I need a vacation to recover from my vacation.
As I mentioned in my March five favorites, traveling with a toddler is EX-HAUS-TING. While Cecilia is absolutely fantastic during the actual traveling (airplanes, car rides, etc), when it comes to sleeping and getting comfy in a new location and routine, she’s not so great. She was also doing some major teething while we were away, which all resulted in short naps, frequent night wake-ups and literally taking two hours to fall asleep each night when she normally is asleep within 10-15 minutes of being put down at home.
While the lack of sleep made us a very tired and ragged family, we still had a great vacation, went on some great adventures and made lovely memories.
We headed out of town Saturday afternoon and drove to our hotel in Redondo Beach. There was some traffic heading north in the San Clemente area, so we stopped for dinner there and took Highway 1 as far north as Laguna Beach before getting back on the main highway that would lead us to Redondo. Travis and I had never driven on Highway 1 between San Clemente and Laguna Beach, so that was a fun adventure for us and we got to see some gorgeous little beach cities that we want to go back and explore soon.
After having Easter breakfast in Redondo Beach with my sister, we all headed north to Venice Beach and the popular Abbot Kinney Boulevard. GQ has called Abbot Kinney “the coolest block in America” and it’s filled with trendy, upscale shops, top-notch coffee and great restaurants. I am definitely not hipster or boho-chic enough to completely fit in on this street, but enjoyed exploring it. I didn’t hit up any of the shops, but ate sweets and drank coffee to fuel myself during my visit.
If you find yourself on Abbot Kinney, my picks for sweets are:
Salt & Straw – This place was the main reason for our visit to Abbot Kinney. I’d been wanting to pay them a visit back in the days of traveling to Portland for work, but never did. Once I found out they had some outposts in LA, I starting planning a visit. It was hard to pick between all of their unique flavors, but I landed on almond brittle with salted ganache (the ganache was out of this world!) and Stumptown coffee with Compartes love nuts. OMG. I can’t tell you how much I loved their ice cream and am already scheming a way to go back! Other flavors on their LA menus? Roasted strawberry with toasted white chocolate, chocolate gooey brownie and sea salt with caramel ribbons. YUM.
Blue Star Donuts – Based out of Portland, Blue Star is new to Los Angeles and fit right in with all the tasty delights Abbot Kinney has to offer. As I mentioned, Salt & Straw was the main reason for visiting Venice, but once we passed by Blue Star and saw all of their ridiculous donuts from the window, we couldn’t pass them up. It was hard deciding which donut to go with, but we went with Meyer lemon and key lime curd and we weren’t disappointed in the least. I’ve eaten quite a few donuts in my time from the 50 cent donuts around the corner to the $7 donuts and I’m going on the record to say this was the BEST donut I’ve ever had.
After we finished exploring Venice, we headed up to our home for the next few days – Ventura. We stayed in Ventura when we went to Ojai last summer and like it as a cheaper option for accommodations when compared to Santa Barbara, which is close by. Our hotel was right on the beach, so it was nice to wake up to a gorgeous Pacific Ocean view each morning. Now that we’ve spent some more time in Ventura, we’ve come across some favorites that I totally recommend!
McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream – I wrote about my love of McConnell’s a while back and we visited their location in Ventura for first time on this trip. I had a split scoop of boysenberry rosé and blueberries and cream this time and fell in love with both. Seriously, you can’t go wrong with any flavor there (and I’ve had upwards of one dozen).
Lure Fish House – We first visited Lure last summer for their awesome happy hour. We had a few different appetizers (our faves were the fish tacos and ceviche) and drinks all for a great price. This time we sat in their dining room with their full dinner menu and had the seared ahi. Again, everything was super tasty, they have a nice kids menu and the service is fantastic!
Taqueria Cuernavaca – We were craving Mexican food one night and found this place on Yelp. It is definitely off-the-beaten-path, but worth the short drive from downtown Ventura. This place is SUPER affordable, no frills, but oh-so-good! Travis had a potato taco with pasilla peppers that he is still craving and I had the sopes with chicken tinga. YUM!
Since we love Santa Barbara and were staying close by, we made two morning trips there before returning to Ventura for nap time. In addition to the places I mentioned in this Santa Barbara post, we visited some new favorites.
The French Press – We’ve visited this place once or twice on past visits and the quality is always great. The staff is super friendly and the coffee is good. This time around we tried some of their pastries and we’d definitely go back again and get more. Travis had a savory jalapeño gruyere scone and I had a canelé. I’d never had one before, but after my first bite I looked up recipes for how to make them. They’re these delightful French custardy pastries that are covered in cinnamon sugar and I fell in love. I’m definitely trying my hand at them soon!
Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center – This is such a wonderful hands-on place for kids! The center is small, so you can really take your time seeing everything and the volunteers at each exhibit are friendly and very knowledgable. Cecilia absolutely LOVED petting the swell sharks and kept running back to their tank to touch them. The volunteer was great and got a shark for her to pet each time and made her very happy. The center is located on Stern’s Wharf, so you’ve got great views of the city and mountains on your walk across the pier and from the center itself. They have a jellyfish exhibit right now that is gorgeous!
That was our Spring Break vacay in a nutshell! We were absolutely exhausted when we got home, but made so many wonderful memories and found some great new places we want to re-visit in the future!
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