Temecula Day Trip

One of my favorite parts of living in another part of the country from where I grew up is that I was able to explore areas of the US that I wouldn’t have normally gone to. El Captain Canyon campground, Pismo Beach, Catalina Island, and one of my favorite places, Temecula, were just a few of the places I was able to explore in my seven years living on the west coast.

Temecula is a little wine region, about an hour north east of San Diego that is still a great little find for anyone living or visiting Southern California. It is definitely much lesser known that it’s big sisters to the north, Paso Robles, Napa, and Sonoma, but it my eyes, Temecula sure holds her own. If you are heading to San Diego, or even Orange County soon, take a trip inland to the desert. There’s so many fantastic restaurants, wineries, and breweries any food would be happy.

The wine is fantastic, the views are amazing, and the community is amazing and supportive. Visiting Temecula pretty often, we got to meet and know a lot of the wine makers, pourers, and employees at the wineries we visited often.

My favorite part of Temecula is that each winery had it’s own feel and style. There were a few that were great for socialization, sitting outside, grabbing a bottle of wine, and relaxing with either snacks you brought on your own, or something you grabbed there. Then there were the wineries we would visit if we wanted to try multiple wines, sit along the bar in a tasting room and talk about the wines. And then there were wineries that we would visit if we just wanted to sit in the corner of the wine club’s lounge and relax alone.

Where to Drink Wine
My absolute favorite winery is Wilson Creek. Wilson Creek is owned by the Wilson family, with the matriarch and patriarch living on site. If you hang around enough, you will see the Mr. and Mrs. scooting around the property on their golf cart with their labs following. Wilson Creek has it all. They have a fantastic staff that know their wine, and can tell you exactly what you are tasting but is also a fantastic space where you can bring your own food and sit at one of their many tables outside, have the kiddos play at their play ground, or go inside their restaurant and enjoy an amazing early dinner, or late brunch.

Across the street is Weins, a great small winery with fantastic reds. To be honest, if you don’t like reds, this probably isn’t your place, but I love reds! While they don’t have a hugely fantastic outdoor space, you can grab a bite from one of the food trucks they usually have during the weekends, and sit at a table over looking the Palomar Mountains.

Along the De Portola Wine Trail there are smaller wineries that have fantastic spots to enjoy a glass on your favorite wine. Doffo, Masia de la Vinya, and Robert Renzoni are some of my favorites. But my absolute favorite along the De Portola Wine Trail was Danza del Sol. While if you want to hang out and eat here you’ll have to sit outside, and bring your own food, I love each and every one of their wines. Whites, reds, they’re all good here.

Where to Eat
After a long day of drinking, you definitely need to stop for a good meal before heading home. There are a ton of restaurants along the wine trail. Many of the wineries have their own restaurants including Robert Renzoni, Wilson Creek and Ponte Winery.

But most of the wineries’ restaurants close pretty early, so I like to head down to Old Town where you have plenty of options for meals. Public House, the Bank Mexican Restaurant and Bar, and 1909 are some of my favorites. And if you’re heading into Temecula earlier in the day and want to start your winery hopping of with a good brunch, you need to check out Blackbird.

Where to Drink Craft Beers
Temecula, and inland San Diego county are not just known for their wines, but also their beers. One of the largest craft breweries in the country is headquartered just 30 minutes south of Temecula along Route 15, Stone Brewing. I love that I can still find Stone at most restaurants, bars, and stores here in Connecticut. Whenever I want a little taste of the west coast, this is my go to.

A much smaller winery in Temecula is Ironfire Brewing Co. I heard about this winery because an old coworker’s son was their beer master. My favorite is the super hoppy 51/50 IPA.

Where to Play
It may not seem like it but there is a lot more to do in Temecula besides just food and drinks. (Those are just my favorites =]) For the golfers in the family there is Temecula Creek Inn. A beautiful resort with a huge golf coarse.

If you are a gambler, want to spa, or even just relax by the pool there is also Pechanga Resort and Casino at the south end of town. Not too far away is also Harrah’s Resort Southern California which is known to have one of the best pool parties in So Cal.

For the adventurous and hikers there are a ton of nearby trail heads and hikes to go on and explore the area. One of my favorites is the nearby Lake Hodges Trailhead for Dam Trail. Located right between Rancho Santa Fe and Escondido there are hikes for the most experienced to the most novice of hikers.

Where in Temecula would you want to visit first?

Southern California Airport Guide

Flying into a new city can be pretty intimidating. Where is baggage claim? How do you find your Uber? Were is the rental car desks? And then once you finally get out of the airport, you actually have to drive where you’re going. People unfamiliar with a city, especially a city like Los Angles would just assume to fly in and out of LAX but if you are going to Orange County, Ventura County, the Valley or North OC you may save yourself a big headache and a lot of time flying in and out of another airport.

During my seven years that I lived in Southern California I used all of the local airports to fly in and out of, depending on where I was going and where I was living at the time. Today I’m going to help you figure out which airport will work best for you.

BUR – Hollywood Burbank Airport (Formally Bob Hope Airport)
Serves: With easy access to the 5 Freeway, the 170, 134, and 101, Burbank airport is easy shot to Glendale, Pasadena, Ventura County, Santa Clarita and the Valley. Honestly Burbank is even pretty easy for to get to the other side of the hill into Hollywood and Beverly Hills. Basically if you can fly into Burbank, do it.

Airlines: Mostly Southwest and my favorite is the one flight a day on Jet Blue roundtrip to JFK.

Where they fly: Pretty much most of the West Coast, Las Vegas, and once a day to New York City.

Transportation to and from the airport: Just outside of the airport is a train station where you can catch both an Amtrak or a Metrolink train. There are simple car rental options right at the airport and it is super simple for anyone, especially from the Valley or Burbank to pick you up. And of coarse Uber is really easy to get.

LGB – Long Beach Airport
Serves: Los Angeles and North Orange County. Once I moved to Anaheim I switched my favorite airport from Burbank or Long Beach. So simple!

Airlines: Jet Blue and Southwest are the two airlines that mainly fly in and out of LGB.

Where they fly: West coast flights, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, and a few flights between Boston, JFK, and Fort Lauderdale.

Transportation to and from the airport: While there isn’t any public transportation too close to Long Beach Airport, there are car rental options around the airport. It is also a super simple airport to pick up or drop someone off at. Just don’t need to travel around rush hour. This airport is right off of the 405 so if you don’t have an easy route to the airport on surface streets your going to have to add an extra hour to your drive.

SNA – John Wayne Airport
Serves: Orange County

Airlines: Southwest, American and United are the airlines that have the most traffic in and out of SNA.

Where they fly: West coast flights are the most popular out of Orange County. They even fly into Santa Rosa for those Southern Californians flying up to wine country. But they also fly to Dallas, Las Vegas, Salt Lake, Denver, Chicago, Houston and Vancouver.

Transportation to and from the airport: Car rentals and ride shares are all super easy from this airport, just off of the 5 freeway. It’s location also makes it so easy for pick up and drop off but not around rush hour… per the usual. And if you’re heading to the OC for a Disneyland vacation, check into the Disneyland Resort Express.

LAX – Los Angeles International Airport
Serves: All of LA, Ventura County and Orange County

Airlines: Everyone and anyone. If you’re flying from somewhere I haven’t mentioned above, check here. You can pretty much go anywhere nonstop from LAX. (Pretty much.)

Where they fly: Again, anywhere and everywhere. Domestic and international.

Transportation to and from the airport: Any and all car rental companies have a location at or around LAX. There are plenty of Uber and Lyft options to pick you up at LAX, but good luck asking a friend. I’ve picked people up at LAX at 11:45 at night and there was still traffic getting into the airport. Don’t be fooled if your Google Maps app says there’s no traffic. The 405 may be clear but there’s only one way in and one way out so that is where you get backed up. But the Flyaway is always another option. Living in the Valley, many friends used the Flyaway to the Van Nuys parking lot but there are a few other drop off points around the county, including one at Union Station.



Why the Fall is the Best Time to Visit California’s Central Coast

Living in Southern California wasn’t always a vacation. I worked in retail management for the majority of my 7 years in California and that meant my phone was attached to my hand even when I wasn’t clocked in. But there was one place in California that I could always go and good news for me, service wasn’t really the greatest. (Or at least I could pretend to have bad service and usually my boss believed me.)

The central coast is a place that will always have my heart. I’ve written about Solvang, Carpintaria, El Capitan, Pismo Beach and Avila Beaches. As soon as I drove north on the 101, leaving Ventura, it was like I was entering this place where people didn’t have real jobs, no one cared what time it was, and beach life was the only life.

Uhg take me back.

I went during the winter, spring, summer and my favorite time: fall. Each year that I was on the west coast, I took a weekend trip north to get away and veg out before the chaos of the holidays began in the retail world. It was a place that I could reset and had no worries.

The beach in the fall
I grew up in a New England beach town my whole life. When I was 23 and moved to Los Angeles the beaches just were not the same. They were packed. You had to fight for parking and a spot on the beach. Going to the beach ended up being more of a project than fun. The central coast beaches are smaller, less crowed, and way more townie than anything you will find in Orange County or Los Angeles. I love it. Small shops, seafood restaurants and beach side bars… just a few of my favorite things. It felt just like home.

Closest you can get to fall foliage
Okay, you’re right. Last year we found Oak Glen, CA and that was a little piece of fall in Southern California but not like in Avila Beach. One of my favorite places in Avila is the Avila Valley Barn. They have amazing fresh fruits and veggies, homemade baked goods, Mexican corn on the cob, tractor rides, a corn maze and animals throughout the property.

Take advantage of your fall wardrobe
My first fall in California I went pumpkin picking on a not so crisp October afternoon. I was so excited to do some fall activities that I dressed up in my knee-high boots and sweater to get into the fall spirit… and I wanted to die. By the end of the day I had run to the car to switch into my flip flops and threw my sweater around my waist and just wore the tank top that I had under my top layer. The weather north of Santa Barbara is completely different then the hot fall weather in southern California.


CA to CT Road Trip… Days 1 and 2

Well friends, a lot has changed since we last spoke. This summer has been noting short of a rollercoaster ride. For starters I moved! Yes, I left sunny California to be with the people I care about the most… my family and friends. Secondly, I moved alone. That’s right, I definitely entered back into a season of life I am not sure I was really ready for, but I did and I absolutely made the most of my single summer. Third, my sister, best friend (both named Michelle), and I took an epic cross country road trip at the beginning of the summer and I haven’t stopped since. (oh and I’m saying things like epic now… insert eye rolling emoji here.)

Michelle and Michelle flew out to Los Angeles on a Friday night. They passed out on my couch for a few hours and on Saturday morning we started our journey home. We made a few stops along the way, ate a lot of food, and even threw in an old school sleep over night while we recovered from a crazy night out in Nashville.

Friend Michelle (as I will have to refer to her since they have the same middle name also…) and I made a pact back in freshman year of high school that after graduation, or when we became millionaires, whichever came first, we would take a cross country road trip. Well we graduated and this little thing called college got in the way. Ironically, that’s the same thing that got in the way of being millionaires so currently we are 0 for 0. So when I decided I was going to move home and I wanted to make a road trip out of it, I knew exactly who to call!

Sister Michelle has an awesome job as a night Labor and Delivery nurse that gives her amazing flexibility and well, my new roomie wasn’t about to miss out. So we packed up my little Nissan Sentra and headed back home.

Day 1 Los Angeles to Albuquerque, New Mexico

Day one had one mission: get as far out of California as you can! No but in all seriousness I was absolutely prepared for our first day of driving through the southwest to be one of the more boring days. We took Route 40 straight across and there’s not too much between here and well… Nashville. Or so I thought.

Friend Michelle is a crazy diligent researcher.. for literally everything we do. So she had found a gas station (yes, gas station) off of Route 66 that we just HAD to stop at. We got off in Needles, CA just before we entered into Arizona to get gas and head up into Old Route 66. Just before we got to this famous gas station we were #blessed to find the amazing town of Oatman, AZ.

Let me paint the picture for you. We had been driving for about 15 miles with nothing around us and barely any cars coming from the opposite direction. Literally the most exciting thing we were seeing were the rock formations people had left along the side of the road. But then we saw a sign that said donkey crossing. We noticed it and laughed as we pulled up to a cute small little old western town, which had wild donkeys everywhere. It was the most absurd thing we had seen. People were just walking around this little town, in and out of the shops, on this one single dirt road, with wild donkeys wandering right next to them. We stopped and talked to one of the shop owners who told us there are about 15 donkeys that come down from the mountains every day to be fed by tourists passing through town. Now keep in mind, when I say town I mean this one road that is about two football fields long. Max. It was amazing.

After we got over the shock of the donkey welcome to Arizona we got out and walked around a little. There’s really not much to Oatman, we only spent about 10 minutes there but it was good to get out of the car and take some photos of the old buildings.

From Oatman it was still a while until we got to our first stop in Albuquerque and we got into New Mexico after dark. New Mexico actually has quite a bit of things we wanted to check out like a teepee village, White Sands National Monument, and Carlsbad Caverns.


Day 2: Albuquerque to Ft. Smith, Arkansas

So day two we left New Mexico, and headed through the panhandle of Texas, through Oklahoma and into the first town in Arkansas. Just outside of Amarillo we stopped at Cadillac Ranch, which previously all I knew of this was there were a lot of country bars named after it. What I didn’t know was it is an amazingly cool piece of art in the middle of Texas. Remember this from last year? We had stopped just outside of Vegas in awe of these amazing neon colored rocks? Think the same thing but it’s actual cars in the ground. I don’t think you’re actually supposed to spray paint them but there are paint cans everywhere and of course, Friend Michelle got a can from some other visitors and made our stay known. It was really crazy to see these old cars in the middle of a field and what years and years of paint and weather had done to them. Lucky for us it was just off of Route 40 and we hopped back on and headed into Oklahoma.

**Just a little warning, fill up in Amarillo. There’s not much of anything between Amarillo, TX and the Oklahoma boarder. Very little gas stations, fast food, exits or even radio stations so be prepared. And while you’re at it, grab some coffee to keep you awake.

We headed through Oklahoma and stopped in OKC at a great brewery. OKC is such a cute little city right in the heart of cow country, it was a perfect place to make a stop and grab a bite to eat and a beer. It actually has a pretty good craft brewery scene so we stopped at Twisted Spike Brewing Company and it was amazing. A good selection of beers from smooth and light to heavy and hoppy. Parking isn’t the best here so be on the lookout for street parking. We did have to go a little out of our way to get here, but navigating the OKC highways were pretty easy and it was just off of an exit.

From here we ended out night in Arkansas and let me tell you, this little gem of a town was amazing to wake up to, but more on that on Friday.

Whale Watching off the Newport Beach Coast

Summer is just around the corner and my favorite part of summer is being able to be out on the water. Now I’m not a big beach girl. All that sand, getting everywhere, I’m not a fan. But a boat. A boat I can do. My best friend has a boat that we usually bring out onto the lake and go tubing. Or sometimes we will take the ferry over to Catalina and spend the day in the sun. Either way, on a boat, or on an island, I am a happy girl.

Back in March we took advantage of the annual migration of the California Grey Whales and took a whale watching tour out of Newport Beach, CA. Best. Day. Ever. We saw sea lions, and a pod of dolphins and best of all, we followed a group of five grey whales up the coast. It was absolutely amazing.

We were so lucky to pull out of Newport Harbor and right away catch a glimpse of a spout from a whale in the distance. The boat started following along and slowly four more whales popped up in different areas around the boat. It was incredible.

The two and a half hours out on the water were so wonderful that I would recommend it to anyone visiting Orange County. I love that we did our whale watching out of Newport Beach because the Balboa Peninsula is so cute, has such a great pier, and the cutest “fun zone.” Mid-December through mid-April are supposed to be the best time of year to see the whales migrating along the coast but there are opportunities all year to see the amazing creatures.