gay family travel Archives - 2 Dads with Baggage
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A Relaxing Family Vacation at Terranea Resort

A Relaxing Family Vacation at Terranea Resort

Driving along the Southern California coastline to reach the entry parkway to Terranea Resort & Spa, we immediately relaxed into a sense of calm. It was like a fresh breeze washed over us, and made us all take a big, deep, meaningful breath. We had planned to have a family weekend here  before the start of the new school year. Even better than our expectations, our family vacation at Terranea Resort & Spa was the perfect exclamation point to a fantastic summer.

It had been a hectic one, this past summer. We had traveled for work and pleasure and managed a ton of deadlines at the office. Sophia had finished a class in summer school and Ava was exhausted from volleyball practice. As the summer neared an end and the first day of school was looming, we needed a break. The weather had gotten hotter and tempers were flaring. It was time. A family vacation at Terranea Resort was just the ticket.

front entrance of Terranea Resort & Spa

Early morning near the front entrance of Terranea Resort & Spa.

Family Vacation at Terranea Resort

More than anything, we needed to take the stress level down a few notches. Terranea Resort & Spa delivered the right backdrop, and our family needed to do the rest. It wasn’t much work really – relaxing into lounge chairs, eating healthy meals and focusing on mind/body exercises. This is all stuff that we aim to do regularly, but sometime forget about. In the rush of everyday life, it’s easy to get caught up in the doing instead of the experiencing.

We needed a reset, and we hit the right buttons with our family vacation at Terranea Resort.

The view of the main hotel complex at Terranea, looking up from the spa.

Truly Comfortable Beds

First things first. When we hit a new hotel room, the first thing we do is bounce on the bed. We can tell a lot from that first bounce whether the bed is going to provide a comfy sleep. You see, the worse the bounce the better the sleep. Makes sense when you think about it, right?

King bedroom at Terranea Resort & Spa, Rancho Palos Verdes

Our cushy king bed was the perfect comfort after a long day of relaxing.

A cushier bed just gives a softer bounce, and you don’t go as high. With a comfortable mattress, quality bedding, down comforter and big fluffy pillows you are assured a small bounce. Perfect sleep conditions for us! Triton and I had a California King bed in our room with the perfect soft bounce. In the girls room, the had two queen beds also with the ideal cush factor.

Without a good deep sleep, how could we have a relaxing vacation?

Main pool at Terranea Resort

The view from our room overlooking the Main Pool at Terranea was pretty spectacular.

Clean and Healthy Restaurant Meals

One of the reasons we chose to have our family vacation at Terranea Resort was the restaurant menus. With eight restaurants onsite to choose from, we wanted to make sure there were healthy options. A goal of this trip was to reset our summer appetites, which had been focused on pretty much anything. Going forward, we decided to make more healthy choices in our daily meals. Perusing the restaurant menus at Terranea, we were pleased to see a ton of great options.

Nelson's Restaurant at Terranea Resort & Spa near Los Angeles

Nelson’s Restaurant at Terranea has amazing views.


Located at the Terranea Spa, Solviva has a sweet spot next to the fitness pool and overlooking the ocean. We sat outside with a heater to ward off the evening chill. The menu at Solviva is geared towards healthy dishes and light fare, with smaller portion sizes. We loved the attention to dishes the feed the mind and body both. Favorites here included the Hen of the Woods Tacos (mushrooms), Grilled Artichoke with Black Garlic Aoli, and the Skirt Steak which was favorful and cooked perfectly.

A highlight at Solviva is the cocktail menu, and we chose the signature drink, the Pisco Sour. Made tableside in what makes for quite a show, this Brazilian favorite is a blend of pisco, bitters, lime, egg white and agave. It was out of this world delicious.

Pisco Sour at Solviva Restaurant, Terranea Resort & Spa

The signature Pisco Sour at Solviva Restaurant was a tangy and delicious cocktail made tableside.

Sea Beans

The next morning, Triton and I woke up early to watch the sun rise while the girls slept in. We ambled over to Terranea’s casual cafe, Sea Beans, to grab some coffee before heading to the shore. Entranced by the takeaway menu here, we came back for some breakfast. My cranberry scone was the perfect combo of sweet, sour and crumble. Triton was intrigued by the muesli, which we have never tried. It’s a cold combination of oatmeal, grains, nuts and fruit and it was dee-lish. He’s been making it at home ever since.

