Redwoods, Crater Lake & the Oregon Coast

For the final leg of our trip, we left San Francisco and headed up the 101 until cutting over to make a stop at Ft. Bragg. I had planned to swing by Point Reyes National Seashore, but the GPS wasn’t working very well and it didn’t seem like we were headed to the right place, so instead of getting lost and getting stuck somewhere remote like we did last time we were in California, I decided to turn around. Maybe next time we are out that way we can find it.

Taking Highway 1 from Mill Valley to Arcata (our stop for the night), would have taken 11 hours. That’s a lot of driving, so we hopped on and off of it going to and from Ft. Bragg and I felt like we got a good sense for what the entire drive was like: extremely curvy roads!

Ft. Bragg was kind of a let down – I’d saved it on Pinterest years ago, hoping to one day get to the famous glass beach. Pictures were stunning; an entire beach FULL of sea glass, shining in the sun? Yeah, not so much. I think everyone has discovered it and most of the sea glass is gone. I did find a few pieces, but people were camped out, shoveling whatever they could find in bags to sort through at home.


From there, it was another couple hours to our Airbnb in Arcata, which looked like something straight out of The Hobbit! They had a sauna, soaking tubs and private baths on site and our room had a full kitchen, so this would be a great place for an extended stay. The wifi was not good though, so if you’re needing to do any sort of work while you are there, good luck.


I tried out the private soaking tubs after dark which was super relaxing, however there weren’t any lights so I had to sit there with my phone flashlight on and when I started to see slugs and worms crawling around from the moss growing next to them, that was enough for me. These are best enjoyed during the day!

Our next to last day, was another long driving day that took us into Oregon. We caught Highway 1 again, winding along the northern California coast and through the gorgeous California Redwoods, stopping to take a scenic drive on Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway

The forest was stunning, we saw elk, and it’s too bad there wasn’t more time because I would have loved to have done some hiking in the park itself. Next to the elk is a trail, so theoretically, you could walk right behind them. Park rangers are present to keep people from doing anything stupid.

This is a MUST scenic drive, in my opinion. It’s all paved, so you don’t need four wheel drive and it’s easily accessible off the main highway. There are several other scenic drives that you can take in the park as well, including some that are more off road. Here’s a link to those if you have more time and want to do some extra exploring.


From there, we headed toward Crater Lake! It’s about a four hour drive between the parks and takes you through some really pretty forests along the way. We crossed over into Oregon, and I was able to get my state sign picture pretty easily. As many of you know, I’ve been working on getting photos at all 50 state signs and even though I’ve been to 49/50, I didn’t start this until 2013, so I’m behind. I have 32, plus Washington D.C. so only 18 more to go.

Once we got to Crater Lake, it was late-afternoon, but the lake itself was absolutely stunning. Clear blue water, some snow still around the rim and gorgeous green trees out on the island in the middle. We drove partly around the rim – I would have liked to have been able to drive the whole thing, but parts of it were still closed, even in July because of snow!


You can also hike down to the bottom of the crater, swim in the lake and take a boat tour out to the little island! We didn’t get to do any of those things since we had a tighter schedule at the end of our trip, but if I ever go back, some of those things will definitely be on my list.

Our hotel was another hour drive from the rim to Roseburg, OR so we headed there, then just relaxed for the rest of the evening.

The final sight-seeing portion of our trip was Saturday and I had planned to head back to Highway 1 and drive up the Oregon Coast to Thor’s Well, Cannon Beach and also stopping to see the lighthouse from the movie The Ring. But honestly, I was pretty tired of driving at that point and we still had two hours to Portland, so I decided to just go there first and see Multnomah Falls.

Last time I was in Oregon with my friend Jenny, we got to Multnomah early in the morning. Literally no one was there. This time, the parking lot was full and about 15 miles away, a road information sign informed us the exit was closed 🙁

So, we headed to Cannon Beach instead!


You may recognize Haystack Rock from The Goonies. Cannon Beach is a must-visit, in my opinion. It seemed like it took forever to get there from Portland (probably because we’d been driving for a week already), but it’s really not that far and if you go at low tide, you will see ALL kinds of sea life in the tide pools. I loved it.


Parking was not especially easy to come by – we found a spot on a side street and walked down to the beach, so be prepared for that. There’s a whole little town built around the area with shops and restaurant and has east coast vibes.

Access to the beach is free, lifeguards are on duty and there are staff out by the rock to keep tourists away from nesting birds. Sometimes you can even see Puffins!! I believe we were there at the wrong time of year for spotting them though.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our west coast journey! Would love to hear of any places that I missed and need to see for next time.

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Exploring San Francisco

With as much traveling as I’ve done, you’d think I would have already visited San Francisco! But it was one major U.S. city that had escaped me over the years, so when planning our Highway 1 trip, I made sure to include a couple days for exploring this beautiful northern California city.

For our two night stay in the Bay Area, I booked a super cool vintage airstream! The couple that owns it lives on the property, bought it about several years ago and completely refurbished it themselves. In fact, in 2014, the New York Times published a piece about them and how they had to use a huge crane to lift it up and over the neighbor’s house and down into their backyard.

