I believe that any trip to Southern California should extend beyond Venice Beach and Disneyland. As iconic as these places are, Southern California has so much more to offer. I’d recommend setting aside one day of your trip to venture just north of LA to visit Ventura. With so many wonderful things to do in Ventura, you won’t regret your visit.
As with most of my posts, some links may be affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you, I may make a small commission on anything you buy through the links.
Things to do in Ventura: The Food
They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day so kick off your day with a yummy breakfast. Not only does Marie Shannon Confections have a fun vibe, you’ll get a yummy breakfast to fuel you for your day.
I would argue that you can’t go to a beach town in Southern California and not get fish tacos. Specifically, the fish tacos from Spencer Makenzie’s. Voted the best fish taco in Ventura and ranked in the top 50 Tacos in America, you don’t want to miss these!
Be sure to stop by Beach House Fish located on the Ventura Pier for a happy hour drink and appetizer. Grab a table along the windows and enjoy the coastline views.
Why not wrap up your day with a Fish Waffle Cone from Coastal Cone?!? Located in Ventura Harbor Village this is the perfect spot for strolling by the boats and enjoying your ice cream.
Things to do in Ventura: The Sights
To learn a bit about the history of Ventura I’d recommend beginning your exploration of the city with a stop at the San Buenaventura Mission. The missions are an integral part of the history of California. Continue your journey through the history of the city with a stop at City Hall. The architecture of City Hall makes me feel like I’ve stepped on the set of a movie. In 1971 the building was declared a county, state and federal historical landmark so it’s definitely worth setting aside time in your day to visit.
If you’re looking for an unrivaled view of Ventura I’d recommend a visit to the Ventura Botanical Gardens. Not only will you get to see a carefully curated selection of plant life but with an easy hike up to Grant Park you will be treated to stunning views of the city and beach below.
You’ll also want to make sure you set aside time for a stroll down Main Street. I always enjoy popping into bookshops when I travel and Main Street has several great options. Calico Cat Bookshop and Bank of Books. While usually I don’t recommend a stop at the post office, you won’t want to miss the post office just off Main Street. Inside you’ll find Gordon Grant Murals painted in 1936-1937. The murals are listed on the Federal Register of Fine Arts and you don’t even have to pay to see them…just pop in the post office!
A trip to Ventura is definitely not complete unless you’ve stopped by Surfer’s Point. With a south facing point right hand waves roll in consistently throughout the day. Not only will you be able to watch surfing, but on days where the wind picks up you’ll also be able to enjoy watching kiteboarders and windsurfers.
I’m sure if you polled most California tourists, they’ve never heard of the California Blossom Trail. When most people think of California they think of Disneyland or the Golden Gate Bridge. As popular tourist destinations, many California trips are to Los Angeles and San Francisco. However, there are also some great options between these two cities. When I stumbled across an Instagram post with these blossoms, I knew I had to check it out for myself!
The Fresno County Blossom Trail is a 62-mile loop just southeast of Fresno. You can download a trail map and get information about the timing of the blooms from their website. Usually, the blossoms are out from mid-February to early-March but depending on the year they can arrive earlier or later. If you’re not able to visit the California Blossom Trail in February or March, don’t worry! You can visit from May to September when it becomes a Fruit Stand Trail.
Did you know that two-thirds of the fruits and nuts in the United States are grown in California? The farms of the Central Valley produce peaches, nectarines, apricots, almonds, plums, and apples who get their yearly start with these gorgeous blossoms. Over the course of the 62-mile trail you’ll be treated to blossoms in a dazzling array of whites and pinks.
If you want to see more between the Central Valley and Los Angeles, I’d also recommend a visit to Solvang where you can take a step into Danish culture.
A couple of years ago I decided that while I wanted to continue to explore the US and countries around the world, I needed to spend a bit more time exploring right at home. So the California Challenge was born. In 2018 I set out to visit all 21 of the California Missions. For 2018 I decided to attend a home game of all 18 California pro sports teams. Let’s take a virtual tour of the 18 California pro sports teams from the San Diego Padres to the Golden State Warriors.
As with most of my posts, some links may be affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you, I may make a small commission on anything you buy through the links.
Here are a few fun facts from attending a home game of all 18 California pro sports teams…
•The home team won nine out of 18 times, lost eight times, and tied once.
•The Los Angeles Rams played in the oldest stadium – the LA Memorial Coliseum, built in 1923. However, they’ll be moving to their new permanent home in Summer 2020 so then the Dodgers will lay claim to the oldest stadium in California, built in 1962.
