Birthday Trip to California

Well, I’m officially old. The big 3-0. Half way to 60. Thirty is a big one, so I feel like it’s only appropriate to celebrate a little bigger than usual. So what’s bigger and better than taking a vacation?!

Southern California is somewhere that I’ve always wanted to go, so I figured my 30th birthday was the perfect time to go! It was a fairly short trip, (2.5 days) but honestly it was plenty of time to do all the things I wanted to do! We stayed in the cutest little Airbnb in Long Beach, and visited Laguna Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, and the Santa Monica / Venice area.

Our first day was a long one, but it was probably my favorite day of the trip. I started my day at 2:30 a.m., Florida time, in order to catch our 6:00 a.m. flight. We had a 1.5 hour drive to the airport, plus I had to actually get ready (not just rock leggings and a ponytail) because we jumped right into exploring when we got there, and of course I wanted to be cute for pictures! My friend Jill came from Missouri and met us in California, and we were able to find flights that landed at exactly the same time. Once we got our rental car, we headed straight for the fun!

Our first stop, per my husband’s request, was In-N-Out. It was my first time having it, and it was good, but honestly, I don’t really get what all the hype is about. But, my husband was so excited about it, so I just went with it. From there, we headed to Laguna Beach. The one place that I was dead set on going on this trip was the Pirate Tower at Victoria Beach, so we made that our first stop. The tower was built in 1926 as an enclosed staircase for a senator that lived on the cliff above. Today, you cannot go into it, but it makes for a really cool photo backdrop. This was also my favorite beach area that we visited, because it had that rocky coastline that you would normally see more toward the north.

After checking out the beach and the Pirate Tower, we just explored the area of shops and businesses right along the beach. My husband and I always buy a couple of t-shirts anytime we visit somewhere new, but we like to find shirts that are a little more unique and local, rather than the things that you would find at the typical tourist shops. We found a really cool store called Laguna Surf and Sport that had their own line of t-shirts that had the perfect vintage, local vibes that we were going for.

From there, we decided to head back to Long Beach to check into our Airbnb. We knew that there was no assigned parking with the place we were staying, but we totally underestimated how difficult it would be to find somewhere to park. We spent about 30 minutes driving around trying to find street parking, before we eventually just gave up and paid to park in the parking garage of one of the hotels several blocks away. It really wasn’t that far from the house, but because we had all of our luggage with us, we decided to take an Uber back to the house. It was only around 6:30 p.m. when we got there, but at that point (thanks to the 3 hour time difference, the travel, and the day’s activities) we were all exhausted, so we ended up just ordering Domino’s and crashing by about 8:30 p.m.

Day number two we hit Newport Beach and Huntington Beach. The weather this day started out nice, but we knew that it was supposed to rain in the afternoon, so we wanted to make the most of the nice part of the day. The first thing we did was take the ferry in Newport Beach over to Balboa Island. We walked along the main strip on the island that is full of cute little shops and restaurants. We made sure to stop at Sugar ‘n Spice, which is the home of the original frozen banana in Newport Beach. I got a chocolate dipped banana, rolled in sprinkles, and it was delicious!

From there, we headed back to the mainland and decided to make our way toward Huntington Beach before the weather got too bad. We checked out the beach, spent some time watching the surfers, and then headed to lunch at Ruby’s Diner. The food wasn’t anything spectacular, but it was definitely good, and the vibe was super fun. By the time we were done, the rain and wind and temperature drop had arrived, so we decided to do a little shopping to get out of the weather.

Eventually the rain stopped, and even though it was still super windy and pretty cold, we decided to do a little more exploring. We drove to Rancho Palos Verdes, and went to a place called Pelican Cove Park. It was SUPER cold and windy up on the cliff, but the views were absolutely gorgeous! From there we went back to Long Beach and roamed around a little shopping center before heading back to our Airbnb. Just like the day before, it was pretty early, but we were all exhausted again, so we ended up just ordering food in, and chilling at the house for the evening.

On our third and final day, we had breakfast at the Long Beach Cafe, then made our way just a little to the north, and spent the day in Santa Monica and Venice Beach. For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to take a picture on a lifeguard stand (this desire may or may not have come from watching the OC back in the day…) so the first thing we did was find an empty stand and jumped right into our mini photo shoot. We then spent a little while watching the surfers, before heading back up to walk down the boardwalk.

The Venice boardwalk was really cool, but it honestly wasn’t quite what I was expecting. There were a LOT of homeless people, and it was honestly just kind of dirty. But there were a lot of cool shops and vendors, and it definitely made for some interesting people watching! One totally random thing that I really loved at the boardwalk was watching the skateboarders at the skate park! We watched them for about 30 minutes, but I honestly could have stood there all day long! We also made our way over a couple blocks to get a few shots of the famous Venice sign, which was decked out for Valentine’s Day!

By the time we got to the end of the boardwalk, our feet were killing us, so we decided to rent some bikes and ride all the way back down to the Santa Monica Pier. It was a Monday, so we were hoping that the pier wouldn’t be totally packed, but holy cow were we wrong. There were so. many. people. and honestly, it kind of ended up being a let down because we couldn’t just hang out and enjoy it like we had been hoping to. Both my husband and I get major anxiety in huge crowds like that, so we were a little stressed out! But we did manage to walk to the end to get some cool photos, check out a few shops, and of course, buy a few t-shirts! I definitely still enjoyed it, but looking back, I wish we would have tried to get there right when the pier opened, so that maybe it wouldn’t have been quite so crowded.

After the pier, I really wanted to go find Ocean Avenue to take a picture by the sign (random and weird, I know) but at this point we were all getting a little hangry, so we decided to just head to an early dinner since we hadn’t eaten lunch. We wanted to find something local, but as it had been our whole trip, parking was a big issue. We eventually just gave up and went to the Cheesecake Factory because we were starving! After dinner we headed back to Long Beach to pack up our stuff and get ready for our early flights home the next day!

Overall the trip was really fun, but I do wish that a few things would have been different. If we go again in the future, I will definitely want to go during the spring or summer so that we can get some better weather. We also wasted a lot of time searching for parking, so I would definitely want to make sure that we stayed at a hotel or Airbnb with it’s own parking. Lastly, I wish we would have eaten at more local restaurants, rather than eating places we can go at home too, but that really only happened because we didn’t plan very well. Now that we’ve got some experience though, we’ll be able to plan better for our next trip!

Now, where to next?!