The Road Trip to Adventure
Even if you’ve lived in Southern California your whole life, there’s a good chance you haven’t explored every hidden gem the Golden State has to offer. When people travel, they typically skip the off-the-beaten-path destinations. By going on a road trip, you give yourself an opportunity to say, “Wow, I can’t believe this place actually exists!” Take advantage of our year-round sunny skies for a California adventure this winter break, and learn more about the beaches, campgrounds, mountains, and lakes of our home state. Adventure awaits.
Even as the water gets chilly, there’s still plenty to do at the beach. Enjoy an afternoon out with a book or an evening barbecue – or pull on a wet-suit and catch some winter waves. The best part of living in San Diego is the ease of packing the car with beach gear and heading up or down the coast to your favorite “edge of the continent” bliss. From Santa Barbara to San Diego, each beach area along our coast has its very own charm. These beaches and their communities are varied enough to have appeal for just about everyone. We offer a unique perspective of what you, your family, or your friends have in store if you decide that the beach is the perfect destination or pit stop for your upcoming road trip.
Just 22 miles off the Southern California coast is Catalina Island, a little haven for getting away from the masses. Shop for trinkets, snorkel, take a glass-bottom boat ride, camp, or just enjoy a good book on the beach.
Carpinteria is a small beach town between Santa Barbara and Ventura. The Carpinteria Beach, known as the “World’s Safest Beach,” has been rated the #1 swimming beach in California, due mostly to its southern exposure and its protection by the Channel Islands.
The beach communities of Leucadia and Cardiff-by-the-Sea are included in the San Diego North County town of Encinitas, which boasts the beloved Moonlight Beach.
Laguna Beach is known for having the most beautiful beach coves on the Southern California coast. Laguna is also full of excellent and varied restaurants and art galleries.
North of downtown San Diego is this jewel of the coast, La Jolla. There are gorgeous views everywhere you look and the weather is sublime. La Jolla Cove has boundless opportunities for sensational snorkeling while the Shores allow for surfing lessons and fun for all ages.
Long Beach has the aquarium, the Queen Mary, Little Naples with its gondolas, ferries to Catalina, an art museum, and Rainbow Harbor with its waterfront restaurants.
Much of Malibu’s coastline is covered with the famed beach bungalows along with the Zuma, Paradise Cove, and Malibu Beach – just to name a few of the renowned public beaches.
Manhattan Beach is in Los Angeles County near the LAX airport. The beach is wide and sandy and the boardwalk is full of joggers, bikers, and other beach-goers.
Oceanside has lots of beach, more reasonably priced hotels, and a harbor for boating or waterfront dining.
San Clemente has a wonderful State campground and a small-town atmosphere near the beach. Trestles Trail is a must for the hiking enthusiast.
A cozy beach town beautifully nestled between the coast and the mountains. Visit the famed restaurants and take in the Spanish-Mediterranean architecture. As you wander down the streets of Santa Barbara you might bump into well known filmmaker Bruce Brown – whose cult classic, The Endless Summer, put surfing on the map – or 10-time world surfing champion Kelly Slater.
Santa Monica has beaches, an amusement pier, great shopping, world class hotels and restaurants, and close proximity to UCLA, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and LAX. Visit the Museum of Flying at the Santa Monica Airport.
Ventura is a laid-back little beach town with a nice boating harbor and wide sandy beaches. Channel Island boat tours take off from Ventura. Marine Park is also a great place to bring kids and kites. The Ventura Beach pirate ship is a must!
Camping can offer you complete freedom when choosing a holiday. We spotlight some camp locations that are ideal for families, first timers, location seekers, and adventurers. You can get away to the beach, escape to the mountains, or take time out by the lake – there will always be a natural location to suit everyone. Forward-planning and gathering the necessary equipment will ensure that your trip is enjoyable. These sites are open year-round, but check the weather before you head out. Visit www.reserveamerica.com and www.parks.ca.gov for tips and advice for your camping road trip.
