Growing up in Southern California and only even living here and in Arizona, the concept of a “white Christmas” seems pretty foreign to me. I love the idea of waking up and looking outside to a backyard covered in a blanket of snow, sipping hot cocoa by a warm fireplace, and seeing snowflakes fall quietly on tall pine trees outside, covering them ever so gently. Ahhhhh. But, since I probably won’t get this in Los Angeles anytime too soon, I knew I’d have to “Getaway from LA” to experience my dream white Christmas. A few months ago, my boyfriend mentioned to me that someone he knew had gone to Banff, Canada over the summer and showed me pictures online from a quick Google search. I immediately fell IN LOVE with the beauty of this national park and quaint town, and just a few weeks later we booked Banff for Christmas. I was overjoyed and began counting down the days to our trip. I started shopping for wintery things (what do you mean I can’t wear my converse in the snow?!) and found snow boots, a warm winter coat, and warm winter accessories to bring with me. I was finally going to get my white Christmas! Our “Getaway from LA” trip to Banff exceeded our expectations (and I was expecting a lot!), and to date, it’s been one of the most beautiful and enjoyable places I’ve ever been to. Below I’ll be sharing with you details on how you can take a “Getaway from LA” trip to Banff, or travel there from wherever you’re coming from!
Getting to Banff from LA:
From LAX, you will need to book a flight to Calgary, Canada (YYC is the airport code). You can find direct flights on Air Canada, and it's about a 3.5 hour direct flight. Don't forget that you will need a passport to fly to Canada. From YYC, you will take a shuttle to the city of Banff. I'd recommend this over taking a cab because you will save money and both of the airport shuttles we took were convenient, comfortable, and all around a great deal. The shuttle ride from YYC to Banff will take about 1.5 - 2 hours depending on road conditions. Airport shuttles that I would recommend are the Brewster or the Banff Airporter (both you can research and book online). They will drop off/pick up directly from your hotel in Banff, making the trip easy and hassle-free for you! I will include more information about the accomodations in Banff and where we stayed toward the end of this post under the "Accomodations" section.
Banff is an adorably quaint town full of hotels, shops and boutiques, and delicious places to eat and drink, all in an incredibly picturesque setting, smack dab in the middle of the Canadian Rockies. The townsite is located in Banff National Park and is in the province of Alberta, Canada. Banff National Park covers 6,500 square kilometers and is home to a wide variety of wildlife including bears, elk, fox, and more. The town of Banff covers 2.5 square miles and has an elevation of 4,537 feet, making it the highest town in Canada. Banff is the perfect little town to stay in because it’s easy to walk everywhere within the town and you can take taxis or buses to any of the nearby National Park adventures you’re interested in! Read on for ideas on what to do when you visit Banff in the wintertime.
Explore Banff Avenue
Banff Ave. is the heart of the town of Banff. It’s the one main street in town, home to delicious places to eat, fun places to drink, great variety of shops to browse, warm and cozy coffee shops, and more. No matter what time of day it is, whatever you need during your stay in Banff you will find here. We loved walking around in the morning with a hot cup of coffee, stopping in to the souvenir shops and boutiques, and marveling in the picturesque setting of it all. The giant, jagged, snow-covered mountain in the background made for a great backdrop as we strolled along and took it all in (and tried not to freeze). Our favorite coffee shops were Whitebark and Second Cup, favorite restaurants were Maple Leaf Grill and Carlitos Pizzeria, and favorite bars were Banff Brew Co. and Wild Bills Saloon. There really wasn’t any restaurant that wasn’t delicious, and overall, spending time on Banff Ave. was one of the most enjoyable aspects of our trip!
Banff Sightseeing Gondola
On Christmas day we woke up to the gorgeous white Christmas I hoped for, minus the fresh snow falling, which was actually a blessing because instead we were gifted with the must beautiful and clear winter day. The Banff Sightseeing Gondola was one of the adventures I was most excited about in Banff - I love the adrenaline rush I get from tall heights and seeing impressive landscapes make me feel so small yet so inspired. The Banff Sightseeing Gondola is located just 5 minutes from the Downtown Banff, on the shoulder of Sulphur Mountain, and costs about $40 US for a roundtrip ticket. Each gondola seats 4 people total and takes about 10 minutes one-way. Once you get to the top of the gondola ride, you can enjoy views from the main sight-seeing decks and walk around at your leisure. You can also walk 1km on the Banff Skywalk to the Cosmic Ray Station National Historic Site and Sanson’s Peak Meteorological Station, a higher deck with even more impressive views. I would highly recommend going on a clear day because the views from the top are BREATHTAKING! You’ll see 360 degree views of Banff, the Bow Valley, and the Canadian Rockies, all at an altitude of 7,486 feet above sea level. If you visit in the winter, definitely make sure to bundle up. On the day we visited it was -24 degrees C/-11 degrees F at the top of the gondola - aka very, VERY cold! Lastly, in case you’re in need of a caffeine pick-me-up or a snack, there is a Starbucks at the base of the gondola and a restaurant at the top.
