The second blog post in our three-part honeymoon series, and the second of three locations we visited, is Sydney, Australia!
To read Honeymoon Series Part I: Queenstown, New Zealand, click HERE.
Sydney, Australia was a “stop over” location for us, as we wanted a few days to chill before heading up to location #3 on the coast of North Eastern Australia (more on this in Part III!). Sydney is Australia’s largest city, and when you’re here, you can totally feel it. Sydney reminded me so much of Los Angeles - so many people, including many tourists from all over the world *raises hand*, chill beach vibes in certain areas, a lot of great restaurants and bars, and some pretty beautiful architecture to marvel at. Because we were here for just a few days, and were already pretty tired from exploring Queenstown, we honestly didn’t do much here other than walk, chill, and eat. And, that was really nice/needed for us at the time.
If you find that this blog post doesn’t really give you the whole view of what to do in Sydney (because it honestly barely scratches the surface), you can visit Sydney’s official tourism website here.
Travel Tip: You will need a tourist visa to visit Australia if you are a U.S. passenger. The visa we were approved for let us visit Australia, with in-and-out privileges, for 1 year total. Click here for more information and to apply.
Whenever we’re booking accommodations in a new place we’re visiting, we always set priority number 1 as location. We love staying someplace accessible where we can easily walk around to eat/explore. Then, number 2 is usually comfort, based on other traveler’s reviews. Both number 1 and number 2 priorities were definitely checked off by staying at the Shangri-La Hotel in The Rocks. The Shangri-La is a 5-star hotel and you can truly feel the luxury in every detail here (cozy robes and slippers, jet bathtub, champagne upon checking in to our room, spectacular views, nightly turn down service, you catch my drift…). When I was researching where to stay in downtown Sydney, I kept seeing The Rocks over and over again. After having stayed here, I now understand why. The Rocks is an awesome area to stay in because you can walk to many bars and restaurants within 5 minutes, it’s a beautiful and historical neighborhood of Sydney (cobblestone streets? Yes, please), and it’s only a 10-15 minute walk from the Sydney Harbor, Harbor Bridge, and Opera House. In the event we come back to Sydney, I definitely wouldn’t mind staying here again.
If you put the words “iconic” and “Sydney” together, what do you get? The Sydney Opera House! This is perhaps the most well-known piece of architecture in all of Sydney, and it’s even prettier in person than it is in the pictures. With over 40 show offerings per week, seeing a show here is on most Sydney visitor’s bucket list. We hoped to see a show while we were in town, but since we were here over the holidays, the options for us were limited. Next time! Even if you don’t get the chance to see a show, you’ll definitely want to walk down here around sunset or really any time of the day. It’s definitely very touristy and gets pretty busy during the afternoon time, but in the morning hours, it’s a little less hectic. It’s likely that anytime you visit you’ll be sharing the views with at least a few others, as the Sydney Opera House gets nearly 11 million visitors per year. Find out more about the Opera House here.
We happened to be in Sydney for Boxing Day, December 26, which we learned was one of Australia’s most popular sailing days of the year. When walking around the Sydney Harbor on Christmas day, we popped into a booking desk with Australian Cruise Group and asked for cruise options/rates for the following day. The man working at the desk became excited for us and told us we had to go on their Boxing Day lunch cruise to see the sailboats take off on the Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. Apparently, this is a big deal for Australians, as hundreds of boats depart on a days-long race from Sydney to Tasmania. We said sure, because we’re always up for an adventure, and I’m so glad we did! On our 3-hour cruise around Sydney harbor, we got to see so many Sydney views and sights we would not have seen otherwise. We also got to see hundreds of sailboats leave the Sydney harbor, which was pretty amazing. We enjoyed a delicious lunch, unlimited wine and champagne and beer, and even made some Aussie friends at our table that we’re now connected with through social media. This absolutely was my most favorite memory of Sydney!
Bondi Beach is the quintessential Australian beach. The sparkling white sand, crystal blue waters, surfers galore in the water, and relaxed loungers on the beach, make this one of the most well known beaches in Aus and definitely the most popular to visit in Sydney. Bondi also is home to many great restaurants, cafes, bars, and shopping. We dined at the uber-hip Icebergs Beach Club, and the picture above is the view from their bar deck. So gorgeous! Unfortunately, I was a bit under the weather when we dined at Icebergs so I didn’t eat much - but Diego loved his dinner! I would absolutely want to come back here if we were to visit Sydney again in the future.
Overall, Sydney was a beautiful, vibrant, big city, that to me, felt very much like Los Angeles. I truthfully likely wouldn’t go out of my way to visit again, but if I did make my way back here one day, I know it would still be a fun and memorable time. I’m learning that when I am on vacation, I prefer to visit a smaller town over a big city. So…the next place we went in Australia was my favorite location of the trip!
Click HERE to read our Honeymoon Series Part III: Hamilton Island & the Great Barrier Reef!
When my husband Diego and I were planning our honeymoon, we knew we wanted to go someplace beautiful + adventurous. We aren’t exactly “lay on the beach for a week” type of people (ain't nothing wrong with that, it's just not our cup of tea), so we began researching locations where we could take an extended trip to, and in which could keep us entertained for the two weeks away we were craving. We decided upon New Zealand and Australia because of their beauty, endless opportunities for adventure, and direct flights from Los Angeles. Win, win, win!
The first blog post in our three-part honeymoon series, and the first of three locations we visited, is Queenstown, New Zealand!
Queenstown, New Zealand is a small, lively town in the South Island of New Zealand. It’s known as the “adventure” capital of New Zealand (think bungee jumping, sky diving, etc.), and in my opinion, should also be known as the “pure, complete, 100% gorgeousness” capitol, too! To get here, you will need to fly from the U.S. (or wherever you're coming from) into an international airport in the country and then take a smaller, domestic connecting flight into the Queenstown airport. IMPORTANT NOTE: New Zealand now requires a visa for all U.S. passport holders! When I booked our flights back in summer 2019, New Zealand had NO visa requirements, so I put it out of my mind and just successfully secured our Australian visitor visa. When we got to LAX to pass through security for our American Airlines flight, we were denied, as our passports did not show as being approved to visit New Zealand. Beginning only October 1, 2019, New Zealand implemented new visa requirements for U.S. passengers, although American Airlines never notified us (boo). Long story, short - we had to sit on the airport floor, passport/credit card in hand, and frantically apply for our visitor visa on our phones. Each minute that passed while waiting for email approval moved slower than molasses. After about 10-15 minutes of refreshing our emails like maniacs (cue the sweaty palms and majorly increased heart rate), we got approved and were successfully able to head into security! Major PHEW!
