The Journey is the Destination

5 Top Must Sees in California

in California/Coastal Trips by

We went to California for 13 days over winter break and it just wasn’t long enough. We loved the dry, warm air and the ability to see so much in such a short amount of time. It’s hard to narrow down the top 5 places we visited during our trip but if I could only choose 5 places to visit in California, it would be these.

Alcatraz Island, San Francisco

Alcatraz hands down was an amazing adventure for us. If you are planning on doing this, do not wait until you are there to do so. You will not get out there. There are many boats that bring you by Alcatraz island but you can only dock at the island through Alcatraz Cruises.
We found a great deal through Sam’s Club to purchase the hop on hop off package that included the trip to Alcatraz. It was the only option we found to do this. If you don’t have a Sam’s Club membership, you can get one really cheap through LivingSocial. Or if you aren’t interested in a tour of Alcatraz, but are interested in other San Francisco points of interest, check out City Pass for their discounts.

A view of Alcatraz as we approach. image

Crumbly original stairs at the landing of Alcatraz.

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A view from the laundry room windows. 
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 An old section of stairs inside Alcatraz

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A cool perspective of San Francisco Bay looking through an old structure on Alcatraz

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Beauty abounds with flowers from generations on Alcatraz island

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With no predators on Alcatraz, birds flourish

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Pacific Coast Highway

Pacific Coast Highway is old Route 1 and runs the majority of the California coast. The views are breathtaking and the roads are narrow and windy. It took us hours to make our way down the coast from Santa Cruz to San Diego. We jutted inland and then back out but the most scenic part of our California trip was when we are on the PCH. If you find yourself on the PCH, make sure you catch a sunset.

The 17 Mile Drive is on the Monterey Peninsula and home of Pebble Beach

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The bridges connect the jutting coast line

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 The cutest man on the Pacific Coast Highway

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Amazing start to a West Coast sunset

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One of my favorite photos of the trip

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Another of my favorite photos on the Pacific Coast Highway

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We took SO many pictures but none can capture the beauty of the PCH

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Ahhh… and finally the sunset

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Borrego Springs

Getting to Borrego Springs we went through Julian, a beautiful mountain town known for their apples. It was such a contrast to go from the mountains and wind down in to the desert. Borrego Springs was just as beautiful with the many varieties of cactus and the painted layers of the Vallecito Mountains and Santa Rosa Mountains. We especially loved the warmth during February knowing the coldest weather of the winter was back home!

My advice if you go to Borrego Springs: do your laundry before you get there! We went to the laundromat and it was fine. But we felt guilty when we learned the aquifer, the only source of water for the area is drying up with an estimated 30 years left. There are no options to import water and so it truly is a dying town. You can read about on the Borrego Underground website.

Ouch! Don’t sit on the cactus!

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Make sure to check out the large sculptures in Galletta Meadows in Borrego Springs

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The beautiful mountains surround the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

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More beautiful cactus in the middle of the desert

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Some palm trees grow hairy trunks when they are not groomed

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Sunsets in the desert are magical with the warm breeze and silence all around

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The Queen Mary

The Queen Mary is in Long Beach, California and a magical place to stop. We were fortunate enough to spend the night in one of the cabins on the ship. It was rainy night so as we explored the ship, the outer decks and searched for ghosts on The Queen Mary we were basically alone. It added to the eerie feeling.

Long Beach behind me

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Um, no. See picture above… I love being me, thank you!

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Queen Mary in the Long Beach Harbor

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Queen Mary glowing in the night

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The view of Long Beach from our room aboard the Queen Mary

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The Queen Mary is said to be haunted. We were a little freaked out…

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And we were freaked out with good reason

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Even freaked out, we had fun

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Some rooms were locked and this is all we could see… spooky…

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San Bernadino Mountains

The San Bernadino Mountains are amazing. Coming from New England I was shocked that entire towns, lakes and life exist on top of these mountains. We stayed in Lake Arrrowhead a few nights but took day trips down the mountain to Riverside and higher still to Big Bear. The best part of these mountains was the winding roads getting to the top, the view from the top and the wildlife zoo at Big Bear.

You can see forever on top of the San Bernadino Mountains

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One of my favorite pictures

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The night view on the way up the mountain to Lake Arrowhead is amazing

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One of Bill’s awesome finds while we did a little morning exploring

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Truly on top of the world… for more than one reason. <3

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The Big Bear Alpine Zoo was the best part of trip

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Good kitty… leave the puppy alone…

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The Big Bear Alpine Zoo offers rehabilitation to a variety of animals

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I know we only touched the surface of California while we were visiting. There are so many places to see in California that this blog post doesn’t do it justice but I hope you have enjoyed these highlights. And I look forward to writing more about our next adventure in Cali!

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