California Day Trips

My dear sister was the queen of day trips. Perhaps it was her preternatural gift for research – something that all librarians seem to possess. Perhaps it was her desire to live life to the fullest, always.

Whatever the reason, we could always count on her to come up with some new, fun, wacky and/or delicious way to spend a day.

Now that Peter and I are on the final lap of our California adventure before returning permanently home to Chicago next year, we decided that we need to put together a California To Do List. We are channeling my sister to come up with a list of day trips we want to take and experiences we want to have before we blow this pop stand.

California To Do List

Living in San Diego, we have done many of the customary/touristy things. We’ve been to the Zoo and Safari Park, the USS Midway, Balboa Park, Sea World, Legoland, etc, etc, etc.

Last weekend we spent the day in Los Angeles at the California Science Center with my brother, sister-in-law and nephews.

The second coolest thing at this museum was the Pompeii exhibit, complete with a video reenactment of the day Mt. Vesuvius blew her top – the room shook, speakers boomed and fog rolled into the theater to simulate the dust clouds covering the lost city.

But the coolest thing at the California Science Center – especially if you are a bit of a Space Program geek like moi – is the opportunity to see the space shuttle Endeavour in its new home. After the craft was retired, it was plopped on top of a 747, flown to Los Angeles then put on a specially designed wheel-bed to be delivered to the museum. The 12 mile trip through the streets of Los Angeles took 68 hours.

Check out this amazing time-lapse video of the engineering feat:

Seeing the Endeavour was definitely something on my California To Do List.


Endeavour at California Science Center

A huge bonus was being able to spend the day with the family and capping the evening off at their friends’ house for a delicious meal of Cajun gumbo and shrimp. Yummmmm!!!! Thanks, Kimi!

So what else is on our list?

  • Santa Barbara – Can you believe that wine lovers like ourselves have not yet been to Santa Barbara?!?! Fear not, that trip is on the calendar later this month. Full report to follow.
  • San Juan Capistrano – home of geographically loyal birds and one of California’s oldest Missions.
  • Monterey and San Simeon – gorgeous, gorgeous part of the state and the legendary Hearst Castle.
  • San Francisco – We have been there many times (including on our honeymoon approximately a million years ago) and are returning later this summer to attend the amazing Sausalito Art Festival.
  • Lux Art Institute in Encinitas – I don’t know a thing about this museum except that we need to visit the gift shop and get t-shirts, maybe some coffee mugs, a Christmas ornament…
  • Whale Watching from Cabrillo National Monument at Point Loma – There is an overlook area from which it is said you can see migrating whales swimming by. My plan will be to take a picnic lunch and just hang out for a day enjoying the breathtaking view and hoping to catch a whale sighting.
  • Catalina Island – EEEEEK! This is another place that has been on our list since we arrived in California. Our failure to yet visit Catalina Island would be like living in Boston for 5 years and never setting foot anywhere on Cape Cod. I’m so ashamed…
  • Tour the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista – because I am obsessed with all things Olympic.
  • Various experiences – A bonfire on the beach (because you can!), boogie boarding in the Pacific, paddle boarding in the bay (because, while the waves might be good for boogie boarding, I don’t think they would be my friend when balance is required.)

OK, what else? What have you done in Southern California that I should not miss?

Please note: Because of my aversion to hospitals,  quintessentially “So Cal” activities like surfing, para-gliding and medicinal marijuana will not make the list. Also, no tattoos.

no tattoos

I’m anxious to hear your ideas!

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Thanks for stopping by!


  1. Mo… I don’t know if I told you but our first move was to So Cal. We lived in Oceanside and the Mister commuted to Torry Pines where he was the chef and f&b. We have been to a lot of the places we mentioned. That area of the country is beyond beautiful. Looking forward to meeting you in a couple of weeks!

    • The hike through Torrey Pines State Beach and the view from the golf course are among my favorites! See you in a couple of weeks!

  2. All of the above sound wonderful! Every time I have been to California I have fallen in love with it – so many beautiful places and so different from north to south 🙂

  3. Drive along the Pacific Coast Highway and stay in Big Sur.

    • We did a tiny bit of that drive on our honeymoon long, long ago! But I’m a little nervous about your brother in his car on that road…

  4. Oh to go to the Sausalito Art Festival. Wow. That would be top of my list too. My grandfather’s brother moved to San Francisco (from Britain) and eventually became the harbour master. He raised his family in Sausalito and while he passed away before I was born I do remember visiting his wife and son and daughter there. Such a lovely part of the world. I look forward to seeing more of Southern California through your eyes Mo! Bring it on!

    • Sausalito is so charming and the Art Festival is the best I’ve ever been to. Although the last time we were there, the ATM ate our debit card so we will have to come better prepared!

  5. I second the drive up the PCH up the coast if you haven’t already done that! And, when you go to Point Loma to the Cabrillo Monument, stop and have a crab sandwich at Point Loma seafoods – the best sandwich EVER!
    Have a lovely day, Mo! xoxo

  6. What a fun list!!
    The only place I’ve been is San Francisco (once years ago!), Napa (same trip) and Sacramento (again years ago!!).
    Enjoy and I hope you share about some of your day trips!!

    • When we moved to California we were sure that we would be taking monthly trips to Napa and that just hasn’t happened! Hoping to get up there a couple of times in the next year, though!

  7. I don’t have any suggestions, but I’m looking forward to hearing about your adventures. Oh – I’m assuming you’ve seen the redwoods either in Muir Woods or another national park? And Alcatraz at night? That’s all I’ve got. Enjoy!

    • Alcatraz at night?!?! Wasn’t that totally creepy? I have been to Muir Woods but never to Redwood National Park where you can drive through a redwood tree. My family went when I was a kid but I broke my arm and had to stay home. That might have to go on the list!


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