While not in San Francisco, it was such a short drive into the city from Mill Valley, that this would be the perfect place to stay if you were also going to Muir Woods. There are plenty of places to eat nearby, so it’s a great and more affordable location than other options I found in the city.


We crammed as much sight-seeing as we could in a day and a half and hit most of the major areas of the city. Our first stop was Mr. Holmes Bakeshop so I could grab a croissant and snap a photo at their fun neon wall. The line was out the door and it was a tiny place with tons of other people taking photos, so we didn’t stay long.


After that, it was Chinatown for lunch! The traffic and parking here was pretty crazy, but we got a spot and walked around for about an hour. It’s a bustling area of the city and we felt like we were truly in a different country.

There are many colorful murals that line the streets of Chinatown, so be on the lookout for those and grab something to eat while you are there. A lot of places we saw didn’t take cards, so make sure you have some cash on you. We had teriyaki bowls at Floating Sushi Boat.



Then, we checked out the Golden Gate Bridge which was pretty much covered in a cloud of fog even though the rest of the city was sunny! We also did a hike to Land’s End Labyrinth, which was a nice way to wrap up the day.


Our second day began with a cruise to Alcatraz! The boat ride there was pretty short – I’d say about 15 minutes and then you walk up a steep hill to the prison. It was very educational and I learned a lot I never knew about the island prison. There are also great views of the city and the bridge from here.



After spending a couple hours at Alcatraz, we boarded the boat back to San Francisco and spent a large chunk of the day in Fisherman’s Warf. There are so many things to do and places to eat, but make sure you walk all the way down to Ghiredelli Square to see and sample the chocolate!


Then, check out the adorable sea lions at Pier 39! It was a small group this time, but I hear that often the pallets they lay on to sun themselves are packed.


By this time is was late afternoon, so we drove up to see the Painted Ladies (famously from the Full House opening scene), walked a mile or so down the same street to see Mrs. Doubtfire’s house, then went to several different viewpoints of the Golden Gate Bridge and had a lovely sunny evening to see it.

I think the view from Baker’s Beach and Battery Spencer were my favorites.


Continue reading “Exploring San Francisco”

Highway 1: L.A. to San Francisco

Called one of the most beautiful drives in the United States, Highway 1 spans several states and follows the coast from Washington all the way down to southern California. When driving this route, experts suggest taking days or even weeks to take in the beauty – and I can see why.

It’s been on my road trip bucket list for years and while we didn’t drive the WHOLE thing, we did take in quite a bit of it all the way from California up through Oregon. There were so many places we could have pulled over along the way, but didn’t, instead choosing to just enjoy the drive, take in Big Sur, then headed to San Francisco for a few days.

On the way out of Los Angeles, we drove through Malibu where I tried to stop to see the Cohen house from the television show The O.C. The home that was used, along with Marissa Cooper’s house and an adjacent neighboring house with the famous pool house from the show were in the path of the wildfires last summer. Online blogs reported the home was undamaged, however after making my way up the winding road into the community, you’re met by a gate at the bottom of the driveway and you can’t see anything once you get up there. It is visible from farther down the street, just no up close views. Sadly, the home with the pool house burned, so that’s no longer there.

Adam and I split up the drive that day; I took the first couple of hours and he took the rest. Highway 1 does take about twice as long as catching the 101, so take that into account when planning your trip.

The road is also very winding – I would not enjoy driving it at night. On one side, you have the mountain and the other a sharp drop off into the ocean. I can see where it would be very dark at night, and there are some construction zones following the mudslides from a few years ago, so plan accordingly.

It took us nearly all day to get to Big Sur, which was the highlight of the drive for the day. We pulled off at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and hiked the short trail to the overlook for McWay Falls.

The view was stunning. It was golden hour and pictures just really don’t do it justice.



Note: there is no beach access, so don’t plan to swim here!

From there, we kept driving up Highway 1 toward Carmel-by-the-Sea for the night. On the way, I had to stop at Bixby Bridge, which some people probably recognize from the opening credits of Big Little Lies. In fact, residents in the area are pretty annoyed by tourists stopping to take photos because it’s clogging up the traffic and some are even doing dangerous things like hanging off the side of the bridge for an Instagram shot.

Please don’t be like these people! There is a designated viewing area – park there and don’t trample down the embankment or hang off the side of the bridge.



Our hotel for the night was the Carmel Mission Inn. Hotels along this route are pricey, so factor that into your budget. I booked through Orbitz, so it was about half the price as what their web site says.

For dinner, we walked to a pizza place right behind the hotel called Allegro Pizzeria and got carryout. The pizza was New York style, pretty delicious and hit the spot after a long day on the road. I didn’t take any photos of it because I was too hungry, haha.

On day 4, we headed to San Francisco, which was another two hours or so. We left Highway 1 for this portion of the trip, stopping at Google Heaquarters in Palo Alto. I would have loved to have gone to Shark Fin Cove, but it was a more efficient route to jump on the 101 again, but if you aren’t detouring to San Francisco, consider adding it to your list of things to see.