Be prepared to be amazed by nature’s incredible beauty - you will feel like you’re on top of the world when you’re at the top of the Banff Sightseeing Gondola! Click here for more information about booking this adventure.
Ice Skating at Lake Louise
I had seen pictures of Lake Louise at the Fairmont Chateau hotel online during the Spring/Summer months and the water was the brightest blue color I had ever seen in nature. I was disappointed I wouldn't be able to experience the lake at it's most beautiful, but I was so excited when my boyfriend told me that the lake completely freezes over in the winter and you are then able to ice skate on it. How cool is that?! It was my first time skating on a completely natural ice skating rink, and we had so much fun! The ice was slightly uneven so it was more challenging to skate on it, but you just couldn't beat the gorgeous setting and backdrop of snowy, tree topped mountains at each and every turn.
Skate rentals are available at The Fairmont in Chateau Mountain Sports, located next to the front desk lobby. You can rent ice skates for 2 hours for about $13 per person or you can also rent them for an entire day. We opted for the 2 hour rental, and it's good we did because we only skated for about 45 minutes before we got tired, hungry, and needed some warming up inside. Luckily, the Fairmont Chateau has delicious eateries inside after you finish your ice skating adventure, and the hotel itself is beautiful to stroll around. You don't need to stay at the hotel to visit, ice skate, eat, etc., but if you can afford it, this may be a hotel you need to add to your travel bucketlist! It's apparently one of the most iconic hotels in the world, and the Fairmont hotel line itself has an excellent reputation. They also get an A+ in my book since they had a full "ice bar" outside made entirely of ice (even the benches in the bar) and served hot alcoholic beverages like mulled wine and coffee with Baileys. Yum! The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is about a 45 minute drive from Banff, and we decided to take the Brewster bus from our hotel for $15 roundtrip - totally worth it.
It's no surprise to me that the Huffington Post claimed Lake Louise as "World's Best Skating Rink" in 2014, and I would HIGHLY recommend you put this on your agenda if you visit Banff in the winter months! Click here for more information about the Fairmont Lake Louise and the activities and restaurants it offers to both guests and visitors.
Sleigh Ride at Warner Stables
While we were visiting Banff, we really wanted to go dog sledding but we majorly failed on trying to book this too late (all of the tours were booked up through mid-January when we started looking them up in mid-December. Oops.). So, we opted for a sleigh ride instead from Warner Stables, just about a 10 minute cab ride from downtown Banff. Upon arrival, I loved seeing Warner Stables barn in a bright red color with the snowy and foggy sky as a backdrop. It was a picture-perfect moment in our Canadian winter wonderland. Once we got all checked in and settled, the sleigh ride was about 45 minutes total, and we sleighed through snowy meadows and woods while wrapped up in warm wool blankets. There were about 10 other people on our sleigh ride, but we were lucky to grab the front row so had beautiful views throughout the ride. It was really, really cold on this day, but our horses King and Kong were troopers and led us on a memorable, Christmas-y adventure. Click here to check out more information about the tour we went on.
Surprise Corner is only a 5 minute drive from Downtown Banff (any cab can easily take you here, or you can get more information from the Visitor Center if you'd like to drive there on your own) and has one of the most beautiful views in Banff – of the historic Fairmont Baff Springs Hotel. This is one of the most famous hotels in the world and is known as the “Castle in the Rockies.” Marilyn Monroe even stayed here in the 1950’s! The hotel sits at the base of Sulphur Mountain and is surrounded by tall hillsides and thousands of beautiful, tall pine trees. We just stopped by for a short walk and a few quick pictures, and it was definitely worth the detour. The view was incredible, and it truly looked like a castle in the middle of the woods, perfectly fit for a queen. So, I guess I’ll be moving in!
Since Banff is a small resort town, there are plenty of hotel options for you to choose from when you plan your visit. I typically look at Expedia and TripAdvisor before I book accomodations abroad, and we definitely lucked out with the Banff hotel we found online. We stayed at the High Country Inn, and all around, it was lovely! It had a big heated pool, two jacuzzi’s, a very helpful lobby staff who could answer all of our questions, a delicious Italian/Swiss restaurant attached to it, and rooms were cozy and comfortable. The location was perfect, which is always what’s most important to me. We were able to easily walk down Banff Ave. and it was only about a 5-10 minute walk to the center of Downtown, which was wonderful – especially in the freezing temps! I’d recommend you check out hotels online and if High Country Inn has availability for the dates you’re interested, I’d highly recommend staying here!
