California Travel Guide
Road Trips / Highway 1 / California Travel / San Luis Obispo Travel / Los Angeles Travel / San Francisco Travel / San Diego Travel / → All Tags
We all know that Highway 1 runs nearly the entire coast of California, from Mexico up through San Francisco to the Oregon border. Most people drive it in a day or two from San Diego or Los Angeles up to the Bay Area, with many itineraries including stops in Santa Barbara, Carmel, and Monterrey. Sprinkled between these well-known tourist towns is what this writer considers to be one of the best kept secrets in the country, the rural Central Coast of California.
San Luis Obispo has made headlines in recent years for its happy citizens, and San Simeon draws its fair share of attention thanks to Hearst Castle. Still, the Central Coast is largely bypassed and just a drive-through for out-of-state and international travelers in favor of the bright lights and beaches of Los Angeles and the beautiful bay of San Francisco. As a former resident of Santa Barbara, I had the pleasure of exploring this area in all its untouched glory, where the sea, mountains, and vines of wine country all come together along the coast.
Travel Alerts / Tourism Problems / Los Angeles Travel / San Francisco Travel / Hollywood Sign / Lombard Street / → All Tags
Remember when SF decided to close one of its most infamous tourist attractions, the crooked Lombard Street, on certain weekends due to complaints by locals? Well, its rival city in the south, Los Angeles, is now experiencing similar problems with one of its landmarks, the Hollywood Sign.
According to the LA Times, an impromptu task force consisting of eight police officers has formed in response to "growing complaints from residents who say their neighborhoods are being overrun by tourist vans and rental cars drawn to the sign." Problems include double parking and congestion that has resulted in both physical damage and logistical frustration.
Ground Transportation / Santa Barbara Airbus / Santa Barbara Travel / California Travel / LAX / Bus from LAX to Santa Barbara / SBA / → All Tags
Savvy frequent fliers know that there are many tricks of the trade to saving money on air travel. One of the most basic is to fly into an airport that's close to your final destination, one that might offer better deals and cheaper flights. For example, when traveling to Philadelphia, it is often significantly cheaper to fly with Frontier into Wilmington, which is only about a 20-minute drive from Philadelphia International Airport. Or, flying into Trenton instead of New York. Sometimes, you can end up saving a good chunk of change if you're willing to bear a small amount of extra ground transportation.
Such was our approach last weekend when making a last-minute decision to go to Santa Barbara for the weekend. Prices to fly into SBA are always on the high end - especially last minute - and we were very much in the market for alternatives. The most logical choice was LAX, but unlike the Trenton and Wilmington scenarios, LAX is quite a haul from Santa Barbara, about 90 miles. That said, as we searched, prices to fly into LAX were almost $200 cheaper than SBA, so we were determined to make it work.
Travel Rants / Airport Ripoffs / LAX / PHX / Airports / Airport Restaurants / Layovers / Vegetarian Travel / Healthy Travel / → All Tags
On Sunday, I was sitting in Terminal 4 at LAX, having a coffee at Campanile during a layover. I was seated in one of the last bar stools, right by the glass display case where sandwiches and salads are sold to go. I was enjoying this seat for the sake of people watching, but for the most part I was minding my own business.
Then, someone came up and bought a salad, and I almost fell off my bar stool. I couldn’t believe what the charge had been for the chicken Caesar salad, the one in the clear plastic take-away container. I also couldn’t believe the customer had gone through with the purchase after he heard the price. Ready for this? Including tax, $19 and change!
We told you to expect some frustrations and disruptions at LAX over the next few years as it remodels, but the good news is that we're already starting to see the benefits of the modernization in the form of new restaurants, shops, lounges, aesthetics, and other conveniences, such as new checkpoints, baggage screening, and gate designs.
We've seen firsthand how nice the Tom Bradley International Terminal turned out to be, and if you'd like to know what's going on and what to look for next time you fly through, LAX has designed a website to keep you in the loop.
Travel Alerts / San Francisco Travel / Lombard Street / California Travel / Tourism / Travel News / → All Tags
Bad news for those with plans to visit San Francisco this summer: The city announced yesterday that it will close Lombard Street, perhaps the most famous crooked road in the world, on certain weekends this summer.
According to reports, the local board received many complaints from residents about tourism on the street, citing traffic congestion and overcrowding that disrupts daily life. Tourists line up to drive and walk down the street, which gains its popularity from its steep grade, tight turns, expensive real estate, and beautiful views.
First Class Travel / Airlines / Airline News / United / Airports / IAH / Frequent Flyer Miles / LAX / → All Tags
Last summer, United launched a partnership with Mercedes-Benz at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston and began picking up its elite flyers planeside and driving them to their connecting flights. It was not an industry first, but it was far from industry standard here in the States. Now, just a year later, United has expanded this service to its hubs in Chicago, Newark, San Francisco, and, most recently, Los Angeles, with no signs of stopping.
If you're not familiar with the service, what United and other airlines have now started doing is meeting its most favored flyers on the tarmac when they land and escorting them to their connecting flight. In United's case at LAX, it picks up its Global Services members and United Global First customers in a Mercedes-Benz GL350 BlueTEC SUV.
Earlier this month, we were in a Santa Barbara state of mind ourselves, showing off a few photos of the "American Riviera" as we made our way down the central coast of California to Los Angeles. We discovered one of the town's best kept secrets, and compared its urban wine trail with the nearby Santa Ynez Valley wine country.
If you need any more motivation than that, or are simply looking for a new avenue to daydream at work, Santa Barbara announced this week that it has launched its own Pandora radio station. To create it, Visit Santa Barbara used social media to find out which artists and songs people thought best represented its vibe, culture, and energy. Think Jack Johnson, Bob Marley, and the Beach Boys as the main seeders for the station.
Monday Five Thirty / Santa Barbara Travel / California Travel / Santa Ynez Travel / Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail / Drinking Travel / → All Tags
In celebration of the most needed happy hour of the week, this column, called “Monday, Five Thirty,” takes a look at all things booze from around the world. Last week, it was a potent after-dinner drink made of "gum drops." This week, we head to California wine country.
If the hand-holding haven of Lotusland is Santa Barbara's best kept secret, then its proximity to the Santa Ynez wine country is a close second. From downtown, a scenic drive up Highway 154 will take you up "into the valley," past Lake Cachuma and through the towns of Solvang, Los Olivos, and Buellton. Northern California gets most of the attention when it comes to wine on a national level, yet the Santa Ynez Valley was put on the map when it was featured in the book turned movie, Sideways.
They don't call it the "American Riviera" for nothing. Santa Barbara's beauty is everything but subtle, which really makes our job easy. It's a total point-and-shoot kind of town, each corner revealing another wonderful vantage point that delightfully combines the ocean, mountains, and the mission-style architecture and colors.
The aerial views you see below were taken from the tower on top of the Courthouse, which is free to access and a good place to get a full bird's eye view. The others are from the beaches along Cabrillo Boulevard, the final sunrise coming from our hotel room at the soon-to-be Hotel Milo.
Santa Barbara distracts many with its beaches, wine country, and ocean-hugging mountains, but amongst the protective landscaping that hides the estates of neighboring Montecito sits the area's best kept secret: Lotusland, a 37-acre outdoor garden containing 3,000 plant species from all over the world.
Originally designed to be a retreat for Tibetan monks, the property features about two dozen unique garden plots that allow you to immerse yourself in different ecosystems. One minute you're strolling through an arid, hardy cactus garden, and the next you've entered a peaceful, Japanese-themed plot of land, an aloe garden, or are walking under tropical trees. One of the crown jewels of Lotusland is its Cycad Garden, a species that dates back nearly 300 million years.
As far as the central coast of California goes, the small town of Ojai often gets lost in the shadows of destinations such as Santa Barbara, Paso Robles, and Big Sur. It’s a bit understandable given the reputations of those latter towns, but a look at Ojai reveals its value as a weekend getaway for those living within driving distance and as a stopoff for travelers driving Highway 1.
Though not on the coast, the “Valley of the Moon” is considered by many to be an energy vortex, similar to Sedona in that people find its aura to be powerful and even healing. This is one reason why the town is known as a rejuvenation and relaxation destination with many spa and retreat facilities. Its position in a valley adds to that charm, comforting visitors into a rural California nest of citrus farms.