Ah, vacation season. The escape from cold weather to white sand and golden sunshine. The salty taste of ocean water. Time spent with family and friends. It’s the best. At least that’s what we think here at NW, and since our Spring/Summer 2017 Collection is centered around California, we thought we’d create a fun vacation guide for a delightful trip to the golden state, put together by our own native Californian on the NW team. Here’s what she has to say:
First off, I’m slightly biased, but I happen to think California is the dreamiest, most beautiful place in the world. There’s so much of it to see! You could spend a full week in San Francisco, LA, and San Diego respectively, and have plenty to do. But I wanted to arrange a trip that would give you a taste of all of the different flavors the greatest state in the nation has to offer. This trip is about two weeks long in total, but you can cut out any places that don’t interest you, or shorten it to either Northern or Southern California, if that’s all your schedule allows. And, of course, I’m giving you some great NW style ideas along the way. Let’s get started on your road trip down Highway 1!
SAN FRANCISCO: We’re starting out up North in SF. “Fog City”. “Frisco”. San Fran is mystical- it’s by the water, the hills are striking, and there’s an old-fashioned charm that just radiates from every corner. I’d recommend spending one to two nights here, enough to enjoy some of the biggest attractions, eat some great food, and get a feel for SF life.
- To DO: The most obvious place to start is Golden Gate Bridge– it’s definitely not necessary to walk across it, but do stop by, get some pictures, and enjoy the awesome view if you haven’t before. It’s worth it to do it at least once. For Disney fans, the Walt Disney Family Museum is a lesser known destination full of fascinating exhibits about the Disney family and empire, close to the bridge at the Presidio of SF. Head to the Sutro Baths in the Land’s End area for an adventurous afternoon. Make sure to stop at the Ghiradelli Factory for a tour and some chocolate sampling, Pier 39, and Chinatown, like the good tourist you are…I’m kidding, not every stop will be this touristy.
- To EAT: Speaking of Chinatown, you can’t go wrong with Chinese food in SF. My personal favorite is R & G Lounge. A classic. Their fried bean curd is to die for (spoken like a true Californian, I know), and their honey garlic chicken is out of this world. For Italian, you can’t miss out on Seven Hills, in the sophisticated Nob Hill neighborhood. It’s exquisite, especially the tortelli. Just order it. I promise, it’ll be the best thing you’ve eaten since R & G. Additionally, you can’t go wrong with Kokkari Estiatorio for Mediterranean. Great food, and great ambiance.
- NW SHOE PAIRING: SF is full of very steep hills. You’ll be walking a lot. So I thought the perfect shoe pairing would be our new Greenwich Sneaker in Ocean, built on a running sneaker last, with the aesthetic of a beautiful blue suede shoe.
Then, start the stunning drive down Highway 1, and make your way down to…
CARMEL: Carmel-by-the-Sea looks like it’s out of a storybook. It is certainly one of the most beautiful place’s I’ve ever been, with its majestic beach, and tiny cottages. Small businesses abound, and art thrives in this town. Enjoy a night here and just relax.
- To STAY: There are many adorable inns and boutique hotels in Carmel, but La Playa definitely stands out as a favorite. Its gorgeous gardens, luxurious amenities, and ocean views place it at the top of the list. Originally a mansion gifted by a painter to his wife, there is also an interesting history behind its development.
- To EAT: Check out this great guide to the best Carmel restaurants.
- To DO: Carmel Beach is a must-see. Take a morning walk down the beach, then explore all of the shops, art galleries, and wine tasting offered on Ocean Avenue, the town’s main drag. Their website’s info on what to do there is exceptional- take a look!
- NW SHOE PAIRING: Carmel is as relaxed as it is opulent, so you don’t need to worry about wearing dress shoes. The Freeport Loafer in Java is the right vibe for this leg of the trip. The suede is classy but the sneaker sole makes this shoe comfortable and summery.
