Road Trip to LA: Where to Stop on the Way

There was no way out of a road trip to LA/Anaheim once the word ‘Disneyland’ had left my husband’s mouth and reached the ears of our 4 and 2 year old. We had a week to make the most of our trip and driving 7 hours in one day seemed like the worst idea I could imagine. It’s not just the kids, it’s impossible for me to sit for that long without getting cranky and thus starting the trip off on the wrong foot. Plus, there was no way I was spending an entire week at Disney!

There are a lot of reasons to take a road trip south. Independent of your destination, I found these places to be delightful side attractions.

Road Trip to LA

Firestone Walker Brewing Company

2.5 hours into our raod trip from Mountain View we stopped here for lunch and to expend some energy. Really fun and friendly atmosphere. They offer tours if you are looking for an activity besides eating. Only 30 minutes from Cayucos it was the perfect pit stop.

CayucosRoad trip to LA: Kids in Cayucos

A little more than 3 hours from Mountain. View, we stayed two nights in a lovely AirBnB a few blocks from the beach. Small and laid back it’s a great place to start unwinding and getting into vacation mode. The main activities are going to the beach and eating. It serves as great home base for other small excursions. We went to the Elephant Seal Rookery and Hearst Castle the one full day we had there.Road trip to LA: Cayucos Beach

Back on the road we made a stop for the kids to ride miniature horses at Tiny Trotters about 20 minutes out of town. This was really fun and just as magical as Disney but only $15 for a 30 minute ride. Donna, the owner, was amazing with my skeptical daughter and totally engaged with my son who wanted to learn about the tricks the horses could perform. You can’t help but leave completely enchanted.

Road trip to LA: Tiny Trotters


Insert lots of hangry emotions, waiting around and a few bursts of “Mickey”! Homeward bound.


Around 2.5 hours towards the Bay Area this destination was chosen because they have a hotel with a pool. After hanging out around Cinderella’s Castle on our feet for 3 days the whole crew needed to decompress. We spent an afternoon at the pool and got back on the road.

On our way out of town, we stopped at Murray Family Farms to play in their Animal Garden. The entire place is overflowing with things to do, look at and pick.  The Animal Garden is a playground that incorporates farm animals. Really neat concept. My favorite part was having 2 baby goats sitting on my lap but the rest of the family went nuts over the jumbo jumping pillow. After loading up on amazing homemade snacks and treats from the gift shop we all piled in the car well prepared for the final home stretch.

I was dreading this trip because of the drive but you know what? The drive was actually the best part! This method of travel opened us up to experiences unavailable via airplane and the flexibility to make last-minute itinerary changes. Knowing that we had a fun destination 3 hours away, versus 7, made the road trip less daunting. So unless Disney starts renting out magic carpets, driving destinations are my new favorite thing.

Do you know of any hidden gems to stop off at on the way to LA?

About Jessica H

I have spent my life exploring my surroundings. I grew up in Michigan and made a career in marketing. I followed my husband to NY, NJ and now CA for his career. I have a passion for traveling and experiencing other cultures. I love being out of my comfort zone. I currently work as a contracted Marketing Product Manager at Google. I love the Bay Area. The sun, relaxed environment and access to outdoor activities is very different from the East Coast.

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