Oh, Canada! is all I can think to say to try and explain how much I loved Banff National Park. I truly fell in love with it! Not only was the town and park incredibly gorgeous (I am still drooling over all of the pictures - there are so many that are postcard worthy!), but the city itself was so enjoyable and fun to stay in. I loved being able to walk all throughout Banff Ave. for anything we needed and also appreciated how easy it was to take a taxi to any of the nearby adventures. Everyone that we interacted with throughout our stay were so nice, friendly, and helpful, and the entire town felt so warm despite the freezing temps. This has been my favorite "Getaway from LA" to date, and I can't wait to visit again, but in the Spring or Summer next time! Thanks for following along with this snowy adventure, and if you decide to plan your own "Getaway from LA" to Banff, I can pretty much guarantee you'll be glad you did!
A new year has arrived for me, and I turned the big 2-7 on Saturday, November 5. This year for my birthday I wasn't interested in the idea of planning and organizing any sort of big celebration, but I decided to plan a weekend Getaway from LA. instead. There are so many places to visit that are within driving distance from LA, and Joshua Tree National Park has been on my bucketlist for quite some time now. Now that I went on a Getaway from LA trip for my birthday this past weekend, I hope to continue doing this for the years to come! It was just my love and I for the weekend, and we had such a fun, adventurous, relaxing and all around memorable weekend that I already can't wait to go back.
Joshua Tree National Park is a 1,234 square mile protected area in Southern California, roughly 130 miles inland from Los Angeles (about a 2.5 hour drive). It's known for it's sprawling desert landscapes, unique giant rock formations, and of course, Joshua Trees. Joshua Trees are funky, unique, and beautiful looking, and I read online that they were named by Mormon pioneers after the prophet Joshua because the branches of the tree reminded them of him waving his arms, welcoming people to the promised land. Joshua Trees can grow up to 45 feet high and live up to 900-1,000 years. They only grow up to an inch per year, which is a reminder to me, and to all of us, that growth is a process and that the sweetest things in life take time. Being in Joshua Tree reminded me to be patient with myself as I grow, be patient with others as they grow, and to accept that living a good life is a journey rather than an "OK, I've arrived and I'm good to go now!" My goals for this new year of my life are to stop trying to have everything figured out at once, but to learn to embrace this journey and all of the uncertainties that come with it. I have a feeling that 27 is going to be a good one.
Joshua Tree National Park: West Entrance
We drove from LA to the desert on Friday night and stayed at a Best Western in Twenty Nine Palms. We woke up early Saturday morning and headed into town, making our first stop at the Joshua Tree Visitor Center. I'd highly recommend you also make a stop here as well, as the center is only 5 miles from the Park West Entrance (the most popular entrance) and you will be able to get a map and ask any questions about visiting the park. We only planned to spend half a day in the park, and the employees at the Visitor Center were very helpful in letting us know about the highlights of the park from the West Entrance and the "must see" spots for first-timers. From the Visitor Center, you will drive about 5 miles to the Park West Entrance. You will pay $20 to enter the park, or you can buy a National Park Annual Pass for $80 (which is what I did as a birthday present to myself - can't wait to explore more National Parks this year!). As you drive into the park, be prepared to fall in love with the thousands of Joshua Trees and amazing cliffs/rock formations at each and every turn!
The Visitor Center is located at 6554 Park Boulevard, Joshua Tree, CA 92256.
Click here to read more about Joshua Tree National Park and the various entrance locations.
Hidden Valley Trail
The first stop we made after entering the park was the Hidden Valley Trail, about a 20 minute drive from the West Entrance. I read online that this was the perfect location to start your Joshua Tree park adventure, as it has a little bit of everything: plenty of Joshua Trees, awesome looking rock formations, views of courageous folks scaling the huge boulders and cliff sides, and an easy, 1 mile loop hiking trail. The trail is well-marked, easy to follow, and I'd say it was more of a natural walk than an actual hike. It was pretty warm out when we went, so I'd recommend bringing sunscreen, wearing a hat, and of course, bringing a camera to take pictures of the beauty surrounding you at each and every step!
Click here to read more about the various trails in Joshua Tree National Park.
Joshua Tree National Park's highest viewpoint, the Keys View, lets visitors get an interesting panoramic view of the Coachella Valley. You'll see the Salton Sea, Palm Springs, and the San Andreas fault from the lookout point. This viewing point is only about a 15 minute drive from the main road and is easy to park at and hop out and quickly enjoy the views. Also, the drive from the main road to Keys View was one of my favorite in the park! There are Joshua Trees everywhere in the park, but this stretch of road in particular was FILLED with Joshua Trees of all sizes lining the roads. The dirve had me ooh-ing and ahh-ing pretty much the whole time.
Click here to read more about the Keys View at Joshua Tree Natl. Park.
Skull Rock & Jumbo Rocks
Skull Rock (named because, well, it looks like a giant skull!) is located right along the main road, and you can park on the shoulder of the road to hop out and advantage of a photo opp. If you're feeling adventurous like we were, stay around for a while to explore the jumbo rocks surrounding Skull Rock. You can see huge, bubbling rock formations as far as the eye can see, and the landscape was pretty incredible. It felt like we were either on Mars/another planet or on a Flintstones movie set. We jumped around and adventured until we were pretty tired and our road trip snacks were calling our names (and you betcha I got the good stuff - cheetohs, chocolate, peanut butter pretzels, trailmix, chips, etc.), so we headed back to the car. This was definitely one of the highlights in the park for me!
