California Road Trip
There’s nowhere quite like California for an epic road trip. With its constantly changing landscapes, you feel like you’re somewhere completely new in just an hour or two. For this trip, we’re starting off in the vibrant, beachy San Diego before finishing in the rustic forests surrounding Big Bear Lake. Join me as I explore small towns, unique landmarks, and incredible businesses to see what makes California a Place to Love.
PLACES AND STORIES TO LOVE
Hotel del Coronado
What better way to kick off a visit to Southern California than staying at the beautiful Hotel del Coronado in San Diego? This grand hotel is one of the few remaining examples of wooden Victorian resort architecture and has been a mainstay along the city’s beachfront since 1888. Back when it opened, it was considered the single largest resort hotel in the world. Through its nearly 140 years of history, it’s seen its fair share of presidents, royals, and movie stars. However, its biggest claim to fame came in 1958 when it was the setting to Some Like It Hot starring none other than Marilyn Monroe.
Not only was it considered the largest resort hotel in the world upon its opening, it was also believed to be one of the largest buildings in the U.S. to have electricity. It was so “electrified,” it was able to supply the whole city of Coronado with electricity as well.
Hotel del Coronado
1500 Orange Ave
Coronado, CA 92118
If there’s one neighborhood you don’t want to miss in San Diego, it’s the lively and colorful Barrio Logan. Las mujeres run this Mexican-American neighborhood, which has become known for its beautiful street art, cultural heritage, and local businesses. I had a chance to visit two of the many women-owned businesses here when I met with Claudia Biezunski-Rodriguez and Alexandra Perez Demma. Claudia is a Chicana fashion designer, and she founded Sew Loka over a decade ago to create one-of-a-kind pieces from upcycled materials. Alexandra is both a trained metalsmith and jeweler, and she founded Simón Limón to help curate and showcase creations from local designers and artists.
Of course a visit to Barrio Logan wouldn’t be complete without tacos. ¡Salud Tacos! is the kind of place that usually has a line out the door as visitors clamor to sample from the menu, which puts a Chicano twist on Northern Mexican street food. Right near Chicano Park, it also feels like a mini-museum with vibrant art pieces and murals decorating the interior. You can’t go wrong with whichever taco combination you choose but be sure to get an agua fresca of the day and finish off with their churros and ice cream.
For Your Visit
Families with a variety of eaters rejoice! Salud’s menu is also varied and has quite a number of vegetarian, non-taco, drink, and kid-friendly options. They even offer up a family package.
2196 Logan Ave # A
San Diego, CA 92113
Mom’s Pie House in Julian
One of the pest parts of a road trip? Having time to visit smaller towns and being able to discover truly hidden gems. One of these places is Mom’s Pie House in Julian. This tiny mountain town is known for its love of apples and even has a Julian Apple Days Festival each year, so you know Mom’s Pie House is going to deliver one of the best apple pie experiences of your life. I met with Anita Nichols who founded the shop back in 1984 to make pies from scratch using the freshest ingredients possible. Over the last 40+ years, this place has become a favorite of both locals and visitors, and Anita can make up to 600 pies a day.
La Casa del Zorro in Borrego Springs
To finish our first day on the road, I checked into La Casa del Zorro in the beautiful Borrego Springs. This town lies right in the middle of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and is part of the International Dark Sky Community, which means it actively works to protect its night sky from light pollution. La Casa del Zorro will truly feel like an oasis as you rest up in your individual casita and enjoy some stargazing surrounded by a desert landscape.
*image via La Casa del Zorro website
The Sky Art Sculptures of Borrego Springs
As you leave Borrego Springs, you’re going to feel like you’re hallucinating when you start to see the massive, fantastical metal structures popping up in the desert! Don’t worry, you’re not crazy – these are the Sky Art Sculptures of Borrego Springs. Over 1,500+ acres, there are something like 130 of these metal creatures created by artist Ricardo Breceda. The most epic has to be the 350ft serpent that looks like it’s weaving in and out of the sand. I joined former Borrego Springs mayor, James “Okie” McNatt to learn more about the sculptures and the man who commissioned them, the late Dennis Avery.
SideCar Tours in Temecula
After leaving Borrego Springs, my next stop was the beautiful town of Temecula – specifically the famous Temecula Valley Wine Country. This region is the most similar to Tuscany in Italy and is home to over 50 wineries. Of course the best (and most responsible) way to explore some of them is via a sidecar!
For Your Visit
SideCars also offers a number of other tours and even has specially designed sidecars that fit two passengers for date night.
