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New York, NY
USA

We are parents, too. We think traveling well and traveling with children shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. We have limited vacation time, and we’re not spending our few days of freedom in lousy hotels eating bad food. We know the world is full of wonderful resorts, cool urban escapes and far-flung lodges that can make our time with our kids count. We want it all, and we don’t think it should be so hard to find. So we’re going to share it with you.

 

Ultimate California Road Trip

Travel Journal

Travel Journal

Dispatches from around the world

Ultimate California Road Trip

Henley Vazquez

The family road trip is an American rite of passage, and the nation's most iconic is a drive up the Pacific Coast Highway, 101. Load the kids in the car and explore the best food, wildlife, views and wine that the US has to offer. California native, Paula Franklin, maps out a perfect one-week trip.


Day 1: Los Angeles – Ojai

Ojai Valley Inn

Ojai Valley Inn

Eat...
Deer Lodge, Ojai’s oldest restaurant features a menu of local goodies
Friend's Ranches, for pixie tangerines

See...
Ojai Farmer’s Market, so famous that celebs often make the trip from LA
A farm tour...Ojai is known for oranges and olives
The Ventura River and surrounding forests on horseback 

Stay...
Ojai Valley Inn, where kids can jump into the three pools and play at Camp Oak while parents enjoy the world-famous spa and sample local wines


Day 2: Ojai – Channel Islands – Santa Barbara

Four Seasons Santa Barbara

Eat...
A packed lunch from Le Petit Café & Bakery in the Ventura Harbor Village before boarding the Channel Islands Ferry
At one of the hip restaurants in Santa Barbara's Funk Zone

See...
Channel Islands, California’s Galapagos for sea kayaking and hiking in search of unique wildlife
Santa Barbara Zoo, home to over 500 animals and spread across 30 acres
Santa Barbara’s Urban Wine Trail to taste the diverse wines of the Santa Ynez Valley

Stay...
Four Seasons Santa Barbara, one of our favorite resorts in the entire state


Day 3: Santa Barbara- Santa Ynez Valley

Alisal Guest Ranch

Eat...
Paula’s Pancake House in Solvang for authentic Danish goodies
BBQ at Alisal Guest Ranch

See...
Danish Town of Solvang to see the six Danish windmills, the famous Little Mermaid fountain and the Santa Ynez Mission
Quicksilver Ranch to get up close to miniature horses
Cachuma Lake to spot local deer, nesting hawks and heron (there are cruises you can take on the lake, too)  

Stay...
Alisal Guest Ranch, to channel your inner ranch hand with horseback riding and fishing


Day 4: Santa Ynez Valley – Lompac – Santa Maria – San Luis Obispo

Pismo Beach, photo by Jayme Burrows/Shutterstock

Eat...
Mission-style BBQ in Santa Maria, so good it has it’s own trademark
An award-winning bowl of clam chowder at Splash Cafe in Pismo Beach

Stop...
Downtown Lompoc to see the amazing outdoor murals
Bubble Gum Alley in San Luis Obispo, over a million pieces of chewed gum in one spot
Monarch Butterfly Grove in Pismo Beach

Stay...
Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo for over-the-top kitsch and themed hotel rooms


Day 5: San Luis Obispo – Big Sur

Eat...
Big Sur Road House at the Glen Oaks lodge
Big Sur Bakery for breakfast pizza

See...
The famed Hearst Castle to see how the media baron lived (in serious splendor, and don't forget to buy tickets ahead of time)
Purple sand at Pfiffer Beach and hike among California redwoods
The Elephant Seal Rookery near San Simeon, where hundreds of these giants lounge on the beach

Stay...
Glen Oaks Big Sur, quaint cottages nestled in a redwood forest


Day 6: Big Sur – Monterey

Big Sur coastline; photo by Radoslaw Lecyk/Shutterstock

Big Sur coastline; photo by Radoslaw Lecyk/Shutterstock

Eat...
LouLous Griddle in the Middle in Monterey for good food and crazy waitresses (their words, not ours)
Hog’s Breath Inn for upscale pub fare in Carmel

See...
The famous 17-Mile Drive from Big Sur to Pebble Beach, regarded as the most beautiful drive on the planet
Monterey Bay Aquarium, home to 35,000 creatures in 200 exhibits
Kayaking Monterey Bay in search of otters, dolphins and whales

Stay...
Carmel Valley Ranch, a sprawling resort with family-sized suites and great kids' activities


Day 7: Monterey – San Francisco

Drive to San Francisco (stop in Gilroy for garlic ice cream) for your flight home, or check out our San Francisco guide if continuing your trip.