Spring is just around the corner and Thousand Trails wants to help you get in the mood with a guide to sunny Southern California.
Southern California is probably most commonly known for its temperate climate and gorgeous coastline but it’s also much more than that. Southern California boasts a diverse geographical terrain – you can experience the desert, sandy beaches, and lush gardens all within just a few hours drive.
Day 1 – Desert Exploration
Shield’s Date Garden/Joshua Tree National Park/ Integratron
Start your Southern California journey with something sweet by visiting the Shield’s Date Garden in Indio, CA. About a 12 minute drive south from the Palm Springs property in the Coachella Valley and you’ll find yourself in a date oasis where the Shields’ have been growing their own since 1924. Enjoy a date milkshake, a variety of date-centric dishes in the garden café, or educate yourself by viewing a short documentary on the cultivation of this exotic fruit which continuously screens in the café’s own theater. Be sure to also take a stroll through the garden in the back.
Head about 35 miles northwest of Indio to Joshua Tree National Park where outdoor activities are available for adventurers of all skill levels and interests. It is springtime, after all, and desert plants grow most abundantly from January to March. Be sure to also check out the “Wildflower Report” published by the park service so you can plan your hike according to what flower types are at peak bloom.
In the desert, it can get a little weird. But weirdness is something to be embraced and about 20-25 miles north of the Joshua Tree National Park in Landers sits the Integratron. Originally erected as an “electrostatic generator for the purpose of rejuvenation and time travel” by George Van Tassel, an American author and ufologist, the Integratron is now owned and operated by sisters Joanne, Nancy, and Patty Karl. In this “acoustically perfect structure,” the Karl sisters offer sound bath experiences – basically like a fancy nap time for grown ups sans water. Upon entering the Integratron, guests lie down on plush pillows and are enveloped by sounds made by crystals that intend to rejuvenate, revitalize, and completely relax the mind, body and spirt. If you decide to make an appointment for a sound bath experience, just be sure to make your reservations ahead of time.
Though camping is not available on the Integratron grounds, Palm Springs is only about an hour’s drive south. On your way back to Palm Springs, you may feel inclined to stop by the famous Desert Hot Springs City where a variety of spas, shops and the unique Cabot’s Pueblo Museum are situated.
Day 2- Beach Day
Marvin Braude Bike Trail/ Venice Beach/Hermosa Beach/Redondo Pier
Coast down the Marvin Braude Bike Trail, aka “The Strand”, from Santa Monica Pier down to Redondo Beach to experience a quirkier side of Southern California. Bikes for travelers of all shapes and sizes are available to rent and prices are generally fair – about $8-$10 per hour.
Begin biking south along the iconic California coast and you will inevitably hit the famous Venice Beach Boardwalk. Here you will find some of the best people-watching – sitting on a bench and hanging out while watching the locals will surely bring hours of entertainment, just bring single dollars with you – tipping is very much appreciated as many artists and performers you’ll encounter consider entertaining on the boardwalk their job! Browse souvenirs and crafts created by the many local artists who make Venice Beach their home.
All this biking is probably making you very hungry so what better way to satisfy your appetite than with some ultimate California nosh – tacos! Project Taco, located in Hermosa Beach, offers some delicious and unusual taco combinations like the famous, Blueberry BBQ taco that features a special blueberry Sriracha sauce. While in Hermosa, try out some stand-up paddle boarding or if you’re there in the morning hours, watch the surfing or take a surf lesson.
The final stop on this biking tour is Redondo Beach, home to an Annual Kite Festival that this year, takes place on March 8. If you’re completely wiped out from all the biking, taco eating, and surf lessons, The Redondo Pier, also known as “The Endless Pier” is an amazing place to catch a gorgeous California sunset before heading home to the Wilderness Lakes. Wilderness Lakes is located just a couple of hours east of Santa Monica – just remember to return your bike!
Day 3 – Spring has Sprung in San Diego
Coronado Flower Show/Balboa Park
Visiting San Diego’s beautiful gardens and parks will really get you in the mood for spring, San Diego is, after all, home to the country’s largest flower show, the Coronado Flower Show which takes place every year in Spreckles Park. 2015 marks the 91st Annual Coronado Flower Show and if you decide to visit San Diego before that, be sure to take in the beauty of its many gardens and San Diego’s warm, pleasant climate. San Diego is about 45 miles from Oakzanita Springs and 27 miles from Pio Pico.
While in San Diego, visit the famous Balboa Park, home to the San Diego Zoo, and famous gardens like the Inez Grand Parker Memorial Rose Garden and the Botanical Building with the Lily Pond and Lagoon. The Botanical Building is one of the most photographed scenes in Balboa Park and for good reason! It is beautiful to see in photographs, but even more stunning to experience in person. This historic building is one of the largest lath structures in the world and houses over 2,100 permanent plants. All of this flora will surely get you in the mood for spring!
Start planning your springtime adventure now!