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Santa Barbara Festivals: Best Bets

Italian street painting festival, I Madonnari, livens up the grounds of Old MIssion Santa Barbara over Memorial Day Weekend (Photo: I Madonnari Festival)

The colorful Italian street painting festival, I Madonnari, comes to Old Mission Santa Barbara Memorial Day Weekend (Photo: I Madonnari Festival)

It’s hard to believe that summer is almost here. And, Santa Barbara knows how to Summer! The city nicknamed the “American Riviera” is home to an array of uniquely dazzling festivals, year-round.

Memorial Day weekend is considered the ‘unofficial’ start of beach season, so why not celebrate at the colorful I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival?  The grounds of Old Mission Santa Barbara shape shift into an Italian city, where street painters using chalk sketch massive images.

Asphalt is an artist's canvas at the I Madonnari street painting festival at Old Mission Santa Barbara (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Asphalt is an artist’s canvas at the I Madonnari street painting festival at Old Mission Santa Barbara (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Asphalt is their canvas as they create (or recreate) colorful works. This festival benefits the Children’s Creative Project, a non-profit which brings art into Santa Barbara area schools. Admission is free and the colorful drawings will stick around for a few days following the Memorial Day Weekend.

Colorful dancers shimmy down State Street at Santa Barbara's Summer Solstice Parade (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer)

Colorful dancers shimmy down State Street at Santa Barbara’s Summer Solstice Parade (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer)

The Summer Solstice Celebration is one of Santa Barbara’s most popular events, drawing 100,000+ visitors. Many line State Street to be dazzled by the colorful dancers, drummers and pageantry of the Solstice Parade. No commercial entries allowed, so this parade is 100% home-grown Santa Barbara. Along with the parade on Saturday (noon, June 20, 2015), there’s a three-day weekend festival in Alameda Park, featuring live bands, artisans selling clothing and crafts as well as an array of food and drinks.

Watch: Sights & Sounds of Santa Barbara’s Summer Solstice Parade 2013!

July brings the French Festival, which ties in with France’s Bastille Day, and the Greek Festival, to Oak Park. Ooh La La! Or, should I say, Opah! You will delight in the native dishes and desserts being served.  I enjoy attending summer festivals in Oak Park because they are free, not too large, and it seems like there’s a different one every weekend. You can drop in a couple of hours or spend the day indulging in traditional foods or enjoying free entertainment.

Accordian clown at Solstice Parade (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Accordian clown at Solstice Parade (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

“Old Spanish Days of Santa Barbara,” aka “Fiesta,” takes over the downtown area on August 5-9, 2015.  This granddaddy of Santa Barbara events features horses with riders in traditional Spanish attire. A rodeo and other events mark the nearly week long celebration. Click this link for details on the rodeo and other events.

“Old Spanish Days Fiesta is about the heart of Santa Barbara’s residents and their passion for life,” said Cas Stimson, president of the 2015 Fiesta. This year’s theme is “Fiesta Romantica.” The first Fiesta was held in 1924 to pay tribute to the Spanish traditions  of Santa Barbara’s founding families.

The fun doesn’t end with summer.  The California Lemon Festival comes to Goleta in September; followed by the California Avocado Festival in Carpinteria and the Santa Barbara Harbor & Seafood Festival.

Kids of all ages enjoy Santa Barbara's unique mix of local events. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Kids of all ages enjoy Santa Barbara’s unique mix of local events. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

While we’re on the topic of Santa Barbara festivals, I have to mention the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF). The main event takes place in Winter, just ahead of the Academy Awards. SBIFF has become an important stop on the road to Oscar, where nominees can schmooze with peers and try to drum up last minute Academy votes.  Building on its success, SBIFF has added a few mini-festivals called “Waves,” including a French Wave, featuring cinema of France, in July.

Click here to see a year-round list of Santa Barbara festivals and events.

Traffic411 Insider’s Tip: Highway 101 into Santa Barbara (especially northbound) is usually busy in summer, and it will be jammed over the Solstice weekend. If you’re planning to attend the Solstice parade, arrive several hours early. Or, get a room and spend the night.

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Visit Santa Barbara: Refugio State Beach reopens

Refugio State Beach, damaged by an oil spill, is known for its beautiful clear waters and diverse sea life. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Refugio State Beach, damaged by an oil spill, is known for its beautiful clear waters and diverse sea life. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

The last remaining State Beach closed since a pipeline ruptured in May, sending 100,000+ gallons of oil gushing onto the shore and into the ocean, is now open.  While campers and beach goers are allowed to return, news of the spill has caused a lot of would-be visitors to Santa Barbara to change their travel plans.

