Month number three of our epic RV journey across the US and Canada brings us to sunny Southern California! While we had so many incredible experiences during our time there, we decided to summarize our journey through SoCal into these top 10 must-see spots! We didn't have time to see absolutely everything so we know we've missed some great places...but these 10 in particular hold a special place in our hearts now. Have a look and let us know if you agree or disagree...
#10 Beverly Hills & Hollywood
For many folks, this may be the highlight of Los Angeles, but for us this came in at #10. It was quite nostalgic to see the Hollywood sign on the mountain, walk along the Hollywood Walk of Fame to see all the great artists and stand outside the famous Chinese Theater. Apart from those must see attractions, Hollywood was definitely a bit 'rough' and slammed with tourists so we were happy to get out of there after we saw the main sites. Beverly Hills was certainly more pleasing for us to walk around with the kids and just soak in all the richness and wealth that shows up everywhere you look! Bentley's, Lambourghini's and Rolls Royce's were commonplace here which was pretty cool to see. Rodeo Drive was a must see for Wendy so we ventured down to do some "window" shopping and eat some ice cream in hopes of catching a celebrity sighting.
#9 Elephant Seal Lookout
This might seem out of place, but for nature lovers like us, this place was just an amazing find! Located about 30 minutes north of Morro Bay almost near Central California, there is a large beach lookout which is home to a hundred or so elephant seals. We've never seen an elephant seal in their own habitat before and it was just amazing watching these huge creatures crawl around in the sand and push each other around in the rocky water. Best of all, this place is totally free to the public and provides amazing views over the ocean.
#8 Hearst Castle
Almost by accident, we found Hearst Castle, previous home of William Randolph Hearst the newspaper mogul. Not too far from Elephant Seal Lookout in a town called San Simeon we found this HUGE mansion and complex built atop a mountain overlooking green rolling hills and the the ocean. What's amazing is Hearst built this mansion over the course of 15 years and with many European design influences and architecture. Hearst Castle is now a state park, but once you get to the information center, visitors are bused up a windy mountain road to where the mansion is located. The mansion, its grounds and the views were absolutely stunning!!
#7 Desert Sculptures of Borrego Springs
Surreal is the best word to describe these incredible and odd steel statues that exist in the middle of the Anzo Borrego Desert. While driving to our campsite in Anza Borrego park, we passed ten or twenty enormous steel sculptures that are set inside the desert. None were more impressive than the magnificent serpent that meanders in and out of the ground and across the road. Just an amazing site and the kids absolutely loved checking out all the various sculptures and taking pictures with them.
#6 USS Midway Aircraft Carrier
I think TripAdvisor lists this as the #1 thing to do while in San Diego. While we didn't have this as #1 on our list, it certainly was impressive and a great way to spend the day with the kids. This aircraft carrier which holds 20 or more jets and helicopters from various wars is a fully hand-on exhibit that us and the kids were able to walk through and touch everything in our path! Many exhibits we've been to in the past don't allow you to touch anything, which sucks for the kiddo's), but it was a pleasant surprise to find that literally everything on the ship was fair game to play with. The kids loved sitting in all the jets and helicopters and also visiting all the areas of the ship...and pressing all the buttons!
#5 Morro Strand State Beach
Located about 3 hours north of LA is Morro Bay and Morro Strand State Beach. The state beach was a great place for us to stay as our trailer was parked literally 50 yards from this huge amazing beach! Although the weather was cooler when we were here, the views of the famous Morro Rock and the huge rolling hills that sit directly behind the campground were incredible. The kids loved playing on the endless beach, picking up hundreds of sand dollars that washed up and dipping into the ocean to attempt some wake boarding. This is such an amazing and picturesque part of California!
#4 San Diego Zoo
Not surprisingly, this sight had to make our list! The San Diego Zoo is an incredible zoo with tons of animals that we really couldn't even see all in one day. Such a huge place that they even have shuttle buses inside the zoo to bring tourists from one place to another. Many exhibits are so well laid out that you get fantastic unobstructed views of the animals despite the busy crowds. Wendy was super excited to finally see pandas up close since the Toronto Zoo seems to always have a 2 hour wait to see their pandas and she always misses them. From Grizzly Bears, Polar Bears and Koala Bears to Lions, Tigers, Giraffes and Elephants this place had it all.
#3 Santa Monica Pier & Pacific Park
We had originally planned to drive around LA and not visit the city at all since the idea of pulling a 31 foot trailer anywhere close to LA traffic didn't seem appealing to us at all. We came to our senses and decided to park our trailer just outside of LA so we could stop in for a few days and boy are we glad we did. We spent the better part of an afternoon and evening enjoying Santa Monica area, the pier and of course all the rides at Pacific Park. Santa Monica had such a great vibe to it...a laid back beachfront and boardwalk, fun little shops, greasy food and fun performers. On top of that the weather, sunset and view over the beach was just amazing. We could've easily spent the entire day here, but unfortunately we just didn't have enough time. All I know is...we will be back!!
#2 Hiking Slot Canyon in Anza Borrego
While we were staying in Anza Borrego State Park, we managed to stumble upon this amazing trail. The trail is located about 20 minutes from our campsite and directly past the steel Desert Sculptures, but only accessible by 4-wheel drive vehicles (thank you Dodge Ram). The kids had an absolute blast off-roading through the desert just to get to the trail head. I had to be careful not to bottom out my truck a few times as its not a true off-road vehicle, but we managed to get to the trail with my entire truck still intact! Once on the trail it was an amazing meandering trail that led you through tight spaces inside the canyon. The walls were eroded by the water and wind so they had such beautiful swirls and patterns. The kids loved crawling in and out of the tight canyon spaces and the views from inside the canyon were truly amazing. The canyon walls even shelter you from the intense desert sun and heat which is an added bonus for the desert! Highly recommend visiting Anza Borrego and doing this trail in particular.
#1 Silver Strand Beach & Coronado
If you ever plan to visit San Diego, Coronado area and the Silver Strand State Beach is a must see. For us, as RV'ers, we were able to secure a spot directly on the beach (yes that's right) where we could step out of our trailer and directly on to the ocean beach. White sand and beautiful waves welcomed us and each night it was amazing to go to sleep with the sound of the waves crashing the beach. The kids played endlessly in the sand and we especially loved trying our luck wake boarding on top of the medium sized waves. If you're a beach lover this should be on your list! As an added bonus, Silver Strand beach is located about 5 minutes down the road from downtown Coronado which is probably one of the nicest areas in San Diego.