California Dreamin’


So, its time to start thinking about Summer Vacation.

For many years my kids only wanted to go to one place: Disney World.  Even though it was expensive, I was secretly thrilled.  I am a closet Disney World addict.  I totally buy into the Pixie Dust.  I believe it’s the Happiest Place on Earth and I find myself thrilled every single time I have gone.  It’s magical.

We went on a cruise a few times and the kids didn’t have enough fun and my x and I fought too often over keeping them busy.  Talk about spoiled kids.  This is how we always ended up in Disney – they liked it, they were familiar and it eventually became a no-brainer.

When I began the separation process, I wanted to start exposing them to new things but figured starting with typical “resort-type” vacations would be best.  We tried Atlantis for a short week last year and that went over well.

This year I want to try something a little bit less resort-y and more interesting.  But, I can’t stand having complaining teens so I need to keep the balance in order not to ruin my vacation.  I’m all for trying any travel, especially to Europe, but I don’t think my kids would actually enjoy the experience.  It seems we have agreed on one potential location: California.

Now, we have a back-up plan – Turks and Caicos – for that real typical resort vacation…but I think I might be willing to give some California Sunshine a shot.  My guys said they really don’t want another beach vacation.

I know lots of you have traveled and even live on the opposite coast…so what are your suggestions for older teens?

My kids are more gamers than adventure/outdoor kids, so I can’t get too adventurous with them, but I know I would love to visit San Francisco to see the bridge and Alcatraz.  Maybe even take a drive through Vegas to the Grand Canyon.  I have about 10 days to kill and 2 driving permit drivers who could use the long distance practice.

Any and all suggestions welcome.  Or, if not California, do you have a place that your teens loved to travel that you would recommend?




Author: Madeline Harper

My journey through divorce and an emotional and sexual reawakening. Love, laughter, friendships, family and heartbreak included. And there is sex, lots of it, so close your eyes and turn the page if that's not for you! While I started this blog as an endeavor to journal my thoughts and feelings in an attempt to better understand myself, it has become an amazing platform from which I have met some of the most interesting and wonderful people in my life. My path is often crooked, but I hope you will share in the journey with me.

26 thoughts on “California Dreamin’”

  1. I spent a lot of time in Southern California in my “other lives”… and as Disney is my most favorite place on earth, I had to visit Disneyland. It’s the same, but different in a lot of ways… and now they have California Adventure and LegoLand (or whatever it’s called)… maybe your teens are “over it” but it’s a thought. The San Diego Zoo is beautiful. Have you all ever done a swim with dolphins? (This is still on my bucket list.) Santa Barbara is gorgeous… from State Street to the beach, there’s an old mission there that’s pretty cool. There’s also the movie theater on State Street that’s really cool inside. Good eats in S.B. I haven’t been north but I think your ideas are great. I’ve always wanted to visit San Francisco (beyond the airport – Hah!).


    1. Other lives? Hmmm… 🙂 Sounds like fun!

      I am a Disney aficionado but just wasn’t planning on being there again this summer…but if the kids want to go – who am I to say no?!

      We did the swim with dolphins while we were in Atlantis last year and it was fun – but they still say it’s the scariest thing they have ever done. we all have a fear of animals!

      I visited Santa Barbara once and I loved it too!

      Thanks for all your tips!


