The summer was quickly coming to an end, my birthday would have soon been here, and for once, I had no plans – or so I thought. Right under my nose, my husband was planning a massive birthday surprise. He told me that we were headed to Charleston, South Carolina, but, the description of the clothes he asked me to pack just didn’t make sense. He insisted that was where we were headed; however, on the day of, at the airport, I found out we were flying into San Francisco, California! Now, the sweaters and jeans made sense.
This would be my very first visit to California. I’ve been to the West Coast, but only to Las Vegas, and that was about seven years ago. As you can imagine, a visit to Cali alone was the perfect birthday getaway and trip.
My husband used Airbnb, and got us a nice two-bedroom apartment in the China Basin with amazing views of the Golden Gate Bridge and AT&T Park, which was in walking distance. You’re probably wondering why he got a two bedroom, right? I did as well. A few days later I would find out why. And it was not because he wanted us to have “fun” all over the place.: wink wink:.
After settling in, we got ourselves ready for dinner, and caught an Uber. Uber, by the way was our saving grace for at least 90% of our San Francisco visit. We ended up at Lolinda (Argentinian Steakhouse). Our meal there was perfect!
Remember I said my husband had this trip planned. It was well-planned. After we got in from dinner, he told me to rest well because we had an early day ahead. To my surprise, he had hired a driver to take us to Napa Valley.
A trip to the West Coast would not be complete if we did not make a trip to California Wine Country – Napa Valley , especially since both of us are wine lovers. My husband, as thoughtful as he is, remembered that I had sent him a list of black owned wineries that I thought we should visit during one of travel adventures – one day. Luckily for me, that day happened sooner than I imagined.
Our driver pulled up to the gates of the esteemed (black owned) Brown Estate Vineyards. Trust me, it is a beautiful place with gorgeous caves, and they have amazing wine. My personal favorite was their ‘Chaos Theory’, while my husband liked their ‘Duppy Conqueror’. It was at Brown where we me two familiar faces from New York, as well as the owner of Pine Ridge Vineyards both of whom invited us over to Pine Ridge for tastings. We obliged after dining at Farmstead.
Napa was fun, but after that we headed back to San Francisco. My husband had planned for us to visit the Alamo Draft House Cinema; however, we were having too much time in Napa that we arrived to the theater too late to see the movie.
The next day was another surprise that came after we spent time walking through the Mission District. My husband stated he needed to pick up a rental, and then pick up his friend from the airport who was arriving back home from a vacation to New Zealand. I’m thinking to myself, “This is my birthday trip, are you seriously going to leave me here to pick up your friend? Umm no!” Off to the airport we went.
As we headed to the Delta Airlines baggage claim area looking around for his friend, my eyes locked on a little girl with a head full of beads whose back was facing me. I shouted my daughter’s name from being both surprised and confused! He tricked me!!! He tricked the both of us! We were both happy to see each other. Our couples vacation has, at this point, turned into a family vacation, which is what I wanted since our daughter would start her first year of “big girl’s school” in September.
Now you know who the second bedroom was for. Both my mom and daughter shared the room.
After my mom and daughter arrived, we had another early morning. We took the scenic drive to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. On the way, we stopped at Swanton Berry Farm to try some of their delicious strawberry cider, cheesecake and jams.
On our way back from Monterey, we stopped in Carmel, and visited LUSH to pick up some FUN for my husband’s friend’s children. We also stopped by the beach, and snapped a few shots. The beach and hills made the perfect backdrop for our photos. We may have even captured our holiday picture.
Unfortunately, this is where our beach action ended. It was way too chilly with overcast to even enjoy the beach, but I was promised that warmer weather awaited us in San Diego the next day.
We flew into San Diego on Virgin Airlines. Although we had an early flight, it was delayed, which pushed back whatever plans my husband initially had for us. Everything was still a surprise at this point, even where we were staying.
My husband rented a cute, two-bedroom beach house that was a less than one-minute walk from Mission Bay, and a few minutes’ walk to the beach. Although I didn’t get in any beach time, my daughter, mom and husband did.
From the airport, we headed over to TravCar Car Rental (ask for Joel). This is where I spotted one of my dream vehicles – the Jeep Wrangler Sport – sitting on the lot waiting for me, of course. I have been eyeing the Rubicon version as my next car for 2017, and this posed as the perfect opportunity for me to drive one. My husband, knowing this obliged my fantasies and rented the all-white Jeep Wrangler Sport for the remainder of our trip. I mean, how can you be in Cali and not ride through it with a drop-top Jeep? You can’t!
The four of us enjoyed many adventures in our rented Jeep Wrangler Sport. We visited the San Diego Safari Park, AleSmith Brewery, made several trips to the Barona Resort and Casino, Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens, In-n-Out Burger, and *SeaWorld San Diego. We finally, and sadly ended our trip at with our extended family at Ballast Point Brewery.
San Diego was definitely good to us. We did a lot in a short amount of time, had fun, and created new memories. It was a great way to kick off my birthday, and end the summer. I know I can’t wait to visit again, and for a longer amount of time.
Look out for more on our visit to California, and check out my Instagram for photos (hashtag #BATBTravels) and a few videos! Maybe my husband will oblige us with a breakdown on how he pulled off such a major surprise without me finding out. .:hint hint:.
Thank you to *SeaWorld San Diego for providing tickets to Beauty and the Bump!
What are your favorite places to visit in California? Just maybe we will end up there next!
Disclosure: SeaWorld San Diego provided complimentary tickets to facilitate a review. All opinions are my own and are honest.