Cholla Cactus Garden
While I loved MANY things about Joshua Tree National Park and truly can't wait to go back, the Cholla Cactus Garden was hands down my favorite thing we saw and experienced (well, other than the Joshua Trees themselves). The Cholla Cactus Garden is filled with unusual, ombre-colored cacti that look like they should be on another planet. It almost felt like we were walking through an unusual underwater reef - but on dry land. You can follow a short quarter of a mile trail through this garden and it is all pretty mesmerizing - but make sure to stay on the path! My boyfriend meandered just outside of the trail and he got many cacti pricks caught in the bottom of his shoes - oops. Also, don't touch the cacti! I was reading online that the pricks are extremely painful and difficult to remove from your skin. I would recommend anyone and everyone to visit the Cholla Cactus Garden when you visit the park, and be prepared to fall in love with these cute little creatures!
Click here to read more about the Cholla Cactus Garden.
Noah Purifoy Outdoor Sculpture Museum
When I visited LACMA about a year ago, I fell in love with Noah Purifoy's Junk Dada art exhibit. In the 1960's Noah would search the streets post-Watts riots in LA to collect materials to create incredible, politically charged pieces of art. All of his work at LACMA is so colorful and full of varying textures and materials. I found it amazing that he literally turned trash into treasure to ignite thoughts, feelings, and reactions in others. So, when I heard that he also had an outdoor sculpture exhibit in Joshua Tree, I knew I had to stop by. It was only a 10 minute drive from downtown Joshua Tree and was well worth the detour. Noah began creating this sculpture garden when he moved to the Mohave Desert in the 1980's. This sculpture garden covers quite a bit of land (it took us about an hour to walk through the entire landscape covered) and has been constructed entirely out of junked materials. His art is unique, thought-provoking, and sometimes just plain bizarre, but man, we loved it. From intricate sculptures made out of toilets, blown out rubber tires, broken computers, burnt furniture, and SO much more, there are plenty of unique pieces of art for you to see and experience here - many of which are politically and socially charged. Noah intended for these sculptures to become part of the desert environment in which they live and to decay naturally over time.
While Noah Purifoy died in 2004 (RIP), his art will continue to live on in museums, in nature, and in the creative minds of those he inspires. Today, the Noah Purifoy Foundation continues to keep his vision and his works alive. The Noah Purifoy Outdoor Sculpture Garden is located at 63030 Blair Lane, Joshua Tree, California 92252. It is free to enter.
Click here to read more about this unique outdoor art exhibit.
To Caffeinate, Eat, and Drink
We loved the varieties of eateries available to us in Joshua Tree, and I did some solid Yelping before we visited. Here are my recommendations below for your visit:
We stayed in the most lovely and beautifully designed AirBnB small home, complete with a full kitchen, comfortable bedroom, and a gorgeous living room with a record player (our favorite feature - we had it playing almost non-stop). I loved staying here because it was just enough space for two people, had a beautiful backyard with large patio to drink our morning coffee on, was less than 1 mile from downtown Joshua Tree, and only about 10 minutes from the West Entrance of the park. And, did I mention it was super adorable? Also, our host was wonderful and provided us with recommendations on what to do/where to eat while we were in town. Thanks for everything, Becky!
Click here see if the the same AirBnB home we stayed at is available for your visit.
Overall, I ABSOLUTELY LOVED Joshua Tree. I was blown away by this incredible, beautiful, sprawling National Park and the small, adorable, and eclectic town of Joshua Tree just outside of the park's West Entrance. I loved how peaceful it all was, how the pace of life physically felt slower than life in LA, how clear the night sky was to see thousands of stars (and my first time seeing the Milky Way! See picture below.), and how the weekend was the perfect balance of relaxation and adventure. Thank you Joshua Tree for a wonderful birthday Getaway From LA, and thank you to YOU for reading this blog post! I hope you get the opportunity to one day explore this one-of-a-kind Natl. park and special town.
Until my next Getaway From LA!
“You’re going to Sacramento? Is there anything to do there?” I was recently asked when sharing that I was visiting Sacramento for a wedding and making a long weekend getaway from it. “Well....Of course! If you’re wiling to look for things to do!” was my response – or somethin’ like that. And basically, it’s true. Time after time I find that when you seek adventure – you will find it. And, I was caught off guard in this moment because Sacramento is California’s state capitol! Of course there is PLENTY to do there, and I am grateful to have visited this historical, beautiful, tasty (their restaurant scene is fabulous), tree-filled (truly – so. many. trees.), and eclectic and urban city.
