By Anne Taylor Hartzell, on May 29, 2013

California road trip from A-Z

There is nothing more nostalgic and timeless than a road trip along the California coast. For me, the journey evokes images of warm summer air and jumping into a vintage convertible dressed like an old Hollywood starlet: Wearing big sunglasses, bright red lipstick, and a billowy scarf trailing behind me. To do this trip right, I'd want no phones, no email, and no Facebook. Just me, my family, and the open road.


As the California coast is a popular bucket list road trip for many, our family decided to kick it up a notch and create an A to Z list of how we'd want our trip to unfold (and a road trip playlist too). What follows is that list, a compendium of hotels, destinations, and road eats along the drive north from San Diego to San Francisco. The goal of this road trip would be to spend simple time together in the warm California summer air with no agenda other than to reconnect as a family. I can't wait to put the plan in motion.

Viewfinder Tip: Allow plenty of time for a road trip along the California coast; some of the best experiences are the ones for which you don't plan.

Anaheim: No family trip would be complete without a visit to Disneyland Resort.


Beverly Hills: Visit old Hollywood, stay at the Beverly Hills Hotel, and tour a movie studio.


Carmel Valley Ranch: Play on this 500 acre ranch and resort in style.


Dana Point: Hit the spa at the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort.


Encinatas: Visit dear friends and hang out at the beach.


French festival: Say Bonjour! with the family to the annual Santa Barbara French Festival.


Greyhound Rock. Snap a pic of the family at this iconic stop in Santa Cruz County.


H2Hotel: Stay at this funky, eco-chic retro hotel in Healdsburg.


Indio: Tour a date farm at one of the largest producers of dates in the world.  


Julia Pfeiffer Burns: Take a hike to the overlook at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in Big Sur.


Kokomo: Get up close and personal with Beach Boys memorabilia at the International Surfing Museum in Huntington Beach.


La Jolla and La Valencia: Visit the house in which my great-grandparents lived in La Jolla, and stay at the La Valencia Hotel, also known as the “Pink Lady.”


Monterey: See coastal life at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.


Newport Beach Jetty: Ride a vintage beach cruiser with the family.


Oceanside: Cruise in for dinner at 101 Café.


Paso Robles: Stay and enjoy homemade s'mores by the crackling fire at Hotel Cheval.


Q (a.k.a., BBQ): Stop off at Pinkie’s BBQ for The Hillbilly at Hermosa Beach.


Rose Bowl Flea Market: Shop for vintage finds and celebrity sightings at this Padadena mainstay.


Santa Barbara: Stop off for a stay at Hotel Indigo, a modern beachfront hotel.


Tacos: Stop for a taco at “La Super Rica Taqueria” in Santa Barbara.


Umbrella: Sit under an umbrella in the sand and watch the sunset at Bob Morris Paradise Cove café in Malibu.


Vintage Collective: Shop for vintage threads and Mad Men-era home décor at this quirky store in Long Beach.


Wine-tasting in the Napa Valley and an overnight stay at uber-eco Bardessono.


Xcape: Shop this mid-century modern furniture store on “Retro Row” in Long Beach.


Yurt: Stay in a luxury yurt and go “glamping” at Costanoa Coastal Lodge & Camp in Pescadero.


Zipline at the San Diego Zoo with Flightline Safari.