Refugio State Beach is located along the Gaviota Coast, a pristine stretch of coastline known for its clean waters and diverse sea life. The spill site is several miles west (north) of the city of Santa Barbara. Still, as soon as news of the spill splashed across newspaper & website headlines, the city’s billion-dollar a year tourism industry took a hit.

Tajiguas Beach, looking toward Refugio State Beach, pre-spill.  Located along the Gaviota Coast, near Santa Barbara, it's known as the "Galapagos of the North." (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Tajiguas Beach, looking toward Refugio State Beach, pre-spill. Located along the Gaviota Coast, near Santa Barbara, it’s known as the “Galapagos of the North.” (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

It’s not just the sea sport industries such as kayak and stand up paddle board operators who have noticed a drop off in customers. One winemaker with a tasting room downtown said business remained down by 50% two months after the spill.

Also read:  Gaviota Coast, Santa Barbara

Every year, Santa Barbara attracts visitors from around the world. Tourism is the city’s biggest industry. So, let’s let everyone know that Santa Barbara is as beautiful as ever – there’s no need to cancel or change plans to visit.

Tajiguas Beach was among the beaches along the Gaviota Coast impacted by a 100,000+ gallon oil spill in May 2015 (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Tajiguas Beach was among the beaches along the Gaviota Coast impacted by a 100,000+ gallon oil spill in May 2015 (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

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“Stand in the Sand” Santa Barbara

Hundreds of  concerned citizens come together for the "Stand in the Sand" rally on Sunday at De la Guerra Plaza (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Hundreds of concerned citizens come together for the “Stand in the Sand” rally on Sunday at De la Guerra Plaza (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Hundreds of citizens concerned about the environmental damage caused by the Refugio Oil Spill peacefully gathered in De la Guerra Plaza on Sunday to show their support for a fossil-fuel free future.

'Panzumo' drummers keep the beat at "Stand in the Sand" Sunday, May 31, 2015. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

‘Panzumo’ drummers keep the beat at “Stand in the Sand” Sunday, May 31, 2015. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Organizers of the “Stand in the Sand” community rally urged speakers and attendees to keep the messages positive. The vibe among the 500 attendees of all ages was cool and calm throughout the afternoon.  There were many families with young kids carrying signs decorated with fishes urging ‘save my ocean friends.’

Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider kicked off the speeches. On stage with some city council member colleagues, Schneider described the distressing situation at the Refugio Oil Spill off the Gaviota coast.  “It’s still a shocking site. There’s black covered rocks, saturated soil, a strong smell still permeates the air.”  Schneider warned the crowd, “under the status quo we will see more spills in the future… but we’re here because we want to see another alternative.” She called for supporting efforts toward a clean energy future.

(Click the player below to listen to Mayor Helene Schneider’s speech)

County Supervisors Salud Carbajal and Janet Wolf took the stage next.  “These past two weeks have not been a happy time,” said Wolf. “The pictures of extreme oil production and the impacts it’s had on our coast have been horrible.”

Sign carrying "Stand in the Sand" ralliers head for State Street for a walk to West Beach. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Sign carrying “Stand in the Sand” ralliers head for State Street for a walk to West Beach. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Angry over being denied early access to the spill site to survey damage, Wolf has spoken out about restricted access for reporters and others trying to get a first hand glimpse of the destruction the broken Refugio pipeline has caused.  She described her frustration when she keeps hearing that the tarred beaches are due to oil seeps (natural, or coming from offshore drilling platforms), “this is not a seep, this is an oil spill that’s affected our wildlife, our coastline.”

Ralliers "Stand in the Sand" on West Beach, to stand up for a clean energy future. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer Traffic411)

Ralliers “Stand in the Sand” on West Beach, to stand up for a clean energy future. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer Traffic411)

Katie Davis, head of the Santa Barbara area chapter of The Sierra Club, passionately said the environmental non-profit provided funds to help cover the costs of the “Stand in the Sand” rally “because the message coming out of Santa Barbara right now matters, not just to us, but to the planet” as lawmakers consider a proposal to drill off the California coastline and in other parts of the world.