Like I mentioned, I visited Sacramento specifically to attend a wedding, which was located in Loomis and was absolutely stunning and full of love. I drove up to Sacramento from Los Angeles on a Thursday evening and returned Sunday (it was about a six hour drive), so I had roughly ~48 hours to enjoy and explore this city. Before visiting Sacramento I mapped out the top things I wanted to see and do and researched which neighborhoods I wanted to visit, as I do before embarking on most vacations or getaways. As I entered Sacramento I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect and wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy the city compared to L.A., but when I left Sacramento I couldn’t help but think, “I loved that city.”
Although I was only in town for a short while, I appreciated how intimate Sacramento felt (we could walk most places, which is difficult to do in L.A.), how many trees there were (according to Wikipedia, Sac is the city with the most trees per capita in the world), the public/street art, the restaurants/bars/wineries, and the unique places to see and experience. While the weekend was filled with exploring, we also were smart to not plan TOO much and to enjoy the days and experience what we wanted to in that particular moment. From exploring historic old town, to visiting the state capitol building, to checking out the up-and-coming midtown, to kicking back and relaxing in Sacramento’s little known wine country, this was a Getaway From L.A. I’d recommend. Below you will find an overview of things I’d recommend doing when visiting California’s capital city. Enjoy!
Explore Historic Old Town
Whether you’re in Sacramento for just a short time or are exploring for a few days, visiting Old Town Sacramento is a must. From the pictures above, you can probably imagine why it felt like I was walking through a Hollywood movie set while exploring this charming and historical neighborhood. From the old time architecture, to the wooden sidewalks, to the cobblestone streets, it definitely makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time to the Gold Rush era. There were people of all ages (including many families with children) walking around, stopping at the quaint shops, grabbing a bite to eat, and visiting museums (click HERE for all of the many museums and attractions in Old Town).
Here’s some history according to Old Town’s official website, “In 1839 John Sutter arrived on the shore of the American River near its confluence with the Sacramento River. With the promise of a Mexican land grant, Sutter and his landing party established Sutter’s Fort. As the settlement grew and became permanent, it attracted other businessmen looking for opportunities. Sutter and the people he attracted created a commercial center in the area, but it was the Gold Rush in 1848 that created the City of Sacramento.”
We were limited on time so we were unable to visit any museums (I would have liked to visit the California State Railroad Museum, the original Sutter's Fort, & take a horse and carriage ride), but I’d recommend stopping by Danny’s for mini donuts (delicious and made fresh right before your eyes), District Coffee for a tasty caffeine boost, and then walking around the town while you enjoy both. You can walk through the whole neighborhood in about 15-30 minutes, and it’s worth it to see it all.
Visit the State Capitol Building
The California State Capitol Building is another must see when visiting Sacramento, as Sacramento is THE capitol of California! This building was constructed from 1860-1874 and today remains the home to California’s government, including current Governor Jerry Brown. This building is open to the public daily, and while you can’t exactly pop into Mr. Brown’s office to say hello, you can explore the museum that takes up a good portion of the capitol building. As you walk through the museum area (enter at either the side or back doors of the capitol), you will see a variety of government official’s offices from the early 1900’s, the California Assembly Chamber, libraries, and other interesting exhibits. Both the exterior and interior designs were picturesque, with beautiful and neoclassical tiling, colors, and artwork. Admission is free, and you can walk around and explore on your own or take a guided tour for free, offered every hour on the hour. Open daily from 9:00am-5:00pm, you can visit the State Capitol building/museum at 1315 10th St, Sacramento, CA 95814, and click here for more information.
When I was browsing things to do and see in Sacramento, I kept seeing "Midtown this" and "Midtown that." From a very popular weekly farmer's market, to chic coffee shops on every corner, to a fantastic restaurant scene (it was hard to choose where to go with limited time!), to eclectic bookstores and boutiques, it's no surprise to me that this is currently the trendiest neighborhood in Sac. And it sure is colorful! It reminded me of a mixture of Portland and the Arts District in DTLA. As I've mentioned many times before on my blog, I'm a big fan of public art and street art. Not only does it help beautify a city, but it also gives artists and creatives a public platform to express themselves and their communities.The public art and street art above is located at BloodSource; 1608 Q St. Restaurants we thoroughly enjoyed in this neighborhood include Iron Horse Tavern for dinner and Magpie for brunch. I'd also recommend stopping by University of Beer for a cold brew (they have over 100 beers on tap - more than any other bar in Sacramento) and Shady Lady for a late night cocktail or two, if that's your thang.
This neighborhood has their own beautifully curated Instagram page and official website that I'd recommend you check out before you plan your visit.
Visit Vineyards & Wineries
"Ahhhhhh..." is all I could think when stepping onto the grounds of Scribner Bend Vineyard in Sacramento's little known wine country. Just a 15 minute drive from the heart of downtown Sacramento, this vineyard is located on a beautiful and historic property, offers wood fired pizzas on the weekends, a variety of delicious red and white wines to taste, and live music to enjoy. It's the perfect place for those 21+ to kick back and relax after a busy morning of exploring Sacramento's city. The staff are lovely, the setting picturesque, and the wine refreshing on a warm day. Scribner Bend Vineyards is located at 9051 River Rd. Sacramento, CA 95832, and is open for tastings Friday - Sunday from 11:00am-5:00pm. Click here for more information about Scriber Bend.
