Top Ten Tips … For a Successful Cabin Christmas

I just got back from another amazing cabin Christmas in Mount Baker, with five of my closest friends. It’s become our tradition to go down to a Cabin in Mount Baker for Christmas as our surrogate family of six (and Dave the dog!) I never get to go down with the rest of the group on 23rd December because I nearly always have to work Christmas Eve, so I miss out on all of the shopping, and tend to just swan in for the fun stuff (sorry guys!) I like to think that the six of us have it down to a pretty fine art, after a few years of having done this, and this year was testament to that, our Christmas was filled with laughter, cheese, snow and good times! So with that in mind here are my top ten tips on how to have a stress free awesome cabin Christmas with friends.

  1. Book the cabin early
    We always book our cabin pretty early in the summer.We have a few specific needs – pet friendly, sleeps six, not ridiculously expensive – which means that our search is a bit narrow. We’ve gone to the same cabin three times now, and because we like it so much we want to make sure someone doesn’t sneak in and book it first, plus booking early is one less thing to worry about the closer it gets to Christmas and getting some of the payments out the way early is always helpful.

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    Our cabin
  2. Plan ahead
    My friend James takes charge of the food on Christmas day (thank you!) and I know he plans what our meal will be ahead of time, so that when it comes to the trip to the grocery store, the list is already done meaning the whole mission is streamlined and somewhat stress free! If you’re cooking a meal think about all the little things you’re going to need down to oil, spices and salt and pepper that you might take having to hand for granted.
  3. Keep it simple
    We keep our food pretty simple whilst we are down at the cabin, we have our big Christmas day meal, and then for the rest of the time we pretty much stick to cheese and crackers, leftovers and some other snacky bits. This works for us, you might feel like being a bit fancier, but just remember it all has to be eaten or thrown away.
  4. Know boarder restrictions
    If you’re crossing the boarder, like we do, be aware of restrictions of what can and can’t cross the boarder. We buy all our food and alcohol once we’re in the US so we don’t even have to worry about this. This applies to what you can bring back into Canada too. This year we had quite a bit of left over unopened cheese, so we came home with those.
  5. Buy food and booze in the US
    Like I’ve already said we buy everything we eat and drink once we get down to the States. For a start it’s so much cheaper, we had a bottle of Port that was $6.99 (USD) and I know the other alcohol we get is also a lot cheaper than what we could have got in Canada. Same goes for the food, cheese is cheap and the options plentiful, and we love cheese! Plus there is no worrying about what can and can’t cross the boarder.
  6. Be prepared
    Two years ago I had a tickly cough on my way down to the cabin, by 11pm that night I felt terrible and all I had with me was some cough drops and 8 cold and flu tablets. I had the flu, and I felt horrendous. The cabin is pretty remote, and whilst there is a gas station a few miles away, it’s not just like running around the corner like you would of you were in a city. The moral of the story is be prepared. This year I took a few more medication options just in case any of us didn’t feel 100%.

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    Snow queen
  7. Discuss expectations
    As I’ve already said the six of us have done this a few times now and we all know how the few days are going to go. If this is your first Christmas with new people I suggest discussing the day before it gets there. You might expect to eat at lunch time whilst everyone else thinks you should eat in the evening. Think about all the little details and traditions that you want to be part of Christmas and make sure you’re all on the same page or willing to compromise so everyone can have an enjoyable Christmas.
  8. Don’t be greedy
    We don’t have a whole turkey because realistically we are not going to even get close to finishing it, we have turkey breasts which are more than enough and save us from having to throw a load of leftovers away. Another reason we don’t have an entire turkey is down to limited room in the oven; if we wanted a whole bird we’d probably have to sacrifice some sides. Think about the details.
  9. Bring entertainment
    We always take ample films and games to keep us entertained.The cabin we stay in does have a few classic games in there but we have our favourites that we take down with us. We also take some of our favourite Christmas films, so that we aren’t stuck watching what’s on television.
  10. Go offline and relax
    Our cabin didn’t have wifi the last few times we went there and we loved that about it. This year the owners had installed wifi, which we only used a few times, to Skype home on Christmas day and to contact me about the road/snow situation for my drive down. Going offline and having no phone signal is part of the beauty of the cabin for me, it’s a chance to switch off from the real world and relax.