Next stop is an actual stop. If you’ve been here before, feel free to skip it/move right along. But if you’ve never been, it’s an absolute must…
HEARST CASTLE: Hearst Castle is magnificent. It is now considered a California State Park, but it was once the mansion of William Randolph Hearst. There are plenty of tours available every day where you’ll learn all of the intriguing stories and history of the home. The property itself is 240,000 acres, and offers some of the best views of the coast in the state. It’s so worthwhile to stop by and enjoy its grandeur. Find out more here.
It’s also not an all day event. So as soon as you’ve finished luxuriating in the lushness that is Hearst Castle, head down the coast about 15 minutes, and you’ve reached the quaint and whimsical…
CAMBRIA: This charming little town is a perfect place for a rest. Find an inexpensive inn for one night, and take in the natural sights and small town vibe of Cambria.
- To DO: Moonstone Beach is a highlight. Not only is there a mile-long boardwalk for a leisurely stoll, the beach is covered in tiny, brightly colored stones. It’s a lovely place to spend an afternoon. To continue your active day, Fiscalini Ranch is a great place to visit. There’s a wealth of hiking ground on this old and extremely well-maintained coastal ranch. Featuring 437 acres of protected rain forest and grasslands, you could spend the entire day meandering, contemplating and enjoying the great outdoors here.
- To EAT: This is a small town, so there aren’t too many restaurants to choose from, but the general consensus is that Robin’s Restaurant is the best place in town. Its cozy, comfortable atmosphere and fresh seasonal menu distinguish it as the -go-to spot on your night in town.
- NW SHOE PAIRING: Cambria is fun, it’s simple, and it’s colorful. So I’d recommend the Gotham II Sneaker in Gray/Burgundy for your walks around the town and beach. If you’ll be hiking, be sure to take hiking shoes.
After Cambria, it only takes a little bit over two hours to head farther down the coast to…
GOLETA: …which is a less crowded beach get away, just about a 15 minute drive from Santa Barbara. By staying in Goleta, you avoid the crowds of SB while still being able to visit during the day for the beach, or at night to enjoy the nightlife. I’d suggest one to two nights in this area. There’s a lot to do, and it’s one of the prettiest beach areas on this trip.
- To STAY: You absolutely must stay at the Bacara resort. It is a dream. The most laid back, soothing, yet sophisticated resort in the area. The beach walk there is one of my favorite walking trails ever, and the spa offers a plethora of top quality treatments for all guests. Just look at it…
- To EAT: Head over to Santa Barbara for dinner at Olio e Limone, a delicious, trendy Italian restaurant with its own pizza bar adjacent to it. If you end up at the pizza bar, the Margherita D.O.C. is my go-to. Mexican food ALERT: we are now heading into the best Mexican food territory- essentially the farther south you are, the better it is. In SB, I’d recommend Viva, formerly known as Cielito downtown. It’s the best modern Mexican in town. For traditional Mexican, La Playa Azul is my family’s favorite.
- NW SHOE PAIRING: Bacara is pure luxury. It’s like being at a resort on a tropical island…but in California. So, in keeping with the tropical vibe, my suggestion for footwear is our amazing Gotham Woven Sneaker in the luggage color. This is hand-woven leather, and will look sharp with whatever you choose to wear.
You’ve done it! You’ve gotten through Northern and Central CA. Next up is the best part of the state (…my personal bias included)…Southern CA. First stop, LA.
LOS ANGELES: Oh, Los Angeles. There’s genuinely too much of it to see during a one or two day stop, so I’ll just stick with some of my favorite spots on and off the beaten path. You can find the usual tourist spots anywhere online, so I’m sending you to Santa Monica and Pasadena.