There are more than 200 wineries and vineyards in the Sacramento area, as the terrain and climate here is close-to-ideal for producing high quality wines. There's clearly no shortage on wineries to explore so to help you organize your trip, click here to check out Sacramento's Regional Wine Guide.
Old Sugar Mill
After stopping by the beautiful Scribner Bend Vineyard, we departed on about a 15-minute drive to a location I was super excited about visiting: The Old Sugar Mill! The Old Sugar Mill is just as cool as it looks and is exactly as it sounds - a historic old sugar mill from the early 1930's. The Delta Sugar plant was constructed in 1933 and stayed open for 60 years, closing its doors for good in 1993. In 2000, this space was renovated into a multi-winery venue and began attracting visitors from all over Northern California.
Today this beautiful and historical venue is home to eleven wineries total, all right next door to each other. I'd recommend you walk around the grounds before or after you enjoy some wine because it looks like somethin' straight out of a zombie apocalypse (ok - maybe a chic/vintage zombie apocalypse - but still). You'll be able to explore remnants of what used to be: large deserted warehouses with huge, broken glass windows, and an overall eery but cool feeling to it all. Inside the winery, you'll pay about $5 per tasting, but this fee will typically be waived if you decide to purchase a bottle of wine. Parking and entrance is free for those 21+.
The Old Sugar Mill is located at 35265 Willow Ave, Clarksburg, CA 95612 and is open daily from 11:00 am - 5:00pm. Click here for more information about the Old Sugar Mill.
Overall: I loved ya, Sacramento.
Whether you’re looking for a fun road trip destination from LA, are stopping by Sacramento for a wedding or business, or if visiting Sacramento has been on your bucketlist for a while, I hope you find this Getaway From L.A. travel guide helpful! For more information on visiting Sacramento, click here for their official tourism website. Bon voyage, my friends!
Oh my, oh Maui! This recent trip was truly a Getaway from L.A. to remember. A group of friends and I recently flew from L.A. to Maui, Hawaii to attend one our good friends’ wedding (#LucilleLuau) on Friday, July 1. Since we were flying out to attend this wedding (which was truly so beautiful, full of love, and a ton of fun!) we all decided to extend our stay and turn this trip into a longer vacation. Maui is one of five Hawaiian Islands and is approximately a 5-hour flight from Los Angeles. It’s the second largest island in Hawaii and has a population of about 160,000. It’s known as the “Valley Isle” and millions of people visit Maui each year for its beautiful white sandy beaches, picturesque sunsets, and adventures galore. GoHawaii.com shares, “From the scenic slopes of fertile Upcountry Maui to beaches that have repeatedly been voted among the best in the world, a visit to the Valley Isle recharges the senses. But like every good magic trick, you’ll have to see it for yourself to believe it.” Sounds pretty special, eh?
My friends and I are all adventure seekers and love trying new things, so we scheduled a variety of activities throughout the trip. I definitely wish I would have had more time to relax on this trip (the only real “relaxing day” we had turned out to be pretty stressful/a downer because there was a fire in Maui and we were stuck in Lahaina from 2:00pm-9:00pm and then it took us 5.5 hours to drive 15 miles…Yikes!). The next vacation I go on I’m going to better balance adventurous activities and relaxation (spa day, anyone?) because the introvert in me was pretty wiped out by the end of the trip. The activities we participated in were AWESOME, though, and I am so grateful to have shared these beautiful experiences with some of my best friends. Below you will find an overview of the sights I’d recommend seeing in Maui if you are planning a trip here, and I hope the information presented is both interesting to read and helpful to you!
Things To Do in Maui
Snorkel In Napili Bay
If you’re looking for a calm, not-too-crowded, picturesque beach for relaxing, snorkeling, and grabbing a delicious bite to eat afterward, I’d recommend checking out Napili Bay. Apparently it’s somewhat of a “secret spot” in Maui and cannot be seen from driving on the main road. We went snorkeling and the waters were much calmer and clearer here than they were at some of the more popular beaches in Maui that we visited. I saw a variety of fish of all shapes, sizes, and colors, but unfortunately, didn’t see any turtles here. There are definitely some that hang around here, though, because the majority of my group I was with saw and swam with them! I loved how quiet and peaceful the beach was, how there were very minimal waves, and how crystal clear blue the water was. On two different occasions on this trip we visited the Sea House Restaurant at Napili Bay, and it was delicious (although somewhat pricey) both times. It was super easy to walk right up and grab a table with a beautiful view – no reservations are needed and they have an awesome happy hour from 2:00pm-4:30pm daily.
Click here for more detailed information about Napili Beach in Maui (you do not need to stay at the resort to visit the beach – as long as you park on any of the nearby side roads and not at the resort).