•The San Jose Sharks play in the SAP Center at San Jose, the smallest capacity in California with 17,496 seats. The Los Angeles Rams played in the largest stadium, with a capacity of 78,467 in the Coliseum. Their new permanent home, SoFi Stadium, will also be the largest pro sport stadium in California when it opens, with a capacity of 70,240.
•Attending a home game for all 18 teams meant visiting 15 stadiums. The Los Angeles Kings, LA Lakers and LA Clippers all play at the Staples Center. The LA Galaxy and LA Chargers both play at Dignity Health Sports Park.
California Pro Sports Teams Awards
•Biggest Fan Award goes to my dad. Eighteen different people attended games with me during the challenge, but my dad went to the most games at five.
•Frequently Seen Player Award goes to Erik Gudbranson. He played for the Vancouver Canucks when they played against the LA Kings and then was traded to the Anaheim Ducks.
•Favorite PlayerAward goes to Alex Caruso of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Major League Baseball (MLB)
San Diego Padres
A gorgeous baseball stadium in downtown San Diego. And since the team is in San Diego you’re almost guaranteed gorgeous baseball weather! (Transportation Notes: Public transportation is easy to use for this stadium)
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
This game was an adventure! We don’t get a lot of rain in the spring, summer or autumn in Southern California so this was just the 12th rain-delayed game in Angel Stadium history. Fortunately I was able to attend the make-up game the next day to check the Angels off the list.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Not my favorite team or stadium, but I will admit it’s gotten a lot safer in the last few years. Dodger Stadium is the largest MLB stadium at a capacity of 56,000 so it should be included on any MLB Stadium Bucket List.
Constructed deep in the ground so fans enter at the upper decks, this stadium has a lot of concrete. Visiting RingCentral Coliseum feels like a throw back to stadiums of the past and I don’t recommend attending solo at night. (Transportation Notes: Public transportation is easy to use for this stadium)
San Francisco Giants
Located in the South Beach area of San Francisco you can be treated to a waterfront view from some seats. (Transportation Notes: Public transportation is easy to use for this stadium)
National Football League (NFL)
Los Angeles Rams
What an experience to see the Rams play at LA Memorial Coliseum. For the 2020 season they’ll move into their new permanent home at SoFi Stadium, but for now this was a memorable experience. The Rams and Chargers recently moved to LA and I am amazed at how quickly they’ve developed very different fan bases. In my experiences this year, the Rams seemed to attract more of an LA crowd.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers on the other hand seem to have attracted more of an Orange County crowd, which makes sense since Orange County is so close to San Diego. It’s not easy to judge this stadium because the Rams are only playing in a temporary home after their move from St. Louis. For the 2020 season they’ll move into their new permanent home at SoFi Stadium.
San Francisco 49ers
This was my very first NFL game so it will always be a bit special but the stadium itself felt fairly impersonal. Essentially, it is just a really large stadium designed to fit in as many people as possible. Definitely doesn’t have the character or personality of older, or smaller, stadiums. (Transportation Notes: This is in the suburbs so public transportation is a bit limited but there are some great places to park and ride to the stadium)
Major League Soccer (MLS)
Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC)
Wow! This is the hands-down the best soccer game I’ve attended in the US (I imagine going to a game in Europe would be even better!). The energy was absolutely electric and the new stadium is worth a visit. (Transportation Notes: Parking is not cheap at this stadium so if you’re able to use public transportation I’d highly recommend going that route.)
Los Angeles Galaxy
A fun soccer game with really passionate fans. The game was filled with chanting, scarf waving and excitement. I thought this was a really good experience until I went to an LAFC game, so I’d rank this second in terms of MLB experiences in California.
San Jose Earthquakes
This was probably my least favorite team/stadium of the challenge. The energy wasn’t very good and my favorite part of the game was getting to watch the planes take off and land from the San Jose Airport next door. (Transportation Notes: They have an easy park and ride option from downtown San Jose to help you save money on parking)
National Basketball Association (NBA)
I feel like I need a disclaimer for this whole section of my whole challenge…I don’t particularly care for the NBA. Basketball is enjoyable, but I prefer college basketball. So shelling out money to attend four NBA games was a bit painful!
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers and the Lakers both play in the Staples Center and it was amazing to see how different the atmosphere was for each of the games. (Transportation Notes: Depending on where you’re coming from in LA, public transportation can be easy to use.)