Whilst traveling with friends can be amazing, and is definitely one of my favourite things to do there is no doubt that there can occasionally be a few bumps in the road. I hope some of these tips can be applied to traveling with friends, even if it’s not for Christmas but just in general, and to help you have as good of a time as I do when I go away with my friends for our cabin Christmas.

 

 

Leah Explores … Palm Springs

I have a confession to make; I have actually been to Palm Springs twice before, but never actually done anything more than sit by the pool and go to Walmart to collect camping supplies for Coachella. I decided it was time to rectify that situation and head into the desert. My mum was here for a few weeks, and as has become our tradition during her summer visits we try to go away as much as possible. We’d already been to Galiano Island and in previous years have gone down to Las Vegas, mainly because it’s cheap to get to from Vancouver and because we can eat, drink and lie by a pool there. This year we mixed it up a bit and decided upon a change of scenery, so we headed into the blistering Palm Springs sun.

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Beautiful Palm Springs

Stay:
I stayed at The Monroe which was pretty conveniently located at the north end of Palm Canyon Drive, which is the main strip in Palm Springs, so to speak. I found the hotel through booking.com and it had the dream combination of being reasonably priced and well reviewed! It was absolutely perfect for our stay as it had free parking, decent rooms and a great sized pool – win!

Eat:
I had so many delicious meals in Palm Springs, which actually surprised me a bit because I wouldn’t automatically think of it as a foodie haven … until now.
Lulu’s California Bistro
This place was huge, and had a menu big enough to rival The Cheesecake Factory, and some very strong cocktails.
Norma’s at The Parker
The Parker is one of the most beautiful places I have ever stepped foot in, and on top of that I had the most delicious french toast here, and it was honestly as thick as a ream of paper, no lie!
Workshop Kitchen + Bar
Super hipster, and super delicous, offering farm to table yumminess, tucked away in a cute little courtyard.
Koffi
There are a couple of these coffee shops dotted around the city, their muffins and iced coffees were amazing.
Great Shakes
Does what it says on the tin. I had the white chocolate cherry, and it was ridiculous in the best possible way!
Trio
Kind of like Lulu’s but on a slightly smaller scale. Their tagline is “Where Palm Springs eats” and that was good enough for me.
Ice Cream and Shop(pe)
Offering unique and delicious ice cream options with some cute gifts to shop at the same time. I had the pomegranate chip and it was beyond good.
Kings Highway at Ace
Cool vibes and a great menu full of food you want to eat. Their BLAT (bacon, lettuce, avacado, tomato) was absolutely scrummy!

* I’d read so many great reviews about Cheeky’s but sadly it was closed for August so I didn’t get to try it this time.

