I went on a road trip with my best friend and we're still best friends. So needless to say the trip went well! We had lots of laughs, lots of singing in the car, lots of ups and downs (literally, driving through the streets of San Francisco), and saw all the nature: seals, whales, and dolphins. Yes. Dolphins. (In the wild -- not at some depressing and horrible Marine Land...)
Anyways here's the route my bestie and I took and a list of what we did and where we stayed from LA to SanFran.
*NOTE* Highway 1 is closed south of Big Sur after a bridge collapse, so you can't take the route below. But you can still be inspired by it and plan your trip for next year? Or go around? More info here.
Los Angeles: Everyone thinks they're #famous
Here are some places to go in and around LA that were tourist-y but actually worth it:
- Griffith Observatory
- Chinese Theatre
- Venice Beach
- Santa Monica Pier
- The Laugh Factory
- Rodeo Drive (Look, but don't touch)
And as every I Love You, Man fan knows, James Beach is the place where they filmed the scene in the movie where Paul Rudd and Jason Segel eat tacos with their hands...and...THEY WERE THE TITS.
Stay in LA:
I spent three nights at The Sixty, a trendy and comfortable boutique hotel with helpful staff, a rooftop pool and bar, and walking distance from shops and restaurants in the Beverly Hills area.
Leaving LA: Santa Barbara and a 60s icon
We took the scenic route out of LA to Santa Barbara in the morning. Santa Barbara has tons of places to buy vintage books and second-hand clothes (furs, denim, and quirky wigs). I ended up buying a pair of children's books that were printed in the 1950s, like Robin Hood and Pinocchio.
We got lunch to go in the late afternoon and headed to the Oak Hill Cemetery in Ballard to see Edie Sedgwick's grave. (My friend loves Edie and the stop was on the way to our first stop on the road.) There are also other famous people buried there, like actor John Forsythe. Don't ask me where Edie's grave was, though. It took us a while to find. We had to decipher the details of this YouTube video, which ended up being helpful.
Are we in Denmark?
This cute little town called Solvang was on the way from Oak Hill Cemetery to Pismo Beach. All of the buildings are modelled after a Danish village. There are windmills, beer halls, and they have tons of wine tasting options. We got there at night so we walked around. Defintiely worth seeing.
Night 1: Pismo Beach
Small-town vibes & neon signs
We checked into our hotel room around 8 p.m., dropped our bags off and drove to the main street, about 5 minutes away, to get some dinner at a local diner, the Cool Cat Cafe. The pictures below show what the Pismo Beach pier looks like during the day. And then what it looked like when we walked around town at night, with neon signs lit up everywhere. Pismo Beach was quiet, but the people were welcoming. It has a small-town vibe with surf shops, candy stores, and vintage cars parked along the main street. It was a great place to stop on our way to Big Sur.
Stay in Pismo Beach:
The Best Western Plus Shore Cliff Hotel was clean and comfortable and had a beautiful #oceanview for two.
On the way to Big Sur: Hearst Castle & lotsa seals
We left the chill #vibes of Pismo Beach for the luxurious and sprawling Hearst Castle. I could have spent days wandering around. The grounds were bought by George Hearst, a self-made millionaire, in 1865 and inherited by his son William Randolph Hearst in 1919. For decades, William, who became a media mogul, worked with architect Julia Morgan to design the Hearst Castle. By 1947, the dream became a reality, boasting 165 rooms and 127 acres of gardens.
I went during the off season so there wasn't a huge line, but we did have to wait for a bus to take us from the entrance to the castle. It's about a 10-minute drive up a winding, narrow road that overlooks the property. And then all the way at the top, the ginormous estate with elaborate ceilings and watch towers and statues and palm trees. There is also an extensive art, newspaper, and book collection. (The library was my favourite part, with literally *ALL THE CLASSICS*)
Below: Photos of the Hearst Castle
Will stop for seals
As we were leaving the castle we noticed people were stopping along the highway at an oceanside parking lot. There was a fenced off beach and people were just staring...at SEALS. Seeing them waddle around and then take a dip in the ocean was amazing. #SealTourofAmerica
Do go chasing waterfalls
On our way to our Big Sur destination, we stopped to take pics of the McWay Waterfall. It's right off of the main highway and can easily be seen from there. You can get closer by following a path to a bridge. (You can pull over all the way to the side of the highway but there is no parking.) We got there just as the sun was setting so it made for some great pictures, although we did end up leaving when it was really dark out.
