and bookings do not cost you any extra.
If you bought Red Bull in the USA thinking that the drink would follow through with its promise to provide you with wings, then you were entitled to a $10 refund from the company. Why? A court found that Salzburg-based Red Bull was guilty of false advertising because no one who drank it got wings. If you are only hearing about this little cash windfall now, too bad the lawsuit only applied to drinks bought between 2002 and 2014. On the other hand, are you still looking for wings? I’’ve got some beautiful angel wings for you, courtesy of American artist, Collette Miller. She started painting angel wings on buildings in 2012 in Los Angeles. Since that time, the Global Angel Wings Project has spread worldwide.
Angel Wings street art by Colette Miller are supposed to remind us of the good that is inside us despite the mistakes we make.
The Los Angeles Global Wings
Colette Miller is a Los Angeles based creative who has worked in film, music and art. She started the Angel Wings paintings as a way to remind people that people of the angels of the Earth.
In the very beginning I wanted the wings to remind humanity of their true, divine selves – the self we all have that is our higher nature.
The wings are an Instagram craze because they are human-sized street art. Pretty irresistible if you ask me.
Colette has given a TedX talk on the wings as well where she talks about how she started her street art project when she was driving around Los Angeles and saw all the empty walls in the city. Frankly, having experienced Los Angeles traffic myself, I can see that she probably sat in her car a fair bit and it would be a short step to hallucinating angels everywhere!!
There are now 25+ angel wings in Los Angeles.
We tried to find the first angel wings (near 5th and Main in downtown Los Angeles) which used to be the largest outdoor drugs market in the world. It may no longer have the title but there is still plenty of homeless people and unsavoury activity around the neighbourhood. I found it shocking to see people living out of shopping carts and tents in an American city this rich.
We hightailed it out of there in our suburban Dodge Caravan rental car which might as well have said ‘Rob Me’ on it. We found two of them in the Downtown Los Angeles Arts District (about 1/2 a mile from the previous location).
Angel City Brewery is covered in street art including Miller’s Angel Wings by the entrance. We stopped by the brewery for a drink amidst the city’s hipster crowd. On a Sunday afternoon, lots of young people were playing card games and hacky sack and drinking craft beer surrounded by children and dogs in a warehouse.There was music blaring and a craft market in one corner of the space. Really, it couldn’t be more of a cliche. Not that it stopped us from having a drink (or two).
My husband decided he was going to go with the Weeping Angels look from Doctor Who. Don’t blink!
There are also a pair of wings on a silver gate at Art Share which is also in the Los Angeles Arts District. Here I am trying to recreate John Singer Sargent’s Portrait of Madame X pose which was so shocking to Parisian society when it came out. Yeah, it was the best I could come up with.
The Global Angel Wings Project, an Instagram phenomenon started by artist Colette Miller
Orange County is the typical Southern California paradise that the world expects from SoCal. No wonder then that there have been so many recent television shows set in the area, including 4 seasons of the O.C. and reality television fodder, Laguna Beach, The Hills and The Real Housewives of Orange County. If people are going to be beautiful, wealthy and live a charmed life, the least they can do is let us watch them live out their lives and provide us with entertainment. So why should you visit? I’ve listed below 30 reasons to visit Orange County in California. Get off the couch, folks, and go live the life you see on television even if its only for a vacation.
Sunny, affluent Orange County is the dream California that advertisers sell.
The End of the Road
The famous Pacific Coast Highway ends at Dana Point in Orange County. If you’re going to do a road trip it makes sense to go to one end or another of the road, right? We did the smart thing and headed south on the PCH towards guaranteed sunshine in southern California.
Orange County is blessed with miles of sand and surf. But the kicker? It’s also got near-perfect weather all year-round so you can actually enjoy the beach for more than just the summer.
Another perfect beach day for residents.
Crystal Cove State Park, one of the best beaches in the OC, is 3.5 miles of beachfront perfection. There are lots of activities at the park – hiking, stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking etc. We went for the obvious simple pleasures – boogie boarding and swimming.