Sea Beans at Terranea Resort

We snuck into Sea Beans early to grab a quick coffee and croissant.


Sitting right at the cliff’s edge overlooking the ocean, Nelson’s is the perfect place to enjoy the sunset. With both inside and outdoor seating, we choose outdoor so we could have a full view. The food here was pretty good, but frankly it was a fairly standard menu of favorites. Not as healthy as the other restaurants, Nelson’s still did a great job doing what they do. The real reason to visit here is the view and the casual California vibe. At a luxury resort, it is sometimes hard to find places to relax in your shorts and flip flops. People are sometimes so busy looking good, and that can be decidedly “unrelaxing”. Nelson’s serves up a great escape. Did I mention the view?

family at Nelson's Restaurant at Terranea Resort & Spa

Our family loved the sunset views and casual vibe at Nelson’s Restaurant.

Of course if it’s burgers and fries you crave, Terranea has those too and I’m sure they are delicious!

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean at Terranea Resort

Sunset view from Nelson’s Restaurant at Terranea Resort

Swimming Pool Choices

For a luxury resort with 582 rooms, Terranea offers several swimming pools to meet a variety of tastes. The Main Pool is family friendly, complete with waterslides, splash zone and lots of shallow spots for the littles. It looked really fun, aaaaaand we steered clear. Since our girls are teens now, we sought out the Vista Pool which is for guests 13 and older. It was quiet, relaxed and uncrowded – perfect for a zen experience in the sun on our family vacation at Terranea Resort.

The Vista Pool at Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes California

The Vista Pool should be renamed the Quiet Pool at Terranea.

Other pools include the Spa Pool, which is available to spa guests and includes lanes for laps, a fire pit and other luxury frills. The cliffside Cielo Pool is for adults only, and offers bar service, cabanas and views of Catalina Island.

Spa Pool at Terranea

The Spa Pool is located between the Terranea Spa and the Fitness Center.

Fun Fact: Terranea is located on the piece of land closest to Catalina Island, which is just about 24 miles across the water. While we visited, we watched swimmers come in to shore after competing in a Catalina Channel Swim. They had started from Catalina at midnight (!) and were doggedly making their way to Terranea’s beach around 11 a.m. the next morning. No wetsuits allowed. What studs and studettes!

The Spa Pool at Terranea Resort & Spa in Rancho Palos Verdes

We didn’t have time to lounge at the Spa Pool, but it sure is gorgeous.

Family Activities at Terranea Resort

For some family bonding time, we wanted to spend time together doing some fun activities. It was important for us all to put our phones down, be present and enjoy normal conversation like families used to have before technology. We found a wealth of fun things to do.

Morning Yoga

After rousting the girls from their slumber, we headed down to the oceanfront fitness center for a group yoga class. We’ve done this together before, but not since the girls were a lot younger. No longer playing, we wanted the family to breathe and stretch and clear our minds. Our instructor was patient with us as we tried to bend our bodies in new ways. Of course, the girls were waaaaay more limber than the dads. In fact, at one point Triton decided to invent his own moves facing the opposite direction from the group. Love a little improvisation now and then!

family yoga class at Terranea Resort & Spa

Our family practiced a little more stretching than planned at Terranea.

Nature Walk

This sound corny, but it was actually really interesting to take the free Nature Walk. Covering more than 100 acres of oceanfront land, Terranea is also a native plant habitat and home to endangered species. A naturalist guides the tour, explaining how the local flora and fauna are maintained. Since this was formerly the site of a defunct marine park, reclaiming the land and returning it to natural habitat has been an important role for Terranea’s owners. We viewed all kinds of cool flowers, cacti, butterflies, and other interesting inhabitants (no snakes thank goodness).

people on nature walk at Terranea Resort & Spa

The views of California Coastline from every vantage point are so beautiful.


Ok, we had no idea was to expect from an archery class but it sounded like fun. The only one of us that had ever held a bow and arrow was Ava, and she did pretty well. But Triton was the ringer! First time ever, he hit the bullseye on the target and then proceeded to keep hitting it. He was so good at this, that our nice instructor pulled out a body target and placed it in front of the bullseye. It was outfitted like a zombie, and he challenged Triton to hit it between the eyes. He did. And then he speared the apple on top of the zombie’s head! If there is ever a zombie apocalypse, we knew who to call.

family archery lesson at Terranea Resort & Spa in Rancho Palos Verdes, California

Our family archery lesson at Terranea was a fun bonding experience.