Anderson Valley, CA
Hendy Woods State Park
The Navarro River flows calmly over fist-sized stones through a redwood grove. Gardens and picnic areas at the Anderson Valley wineries are a short drive away. Stop by the Philo Apple Farm for a wander in the orchard and some fresh juice from the honor stand.
Near Santa Barbara, CA
Carpinteria State Beach
Kids can’t object to a lack of TV if they’re plopped onto a mile-long beach. Reserve early (up to seven months ahead) for the popular Santa Rosa beach row sites, then spend the weekend swimming, surf fishing, and exploring tidepools.
Orange County, CA
Live Oak Grove Campground at Ronald W. Caspers Wilderness Park
Camp out under the oaks and sycamores in the Santa Ana Mountains without relinquishing life’s little necessities – like flushing toilets. Get oriented to the great outdoors on the Sunday morning ranger walk. The 2.5-mile East Ridge Trail makes a great beginner’s hike.
Near Santa Cruz, CA
New Brighton State Beach
Set on a pine-shaded bluff above an endless white beach, New Brighton’s 100-plus sites get snapped up by those itching for a beach weekend without the expensive nightly tab. The beach is the real draw and the hot showers are inviting, but another bonus is that if you forget your matches or just don’t feel like cooking, you can easily grab takeout in town, a five-minute drive away.
Near Lake Tahoe, CA
Island Lake, Desolation Wilderness
A great choice for the first-time backpacker, with moderate effort required for spectacular views in the end. Pack your stuff in after three miles to overnight at Island Lake beneath soaring Mt. Price. The dramatically stark granite terrain dotted with shock-blue lakes is the definition of high country. Next morning, you’re set to explore the lakes and passes higher up the slope – and out of day-hiker range. This is also a popular choice for snowshoers and backcountry skiers.
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If you’re like most American families, vacation usually means you’re heading to the beach, amusement park, or maybe even a big-city adventure. But don’t overlook the fun waiting to be had at our local mountains and lakes. These family-friendly winter playground destinations are just an easy drive up north. Be sure to check the opening dates for seasonal activities before you bundle up.
Big Bear’s ski season starts mid-December and lasts through late March, and there’s plenty of fun to be had on the snowy slopes. Beyond skiing, snowboarding, and sledding, try on some snowshoes for a winter walk, or take advantage of the beautiful hiking trails in the San Bernardino Mountains. Finish out the day with a stroll through Big Bear Lake Village for shopping and tasty treats. Visit www.bigbear.com for information on upcoming events.
Lake Tahoe is a popular winter destination, with 14 major ski resorts surrounding the beautiful lake. Most of the resorts are open from mid-November through mid-April. Hit the slopes or go cross-country on skis, snowboards, sleds, and snowshoes. Snowmobiles and sleigh rides make for alternative adventures through the winter wonderland. The breathtaking views are worth the trek. Visit www.tahoesbest.com for a local connection with deals and packages.
Mammoth Lakes is the hot spot for the Southern California ski crowd. Skiers stake out a condo or hotel during the season to reap the rewards of abundant snowfall on the majestic mountain, and this year’s ski season started in mid-November. Catch a scenic gondola ride, explore the backcountry in a heated snowcat, or bundle up for a high-speed snow tube trip at Woolly’s Tube Park. Check the calendar for special events like the Dec. 16 Night of Lights, a free celebration with music, a parade, snowmobile rides, and a spectacular fireworks show. Visit www.mammothmountain.com for adventure guides.
One of America’s favorites, Yosemite Park is a stunning winter wonderland. The park is best known for its waterfalls, but within its nearly 1,200 square miles, one can find grand meadows, deep valleys, gigantic ancient sequoias, a plethora of wilderness areas, and much more. Skiing, snowboarding, and other winter sports are popular winter activities. The CA 41, 140, and 120 entrances are open year-round. Check road conditions and tire chain requirements when visiting in the winter – up-to-date conditions can be found online or by calling the National Park Service road status hotline at 209-372-0200. Plan your Yosemite road trip by visiting www.yosemitepark.com.