Do:
For such a tiny city I was really pleasantly surprised by how much there was to do in Palm Springs. Don’t get me wrong I was more than content to lie by the pool all day in the blistering sun, but also had the urge to go and do a bit of exploring. Looking back I feel like I had a nice balance of exploring and relaxing.
Aerial Tramway
The aerial tramway takes you all the way to the top of San Jacinto Peak. What makes this different from other gondolas and tramways is that this one rotates 360 degrees on the way up providing stunning views of the Coachella Valley and surrounding mountains. Once at the top there are stunning views to take in, as well as some hikes and all the classic National Parks information and learning centre.
Cabazon Dinosaurs
This place is so random and so completely unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. The concept is really simple; humongous dinosaur statues by the side of the road. We didn’t bother to pay and go in, but just had a quick look around and took a few photo’s. It’s only about a 20minute drive from Palm Springs and I’d definitely recommend it as something quirky to check out.
Salvation Mountain
It’s a bit of a drive (about 90 minutes each way) but in my opinion, so utterly and completely worth it, plus you get to drive past the Salton Sea which is kind of cool. This place is magical and unlike anything I have ever seen before. I first saw Salvation Mountain in the movie Into The Wild and it’s periodically popped up over and over again throughout the years, I’ve had a hankering to go there ever since. I don’t think I could ever do justice to how special this place is, so I will just say that if you ever get a chance to go there, please do so.
Moorten Botanical Garden
I stumbled across this place whilst doing some Pintrest research before leaving, and it actually ended up being one of my favourite things from the whole trip. It is so unique and being able to look at the hundreds of different types of cacti all in one place is really cool. Plus this place is home of the worlds first ‘cactarium’ which is a beautiful greenhouse filled with cacti bathing in muted light!
Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center
We stopped by here on out last morning in Palm Springs, because the bigger Palm Springs Art Museum wasn’t open yet and this place was, plus it was en route to the airport. There is free admission and it’s small enough that you can make your way around in around 30-45 minutes without rushing. This faction of the museum features temporary exhibits, and had some cool mid-century furniture on display whilst we were visiting.

I had such a great time in Palm Springs, and I know my mum did too. Palm Springs is such a bewitching place and is most definitely on the laid back side of things. There was a huge choice of great places to eat, and plenty of things to see and do that were all a bit different to things that you normally find to do when on vacation. To me Palm Springs is the kind of place where you can completely tailor your trip to suit your interests, which is kind of the perfect destination.

Leah Explores … Carmel

Carmel-by-the-sea is a small beach city in California, but what sets it apart from every other beach city in California (and lets face it, there are a lot) is that this place looks like something straight out of a fairy tale. The buildings are quaint and distinct, and there is a small town feel this idyllic beach city, I’ve looked at pictures and read all about it, but actually seeing it for myself was a whole other experience.. This place is both stunning and surreal. Post whale watching in Monterey my cousin and I drove 10 minutes south to Carmel-by-the-sea, for a stroll around the town, some lunch and some beach time. This tiny beach town is the perfect spot to visit for the afternoon as it’s small enough to navigate in just a few hours. That said, I think it would be absolutely amazing to go there for a mini break and just completely relax.

There are some super cute independent shops to look in as well as some more well known brands dotted throughout the main strip of town. I definitely recommend looking in Carmel Bay Company for some super cute gifts. There were so many places to eat at we felt a bit spoiled for choice, we settled on PortaBella restaurant which offered Mediterranean inspired cuisine, and had a delicious Croque Monsieur; a perfect spot for refuelling. Before we left we grabbed some yummy coffee from Carmel Coffee House. The Carmel Bakery looked full of deliciousness but I was so full after lunch I didn’t need any temptation. Whilst the town itself if cute, for me the beach was really the highlight. White sandy dunes lead into the Pacific Ocean and the views are just incredible. The weather wasn’t even that great whilst we were there but this place still took my breath away.

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I definitely suggest taking a trip to Carmel if you are in the area, just to see the beautiful city for yourself. As I’ve already said it’s a small place and there isn’t a ton to see and do, it has a more laid back pace to it, but that definitely works to it’s advantage. Have you been there? What’s your favourite thing to do? Favourite place to see? Let me kn0w in the comments. Happy exploring!

Leah Explores … Wilder Ranch State Park

Wilder Ranch, was one of those places that unexpectedly took my breath away and will forever be one of the most beautiful places I accidentally stumbled upon. I actually can’t take any credit for discovering this stunning place, it’s all down to the friend of my cousin who recommended it as a great day out. We decided to take a risk and packed up a picnic, some supplies and the wagon to put the children in when they got fed up of walking, and set off for an adventure.

Located just north of Santa Cruz, Wilder Ranch State Park occupies 7000 acres of coastal ranch land. Formerly a working dairy ranch, there are still signs of the lands former purpose, as the farmhouse and  a lot of the old buildings have been restored as museums. But, in all honesty, if you are going to Wilder Ranch it’s all about the hiking, and surrounding yourself in the natural beauty of the area.