TRAVELER TIP #1: Always check Visa requirements for the country you are visiting, when you initially book the flight and then again both 1 week and then 1 day before departure. Lesson definitely learned for us.
We flew from LAX to Auckland (13 hours) on American Airlines, and since it was a red-eye we mostly slept the whole time. I’d highly recommend you get yourself a good pillow for an international red-eye flight. I wouldn’t be able to sleep on a plane if it wasn’t for the pillow I swear by - the Trtl Travel Pillow.
After flying 13 hours from LAX to Auckland, we had a few hour layover, which we enjoyed because we were able to eat a proper meal and stretch our legs a bit. We then boarded our 2-hour Air New Zealand flight to our final destination: Queenstown. We were up in the air, nearly to Queenstown, when our pilot came on the speaker and let us know that our plane had a mechanical issue and had to be diverted back to Auckland, where it would be able to land safely. We were a bit disappointed because we were just so ready to be off a plane and enjoying our honeymoon, but we both agreed it’s always better to be safe than sorry, and we trusted our pilot.
Upon landing (hi again, Auckland), we were rebooked on another flight to Queenstown just 30-minutes after landing. We were glad we would still be able to get to Queenstown that day, so we weren’t sweating it much. But, when our second plane tried to land on the tarmac in Queenstown, it floated right above it not being able to touch the ground due to very heavy winds. The plane immediately jerked up, flying right back into the sky. The pilot immediately came on the speaker, saying she was not able to land due to poor weather. This plane then flew us back to Auckland (AGAIN. Yup, another multiple hour round trip). By this time, we had been flying for 24+ hours, on less-than-descent sleep and not much real food. We were nothing short of completely exhausted. Air New Zealand rebooked us for a flight the next morning but would not provide accommodations (say what?!), so we got out our phones and found an airport hotel nearby. We had a good night sleep and tried to remain in positive spirits (while I sniffled through my tears). I definitely had to keep reminding myself that travel in itself is such a darn privilege and that we would make it to Queenstown eventually! The next morning, we boarded our third flight from Auckland to Queenstown, and this time around, our plane safely made it! #ThirdTimesACharm. I can’t even explain the level of excitement and sheer gratitude I felt when we got off the plane in Queenstown. WE MADE IT, y’all! Honeymoon, here we come!!
TRAVEL TIP #2: Always, always get travel insurance! We lost a night of our lovely hotel in Queenstown (the night we missed due to flight issues galore), because I did not book us travel insurance. Womp, womp.
Queenstown sits on beautiful Lake Wakatipu against the picturesque Southern Alps. There’s truly something for everyone here - all ages, abilities, and interests - and is a place I am positive anyone will fall absolutely in love with!
The small city of Queenstown itself is so walkable (if you stay downtown in the city), with so many delicious restaurants and bars to pop in and out of. Our favorite restaurants were Fergberger (the most deeelicious burgers ever), Public Kitchen (lunch and dinner), Chur Fish & Chips (amazing local, hole-in-the-wall spot), and Joe’s Garage (coffee and breakfast). Some of my favorite moments in Queenstown were walking around Lake Wakatipu after a big, delicious meal. The lake itself is so beautiful no matter the time of the day, and you can walk in any direction of the lake and be amazed.
There’s also lots of easily accessible shopping, massage studios, coffee shops, movie theater, and more. Keep in mind that you can also easily pop into any of the “tour” shops as well, to inquire about local tours or book something you’re interested in. The things to do in Queenstown, or in the surrounding areas, are pretty endless! Whether you’re an adventure junkie, lover of sitting back and seeing the sights, wine and food connoisseur, or more in the mood to relax - Queenstown’s got chu, boo.
We stayed at the super lovely Kamana Lakehouse for the first part of our trip in Queenstown, an adorably curated hotel with the most beautiful backdrop, just a short cab ride from the city center. This was a complete luxury accommodation, and I could not recommend it more. Their restaurant Nest is delicious and the views are just all around unbeatable. The second part of the week we stayed in Garden Court Suites & Apartments, because we were doing more adventures these days and literally only needed someplace to sleep. Also, Garden Court had laundry facilities which were very much appreciated, considering we both only packed a carry-on suitcase each for 16 days! *snaps*
If you know me, you know I always really love a good view, so we decided to do the (warning: touristy) Skyline Gondola. The gondola ride itself was only about 5 minutes, and the Queenstown + Southern Alps views from the top did not disappoint!
Hands down my favorite activity we did in Queenstown was renting a car from Apex downtown and driving to both Glenorcy and then in the opposite direction out to Lake Wanaka. We did this entire trip in one day, which was a lot of driving (Diego rocked it on the opposite side of the road!), but the endless amazing views made the journey 100% worth it! We didn’t really need a car for our entire time in Queenstown, but having it for one day, so that we could explore and venture out on our own, was perfect. On our drive, we pulled over basically any time we saw something super beautiful and wanted to explore it a bit more. That’s the beauty of having your own car - you are on your own schedule and can do as you please! It cost us about $100 US to rent the car for the day, including full-coverage insurance and topping off the gas at the end of the trek.
On our drive from Queenstown to Glenorchy (45 minute drive), we stopped for about a 2-3 mile round trip hike to Bob’s Cove. The vibrant, blue water color from both the pier mid-way and the top of the peak at the end of the trek was just RIDICULOUS - and so were the killer views. Overall, I would rank this hike as generally pretty easy. It’s a little steep at the end, so make sure you have good walking shoes on and comfortable, breathable clothing. This link is a good resource for more information regarding the hike.