Here are a few photos from Google. There’s a gift shop and the andriod statue garden, but if you want a tour of the place, you have to know someone who works there. We did walk around outside, but there’s not a lot to see on the campus.

We also went to Facebook but there were zero parking spots there, so no photos with the famous thumbs up sign by the road 🙁




Making the Most of Two Days in L.A.

We just got back from a wonderful road trip up Highway 1 in California and Oregon. The weather was beautiful – no humidity, mosquitos or rain. The trip began in Los Angeles, and while we have been there before, it’s impossible to see everything in one visit!

In this post, I’ll recap what we did, where we ate, stayed and how to make the most of your time in a city where traffic sometimes throws a wrench in your best laid plans.

Where We Stayed

I chose to book through Airbnb this time for our two nights in Los Angeles. Hotels can kind of be pricey and since we were heading out after a studio tour on day 3, picked a spot that was just a few blocks away from that. Our host, Kathy, was lovely! We talked with her a little bit when we checked in to “The Lavender Cottage” and discovered she used to work for CNN and knew Anderson Cooper. She now does lighting for theater and retail stores, but has worked in the film/TV industry for a very long time.

Included with the room were two bikes! We didn’t use them, but this would be a great option for someone wanting to explore the immediate area.

Where We Ate

Cinnaholic. If you watch Shark Tank, you may remember this vegan cinnamon roll place from an episode a few years ago. I made a note of it and we stopped to get some on our way to the Nixon Presidential Library. Holy Cow were they good!

In-N-Out, obviously! Haha. It doesn’t get more West Coast than In-N-Out burgers, so we had two meals at the famous joint. Personally, I think their special sauce is pretty gross. The first meal there, I’d asked them to leave it off but that didn’t get communicated and I scraped most of it off after tasting it. Adam liked it, but to me it tasted like a mixture of pickles, onion and mayo. Bleh. The second meal there was way better as they got my order right.

We also had dinner at an amazing Lebanese place in Culver City called Almaza.  I had falafel with hummus, rice and Adam got the chicken shawarma. The portions were huge, food was excellent, but the service was somewhat lacking. Maybe it was an off night, but they were slow to take our order and slow to bring our check. I would still eat here again, but that was definitely a down side to the restaurant.

I also had a birthday cake milkshake from Milk Bar, owned by Christina Tosi from Master Chef. It was good; a bit over priced and more just for Instagramming in my opinion. If I went back, I’d try the actual cake, but it’s really not all that different from other dessert shops.

Shop my look: Striped Dress, Converse

What We Did

Our plane landed around 8:30 am PST, so that gave us a full day to explore. Last time, we went to President Reagan’s Presidential Library and enjoyed it so much that we decided to go to Nixon’s this time. It’s about an hour drive outside of L.A., but if you enjoy history or politics, worthwhile to go. I know I learned a lot!

Shop my look: Free People Denim Jacket, Striped Dress, Kate Spade Cat Purse, Converse

Once we left there, I drug Adam to an AMAZING library that had an aquarium, huge children’s department and several stories of materials. We also checked out The Last Bookstore in downtown L.A., which was a mad house of people trying to take photos for Instagram.


Most of the first day was gone by the time we got done in downtown and West Hollywood, so we decided to check in to our Airbnb for the night.

Day two started off with a hike behind the Hollywood sign. I am really glad we waited to do this hike then, because it was overcast and breezy and it was a tough trail to climb. If you are interested in doing the hike, get out there early as parking was FULL when we left and the crowds were increasing. Here’s the link to where we parked (Bronson Canyon) and the actual hike we took. Make sure you summit Mt. Lee to get behind the sign – another path takes you to a viewpoint of the front instead (which is also nice, but if that’s where you go thinking you’ll be behind it, that’s not the right path to take).

We then did a little location hunting, seeking out some filming locations for The Office and Silicon Valley.

From there, we ended our day at Santa Monica Pier and walked down to Venice Beach. The cultural vibes between the two are so different! Santa Monica is much more upscale and Venice has a hipster vibe.


Day three, our final morning in L.A., started off with a tour of the Sony Pictures Studio. Last time we did the Warner Brothers Studio Tour and decided to take a different one to see how they compared. I felt like Sony had more history – their lot had many classic films (like Wizard of Oz) filmed there and our tour guide was the voice of Young Tod in Disney’s Fox and the Hound.


We also got to go on the set of The Goldbergs, see cars from Ghost Busters, Breaking Bad and my favorite, tour the Jeopardy set! The tour took about two hours and was definitely worth it. It is an all walking tour, so no carts like the one at Warner Brothers.

If You’ve Never Been 

Obviously, there are some top spots I’ve left out because I have been to L.A. before! If you are looking for other things to do, like the Hollywood Walk of Fame or attend a taping of a live event, check out my older post with what we did back in 2016.

making the Most of Two Days In