There are ample trails located around the park, which are (for the most part) flat and easily accessible by foot, bike and even horse. The trails hug the cliffs offering unspoiled views of the Pacific Ocean. We did a 2.5mile round hike that took us to ‘Fern Grotto’ a secluded cove, complete with caves and a beautiful sandy beach. For the few hours we were there only two other people came down, and (luckily for us) they only stayed for a few minutes. Definitely make sure that you pack for all situations on your trip. This place is pretty isolated and there are no gift shops around to grab some water or any other essentials you may need. Anyway, enough of my ramblings, because I could honestly go on about how awesome Wilder Ranch State Park is all day, but instead I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

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Leah Explores … The Monterey Canyon

After my stint in San Francisco I headed inland for a bit of a family catch up to see my cousin and her family, as well as to do a bit more exploring, in some lesser know places. My first stop along the way was to go whale watching in Monterey.

We went out with Monterey Bay Whale Watch on a trip which lasted around 4 hours. Fun fact, these were the group who took out Big Blue Live last year. The great thing about these guys is that they are marine biologists so they actually know what they are talking about, and what to look out for. The boat was pretty big, it held about 120 people, but they have a speaker system so that you don’t miss any of the information they give you, which can include sightings, species and geographical information. This is particularly helpful when they can tell you that a whale has been spotted, cue me speed walking to the front of the boat.

The crew on the boat were really helpful, walking around making sure that everyone was alright throughout the trip. A special shout out to my cousin who powered through the freezing temperatures with horrible seasickness, she was the real MVP! I would definitely recommend layering up, I had one four layers, and could have honestly done with four more, it was freezing out there. Also take some sea sickness tablets, it’s better safe than sorry. My cousin took them and was still really sick, so I dread to think what she would have been like if she didn’t.

The trip took us out over the Monterey Canyon which is a submarine canyon big enough to rival the Grand Canyon, therefore making it abundant in marine life. We were really lucky on out trip, we saw a Sealions, Dolphins, Mola Mola (Ocean Sunfish), Humpbacks, Orca’s and most spectacularly of all a Blue Whale. Sadly I was stood on the wrong side of the boat when the Humpbacks surfaced, and there was no breaching by any of the whales (of course with my luck there was later in the day) but it was still an amazing day. Being able to say that I have seen a Blue Whale is something that I never even dreamed off, and is definitely something I will treasure forever. Here are some of my photo’s from the trip. Enjoy!

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Mola Mola (Ocean Sunfish)
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Dolphins
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Blue Whale hump (the tiny black hump)
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Orca’s
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Orca’s

 

 

Leah Explores … Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

When I headed to Northern California one of the things on my to do list was to see the infamous Redwoods, and I was not disappointed. We headed into Felton, a small town in the Santa Cruz Mountains, which is home to the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park.

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The park itself is on the family friendly side, with picnic areas and a steam engine ride, as well as blacksmith demonstrations, arts and crafts and much more. I was visiting with my cousin and her two children who are three and five and it was a perfect day out. We started off with a picnic in one of the many shaded areas before heading over to the visitor center to learn more about the area. From here we headed out onto the ‘Loop Trail’ which is a 0.8mile (1.2km) flat loop that takes you through the heart of the redwoods. One particular highlight on our trip was spotting a doe and fawn grazing just off the trail, completely unfazed by all the people mere feet away. Along the trail there was a tree which had been hollowed out by a fire, the tree was still so big that we were able to fit four of us inside with plenty of room to spare,  as well as seeing ‘The Giant’ a redwood that is 17ft wide and 270ft tall, it really helped to put into perspective just how big these giants are.

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I would definitely recommend a day trip to Felton if you are in the vicinity, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park was a fantastic day out. I’m so glad that I got to see these trees up close, to truly see how magnificent they are, and to tick one more thing off the ever growing bucket list.

