Monterey Bay Teaser + My California Wish List
After our three night stay in Berkeley followed by a brief stop in Santa Cruz to celebrate my goddaughter’s first birthday and dedication, and a night in Salinas where we were given an impromptu tour of John Steinbeck’s house, Jave and I decided that it was probably time to hit the road back to L.A., but not before stopping in Monterey for a bit. I’d been to Monterey a few times before – once when I was young and again during college. But frankly, my visits there are a blur as I don’t remember much from either one.
And because we were in such a rush to move on to Pacific Grove for the 17-Mile Drive before officially leaving the area, I still didn’t get to experience Monterey the way that I would’ve really liked to. After a brief lunch stop at The Wharf Marketplace across from Old Fisherman’s Wharf, we barely had enough time to drive through Cannery Row, past the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and The Clement Monterey, an Intercontinental property I have my eye on. While I’m grateful for our snippet of Monterey, I want more! And so I’ve vowed to return yet again next year.
As we sat in traffic on our way back home, Jave and I marveled at just how much there is to see and do in California. I mean, it’s never ending! We could literally spend an entire year just exploring different parts of California and still have a laundry list of places to see and things to do in my beautiful state. So I’ve put together a wish list of places I have yet to explore in California – places that have long been on my heart to visit. And I’m determined that Jave and I will reach many of these destinations within the next year, so help us God!
Mendocino is popular with artists, and it’s easy to see why considering the scenery in this northern California town. With a rocky coastline, the wild Russian Gulch State Park, and plenty of redwoods, artists and travelers alike can’t help but to be inspired by Mendocino’s natural beauty. Plus, with a population of just under 900, something tells me that Mendocino would make for the perfect small town getaway.
Point Reyes National Seashore
This park preserve sits about 30 miles northwest of San Francisco near Tomales Bay, and it boasts some of California’s cleanest beaches. The area offers plenty of hiking trails, campgrounds, the Point Reyes Lighthouse, a beautiful cypress tree tunnel, and a shipwreck. Need I say more?
Napa + Sonoma
So, I’m in the very early stages of plotting a Valentine’s Day getaway to Napa + Sonoma. We have no official plans yet, but I’d love, love, love to spend a relaxing, romantic getaway in California’s acclaimed wine region. Sadly, this past summer, fires ravaged thousands upon thousands of acres in Napa County and surrounding counties, and I’m not sure of the full extent of the damage. Nevertheless, my heart is calling me to wine country for wine and good times.
Whenever I make it back to Monterey and neighboring Carmel-by-the-Sea (my absolute favorite destination in California), I’ll also be making a stop in Big Sur. We actually planned on stopping in Big Sur on our way back from the Bay Area, but not wanting to get back to L.A. past midnight, we decided to forego Big Sur this time around. But Pfeiffer Beach and McWay Falls are definitely must-sees when we finally do make it to Big Sur.
Yosemite + Mammoth Lakes
It’s pitiful, I know, but I’ve never been to Yosemite! The bad part about it is that Yosemite is only a 4.5 hour drive from home. This World Heritage Site is renowned for its granite cliffs, wondrous waterfalls, giant sequoias and much more! Of all the places on this list, Yosemite is top priority. Also, I’ve long wanted to go to Mammoth Lakes, and seeing that it’s only a 45 minute drive from Yosemite, it would probably make sense to combine these two destinations into one extended weekend trip. My friends have expressed an interest in planning a big family snow trip to Yosemite, so a visit to these wish list destinations may become a reality sooner rather than later.
Lack of time seems to be the story of my travel life which is why we didn’t get the chance to visit Morro Bay when we drove to Cambria and San Simeon a few years ago. That’s pretty sad considering that Morro Bay is only a little over a half hour’s drive from San Simeon. But now that I’ve revisited San Simeon, we can skip it the next time we’re in the area and devote all of our time to Morro Bay instead. Morro Bay is mainly recognized by Morro Rock, a volcanic rock standing at over 500 feet in the city’s harbor entrance. Why do I want to go to Morro Bay? Well, because it looks beautiful, relaxing, and it’s not too far from Montaña de Oro State Park where Jave and I would love to go camping.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
Since my dream of visiting the coastal redwoods finally came true last year, I’ve now set my sights on Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks – two parks that are jointly administered. These parks make up a big part of the Sierra Nevada range, including Mt. Whitney (one of the tallest mountains in the U.S.), and are known for their giant sequoia trees and deep canyons. I’m thinking a springtime visit is in order.
When Jave and I went to San Diego earlier this year, we spent the majority of our time holed up in our hotel room binge-watching Naked and Afraid. Of course we eventually rolled out of bed to explore a bit, but it was the perfect escape; an infrequent chance to totally unplug and detox. As my travel style continues to evolve, I’m finding that I long for more itinerary-free travels, and Ojai (sounds like “oh-hi”) is a destination that lends itself to kissing an itinerary buh-bye as its tourism is focused on health and spirituality. I can just hear Ojai calling my name.
So a few years ago when we were driving to San Simeon, we passed through Lompoc and I remember thinking, “I don’t remember Lompoc being this pretty!” You see, my mom lived in Lompoc for years as a kid, so I’d visited before. Although Lompoc has a strong military presence, it’s known as “The City of Arts and Flowers”. Located in Santa Barbara County near Santa Ynez Valley, Lompoc is becoming increasingly popular for its music and wine scenes.
Joshua Tree National Park
While I’m not really a desert person, every year, I seem to find myself in the desert somewhere whether it’s Borrego Springs, Palm Springs, or even Las Vegas. Next year’s desert trip will be to Joshua Tree National Park because it’s eluded me all this time. As many times as we’ve been to Palm Springs, we’ve never taken the time to drive an extra 45 minutes to Joshua Tree National Park. I fully intend to right this wrong within the next year.
While I’ve seen and done a lot in California, as you can see, there are still many other parts of my state that are begging to be explored. And this list doesn’t even include all of the places I still want to explore right here in L.A.! Looks like I have my backyard travels cut out for me.