It’s been over a year already since we moved to California and bought our house here. Can you believe it? Where has the time gone? We have loved living here and have seen so much of the state over the last year.
Our home is in the Central Valley and it’s been such a great place to live because it is literally smack dab in the middle of the state and that means that it’s close to nearly everything the whole state has to offer! Almost every weekend we are off a new adventure. It’s a quick drive to the coast, the mountains, wine country and all of Cali’s big cities. We’ve done a ton of day trips and a bunch of fun weekend trips all around California.
So why is California the best place to live? Where else can you go to the beach one day and skiing the next?
One of our very favorite things to do on the weekend (and one we do often because, well, it’s free) is head up to the mountains. We love hiking, and it’s especially nice in the summer when it’s super hot at home and nice and cool at 6,000 feet. Of course everyone thinks of Yosemite, which is gorgeous, but we prefer some of the less touristy areas. We love Sequoia National Park and Forest. The park has huge ole Sequoia trees that are just AMAZING to look at.
We often venture outside the park into Sequoia National Forest since dogs aren’t allowed on trails in the park, but are free anywhere in the forest– and Kaiser loves hiking! We recently found an amazing new spot in the forest– Buck Rock Lookout. Buck Rock used to be used as a lookout for forest fires, since you can see foreverrrrr, and now it’s just a really amazing spot to have lunch.
There are some big rocks you can sit on while taking in the amazing view. The forest is a great place to hike and explore if you want to see very few people, which is one one of the reasons we love the mountains– peace!
While we love Sequoia, our all-time favorite place to hike is the Dinky Lakes Trail in Sierra National Forest. It is such a great hike. Challenging, yet so beautiful that you won’t even notice you are out of breath!
The first time I visited California, long before living here was ever even a thought, we drove down the coast from San Francisco to San Diego along the Pacific Coast Highway, aka the most beautiful road in the world. There’s a reason thousands of tourists do this drive. California’s shoreline is like no other. I love that we only live a couple hours from the coast because I love the beach and beach towns.
Since Nick went to high school in San Luis Obispo, it’s a city we visit pretty frequently. They have a ton of great shopping and lots of amazing food. I’ll just admit my fatkid status right now and tell you about my favorite place in SLO. It’s called Batch. And they make homemade cookies. And then sandwich ice cream in between.
You can mix and match ice cream flavors and different varieties of freshly baked, still-warm cookies to create your own custom ice cream sandwich. It is magical. We have to stop by every time we are in town.
Another neat place in SLO is the Avila Valley Barn. They sell fresh fruits and veggies from their farm; artisanal cheeses, olives and candies; fresh baked bakery items and so much more. Plus they have hayrides and lots of animals to pet and play with, so it’s great for kids. Or, you know, adults who like goats. Have I mentioned my husband is obsessed with goats?
After eating all the delicious food in SLO, a great way to burn off some calories is hiking the trails at Montana de Oro State Park. The trails are flat (good for biking or even running), and all along the rugged coast line. It’s a great way to get the best of both words: hiking and beach.
Another coastal town we really enjoy is Morro Bay.
It’s a classic beach town, with seafood joints, taffy shops and souvenir shops lining the streets. Morro Rock is a volcanic rock right next to the beach.
We love to go and watch otters frolicking along the coastline while walking the beach and town center.
When we want to get away from the tourists, the tiny town of Cambria is a great escape. Cambria has a quaint downtown, adorable inns and is the perfect place to relax and get away. One of our favorite places is the Cambria Ale House, which offers a huge variety of craft beers both on tap and in bottles. I love their humor, too.
The Black Cat is a great little restaurant, but make sure you make a reservation! The place is always packed and we’ve seen them turn people away.
And you’ve always got to stop at Linn’s for a slice of their famous Olallieberry pie!
It’s nice to be in the middle of the state because San Francisco, LA, and San Diego are all easily accessible via a quick car trip. All three are definitely doable as weekend trips, but we especially love San Diego and San Fran.
Coronado Beach is one of our favorite spots to hang out in San Diego. With white sands and palm trees, I think it’s one of the best lay-in-the-sun beaches in California. So pretty!
San Francisco has too many amazing places to list. Our very favorite restaurant is a French place called Cafe Claude, which we now visit every time we head up to San Fran.
We always hang out in Chinatown when we visit. We like to explore the markets and all the strange veggies and foods. There’s also a fortune cookie factory that smells amazing and will give you a sample of freshly baked cookies– ten times more tasty than the ones that come with your takeout.
Vital Tea Leaf is a fun place to go tea tasting! We’ve been a couple times and always find new delicious teas to bring home. It’s like wine tasting but with tea! You can try several different teas while they tell you about all the different health benefits.
Of course I saved the best for last. When people think of California they often think of wine. I recently read something that said the US now outranks France in wine consumption! And much of the US’s wine is made in good old California. Most people think of Napa and Sonoma as wine country. Napa is beautiful and we love it (and haven’t ventured to Sonoma yet), but it’s not the only wine country. Just a little over an hour from us lies the city of Paso Robles, a gem of a place teeming with vineyards and wineries. Since it’s on the way to the coast, we stop there fairly often for a little wine tasting. There are so many places, you could visit Paso Robles 15 times and still not hit every place.
Eberle Winery has an amazing underground cave where they age their wine, and they give tours! It’s really neat to see. They even have special dinners in the cave, which I would love to attend some time. The best part about Eberle (other than their wine being awesome) is that they have a 40% military discount!
J. Lohr Vineyards and Winery is great because they have a ton of great wines at very reasonable prices. They have many different options for tasting. We tried at least a dozen wines and loved every one.
If you want an amazing view of Paso Robles, Daou Vineyards is the place to go.
This is the perfect place to head with friends for lunch (they have an awesome menu), a glass of wine and beautiful scenery.
With so many different, diverse areas, California is an amazing place to live and own a home. And central California in particular is the perfect location for easy access to everything the state has to offer.