In early 2017 I decided to use my Wyndham South Pacific Club by Wyndham Membership to book a 3 week Southern California holiday – all planned around WorldMark Resorts in the region. I chose the month of November for the trip as the weather would be cooler at that time of year and I wanted to explore both coastal and desert regions. I’ve been to California before and experienced the popular attractions of LA, San Francisco and the northern parts of this state, and I am a regular visitor to the Pacific North West, so the Pacific South West or “SoCal” trip was going to be a little different for me and my traveling companion.
It was a 3 week trip taking in the regions around 5 WorldMark Resorts – San Diego, Oceanside, Indio, Palm Springs and Solvang. We booked a hire car after the first 5 nights at the WorldMark Balboa Park hotel in San Diego. You don’t need a car in a big city – too many parking issues.
We flew into LAX with a connection to San Diego. Getting from San Diego airport to the WorldMark Balboa Park Hotel was a breeze – just jump on a public bus right at the airport and for a couple of dollars the bus drops you just two blocks away from the hotel. It’s only a 15 minute journey. You need to plan these ground transport connections – particularly after a 13 hour flight!
What a great city San Diego is. Easy to get around and lots to see. The architecture in San Diego is just superb – strong Latin American/Spanish influence coupled with innovative American designs. Balboa Park, just north of the city, and within easy walking distance of the hotel is a precinct of museums, art, architectural masterpieces, gardens and places to eat (of course – it’s America!). We just loved the place and had a busy time seeing the sights – the Maritime Museum, the USS Midway aircraft carrier, the new city library (worth a visit), the marina precinct with the towering “The Kiss” statue (depicting a sailor embracing a nurse when WWII ended) and the Bob Hope memorial.
After we finished our 5 nights in San Diego we drove north on the I-101 to experience the California “Surf” strip (beaches). We stayed at WorldMark Oceanside for 3 nights. Oceanside has the longest pier on the coast and an iconic beach, marina and downtown atmosphere that you can only experience on a surf beach in California.
Upon leaving Oceanside we turned East and ventured into the desert where we had apartments booked at Indio and then in Palm Springs – just 30 miles up the highway from Indio.
Indio and Palm Springs sit out East in the desert. They were carved out of desert “nothing” using water from the Colorado (river). A very interesting region to explore. It’s all flat land (desert) with mountains on both sides of the valley and highways and freeways connecting the towns that survive on water channels, wind farms (electricity generation), solar energy and miles of agricultural produce. One of my favourite stops was the date farm. We just had to try a “date smoothie” for lunch one day – really a meal on its own. Dates, milk, ice-cream and some other concoction the people at Shield’s Date Farm put into the mix.
There are lots of State & National parks in the desert area – a good opportunity to do some trekking.
After Palm Springs we drove north and back towards the coast to a Danish town called Solvang. It’s about 150 mile (240kms) north of LA and nestled in the very picturesque Ynez Valley.
The village of Solvang was established over 100 years ago by Danish immigrants. I found the history of the town and its quaint Danish buildings just fascinating while my companion couldn’t get enough of Dr Virgil Elings motorcycle museum and the collection of machines going back to the early 1900s up to a 1995 ultra-modern carbon fibre model built in New Zealand of all places. The Danish Elverhoj museum is just up the street from the magnificent Worldmark resort that is positioned right in the downtown village. Naturally the resort was built in Danish architecture style – to blend in with the other buildings in the district.
From Solvang we drove down to Santa Barbara and took the I-405 freeway back to LAX bound for home.
We stayed at 5 magnificent Worldmark resorts over this trip – ranging from very old converted hotels (The Riviera Apartment Hotel of 1927 in San Diego) to ultra-modern resorts with their own lakes and water-features, swimming pools, wildlife and BBQ areas. The Indio resort is like something out of a Hollywood film set – unbelievable. It also has “Roadrunner” birds in the driveways and carpark (yes there is such a bird) plus ducks and Canada geese on the lagoon and waterways that meander through the resort grounds.
Over the trip we did a lot of walking – both around the cities but mainly in the parks and on Indian reservations. From Indio we did a day trip into the Joshua Tree Park – a magnificent slice of wilderness that would take you years to explore all the hiking tracks.
While at Palm Springs we ventured up the mountain in the tramcar from the 2,500ft base station to the top of Mt Jacinto (8,500ft) where there is a State Park and 50 miles of walking tracks. From the mountain-top tramcar station you can see the entire Coachella Valley and the San Andreas Fault.
And in Solvang we did some exploring in the Cachuma Lake area and were lucky enough to spot a pair of bobcats in a field near the Nojoqui Falls Park. Bobcats are quite rare to see and very wary of people.
The weather was just perfect for the entire trip – mid-20s and sunny and we clocked up 1,000mile (1,600kms) in the rental car.
A very memorable trip – all made possible through my Worldmark membership.
Wyndham Timeshare Owners
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