I Will Drive 500 Miles…A Family of 5–and a Dog–Do California by Car (Part 2)

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Deal Expert, Los Angeles
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…And our California road trip continues! After a night in San Diego, we head north to what’s becoming one of the top destination beaches in Southern California…

Next Stop: Huntington Beach (2 nights)

Northbound travel through this stretch of Southern California is at the mercy of traffic. Interstate 405 and Interstate 5 are notorious for backups, fender benders and construction projects, so check traffic before you go to find your best route. We waited for the morning rush to subside before hitting the road and making a pit stop for playground games at Balboa Park and lunch in La Jolla.

Playground antics at San Diego’s Balboa Park
  • Tip: Make a day of Balboa Park, a 1,200-acre urban oasis just outside downtown with 17 museums, gardens, restaurants and the world-famous San Diego Zoo.

A 90-minute drive brought us to Huntington Beach, a coastal gem. In the last decade, this town has transformed into a hip, fun, beachy haven that’s classic California through and through, with an inescapable ocean-fueled attitude. The heart of the action is the Huntington Beach Pier, at the end of Main Street, which stretches 2000 feet out to sea and offers gorgeous views. Bringing Milo here was a no-go, though – no dogs allowed. But the quaint residential streets nearby gave us plenty of places for walks.

The Huntington Beach Pier offers sweeping coastal viewsThe internationally renowned Vans U.S. Open of Surfing was in full swing when we visited, which amped up the surf vibe, with pro surfers, skateboarders and BMX bikers – and their beautiful fans – fanned throughout town. Many of them were staying at our hotel, Kimpton’s Shorebreak Hotel, just up from the pier, and that made it a destination all its own all week long.

The Huntington Beach Pier offers sweeping coastal views
  • Tip: When you’re planning travel, book around high-profile events, which send hotel rates soaring.

The Shorebreak oozes California charm, with its breezy ambiance and sensual decor. The open-air lobby is a social hot spot, with ping pong, giant chess and corn hole games breaking out all day; this is also where guests gather for the hotel’s complimentary coffee service in the morning and wine hour right at 5 p.m. Check out the rock wall in the gym. And at night, ask the front desk for your s’mores kit; roasting marshmallows had us gathering around the fire pits late into the night. (My wife and I agree: Flexibility with regard to bedtime schedules is okay when you’re on the road, and it helps make evenings more stress-free.)

The Shorebreak’s fire pits inspire s’mores action (and great conversation) at night

The Shorebreak’s eatery, Pacific Hideaway, is the ultimate deluxe beach shack, a blend of comfort and sophistication, with an open design that includes a beach-view patio. Our seafood-inspired dinner here included phenomenal raw amberjack crudo and fish tacos with cotija cheese and a zesty chipotle aioli; our family breakfast gave high marks to the farm-inspired egg-white frittata and the house-made sausages. The original cocktails give the bar here a following.

The decor is lush at the Shorebreak’s Pacific Hideaway
  • Tip: On your next Disneyland vacation, stay along the Orange County coast to combine theme park fun with time on the beach; the Disney parks are about 20-30 minutes away.

Tuesdays mean Surf City Nights along Main Street, from 5-9 p.m. – part farmers’ market, part fair, teeming with live music and funky vendors. This is people-gazing at its best, and it had us strolling the evening away until we stumbled upon Cucina Alessa for top-notch Italian food, a refined yet family friendly vibe and the nicest staff.

…Coming up: Part 3 of our California road trip, including stops along the state’s gorgeous Central Coast!

For more images from our California road trip, check out #saglieadventures. For more travel tips, follow me on Instagram and Twitter. And for deals to make your next road trip easier to budget and plan, become a Travelzoo member today!

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