Visiting Terranea

Our family vacation at Terranea experience was spectacular from that first breath through the drive home to San Diego. If you want to go, here are some details:

Rooms at Terranea Resort & Spa begin around $400/night USD.

An average meal for 4 people came in around $200 USD for dinner (not including drinks). Lunch for 4 was approximately $100.

Activities range in price, but archery is $115 per person. The nature walk and most yoga classes are included in the $40/day USD resort fee, along with a bunch of other goodies and perks.

lobby at Terranea Resort & Spa

Comfortable lobby furniture with fireplace at Terranea.

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Gay Travel With Kids | 6 LGBTQ Friendly Hotels for Families

Gay Travel With Kids | 6 LGBTQ Friendly Hotels for Families

Gay travel with kids can be challenging. We have to be more careful in our choices than most other families. This means being on guard to how your family is perceived. It also means we make sure to bring our kids to places that welcome and celebrate families of all kinds. The truth is that not all hotels are family friendly and sadly, not all are LGBTQ friendly hotels for families either. The good news is that that are a growing number that are friendly to all.

According to Matt Jost, Co-Founder & CEO of misterb&b, gay travel can still be very risky and even life-threatening. The travel expert reminds us that some countries have essentially outlawed being gay. Jost created misterb&b to protect gay travelers, whether they’re staying at hotels or booking rooms or apartments. When it comes to where to stay, LGBTQ folks have to do extreme due diligence. Before a trip is booked, families should make sure hotels won’t discriminate against them or make them uncomfortable.

(Photo by Hunter Abrams)

Check out Matt’s 4 tips to make sure you are staying at LGBTQ friendly hotels for family:

4 ways to tell if a hotel is LGBTQ friendly for families:

  1. They heavily market to the gay community. Does the hotel actively advertises in gay publications or creates gay-focused marketing campaigns? If so, you can be sure they’re looking to engage with the LGBTQ community.
  2. They can give you details about the local gay community. Prior to check-in, send an email to the concierge asking about the local gay scene. See what happens with their response. Or ask about local gay bars at the front desk. If it’s a truly gay-friendly hotel, they should have (and be happy to give) local information.
  3. They partner with major gay organizations. The most gay-friendly hotels are very out and proud, especially during PRIDE week. Look for ones that promote partnerships with organizations like IGLTA and GLAAD.
  4. They have a great score on a Human Right Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index. Look for hotel chains that score big points on the national benchmarking tool. Do they have corporate practices that support and protect LGBTQ employees around things like domestic partnership benefits? These hotels are probably more apt to be open and welcoming to gay travelers. Hilton Hotels, Hyatt Hotels and Marriott Hotels are three hotel companies that all received a 100 percent score. Read the full report here.
    kids at New York Pride March with rainbow flags

    (Photo by Christopher Gagliardi )

6 LGBTQ Friendly Hotels for Families

Here’s a list of some of our family’s favorite LGBTQ friendly hotels, based on our own personal experiences:



  1. Hyatt Palm Springs, Palm Springs, CA

Head to the always beautiful, always welcoming city of Palm Springs to stay at the nicely appointed Hyatt Palm Springs. Hyatt was the first major hospitality company to offer domestic partner benefits, and that inclusive environment has filtered down to its individual properties.

Pool area at Hyatt Hotel Palm Springs

Lounging by the pool or playing in the water, Hyatt Palm Springs is the place to relax.

  1. Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, Tuscon, AZ

Families will find it a pleasure to stay at the luxurious Loews Ventana Canyon Resort in Tucson, Arizona. Though many might not think of Arizona as a gay-friendly state, Tucson is decidedly progressive with a live-and-let-live attitude. This city one of the most welcoming places for LGBTQ visitors and residents. Come in October for the Pride in the Desert event. Plus, Loews Ventana Canyon Resort advertises their hotel on as a wedding venue.

Loews Ventana Resort entrance, Tucson, Arizona

Loews Ventana Canyon Resort & Spa in Tucson is very family friendly.

  1. Hawks Cay Resort, Duck Key, Florida

Hawks Cay Resort is on Duck Key, one of the Florida Keys islands. The Keys are well-known for being spectacularly friendly to gay travel. This resort is easy to get to and is the perfect jumping off point for fun family activities in the area. Hawks Cay Resort has everything a family would hope to find, including an enormous pool and nearby saltwater lagoon. It’s a little quieter and more family-friendly than Key West too. Read our full review here.

families playing in the lagoon at Hawk's Cay Resort in the Florida Keys, Florida

There are plenty of family activities to enjoy at Hawk’s Cay Resort.