I really don’t know what else to say other than LOOK AT THESE SNUGGLE BUGS! Both Diego and I love animals and knew we wanted to do something animal-related in Queenstown. We initially wanted to see sheep shearing but then stumbled upon the Glenorchy Animal Experience and opted for this, since we could be up close and personal with a variety of furry friends. Glenorchy Animal Experience is a family-owned farm in Glenorchy, NZ, surrounded by beautiful scenery and the snow-capped Southern Alps. They have lambs, sheep, llamas, cows, and more. You can pet any of the animals and buy little pellets to feed them while you’re out and about exploring the farm. We quickly realized that the animals that liked to be fed the most were the sheep and they REALLY liked to be fed, lol. As soon as they saw us carrying the little white bag, they came strolling on toward us and wouldn’t leave us alone until we were out of treats and our hands no longer smelled like food pellets. For the most part, all of the animals we interacted with were super friendly and sweet, and it was just the sheep that were a little pushy. To be fair, I get the same way when I am hungry, so no hard feelings. Enjoying the Glenorchy Animal Experience will cost you $20 NZ per person.
Wine lovers, rejoice! Just outside of Queenstown, the Central Otago wine region is waiting for you. The Central Otago wine region makes some of the most delicious wines in the world, so we knew we needed to carve out an afternoon for wine tasting. We opted for the Queenstown Wine Trail, as this 4-hour tour picked us up directly from our hotel in a small van, drove us to three different wineries, and then got us home safe and sound. We had a fantastic tour guide and shared the van with 3 other couples - another honeymooning couple from the U.S. and two couples from the U.K. Our favorite winery of the day was Gibbston Valley Winery, and we even shipped some bottles home for us to enjoy as we came down from the honeymoon highs + jet lag recovery. That was most definitely a great decision!
Oh my goodness, dear Queenstown: we could not have loved you more! From your endless adventure to your endless beauty, you filled our spirits and reminded us how big and amazing our world truly is. Your people are so kind and your air so fresh. We can't wait to return one day!
For my Honeymoon Series Part II: Sydney, Australia, CLICK HERE!
One of my favorite things about living in Los Angeles, California is how many roadtrip opportunities are out there for us Angelenos! A spot on my bucket list that I had always wanted to visit was none other than the infamous Big Sur. A spot beloved by both California locals and tourists from afar, you just can’t beat the views on one of the world’s most special stretches of coastline (all 90 miles of it!). Where the lush green, flowered-covered cliffs meet the sea, Big Sur is a magical location that all Angelenos and non-Angelenos need to add to their travel bucket lists.
My friends and I made the trek up to Big Sur in May 2019 for a good friend’s 30th birthday camping party - how fun is that? Via one of the most famous drives on the West Coast, Highway 1, Big Sur is roughly only a 6-hour drive from LA. There are plenty of spots along the way to make the drive seem a little shorter, and a lot more fun. And trust me, plenty (!) of snacks and a great playlist makes every road trip that much more enjoyable. Below I’ll share tips on things we did and where we stayed, to hopefully help you (and your pals!) plan the most spectacular weekend #GetawayfromLA here.
When planning any road trip or #getawayfromLA trip, my first step is to secure accommodations, especially in a place as popular and well-visited as Big Sur. My friend found this beautiful campsite online, and I am so glad that she did! Riverside Campground & Cabins are in the heart of Big Sur, has the Big Sur River running through it (it would be perfect for summer when the water is warmer), and is so serene and peaceful. Riverside has a mix of campsites for tent campers and small cabins for glampers, and the community shares showers and bathrooms (all were clean and never crowded, in my opinion). My fiance and I opted for the least expensive cabin option, and it was basically just a bed and 4 walls, but that’s all we really needed! Just a cozy place to rest our heads at the end of the day (and one that required very little set-up and break-down). We stayed in cabin #9 which had a comfortable queen bed, electricity, heat/AC, and an outdoor table area. I would absolutely love to come back here, and would rate it 5/5 stars!
Riverside Campground & Cabins are located here: 47020 Highway 1, Big Sur, CA 93920. They have 34 campsites and 12 cabins available.
For more information on their accommodations, visit their website here: https://www.riversidecampground.com/
The view point for the McWay Waterfall is a gorgeous stop along Highway 1 and also one that’s super easy to get to. Typically, visitors are directed to the paid-parking lot directly across the street ($10), but when we visited the park was closed, so we parked along the street for free. This probably isn’t recommended for all visitors since cars come up and down Highway 1 super fast, but you can decide how comfortable you feel to cross the street (or if you get lucky, there are a few, free designated parking spots right at the top of the viewpoint for the waterfall, which is ideal and much safer!). This is a great spot to take a few pictures and enjoy the golden coastline views.
This address into Google Maps: McWay Waterfall Parking, Big Sur, CA 93920 OR 52801 California State Route 1, Big Sur, CA 93920.
Chances are you’ve seen pictures of one of the US’s most iconic bridges before - the beautiful Bixby Bridge! The bridge first opened on November 27, 1932 and today remains one of the tallest single-span bridges in the world. To snag a gorgeous picture of yourself with the bridge, pull over at the viewpoint on the northern end of the bridge. A small parking lot with free parking is available, and some people were also parked directly along Highway 1. If you type “Bixby Bridge” into Google Maps, you’ll easily be able to get driving directions here! Snap away, my friends.
Overall, our trip to Big Sur was short, but oh-so-sweet. We were only here from Friday afternoon - Sunday morning, and much time was just spent chillin’ at the campsite with our friends, BBQ-ing, listening to music, and making s'mores. It was such a refreshing mini-getaway, and the drive there and back from L.A. was beautiful! I would highly recommend you plan a road trip to Big Sur sooner rather than later. Here are some more resources to get you started on planning an awesome trip here:
In early October, my fiance and I enjoyed a visit to New Orleans, a city both of us have always wanted to visit and explore. We listened to live jazz all over Frenchman St. and the oldest jazz venue in the United States Preservation Hall, indulged on delicious Southern foods & beignets (#stillfull), walked all over the Garden District and Bourbon Street/French Quarter, and drove out to the Whitney Plantation for an eye-opening and memorable experience - it’s the only museum in Louisiana (and few in the country) with a focus on slavery in the South. Read on for more details about our long weekend getaway to NOLA!