The beautiful Crystal Cove StatePark.
The OC is famous for its tidal pools. We are talking hours of entertainment for inquisitive kids while you hang out in the sunshine on a beach chair.
Explorig tidal pools left in the rocks.
As you would expect, surfing is a big part of outdoor sports in the OC. Huntington Beach, known as ‘surf city’, is home to one of the largest world surfing competitions.
Get a panoramic view of the OC from 500 feet in the air on the Big Orange Balloon at Orange County Great Park. Bonus: It’s really cheap!
The tethered helium ballon takes passengers up into the sky for a panoramic view.
You can visit Mickey Mouse and friends in Anaheim – a theme park experience which can be made more fun with Julie’s 25 Secret Tips for Disneyland. Really need I say more?
A local favourite, you get delicious burgers and milkshakes with a view over the beach below.
California’s famous In-n-Out burger is headquartered in Irvine. They are famous for the freshness of their burgers so you know their stores in the area have to be good.
For dinner with a view, check out Splashes at the Surf & Sand Resort at Laguna Beach. The food was good, but the view was amazing. It’s right on the beach perfect for walking off some of the calories that you just imbibed.
Irvine has hundreds of miles of on-road and off-road dedicated biking paths. Obviously, these paths are good for hiking too.
A bike basket filled for a day at the beach.
A planned city built by the Corporation of Irvine, Irvine is pretty, landscaped and has roads that make sense. It consistently gets rated as one of the safest cities in the USA.
All tha sunshine and no rain does mean the non-ocean view is a desert landscape,
Orange County Great Park is a former Marine base turned into 1300 acres for outdoor enjoyment, including a Farmer’s Market, sports fields and playgrounds.
Great cycle trails but watch out for those hills!
Perhaps your idea of outdoor exercise, is flexing your credit card finger muscles. Even the mall at Fashion Island in Newport Beach has an ocean view!
In the Pageant of the Masters, European paintings by Old Masters are faithfully recreated on a stage by live actors.
I have to admit I did think that people getting dressed up and re-enacting Old Masters paintings for the Pageant of the Masters would be a good laugh. I came away impressed at the sheer pageantry of the show. It’s art, theatre and Hollywood magic all combined into one impressive show narrated by a booming Morgan Freeman voice.
Less fancy, and across the street from the Festival of the Arts/Pageant of the Masters is the Sawdust Art Festival which can basically be described as Etsy in the sunshine with sawdust.
In fact, there is art everywhere in the streets of Laguna Beach. What’s not to love?\
No, this isn’t in London. It’s a sculpture in downtown Laguna Beach.
Fun Day Trips
‘You can take a day trip to pretty Catalina Island from either Dana Point or Newport Beach.
You can also go whale watching trips from Newport Beach.
Both Los Angeles and San Diego are a couple of hours from the OC. Traffic, however, can make this trip much longer. Sure it could be a fun day trip or you could just go crazy sitting in the car for hours.
Orange County has so much to do but is also located near other great destinations.
Great Hotels and Transport
The Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Beach is a fantastic place to stay (with or without kids). Set on 500+ acres with accommodation in little bungalows and a golf course, pools, spa, restaurants, you may be loathe to leave this hotel. It would, however, be a shame to miss the rest of the OC!
The OC has an airport named after John Wayne who used to live in nearby Newport Beach. Technically it is an international airport (probably because it flies to Cabo in Mexico?)
There is a super-cute Laguna Beach Trolley that runs a shuttle service around the town for free on weekends. Of course, the trolley starts at 11AM on Saturdays and Sundays because anything else would be uncivilised.
The cute little Laguna Beach Trolley operates on weekends to transport visitors.
For more suggestions, check out A Local’s Guide to Orange County by a blogger friendwho grew up in the area. Have you been to Orange County? What else do you recommend?
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The famed landscape of Big Sur in California is nearly vertical with the Santa Lucia mountains behind you and the rocky cliffs to the sea in front of you. On our Pacific Coast Highway road trip through Big Sur this summer, both natural and man-made marvels were spread out before us. The PCH is merely a strip of masking tape stuck onto the side of the mountains, a thin man-made edge where tourists flock to peer over the sheer drop to the ocean below.