  1. Fairmont Olympic Hotel, Seattle, Washington

Seattle is known for its liberal and welcoming attitude towards LGBTQ visitors. Their slogan, #weSEAlove, is one of the genius ways they have promoted this expression. The Fairmont Olympic Hotel is less than 2 miles away from the Capitol Hill neighborhood, Seattle’s LGBTQ epicenter. This posh hotel doesn’t skimp on anything, even luxury. Try their High Tea – it’s a gay extravaganza complete with finger sandwiches and champagne. (And lemonade for the kids). Oh, and tea too. Read our full review here.

High Tea at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle, WA

High Tea at the Fairmont Olympic Seattle Hotel is an impressive experience.

  1. Kimpton Ink48, New York City, New York

Like almost every place in New York, choose the Kimpton Ink48 for its location first. Found in Hell’s Kitchen within walking distance to the Javits Center, this chic and elegant hotel is impeccably stylish. Plus it is surprisingly spacious, especially by NYC standards. Downtown New York is as gay-friendly as they come. Plus, Kimpton Hotels earned 100% in the latest Corporate Equality Index. Read our full review here.

colorful lights of Time Square, New York City

The lights of New York City draw families from around the globe.

  1. Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort, Los Cabos, Mexico

You don’t have to stay in the states to feel comfortable while traveling. Los Cabos has a friendly, relaxed vibe which has embraced the LGBTQ community. Families can escape to paradise at Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort, a Four Diamond hotel with world-class amenities. You will feel welcomed and pampered, the best of both worlds! Read about our Cabos adventure here.

pool at Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort

This disappearing edge pool at Hilton Los Cabos is a great place to play and relax both.

Whether you’re “TWG” (“traveling while gay”) or feeling like an outsider in some other way, it’s not always easy. We hope our recommendations for LGBTQ Friendly Hotels for Families offer you places to feel welcome and safe, while having tons of fun. LGBTQ travel, especially with kids, shouldn’t be anxiety inducing!


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Family Vacation at Fairmont Hotel Mayakoba

Family Vacation at Fairmont Hotel Mayakoba

*This experience was sponsored by the Fairmont Hotel Mayakoba, and as always, the opinions expressed here are our own.

When we told the kids we were going back to Playa del Carmen in Mexico, they nearly jumped up and down with excitement. We were there a couple of years ago with two other families, and had so much fun exploring the Caribbean side of Mexico near Cancún. However, this recent visit promised to be even more spectacular. After all, we would be enjoying our family vacation at the 5-Star Fairmont Hotel Mayakoba on Mexico’s Riviera Maya.

beach club at Fairmont Hotel Mayakoba

Beach palapas with comfy lounge chairs await guests at the Fairmont Hotel Mayakoba.

We’ve loved our stays at other Fairmont Hotels in the past, including the Fairmont Hotel Claremont in Berkeley, and the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle. But I gotta tell you folks, the luxurious Fairmont Hotel Mayakoba topped them all. It was absolute paradise on the Caribbean oceanfront, and an ideal place for a family vacation to unwind, relax, play and explore. Good bits of all those things were accomplished, and more – read on for details!

Family Vacation at Fairmont Hotel Mayakoba

First, let’s get something out of the way. Mexico and Playa del Carmen are absolutely safe places to visit for Americans. There is no more reason to worry about traveling to the tourist areas of Mexico as there is traveling to any major city in the US. Besides, most of the resorts like the Fairmont Hotel Mayakoba are all-inclusive so you could spend your entire stay at the resort.

Our family has traveled many times to Mexico over the past several years, and have always felt 100% safe and secure. There are so many amazing things to see and do here!

El Puerto Restaurant at Fairmont Hotel Mayakoba

From the walkway leading to the Fairmont Hotel Mayakoba lobby and El Puerto Restaurant, the evening lights were so beautiful.

