Southern California

5 Things to Do in the San Jacinto Valley

For many people, November to March means having to bundle up every time you leave the house.  It means shoveling your sidewalk, scraping ice off your car, and  having to change out your summer wardrobe for bulky sweaters.  Enter Southern California.  Particularly the San Jacinto Valley.  Where average winter temps hover around 70 degrees making the San Jacinto Valley your ideal winter escape!

I was recently invited to visit the San Jacinto Valley courtesty of their tourism board and I can’t wait to share five things to do that make this your perfect winter escape.

As with most of my posts, this post may contain affiliate or referral links.

Diamond Valley Lake – On our trip we spent an incredibly relaxing morning out on this man made lake that was dedicated in March of 2000.  Diamond Valley is a drinking water reservoir that suppies water to much of Southern California.  But it’s more than just an hour glass shaped drinking water reservoir!  It’s a great spot for fishing and boating.  Water sports are not permitted (no human contact is allowed with the water) but there are 50 boats available for rental and if you’re escaping winter weather a gorgeous afternoon out on the lake is the perfect way to soak up the sun!

La Michoacana 100% Natural – Y’all know how much I love cupcakes!  But if this trip is your winter escape, what better way to celebrate winter in the sun, than with ice cream?!?  Enter La Michoacana.  Where the Mexican ice cream is made on-site…with real fruit! I enjoyed a Mango Mangonada and…WOW!!  Such a yummy treat that is perfect after an afternoon on the lake!

Escape the winter blues with a trip to the San Jacinto Valley in Southern California where you can hit the lake, trails and delicious restaurants.
Golden Village Palms RV Resort – If you’re going to take a winter escape, you need a place to stay!  And I would highly recommend this five-star resort.  Whether you’re bringing your own RV or staying in a cottage it won’t take long to call Golden Village home.  When you’re not out exploring all the San Jacinto Valley has to offer, you can relax by the pool, take in a game of shuffleboard, hit the gym, and so much more.

Western Science Center – Confession time y’all!  I’m a closet nerd.  I LOVE learning.  As much as I love healthy, active travel, I also secretly love visiting new museums where I get to learn.  And the Western Science Center does not disappoint!  When Diamond Valley Lake was built they uncovered a treasure trove of fossils so they decided to build a museum by the lake to house the findings.  Including Max the Mastodon!  Not only are there a variety of rotating exhibits in addition to the permanent exhibits but there are also 3 digs on site.  There are 2 archeological and 1 paleontological digs students use to help them with the study of everything left behind by past cultures and of extinct animals.  Y’all…I nerded out big time in the Western Science Center and can’t wait to return!

 Escape the winter blues with a trip to the San Jacinto Valley in Southern California where you can hit the lake, trails and delicious restaurants.
Simpson Park – Simpson Park offer gorgeous views of the sun setting over the lake and 15 miles of well-groomed trails.  You’ll find hikers, trail runners, and mountain bikers out on these trails which have been built and maintained largely by volunteers.  The trails are set up so that it is difficult to get lost which is great news for travelers!

Bottom line y’all…if you’re looking for a winter esacpe head to the San Jacinto Valley in Southern California.  And as an added bonus, once you’re there you’re only a quick drive from LA, Orange County (beaches, Disneyland!), San Diego and so much more!

What is your favorite winter escape?

Other Travel posts you might like:

The Ramona Bowl

San Diego Urban Adventure Quest

One Day in San Francisco

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The Ramona Bowl: Tradition, History & Community

I was recently invited to visit the San Jacinto Valley and the Ramona Bowl courtesy of their tourism board.  While I was quite excited about exploring a new destination, I will admit I was a bit hesitant.  You see, the San Jacinto Valley requires me to take a drive on the 91.  For my non-Southern California friends, just know I avoid the 91 at ALL costs!  But after four days in the Valley I will say, 1) It was worth the drive, and 2) I can’t wait to go back!

As with most of my posts, this post may contain affiliate or referral links.

While in the San Jacinto Valley I visited the Ramona Bowl and fell in love.  Three aspects of the amphitheater drew me in, and now I have this event marked on my calendar for the spring!  I place great value on tradition, history and community and the Ramona Bowl is absolutely filled with all three!

Tradition: My family will tell you that I am obsessed with tradition!  I like being able to look forward to events year after year and building traditions around those events.  And the Ramona Bowl is steeped in tradition!  The cast is made up of generations of families who participate, and have participated, for the last 90 years.  The audience is comprised of families who have made it a tradition to attend together year after year.  The volunteers who support the play come back year after year and this event is as much a part of their calendars as national holidays.