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Leah Explores … San Francisco 

I have been wanting to go to San Francisco for so long, and I finally made it happen! Luckily it more than exceeded my expectations, and all the hype my friends had had was not misplaced. I had two and a half days in the city, and although I covered a lot I feel like I hardy scratched the surface, which in my opinion is the perfect excuse to go Hotel Mark Twainback and explore more in the future.

Stay:
I stayed at the Hotel Mark Twain which was conveniently located just a few blocks away from Union Square. It was pretty reasonably priced (for San Francisco) given the location. It even had a secret garden tucked away out the back that was the perfect place to sit and sip a coffee and hideaway from the city for a little while. The staff were also helpful, when it came to advice on directions and places to avoid, and there was a helpful guide book in the room that listed some local restaurants and bars. I would definitely stay here again, the bed was comfy, the place was clean, there were some quirky touches and like I already said the location was pretty great.

Getting Around:
San Francisco was a surprisingly easy city to navigate, and the public transport was pretty easy to master. I did a lot of walking whilst in the city, mainly because it is my favourite way to explore a new city and stumble across something unexpected. I used the BART to get from the airport to the city, which cost $8.95 and was painless. I also took the MUNI  a couple of times, which is $2.25 for a 90 minute transfer. Leaving San Francisco to head to San Jose I used the Caltrain, which was painless, and cost $12.95, the journey took just under two hours and was a great way to head into the Silicon Valley area without hiring a car. Of course the most fun way to get around is on a cable car, it was $7 for a single ride which was all I needed to do. However, it is worth bearing in mind that for $20 you can get a day pass and ride as much as you like.

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The most fun way to get around.

Things to do:
There is so much to see and do in San Francisco, I feel like what I saw was just the tip of the iceberg. I’ll admit I went into full tourist mode, in an effort to see as much as I could in the little time I had. In my two and a half days in the city I managed to see Alcatraz, Union Square, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Coit Tower, Ghiradelli Square, Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf, North Beach, Lombard Street, Chinatown, the Ferry Building, Twin Peaks and to squeeze in a ride on the infamous cable cars. I also did a Vantigo Tour which was a great way to see the city in a more authentic way than some of the bigger tour buses, and the tour guides were insightful and hilarious. The tour also took me to some of the places that were on my list but I knew would be a bit tricky to get to, which was super convenient.
My highlights were definitely seeing the sea lions at Fisherman’s Wharf, the views from Twin Peaks, riding the cable cars, and of course seeing the Golden Gate Bridge in person.

To say I loved San Francisco would be a huge understatement. I ran out of time to do all the hundreds of things that I wanted to do, but I am definitely looking forward to going back in the future, exploring some of the neighbourhoods in more depth, and ticking more things off my San Francisco bucket list.

Leah Explores … Santa Barbara

Before heading to Ojai for a few days I decided to take a little detour to the coast and spend the day in beautiful Santa Barbara to do a bit of exploring.  I only had the day there so I made sure I did a bit of research beforehand so I knew where I was going, to allow myself  maximum time for exploring. Santa Barbara isn’t that big, and is definitely somewhere you can get away with seeing most of it in a day. Here are my must see places for a whistle stop tour of stunning Santa Barbara.

The Historic Old Mission
This is definitely a must when visiting Santa Barbara. America is still a relatively new country so any chance to see something historic is an opportunity I always take. Founded in 1786, the mission is nestled against the hills and overlooks the city. You can take a self guided tour for $8, but I decided to skip it and just had a look around the beautiful grounds.

The Clock Tower in the Courthouse
This was recommended to me by my best friend, and I am so glad about it, even though it was pretty overcast and cloudy it still provided some amazing panoramic views of Santa Barbara. The courthouse itself is beautiful, and on the way up to the top you can stop in and see the bells inside the tower. There are some cool murals to check out too, as well as beautiful details like tiled staircases. Definitely worth a look, plus it’s free!

