We started our whirlwind long weekend in Southern California with a drive up the Pacific Coast Highway. The time change combined with the early morning flight from Charlotte meant that we were in the charming town of La Jolla by lunchtime. While parking is a struggle and all walks around La Jolla involve some serious uphill climbs, this charming little seaside town is a definite must see if you are driving north from San Diego. The Zagat guide led us to Brockton Villa, an amazing brunch stop hanging off the side of the mountain with gorgeous views of the Pacific. We ate outside and walked down to check out the local seals and the (very small) local beach after lunch.  We then had fun climbing trees in La Jolla Park from Aladdin Travel and Meeting Planners in Winston-Salem, North Carolinathe La Jolla park and wandered around to do some shopping and gelato eating before getting back in the car and resuming our trip up the PCH. 

Our final destination that afternoon was the Ritz Carlton Laguna Nigel. Nestled on the coast in the charming town of Dana Point. Just south of LA, it is worlds removed from the hustle and bustle of the big city. Many locals here live to surf (or golf). According to the hotel staff, local schools start later for surfers so they can take advantage of the morning surfing and they get PE credits for their time in the ocean.  The beach below the Ritz is public (AKA quite crowded on a beautiful weekend) and while the hotel will supply beach chairs, an umbrella, all included in their resort fee, we found the pool to be more peaceful.  The service at the Ritz was superb and the views are out of this world.

The club level has been voted one of the best Ritz-Carlton clubs worldwide.  We are not sure if it is the unlimited candy bar or the never-ending array of food and beverage options that makes it so amazing, but we could see why guests love it.  At only an extra $150/night, it is a bargain if you have a family with hungry mouths to feed.  Included is an extensive breakfast buffet, soups, sandwiches and salads from lunch throughout the afternoon as well as heavy hors d’oeuvres in the evening hours and an open bar all day long.  Did I mention they will also make your drink in a “to go” cup if you are headed to the pool?   

If we hadn’t been so excited to try Raya, we would not have needed to eat anywhere else.  Our dinner at Raya with the spectacular view of the sunset over the Pacific was well worth it.  Service was attentive and the southwestern/Mexican themed gourmet food was amazing. Southern California from Aladdin Travel and Meeting Planners in Winston-Salem, NC

After two days in paradise, we headed towards San Diego stopping along the way to visit the iconic San Diego Zoo.  Unfortunately, the real polar bears were inside on the day we visited. It was over 90 degrees but definitely worth the visit.  The Australia habitat is being remodeled and we can’t wait to return and see it once it’s done.  The panda bear, including the closed captioned live feed of the baby panda, which was hiding inside, was a highlight for our family. 

We spent the rest of our time at the Loews Coronado Bay.  After a long day at the zoo, the pool was a welcomed site.  The hotel is quite spread out and depending on what building you are in; staying there can involve a lot of walking.  Service was good and the hotel was fine, but it was hard to compare after our stay at the Ritz-Carlton.  The rooms show wear and tear and the pool area needs updating.  Also, coming from the east coast, we were up early every morning and the fitness center is not 24 hours, which was disappointing.  

Southern California from Aladdin Travel and Meeting Planners in Winston-Salem, NCOur last afternoon included riding the ferry from Coronado to check out downtown San Diego.  The best part of that excursion was seeing the enormous air craft carriers up close as they were coming into the port.  After ice cream at Ghirardelli and a little shopping, it was time to leave.  Downtown is compact and easy to navigate, however, we purchased metro tickets so we could ride the trolley…a highlight for my 4 year old! EDV


About Emily Dunn

I joined Aladdin in 2004 and my favorite destinations are Africa, Italy, anywhere in the Caribbean and Costa Rica. I love to travel with my family, have extensive international travel experience and am passionate about helping others explore the world. I have managed events all over the globe. Whether it is a high touch board meeting abroad or a large medical convention in the Caribbean, I bring passion for travel and industry knowledge to work for every single client.

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