We did the drive over the course of a day (primarily because the luxury accommodation in the area is not family-friendly). Moreover, my kids were over the rugged natural beauty of the coastline after an hour. (“It’s just trees!” “Why is there no WiFi?” “Can we have our iPads?”). Heathens.
A photo gallery of our Pacific Coast Highway road trip through Big Sur.
I’ve always wanted to see Big Sur ever since I saw some of Ansel Adams’ photographs of the area as a child. Ansel Adams lived on the Monterey Peninsula in the mid-20th century for over 20 years which gave him plenty of time to photograph the area. Adams was instrumental in protecting Big Sur as a conservation area for future generations.
If we join together to accomplish the preservation of our Big Sur Coast I will feel I have had a life fully lived.
This quote comes from a man who is a legend for his black and white photographs of the American landscape! You may not recognise the name but you will probably recognise some of his photos if you see them.
A Road Trip of Big Sur
Big Sur is a 90 mile stretch between Carmel and San Simeon along the central coast of California. Approximately 3-4 million tourists take this Pacific Coast Highway road trip through Big Sur.
There are plenty of road-side pit stops you can make to take in the fantastic views. We only stopped for lunch in Big Sur because the state parks were all closed when we visited. There were two major forest fires in the area.
The Santa Lucia mountains shrouded in mist.
Lots of secluded beaches because it’s pretty hard to get down to them!
Rock carved by the steady lapping of water.
Built in 1932, the concrete spans of the Bixby Bridge are widely photographed.
The rugged coastline kept most settlers away until the the 1960’s.
The rugged coastline were the sea and the mist meet on the horizon.
This is the sort of shoreline that really needs a lighthouse.
More sand, sea and rocks. Repetitive but still pretty.
My kids though the chipmunks were the cutest. Too much Alvin & the Chipmunks I think.
We could have watched these two play all day.
The mountains recede further from the coastline as you reach St Simeon.
Practicalities of Visiting Big Sur with Kids
Nepenthe has been a local institution since the 1940’s when the Fassett family bought the building from Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth. Falling in love with the view, the two Hollywood stars had built a cabin getaway on the site. The love shack never got used because they divorced in short order. Nepenthe is still owned and operated by the Fassett family. The current building was built by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright according to the vision of the Fassetts.
The Phoenix statue which is the symbol of Nepenthe.
Nepenthe is famous for its burger which we thought was pretty good. It’s a big rambling restaurant with fantastic views and decent food. Overall, I thought the place lived more on its bygone hype and the fact that there are limited places to eat in Big Sur. There’s usually a wait for the restaurant but you can easily kill time wandering around outside and in the fabulous gift shop downstairs.
You can see how big the forest fire was in the summer of 2016. 90,000 acres under threat!
Thanks to its conservation status, there are only a few places to stay in Big Sur. There are campgrounds in the state parks as well as some nicer hotels in the area. The area has limited WiFi.
If you want to stay in Big Sur in relative comfort, it’s a good idea to ditch the kids. Both the Ventana Inn and Spa and the Post Ranch Inn takes rustic chic to new levels. Both luxury hotels are also adults-only. The Ventana Inn and Spa was built by writer Lawrence Specter from his proceeds from the iconic film, Easy Rider. The Post Ranch Inn, an old ranch which was the homestead of W.B. Post in the 19th century, is still owned and run by the Post family. By the way, the Post Ranch Inn has a portfolio of Ansel Adams limited edition signed prints on display.
Accommodation is much cheaper and plentiful at either end of Highway One (as well as kid friendly). We bookended our Pacific Coast Highway road trip through Big Sur by staying at the Monterey Bay Plaza and Spa Hotel at one end of the drive and then Auto Aircamp in sunny Santa Barbara at the other end. After all the mist and cool weather of the central coast of California, we were really glad for some sunshine.
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