Activities for Kids

Of the luxury hotels on the grounds of the Mayakoba Resort, the Fairmont Hotel Mayakoba is the one most suitable for families. In fact, they go out of their way to welcome kids of all ages – even surly teens! (Oops, did we say that out loud?)  There is a great Kids Discovery Club next to the main pool, where they will watch your kids while you lounge or play golf. Some other things here that make it perfect for kids:

  • waterslide at the main pool
  • another pool at the beach if you want to do a combo sand/pool day
  • Boat rides along the surrounding canals – so amazing
  • So many cool animals and birds to spy on and chase
  • Iguanas for DAYS (we must have counted two dozen in one outing)
  • Menu items conceived specifically for kids, with poolside service
  • Lots of interesting day trips to the neighboring sites are easily arranged with the concierge. (We visited the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza).
Fairmont Hotel Mayakoba main pool

The main pool at the Fairmont Hotel Mayakoba is so well designed, with nooks and crannies for families to tuck into.

There were so many families with kids staying here during our visit. Families were American, British, Dutch, German and Mexican, along with a smattering of other nationalities. Never did our kids feel out of place or unwelcome, even in the fanciest restaurants onsite.

Beach Activities for Kids

The beaches in front of the Fairmont Hotel Mayakoba are pretty epic. Crystal blue water is comfortably warm but still refreshing. There are no waves, so even the smallest kids can run into the sea safely (with parental supervision of course). We must have bobbed around in the water for more than an hour, just floating and chatting and looking for the small fish that darted away from our grasps.

Fairmont Hotel Mayakoba beach pool

The beach side pool at the Fairmont Hotel Mayakoba has a disappearing edge overlooking the beach palapas and crystal blue ocean.

At the beach, the hotel makes toys available for guests’ use, as well as ocean kayaks, boards and other watercraft. We were feeling too lazy to take any of these toys out for a test drive, but many others did with huge smiles and laughter. Here are some watersports included in your stay:

  • Guided catamaran tour
  • Use of sea kayaks, Stand-Up paddle boards, traditional snorkeling, masks, boogie boards, beach balls and sand toys
  • Beach volleyball
  • Beach games and competitions
The beach pool at Fairmont Mayakoba

Playing in the beachfront pool at the Fairmont Hotel Mayakoba – could have stayed here for weeks.

Boat Rides on the Canals

The Fairmont Hotel Mayakoba is set on some 240 acres of beachfront tropical property, crisscrossed by a series of canals. Much of the Yucatan Peninsula is dotted with cenotes (seh-no-tays) – round, fresh water tunnels or caves that are so fun to explore and swim in. These cenotes are fed by an underground aquifer that overflows to create canals which flow to the ocean. The Fairmont is built at the edge of a series of canals, and you can even take one of the resort’s boats from the lobby to your casita.

Most of the casitas at the Fairmont Hotel Mayakoba sit along beautiful waterways. Ours even had a private rooftop pool!

From a least two different locations, guests can take a complimentary boat tour of the canals. This was a highlight of our trip, and the entire family still talks about that hour+ boat excursion. As we left the dock near the main pool and restaurants, our captain narrated the vistas. Our boat traversed though waterways both wide and narrow, and our favorites were deep crevices with fern-covered rock walls on either side.

Fairmont Hotel Mayakoba boat tour

Our boat tour of the waterways that wind through the Fairmont Hotel Mayakoba was a fun way to see the natural flora and fauna of the area.

Along the way, we saw plenty of iguanas. But we also saw a young alligator, dozing in the jungle grasses at the water’s edge. We ventured close enough for photos, but not too close! There was also a wide range of tropical birds, colorful fish and plenty of turtles to entertain us along the way.

baby alligator in Mayakoba, Riviera Maya

Far from the hotel along the waterways, we spied this little guy from the boat.

Hotel Layout

The Fairmont Hotel Mayakoba is laid out across it’s many acres, woven into the natural environment. All the rooms are either private or semi-private casitas. Our room was enormous, with a living room large enough for the pull out bed and a cot for the kids. (For some dang reason, these girls refuse to sleep in the same bed – something about Ava being a kicker). The master bedroom and two bathrooms were equally spacious – I mean really large.

Casita living room at Fairmont Hotel Mayakoba

The spacious living room in our casita at the Fairmont Hotel Mayakoba – plenty of room for the girls to avoid each other!

On our private deck, there were stairs up to the roof level. When we explored this space, we found a giant area for sunbathing or shade and OUR OWN DIPPING POOL! On the roof! Overlooking the beach and ocean!

