a nice person on instagram reminded me that i never posted about our trip to california...whoops! so here's the recap, better late than never, right?!
we started this whole thing with the thought that we wanted to take our boys to disneyland. i had heard that it's more manageable for littler kids which turned out to be totally true. i wouldn't recommend younger than five years old but they were really just five and one month. they had no idea what to expect and weren't immediately into it but by the afternoon of the first day, it started clicking for them. we flew into long beach which was such a great decision - it's about 20-30 minutes from downtown disney and is small so no crowds or chaos of lax. the baggage claim was outside!! unheard of for these east coasters.
disney was fun and to see the boys' excitement was worth it. we're not disney fanatics at all but i'm glad we took them. a few tips on disneyland -
1. rent a stroller even if you think your kids are past stroller age. it saved us. it also served as another way to bring snacks, extra clothes, etc because you don't want to be walking around with a bag on your shoulder if you can help it. lesson learned the hard way.
2. if it's in the budget, hire a private guide. this was HUGE. a friend of mine who went to disney world gave me this tip and i'm so glad we listened. it's pricey. really pricey. and if you go with an official disney guide it's mind-blowingly expensive. i found a company called stone vips that isn't connected to disney but this is what they do. our guide spent 6-7 hours with us the first day at the disney park and 5-6 the second day at california adventure. by the third day we felt confident to take it on by ourselves! but back to the guide - they help you get fast passes (disney's system for cutting the line), tell you what rides to go on when and basically navigate everything for you. it took all of the stress and thinking out of it and we were just able to enjoy the time with our family. obviously we could have done disney without the guide but we wouldn't have enjoyed ourselves nearly as much.
3. stay at the californian grand hotel - for the simple fact that it's the closest to the park and has its own entrance to the california adventure park (where the whole cars area is and more). we ended up doing one day at disney and two at california adventure which was not the original plan but the boys loved the other park!
4. use a disney-specific travel agent to plan your entire stay. we used moments of magic travel agency and they made all of our hotel and dinner reservations. the woman we worked with gave us restaurant options and we chose what sounded best to us based on food and budget (nothing at disney is cheap!). it was great knowing all of that was taken care of. she also planned a full itinerary for each day down to what ride to do at what time which was probably overkill but better to be prepared i guess. that went out the window with the guide anyway. the stone vip company (above in #2) will also plan your trip but i didn't find out about them until after we had planned the trip with the first travel agency.
all in all, it was a success! and we only spent have our life's savings. 😉
since our boys are still in preschool, we decided to make the most of it and head up the coast to carmel where we have extended family. but since that's a pretty long drive, we broke it up by staying in santa barbara for a night. when we drove in we stopped at san ysidro ranch which was gorgeous. i wouldn't say it was the most kid-friendly place but the grounds and gardens were stunning.
we also walked around montecito (where san ysidro is) - such a cute town and amazing shopping!! santa barbara is such a pretty place too - think beach surrounded by mountains. we stayed in town at the canary hotel but part of me wishes we stayed closer to the beach. it wasn't warm enough to actually go to the beach though so i guess it didn't matter in the end. we were there for a really short time and didn't get to see much unfortunately.
then we headed up 101 to carmel. sadly route 1, the pacific coast highway (pch), was closed from bad storms that came through before we were there. still a gorgeous drive though! it's pretty awesome seeing a different part of the country. first we went to the mountains where extended family has a home. it was SO cool and so different from anything around here in new england. the house is 8 miles after you get to the main gates and you're literally driving up and down mountains. we saw so much wildlife too including a bobcat!
the main house was open and modern and lovely and the cabins, where stayed, were like mini apartments. kicking myself because i didn't get any pics from inside a cabin. the property is 22,000 acres and there are something like 200 homes. there are three horse barns, tennis, a pool, playground and basically every lawn game you can think of plus a top 10 golf course which mr. r got to play!
we took the boys to the aquarium in monterey which is a must see. we have a decent aquarium in boston but honestly my guys liked this one so much better. around the aquarium is known as cannery row and is basically tourist trap but has tons of restaurants and places to get sweets. we actually had lunch and went back to the aquarium for more after we ate!
unfortunately one of our sons has asthma and he started getting a little sick while we were there so for the last night we moved to the house at the beach in carmel by the sea (because they have two homes!!). this house was incredible and had amazing ocean and sunset views.
we also got to eat at pebble and take in the 17th hole during lunch! a lot of my pictures came from 17 mile drive and also driving down the pch a little ways on the part that wasn't closed. we had to see the sights and say we did it - albeit in a yukon and not a sports car. 😂
after four amazing nights in carmel we headed to san francisco up route 1. gorgeous again! i took this pic of the surfer somewhere near a town called pacifica which was so cute. we stopped in half moon bay and had lunch overlooking the water. not too shabby.
when we got to san fran we headed straight for the serena & lily design shop where i have to say the women who work there were just so nice. we also stopped at caitlin wilson's store and you may have seen on my instagram stories a pic of mr. r fixing one of their drawers. it was pretty hilarious! the boys favorite part of course was on the crazy hills. they pretended it was a roller coaster ride which was pretty cute!
we got our must-have shots of the golden gate bridge and san fran harbor. we just stayed at the airport that night and flew home the next morning.
in total it was 11 days which was long, but fun! and i have to say that the boys were amazing. so well behaved - we ate out for so many meals and they were troopers. they made their mommy and daddy proud - and even a couple of strangers who complimented them. 💗 a huge huge huge thank you to my parents who gave us the disney part of the trip for christmas and did the whole trip along with us. it was an amazing gift. also thank you to our extended family for putting us up in carmel and showing us an absolutely wonderful time. charlie and finn said they'd like to "stay there for 1,000 days and live there" - and so would we!
just in case you're looking for that perfect outfit for a sunny destination like california, i happen to have one for you!
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