(Click player below to listen to The Sierra Club message at Stand in the Sand)


After the speeches, the crowd marched peacefully down State Street to the beach. Lining up along the water’s edge of West Beach they held hands to form a human boom ‘to symbolically stem the rising black tide’ of oil.

Officers from the Santa Barbara Police Department made sure the crowd safely made it to the beach. Following the rally, officers blocked traffic as chanters carried a giant black inflatable pipeline back up State Street to De la Guerra Plaza following the beachfront demonstration.

Special thanks to Carpinteria-based photographer Ken Pfeiffer for sharing his wonderful photos with Traffic411 readers!

"Clean Energy" chanters carrying a giant inflatable pipeline march back up State Street following the "Stand in the Sand" rally on West Beach Santa Barbara (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

“Clean Energy” chanters carrying a giant inflatable pipeline march back up State Street following the “Stand in the Sand” rally on West Beach Santa Barbara (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Deep sea pioneer Jean Michel Costeau, a longtime area resident, described the detrimental impacts from oil drilling he's seeing on sea life all around the world.  (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Deep sea pioneer Jean Michel Costeau, a longtime area resident, described the detrimental impacts from oil drilling he’s seeing on sea life all around the world. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Members of Santa Barbara's 'Save the Mermaids" gather at the "Stand in the Sand" rally at De la Guerra Plaza May 31, 2015 (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

Members of Santa Barbara’s ‘Save the Mermaids” gather at the “Stand in the Sand” rally at De la Guerra Plaza May 31, 2015 (Photo Ken Pfeiffer)

County Supervisors Salud Carbajal and Janet Wolf at Stand in the Sand (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

County Supervisors Salud Carbajal and Janet Wolf at Stand in the Sand (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

 

Carpinteria based photographer, Ken Pfeiffer, and me on Stearn's Wharf for Stand in the Sand rally on West Beach (Photo John Brooks/Traffic411)

Carpinteria based photographer, Ken Pfeiffer, and me on Stearn’s Wharf for Stand in the Sand rally on West Beach (Photo John Brooks/Traffic411)

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Tours: Wild Ways to See Santa Barbara

Spending spring break or summer vacation in Santa Barbara? There are some adventurous city tours you wouldn’t expect to find in this upscale stretch of Pacific coastline nicknamed the ‘American Riviera.’

Guests on the Santa Barbara Land Shark tour get to see the city by land and by sea without leaving the amphibious bus. Here's a shot of Stearn's Wharf.

Guests on the Santa Barbara Land Shark tour get to see the city by land and by sea without leaving the amphibious bus. Here’s a shot of Stearn’s Wharf.

Santa Barbara Land Shark

You’ll see Santa Barbara by land and sea without leaving your seat when you hop on the Santa Barbara Land Shark.

Your friendly tour guide will keep you entertained with fascinating facts about Santa Barbara as you glide through city streets from the beach, to the historic courthouse, the zoo and other points of interest.

Then, you’ll zoom right into the water, as your amphibious tour bus becomes a boat.  I’m not a big fan of bus tours, but the seats are comfy on this tour and Holly,the tour guide, held my attention throughout the 90 minute tour. The Land Shark is a fun tour for both Santa Barbara locals and visitors.

hot rod limo

(Photo Santa Barbara Hot Rod Limo)

Santa Barbara Hot Rod Limo

If you are looking for a more intimate adventure and enjoy feeling the wind whipping through your hair, take ride on Santa Barbara’s Hot Rod Limo.

Jennifer and Phil who visited Santa Barbara enjoyed their wild ride aboard the bright yellow hot rod.

“We had a tour of SB on a “Hot Rod” this 8 seater open top east long yellow bar with red painted flames up the side with a big open engine..the woman driving was playing very loud music..was absolutely nuts!”

The driver’s personality adds to the attraction. “The driver, India, really made the trip what it was.  What a character…. she just keeps laughing. God, I thought, how fabulous is that and can I have what she’s on please.”

Now narrated, Hot Rod tour was not when Jennifer & Phil took the tour last year. But Jennifer said their tour guide offered interesting facts and tidbits as she zoomed around town. “We couldn’t even hear a word of the commentary she was giving, the couple in front of us passed the commentary back to us and we’d tell the couple behind us and so on.  It was (like a game of operator)…Mad! It all added to the fun…and..you got to know the other passengers quickly.”