Fairmont Hotel Mayakoba master bedroom

Bigger than our bedroom at home, this gigantic master bedroom in our casita at the Fairmont Hotel Mayakoba opened on to a wrap-around deck overlooking the waterways.

There was another guest room underneath ours as part of our semi-private casita, with views to the canal. I don’t think there were guests staying there during our visit, since we never saw other people coming or going.

Fairmont Hotel Mayakoba casita master bathroom

Even our master bathroom at the Fairmont Hotel Mayakoba was enormous, complete with soaking tub and huge shower.

Relaxation for Adults

Since our girls are now teens, we are afforded a small amount of time without them. They are old enough to get themselves to the pool and back, or stay in the room unattended for longer periods of time. Because of this, we headed to Willow Stream Spa on property, and are so glad we did.

Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Hotel Mayakoba

The front entrance of the Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Hotel Mayakoba beckons us to relax and enjoy.

We both tried the signature “Chocolate – Food of the Gods” Massage, where a special blend of Mexican chocolate beans are ground into a paste. Spread onto your body, the chocolate makes you smell like a giant Kit Kat bar. Evidently, the spa’s special blend helps your skin sluff off the old and bring forth the new. After rinsing off my candy bar coating in the in-suite shower, I must say my skin did feel great. This was followed with a more traditional massage treatment that included the scalp, which I love.

Fairmont Hotel Mayakoba chocolate massage

We loved our Chocolate – Food of the Gods massage at Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Hotel Mayakoba.

In addition to treatments, the spa has a fantastic workout facility including daily yoga and other group exercise options. There are wet and dry saunas as well as separate whirlpools for men and women. On the spa building’s roof, there is another giant pool for relaxing or swimming laps. Very impressive and well-designed complex.

If golf is your thing, the 18-hole/par 72 course is postcard perfect, and was designed by Greg Norman. El Camaleón Golf Club winds through the forest canopy, over to the oceanfront and then back

Convinced Yet?

The Fairmont Hotel Mayakoba gets five giant stars from our family. ‘Nuff said. Go!

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Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort Great for Families

Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort Great for Families

* We were guests of Hilton Hotels & Resorts for this stay and as always, these are our own thoughts and views.

Santa Barbara is one of our family’s favorite places, and over Memorial Weekend we visited this beautiful beach city along the California Coast for a little getaway. We were told the Hilton is a Santa Barbara beachfront resort great for families, and we set out to see for ourselves.

We have actually stayed at this property a couple of times before, when it was formerly known as the Fess Parker Doubletree Resort. With a recent remodel and room upgrade, the property has been reborn as the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort. And as Hiltons go, this is one of the best we’ve experienced in the US.

SUP in Santa Barbara

A stand up paddle board lesson on the calm waters of Santa Barbara Bay, taken from Stearns Wharf.


There’s a bunch of reasons why the Hilton is a Santa Barbara beachfront resort great for families:

Fantastic Location Across from East Beach

I lived in Santa Barbara years ago, and one of my favorite beaches was always East Beach. The Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort is directly across the street from this beach, with green lawns on either side. A short walk down the sand is Stearns Wharf and the base of State Street. Triton and I got up each morning, grabbed a Starbucks from the lobby and enjoyed a nice quiet walk at the waters’ edge. Later in the day when things warmed up, that same beach served as the ideal spot for some sunbathing and splashing around in the Pacific Ocean.

Helpful Hint: Ask for a room on the third floor for the best ocean views.

sunrise East Beach Santa Barbara

This little seagull friend helped us greet sunrise at East Beach in Santa Barbara.

Activities to Keep the Entire Family Busy

The pool and spa at the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort are spacious. Families with kids of all ages played in the water and lounged poolside with cold drinks. Nearby on property, the bicycle rental beckoned us to go for a spin down the boardwalk. We happily rode along under the palm trees, watching a band of standup paddle boarders practice their moves. Out on Stearns Wharf, visitors can spy the occasional dolphin swimming among the sailboats headed out to the Channel Islands. Or pop into the Natural History Museum’s Sea Center to see some ocean life up close.

Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara

From Stearns Wharf, you can see the beach, the Santa Barbara Riviera and mountains beyond.

Later, we enjoyed a stroll on Lower State Street, checking out the cool shops, restaurants, and historic train station. Also not to be missed is the gigantic Moreton Bay Fig Tree – awarded as the largest and oldest in the country.

Moreton Bay Fig Santa Barbara

This Moreton Bay Fig tree in Santa Barbara is thought to be the largest and oldest in the US.