Click here for more information about the Sea House Restaurant.
Road to Hana
The Hana Highway is a 64-mile-long stretch of Hawaii Routes 36 and 360 which connects Kahului with the town of Hana in east Maui, full of incredible stops and sights along the way. It was a bit difficult for me to put the greatness of Road to Hana into words. So, instead, I will share with you some information from the Road to Hana website:
"The Road to Hana is more than just a great drive through a beautiful area of Maui. Most visitors tend to zip to and from Hana with a checklist of sights to photograph. This is the wrong way to do it. Do your due diligence beforehand, decide on a few locations that look the most intriguing, and take your time at each location.
In order to truly experience Hana, it helps to know more about the history and legends of the area. You may find out that there are legendary stories associated with each spot where Gods have left their mark and historic battles have been fought.
Transport yourself not only to Hana, but back in time to the historic moments and legendary tales that shape the islands."
Road to Hana was the activity I was most excited for in Maui. I had seen this drive featured on travel shows, adventure and tourism blogs, and on social media, and each and every time I saw something new, I would become fascinated with this drive and all of the beauty it’s home to. My only disappointment from this trip to Maui is that we did not spend nearly enough time here. It wasn’t our fault, though, because we were super delayed on our trek there due to the fire I mentioned previously. We aimed to depart from our condo by 8:00am but ended up leaving around 12:30pm because we were so drained from the day before. This drastically cut into our exploring time (aka: hours of sunlight) so we had to settle on only seeing a few key sites. This adventure was entirely worth it, and the drive was SO green and lush and the sights truly incredible. From the warm sandy beaches, to stopping by fruit and coffee stands on the side of the road, to some badass hikes, to jumping into natural pools – there is truly somethin’ for everyone on the Road to Hana, and I just wish I could have experienced more of it. I hope that if you get the chance to visit, you have more time to explore (and drive safe out there! The roads sure are windy), and I hope you enjoy reading more on the incredible sites we visited on the Road to Hana below.
Also - click here for all of the information you need to know about the Road to Hana!
ROAD TO HANA: Pipiwai TRAIL
The Pipiwai Trail is a 4 mile (takes about 2.5 hours total) roundtrip hike that takes you to Makahiku Falls, up through the majestic Bamboo Forest and finally up to the beautiful, lush, 400-feet tall Waimoku Falls. This trail is truly the greenest trail I’ve ever experienced and some moments of it were absolutely breathtaking, making you feel like you were in Narnia or some sort of fairy tale.
The trail was pretty muddy and somewhat rainy when we went, so I would suggest wearing comfortable hiking shoes and comfortable clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty. I also can’t forget to share with you a very important tip: bring bug spray! My friends and I forgot to put bug spray on before the hike and this was a big mistake. About a week later I still had itchy and uncomfortable bug bites lining my calves and thighs. Also, keep in mind that each car will need to pay $20 to enter Haleakala National Park, where the head of the Pipiwai Trail is located. Since this trail is at the end of Road to Hana, this is a great spot to start with. After you complete this hike you will then be able to assess how much daylight you have left and then can map out the rest of the stops and adventures for the duration of the day.
Click here for more information about the The Pipiwai Trail.
ROAD TO HANA: BAMBOO FOREST
As you begin your trek through the Pipiwai Trail, after about a mile you will encounter the Bamboo Forest. Don’t worry about missing it – once you see it, you will see it! There are large bamboo stalks (some up to 100 feet tall) as far as the eye can see – or at least for 0.5 miles. This was truly one of the most incredible sights I’ve seen and experienced. Being completely surrounded by tall bamboo stalks makes you feel like you’re smack dab in the middle of a Tarzan movie…or the rainforest, which I guess isn’t too far off base! Make sure you stop to look up as you trek through the bamboo forest – the way the stalks grow their prickly leaves at the top and all come together is quite the sight to see. I was surprised at how dark and quiet it was in the Bamboo Forest, as the bamboo stalks shade you almost entirely from the sun. I am so glad we hiked through the Pipiwai Trail – the Bamboo Forest isn’t a sight I’ll be forgetting about anytime soon.
Click here for more information about the The Pipiwai Trail, which is where the Bamboo Forest is located. Click here to read more information about the Bamboo Forest.
ROAD TO HANA: Waimoku Falls
As I mentioned previously, the Pipiwai Trail ends at the beautiful, lush, 400-feet tall Waimoku Falls. You can’t do much at the waterfall except for admire its beauty because there is no swimming permitted at the bottom of the falls (safety first, my friends). This is a great spot to take some pictures with your friends, re-apply sunscreen/bug spray, hydrate, and eat a snack before hiking back down the same way you came in.
Click here for more information about the The Pipiwai Trail.
