Saturday, February 23, 2013

Getaways...Orange County & La Costa Resort

This week our boys were off of school so we took a quick drive down south to Orange and San Diego Counties. We stayed a few nights at La Costa Resort in Carlsbad. Carlsbad is about an hour south of Disney and 45 minutes north of San Diego. Legoland is also in Carlsbad and the resort is about a 5 minute drive from the beach. 

The resort is a sprawling property and beautifully designed in Santa Barbara Mission style. I especially loved all the flowers, citrus trees and banana plants everywhere. It was a quiet week there and warm and sunny enough to enjoy the spa (for me) and for us all to enjoy the watersides and pool. 

These little navy pots of marigolds were everywhere. So welcome after many weeks of very cold Winter this year. 

There are a lot of things for a family here. The kids loved the water slides of course. There is also a kids area called Vibes on site where older kids can play pool, foosball and ping-pong and other arcade games. Smaller ones can go to the kid's activity camp and there is a water park area just for them as well. My boys are 11 and 14 and are old enough to wander to this place themselves. It's surrounded by a cute mini outdoor shopping area in the center of the resort called The Marketplace. I noticed kids can run over here from the pool and order ice creams or drinks from the market. It all feels very safe and protected. Some parents even brought scooters for their kids to get around.

 The resort has two restaurants. The main one Legends has a kids buffet on the weekends and outdoor seating over-looking the hills and golf-course.

If you want to hang out at their new adults edge pool and bar, or have dinner at the Bluefire Grill without the kids, you could set your kids up at The Marketplace where they have a table filled with IPads for kids to use and kid-friendly take out right next to it. If you have very small ones they have special pool movies nights on the weekends and s'more roasting along with a reptile show on Saturdays as well.

La Costa's spa is world famous and was ranked number one in the nation by Spa Magazine, so of course I had to do a spa treatment. Having all men in the family, I'm used to doing this solo.  I planned for a few morning hours to myself, while the guys did their own thing at the water slides. The nice thing about their spa is that it's a huge area of the resort and when you do a treatment, you get access to the spa pool, spa cafe and gardens all day.

This spa area was heaven! I did a reasonably priced basic botanical facial. They have a wonderful spa area in the women's side with jacuzzi baths and steam spots. After soaking and steaming, I walked the reflexology path through the spa garden, tried out the waterfall shower (my favorite!) and then sat by the quiet and lovely pool. Many guests were enjoying alfresco lunch at the pool or at the spa's outdoor cafe near the fireplace in their robes. The spa cafe is known for it's chicken salad with pistachios and their Bellinis. I had the yummy salad and ice tea and enjoyed some solitude before I joined my crew at the pool where they forced me on the water slides.. There went all those nice body potions and my spa essence!

The spa garden and inside the spa below..

We were there for only a few days and so did not get to try the any of the tennis clinics or golf. Another wonderful thing they have added is the Chopra Center for yoga. They have classes all day on site and generously gave us vouchers, so I'm hoping to get back and experience that. As I said before they added a lovely new outdoor infinity pool and bar, fire pits and which would be really fun in the warmer months. This whole place seemed like a great spot for a girlfriend or couples getaway too...I need to plan one!

This is how I roll at the pool..If there are robes I'm in them... Fresh strawberry mojitos were amazing!

Since we booked it during the weekday and a slower month, it was pretty inexpensive. As it was less crowded, they also upgraded us to a La Costa room near the golf course. These have balconies and patios. Rooms are all updated with great beds and bedding and spacious bathrooms.

Our view from our room.

The new Edge pool and bar area at night.

Overall, I loved La Costa. The service, the rooms, the food all exceeded my expectations and I hope we get the chance to go again...I was sad to leave. Did I mention the shopping? They have a store called Pinkalicious that was filled with preppy finds. I also loved another shop called Audrey's and bought a pair of my favorite brand Tom's in an Ikat fabric wedge there...So much to do here!

We also spent a rainy and very cold day at Disney. It was a fast drive in the carpool lane from Carlsbad and we got their just as the park opened. The big attraction is now California Adventure's Cars Land and it's pretty darn fun. You are literally walking through the whole movie. I loved that. You could eat at the Cozy Cone, or Flo's diner. Two cute rides are Luigi's Flying Tires, where you float like you're on a giant air hockey table, and Radiator Spring Racers. The racer ride takes you through the whole Cars movie and then a race after. A blast, however, you need to get a fast pass as soon as you get in and that line, even on a rainy day, was 20 minutes right from the minute it opened. Then the wait with the fast pass is about 45 minutes!

As far as rainy Disney days being good... I have mixed thoughts. California Adventure was quiet and not crazy, but Disney itself was pretty jammed. In fact, there is a whole contingent of people that head to Disney on rainy days now. I guess there is no empty time to visit Disney anymore. Growing up, our Dad would always take us in April, when the park first opened for the year. That was before it was open year round. No one went so early in those days and we had the park to ourselves.

Disney has the loveliest plantings and as I grow older I notice how there is never a brown leaf on anything! My guys above in California Adventure.

Still, the magic of a Disney trip cannot be denied. Especially for my boys, who had only been twice before. I think going less makes it that much more special. Even with two coats on all day long, and no longer feeling my feet, I had a dole pineapple whip. It was sooo good. Don't forget the Mickey-shaped beignets and yes we did eat our way through the park and all the lands. So glad our sons aren't too old to love this still.

Another fun stop if you are here with kids is Ruby's diner in Carlsbad. My kid's are crazy about this 1950's diner with a train running on the ceiling. You feel like you really are back in the days of car-hops and milk shakes. It's about a five minute drive from the resort at a outlet center. There are also other Ruby's in Southern Cal.