History: Not only is the story of Ramona filled with historical significance, but the amphitheater itself is filled with history.  The drama is based on the book by Helen Hunt Jackson who lived a life of tragedy.  Ramona was written in the late 1800’s as a fictional love story meant to be so compelling people would not be able to put it down.  And in doing so, readers would learn about the injustices being done to Southern California’s native people.  But the historical significance doesn’t end with the content of the play!  Less than 10 years from the 100th anniversary of the play, the Ramona is the LONGEST running outdoor drama in the nation.

Make a trip to the Ramona Bowl in Southern California a springtime tradition and see the nation's largest running outdoor drama.

Community: I think this was my favorite part of visiting the Ramona Bowl!  Putting on Ramona every year is truly a community effort.  The play is powered by hundreds of volunteers from actors to the costume department to those who work on sets to the snake handlers. Yup, you read that correctly!  Because this is an outdoor play set in a mountainous hillside they need snake handlers on hand.  The snake handlers watch for the cue that indicates there is a snake on set during the play.  You can bet that if I was playing a rock Indian I would be nervous that a snake would slither by me and I would interrupt the whole show with my screams!

What is your favorite local community tradition?

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Wipeout 5k Run

Five years ago my sister competed on a Wipeout: Blind Date episode…if you’ve been a fan of the show for years you might remember her as the cougar!  She did really well…her partner, affectionately referred to as the cub, not so much…so they did not make it past the second round.

But now it’s time for redemption!

Wipeout 5k Run Orange County

That’s right, we’re participating in the Wipeout 5k Run on November 7 at the Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre…and I want you to join us!  If you’ve ever watched the show Wipeout and thought you can do better, this is your chance!  Join me for this crashtastic 5k run in Orange County.

Tweet: Join me at the Wipeout 5k Run in Orange County this November! http://bit.ly/1SR2grp #wipeout #SoCal

Let me know in the comments below if you’re going to join me at this awesome 5k run because I want to meet up with you for pictures and fun!  And if you don’t live in Southern California you can check out their site to find your local race!

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Up, Up, and Away

…well maybe not away, but you get the idea 😉 Today’s Travel Thursday post takes us to Temecula, CA for a hot air balloon adventure.  Hot air ballooning has been on my bucket list for quite a while, so imagine my excitement when I was able to cross this adventure off my list!

We took our trip up with Magical Adventure Balloon Rides and I would highly recommend this group if you’re looking for a ballooning adventure in Southern California!  And honestly, our adventure was pretty magical and even though I’ve crossed it off my bucket list, I would love to go again!  It is an absolutely gorgeous way to get a birds eye view of an area made even better by the fact that we went hot air ballooning in wine country which means you can go on wine tastings afterwards!

Hot Air Balloon Adventures in Temecula, CA

There was something truly amazing about floating along just above the trees and seeing everything below. I absolutely loved our adventure and a couple of things about going for a hot air balloon ride surprised me…

* It is much hotter up there than I expected…because the balloon is powered by fire!

* It is louder up there than I expected…again, because the balloon is powered by fire and fire can be noisy

* Because of the above two surprises it’s not quite as romantic as you might think…it would still make a great date but it’s not a quiet blissful experience

* The pilots have less control over the location of the landing than you’d think.  Where you land is controlled by the wind so on our ride we actually went about 20 minutes longer than expected (awesome bonus!) because of how the winds moved.

Hot Air Balloon Ride

A couple of reasons why I’d recommend this tour company if you go…

* They leave a few minutes later than the other groups in the area which makes you think you’ll miss the early morning views, but the truth is it means your views will include other hot air balloons.  Because your travel is dictated by the wind if you are at the back you can take great pictures filled with other balloons!

* You get mimosas at the end…is there even really a need to explain why this is a good thing?!?

* The pilot is quite knowledgeable about hot air ballooning and the area which makes the experience even more enjoyable

Have you been hot air ballooning?  Would you want to go?  What’s one thing on your bucket list?

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Be Inspired: Josh

Hands down this Be Inspired series is my favorite part of this blog. I am passionate about not only dreaming big, but chasing those dreams and this series has given me the opportunity to share the stories of so many people doing just that with their lives. Unfortunately, most of the people I interview don’t live near me so I don’t get to do the interviews in person but today’s feature, Josh, lives nearby so I was able to interview him in person. I first met Josh when I went to his restaurant, Stratford at the Harbor for brunch (you can read about my experience at Stratford including the amazing coffee cake) and after connecting via email I knew he was a perfect fit for this series.