Road To Hana: Wai'anapanapa State Park
I had never before been to a black sand beach, so I was REALLY excited to check out Pa'iloa Beach at Wai’anapanapa State Park on the Road to Hana. Upon entering the park, I pretty much fell in love at first sight! The black sand found on this beach comes from lava and volcanic rock, and it was much thicker than the sand you’d find on a typical beach. I loved how lush and green it was at Pa'iloa Beach, right up to the black sand and beautiful glistening turquoise waters. It’s interesting to note that the translation for Wai'anapanapa is "glistening water" or "water flashing rainbow hues” – and the name surely does not lie. As you walk onto Pa’iloa Beach, you will see “lava tubes” that you can climb through (large, natural cave-like rock formations), large rocks that you can trek up if you so desire, incredible jagged coastline views, and plenty of beach to kick back and relax on with your group. If you stopped here earlier in the day it would be an ideal picnic spot!
From the Hana Highway, you will turn onto Wai’anapanapa Road and follow this to find plenty of free public parking available in a large lot. Click here to read more information about Wai’anapanapa State Park.
Overall, this Getaway from L.A. trip to Maui, Hawaii was full of beautiful sights, fun adventures, good times, and great friends. I’d highly recommend you vacation to Maui if you get the chance, and I hope you found this blog post helpful. Until my next Getaway From L.A. adventure - bon voyage, my friends!
Getaway from LA: Yosemite National PArk
Deer roaming through the prettiest green meadows I’ve ever seen, zero cell phone reception, the sound of 500 feet high water falls, birds chirpin’ their tunes, and an overall sense of tranquility and slow-paced life… YEP, I am definitely not in Los Angeles anymore. Welcome to Yosemite. :)
Our Earth is truly one big, incredible planet, full of some of the most breath-taking and jaw-dropping scenery, sprawling landscapes, and precious wildlife. And Yosemite National Park is 100% proof of this. Last week I ventured to Yosemite National Park with my partner, to join my family in our annual vacation to this majestic location. Yosemite National Park is about a 5.5 hour drive from Los Angeles, and is home to almost 1,200 square miles of beautiful scenery – including VERY high cliffs surrounding the valley floor, HUGE waterfalls, gigantic sequoia trees, and beautiful wildlife at each and every turn. For this Getaway from L.A. post, I’ll share the basics on where we stayed and what we did, and will wrap up with a few extra tips/things to know before you plan your next Getaway from L.A.
Accomodations: "Glamping" at Housekeeping Camp
To be totally honest and candid with you, I’ve never been a big fan of camping. As much as I love adventures, the great outdoors, and am all about livin’ life to the fullest – sleeping on the dirt in a sleeping bag with limited access to various resources isn’t what I would typically describe as a “vacation.” I do, though, like to “glamp,” which is basically glamorous camping. Please note, though, that I am not referring to staying in a lodge or a fancy bungalow – I mean a tent cabin that only has a concrete floor, a wire cot with a thin mattress, and tent walls – found at the super awesome Housekeeping Camp in the Yosemite Valley. The tent cabins have the bare necessities, with a covered space outside of the cabin with some metal shelfs, a long metal table that can be used for a cooking/storage area, and a round table with benches where you can eat your meals. This is truly the ideal accommodation for those who like being outdoors but don’t want to deal with the effort that goes into setting up a tent. Clean bathrooms can be found throughout the camp, as well as showers and a small convenience store with snacks, drinks, etc.
From all corners of Housekeeping Camp, you’ll see amazing views of Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, and the giant cliffs that surround Yosemite Valley. There are sandy beaches with a beautiful river flowing through it on the edge of the camp, and you’ll often see deer (and hopefully no bears!) roaming peacefully through the campsite in the early morning hours.
I’ve stayed at Housekeeping Camp multiple times now and truly wouldn’t want to stay anywhere else in Yosemite Valley. It is important to note, though, that this glamp site is very popular and tent cabins should be reserved up to ONE YEAR before you plan to visit. Click here to see the rates and availability in Housekeeping Camp, and for all other accommodations in Yosemite (ranging from “real” camping to staying in a lodge/hotel), click here.
The Best Views: Glacier Point
As you drive into Yosemite Valley and basically anywhere you turn once you’re in the Valley, you’ll be enamored by the 360 degree views of this National Park’s raw, untouched beauty. If you want to enjoy the best view in the valley, though, I’d highly recommend you make the 45-minute drive up to Glacier Point. There is a large parking lot at the top of Glacier Point, but you can also take a bus up here if you’d rather not worry about finding a spot (although we didn’t have any issue with this). Once you’re up here, prepare to be absolutely amazed! You can see the entire valley floor, from Vernal and Nevada Falls, to the infamous Half Dome, to the miles and miles of tree-covered mountains and cliff sides. I do need to mention that Glacier Point is only accessible by car from approximately late May through October or November, due to weather conditions, so make you plan accordingly. In my opinion, this is truly the best place in all of Yosemite National Park to kick back, relax, and enjoy the stunning scenery. For more information on Glacier Point, click here.
One Of Yosemite's Most Adored Hikes:
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!
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