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Paradise. Cali still possessed its allure that I experienced last summer. As soon as we landed on Friday our first meal was the infamous In & Out. How can you beat a double patty w/ animal sauce, fries, and drink for $7?! By far the cheapest meal this trip (We ate there 4 times). Click here for their secret menu. We ended up getting an Airbnb in Santa Monica, which was one block off the beach. Highly recommend splurging on where you sleep in Santa Monica. It cost us $200 a night but to be able to walk to the beach and enjoy a morning run to the Santa Monica pier and walk through the Farmer’s Market at the 3rd Street Promenade was definitely worth it. Our first dinner was at Casablanca (Name & theme based off of the movie) in Venice. We stumbled upon this place last summer and thankful that we did. Easily the best top shelf margarita I’ve had. I highly recommend the Carne Asada Combo with the Chile Relleno. The vibe there is just something magical. It encompasses the laid back Cali lifestyle.

Saturday we ventured out to Point Dume in Malibu, which is another place we discovered on our previous trip. This is my happy place 🙂 We parked at the more public part of the beach and made our trek up to the top of the hill where you can enjoy the view overlooking Malibu. Then we made the trek down to the more secluded, peaceful part of the beach. When the tide’s high it’s a bit of a pain in the ass to walk over the rocks to get to the actual beach. But once you do it’s worth it.

Sunday we ventured out to the La Brea Tar Pits. But first we hit up Bruxie for breakfast. I made this discovery earlier this year in Vegas. Best chicken & waffles for $10. Order the fried chicken and cheddar bacon waffle. You’re welcome. The tar pits are pretty sweet if you have a nerdy side. The tar pits are located on top of an oil field, which produces the tar. These tar pits trapped sabertooth tigers, mastadons, and many more insects and animals millions of years ago. 5 million fossils have been found here and there’s ongoing excavations that you can witness. Admission is only $12 and it’s well worth spending an afternoon here. After La Brea we started our drive up the coast to San Fran. We drove along the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) for as much as we could before having to make a detour inland due to the recent landslides blocking portions of the highway. Some sweet places to check out along the drive are the Carpinteria Bluffs (literally a minute off of the highway) and one of the rest stops off of Hwy 154 in Santa Barbara (great view of the mountains). We winged it and booked a hotel in Santa Cruz for that night on the drive up. For only $80-$90 the Ocean Pacific Lodge doesn’t look like much. I’m very particular about my hotels but man was I impressed for the cost. Easily the cleanest hotel I’ve ever stayed in. And the hardwood floors and Keurig were a nice touch.

Monday morning we hopped back on the PCH and made the 1.5 hour drive to San Fran. The views along the coast are everything I expected. I hate to say it but San Fran was a little bit of a disappointment.  Granted we were only there for one day and only saw a portion of the city. If we wouldn’t have spent our night at the Fisherman’s Wharf (super touristy) and would have been better prepared for the weather (windy and cold at night) I think I would have enjoyed the city more. Definitely spend some time at the Golden Gate Bridge. My favorite pics of the trip. And the city has some great dim sum (affordable Dim Sum Club). Also sundaes at Ghiradelli’s at the Wharf. We stayed the night at the Motor Inn at Nob Hill. Nothing fancy but clean and one of the cheapest places in the city. I think I need to give San Fran another shot. I would love to experience the western part of the city and check out China Town and take in a Giants game. Maybe ride bikes across the Golden Gate Bridge. We were also told to check out the Vista Point Rest Stop right across the bridge but we didn’t have time.

Tuesday was the day I had been waiting for. First we went to the Muir Woods National Forrest to see the infamous Redwoods. Easily could have spent more time there. (Only $10 admission). Sonoma was next. We were told to go to Sonoma since it was more laid back and cheaper than Napa. We went to Cline Cellars for a tasting. $10 for a 5 glass tasting (actually gave us 7 and waved the tasting fee for buying a bottle). Very nice and laid back winery. Buy a bottle of the Cashmere Black Magic if it’s available. Then took us on a tour and were able to go inside the onsite mission. Since my friends and I are beer snobs we mixed it up and went to the Sonoma Springs Brewery. I got a flight of 5 beers for $12. That night we went to downtown Sonoma and ate at the HopMonk Tavern. Best flank steak.

Wednesday we made the drive back to LA. Not before stopping at In & Out for lunch. And of course we ended the trip with Casablanca for dinner. We pricelined our hotel that night and got the Holiday Inn by LAX. Super affordable. We pretty much pricelined our entire trip except for the Airbnb in Santa Monica and Sonoma. Total cost of the trip split among 4 friends was easily under $1000. And I wasn’t even keeping track of my purchases. If you can get a few friends to split costs of car and hotel, purchase your airfare when Southwest has a sale, and priceline most of your hotels, you can easily do a trip to LA, San Fran, & Sonoma for under $1,000.