Even though he had very limited restaurant experience Josh has known for years that he wanted to own a restaurant. Despite the reality that this dream seemed impossible, he knew he didn’t want to be the guy that looked back at his life and realized he didn’t take chances, didn’t take risks and didn’t pursue his dreams. So eight years ago, while working in sales, he bought his first book about how to open your own restaurant. He didn’t get a restaurant over night but one year ago Josh, and his business partner Greg, opened Stratford at the Harbor.

You can connect with Josh and Stratford at the Harbor on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and if you’re ever in San Diego or Orange County, CA I would HIGHLY recommend stopping by the restaurant to eat.

It is my hope that you leave this blog feeling inspired.  Whether you spend 2 minutes reading the blog every month or check the blog on a daily basis, it is my hope that when you click away from my site you leave inspired.  Inspired to try something new.  Inspired to step out of your comfort zone.  Inspired to embrace a new challenge.  Inspired to make a difference.  Inspired to dream big and chase those dreams.  Inspired to live life a little bit different.  Inspired to be the best you possible.  This series introduces you to people and stories that inspire me and it is my hope that they will inspire you as well.

Meet Josh…

Be Inspired Josh - Stratford at the Harbor
Josh (R) and his business partners Gregg (L) and Terry Sonken


What dream are you currently pursuing?

Currently Josh is pursuing the dream of owning his own restaurant. He became the owner of Stratford at the Harbor in May 2014. Stratford is open 7 days a week for breakfast and lunch and Josh suggests getting the fish tacos or pancakes (I would also recommend getting the coffee cake!)

What is your biggest dream?

Josh’s biggest dream is to someday open an adventure camp for kids where inner city kids and kids who might not otherwise have the opportunity would learn wilderness and outdoor skills.

What accomplishment are you most proud of in your life?

Owning Stratford at the Harbor is the accomplishment Josh is most proud of because even up to just a couple of weeks before the final papers were signed, there was so much doubt that everything would work out. The journey to opening this restaurant was not an easy one but it is incredibly clear in talking to Josh that God’s timing and plan was at work in opening Stratford.  There were times along the way when it seemed like a crazy dream to be pursuing but Josh continued to pursue this dream and owning the restaurant allows him to put so many of his gifts into practice.

Who has been an inspiration to you and how have they inspired you?

There are several people in his family that inspire Josh, specifically his brother and his grandfather. His brother, Casey, has so much confidence in Josh and absolutely believes in him and that inspires Josh to pursue his dreams. His grandfather’s strong, quiet presence inspires Josh to pause and reflect on what his grandfather would do in particular situations.

How do you handle obstacles that arise as you pursue your dreams?

There are a number of different ways that Josh handles obstacles that arise (and they definitely did during the process of opening Stratford!) including asking input from others, processing and thinking through the situation and giving the situation over to God. Ultimately he’s learned that in difficult situations, you just need to pray.

Can you share five interesting facts about yourself?

-Once broke his neck and back in a snowboarding accident

-His dream career would be to be a stand-up comedian

-Josh owns a restaurant but is not a good cook…but he’s learning!

-He loves talking about politics and religion

-Josh is motivated by fear failure

I hope that hearing Josh’s story of how he pursued his dreams inspires you to pursue your own dreams.  And I’d love to hear, what is one of your biggest dreams?

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Stratford at the Harbor

Y’all I have some exciting news…I’m back with new travel posts! The last couple of months I’ve had the opportunity for some fun adventures (if you want to follow along in real time head over to my Instagram account!) and I’m excited to share them with you!   If you’re looking for more of my travel recommendations, check out the travel map I created with all of my reviews!

Last week I headed to Oceanside, CA for a girls brunch with my sister, mom, and aunts at Stratford at the Harbor. I’d recommend a visit to Stratford at the Harbor if you are visiting or live in the San Diego or Orange County area in California. Here are a few reasons why…

1. They serve fresh coffee cake that is out of this world AMAZING! Like there are hardly words to describe the yumminess of this coffee cake…moist, perfectly sweet, and just fabulous!

Stratford at the Harbor Coffee Cake

2. The location is phenomenal! Nestled in the harbor in Oceanside you have gorgeous water views while you eat breakfast or lunch.  And since the weather in Southern California is perfect nearly all year-round this is a great brunch spot any time of year! Stratford at the Harbor nestled in the Oceanside harbor

3. The details. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while then you know that I love the extra details and believe they take things from good to great. And Stratford at the Harbor nailed the little details! From the baskets organizing the coffee supplies in the server station to the mirror in the bathroom that completes the nautical themed décor in the bathroom. Stratford at the Harbor Bathroom

If you have the chance to enjoy breakfast or lunch at Stratford at the Harbor, let me know!

Also, I’ve been working on updating my travel bucket list so I’m looking for your suggestions…what places and events do I need to make sure I visit in the US and internationally?

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