I might be from the very flattest part of the United States. Our only hills were former garbage dumps. So my heart gives a little thrill when I enjoy the diversity of California. Recently we attended the wedding of my husband’s nephew in San Luis Obispo. What a quaint college town! If you have a chance to drive through there be sure to visit Bubblegum Alley,
where thousands have artfully decorated the walls with the remains of their gum. There is an adorable candy store nearby, if you wish to leave your own contribution. It is both amazing and gross, a kid’s dream.
The Mission de San Luis Obispo de Tolosa is very beautiful and full of history of early California and the Chumash people. There is a children’s book about the founder, Father Junipero Serra that is a great read: Junipero Serra: Founder of the California Missions.
Hop on over to Pismo Beach for the view and chowder at Splash Cafe. And no visit to California is complete without spending a few days in Yosemite National Park, if it’s the right time of year. Bridalveil Falls, Half Dome, and El Capitan are unforgettable sights! Or for a small dose of mountain beauty if you are in the south, head to Big Bear Mountain with a sled. I prefered the less touristy Sonoma to Napa Valley. I loved the little mission there, but it is not on my kid fun list. The nearby Petrified Forest does make my list, though.
Hearst Castle is quite a sight, even if you are just driving by. The crazy
little Danish themed town of Solvang is an afternoon’s attraction, with its shops and restaurants. Try an aebleskiver, a sort of fried pastry, for dessert and browse the cute, little, free Hans Christian Andersen Museum. Have dinner at the whimsical Pea Soup Andersens, where the specialty is – guess what? Delicious, hearty pea soup!
If you want to keep heading south on Route 1, the drive being an attraction worth seeing all on its own, maybe to the beautiful Big Sur, stop along the way at the Elephant Seal Rookery. Stay safely on the observation levels and watch as these huge animals fight over territory, give birth, nurse young, and lounge lazily on the coast. It reminded me of Rudyard Kipling’s story of The White Seal in Just So Stories. You can also visit Ostrich Land nearby. Try to time it so you hike the short trail of
McWay Falls just before sunset. It is one of the loveliest things you will ever experience. The view of the Pacific, the smell of salt air, pine, and lavender and the cool air are an intoxicating combination.
Monterey Bay is famous for its amazing aquarium. We had a fun time renting a surrey and pedaling along the waterfront, seeing historic Cannery Row and the wharf. We ran out of time before we could visit the Almaden Quicksilver Mine or the Intel Museum in Santa Clara. I could not get my husband to make the side trip to Sacramento to visit gold rush country, but it is on my list for next time.
I have to say, I was unimpressed with Los Angeles and Hollywood. After seeing the Chinese Theater and the big sign, very far away, through a telescope, I was ready to be done. Although Rodeo Drive was kind of a fun experience, pretending to be big shots. Maybe my readers can suggest some sights that I missed?
I have spent plenty of time in South California, but mostly without kids. I think my kids would enjoy Old Town San Diego and Birch Aquarium. In the north I would like for them to see the giant Redwood Forest someday, though the ride to Big Sur provides a view of a number of these huge sequoias. Obviously the time of year that you go effects what you will want to see. Does anybody have more hidden gems to add to a road trip through California?
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