(Photo Traffic411/Ken Pfeiffer)

(Photo Traffic411/Ken Pfeiffer)

Santa Barbara Trolley Tour

If you’ re looking for something more mainstream, try the Santa Barbara Trolley Tour. You can see the city on board a classic trolley car.

All of these tours depart from the Stearns Wharf area. Check their websites for tour times.

Santa Barbara Tours

Spending spring break or summer vacation in Santa Barbara? There are some adventurous city tours you wouldn’t expect to find in this upscale seaside town dubbed the ‘American Riviera.’

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Tour guide Holly points out sights around Santa Barbara on the Land Shark tour. (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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The colorful Chromatic Arch is one of the sights you'll see when you take a Santa Barbara tour (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).
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Santa Barbara's Stearns Wharf and East Beach (popular with volley ball enthusiasts) are very close to the 101 Freeway (Photo Traffic411)
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You might see a kite surfer or a cruise ship moored off the coast when you tour Santa Barbara (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).
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Guests on board the Land Shark enjoy a bus and boat tour in one! (Photo Traffic411)
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Sunbathing seals are one sight you might see on the Santa Barbara Land Shark tour (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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Santa Barbara Trolley Tour (Photo Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).
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Zoom through the streets of Santa Barbara and see the hisoric Mission on a Hot Rod Limo tour (photo: Santa Barbara Hot Rod Limo)

Traffic411 Insider Tip: Bring along a light sweater.  Although it’s likely to be sunny, the air can feel cool, even in the summer.

Distance from LAX: 96 miles

 


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L.A.’s Spiritual Oasis

The Self Realization Fellowship in Pacific Palisades is a relaxing place to visit, walk, or sit in quiet meditation. (Photo Traffic411/Ken Pfeiffer)

The Self Realization Fellowship in Pacific Palisades is a relaxing place to visit, walk, or sit in quiet meditation. (Photo Traffic411/Ken Pfeiffer)

A short walk from the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean, you’ll find the peaceful grounds of the Self Realization Fellowship in Pacific Palisades.

An oasis in the city, this is a beautiful place to come to relax and unwind. Take a leisurely walk around the lake, or sit quietly on one of the many stone benches nestled next to foliage and fountains.

The Self Realization Fellowship is a non-profit spiritual organization  founded in 1920 by Paramahansa Yogananda. It offers meditation classes, retreats and worship services.  People of all faiths are welcome to visit the grounds. Admission is free, donations are appreciated.

The first time you visit, you might be surprised to see this beautiful, peaceful oasis so close to busy Pacific Coast Highway.  The grounds are not visible from Sunset Boulevard, so you could drive right by without knowing it’s here.  Once you find it, you might want to visit regularly to relax and recharge.

Traffic411 Insider’s Tip: Park on Palisades Drive, and walk to the beach (near Gladstone’s Malibu) before or after you visit. There are also good restaurants in the shopping center on Palisades Drive.

Distance from LAX: 16 miles


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Seal Cub Viewing

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Harbor seals lounge on a beach in Carpinteria. The seals migrate to the beach every year to give birth to their cubs (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Whale watching is a popular activity this time of year, but you never know if or when you’ll spot the migrating animals along the California coast.  If you want a sure bet for viewing sea mammals, there are beaches along the Central California coast where seals migrate each year to give birth to their cubs.

The Harbor Seal Preserve in Carpinteria (near Santa Barbara) is one such spot. The beach is closed to humans during birthing season, December – May, however there’s a viewing spot on a cliff above the beach. Spectators can watch about 100 harbor seals waiting to give birth. As the season progresses, you’ll see cubs resting near their moms.  The Carpinteria city website calls this one of the city’s best kept secrets!

California Seal Preserves

See mother seals give birth to their young along California's central coast, in Carpinteria (near Santa Barbara) and San Simeon (near Cambria, Hearst Castle, Big Sur). Photos by KenPfeiffer/Traffic411

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This beach in Carpinteria, CA is off limits to humans from December-May. Harbor seals migrate here to give birth to their cubs (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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A mother and baby elephant seal on a beach in San Simeon, CA. (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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There were several mama seals with their babies on an Elephant Seal preserve beach in San Simeon, CA. (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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A herd of elephant seals rest on the beach near the Piedras Blancas point near Cambria CA. (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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A mother and baby elephant seal on a beach in San Simeon, CA. (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

About three hours up the coast (on Highway 1) from Santa Barbara, near Hearst Castle in San Simeon, is a seal preserve on steroids!  Giant elephant seals, preparing to give birth,  gather along beaches near the Piedras Blancas point in San Simeon.