Helpful Hint: Right next to the train station, pop into the lobby of the little known Ronald Reagan Museum. Right inside the front door, they have the largest piece of the Berlin Wall in existence outside of Berlin.

Fresh New Rooms

The remodeled Hilton Santa Barbara has all the bells and whistles, and our kids are the ones that notice the most. Both girls inspect a hotel room as though they were the management. We find them looking in every drawer and opening every closet and cabinet.

Balcony view at Hilton Santa Barbara

Our balcony at the Santa Barbara Hilton overlooked a grove of olives, a string of palm trees, and the Pacific Ocean.

My pet peeve is when there are not enough outlets for charging our many (many!) devices. These new rooms had plenty of options. Now if we could just get our girls to stop draining the batteries on their phones from overuse!

Helpful Hint: Each room has a nice mini fridge that fits snacks and drinks. Just down the street is a produce market, where you can buy fresh-picked organic fruit for snacks in the room.

Friendly Staff That Remembers Your Name

To me, hotel staff makes all the difference in the quality of our stay. When team members remember us from previous visits and go out of their way to remember our names? Well, that is hospitality at its finest. From the valet to the doorman to the housekeeper, the team here is exceptional. Real authentic smiles from people that look you in the eye are so rare these days, and our entire family was impressed by this team.

Helpful Hint: Valet park your car. It’s only $6 more per day, and the staff is so wonderful you will appreciate them having your car ready when you want to scoot out.

Close to all the Action

Want to play some beach volleyball? It’s right across the street at East Beach. Or perhaps try some of that famous Santa Ynez Valley wine? There a scores of wine tasting rooms scattered throughout Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone, the coolest neighborhood in the city. The Funk Zone is filled with trendy restaurants, fun cafes, craft breweries, galleries and shops, all within walking distance of the Santa Barbara Hilton.

Wine tasting in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone is a blast when you’re with your friends.

A short car ride away and we were able to reach downtown Santa Barbara in minutes. The shops of State Street, the gorgeous architecture and gardens of the County Courthouse, and the historic adobes of the original settlers are all here. Up the hill a bit is the gorgeous Santa Barbara Mission and its ocean views.

Helpful Hint: If you visit the County Courthouse (and you really should) go all the way to the top for views from the tower. This historic landmark has some surprisingly beautiful tile work and other adornments that make it a must-see for any Santa Barbara visitor.

How to Get There:

  • Car: 2 hours from LAX (without traffic) and 3.5 hours from San Diego.
  • Train: 3 hours from Union Station in downtown LA.
  • Air: Santa Barbara International Airport welcomes flights from many major US cities and beyond.

Where to Stay:

The Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort offers rooms starting at $ and suites starting at $.


East Beach Santa Barbara

Sunning in the warm sand at East Beach in Santa Barbara, looking cool in my new StitchFix clothes.


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11 Best Gay Pride Parades in 2018

11 Best Gay Pride Parades in 2018

As proud San Diegans, we just had to make sure all the fun facts about San Diego Pride were included in this great Trivago story about 11 Best Gay Pride Parades in 2018. After all, San Diego Pride has been our hometown celebration together for more than 20 years.

San Diego Pride rubber ducky

Who doesn’t love a giant rainbow rubber ducky? San Diego Pride brings out all the colors.

Heck, we’ve even marched in the San Diego Pride Parade, and danced on parade floats (okay, maybe we were a little younger and more hard-bodied then). We’ve cheered from the sidelines, laughed and cried with the crowds, and taken our daughters to the parade since they were babies to celebrate with families like ours.

San Diego Pride rainbow tattoo

Sophia shows her pride with a rainbow temporary tattoo that looks appropriately festive for the occasion.

Now San Diego Pride has grown into one of the top 11 celebrations! If you are interested in visiting our beautiful city for Pride 2018, taking place July 13-15, check out staying at the Hotel Del Coronado. It’s a host hotel and sponsor of San Diego Pride, and they have a huge Pride kickoff event taking place there on July 11. If you go, please check out booking your stay through Trivago for a great rate.

Have fun learning more about Trivago’s 11 Best Gay Pride Parades in 2018. I wonder if anyone will hit them all?

San Diego Pride corporate sponsors

Sponsors like Harrah’s Resort Southern California get into the act for San Diego Pride with great parade contingents.

Wave that rainbow flag, baby!