Just GIVE me an excuse to travel to California, and I'll be there in a heartbeat. So far, I've seen a good amount of California, and I always love what I see. It's such a huge state, and every part is different. And there is so much more I want to see! But let me tell you a little bit about what I've experienced so far, as well as what I'm looking forward to.
San Francisco: My job of the last few years has been headquartered in SF to my delight. Because of this, I get out to San Fran now at least twice a year, which I absolutely love. The city itself is amazing and seemingly endless, I discover a new part of town everytime I am there. The parks are beautiful, as well as those famous bridges. Alcatraz- worth a few hours for sure. The restaurant scene is unparalleled, the views too- if I'm going to walk up crazy hills there better be a ridiculous view at the top, and here there always is. Also, when I'm ready to get out of the city, I can do that completely with a trip to Muir Woods (which I discovered last time, an amazing park right outside of the city with those big ass Sequoia trees), Sausalito (adorable town right across the bay), and Wine Country (no description needed here, next paragraph please...)
CA Wine Country- Napa/Sonoma: Just an hour drive outside of SF and you will arrive in wine country. I've visited both Napa and Sonoma, and when I go to SF for work, I usually try to top off the trip with a weekend in either spot. 2-3 days will give you all you need here- sun and warmth (much less windy and much warmer than SF most of the time), relaxation (the resorts here are not too shabby, as well as the airbnb options), great food, and wine- so much good wine. In the last year or so Uber has finally hit this area- and it really has been a gamechanger in the best possible way. You really can't walk to most wineries (because they are huge and on acres of vines most of the time). Because it is flat on the main drags many people do bike, but I'm not a good drunk biker either. So rather than you and a friend switching off as DDs, the Uber option is really the way to go. What's the difference between Napa and Sonoma? Both are awesome- have amazing wineries and restaurants, and central areas (Napa town is a complex with lots of tasting rooms, bars and restaurants- very big, whereas Sonoma has the square - same idea just smaller and more quaint). I prefer Sonoma- seems to be a little more affordable, and more isoteric wines. Napa has all the big names, Sonoma has some but mostly smaller scale productions. Either way, wherever you stay you will have a blast.
Newport/Laguna Beach: Skipping all the way down to SoCal now! I have a friend who moved from Philly to Newport beach just a couple of years ago, and I have made it a point to visit here a few times a year to catch up and explore Cali with her. She really did Cali right moving to this area, it is just beautiful. You have great beaches, endless biking on the shore opportunities (which is a great way to kill an afternoon), gorgeous weather- even some hiking opportunities in the hills of Laguna. The restaurant scene is a little chainy (no one really walks here so you are usually visiting a shopping plaza for dinner opps) but the beaches have some restaurants with beautiful views, as well as the main street of Laguna. Balboa is a great area to check out some gorgeous houses and people living that yacht life.
Santa Barbara: On a trip visiting my SoCal friend we drove up to Santa Barbara and did a couple days/one night up there. It was only a couple hours from Newport Beach, and a really nice getaway option. The beach did not disappoint, the Hilton resort we stayed in was in a perfect location (walkable to town and right across the street from the beach). The town itself is super cute- tons of restaurant and shops and wine tasting rooms.
Hermosa/Manhattan Beaches: If I was going to live in California- these beach towns would be on the top of my list. Gorgeous houses, a nice, lively bar/restaurant scene, the Strand which goes on forever to bike on, the beach is ridiculously huge, it has a laid back/fun vibe and is close enough to LA. When I visited I achieved a lifelong dream of seeing Kelly's 90210 beach house (picture below-sniff sniff tears of joy for living out my TV dreams).
Santa Monica/Venice Beach: Boom right outside of downtown LA. So much going on! Santa Monica has more of a east coast feel to it, with it's main street full of coffee shops/boutiques/bars and restaurants- which of course I gravitated to. Venice beach is another montrosity of a beach that lives up to it's rep- so many different people just hanging out, yes someone will rollarblade right past you wearing a ridiculous getup, just drink in the crazy coolness.
LA: What I love about LA- hiking Canyon Run park and behind the Hollywood sign- great views of the city and beyond- you can't get much higher in this region. Also living out more TV dreams by going to West Hollywood, drinking at SUR and PUMP, and stalking the cast of Vanderpump rules. In addition, just down the road from these restaurants you can catch the Beverly Hills sign and it's all right there! Rodeo drive, the walk of fame, all the LA things are literally right there. The hotels in this area are also worth the money- the scene is just over the top, beautiful roofdecks and pools and parties.
What's weird about LA- no one walks- anywhere. I did it and it's like a ghost town, it has the most amazing weather yet everyone is indoors or in cars. And everyone goes to the gyms, there are a million of them there. Why not go run it's always beautiful out??? Crazy. Also, I keep waiting for the restaurants to blow me away with their food and it hasn't happened yet. I need to just keep trying.
Palm Springs: I did a girls trip here for a long weekend. So much fun, so hot, yet so cool to be in a town in the desert because the landscape is so different from what I'm used to. Extremely flat with huge, looming mountains in the background. The housing archtexture here is also super cool- complete rooms indoors with no roofs, rancher style, rock formations for gardens, cactii, so cool! Get a resort here with a large pool, a cabana, and just relax. The main street has lots of bar/restaurant options. Next time I'm doing the tram car up the mountain for views- and taking a side trip to Joshua tree for sure!
San Diego: As far south as I've been in Cali. Would I move here? Who wouldn't??? I've gone twice- stayed downtown once and on Pacific beach another time. Downtown you have a fun area with bars/restaurants that are close to the stadiums, the marina where you can catch all the sea lions hanging out and ships docked. Pacific beach - another cool beach town within the city limits (not walkable from downtown), laid back with some bar/restaurant options. Also visited La Jolla for a day- much more upscale bars/restaurants- natural beaches and large rocks on the water- all the sea lions (literally everywhere), really cool scene to check out for a day- just another beautiful place in California.
Where I'm looking forward to going:
Sequoia National Park