On a New Year’s visit to Cambria, I saw hundreds of elephant seals, and many babies, lounging up and down the coast. There is a large viewing area at this preserve (12 miles north of Cambria), and you can get within 20 feet of the creatures. Some seals were quite active in the late afternoon, slinking to the water for a swim, some males sparring, or letting out a noisy scream, perhaps a cheer welcoming in the New Year!

It’s amazing to see, nature at its finest and, perhaps best of all, it’s free!

Note:  Click here for turn-by-turn directions to the Carpinteria seal rookery.

Traffic411 Insider’s Tip: Visit in the late afternoon, when seals may be more active.

Distance from LAX: 86 miles to Carpinteria


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El Matador Beach: Picture Perfect!

El Matador State Beach in Malibu features some of the most scenic coastline in California (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

El Matador State Beach in Malibu features some of the most scenic coastline in California (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Are you looking for a great photo op that will make you the envy of your friends & family (especially those who live where it’s snowy & cold)? Look no further than El Matador State Beach in Malibu.

Tall rocks form archways in the shallow waters west of Zuma Beach. Sea birds perch on branches of wind blown cypress trees atop the craggy coastline.  El Matador’s pristine beauty and golden light is a favorite location of photographers (nature and portrait) and artists who want to capture the remote beauty of this stretch of California coastline.

Related: Hike Solstice Canyon Malibu

There’s a small parking lot above the beach (or parking on Pacific Coast Highway) with a stairway that leads down to the sand.  You will probably find a little more privacy if you visit on a weekday. There are no restaurants or shops at El Matador, making this possibly one of California’s best kept secrets.

El Matador State Beach

Picture Perfect! El Matador State Beach in Malibu may be one of California's best kept secrets! Enjoy these gorgeous photos by Ken Pfeiffer.

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View of El Matador State Beach in Malibu from the parking lot above (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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Stone arch at El Matador State Beach, Malibu, CA (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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A view of the Malibu coastline from El Matador State Beach, Malibu, CA (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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El Matador State Beach, Malibu, CA (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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El Matador State Beach, Malibu, CA (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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Traffic411's Lisa Osborne poses at El Matador State Beach, Malibu, CA (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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El Matador State Beach, Malibu, CA (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)
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El Matador State Beach, Malibu, CA (Photo: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

From Santa Monica, this beach is on the far end of Malibu. If you want to explore sea stars (starfish) and other sea life while you’re here, visit nearby Leo Carrillo State Beach at low tide. Tide pools are home to a lot of sea creatures.

Traffic411 Insider’s Tip: The daily parking fee ($8) will give you access to some other state beaches & parks, including the prime-tide-pool-viewing spot Leo Carrillo State Beach.

Distance from LAX: 33 miles (55 minutes)


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Hike Solstice Canyon in Malibu

Remnants of homes lost in fires remain in Solstice Canyon in Malibu (Photo credit: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Remnants of homes lost in fires remain in Solstice Canyon in Malibu (Photo credit: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411)

Solstice Canyon in Malibu is an easy hike with unusual scenery. There are remnants of homes that burned in fires along with a running creek, waterfall and wildlife.  The last time I hiked here, we saw several deer feeding in the woods not far from the hiking path.

Getting to the waterfall takes less than an hour along a wide path that even parents pushing sport strollers can easily navigate, although the last steps to the waterfall are a little more tricky, since it’s rocky. I enjoyed hiking (walking, really) to the waterfall since there was a lot of shade.

Also Read: El Matador Beach Malibu – Picture Perfect

Solstice Canyon waterfall, Malibu, Traffic411

It’s an easy hike to the waterfall in Solistice Canyon, there was water even on a warm September day. (Photo Traffic411)

Hikers looking for something more strenuous can follow switchbacks up a hill, which leads back to the parking lot. This uphill walk is in the sun and can get warm. Solstice Canyon in Malibu is located just across the street from the ocean, so the weather is usually very comfortable.

The trails are clearly marked and there are many different areas to explore in Solstice Canyon. The last fire to burn through this canyon was in 2007 (Solstice did not burn in the 2013 Springs Fire), so there is plenty of lush plant life, trees and shade.

Traffic411 Insider’s Tip:  Bring along a map, there are several paths available once you get on the trails.