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State Street
State Street is where the main hub of activity in Santa Barbara is. Full of shops and restaurants there is plenty to explore, and it’s the perfect place to mosey in and out of shops admiring the beautiful surroundings. Also there are more cool staircases nestled into the Paseo Nuevo shopping complex, which are completely Instagram worthy.

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Stearns Wharf
A great spot to see the ocean and look back on the city. You can wander down the pier and look in some of the touristy shops, admire the stunning beaches, grab something to eat and drink, or look around the Sea Centre. It wasn’t too busy when I visited on a Wednesday afternoon, which was perfect, but I imagine it gets very crowded in the height of summer. I walked to the end, grabbed some Salt Water Taffy and headed back to spend some time on the beach.

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All in all I was pleasently surprised by how much I enjoyed my time in Santa Barbara. It didn’t sound like there was too much to do there and I was worried I was going to be easily bored and not be able to fill my day. But once I was there, I discovered it was just a really pleasant place to wander around and take it easy. Another pleasant surprise was how much free parking (for 1-2hours) there was dotted around. This made it so easy to park up and explore. A definite recommendation if you want a relaxing weekend away or a day by the sea! 

Leah Explores … Ojai

A few weeks ago, I had a bit of a “treat yo’self” moment and decided that I wanted to escape for a few days. After a bit of browsing and comparing, I decided that flying into LA was my cheapest option (even with the Canadian Dollar being so low) so from there it was just a case of deciding where to go. I settled on Ojai (pronounced “oh hi”) partly because I’d never been there before and partly because I wanted to go somewhere a bit different.
Here is my guide to beautiful Ojai.

Stay:
I stayed in the Ojai Rancho Inn, and I really loved it. It was a little bit pricier than I initially wanted but it had great reviews, had a pool, free bike rentals and was pretty close to the Downtown area. I’d done some research before leaving but the staff at reception offered me a sheet with a list of local favourite restaurants and shops which was really helpful. There was free coffee in the morning, which is always a positive (I am not a morning person!) Another added bonus was that they had a small bar which played vinyl and served local wine and beer – win!

Eat:
I did not have one bad meal whilst I was in Ojai, everything was scrumptious! I’d done a bit of research online before getting there, and combined with the list the hotel provided I was able to get a taste of Ojai. Here are the places I ate whilst there.
The Farmer and the Cook
Looking for something delicious, healthy and laid back then this is the place for you. Half market, half cafe/restaurant, they serve yummy vegetarian food. I had the Goat Cheese and Veggie Taco’s and they were divine!
Knead Baking Company
If there is one thing I love in life it’s carbs, so finding a yummy bakery is a no brainer. Knead definitely delivered with their Nutella filled Croissant. Honestly, everything on their menu looked and sounded delicious. Plus there was a lovely little courtyard to relax in.
Hip Vegan
This place does what it says on the tin. Tucked away down an alley, this place is pretty low key, and was filled with locals. They have a huge menu that includes sandwiches, wraps, salad and rice bowls. I had the Echo Beach Bowl which I would recommend without hesitation it was so good!
Ojai Ice Cream
Sometimes you are just wandering along and fate steps in and presents you with an ice cream shop. I tried their White Chocolate Gelato, but it was tough to narrow it down to just one flavour from all the choice they had.
Deer Lodge
A bit further out of town but definitely worth the drive, this place has a great beer selection and offers farm to table menu. I opted for the Mac and Cheese which was part of their small plates options. It was indeed small, but delicious. I had an early meal and the place was really relaxed but it sounds like it can get pretty crazy later in the evening as they often host live music events.

