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California Coastal + Lake Tahoe itinerary with teens

Our summer vacation this year was a California road trip! We started in San Diego and slowly made our way north with stays in Santa Barbara, Big Sur and Monterey and then ending in Lake Tahoe. Our daughters are 14 and 16 and helped with the planning to ensure that we all had a great time!

You know that our family loves to travel – here are the blog posts of our previous vacations:

USVI St John

Zion/Bryce Canyon

Colorado (Aspen, Telluride, Crested Butte)
Maui
San Francisco/Yosemite/Lake Tahoe
Iceland/England/Wales
Rome/Sardinia/Corsica/Paris
Kauai
Paris/South of France/Barcelona

Day 1 – We took an early morning flight from Newark to San Diego so we got our rental car and then had the whole afternoon free to explore. We ate lunch at Fig Tree Cafe and then headed over to Balboa Park and toured the beautiful gardens. We watched the sunset at Sunset Cliffs – the perfect spot! We stayed in an Airbnb in La Mesa which worked out well for easy access to everywhere we went in the area.

Day 2 – We had a 10am tour of the University of San Diego (beautiful campus!) and then spent the rest of the day at Torrey Pines. We loved the Guy Flemming hike! We went to La Jolla for dinner and ate delicious Mexican food at Puesto.

Day 3 – We had a 930am tour of San Diego State (loved this school too!) and then had lunch in the Gaslamp District, walked around Old Town and then spent the rest of the evening in Coronado Island (our favorite!)

Day 4 – This was a travel day and we stopped for lunch in Newport Beach at Ruby’s on the Pier (such a fun spot!). We also stopped in LA to visit one of my best friends. We ended up checking into our hotel in Santa Barbara (The Harbor View Inn) just before sunset. We loved the location of the hotel right on the water and we all used the pool.

Day 5 – We walked to the Santa Barbara courthouse which had great views from their tower. We also enjoyed the bikes on the boardwalk, had some pool time and ate a yummy dinner at Lucky Penny. We took photos at sunset at Leadbetter beach.

Day 6 – This was another travel day as we headed north. We did a lovely hike at Montana de Oro State Park before checking into our hotel nearby, Sea Pines Golf Resort. We went to San Luis Obispo for dinner at Finney’s. SLO is a lively little downtown.

Day 7 – We downloaded the Gypsy Guide and made our way to Big Sur. This was one of the best days of our entire vacation. Highlights include Ragged Point, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and lunch at Nepenthe. We stayed in Monterey for 2 nights as our base to explore the area.

Day 8 – We went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium which was worth the time and money! We all especially enjoyed the sea otters!! We also did a hike at Point Lobos and explored Carmel-by-the-Sea which is gorgeous!!! I would love to return there for a girls weekend 🙂

Day 9 – We did a Steamtrain ride in the Redwoods near Santa Cruz and followed it up with some amazing ice cream bars from Donnelly Chocolate in Santa Cruz. It would have been around a 5 hour drive from here to our hotel in Lake Tahoe so we decided to split it up. We drove about half of the way there this evening and then got up early the next day to finish the drive.

Day 10- It was so fun to be back in Lake Tahoe!!! This time we stayed at the Hyatt Incline Village and loved this location.

Day 11- We rented bikes in Trukee and also downloaded the Gypsy Guide again this time for Tahoe. We did about half of the loop this day which included sunset at Logan Shoals.

Day 12- For our last day we did paddleboarding at the beach right at our hotel. We also did more of the Gypsy Tour and did a really neat hike. We ended the day with a free guided hike through the hotel that took us to Monkey Rock right around sunset. We could return to Tahoe again and again. It is one of our all time favorite destinations.

We flew from Reno to Denver to spend a couple of days there with family before flying back home to NJ.

Now all we have to do is figure out where to go next!!

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    Christie Adams Photography

    Bergen County NJ baby children & family photographer