On the way down, there's a lot of fun beach towns to stop in. One of my favorites is San Clemente. The downtown is a cool mix of funky and beachy. It's a true surf town and just filled with good shops. A good stop with boys is the Jack's surf shop outlet which carries all the California name brand surf clothes at 50% off retail. You can get Volcom, O'Neil, Quicksilver and similar brands.

 San Clemente above and below.

Since we drove, we went Highway 5 which is quickest way to get across the state. Right before you hit this area, you go through the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles, which is kind of a hip area between Hollywood and Silver Lake and has some cool places to stop for lunch.

On the way home, we were waiting for the pass on 5, (the grapevine), to open due to snow. I am crazy for bakeries and cute lunch places and wanted to check out a place called The Alcove Cafe and Bakery on Hillhurst in Los Feliz. My husband was dubious as soon as he saw they has valet parking... Sounds expensive, but it wasn't!

Inside the alcove above...and some of the cute 'hood below...

I explained this is a neighborhood with little parking. (It's a super cute one too. A drive through to check out the historic charming homes and Griffith Park would be another fun day here.) Worn down and hungry, he agreed and we all had a delicious lunch in the sun surrounded by oak trees. I loved the hummus and olive bread and other hits were their lentil soup and bowl of fries big enough for 10! Love the ice tea too.

 The restaurant is housed in two old bungalows. One side is the bakery, with sandwiches, soups and baked goodies.  The other is a chic bar open all day, bright and pretty. There is lots of outdoor seating at adorable bistro tables under pretty trees. This place seems fancy, but people couldn't be nicer.

Who doesn't love getting their condiments out of silver serving pieces? :D

 The day we were there, they had Oscar cookies and were getting ready to host an Academy Awards party with a big screen outdoors. What a fun idea. If I lived down here, I surely would go. As we were leaving another customer purchasing cookies ahead of me whispered to his friend that Leonardo DiCaprio was picking up cookies in front of him and trying to be incognito! Darn, who knew celebrities go here too? I should have been looking...As it was I was trying not too look too conspicuous snapping phone pictures for the blog through the glass cases...

The cookies...Do you love it?

Here's the snow we hit about 20 minutes out of Hollywood. Really. It's that quickly you get into the mountains from the L.A. area. Crazy you could be sitting in the sun enjoying lunch and a half hour later in snow...but that's so California isn't it?

I love this part when you leave the grapevine and before you is laid out the entire Central Valley, where much of the worlds fruit and nuts are grown.

This time of the year, the fruit trees are getting their blossoms...

There is something about wide open spaces that is so romantic to me. I love a vista.

And there are so many parts of California that are different and so lovely in their own way...Even on I-5!

I love getaways anywhere in the off seasons.

If you are in the U.S., did you get a break for President's Day this week and if so, did you go away anywhere? And what about the Oscars...Do you plan on watching? I've been invited to an Academy Awards party for the first time.

I can't wait to chat all about the awards and the dresses later this week!


All photos property of Northern California Style.


  1. It looks like it was a gorgeous break! that drive looks particularly stunning - i do love california for the reasons you mentioned - outside the states people think only LA etc but it is such a varied landscape. thanks for sharing! x

  2. What a fun vacation you and your family had. That resort is beautiful and very relaxing. Your photos are amazing. Great views of the snowy mountains.

  3. You're making me want to jump in my car and head to OC! Looks like such a fun trip.
    Thanks for sharing all the great photos.
    xo, A

  4. Ooo, I feel like I've had a vicarious vacation! Love it!

  5. Those cookies are darling Kim and what a great family trip! I love OC and can't wait to go back .. near my old stomping grounds. This is a gorgeous resort and the spa was wonderful I'm sure. Look at that great photo in the robe sipping a mojito! I'm totally jealous at the moment .. ah! I would so enjoy a quiet day pool-side.

    I've been out of blogging for the past couple weeks because of problems.. so irritating. I'm on the mend and should be more consistent with my posts and comments soon.


  6. What a great setting. I loved the hotel. Love the cookies. I am assuming that you saw Leonardo.

  7. Oh what a divine post, you are just killing me over here. That quartet of photos with the pots of marigold just made my day ; even more than the delicious treats, which shows you how starved of colours and garden flowers I am ! Thank you for the trip, that's one of the best things in blogs, they warm your hearts with photos of (to us) exotic places ! Lots of love from France ! xxx

  8. Fantastic photos - it definitely reminds me of my San Diego trip from last year! I would love to go again.

    I find California so interesting because of the changes of landscape and weather! Within 1/2 hour to two hours, you could be in the desert, by the ocean, out on a ranch, in the mountains, etc. So fascinating!

    Have fun at your party!

  9. Hi Kim~What a fantastic family vacation you and yours enjoyed. Everything from spa, mojitos, the LA scene and Disneyland. I loved the photo of you in the robe by the pool~looking fab. That cafe in LA made me miss my LA days-though it's been many years since I lived there, I really enjoyed the diversity (from beach to skiing in the same day!). Loved this post!
    Happy Oscars night-I'll be watching!

  10. Great post full of wonderful pics! Keep up the good work..

  11. Oh my goodness, I live here, and for 4 years within walking distance of the La Costa Resort & Spa (which is in Carlsbad). This is not Orange County. This is San Diego County. Nothing against OCers, but you have no idea how unhappy people here would be to be mistaken for Orange County residents.

    1. Hi Penny, Thanks for your comment. I guess I meant that we visited San Clemente and Disney which are in OC and I was mistaken about Carlsbad being in southern Orange. Thanks so much. I will fix that! No offense meant to San Diego folks!

      Thanks for reading!