Shop:
For such a tiny city, I was really pleasantly surprised by how many unique stores Ojai had to offer. Here are my top three picks, all of which I had read about before I left, and were on the hotel list, and I was definitely not disappointed.
Fig Curated Living
Full of the cutest gifts you ever did see, this place is a treasure trove that took me two (okay, fine three) loops around before I made my final decisions on what to treat myself to. They have some cool handmade stuff that is locally made. A must if you are looking for something unique.
Bart’s Books
I love books!!!! So any chance I get to go and explore a book store is more than fine by me. Especially when it is as AMAZING as Bart’s Books. This bookstore is outside, with sails providing shade from the sun. I spent well over an hour just browsing before the arduous task of deciding what I wanted to get started, this basically involved another loop around the place.
Summer Camp
This place was right out of my little hipster dreams. It was beautiful. It was full of dreamy products. Everything in there was beyond unique. I could have spent so much money. I has a constant mantra in my head that I was on a budget and only had hand luggage, but boy if the tables were turned I could have done some serious damage. Definitely a place to check out and grab a one of a kind items.

Do:
I didn’t go away expecting to fill every minute with activities, in fact, I was quite looking forward to a bit of downtime and a change of scenery. Ojai is definitely one of the more laid back places I have been, which was exactly what I was looking for. There are lots of local hikes, and some tours are available of the Olive Oil Ranch and some of the vineyards, but on the whole there isn’t a ton to do. I had wanted to hire a bike (the hotel had free rentals) as there is a 9 mile trail running between Ojai and Ventura. However, it was overcast and a bit chilly and I hadn’t packed the most practical clothing, so I opted to give it a miss this time. I didn’t do too much but I enjoyed what I did do.
Ojai Valley Museum
The Ojai Valley Museum is small, meaning you can make it around in 15-30 minutes, but it is full of information about the history of this small city.Entrance was $5 and whilst I was there they had a cool art exhibit featuring local Ojai Valley artists.
Go for a drive
The Ojai Valley is beautiful and I highly recommend that you go for a drive around to see all the natural beauty. On my way back to the airport I drove over to Ventura as I had been told that there was a part of the 101 where you can do a coastal drive along the Pacific Coast Highway. It was totally worth the detour as the views were stunning (even if it was a bit overcast) and there were so many places to stop and admire the Pacific Ocean.

Getting there/Getting around:
It’s about a two hour drive form LAX, however if you’re flying into Santa Barbara Airport it’s only about an hour away. Getting around with a car was nice and easy and there was a lot of free parking around which is always great. I would say having a car is definitely the easiest option when it comes to exploring. Hiring a bike would also be a pretty fun way to see the city. I did notice that there is the Ojai Trolley too which seems like a good way to do some sightseeing, the only downside is that you are then on someone else’s schedule and route.

I would definitely recommend Ojai for a great weekend escape. The people were friendly, the food was delicious, and the scenery was stunning. Happy exploring!

Top Ten … Coachella Road Trips

Whether you are going to weekend one or weekend two, why not make the most of your vacation and take a pre or post (or both) Coachella road trip to squeeze the maximum amount of fun out of your trip! The last two years, we managed to fit in a bit of a pre and post road trip, partly because there are so many great places to see and explore in that part of the world, and partly because traveling 1400 miles from Vancouver we wanted to make the journey worthwhile! I ideally like to sandwich the craziness of the festival with some relaxation either side, with the option for a crazy night if the mood should take. We typically stay in or around Palm Springs before Coachella, and then afterwards head off on another adventure, we’ve visited Scottsdale, Las Vegas and The OC in the past two years.

Here are my top ten picks for road trip destinations (some I’ve been to, some I haven’t) all within a few hours drive of the festival grounds in Indio.

  1. Grand Canyon (approx. 6hrs)
    Yes, it is a bit of a drive, but boy is it worth it! Undoubtedly one of the most amazing natural wonders, it really is something you have to see to believe. This is definitely the place to go if you are looking for a more low-key break, there are some great hikes, but if that’s not your cup of tea, just having a wander around is enough. I splurged when I visited and took a helicopter ride which I would definitely recommend doing, it is so cool to get a completely different perspective of the canyon and really helps you to grasp just how big it is. Make sure you catch a sunrise or a sunset, or both, the views are incredible.

