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Southern California Road Trip

June 27, 2023 Sarah Coggins
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Our kids are growing up way too fast. The current school year is the last one where they will be on the same schedule. Wanting to take advantage of our final track out, make fun memories and enjoy new experiences – we set out on a road trip in Southern California. From Palm Springs to Joshua Tree to Anaheim, we hiked, laughed, explored, played, and overall just had a blast.

Southern California Road Trip title image featuring 3 photos - Joshua Tree National Park, Cabazon Dinosaurs, and Disney California Adventure.

Palm Springs

Our adventure began in Palm Springs. We were aiming for smaller airports for our one way Southern California road trip and this one fit perfectly. It was small, easy to navigate, and under an hour from our first destination – Twentynine Palms.

Having crossed the country and spent many hours sitting on planes, we wanted to stretch our legs a bit before the drive. Thankfully, the Palm Springs airport is close to downtown which is very walkable and full of unique public art pieces. Around every corner was something different and fun.

Amanda Gorman "Unity" mural painted on wall in Palm Springs.

We also squeezed in a much needed snack break. Thankfully there are LOTS of options to choose from. We decided on an ice cream shop. A cool, sweet treat is a big win on a hot afternoon.

Dole Whip from Lappert's Ice Cream in Palm Springs.

Joshua Tree National Park

Our family enjoys visiting National Parks and this one is one of our favorites now. Joshua Tree National Park is unlike any other we have visited. The landscape of the desert, rocks, and Joshua Trees is simply amazing. We managed to arrive at the Visitor’s Center in Joshua Tree with 15 minutes until closing. Just enough time to get our NPS Passport books stamped and pick up a park map. This was perfect as we were all tired. Ready for dinner and checking into our hotel.

Painted mural on wall: "Welcome to Joshua Tree. Start your trip here."

We spent almost the entire day Sunday in the park except for a couple hour late afternoon break. Thanks to the time change, we were awake before sunrise and were on our first hike by 8am. The early start meant we managed to see quite a few of the highlights, take a tour of Keys Ranch, and end the day experiencing sunset & stargazing in the park. I grew up in the country, but that night sky was like nothing I had ever experienced. Simply breathtaking.

Family hiking along the Arch Rock trail at Joshua Tree National Park.
Keys Ranch at Joshua Tree National Park.
Cholla Cactus Garden at sunset.
Silhouettes of Joshua Trees against the horizon as the sun was setting over the desert.

Road Trip to Anaheim

The drive from Twentynine Palms to Anaheim is about 2-1/2 hours. Knowing we weren’t in a rush, we decided to add in a couple of fun stops. Our first was to see the enormous Cabazon Dinosaurs. We had our kids watch Pee Wee’s Big Adventure a few weeks before our trip to get them excited about these. The dinosaurs are featured in part of the film. You can even climb up in Mr Rex like Pee Wee did. Just be sure to visit during park hours. We were still adjusting from jumping time zones and arrived too early.

Cabazon Dinosaurs painted for Valentine's Day 2023.

After a quick photo op, we continued on to Yorba Linda where we hit up a west coast must do for a quick lunch – In-N-Out. Having never experienced it, we were all curious. Verdict: the burgers and shakes were delicious.

Our next destination was just a few blocks away – the Richard Nixon Presidential Library & Museum. Another first for all of us and, truthfully, I knew very little about Nixon prior to our visit aside from his resignation. It was fascinating to learn about his history and many accomplishments in office as well as tour his birthplace and the Presidential helicopter he left the White House in following his resignation in 1974.

Entry to the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum featuring large image of the President on the far wall and Presidential seal on the floor.

Disneyland

For Disney fans like ourselves, is a trip to Southern California complete without a stop at Disneyland? This was another fun and exciting first. I purchased tickets and made reservations several months before for one day at each of the parks.

Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse "Partners" statue at Disneyland in California.

Over the course of the 2 days, we spent 28 hours in the parks. Accomplished most rides and attractions we wanted to (admittedly, I would like another day in Disneyland to squeeze in a few more). We ended our fun with the World of Color Dessert Party. We had enjoyed similar experiences at Walt Disney World so I was sure this would be a hit. Plus, what is better than ending 2 long days with a spot to sit and plenty of food & beverages while enjoying a show? I highly recommend this. We had fun and, honestly, it’s my all time favorite Disney show so far.

Digital scrapbook page featuring photos from World of Color Dessert Party at Disney's California Adventure in April 2023.

Credits: Scenic View Dressed Down templates by Fiddle Dee Dee; Project Mouse At Night bundle and Project Mouse Boardwalk elements by Britt-ish Designs and Sahlin Studio.

Surprise! Let’s go to Chicago

All good things come to and end – or so we thought. Our trip was planned Saturday to Thursday. We took a Lyft to John Wayne Airport in Orange County to start our journey home on that final day. Expecting to arrive by late evening. That didn’t quite work out and, due to weather and airline cancellations, we found ourselves stranded in Chicago for 2 nights. Not quite the magical ending to our week, but we made the best of it. Did a little sightseeing and, very thankfully, made it safely home on Saturday morning – exactly 48 hours after we left our hotel in Anaheim for what should have been a 10 hour trip.

Kids posing for a photo in front of Cloud Gate (aka The Bean) in Chicago, IL.

All in all, it was a vacation that our family will never forget. From the desert and theme parks of Southern California to the ‘Bean’ in Chicago – we went, we saw, we enjoyed, and we made amazing family memories.

About Me

Sarah

Hi! I'm a DIY and craft obsessed mom to 2. I have my hands covered in sawdust or paint any given day. My husband and kids join me in many of our projects. When we aren't creating at home, we're creating memories in our many adventures. Join along! Read More

Sarah

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