Los Angeles Lakers
Admittedly this is one of my least favorite professional sports teams so I took a friend who is a big Lakers fan to help make the game more exciting. And then Lizzo made the game really exciting. And I discovered one of the Lakers newer players, Alex Caruso, and he became my favorite player of the challenge. (Transportation Notes: Depending on where you’re coming from in LA, public transportation can be easy to use.)
The Kings play at one of the newer stadiums I visited and it was quite impressive. The court is underground so you enter the stadium at the 200 level and then go down if you have seats closer to the court…I did not! It is also located in downtown Sacramento so there is a lot to do around the stadium.
Golden State Warriors
Chase Center is the newest of all the stadiums I visited, having just opened in 2019. It is located in downtown San Francisco not too far from where the San Francisco Giants play. (Transportation Notes: Depending on where you’re coming from in San Francisco, public transportation can be easy to use.)
National Hockey League (NHL)
Next up is the NHL and I will admit that before this challenge I had never been to an ice hockey game, at any level. My biggest surprise of the challenge was how much I loved hockey! I hope to more regularly attend games moving forward.
A fun, family friendly atmosphere. If you live in Southern California, this is just a great family outing!
Los Angeles Kings
Another team who plays at the Staples Center, along with the Clippers and Lakers. I can’t imagine being the keeper of the calendar at the Staples Center…so many moving parts! Just like with the Clippers and Lakers, this was a completely different atmosphere at the stadium which makes me glad I committed to going to a home game of each team instead of just visiting each stadium. (Transportation Notes: Depending on where you’re coming from in LA, public transportation can be easy to use.)
San Jose Sharks
Another really fun, family friendly atmosphere. If you live in Northern California, this is just a great family outing.
Planning a trip to Southern California can be overwhelming because there are endless options. Amidst all the hustle and bustle of Southern California I’d recommend hitting the pause button and venturing out to Solvang. You’ll be able to experience Danish culture and because everything is centralized in downtown Solvang you won’t need to use your car once you arrive. Here’s a look at what to do in Solvang when you visit to fully experience the Danish culture offered.
Little Mermaid Statue
The Little Mermaid Statue is located at the corner of Mission Drive & Alisal Road. The statue is a ½ bronze replica of the one that has been a fixture in Copenhagen Harbor since 1913. The Solvang version of the statue is the only one the heirs of sculptor Edvard Eriksen, who created the original, have authorized.
You’ll only need to walk a couple blocks off the main downtown area of Solvang to experience the Elverhøj Museum. Their mission is to “ collect, preserve and exhibit the history and Danish culture of Solvang and to promote the arts.” The staff and volunteers do an outstanding job of accomplishing their mission! The Elverhøj Museum is located in the former residence of one of Solvang’s most artistic families so you feel as though you are walking through a home from the past. When I visited I was fortunate enough to not only observe a lace bobbin demonstration, but give it a try myself!
The Book Loft with Hans Christian Andersen Museum
Be prepared to extend your trip beyond 24 hours with the next stop! It is quite easy to get lost browsing in The Book Loft. But trust me, it’s worth the stop! Downstairs in The Book Loft you’re able to browse and purchase new books. Then you can venture upstairs to browse their used book selection. And then you can take a walk around the Hans Christian Andersen Museum. Known as the, “Father of the Fairytale,” Andersen is a Danish author known for classics such as The Little Mermaid, The Snow Queen (better known today as Disney’s Frozen), The Ugly Duckling, and The Emperor’s New Clothes.
Pastries and Windmills
Within a five block radius there are four large wooden windmills and five authentic Danish bakeries! So lace up your walking shoes and head out to explore and enjoy a pastry or two along the way.
Old Mission Santa Ines
Established as the 19th of 21 missions along the El Camino Real, Old Mission Santa Ines offers stunning panoramic views. The mission is not a part of the Danish culture, but it is a part of California’s history and so well worth a visit.
If you have a little bit of extra time on your trip, make a quick stop at Ostrichland USA. Located just five minutes out of town, the ostriches are a unique stop. You can feed the ostriches and there are fresh ostrich eggs available all year-round!
Most Southern Californians, and visitors to the Golden State, think of the drive to Las Vegas as a boring trip through the desert. But, did you know there are actually a lot of things to do between Los Angeles and Las Vegas? If you’re planning a road trip from LA to Vegas, then this is your ultimate guide of what to see and do along the way!