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    The Grand Canyon
  2. Scottsdale (approx. 4hrs)
    Scottsdale was an unexpected discovery we made back in 2014 after our first Coachella, we picked it because neither of us had been before and it wasn’t too far from Indio. I absolutely loved Scottsdale, and will definitely go back and explore again at some point in the future. There is some great shopping, a taste of the old West, amazing Mexican food, and stunning sunsets on offer.

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    Stunning Scottsdale
  3. LA (approx. 2hrs)
    Los Angeles, is more than Hollywood, there are so many unique area’s to explore, from Venice Beach to Universal Studio’s. LA can offer you a relaxing pre/post Coachella vacation, or if you’re in the mood a crazy few days of partying. The great thing about LA being so big and diverse is that it means there are suitable options for all budgets, and some awesome things to see and do for free.
  4. The OC (approx. 2hrs)
    Orange County has so much more to offer than angst ridden teens like some television shows will have you believe. From stunning scenery and quaint towns there is a lot to check out. I’ve been to a couple of places; Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Huntington Beach and Anaheim (see number 9) mainly fueled by my love of said angst ridden teen shows and loved all of them. I’m a sucker for a great beach and The OC certainly delivers on those!

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    Newport Beach sunsets
  5. San Diego (approx. 2.5hrs)
    San Diego has been gradually creeping higher and higher up my travel list. I’ve always been put off by some of the bigger tourist attractions, but lately some Pintrest research has made me reconsider. Beautiful beaches, enclaves of bars and restaurants, what’s not to enjoy? I’ll certainly be visiting the next time I am in southern California.
  6. Palm Springs (approx. 30mins)
    Literally a stones throw away from the festival grounds is the desert city of Palm Springs. We usually stay in Palm Springs the few days before Coachella, last year we stayed in Rancho Mirage which is pretty close by. Beware, hotel prices hike up around festival time, so plan ahead. If you aren’t camping at the festival, there is a good chance you’re probably staying in Palm Springs already. It’s a unique place surrounded by high peaks and big blue skies. The perfect place to recharge and rest by the pool with a cocktail in the blistering sunshine.
  7. Las Vegas (approx. 4hrs)
    Not had enough partying over the weekend? Drive over to Las Vegas where the party never ends! The great thing about Vegas, in my opinion, is that it’s a destination where you can literally do everything. Want to relax by a pool and have a few spa treatments? You got it! Want to party 24/7? Sure! Want to eat amazing food, and have some fancy cocktails? You’re spoiled for choice! Want to see an amazing show? Take your pick! Want to gamble the night away? That’s what Vegas is all about!

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    Vegas baby!
  8. Santa Catalina Island (approx. 3.5hrs including boat ride)
    Catalina is one of those places I stumbled upon a while ago and have been wanting to visit ever since. A short 75minute boat ride from Newport beach, the island offers scuba and snorkeling, hikes, beaches and restaurants.
  9. Anaheim (approx. 2hrs)
    Why not head over to Anaheim where you can visit Disney and embrace being a big kid! Hang out with Mickey and explore the vast park full of fun and adventures. The area is pretty much centered around Disney, but if that is the purpose of your trip then embrace it. Downtown Disney is a wonderful place to wander around in the evening, and if you are spending a day at the park make sure you stay to check out the phenomenal fireworks display at night.

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    Just meeting Mickey Mouse, as you do!
  10. Santa Barbara (approx. 3.5hrs)
    You’ll probably be beginning to spot a recurring theme here, beautiful coastal California beaches are my weakness. Just a bit further up the coast from LA, Santa Barbara is famous for it’s beautiful beaches, fancy boutiques and nearby vineyards. Perfect for a relaxing break, soak up the sunshine and recharge your batteries.

 

So that’s it, these are just some of the many wonderful places to visit, within the vicinity of Coachella. I highly recommend planning ahead as a lot of people have the same idea and places get booked up well in advance. That said, if you are heading a bit further afield you might have a bit more luck if you’re looking for an off the cuff adventure. Most importantly, enjoy exploring this beautiful corner of America.