  2. I’m an East Coaster who loves SoCal. When I visit, I like to stay at Manhattan Beach and then drive to LA or San Diego. There’s lots of outdoor activities, from surfing to hiking, plus lots of site seeing. Plus, driving on the Pacific Coast Highway is fantastic.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Being a San Francisco native, I always recommend checking out the Bay Area at least once 🙂 There’s a ton of touristy things to check out in SF (and great food) too, so that can be fun especially if you all are experiencing it for the first time together! If you’re looking for a scenic drive but don’t want to drive through the desert, I say Google the “Pacific Coat Highway”, rent a car from SFO, and drive down the coast on Highway 1 through Monterey, Big Sur, and the Bixby Bridge! It’s an absolutely gorgeous drive that’s about 2-3hrs or so outside of San Francisco and it has a mix of beaches, hiking trails through mountains, a plethora of picture ops with scenic backdrops, and Downtown Monterey (and nearby Carmel) is cute too for shopping, eating great seafood, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium! I’ve done that drive so many times but it’s still one of my favorites. It’s a nice little “getaway” when you want to disconnect from the real world for a bit. Regardless, wherever you end up choosing though, you definitely can’t go wrong! I’m sure the kids will be happy to just be on vacation 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am totally into seeing San Fran and can’t believe of all the places I have traveled that I have never made it there. You make it sound so lovely and relaxing and that’s what I was looking to hear – I don’t want a vacation chock full of stuff to do and places to be – I want to enjoy!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ahh, on that note, I say you all must do it! Regardless of what you’re looking for, there’s a bunch of different things to do that I personally think you can’t go wrong 🙂 You can play tourist in the big city (and check out a baseball game if your kids are in to sports. The view at the stadium is phenomenal and tickets aren’t super expensive), go snowboarding in Tahoe, drive along the Coast in Big Sur, and go hiking through the Redwood Trees all within a few short hours’ drive outside the city. AND, if you still choose to tack on Vegas + the Grand Canyon, it’s only a short 2hr. flight away so you guys can make a huge West Coast adventure out of it!

        Regardless of destination, I know ya’ll will have fun either way. If you end up choosing the Bay Area, feel free to reach out if you need/want some recommendations! All this talk is making me want to plan my next adventure 🙂

        XO, Alyssa


  4. If you are thinking of beaching it in SoCal, the later in the summer your vacation is, the more likely you’ll avoid the “June Gloom,” the overcast conditions that persist right over the coast from May through early July once the Inland begins to heat up. The “gloom” will burn off in the afternoon, but sometimes not for long. Correlated, ocean temps sometimes are still chilly through June. August is an ideal time to get lots of sun and warm waters. SoCal really only is bikini weather from July – early October unless you like it a little cooler!


    1. Very true, traditionally 4th of July weekend is when it feels hot enough for a bikini. This year though, it’s been unseasonably warmer. I’m currently sitting here in my tank top and shorts- in April. The sun is shining and it feels fan-tastic here! That said, traditionally June gloom is real & very noticeable around the coastline. Go inland 1 mile and it’s full sun. Just how it works…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. As I am from Europe, of course I have to vote for Europe! 😀 There is soooo much to see and do here, I promise! You say they are gamers… but, perhaps that is exactly why they need to discover more things in life?
    I am saying that being an old gamer myself, if by gamer you mean a complete nerd who plays a computer game/games…. 🙂
    Why not do something adventurous, white water rafting, zipline in the trees (or whatever it’s called), visit Dracula’s castle in Romania? I am just all over the place here with my suggestions, but I just wanted to say something for Europe, haha. Good luck with your travel plans!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would honestly vote for Europe as well…I prefer travel in Europe to travel in the USA but that’s probably because I have more experience in Europe than here…never really had an interest in the USA. But the kids really seem to want SanFran so it looks like that will be our choice, plus I can still get to a beach resort!

      I am going to look into zipline and white water rafting as well as a hike in the Grand Canyon (don’t know how well that will go over – maybe a helicopter is a better idea!)

      I love the idea of visiting Dracula’s castle!!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. If you’re coming to northern California, I’d suggest Santa Cruz for at least a day – the Boardwalk would be fun for the boys. DH and I love Monterey, but we enjoy the aquarium, museums, and art galleries throughout the area … in other words, it might be a little laid back for your teens. San Francisco is always fun – lots to see and do. But if you’re looking for a resort type feel, I don’t think you cannot go wrong with Disneyland, California Adventure, downtown Disney, etc., and of course there is a lot to see and to do in the LA area.


    1. I was trying to avoid Disney entirely, and even LA, if at all possible – but it seems they are actually interested in Disney and maybe doing a studio tour…just not my type of vacation. It’s going to be hard with older teens to please them and not exhaust myself. I’m not interested in being a tour guide any longer so this trip may be more challenging than some of our past vacations.

      I will look into Santa Cruz though!


  7. Well you know my vote 🙂

    So much to do here!!! Although I must say, I haven’t made our summer vacation plans yet. But I’m hoping to be on a far flung island for most of it, sipping cocktails and exploring. Not sure what dates we will be gone…

    But I can give you loads of advice if you want. There’s touristy things, the typical things that people think of when visiting California. Some are neat to see, some lame. Some a complete waste of time. But for sure, I can give you the insiders scoop on what to do, where to go etc. I know So cal inside and out. Nor Cal not as much, but I’ve done the typical LA to SF route back and forth & did all the typical touristy things along the way, plus tons of hidden gems like hiking to the only waterfall that cascades into the ocean, purple sand beaches (yes there is my lady)…and the best wineries to visit along the way.

    I know your kids are into gaming. Activision HQ is in Playa Vista. Maybe you can contact them and see if they do tours for kids? I know several people in that industry, so I can reach out to them for ideas. A friend just took her kids up to Google HQ and from the photos, they had a great time exploring the campus. Her kids are much younger too, so I can only imagine yours would love it.

    You could do a day trip/spend the night over at Catalina Island where the kids can drive golf carts around the island. Great snorkeling right where the boats dock. And there’s a newly renovated beach club there too.

    Or you could hit up Palm Springs…plenty of resorts there. Personally, Las Vegas has lost it’s appeal for me. It reeks of cigarette smoke everywhere you go. The dredges of society line up the street and you are constantly dealing with a barrage of hecklers and sellers, music blasting. IMO, It’s like being stuck in an Ikea with 50 music channels blasting at once. I would only go back if I stayed at a non-gaming, non-smoking hotel like the Four Seasons. I can see how it’s exciting if you’ve never been there, but after 48 hours, I’m ready to ditch that place for peace and solitude (I know, I’m getting old!!!).

    For sure hit up Disneyland and California Adventure. Your teens would love both for different reasons. If you do Disneyland, I have a connection that would make your trip there extra special. I’ll PM you!


    1. Well maybe if you have a connection for DL then I would give it a try – I was actually going to try and avoid it all together as I didn’t want to be on yet another trip where I was a tour guide with a daily schedule. As much as they say they want to do things – they are pretty lazy when it comes down to it!

      I will totally grab you off line for all the good advice I know you have!! We are heading there the first two weeks in August round-about.

      I am all about the purple sand beaches!!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. My ex was in the military and we had three tours of duty in California — two in San Diego and one in Lemoore (which is near Fresno). San Francisco is one of my favorite cities and it’s a great walking (and trolley-ing) town. Lots of different things to see and do and Muir Woods is just a short drive north (that’s where you’d see all the big redwoods and sequoia trees). If Southern California is more your style, you can’t beat San Diego — the weather is wonderful, the beaches are fun (but cold compared to the Caribbean) and there is a Sea World, a terrific zoo, and the best wild animal park I’ve ever been to. Plus, it’s close enough to LA to drive up if the kids wanted to see the Hollywood Walk of Fame, or Universal Studios — or even Disneyland.

    I don’t know that I’d recommend driving from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon for a day trip — it’s about 4.5 hours one way. But if you were going to fly to Vegas and then do a road trip through the Southwest, that would be fun. There is the meteor crater just outside of Flagstaff, Sedona, the Grand Canyon, Four Corners, Canyon de Chelly (cliff dwellings and petroglyphs), Durango and Silverton in Southwest Colorado (Silverton is a charming little “old west” type of town, and there is a train that runs between them (round trip).

    Lots of fun to be had no matter where you decide to go.


    1. I wouldn’t mind taking a drive to see the redwoods – I think it would be quite beautiful – and I am sure I would have at least 2 bored kids! One would probably love it! Gosh – there are just so many places I haven’t seen and I would love to drive for a month just to see the west side of the country now!


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