- To DO: The Santa Monica Pier is a classic stop in a CA road trip, but I think it’s a worthwhile morning stop. There are fun restaurants and good shopping in the area, so maybe it could be good to stay until early afternoon, then head out East toward Pasadena. Pasadena definitely isn’t a touristy spot, but it’s home to some of my favorite places. The Huntington Library is truly one of the most beautiful and serene places I’ve ever had the pleasure of spending time, and back home one of my favorite things to do was enjoy their amazing tea, gardens, museum, and library. In addition, Old Town Pasadena is a cool place to hang out.
- To EAT: For brunch in Santa Monica, check out Huckleberry. And you really can’t beat Saladang for Thai in Pasadena. They have an elegant, ornate restaurant on one side, and a more casual option on the other side, with most of the same menu selections, for whatever mood you might be in. In addition, if you’re going to the Huntington, I’d recommend their Rose Garden Tea Room. The tea service is excellent, and it has a beautiful view of the property.
- NW SHOE PAIRING: You can’t go wrong with the Hamilton in this instance. It’s part sneaker, part Chukka, and all suede. It’s trendy and very LA. Plus, it’s extremely comfortable for your walking throughout the day. And, you can add or remove the kiltie as needed.
From LA, it’s a short drive down to a definite must-see location, and I don’t just say that because I’m from…
ORANGE COUNTY: I think you could spend a day and night in the OC and see all the totally necessary stuff, but if you’d like to spread it out over two days, that’s also an option. Especially if you are planning on going to Disneyland. The beaches in this area are stunning, so I’m going to take you on a mini beach tour through Orange County.
- To DO: Start out at Balboa Island on Newport Beach. It’s the quintessential OC experience. Take the ferry between the island and peninsula, and hang out at the beach for the morning. I’d also recommend staying in the Newport Beach area (maybe at Pelican Hill or even a Balboa vacation rental) to make this easiest. Regardless, in the afternoon I’d suggest driving about a 1/2 hr out to Laguna Beach. Enjoy the gorgeous ocean (this is the most beautiful beach in Orange County), art galleries, and get a margarita at Las Brisas on your way to dinner.
- To EAT: If you’re looking to venture out a little, or you’re arriving in the morning, it’s worth it to stop by Cappy’s for breakfast. Lunch at Ruby’s on the Balboa pier is always fun, or Javier’s is amazing if you’re looking for something on the nicer side. Then, for dinner, you absolutely must go to The Beachcomber. Who wouldn’t want dinner at their own private beach?
- NW SHOE PAIRING: The classic, Nautical White Perry is the epitome of a summertime California sneaker. There’s no better match for SoCal, and this multiple beach day.
If you’ve read this far, congratulations, you’ve arrived at the LAST STOP on this train (metaphorically speaking). It’s time to head to…
SAN DIEGO/CORONADO: There are a lot of fun things to do in San Diego, but for the purposes of this trip, I’d say stay in Coronado, a beautiful little island just 15 minutes away from SD. It’ll make for a more relaxing stay.
- To STAY: There aren’t words to describe how perfect the Hotel Del Coronado is. It’s quaint yet grand, historical yet modern, and perfect for kids if you have them. Stay there, and enjoy all of the amenities and activities it has to offer. You’ll be glad you did. And in the day time, you can take a quick drive over to SD to visit Old Town and take a tour, or visit the charismatic Seaport Village.
- To EAT: San Diego is the ultimate Mexican Food destination– after all, you can see Mexico from Coronado Beach. Casa de Reyes in Old Town is always delicious, and provides a truly authentic experience. Plus, it’s located in a beautiful historic park. At the Hotel Del, 1500 Ocean provides spectacular views and an incredible menu, and the Crown Room Brunch is the most extravagant brunch I’ve ever seen.
- NW SHOE PAIRING: Why not end the trip on a slightly dressier note? The Orient Loafer in Charcoal is a great match for SD/Coronado. You can dress it up or down easily, and the color is so handsome.
And there you have it. A complete guide to a California road trip. Thank you for reading along, and the whole team at NW wishes you a wonderful vacation season, wherever you may be traveling!
—Nicole at Noah Waxman
Other points of interest: