My last post saw us leaving Disney happy but exhausted, and we were now on our way to Santa Monica.

On the way, we did our own little driving tour of LA – taking in the Hollywood sign, Beverley Hills, Chateau Marmont, and Hollywood Boulevard, all whilst the kids snoozed off their Disney hangovers in the back of the car.

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Santa Monica reminded me a bit of a Californian Brighton. There’s a big pier with fun fair rides, and the area is busy with tourists, and a lot more built up than some of the smaller Californian towns we visited on our trip.

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We were here for one night, and we spent our time strolling along the Santa Monica Pier, Venice Beach, and spending some time relaxing by the pool in our hotel, the Fairmont Mirimar. Santa Monica also holds the grand title for “Best burger we had on our holiday”. And we ate quite a few burgers whilst in California. If you are in the LA or San Diego areas, check out Burger Lounge.


Santa Monica was the last destination in our Visit California itinerary. But because we had flown all that way and knew we weren’t likely to be back in California any time soon, we were keen to make more of an adventure of our trip. So, we drove back down the coast and rented an Air BnB house in Encinitas so that we could explore the San Diego area a little more.

Encinitas is a laid back coastal surfer town with a little bit of a hippy vibe. (This was the place that most struck that stereotypical 70s California hippy vibe, for me). We really enjoyed our peaceful, slow-paced couple of days.

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We spent a lot of time having family dinners at home and kicking back in the garden watching the sun set over the beach. Staying in a house gave us a home from home, and some fanciful ideas about living in California. (Sunshine, avocados and good wine – what more could anyone need??)

One thing that we particularly enjoyed during this portion of our holiday, was our walk around the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. The scenery could not have been more ‘classic scene in an american film where the characters go hiking’:

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The sections of the route that overlooked the ocean were breathtakingly spectacular. We spent a long while just sitting, watching whales and dolphins in the water below.

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During our time in Encinitas, we also took a trip to Seaworld San Diego. I was going to include that here, but once I started writing I realised I had quite a bit more to say, including my own changing impressions from visiting as a child to visiting as an adult, so that will follow in a separate post. Out of all the parks and attractions we visited in California, Seaworld is the one that made the biggest impact on the children. It’s the one Arlo keeps talking about, even now.


We had nearly a full day to kill before our flight on our last day, so we decided to check out one of San Diego’s museums. Most of the museums are situated within Balboa Park, making it really easy to make a day of it by combining a park/playground trip with a museum visit. Balboa Park is also where San Diego Zoo is located.

Our museum of choice was the Reuben H Fleet Science Center, as we’d heard there was a good play area, and we thought the children would enjoy the domed iMax screen – it’s like the entire sky above you is a screen, pretty cool. Rory got a few laughs with his thunderous applause and declaration of “THE END!” after the first advert had played.

All the exhibits at Reuben H Fleet Science Center were interactive and really hands-on, which was great for keeping our two engaged.

Our time at Balboa Park passed surprisingly quickly, and before long it was time to drop our rental car back and board our flight home. Our adventure had come to an end.

Not only was our California adventure a MAMMOTH trip, taking in so many once-in-a-lifetime experiences, but it also marked our first ever holiday abroad as a family. There wasn’t one moment during our trip, or since we’ve been back, where we haven’t felt ridiculously lucky for the experiences we were given. It will always be a really special time to Sam and me.

Below is a little video of our time in California:

One thing that really made it for us, that we hadn’t quite realised whilst we were there, was just how much of this experience Arlo would take on board. Hearing him excitedly retell all the stories from our trip to his family and his preschool teachers has made me so incredibly pleased that we have been able to give him such an adventure.

We’re only just starting to get a taste for family holidays. If you’ve been reading my blog a while, you might know that it’s something I’ve longed so much for, but could only daydream about. Before, I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what it was that I was pining for. But now we are  back from California, I know.

It’s about vast leaps in pool confidence. It’s about new words learnt, and new foods tried. It’s about realising that the world is a little bit bigger than what you knew before. It’s about Arlo telling me “Did you know a starfish can grow back it’s own leg??”  It’s about new experiences that make them seem to grow before your eyes.




California Part 1 / California Part 2 / Doing Disneyland with young kids – Our experience

Once again, a massive thanks to Visit California for sending us on this adventure, and to Quintessentially Travel for organising our activities and helping us plan all the small details.


  1. This holiday sounds incredible, definitely a trip of a lifetime and such a great thing to experience as a family. For your first family holiday it must have been pretty damn amazing! x

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