THE GOLDEN STATE
By Saleha Raza
California, one of the most popular state of west coast USA, is famously known as a Golden state due to the discovery of gold in 1848 and fields of golden poppies that can be seen each spring throughout the state.
I had always wanted to visit Hollywood, so when when my husband informed me about our trip to California, I got super excited. But my joy was partial, as I was given the crucial task of planning and routing out the whole 15 days of our vacation in California. I thought it could be a tedious task and that I might not be able to plan it out correctly, but thanks to Google Maps and the Internet, I managed to plan the perfect itinerary. So this last summer my husband, our 5-year-old daughter and I began the trip of our lifetime. Here’s a little guide for Motherhood readers about what to do and what to expect if you are planning a trip to California.
We started our trip from San Francisco, and the first thing that surprised us when we left the airport, was the gust of cold winds. It was least expected in the month of June, and I didn’t gather from the information on the Internet, that how chilly the weather could be in this city. The hotel we stayed at was Marriott at Union Square, which was located in the most happening environment in San Francisco, due to the presence of all the top brands in the vicinity. The next morning, we walked all around Union Square and visited some splendid stores. The best one for men was definitely the Ferrari and Porsche store. And for my daughter, it was the Disney store that had a beautiful magic mirror inside.
Afterwards we drove to Sausalito Bay Area, which is named as one of the Top 3 “Happiest Seaside Towns”. To go to Sausalito we had to drive through the most amazing Golden Gate Bridge.
What to expect at Sausalito?
- Lush scenery, open marinas, houseboats, café life, and artist’s colony. View of Alcatrez prison from the bay (Visit recommended if you don’t have kids along).
- A pleasant weather with a bright sun and a light, slightly cold breeze.
- Fresh seafood.
On the way back we went to the Golden Gate Bridge and Muir Woods; if you have seen Rise of the Planet of the Apes, you will know which bridge and woods I am talking about. It is the most amazing place for sightseeing and bike riding. But be prepared to be welcomed by an extremely chilly wind. A light woolen hat is recommended; we were not wearing one and, hence, ended up with a headache by the time we got back.
The next day we undertook a trip to Napa Valley. And what an absolutely breathtaking road trip it was, with beautiful scenery and some amazing landscapes all along the way. There are many wineries present along the way. One can take the winery tours if interested in seeing how it is all done.
What to expect at Napa Valley?
- A very serene and calm environment with several fine-dining options.
- The sunrise balloon flight- an amazing hot air balloon ride.
- Amazing spas, bike riding locations, and culinary classes.
- A pleasant weather with a light breeze.
Napa Valley is surely the best place to be if you want to just relax and unwind. After another shopping spree at union Square, we travelled to Fresno.
Wow, what can I say about Los Angeles? It surely is the city of stars. So bright and so happening all at the same time; it makes you feel like a star yourself. There are two main attractions in LA. One is Disneyland, and the other, of course, Hollywood. Our trip to LA began from Anaheim, where Disneyland is located. If prior hotel reservations are not done elsewhere, then a good option is to stay at one of the Disney resorts. Almost every hotel in the vicinity of Disneyland provides a shuttle service every 20 minutes. The concierges at these hotels are quite helpful and can guide you well for your trip. I would suggest that you do a little homework yourself before going there. That will help you decide better about which parks to go to according to the age of your child and your area of interest.
What to expect at Disneyland?
- Expect to feel like a child again and fulfill all your childhood fantasies.
- Expect to get really tired as these parks are huge and sometimes it is difficult to see everything in one day, so do opt for a two day park hopper ticket.
- It was pretty hot there. So be prepared with a lot of sunscreen and caps as the lines could be long and tiring. Do look for the character greeting areas in order to meet your favorite characters live. And don’t forget to take your Disney photo pass.
- You can dine with your favorite characters too. There are information desks for your convenience.
- The items inside Disney are pretty expensive; so if you are not ready to spend a fortune on little things like an autograph book, or a pen, do take one along.
- Do not miss out on the parades or the fireworks at night.
- If you have a daughter, do not forget to take her to the Bibbidy Bobidy boutique and give her the experience of her lifetime.
After a two day trip at LA Anaheim, we went to Disney downtown to explore the world of Hollywood.
Things to do and visit at LA downtown:
- If you want a guided tour, opt for LA star tours. It will take you to all the major landmarks. The only drawback is that you will not get to walk around and explore on your own.
- If on your own, go to rodeo drive, which is famous for the most exclusive extravaganzas of shopping and star-studded sightseeing. Based in the upscale Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive is a three-block district celebrated for its high couture fashion and posh salons.
- Drive to Hollywood Boulevard and right to “Hollywood and Highland” where you can find places like Cirque du Soleil and Madame Tussauds. You can even witness some live recording or catch a glimpse of your favorite Hollywood stars.
- To visit the Hollywood landmark, go to the Griffith observatory. For exact timings and locations don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- There are plenty of dining options; café hard rock at night time is a definite place to be.
- Reserve a day for visiting Santa Monica Pier, and spend a wonderful day at the beach boardwalk with food, carrousel, arcade games and so much more.
The next day we were all set to hit the road again, en route to San Diego.
San Diego is the second largest city of California, and a true dream location due to ideal weather, amazing roads, superb ambience, and awesome dining options. The best part about San Diego is that even if one does not plan anything there, one will still love that place due to the presence of beautiful beaches, countless parks and gardens, and endless opportunities for pampering. San Diego is an excellent destination for some quality rest and recreation.
Things to do at San Diego:
The most difficult part of planning a San Diego vacation is deciding what to do, what to see and where to go. With infinite options for activities to try, regions to explore and attractions to enjoy, one wants to do everything one can. We mixed up our trip with adventurous theme parks and activities to lay back and relax, in order to keep us going and keep our energies balanced.
- We spent Day 1 at the beach at Del Mar, and had lunch at a hotel called Poseidon. Their fish tacos are a must try!
- Next day was a trip to the zoo, which was an astounding experience. Seeing over 4000 strange and the most unimaginable animals was a great addition to our knowledge. The zoo is so huge that it is hard to complete the whole tour in a day; so if you want to see the complete place, starting out early in the morning is a good idea. It’s a lot of walk including some uphill and downhill paths, so gear up properly.
- The thing not to be missed is a place called Sea World, and no it’s not an aquarium! Sea World is an amazing theme park. The shows there are not to be missed at any cost, especially the Shamu (Shamu is the stage name given to the killer whales at the seaworld shows )and the Dolphin show. One can even interact and swim with the dolphins there.
Tip: If you want to enjoy the rides at Sea World, do so during the hours of the Shamu and the Dolphin show, as the lines will be shorter at those times. Otherwise the wait could be very tiring. And don’t worry; you will get the timings of the shows on the map that you get at the entrance. That way you won’t miss out on anything.
- The next day we decided to relax, spending our afternoon with lunch at a Thai restaurant followed by a dip in the pool and Jacuzzi. The evening was well spent at a good Chinese restaurant followed by dessert at the yummy frozen yogurt bar “Swirls”.
- Last, but not the least, was a visit to Legoland. It also has two sections, the main Lego land park and a water park. Plan the visit according to your and your child’s preferences. Skip this visit if you do not have a child along, and instead, spend the day shopping at the outlet malls where you can find some very good discounted items.