Sidecar Tours Temecula
39730 Calle Contento
Temecula, CA 92591
Carter Estate Winery & Resort
My SideCar tour started from where I was staying at the expansive Carter Estate Winery & Resort. Inspired by the romantic movie, A Walk in the Clouds, founder Jim Carter began his winery career by creating the award-winning South Coast Winery Resort & Spa. After years of honing in on the perfect wine country experience, he then opened up Carter Estate in 2015. Situated amongst 112 acres of California Certified Sustainable Vineyards, the estate offers up only 60 romantic guest bungalows and allows you to fully enjoy Temecula whether it’s wine tasting or relaxing in their deep soaking tubs.
*image via Carter Estate Winery and Resort Facebook
Jim Carter’s winery story truly begins back when he was a kid in Ohio gathering seeds from his maple tree and planting them around his relative’s yards. Who knew a fun childhood pastime would become his career?
Carter Estate Winery and Resort
34450 Rancho California Rd
Temecula, CA 92591
Robert Renzoni Vineyards
Next on my SideCar tour, I stopped off at Robert Renzoni Vineyard where I met with Olivia Blue, one of the few female winemakers not only in Temecula but in all of southern California. What makes their offerings unique is that they offer up blended wines. Taking advantage of their setting, which includes a number of different microclimates, soil types, and elevations, Olivia is able to expertly experiment and mix wines to create completely unique offerings.
Fazeli Cellars Winery
On our last stop, we visited the lively Fazeli Cellars Winery! This is a place that blends the ancient traditions of Persia with contemporary culture of southern California. Sample the wine here while dining on mouth watering Persian fusion cuisine and taking in the beautiful Modern Moorish architecture.
Old Town Spice & Tea Merchants in Temecula
You know you’re on a trip with me if we’re stopping in at least one tea-related place on our journey. This road trip was no different as I made sure to visit Old Town Spice & Tea Merchants before leaving Temecula. As you might guess from the name, this shop is located in Old Town Temecula, which feels like stepping back into the Old West of the 1880s. With over 350 spices and blends as well as 100 loose-leaf teas, Old Town Spice & Tea Merchants is the perfect spot for a little “teatox” after all the wine tasting.
*image via Old Town Spice & Tea Merchants website
123 Farm in Cherry Valley
On the way to my next destination, I just had to make sure I stopped off at 123 Farm in the beautiful Cherry Valley. Named for the 3 seasons of the region, they’re the largest certified organic lavender farm in southern California. With over 400 varieties of lavender, there really is no better place to get your fix for these beautiful purple flowers. While there I chatted with farmer, Tina Kummerle, to learn about successfully cultivating so much lavender and how not all lavender can be used interchangeably.
For my last stop of the trip, I’m at Big Bear Lake and staying in a boutique mountain retreat known as Noon Lodge. It’s just a little over a mile from Big Bear Lake village and combines historic charm with modern design. It features a variety of cabins with cozy, warm interiors and has plenty of communal space to meet other visitors and enjoy the area no matter the season.
*image via Noon Lodge website
Take a break from your car and explore San Bernardino National Forest with the family-owned Betty’s Buggies. These 60/70s style, eco-friendly dune buggies are an absolute blast and all guides know this palace like the back of their hands. My guide was Natalie Gaines who taught me more about the forest and Big Bear Lake while also taking me to some of the best view points out there.
Motorboating on Big Bear Lake
You can’t go to Big Bear Lake and not get out on the lake, so I headed over to Holloway’s Marina to join Lindsay Holloway on her motorboat. The marina got its start with her ancestor, Charles Holloway, when he hauled his boat up here from Corona to do some fishing. Even before he got into the water, someone came up to him wanting to rent his boat, and from there the business began.
When You Visit
One of the best parts of Big Bear Lake? It avoids the June Gloom that gets to most of southern California, so you can enjoy the water with plenty of sunshine.
Holloway’s Marina & RV Park
398 Edgemoor Rd
Big Bear Lake, CA 92315
The Pines Tavern on the Lake
To finish off our boat ride and my California road trip, we stopped off for food at The Pines Tavern. Boasting the best views of the lake, it offers authentic, traditional Santa Maria barbecue and plenty of live music.
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Santa Maria BBQ comes from the vaqueros who helped herd livestock. Because ranch owners kept the best cuts of meat for themselves, vaqueros got creative. They found one cut of meat and figured out that with proper aging, they could create just as good a cut as any other, and thus the Santa Maria BBQ was born.
The Pines Tavern
330 Alden Rd
Big Bear Lake, CA 92315