Nigh 2: Big Sur
Did we see a bobcat?
As we left the waterfall, it was pitch black outside. Our GPS stopped working but we knew there was only one way to get to our next stop for the night: Fernwood Resort. As we approached in the darkness, we screamed in horror as the headlights of the car focused on a bloody, dead deer near the entrance. #roadkill We were totally calm after that...There was someone at the Fernwood entrance when we arrived and she gave us a key to open our cabin door. As we drove into the camp grounds, I swear I saw the back of a bobcat sneak off into the woods: the bushy tail and back paws. My friend swears she saw it, too. I guess we'll never know. #realbobcatsighting
Anyways, the cabin was equipped with a heater (necessary in November when it's cold at night) and two lamps, as well as a bed that was already made. (You don't have to bring your own sheets.) We dropped our stuff off and hit the road again for a late night dinner at Nepenthe, which is probably the best meal I had on the entire trip. The restaurant has fire places all around and a dim-lit, cozy atmosphere. There is also a gift shop at the bottom with locally made soaps, candles, and photos of Big Sur.
NOTE: Nepenthe and other places south of highway 1 in Big Sur are closed due to the road collapse.
Stay in Big Sur:
We stayed in a "tent cabin" at Fernwood Resort but they have camping options as well.
Monterey for the day: whale watching tour of America
We woke up early the next day to drive to Monterey so we could go whale watching. We ended up seeing whales splashing around but my favourite part was seeing a pod of dolphins swim by. We took the Chris's Fishing and Whale Watching tour. The guides were informative and friendly, but make sure you get a seat. Otherwise you're standing for a long time.
Night 3: San Francisco
We go to prison and see the Full House house
We got in to San Francisco late at night. It was actually beautiful to see the lights sparkling in the distance as we took the highway. But then we started driving in San Francisco...and that was a nightmare. We went to In-n-Out Burger for our first meal and obviously it didn't disappoint.
Some places we checked out while we were in SanFran:
- Sausalito: Near the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge. Great restaurants and people watching. Stunning homes and views of San Francisco
- Chinatown: Worth seeing. I was a bit scared because I'm clumsy so walking into the stores with delicate tchochkes, but it was almost like a city within itself. We went as it was closing so it wasn't as busy.
- Mission District: Kind of grungy but cool area with great stores and cool restaurants and coffee shops. It's like the Queen Street West of San Fran with a bit of an edge.
You'll notice there is no photo of a home used in the opening of Full House, one of my favourite shows growing up. That is because it looked nothing like what it used to look like and wasn't worth the trek. However, we did get to experience a SanFran trolley. So getting there was cool. But if you have to squeeze other activities in, I'd recommend leaving out the Full House house. It's just a house, people.
Stay in San Francisco:
We stayed at the Baldwin Hotel. It was in a great location, near Union Square and Chinatown, but not too close. There was a Starbucks nearby and tons of restaurant options. The parking lot was not located at the hotel, but it is a 5-minute walk to a nearby garage.
We took the ferry across the bay to check out Alcatraz, the prison known for holding notorious gangsters like Al Capone and Machine-Gun Kelly. We also got to see the untouched cell of two prisoners who escaped by slowly scraping a hole through the wall with spoons. There are lots of ferry times available to and from the prison, and different tours available.
Below: Photos of Alcatraz
This may sound obvious but leave early to drop your car at the airport before your flight home. There was a long line of other people dropping off cars when we got there. And I'm pretty sure we took the wrong exit and had to loop around.
I went on this trip in November, so it was a bit cooler.
Be sure to check the latest updates on Highway 1 in Big Sur before planning a trip