It was a birthday to remember with a trip to my favorite place – Southern California! We stayed in Santa Monica and the trip was filled with four days of California sunshine, sunsets, wave jumping, bike riding, roller coaster and ferris wheel riding, delicious vegan food and so. much. love!
I’ve been lucky enough to have traveled a ton over the last year, thanks to saving flight credits from canceled trips during quarantine. This was my last flight credit from a canceled trip so I wanted to live it up and celebrate the moment.
I fell in love with Los Angeles almost 20 years ago and have been visiting ever since! The vibe, the weather and the food are what make me fall in love with LA all over again every time I visit.
Santa Monica, California Trip Recap Video:
It was our first time staying at a Loews Hotel and we loved it! It was everything that I was looking for in a resort: 5 stars, on the beach, within walking distance of everything, with a pool, and poolside food & beverage service. It’s tough to find a hotel on the beach that is reasonably priced in LA, but we scored a great deal with Hotwire.
We didn’t have to rent a car for this trip. We took an Uber from the airport to Santa Monica and then once we got to our hotel we could walk everywhere. We even walked to the grocery store upon arrival to get all of our snacks and beverages for the trip. The Santa Monica Pier is right down the road from the hotel and I couldn’t wait to ride the roller coaster and ferris wheel there at Pacific Park! The hotel was extremely family friendly and I would love to bring my kids back. The fact that you can walk right down to the beach, swim in the pool, walk to the pier and the amusement park, as well as other parks, restaurants and shops along the boardwalk is perfect for families and kids too. We rented bikes all day on Monday and enjoyed biking up and down the boardwalk to Venice to explore the different shops, restaurants and outdoor activities.
Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel
I couldn’t wait to eat in LA, as there are so many vegetarian and vegan restaurants. We lucked out with picking some unique local restaurants and loved all of our meals. My top restaurants to highlight from this trip include:
Avo Cafe – a local, all vegan, organic cafe with a darling patio. We loved the food so much that we ate there twice! Nothing is processed and it was all so flavorful and delicious. There was a mock tuna wrap that was AMAZING!
Red O Cantina – a made-from-scratch Mexican restaurant that serves “elevated Mexican cuisine.” They had some delicious vegan entrees on their menu, which you definitely aren’t finding at Mexican restaurants in Indiana. I LOVED their enchilada sauce, it was so yummy!
Blue Streak – Although this restaurant didn’t have a lot of vegan options, the view and atmosphere were two things that I loved about it. We ate multiple meals here since it was the main restaurant in our hotel. It overlooks the beautiful Pacific ocean, with both indoor and outdoor tables and views, and it has 13 outdoor firepit tables! I loved sitting at the firepit tables on the cool California nights where we could watch the sun go down. The view was undeniably beautiful. I did love their cauliflower wings and flatbreads & their avocado toast for brunch was delicious!
Fritto Misto – This was the restaurant we ate at to celebrate my 38th birthday! We had a group of 10 friends and they gave us a long table outdoors next to a heat lamp. It was perfect for our group and the best thing about the restaurant was that it was BYO and only a $3 corking fee! I love Italian food, and I love being able to have great wine that isn’t over-priced at a restaurant! I was surprised that they dedicated an entire page of their menu as a “Vegetarian Menu.” That is rare for most Italian resaurants and I loved their sweet potato ravioli ( it tasted like Fall! ) and their lasagna that was made with a pink vodka cream sauce.
Cafe Gratitude– This restaurant came highly recommended by local friends and we biked to the location in Venice Beach for lunch one day. It’s a healthy, vibrant, plant-based cafe that is centered around the theme of gratitude. This is for sure a MUST if you’re in the LA area!
Dining in Santa Monica
One of the greatest things about Southern California is the guaranteed perfect weather. I rarely swim in the Pacific ocean, but we spent hours wave jumping! They were HUGE and so much fun! I felt like a kid again! After a day of jumping waves and then a night of riding the ferris wheel and roller coaster and walking on the pier, it’s safe to say that I did NOT feel 38 years old! It was the best way to celebrate a birthday.
Beach & Pool Fun!
August is such an insanely busy month for parents with back-to-school. I rarely travel this time of year, but it was a much needed mental break. It was so nice to hit pause and escape to hit the reset button. Travel is something I have loved to do since I was a child. I have so many wonderful memories of beautiful vacations with my parents and sister. However, the older I get, the more I realize how important travel is for me as a person and for my mental health!