California - Intro

The thoughts of a California vacation started at the very beginning of last year! We started throwing around that a 2015 vacation trip to Northern California and visiting the Sonoma / Napa area would be awesome. Then one of Patrick's college friends and his girlfriend announced their engagement and before we knew it we had plans to attend a wedding San Diego! If you're familiar with California geography then you'll know San Diego is not anywhere near Northern California. Finally we decided we were up for tackling a west coast road trip down the Pacific Coast Highway / Route One so we could visit both Northern & Southern California - who knows when we'll be back!

And that's how our California road trip came about. We had a jam packed ten days of California adventure. We flew into San Francisco - spent nights in San Francisco, Monterey, Santa Barbara, and Del Mar - spent time along the way in Big Sur, San Simeon, and Los Angeles - hit lots of attractions - and capped the trip off with a beautiful wedding celebration! Each post this week (starting today) will feature one of the cities where we had overnights and what our itinerary was. Each city felt like planning a mini vacation in the road trip since they all have different vibes and identities. Nearly each stop had a zoo or aquarium and we didn't want repeats so we planned those accordingly. The mini vacations were essentially planning what to do in a major California tourist city for 36 hours! I think we hit all the highlights and had a wonderful trip! In each post we'll be sharing our itinerary at each city, what we did and where we ate, and also some of what we'd do different.

With limitless options on what to see and do we did what any millennial couple would do and took to facebook to ask our friends for California recommendations! We really based a lot of the trip on this information. Here's some of the highlights from the thread (if it's in bold then we actually did it!):

"Hi friends! Patrick and I are planning a west coast trip this fall and are interested to know what are some of your favorite California pit stops! It will be both of our first times out there. The plan will be to start in San Francisco, travel down the Pacific Coast Highway, and end up in San Diego."
--Getty villa in Malibu and ollies duck and dive restaurant in Malibu. Also, you've got to do the Muir Woods redwoods north of San Francisco. We also did a studio tour of Warner Bros in Burbank (LA) that was touristy but super fun! Six flags north of LA is killer too!
--Definitely enjoy the Pacific Coast Highway. It's a beautiful drive. I also agree with Muir Woods and Sausalito in the San Fran area. We loved the Hearst Castle which is on the drive from north to south but I forget the name of the town. By the way, we've been to San Francisco twice and it's always colder than we think it will be. We were there in July and had to buy jackets. Enjoy.
--before going south, detour an hour north to wine country (Sonoma / Napa) and Redwoods.
+1 for Hearst Castle. Santa Barbara.
--I just moved from LA a year ago! Along PCH I love Carmel-by-the-Sea (up North), San Luis Obispo, and Cambria is a favorite too. Solvang and Hearst Castle are also fun pit stops or half day trips along the way. In the greater LA area my top picks are the Getty Villa (the villa is better than the museum), the Griffith Observatory, and of course you can't miss the Chinese Theatre, walk of fame, etc. As far as studio tours I recommend Paramount over Warner Brothers if you're only going to do one. I find the tour guides a little better in form and Paramount has a wider film history in terms of good stories on one tour.
--Highly recommend a visit to Alcatraz! The audio tour was fantastic and you can't get better views of SF. Reserve tickets ahead of time though. Definitely see some redwoods if you can! We went to Armstrong which was closer to where we were staying than Muir and less crowded.
--Ride the incredible coastal highway from Big Sur all the way to the Redwoods and take in their beauty at Big Basin National Park. Then, you can head up to San Fran and cross over to Yosemite! You can easily do all this in two days and see so much of what Cali has to offer!
After all this fabulous info and googling we put together this "research" map with all the points of interest. It was at this point we realized we'd need more than a ten day vacation!

From there we started narrowing things down and deciding what was feasible and what we were most interested in. The following posts will contain all of that information!

Wedding fun!

Here comes San Francisco!