Any trip to NOLA should come with a visit to Jackson Square, a historic park and location of where the Louisiana Purchase was signed in 1803, doubling the size of the United States. Jackson Square is located in the heart of the French Quarter and along the bank of the Mississippi River, where you can sit and watch the steamboats pass on by. It’s also a short walk to the French Market, where you can browse through local art vendors, listen to live music performances, get your fortune told, grab delicious food (we loved Alberto’s sandwiches!), and walk around with your adult beverages in plastic cups.
Although this popular tourist destination is beautiful to the eye, it has a troubled past, as NOLA was once the largest slave market in the United States. In 1860 there were more than 300,000 slaves living in Louisiana, many of which were sold through this very square. While I didn’t see many recognitions or mentions of this dark and painful time in our country’s history in the touristy locations of NOLA, the Whitney Plantation is devoted entirely to learning about slavery in the South (more on this below).
Y. U. M. We were recommended to order beignets from both Cafe Du Monde and Cafe Beignet, but opted for just visiting Cafe Beignet because the Cafe Du Monde line was always too long for our patience and attention spans. The breakfast here was so-so, but the beignets were mouth-watering! Beignets are small pieces of dough, gently fried, and then drenched in powdered sugar. Click here to read more about some of the top spots for beignets in the city.
Strolling around the Lafayette Cemetery #1 in the month of October was a pretty eerie, but cool, experience. This cemetery, or “city of the dead” as some call it, was built in 1833, apparently right after a huge Yellow Fever outbreak hit the city. Since the city of New Orleans is below sea level, they can’t bury any remains underground. All tombs are buried over ground and you’ll see many cemeteries around the city as you are out and about. Today, Lafayette Cemetery #1 is one of the most popular to visit, as it’s free and open to the public. It’s also the most filmed cemetery in New Orleans (including one of my favorite movies of all time - Double Jeopardy!).
Anyone watch American Horror Story: Coven? If so, you may recognize the first home pictured above! The Buckner Mansion was built in 1856 and is located in New Orleans' glitzy Garden District. The entire neighborhood is full of mansions with lush gardens and colorful Victorian architecture. After you stop by Lafayette Cemetery #1, you can stroll through the neighborhood at your leisure or join one of the many walking tours in the city.
The most meaningful part of our NOLA trip was renting a car and driving about an hour outside of the city to the Whitney Plantation. During our 90 minute walking tour, we entered the world of a Louisiana sugar plantation in the 1800’s. While we read that many plantations you can visit today romanticize this period of time and focus on the beautiful homes in the plantations and gloss over the slave trade, the Whitney Plantation is dedicated to sharing what life was like for the enslaved...the ones who built these plantations from the ground up. We walked through the slave cabins, the plantation church, the owner’s grandiose house, and memorials that have since been built to honor the enslaved. At the end of the Civil War, there were nearly 400,000 enslaved people in Louisiana alone.
Our tour guide Ali shared examples of misconceptions about slavery in the US and broke down the history for us in a way that was incredibly powerful and eye-opening. He explained that he’s noticed on his tours that Americans know less about our country’s dark history with slavery than folks who visit from any other nation. He also talked about the parallels from slavery in the early 1800’s to unjust mass incarceration of African Americans today. Overall, he was incredible to listen to. The history and stories we absorbed on this day will stay close to us, and my reading list has significantly grown thanks to their bookstore.
One of the most heart-breaking aspects of the tour was hearing about the stories of the children who were enslaved. “The Children of Whitney” is a series of sculptures that represent 40 enslaved children as they were at the time of emancipation. The artist purposely did not give the children eyes, which represent the lack of hope these children had at the time. Each visitor to Whitney Plantation gets a lanyard with a card showing one of the statues you will see while you’re on the plantation. Mine was Carlyle Stewart who was 7 years old when set free in 1860.
For more information, I’d highly recommend visiting www.WhitneyPlantation.com.
As far as nightlife in NOLA goes, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve heard of Bourbon Street! Bourbon is lined with bars and loud clubs and is definitely a big party scene. It’s fun to walk around and people watch, but we preferred Frenchman St. over Bourbon St. because that’s where you'll find most of the (awesome) live jazz. Apparently, Frenchman St. is what Bourbon St. USED to be like, before it got super touristy and rowdy. Frenchman St. is just a short 1-2 miles from the French Quarter and is the hub of live music for the city. I’d highly recommend eating tapas and grabbing drinks at Three Muses and listening to the live music there, and then walking around to see what spots peak your interest next.
Our final night in New Orleans was spent at our hotel’s Carousel Bar before seeing a concert at Preservation Hall (which we would 100% recommend!). This bar was named by Vogue Australia as one of the top 20 bars in the world. The seats rotates as you sit and the cocktails were some of the best we enjoyed in the city. No matter where you stay in NOLA, I’d definitely recommend planning to enjoy a drink or snack at this magical bar!
Until my next Getaway from LA trip - happy adventuring, my friends! xoxo
Appropriately dubbed “a museum like no other,” Hearst Castle sits among 127 lush acres of land in the city of San Simeon, near the gorgeous, glistening coast of Central California. The history of this grandiose piece of architecture began way back in the 1860’s, when George Hearst bought more than 40,000 acres of land where the castle now resides. When George and his wife Phoebe died, their only son, William, inherited the land, and even purchased more - totalling to roughly 250,000 acres. In 1919, nearly 100 years ago, Hearst Castle began its construction. Built with over 100 hundred rooms, more than 40 bathrooms, a theatre, and plenty of extravagant spaces to host parties and social events, this is a mega mansion you have to see to believe. William Hearst died in 1951 and just a few years later, the Castle and surrounding lands became a California State Park. In 1958, the Castle was officially open for public tours.
