That SoCal Life

Above: The Huntington Beach Pier in Huntington Beach, California
That SoCal Life

If you’re California dreamin’, sure, you could go back to L.A. or San Fran, but you’d be missing out on some great sun, sand and surf just a quick drive away. Turn your week-long vacay with your girl into a SoCal road trip and you’ll both wonder why you never did this before.

Days 1 and 2: Long Beach

You’ll be a bit wiped out from the flight to LAX so make your first stop in Long Beach (just a short drive from the airport). That’s right, where Snoop hails from.

Stay: Hyatt Regency. Yes, it’s got a business-conference vibe but you can’t beat its central location and that Fairmont President’s lounge is one of the best VIP food spreads we’ve seen (think tasty cookies and healthy snacks like nuts and warm savoury dishes at meal times).

Shop: Across from the hotel, Shoreline Village is where you can pop into some of the quirky shops (there’s a shop that sells just jerky). For fantastic vintage and secondhand shopping–fashion, decor and music–head to Retro Row, which you’ll find on a stretch of 4th Street. Poke around In Retrospect (where Madmen props were often sourced) and Moxi Roller Skate Shop.

Eat: Vacays are for long, lazy brunches. Grab a seat on the cheerful patio at Breakfast Bar and fill up on shrimp and grits, and a mimosa, natch. To get your fix of tacos and handmade sopes, head to Lola’s Mexican cuisine, where Lola put her grandmother’s recipes for dishes she grew up eating in Guadalajara to delicious use. Order the catch of the day at Parkers’ Lighthouse (it’s a bit more formal so change out of your flip flops and shorts), where you can enjoy a view of the water.

Do: Gondolas aren’t only in Venice, Italy. Pack some snacks and wine and reserve a gondola ride at sunset that’ll take you on a peaceful cruise at Alamitos Bay and around Naples Island.

Days 3, 4, and 5: Huntington Beach

From the LBC, about 45 minutes (depending on traffic, of course) ways is Huntington Beach aka Surf City, U.S.A., that is, the city known to be the birthplace of surfing in America.

Stay: The Shorebreak Hotel is a fun boutique hotel decked out in bright, punchy colours and staffed with some cheerful folks. They’ve got beach chairs if you’re heading across the street to the beach, daily complimentary wine hour from 5 to 6 p.m. and comfortable modern rooms.

Sweat: You can hardly stop into Surf City and not pull on a wetsuit and try to catch a wave or two. Newbies can get a lesson from Toes on the Nose Waterfront Adventures, where you’ll learn how to get on the board, and how to safely wipe out. If that proves overly exhilarating and you need to decompress, Toes on the Nose also provides yoga instruction on the beach so book that while you’re there.

Eat: Being in SoCal calls for a so very Cali breakfast, yes, we’re talking breakfast bowls. Pop into Banzai Bowls where you can choose from seven acai bowls and six pitaya bowls, all brimming with fresh tropical fruit. But make sure to enjoy one breakfast at the Shorebreak’s Zimzala (where you can go the indulgent route with a shortrib Benedict). And with that appetite you’ve worked up surfing, fill your empty belly at Sandy’s Beach Grill with warm corn bread spread with sriracha honey butter and a juicy Kobe burger.

Days 6 and 7: Carlsbad

Set off for the city of Carlsbad after getting your feet wet surfing in Huntington Beach. The quaintest stop of your SoCal journey, in Carlsbad you’ll find most people making their way about town on foot in their flip flops, and everyone in town comes out at sunset to the beach to enjoy the spectacular glowing sky.

Stay: By now, you may be craving some sand-free time and at the Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa, just a short drive from town, there’s a quiet pool to lounge around.

Sweat: Rent some electric bikes at Pedego Carlsbad and ride along the bike lane overlooking the beach. Spot some Dr. Suess-esque trees (these trees indeed inspired those fantastical gnarly ones in the books) along the way, and you’ll appreciate using the throttle given the rolling hills.

Eat: Being oceanside always triggers sushi cravings; in Carlsbad, you can get your fix at Land & Water Company, where they focus on local, sustainable ingredients (not to mention have a killer cocktail menu–try the refreshing Basil Smash). Pasta lovers will want to get their carb-loving selves over to Vigilucci’s Cucina Italiana, where it gets rammed with guests chowing down on the seemingly endless menu options of not only pasta (including many fresh handmade options, such as the classic fettucini alla norma we devoured), but also, of course, pesce and carne courses, too.

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