I don’t normally write this type of post, but it’s a New Year so why not! I haven’t been in the mood for writing much lately, and the best way for me to get my momentum back is to just write whatever I feel like, and this is it. So here we go with my first “Year in Review” post!
Most of my little adventures and trips don’t make it onto my blog because I can’t seem to keep up with writing about them. Because of that, this year in review will be like a little journal for me, but also a way for you to get some new ideas of things to see and do in Southern California. Or I hope it at least inspires you to get out there and explore wherever it is you live.
2019 Year in Review
My goal for 2019 was for me and my husband to spend more time in Orange County. By the beginning of the year, I had already booked our trip to Italy (which I’ll tell you about later), so it was the perfect year to just stick around the home base.
I started my year off by creating a Southern California Bucket List Challenge, which you can download for free right here. It was very hard to fit my complete list onto a one-page printable, so I tried to pick the most unique, budget-friendly, locals-only type things. Hope you enjoy it!
Adventures in Orange County
I spent a lot of time in Laguna Beach last year (naturally, because it has THE most gorgeous beaches and is the closest to home). I still haven’t visited all 30 little coves and beaches in the area, but I did spend more time at some of my favorite beaches in Laguna.
I also worked on perfecting my Laguna Beach parking strategy. One of the biggest struggles about spending the day in Laguna Beach is the parking situation, so I created this Ultimate Guide to Parking in Laguna Beach to help everyone else out. I also created my budget guide that includes 10 Things to Do in Laguna Beach for Less than $20!
To be honest, I wasn’t really into Newport Beach until last year. For whatever reason, I just didn’t have much interest in it except for kayaking through the Back Bay (highly recommend!). So last year I gave it another chance when I met up with the Queen of Adventure who showed me around a little bit.
We took the car ferry to Balboa Island, stopped at The Wedge and I learned about Lido Marina Village. This little trip sparked my interest in Newport and I suddenly got the urge to explore more of it.
The husband and I spent a day exploring Lido Marina Village and Balboa Peninsula. We had brunch at Malibu Farm then hopped over to Ray’s Rentals. He rented a skateboard and I rented a beach cruiser and we cruised up and down the peninsula. It was a super fun and cheap day! Here’s my Instagram post on how to spend the day in Newport Beach.
Mission San Juan Capistrano
I discovered one of the most historic buildings in Orange County – the Mission San Juan Capistrano. This place is GORGEOUS and I absolutely loved learning more about California’s history. I wrote a whole blog post about the experience, so you can read all about visiting the Mission San Juan Capistrano yourself.
Crystal Cove State Park
I unexpectedly discovered one of my new favorite places for a beach day in Orange County at the Crystal Cove State Park. We had been to Crystal Cove before; hiking El Moro Canyon, eating at the Shake Shack and walking through the Historic District, but I always assumed that the beach was too crowded so we never had an official beach day there.
I wanted a relaxing beach day and out of nowhere decided to try Pelican Point. To my surprise, we basically had the entire beach to ourselves and it was the most relaxing beach day ever. Check out my guide to spending the day in Crystal Cove State Park.
Once again we attended the Great Pacific Air Show in Huntington Beach, which has become a yearly tradition for us since it started. Huntington Beach has the coolest events and the air show is our favorite!
We also checked out the Kowabunga Van Klan show on the pier, the International Surfing Museum (and the World’s Largest Surfboard) and spent some time skateboarding on the boardwalk.
Finally made a visit to Tanaka Farms to pick some strawberries and veggies! We took the U-Pick veggie tour and had the chance to learn more about the different crops that are grown there and even pick some of our own.
The Great Park’s Orange Balloon is dressed up as “Jack” for Halloween, so I definitely couldn’t miss that!
We also rode e-bikes for the first time and literally had a blast roaming around Irvine’s bike trails! Both are super cute ideas for a family day in the OC! Read this for even more outdoor activities in Irvine, California!
I finally decided to visit the OC Fair last year. This type of event is not usually my thing mostly because I don’t like dealing with large crowds of people and I just don’t think it has enough value for the money. But, I dragged the husband along and made the best of it.
We basically just walked through, got a Michelada and rode the Ferris wheel. Not something we will be doing again, but at least now I can say that I have been to the OC Fair!
Hiking in Orange County
Last year I did quite a few hikes because I wanted to check out new trails for some blog posts I want to write. I also volunteer for the Irvine Ranch Conservancy (IRC), so I did a few hikes and bike rides with them. The IRC has some really cool guided hikes that you can sign up for like full moon hikes, animal tracking and open-access days to parks that are not open to the public.
Some of the notable hikes are:
- San Clemente Beach Trail (dog-friendly!)
- Dana Point Headlands
- Newport Back Bay (dog-friendly!)
- Carbon Canyon Redwoods (dog-friendly!)
- Quail Hill Loop (dog-friendly!)
