Road Trippin Family Style
Santa Monica to AnaheimRRoad Trips are life’s great rite of passage. They encourage us to see cities and towns in a new light, through unobstructed eyes and hopefully they leave us with memories that last a lifetime so when it came time to head out on the road with my ten year-old, I knew the adventure ahead would be epic. Partnering with our friends at Hilton Hotels, we began our California Road Trip in a city I may have otherwise neglected were it not for Disneyland and California Adventure: Anaheim.
Arriving in Anaheim, we pull in to the Hilton Hotel, self park and check in. At the front desk is a California Road Trip Welcome Pack with a Starbucks gift card, two Nature Valley granola bars, bottled water, a magazine on the city of Anaheim, bus passes for the day and a map. Our adventure is ready to begin! We drop off our luggage and walk out to catch a ride on the ART Dot bus that will take us directly to Disneyland. It may be the peak of summer and the heat near unbearable but heading to the happiest place on earth with my daughter is well worth braving the heat!
When going to Disneyland, whether road tripping or otherwise, it’s most advantageous to have a plan. Map out the rides you absolutely want to go on because those will be the rides you get Fast Passes for (and if you’re lucky you’ll get every one you want). We chose Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. We only needed two fast passes because in spite of it being peak season, the lines moved pretty fast and we ended up doing the Star Tours Museum and Haunted Mansion as a bonus! Note that the best kept not-so-secret dining option is heading straight to the corndog cart on Main Street. You’ll get the best dang corndog you’ve ever had, apple slices or chips, and a drink all for $9.50 (which at Disneyland is a steal!). When we hit our “ride max” we headed back to the hotel on the bus (a super easy ride!) to the Hilton’s, The MIX for dinner.
Pizza, wine, shishito peppers, and a pub burger makes for one tasty end to a long and exciting day! The burger is their signature dish with bacon, aioli, lettuce, bread n butter pickles, and fries and while I opted for the healthier lettuce wrap option, I was thrilled to know they have a gluten-free option as well. The pizza was devoured in full by my daughter and after sneaking a bite, I can say it was certainly a worthy opponent for summer hunger.
The following day while we indulged in movies in our room, we did escape to swim at the Hilton pool and enjoy the waterslide and then headed down to the food court that is plentiful in family friendly options. Grabbing a bite, we decided to explore the hotel and the area just a bit. We found an outdoor patio and enjoyed our lunch before getting ready and heading out for a fascinating night of magic! One thing about Anaheim is it is plentiful in culture, restaurants ranging from gourmet Latin to down home cooking, a plethora of activities for families, singles, couples, and friends, beaches within a twenty minute drive, museums, and a diverse population. It’s also the home of the Anaheim Angels and the Anaheim Ducks (I may be a lifetime LA Kings fan – long before they won the Stanely Cup twice – but I can appreciate a great hockey team!).
Our last evening at the Hilton was spent attending a show by world renown magician, David Minkin called, “Magic & Wine” located at the Majestic Gardens Hotel just a short two miles away. The evening is one that captivates even the biggest cynic! Starting with a wine flight of four varietals, guests are guided through a tour from whites to reds and there is a spread of meats, cheeses, various freshly cooked goodies and bites. Then the show begins and within minutes, guests are transformed into a world where David performs close-up magic that will leave you speechless! During intermission, guests are encouraged to walk outside to enjoy the Disneyland fireworks show that is visible from the hotel entry, grab a freshly baked cookie, some in-house brewed coffee and enjoy a pause before making your way back in for the grand finale (something that will no doubt awaken your own inner magician). My daughter and I throughly enjoyed watching magic and found ourselves in awe alongside every guest there. David Minkin really is … magical!
As the evening drew to a close, we slept one last night at the Hilton, sad to depart, and rounded out the last leg of the quick road trip with a stop at my favorite beach side pier, Santa Monica Pier where we indulged in the best seafood in town at The Albright! The pier is where I spent my youth so it holds a sentimental place in my heart. The weather couldn’t have been more gorgeous and when sat down to eat, the smell of the ocean, the sound of a buzzing crowd, children’s laughter, and the plates of perfectly prepared dishes only made this all the more wonderful. We ordered the calamari, fish and chips, grilled in-house farmed oysters, and their James Beard Blended Burger contender by Chef Ryan Rondeno. The burger was to die for and the calamari still rivals anyone’s. Everything at The Albright is delicious, easy on the wallet, pleasing to the palate and they have a hearty array of beers on tap (not on tap but worth trying is a very refreshing Rekorderlig gluten-free beer with notes of berry and citrus that paired well with the oysters and burger). In other words, this is a grand way to wrap up the dining portion of our trip.
Lastly, in the vain of being adventurous, my daughter Barcelona and I headed onto the sand for an impromptu run in the ocean. We splashed to our hearts content and the smile on both of our faces only confirmed that this three-day road trip was worth every second! A huge thanks to Hilton Hotels for arranging such a fun escape! Next we will be heading to other Hilton properties in Santa Barbara, San Francisco and hopefully back down south to Bayfront and Torrey Pines to experience more of this unforgettable California Road Trip experience.
For more info on the participating Hilton Hotels, visit: California Road Trip
Other participating Hilton Hotels: Hilton Torrey Pines, Hilton San Diego Gaslamp Quarter, Hilton Bayfront San Diego, Parc55, Fess Parker Santa Barbara
EAT + DRINK
The Playground | Santa Ana