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The Lunch Belle's guide to So.Cal

Ah, Southern California.  I have to admit that, during my last couple of visits, I've appreciated the "right coast" and its unparalleled beauty in a way that I never have before.  At least not since I fell madly in love with New York City.  There's just something so incredibly sexy about city streets lined with palm trees - perfectly manicured emerald-green hedges and lawns - magenta-pink bougainvillea bundles - citrus trees as far as the eye can see - cliffs and mountains that give way to the majestic Pacific ocean - and a temperature that never dips below 50 degrees.  My father refers to California as "The Promised Land."  And you know what?  He's kind of right.  Aren't parents always?

For the Memorial Day holiday, my friend, Em, and I made the cross-country trek to visit my family in So-Cal (that's "Southern California" to you).  During my stay, I *actually* took in a fantastic exercise class, ate my fare share of both Mexican and coastal/regional cuisine, got some sun, finished a life-altering book, celebrated my sister's Masters, saw my extended family and old friends, spent 24-hours in La Jolla, and found the best margarita recipe that I've had, to date (...this will be posted very soon!). 

Needless to say, it was hard to return to a hot and sweaty, angry NYC on Monday evening.  For the entire 24-hours leading to my departure, I was an anxious wreck.  I can't really explain this, other than to tell you that, like clock work, I go through the same pre-NYC-bound mental anguish on every family-ish vacation.  I've done this for as long as I can remember!  I think that my anxiety has something to do with, somewhere deep inside, me being genuinely homesick.  And by homesick, I'm not talking about secretly yearning for my native Texas - or any locale, for that matter.  I'm referring to being homesick for my mom, dad, and sister.  My family.  I can't help but ask myself, every time I board that East Coast-bound flight, "Is all of this really worth living thousands of miles away from my immediate family?  Life's too short and time is the enemy."  But then, as if my California vacation was all a dream, I wake up to the subtle hustle-and-bustle noise of 6th Avenue from my 7th floor apartment in my beloved Manhattan - smile - and realize that I'm not quite ready to leave.  


Are you:

  • Looking for a fabulous holiday destination?
  • Planning a trip to SoCal in the near(ish) future?

Consider Southern California!  Here are some of my personal recommendations & travel tips for the perfect SoCal weekend.  Enjoy!


When to go

July & August are the best "beach" months.  Aside from June (read: June Gloom), you really can't go wrong - but it's all dependent upon whether or not you want warm/swimmable ocean water. 

Make the most out of your vacation time (from the East Coast)

Leave on a Wednesday: early evening flights (think 5:30pm - 7pm) are ideal because you can put in a long day at the office and not miss too many daylight hours.

Airline that's worth every penny

Jet Blue: non-stop flights to San Diego and Orange County (SNA)!  Plus, nothing makes 5.5 hours go faster than live DIRECTV and free snacks that don't suck.  Also, your first checked bag is FREE!

My favorite SoCal day trips (assuming that San Diego is your base)

My favorite restaurants/bakeries/farmer's markets/watering holes

  • Carlsbad: La Costa Farms Flower Stand - everything from fruits & veggies, to hand-dipped strawberries, candied apples, homemade salsas and guacamole, tortillas, and flowers!

  • Del Mar: En Fuego - margaritas, hot-spot, watering hole

Best bets

Carlsbad: spend a day at the world-famous La Costa Resort & Spa

  • Burn some calories!  Begin your morning with a yoga class at The Deepak Chopra Center or, perhaps, a Zumba class at the Athletic Club.  Unlike Manhattan, most classes won't cost you more than $10-$15. 
  • Have a "spa day" at La Costa: whether you're staying at this fabulous resort or not, the spa is open to the public.  At a price, of course.  However, if you choose to forego a treatment and would rather lounge in the lap of luxury all day, opt instead for the $60 day pass, which gives you access to all of the spa's facilities.  $60 still too much?  Head to the spa right at 2pm, and pay only $30 for a day pass as opposed to $60!  Make your spa reservations here.     

Carlsbad Premium Outlets

  • I have amazing luck every time I visit this particular outlet!  You can't beat the gorgeous outdoor setting and names like Barney's, Ferragamo, Theory, and Crate and Barrel.

Coronado Island

La Jolla

  • Have dinner at George's California Modern: when making your reservation, make sure to ask for a window-side table for unbeatable ocean views!     

However you decide to conquer Southern California, just know this: you can't lose!  If you're bringing the kiddos, don't forget to look in to Disneyland, Lego Land, Knott's Berry Farm, and Sea World (I would have mentioned them but, to be honest, I haven't been to any since I was much younger.  Sorry!).  

If you have any specific questions about So-Cal, send me an email: Lindsay@TheLunchBelle.com.


Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle 

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