- Hicks Haul Full Moon Hike (IRC activity)
- Limestone Canyon Open Access Day (IRC activity)
- Red Rock Canyon Trail in Whiting Ranch
- Santiago Oaks (dog-friendly)
We also checked out Walker Canyon during the Superbloom, which is not something I would like to participate in again. There was so much traffic and so many people, plus a lot of controversy over people trampling on the flowers. It was pretty, but not fun.
Mini Trips in Southern California
I took a sound bath, planted my own baby cactus, walked through the Wild Wild West and stayed in an Airbnb that had llamas on the property…and I was able to feed and frolic with the llamas!
If you don’t know yet, I LOVE Joshua Tree. It is the perfect little desert escape with super cute places to stay like this retro Airstream trailer, an amazing National Park with the coolest looking trees, and really cool experiences like the sound bath.
If you have not been to Joshua Tree yet, YOU MUST GO! Read my tips for visiting Joshua Tree first.
Salton Sea Road Trip
My husband, doggie and I completed this massive Southern California desert road trip one weekend and it was SO MUCH FUN! DesertX was happening, so we made a lot of stops throughout Palm Springs and the Salton Sea area searching for various art installations and it was literally like a scavenger hunt through the desert. Loved it.
We also stopped at Salvation Mountain, East Jesus, the Imperial Sand Dunes, and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. It was so much fun spending time exploring as a family and I cannot wait to do another road trip soon!
I’m working on writing a blog post about this trip, but in the meantime, I have a weekend itinerary for Anza-Borrego available!
We met up with an old friend from Puerto Vallarta who was visiting Los Angeles. We hadn’t seen her since moving away from PV so it was nice catching up with her. It was her first time in LA so we rode around on scooters and bikes through Venice Beach and Santa Monica. This is one of my favorite things to do in LA!
Another yearly activity for us is mountain biking at Snow Summit in Big Bear Lake. In the summertime, the ski lifts are converted to carry the bikes and you ride it up and bike down. Super fun! They have easy, medium and challenging trails, plus a skill-building area. I have some mountain biking posts that can prepare you for biking in Big Bear!
We drove up to Lake Arrowhead with the doggie one weekend for a quick day trip. We started the day with a stop at the Strawberry Creek Lookout Tower and saw a real live fire while we were up there (luckily it was very small and did not cause any major forest fire). Next, we stopped in the village to check out the beautiful lake and the shops and ended the day with a short hike at the Heaps Peak Arboretum Day Use Area.
Other travel in 2019
In 2019 I traveled to my dream destination: ITALY. I had always wanted to go to Italy, but I actually wasn’t planning on going until 2020 for our 5 year wedding anniversary. But for scheduling reasons, 2019 was the year to do it so I booked a group trip with Helene in Between.
Italy was as perfect as I had imagined. We spent 7 days exploring Rome, Florence, and Cinque Terre. We walked the gorgeous streets, ate the best food and gelato ever, walked into some amazingly detailed churches, visited the touristy sites like the Colosseum and the outside of the Vatican, rode the train, went wine tasting, explored cliff-side villages, ate lunch at a villa overlooking wine fields and rode Vespa scooters through Tuscany. It was amazing.
I also visited family in Wisconsin, Tijuana and Monterrey, Mexico, and by the end of the year, Florida was added as another family destination to visit.
Upcoming trips for 2020
One of my goals this year is to see 3 new California cities and have 3 new experiences. I pretty much have everything booked already, so I’m on track to complete this goal. Here they are:
- Death Valley Road Trip
- Temecula, CA (will experience hot air ballooning)
- San Francisco Road Trip via the Pacific Coast Highway
- Mexico City (will experience the subway for the first time)
- Also hoping for 3 family visits to Wisconsin, Monterrey, Florida
My blogging journey in 2019
- I survived my first year of blogging and a scary malware attack
- I collaborated with 3 other bloggers by providing my knowledge about Joshua Tree, Mexico beaches and road trips on the West Coast.
- I completed my first sponsored blog post when I teamed up with YogaClub
- I collaborated with Destination Irvine to share 7 Unique Outdoor Activities
- I also completed several brand collaborations on Instagram, which it turns out I don’t enjoy that much but I’m happy I tried it
- One of my photos was featured on Instagram by Visit California, which is HUGE for me and I felt super proud that they would use my photo
Life in 2019
Some of the really cool things that happened in 2019 are:
- Locale Magazine used me as a Native Knowledge in their OC Oct 2019 issue
- I continued learning Spanish by taking a class at the local community college and got an A
- I left my long-term distribution job and accepted a position at Visit Huntington Beach
Overall I’m so grateful for everything I have in my life and all of the experiences I have been through. I think 2020 is going to be an awesome year and I’m looking forward to all the great things to come.
Thank you for following along, for reading this, for keeping up with me on social media, for everything. I appreciate all of my readers and it is because of you that I even started this blog and keep it going.