Today, Hearst Castle has become known as one of California’s most beloved monuments, attracting over one million visitors each year. Tours are now offered here on most days, and you must purchase a tour ticket to visit the Castle. My fiance and I decided on the Grand Rooms Tour, since we read that this was recommended for first-time visitors. The Grand Rooms Tour runs $25 per person and is about 1.5 hours long. The tour covers a good portion of the first floor of the Castle, where you will walk through the main “social rooms,” making you feel as if you were a guest here in the roaring 20’s. You’ll start your tour on the beautiful and well-maintained grounds, make your way inside the Castle starting in the Assembly Room, stroll through the dining hall and billiard room, and end your tour in the stunning theatre. After the tour, you are free to explore the grounds at your leisure. As you make your way toward the exit of the grounds, you will walk by the gorgeous blue-tiled Roman Pool, which for me, was definitely a highlight of visiting the Castle.
For more information on the tour offerings at Hearst Castle, visit this link: http://hearstcastle.org/tour-hearst-castle/daily-tours/. For more information about the tour we decided on, the Grand Rooms Tour, visit this link directly: http://hearstcastle.org/tour-hearst-castle/daily-tours/grand-rooms-tour/.
We visited Hearst Castle on Memorial Day weekend, so as you can imagine, it was pretty crowded and hectic. As such, the tour felt a little rushed. This was the main downside in my opinion. The Castle itself was beautifully and impeccably designed - inside and out - and I enjoyed hearing more about the history of the property. If you’re in the Central California area and are looking for something to do, this may be the right adventure for you!
I’d highly recommend you visit their official website here for planning your own trip here: http://hearstcastle.org/
Heart Castle is located at: 750 Hearst Castle Rd, San Simeon, CA 93452
Hi everyone! Jordan here. Typically, I don’t introduce myself in the beginning of my blog posts. But for this one, I have to, since this is the first post on my blog that was not written by me! I asked my fiance Diego, a first-generation American and son of Mexican immigrants, to guest blog on my site and share the experience of our recent trip to Valle de Guadalupe from his perspective. He has spent much of his life traveling between the United States and Mexico, and I hope you enjoy reading his travel tips and thoughts about this weekend getaway. Check it out below!
"Hey everyone, Diego here! Like many families, my parents crossed the border to come in to the United States through Tijuana. Fortunately for them (and our family), they crossed in a much simpler time. As a kid, I knew Tijuana (TJ) as a combination of weekend vacations, doctor visits when the American doctors are too expensive, shopping trips for my mom's planters, and the mandatory visit to Puerto Nuevo for some fire seafood. As a late teen and college student, I became much more familiar with Rosarito (no further explanation necessary). In those years, my friends and I made the transition of being driven back and forth to Baja Cali, to now driving ourselves. The first time crossing the border may with all the negative stories (fact or fiction) you hear about people who have had bad experiences in Mexico. Don't get me wrong, we have had some "not so great" experiences with police down there, but by large, we always have fun and make it back in one piece. Every year that I go back, Baja Cali feels, and is, safer and more modern." - Diego
"This was my first visit to Ensenada and Valle de Guadalupe. I had heard of random family members that have gone over the past few years, and it has exponentially grown more popular. I hadn't driven down the toll roads along the coast in such a long time! Seeing the Papas n' Beer sign on the road made me want to take a hard right, check into the Festival Hotel, and cruise down Benito Juarez Blvd. for old times sake. Valle de Guadalupe was only 90 minutes from the border - a very quick drive. The directions are fairly simple, and the toll road is truly one of the smoothest drives in the western coast of North America. A couple miles before the exit to Ensenada, we made a left into the valley. Within 20 minutes, we were in wine country!" - Diego
"Our first stop was Cremeria Los Globos. I have to say, there are certain smells that are simply unique to Mexico. That when you smell it, you just know. One of them, perhaps the greatest, is the smell of queso blanco. You know, the one that smells like feet. The one that when any family member travels to Mexico, it's mandatory that they buy enough queso to be able to give all the tias at least one slice wrapped in foil and two slices for the matriarch of the family. That cheese then lasts 6 months in your fridge and is the perfect topping to frijoles de la hoya.
That's exactly what we smelled when we walked in, except instead of one type of cheese, there was like 30! It was artisan cheese for Mexicans. And it was delicious! On top of that, they also had olive oils, syrups, and candies. If you're looking to get your mom or any aunts a present, this is the place to go." - Diego
"Don Tomas was our first winery visit. You travel down the dirt road until you get to the large hacienda gates that let you into the vineyard. This winery, like the others, has an authentic Mexico feel to it. As you are driving down the driveway, you’ll see the fence made out of tree branches tied with barbed wire, lining the entire vineyard areas. That is a staple of the Mexican farm. The kind that no matter what, every time you have to move it or open the gate section, you get stuck with a barbed wire piece in your hand! The wine was delicious and we had the Mexican pizza, which was more like a huge double sided quesadilla. I highly recommend it!" - Diego
"La Esparanza Baja Med, like all the wineries, had a long dirt road that led you to the main buildings. There are only a handful of paved roads in the Valle, so you should expect some dirt to get kicked up. Once you have the winery in sight, you realize that this isn't some downgraded winery with just bare minimums. This winery easily competes with Temecula’s or Paso Robles’ wineries. There are vineyards as far as the eye can see over the rolling hills. The food was delicious and high quality. A lot of gourmet items. The menu was inspired between Japanese and Mexican cuisines. A perfect blend of taste and spice. It definitely set the tone for the rest of the weekend." - Diego
"Clos de Tres Cantos had to be the most impressive winery we went to. We drove up a steep, winding road (definitely not a road that would be approved for use in the USA), but our guide Manuel had no problem maneuvering. Once you get to the top, it's simply bliss. This entire place was designed to look like a monastery and they pulled it off. It is an awesome combination of modern architecture with brick and mortar buildings. There are a bunch of areas to hang out and just be relax for a bit. From the hilltop you can see most of the valley and vineyards around the area." - Diego
"Sol Y Barro was my favorite spot. The center buildings are made from using using clay, sand, straw, and water, known as cob. The owner is a Swiss American immigrant that started off as a winemaker in the Valle. It is surrounded by patio areas, vineyards, and beautiful succulents all around. We had the best white wine here of all the places we visited. Dogs all over the place chillin', friendly staff, and just a relaxing vibe all around. The architecture reminded me of my mom's hometown in Jalisco where they still have adobe houses, cobblestone streets, and greenery all over." - Diego
"Our guide, Manuel, promised us a unique experience and he certainly delivered with this place. We drove into a random neighborhood area and parked in the driveway of a house. We all got off and we were told that this is where the best bread in the entire valley is made. We walked into the front part of the home where all of their bread is baked. They have 2 ovens, a few shelfs, and a big wooden table in the center. It smelled delicious. The first thing we tried was pan dulce, conchitas to be exact. I have never tasted something so delicious in my life. I have eaten pan dulce my entire life, maybe a little too much, but this was on another level. The warm sugary crust was just slightly crunchy before it completely melted in your mouth. The bread was thin and fluffy all the way through. This was as fresh as it could possibly be. We tried samples of all the other breads, and everything was on point. I highly recommend going here." - Diego
"In preparing for this trip, I didn't quite know what to expect. I thought it would be similar to Rosarito or Puerto Nuevo, but this was definitely different. The Valle is away enough from the ocean that it doesn't feel like a party beach town. It gives you more of a sense of the countryside of Mexico. For me, it most resembled Colima, where my dad is from. You can feel the ocean nearby but it is still out of sight. The buildings and towns are humble, and uniquely charming. The drive is smooth, directions are easy, and the people are welcoming. I definitely plan to go back, and I encourage anyone else to try it out!" - Diego
Hey everyone, Jordan here again! I’d like to give major thanks to my witty, charming, and adventurous fiance Diego who shared our weekend #getawayfromLA to Valle de Guadalupe so perfectly (who else thinks he should start his own travel blog?!). I echo what Diego has shared, and would highly encourage all So Cal & L.A. residents to take the short road trip down to Valle de Guadalupe, in Baja Cali, Mexico. Happy adventuring, my friends!
I am so excited to share that last weekend I visited a California National Park that has been on my bucket list for the past few years - Death Valley! Growing up in So Cal, Death Valley always seemed like a somewhat eerie place that you wouldn’t necessarily plan to visit for leisure - probably both due to its daunting name and the fact that in the summertime, it’s known as the hottest place in North America. In fact, on July 10, 1913, a record 134 degree F was measured by a weather observation station at Furnace Creek Ranch in Death Valley. Wowza.
Luckily, my partner and I visited right at the end of winter/official beginning of spring, and the weather during this time of the year couldn’t have been more perfect. We were met with temps ranging from the low 60’s in the morning/evening, to the high 70’s during the afternoon. The weather when we visited was absolutely lovely, but I’m not quite sure I could brave this Nat’l Park in the hot summer heat.
In case you were wondering about how Death Valley got its name, like I was before visiting, here’s some info from NPS.gov: “Death Valley was given its forbidding name by a group of pioneers lost here in the winter of 1849-1850. Even though, as far as we know, only one of the group died here, they all assumed that this valley would be their grave. They were rescued by two of their young men, William Lewis Manly and John Rogers, who had learned to be scouts. As the party climbed out of the valley over the Panamint Mountains, one of the men turned, looked back, and said "goodbye, Death Valley." This name, and the story of The Lost '49ers have become part of our western history.”
In addition to the history behind its name, I was also surprised to learn that Death Valley is home to the lowest point in our continent (at 282 feet below sea level), and is the United States’ largest national park, at over 3.4 million acres/5,300 square miles. Basically, it’s H-U-G-E. Not only is it the largest, but after visiting, I’m convinced it’s one of the most unique and beautiful as well. Throughout the duration of this blog post, I’ll include information on tips for visiting, where to stay, and some of the top sights to see in the park. I hope you will consider visiting this incredible gem right in LA’s own backyard (well, roughly a 4 hour drive -- but totally worth it!).
How much does it cost to visit Death Valley?
The entrance fee for Death Valley is $25 for 7 days, and you can pay for the fee at any visitor center in the park. The main service center in the park is centrally located in Furnace Creek, with the official visitor center (open daily, 8 am to 5 pm), as well as campgrounds, restaurants, a convenience store, and a gas station.
Where should you stay?
My partner and I had planned to spend 2 days total in the park, which was just the right amount of time for us. When researching where to stay in the park, I was kind of stumped. The hotels were all out of our budget (some were up to $400/night), and I’m not a fan of tent camping (full disclosure: after staying in an RV during our trip to Yellowstone, I now can’t camp any other way…#noshame #glampingonly). After spending time online looking at all potential lodging options, I came across Pahrump, NV, a small town about an hour outside of the park, where other Death Valley tourists & vacationers frequently stay and easily drive into the park each day. We ended up booking an AirBnb here for just under $100/night, and it was so worth it! Our AirBnB was one of our favorites that we have stayed in so far - from the overall comfortability and having more space than a traditional hotel room, to the overall ease and convenience of its location, to the desert-inspired decor (the gas fireplace was my favorite part of the casita). I’ve included the link to where we stayed below, as well as other lodging options for you to browse to make your own decision on where to stay that best fits your needs.
-Our AirBnb in Pahrump - about an hour or so drive into Death Valley each day that you visit (would highly recommend! Pictures included below) https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/13079307
-Death Valley hotels: https://www.nps.gov/deva/planyourvisit/lodging.htm
-Death Valley camping: https://www.nps.gov/deva/planyourvisit/camping.htm
The Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes are one of the most visited locations in Death Valley Nat’l Park, and one of the spots that I was most excited to visit. Located roughly 30 minutes outside of Furnace Creek, this is the largest area of sand dunes in the park. There is a large, easily accessible parking lot directly next to the dunes, and a short walk out onto the sand will allow you to explore this area at your leisure. While you could easily spend hours here exploring, I’d highly recommend checking the weather before visiting and avoid coming here if wind is at all in the forecast. We happened to visit on a VERY windy day, and let’s just say I needed to watch my face multiple times to get all of the sand and grime off of my face and body afterward (ick). Even with the uncomfortable winds, the dunes were still awesome to explore and photograph. We were here for about an hour or so in the late afternoon, took a break for a drink nearby at the Stovepipe Wells Saloon (pro tip: try the buffalo bourbon), and then came back for another hour or so around sunset. I’d highly recommend spending sunset here (and bringing a blanket or chairs to soak up the desert scenery). As the sun slowly descended upon the horizon, the sand dunes shimmered and the sunset-colored clouds made for an incredible backdrop. It was simply picturesque.
Another heavily visited location in the park is Zabriskie Point. At Zabriskie Point you’ll find incredible canyon and colorful mountain-side views, also known as Death Valley’s “bandlands.” Zabriskie Point is just a short drive from Furnace Creek, and a short walk up a paved hill is all that it takes to soak up these impressive, 360 degree views.
Is that snow covering the ground in these pictures? Nope - it’s a whole lot of salt! Here, my friends, is the lowest elevation in North America, at a staggering 282 feet below sea level. Badwater Basin is home to miles and miles (200 square miles, to be exact) of salt flats, and they are one of the largest protected salt flats in the entire world. Salt flats are very fragile, so no cars are allowed on the flats - folks are only allowed to walk (and hopefully, do so in a gentle manner) onto the flats. A fun fact is that Badwater Basin got its name from a traveler coming through, many years ago, and saw that there was water here for his mule to drink. But, because the water was so salty, the animal refused to drink it and it was considered “bad water.” Badwater Basin is roughly a 30 minute drive from the Furnace Creek area, and there’s a large, easily accessible parking lot for visitors.
Natural Bridge is just what the name describes… a natural bridge! This 50-foot-tall bridge has been created naturally from “differential erosion” over the course of thousands of years. The parking area for the Natural Bridge is located 1.5 miles along a dirt road directly off the main road (and get ready for a pretty bumpy ride on this completely unpaved road!). Once you reach the parking area, you will hike only about 0.5 miles until you reach the Natural Bridge. You can continue on for about another 0.5 miles until the trail ends, if you choose, and will see more tall, colorful canyon walls. Enjoy, and remember to bring water and sunscreen (as shade is very limited) on your trek.
Welcome to the Devil's Golf Course! Rock salts in Death Valley have been eroded by wind and rain over the years into a large stretch of jagged, salt-covered rocks. In the hot summer temperatures, visitors will apparently hear pops coming from the rocks, which grow louder and louder the closer you get to the ground. These sounds are billions of tiny salt crystals bursting apart as they expand and contract in the super high temperatures. How’s that for fascinating? From the main road (located in between Natural Bridge and Artist's Drive), a short paved road will take you to the parking area. Once you park, you can walk onto the field at your leisure. Make sure you wear sturdy, closed-toed shoes, and be careful about where you walk here - a fall on this jagged terrain can’t feel good!
Artist’s Drive is a one-way, 9-mile road that takes about 30 minutes-1 hour total to drive through. The main stop on Artist’s Drive is Artist’s Palette, a section of pastel-colored hillsides. Colors found here range from orange, pink, green, red, and turquoise, which are created naturally from metals and elements in the clay. Artist’s Palette couldn’t really be a more perfect name for it, and honestly, have you ever seen mountains so pretty? About 10 minutes or so into Artist’s Drive, you’ll pull over to the parking lot on your right hand side of the road as soon as you see the sign for Artist’s Palette (you can’t miss it). Once you park, you’ll be able to get out and explore these colorful views at your leisure.
From sprawling canyons and mountain-sides of the most gorgeous and rich colors, to sand dunes for as far as the eye can see, to miles and miles of salt crystals and salt flats - I’ve truly never experienced a place as vast, and a terrain as unique, as Death Valley National Park. Death Valley is home to some of the most dramatic and incredible scenery, and it felt like there was something interesting to see at each and every turn. It’s an easy 4 hour drive from Los Angeles, it’s relatively low-cost to visit compared to other national parks in our country, and it’s accessible for all levels of activity (as in, there are many more things to do/see here than long hikes or other more intense adventures). For these reasons, I’d recommend all So Cal-ers to consider planning a trip to the United States’ largest national park for your next #GetawayFromLA adventure.
Happy adventuring in LA and beyond, folks! As always, feel free to comment if you have any questions, and I’ll respond to you as soon as I can.
To escape the harsh winter of Los Angeles this year (lol), my boyfriend and I departed on a weekend getaway to the lovely, beautiful Temecula. Just an easy, breezy two hour drive south of L.A., Temecula is known for its robust wine country filled with hillside vineyards and wineries, as well as outdoor activities like golfing and hot air ballooning. I hadn’t been to Temecula since my 24th birthday (4 years ago), so I was overdue for a trip to this special city. On my 24th birthday I went on a hot air balloon ride with my dad which was SO much fun, and that I would highly recommend for you adventure seekers out there. This trip, though, we kept it simple with good food, good wine, and a cute bed & breakfast -- and we had a blast! Read on below for the top things to do and see during a weekend getaway to Temecula.
Temecula is known as the wine country in Southern California. With more than 30 wineries making a variety of award-winning wines, you could spend a whole day stopping by different wineries and vineyards - trying wines (and check out Groupon for tasting deals before you go!), enjoying a quiet picnic lunch, and reveling in the beautiful scenery at each and every turn. And since the wineries are all close in distance, it takes just a few minutes to drive from one to the next - making the day fun, easy, and enjoyable.
To search for wineries in Temecula, visit https://www.visittemeculavalley.com/things-to-do/old-town/wine-tasting/
You can also check out this winery map here: http://www.temeculawines.org/taste/winery-map.php
The hospitality of Temecula's wine country definitely does not disappoint. There are a range of comfortable places for you to call “home” during your stay here - from adorable, countryside bed and breakfasts (what we opted for), to rustic and charming inns, larger resorts among Temecula’s golf courses, or your more-typical hotel in the bustling Old Town.
We stayed at the Inn at Churon, which is situated beautifully among 11 acres of estate vineyards. From each suite’s vineyard-facing balcony made perfectly for picnics with rolling hillside views, a marble bathroom with large jacuzzi tub, fireplace in-room, free “wine hour” for guests, gorgeous grounds to stroll through, and a delicious breakfast included in your stay - I would highly recommend this Inn to you and yours.
Browse this link for the best places to stay in Temecula: https://www.visittemeculavalley.com/hotels/where-to-stay/
For more information about the Inn at Churon Winery, visit this link: https://www.visittemeculavalley.com/listing/inn-at-churon-winery/56/
Whether you’re a lover of California’s history or a fan of old-time architecture (Old Town dates all the way back to the 1880’s!) or just a seeker of good food, beer/wine, and cute shops - Old Town Temecula has something for just about everyone. It blends an old-time feel (think wooden boardwalks, antique shops, western-style architecture), with a modern twist (farm-to-table, restaurants, insta-worthy wine bars, craft breweries), and an overall good time with live music, the occasional outdoor festival or farmers market, and endless good vibes.
Visit this link for planning your outing to Old Town Temecula:
As I mentioned above, my dad and I went on a hot air balloon ride for my birthday a few years ago, and we l-o-v-e-d the adventure of it! If you’re willing to wake up before the sun rises on your vacay and aren’t afraid of heights, I bet you’ll absolutely love it. The 360 degree scenery at each elevation is beautiful, so make sure to bring a camera or phone to snap pics on. Hot air balloon rides depart from various wineries and locations around Temecula, and you can schedule a ride year-round - weather permitting.
Visit this link for more information on planning your hot air balloon adventure:
Overall, I would recommend all Angelenos who enjoy wine and a beautiful change of scenery to visit the area of Temecula. It’s just a two hour drive down here, but I can almost guarantee that you will feel like you’re a world away. Bumper-to-bumper traffic is replaced with rolling grape-filled hillsides, smog is replaced with clean, fresh air and blue, sunny skies, and the concrete jungle we’re so used to is replaced with adorable hillside inns and mom-and-pop style restaurants and family-owned wineries.
To help you plan your weekend getaway here, I’d recommend you visit the Official Visitor Guide for Temecula here: https://www.visittemeculavalley.com/ and this link specifically for the top things to do and see in Temecula: https://www.visittemeculavalley.com/things-to-do/.
Until my next Getaway From LA blog post, cheers to you and yours!
Please note: while most of my Getaway from LA trip posts like Peru, Banff, and Cancun (and definitely scroll for more!) are lengthy and include many details/tips for visiting both local/global destinations, I’m going to keep this travel blog post short and sweet. :) I didn’t bring my DSLR camera on this getaway (it can be a lot to carry around, and I wanted to not have to lug around a bag everywhere I went), so I opted to take pictures on my phone instead throughout the weekend. I was also on this trip with my family, so I intentionally wanted to be more in-the-moment with them, and less worried about getting “perfect blog shots” everywhere I went!
My family and I ventured up north to the beautiful Portland, Oregon for Thanksgiving weekend 2017. Portland is Oregon’s largest city, home to about 650,000 locals. It sits on the Columbia and Willamette rivers, and is one of the greenest and prettiest cities I’ve experienced in the US. Portland is both an adored and very eclectic city, best known for it’s green parks, bridges, outdoor activities, delicious food and dining options, breweries, coffee houses, and ever-growing art/music scene. And good news for us Angelenos looking to explore an amazing new city: Portland is only a 2 hour flight from Los Angeles/Burbank airports, and you can typically find flights for under $150 round-trip.
I’ve been to Portland twice now – both times in the fall – and I have to say that this must be the most beautiful time to visit the city. We don’t get much of a traditional fall season in LA (case in point: when I was heading to the Burbank airport to fly up here the day before Thanksgiving, it was over 90 degrees outside…), so I soaked up every fall-filled moment in Portland. From the red, orange, and yellow leaves falling gently off the trees and coating the streets in blankets of color, to the gloomy skies and romantic hot cocoa weather, to the clean and crisp feeling in the air every time you step outside – I couldn’t quite get enough of what a true autumn feels like.
I hope to go back to Portland someday soon and do a full, detailed Getaway from LA post, but in the meantime, here is a short list of recommendations on what to do/see if you’re planning a visit to PDX:
Here are some additional helpful Portland travel links:
Google’s Portland Travel Guide
AirBnB’s Top 30 Things to do in Portland
Trip Advisor’s Top 10 Things to Do in Portland
Travel Portland’s Activity Guide
Happy adventuring, my friends!
While most of my Getaway from LA trip posts like Peru, Yellowstone National Park, and Cancun (scroll for more) are lengthy and include many details/tips for visiting both local/global destinations, I’m going to keep this blog post short and sweet. :) I didn’t bring my DSLR camera on this getaway (it can be a lot to carry around, and I wanted to not have to lug around a bag everywhere I went), so opted to take a few pictures on my phone instead throughout the weekend.
I recently attended a destination wedding in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, and decided to make a 4-day weekend trip out of it. Cabo San Lucas, most commonly referred to as just, “Cabo,” sits at the most southern part of Baja California, on the Pacific Ocean side of Mexico. Cabo, attracting visitors mostly from the United States and Canada, is best known for its beaches, scuba diving and water activities, resorts, and nightlife. Most of the weekend was spent at our resort, Sandos Finisterra, with a large group for wedding activities, but we were able to spend an afternoon at the hotel’s spa (which was lovely!) and went on a gorgeous sunset cruise to Cabo’s iconic arches. The arches are one of the most iconic tourist attractions here, and at certain times of the year, the sea level falls low enough here that visitors can walk on the beach underneath the arch. I’d love to go back here again one day to explore more of the city. Until then, thanks for the good times & good views this time, Cabo! Destination weddings are the best and so full of love and fun.
To read about another trip of mine to Mexico – specifically to Cancun – visit this link:
To read more about Cabo if you’re planning a trip there, visit these links:
For all of the things to do and see in Cabo, visit these links:
Happy adventuring, my friends!
WANDER BEYOND THE CITY LINES...
As much as I love to explore L.A., it's good for the soul to getaway every now & then. Join me as I escape from the city to explore new locations, both locally and globally!
LET'S GET AWAY TO: