As I mentioned on Monday, my family came to visit me at the end of May. My parents and my brother’s family have all visited me before but never together, so it was a lot of people at one time. It was overwhelming and awesome. 🙂 Max wasn’t sure what to think, although he sure enjoyed going outside on the patio with my Mom. I rarely allow him to do this, so it was a real treat. We packed a lot into a week and hopefully everyone had fun. It can be hard to plan with so many people with diverse tastes, but I like to think we nailed it!
Unfortunately, I didn’t take as many pictures as I thought I did, especially when it came to food. Mostly because when it was time to eat, I was starving and all about filling my belly, not snapping pictures. Oh well. I’m still going to tell you about a few restaurants that I highly recommend because to be quite honest, I plan my trips, days, life around what I’m going to eat. Seriously. Here are a few highlights:
Disneyland, aka The Happiest Place on Earth
Full confession: I have lived in LA for almost 10 years and I have never visited Disneyland. When my brother’s family visited years ago, they went but I was working so I missed out. This time I was going to go and possibly hug every Disney character I saw. To my disappointment, there weren’t many Disney characters walking around, which I found weird. But maybe they don’t do that as much anymore and just appear at the Disney Character meals. Regardless, it was still fun to see. And yes, I had It’s a Small World stuck in my head all day. 🙂
I also got lost on my way home. It’s never a road trip if Tanya doesn’t get lost at least once.
My brother and his family went to SeaWorld while I took my parents to Battleship Iowa in San Pedro. The entire time I was touring the ship I kept thinking about Taylor Kitsch and the movie Battleship. It may have been a not-so-great movie, but a real Battleship is pretty impressive. You actually get to climb quite a bit of it too. I’m not a huge fan of heights, so I was particularly proud that I was able to do it without a problem (i.e. crying hysterically). Going down the very steep and narrow steps was a bit harder though.
Korean Friendship Bell
After we visited Battleship Iowa, we stopped at the Korean Friendship Bell also located in San Pedro. My parents adopted me from Korea, so I thought it was fitting that we pay a quick visit. The bell is beautiful as are the views.
Coronado Island in San Diego, CA
I’ve been to San Diego numerous times but never had a chance to visit Coronado Island. It’s possible that I have a tiny obsession with the history of Coronado Hotel and it is gorgeous. Sadly, May Gray was in full-force when we visited, so it wasn’t a great day to visit the beach but we still got in the very chilly water. We also decided to bury my nephew, Aaron, in the sand. We are clearly not good sand artists since he doesn’t look like much of a mer-man.
Jacinto Mountain in Palm Springs, CA
Remember, I’m not a fan of heights? Well, this scaredy-cat faced her fears and rode the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway and mostly loved it. It’s a 10 minute ride that is fairly uneventul, except when you go over the towers (there are five) and it dips and sways a bit. That part I wasn’t so keen on but otherwise the views were breathtaking.
We did one of the smaller hikes, which was fun. It was also well-protected, meaning that you weren’t walking where you could see down or felt vulnerable. Scaredy-cat Tanya couldn’t have done a hike where she felt too exposed or might trip and fall off the mountain. Trust me, if anyone could do that, it would be me. 🙂 The ride back was surprisingly much smoother and the towers didn’t cause us to sway so much.
Joshua Tree National Park
Very scenic with many great places to take photos and explore. We didn’t do any hiking but I’ve heard from many others that it is a great place to hike. Just bring plenty of water because once you get past the visitor’s office, there is none.
Food, Glorious Food!
I actually did a fair amount of cooking for the family, including my famous pancake lasagna, which is so good but takes a little effort. My picture isn’t the best, so I had hoped to take a new picture but we devoured it instead, which just gives me an excuse to make it again. 🙂 Both my brother and I loved my Mom’s chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese filling growing up, so I had to make them for our family vacation. Plus, Special K Bars, which are another family favorite. I made my Mom her Mother’s Day dessert too. We also enjoyed my easy cinnamon rolls, ham with pineapple brown sugar glaze, creamy sweet corn and deluxe mashed potatoes.
Blue Water Seafood Market and Grill in San Diego, CA
I originally discovered Blue Water Seafood Market and Grill from Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. It looked amazing, so when my brother had a conference in San Diego, I went down to visit him and we ate there. It truly has some of the best seafood I have ever eaten. It’s not a fancy restaurant and has very limited seating. On the weekends, you will wait. We waited over an hour on a Sunday night and it was worth it. Calamari lovers — this is your place. It is truly the best calamari I have ever eaten. My brother ordered the Buffalo Sandwich with red snapper, which was also amazing. I’ve never had anything bad there and the prices are really reasonable too.
This SoCal restaurant chain is known from their famous 50/50 burger, which is 50% ground beef and 50% bacon. Yup, that’s right — bacon. You can design your own burger and try one of their pre-made specialty burgers. They also have amazing sides too. Their onion rings are perfect and I love their sweet potato fries with pumpkin dipping sauce. I’m not a huge milkshake person, but my brother’s family loved them. Most have bacon in them, but not all of them do.
Yang Chow in Chinatown
While it may not compete in size or fame with it’s northern sibling, there is a small Chinatown in downtown Los Angeles. My favorite restaurant is Yang Chow, which is famous for their slippery shrimp. Yes, it is the worst name ever and does not sound appealing at all but trust me — it tastes amazing. The shrimp is so tender and flavorful with just a little bit of heat, but nothing overpowering. Everyone, but my Dad, loved it. And almost everyone who eats there has to order at least one plate of slippery shrimp.
A Few Tips for Your Southern California Vacation
California is a place most people have on their travel bucket list and understandably so. There is so much to do! I’m sharing a few helpful tips to make your trip a success:
- Southern California is almost always sunny, except for May and June. It’s by no means awful in May or June but almost every day starts out cloudy. Typically, the sun chases those clouds out by afternoon but not always. It was cloudy when we saw Battleship Iowa in the morning and sunny by the time we visited the Korean Friendship Bell. However, it stayed cloudy all day when we went to Coronado Island. This surprises some visitors who always see California awash in sunshine in TV and the movies. If you want to spend lots of time at the beach, I recommend July-September as your better months to visit.
- It may feel cold to you. When my parents arrived, it was cooler in LA, than it was in Minnesota. They were grateful they listened to me and packed layers. In one day, you may wear jeans and a sweatshirt and shorts and a t-shirt. Nights are typically cooler, especially if you’re in a coastal city.
- You will need to rent a car. Public transportation isn’t fantastic, so don’t expect it to take you everywhere, because it won’t. There are plenty of Ubers available for nights out when you don’t want to worry about driving and/or parking. Rush hour is a parking lot, Californians are aggressive drivers yet slowly strut when crossing the street (this always makes me laugh) and every driver panics when it rains.
I had a great visit with my family. Time flew by and there was still plenty of things we didn’t get to do, which is what I love about Southern California — there is so much to do. It can be expensive, but there are also lots of free or low-cost things to do too, if you’re willing to do some research.
Have you visited Southern California? If so, what was your favorite place to visit? Do you have any summer vacations planned this year?