The original Disneyland is at the top of our reasons why you should visit California; It is the only theme park designed and built to completion under the direct supervision of Walt Disney. From the moment you walk through the gates you’re greeted by Walt’s metropolis of nostalgia, fantasy, and futurism. There are two parks on site Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park, and we recommend setting aside a couple of days to explore each park. The City Pass we got from the Disney desk at our hotel gave us 3 days at Disneyland, so we did 2 days at California Adventure Park and had the one day at Disneyland Park, 3 days, and we still didn’t get to see and do everything we wanted to, an excellent excuse for us to return one day.
Next door to these parks is Downtown Disney an outdoor shopping centre which is free to enter, with fun shops, yummy restaurants and exciting entertainment. We spent a whole afternoon there building LEGO sets to race outside the LEGO store, making our build-a-bears, eating Olaf shaped biscuits and having the most delicious lunch in the Uva Bar.
You get the full package in California when it comes to soaking up some rays on the beach. Sun, sea and sand – all the beaches have it. A couple of our favourite beaches were Huntington Beach and Balboa Pier Beach, each of them was within reasonable distance of Disneyland if that’s where you’re based during your stay. We had the most perfect for our sandcastles, a warm sea to paddle in and so much to see and do. Most of the beaches had play parks on them which pleased my slide loving children, and for us, as parents, it was fun to push them on swings with a view as epic as the North Pacific Ocean.
The highlight of a trip to the beaches during our stay in California was exploring the piers. I loved the fact that most of them ended with a Ruby’s at the end, highly recommend the coke floats and chilli fries! Our favourite pier was Santa Monica, which is one of the largest piers in the USA. The pier contains Pacific Park, a family amusement park with its one-of-a-kind, state-of-the-art solar panelled Ferris wheel. There’s also an aquarium, the historic carousel and playland arcade.
There are so many places you can visit in California, and this could quickly turn into ‘100 reasons why you should visit California’, but I’ve picked out the highlights from our trip, places that I would recommend visiting in a heartbeat. Places like San Diego which also have some pretty awesome beaches (shout out the Carlsbad beach and the seals) and attractions such as San Diego Zoo and LEGOLAND California. We’re HUGE LEGO fans so it was top of our list to visit during our trip and it did not disappoint, compared to our visits to LEGOLAND Windsor we got that sunny weather which meant we were able to play in the splash parks and enjoy outdoor LEGO exhibitions without that typical British weather.
Wow. Just wow.
Oh, how I miss those stunning sunsets. It was like a bonfire in the sky, the way the sunset on our day’s adventures was always the perfect end to our day. There’s a quote that I love which is perfect for the Californian sunsets ‘sunset is the opening music of the night’ and oh boy, how right that is. We didn’t do much after dark as the kids were so tired after our day’s adventures, but as we drove back to the hotel, you could see the day continuing under a different light with a different crowd. It’s one sunset I cannot wait to experience again in my lifetime.
It’s Family Friendly
Everywhere we went was set up and catered for families, from the smaller attractions to the bigger ones, they all had kid-friendly activities and provided for children with special needs like our Dylan. Kids portions in most of the restaurants were of great value and with wide varieties, perfect for fussy eaters. The locals were so friendly, and that has stayed with us since our visit. There was always something happening which we could go along to; our tip would be to seek out local websites listing what’s going on in the area you’re staying in. We stayed in Orange County and found ‘Play A Day Out‘ to be a fantastic resource for events.
I think seeing the Hollywood sign graces most people’s bucket lists and it’s been on mine ever since I first saw in pop up in cartoons/films as a young girl. So this probably explains why I was so choked up when I first laid eyes on it as we were driving into Hollywood. The weather was a bit cloudy during the day we went, so our view wasn’t as clear as it could have been but we had a good view of it from the bridge in The Hollywood & Highland Center. There are better places you can go such as Beachwood Canyon, Lake Hollywood Park and Griffith Park Observatory which is a prime viewing place for the Hollywood sign.
Of course, you have to follow the Hollywood Walk of Fame; the kids loved reading all the stars and spotting some of their favourite celebrities. As you get further down the boulevard you’ll find people trying to solicit you for their tours; we found just walking on and saying no thank you made them move on. To be honest, we were not big fans of Hollywood, but we had to visit it for the history, the sights and we appreciated it for what it is.
American’s know how to do food – FACT. There is everything type of cuisine scattered all over the place, and we were spoilt with food outlets to choose from during our stay in California. We ate everywhere from Target’s instore cafe, Taco Bell to family-friendly restaurants. Our favourite was the breakfasts menus, our regular haunt for breakfast was Coco’s Bakery & Restaurant, everything about it was scrumptious!
Shop Til You Drop
Now I’m not the biggest of shoppers; I’d much rather spend our pennies on adventures than material items but saying that I do like the odd shopping trip and California provided us with many shopping opportunities. I wish I could say I shopped until I dropped at Macy’s, but most of my shopping allowance was spent in Target, who doesn’t love Target?! I may have also spent a small fortune at Victoria Secret in Hollywood, $1 handbag perfumes – get in my basket! There’s also the duty-free at the airport which was a fun shopping experience; we stocked up our liquor cupboard with some reasonably priced spirits at LA airport.
You’ll Never Get Bored
We filled our day’s full of some many activities and excursions, we never once heard that ‘B’ word from the kids. Even a trip to Orange County Zoo had us climbing trees and going horse riding in Irvine Regional Park. California is full of endless adventures, do consider it for your next trip and if would like to hear some more recommendations then please do get in touch with us.