How Far is Vegas from LA?
The drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas is just under 300 miles and without traffic is a 4-hour drive. But since this is Southern California, unless you’re leaving at 10p, you’ll most likely hit traffic along the way! This guide has some great stops to help you break up the drive or to help you make the journey your trip.
California Citrus State Historic Park
The California Citrus State Historic Park is an open-air museum that is part of the California state park system. A stop at the visitor center will provide the background of how the citrus industry played a role in the history and development of California. It is a smaller museum so you don’t need to budget a significant amount of time for this stop. As an added bonus, a stop at the citrus groves won’t break the bank since you only have to pay parking…and that’s only $5! I highly recommend timing your stop to join one of the scheduled tours because otherwise you’ll just be wandering through the citrus groves. Just don’t pick any oranges…it’s an expensive fine!!
Emma Jean’s Holland Burger Cafe
Step back in time with a visit to Emma Jean’s Holland Burger Cafe where they’ve been serving hungry Route-66 travelers since 1947. Reasonable prices and delicious meals make this is a must-stop. But it’s not open all day so plan on having breakfast or lunch when you visit and be sure to take a pic of the Route-66 sign!
Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch
Quite possibly the only way to describe Bottle Tree Ranch is a forest of bottle trees between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. You can see the bottle trees from the road 24-hours a day, but it is open to explore from sunrise to sunset. The bottle trees are such a unique and beautiful form of art that it is well worth a stop…and if you’re lucky, you’ll even get to chat with Elmer!
Calico Ghost Town
Admittedly, Calico Ghost Town is quite touristy, but it’s a fun step back in time on your way from LA to Vegas. There are a couple of great lookout spots for scenic views of the desert, you can pan for gold, tour a mine, take a train ride and wander through an old western town.
Stop for gas and you’ll walk away with all different kinds of snacks and candy! You won’t be able to miss EddieWorld because it is marked by a giant ice cream sundae. Once inside you’ll fully understand the expression, “like a kid in a candy store.” EddieWorld has row after row of every type of kind you can imagine!
A quick picture with this road sign is sure to help you win any game of the Road Trip Alphabet Game! And quick confession…I still don’t know how to pronounce this road!
World’s Tallest Thermometer
Coming in at 134 feet tall, this thermometer marks the 134° F record temperatures in nearby Death Valley. When I was little this was just a really tall thermometer…now there is a little gift shop/info center accompanying the thermometer so you’ll want to pop in and learn a bit more about the thermometer. Fun Fact: The thermometer weighs 76,812 pounds!
Seven Magic Mountains
Seven Magic Mountains could also be referred to as Seven Neon Rock Piles. My first time visiting was right after this art exhibit opened and there were practically no other people around. Now you’re likely to encounter a decent number of people which can make it harder to capture the perfect photo for Instagram, but it’s still a fun stop. The contrast of these seven, giant, neon rock piles in the middle of the desert is a sight to behold.
Next time you’re planning a trip to Las Vegas from Los Angeles, enjoy one or more of these stops along the way!
One of the things I love most about reading is getting lost in the story and being transported into the setting of the book. So anytime I find a bookstore where I can get lost in the books, I am one happy girl. Phoenix Books likely won’t be winning any “Most Instagrammable Bookstore” awards anytime soon, but this is a San Luis Obispo gem!
Phoenix Books is an independent, used bookstore located in downtown historic San Luis Obispo. When you visit, be prepared to sift through a lot of books. Like literally piles and piles of books! Every shelf is packed from top to bottom and then there are stacks of additional books throughout the store…including all the way up the staircase.
Planning Your Trip
A few things I learned on my trip to Phoenix Books to help you plan your trip…
•The store is located at 990 Monterey St, in downtown historic San Luis Obispo, and so parking can be tricky. Rather than look around for a parking spot I found it helpful to use one of the nearby public parking structures. I thought the parking structures were reasonably priced at $1-2 for 2 hours.
•Don’t go into the store with your heart set on finding a particular book! This is a used bookstore, so they won’t have every book you want on hand. When you visit, go into the store prepared to spend time getting lost in the rows of books and you will walk away with a treasure.
•Be sure to stop by the loft upstairs to find stacks and stacks of history books. I also thought it was a fun birds-eye vantage point of the rest of the store.
•Budget more time in your schedule than a quick pop-in to the store! Remember, there are LOTS of books to peruse so you want to leave enough time to truly browse the store