Distance from LAX: 30 miles

Getting there: Turn off of Pacific Coast Highway at the 76 gas station (off PCH in between Las Virgines & Kanan Dume Road) Here’s a link to the National Park Services map

Solstice Canyon Malibu

Solstice Canyon in Malibu, CA is an easy hike that offers unusual scenery. You'll see remnants of homes lost in fires along with wildlife, a running creek and waterfall.

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An ariel view of 'Robert's Home' in Solstice Canyon, Malibu CA (Photo credit: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).
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What's left of "Robert's Home" in Solstice Canyon Malibu (Photo credit: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).
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It's an easy hike to the waterfall in Solistice Canyon, there was water even on a warm September day. (Photo Traffic411)
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/solstice-canyon-malibu/thumbs/thumbs_solsticecyn_hills_pfeiffer_traffic411.jpg]290Solstice Canyon hills
The hills of Solstice Canyon, Malibu (Photo credit: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/solstice-canyon-malibu/thumbs/thumbs_solsticecyn_robertshome_traffic411.jpg]230Tropical Terrace "Robert's Home" sign, Solstice Canyon, Malibu, CA
Tropical Terrace "Robert's Home" sign, Solstice Canyon, Malibu, CA (Photo Traffic411)
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/solstice-canyon-malibu/thumbs/thumbs_solsticecyn_ruins2_pfeiffer_traffic411.jpg]190Solstice Canyon ruins
Remnants of "Robert's Home" in Solstice Canyon, Malibu (Photo credit: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/solstice-canyon-malibu/thumbs/thumbs_solstice-canyon-stream-malibu-traffic411.jpg]180creek in Solstice Canyon, Malibu CA
Solstice Canyon stream Malibu (photo Traffic411)
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/solstice-canyon-malibu/thumbs/thumbs_solsticecyn_stone-and-tin-sign_traffic411.jpg]140House of Stone and Tin sign, Solstice Canyon Malibu
House built of Stone and Tin, sign, Solstice Canyon, Malibu (Photo Traffic411)
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/solstice-canyon-malibu/thumbs/thumbs_solsticecyn_stone-and-tin_pfeiffer_traffic411.jpg]130Remnants of homes lost in fires remain in Solstice Canyon in Malibu
Remnants of the house built of Stone and Tin, destroyed in a fire in Solstice Canyon in Malibu (Photo credit: Ken Pfeiffer/Traffic411).
[img src=http://traffic411.com/wp-content/flagallery/solstice-canyon-malibu/thumbs/thumbs_solsticecyn_trail_traffic411.jpg]120Solstice Canyon trail
Solstice Canyon is an easy hike for people of all ages. (photo Traffic411).


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Dad’s Choice: Laguna Beach

The view from Las Brisas restaurant, above Main Beach in Laguna (photo Las Brisas)

The view from Las Brisas restaurant, above Main Beach in Laguna (photo Las Brisas)

What dad would not want to spend Father’s Day in Laguna Beach? This quaint seaside town one hour south of Los Angeles offers breathtaking views of some of Southern California’s most beautiful coastline. Breathe-in fresh air from a bench in the park at the Main Beach Park Playground, or take a walk and enjoy the view.

If you enjoy having your toes in the sand, stroll along the waterline south of Main Beach during low tide. If the tide starts to come in, you can always take stairs up to a sidewalk on Pacific Coast Highway.

My dad loved the beach, and we’d often head to Laguna for a meal and a walk. The Cottage (now apparently closed) was one of dad’s favorite spots. The large shady/sunny outdoor patio was a great place to enjoy breakfast or lunch, right across the street from the ocean.

Visit The Greeter’s Corner, a coffee shop with a large outside deck facing the ocean. The food is good, prices are decent and the view and fresh air are amazing.

Hungry for seafood and a view? Stop by the Beach House.  A steep driveway takes you to this classic dining spot that hugs the side of a cliff, offering an up-close ocean view.  For a fun menu of upscale delights in a kitschy setting, Dizz’s As Is is a local favorite.

Nearby: Balboa Island, CA USA

My dad’s favorite breakfast spot of all time was just north of downtown Laguna at the border of Newport Coast. The Beachcomber Café in Crystal Cove offers open air dining  on the sand in the historic district of Crystal Cove State Park. There is a parking lot on the inland side of Pacific Coast Highway with a shuttle that will take you to the restaurant.  An added bonus, you’re just steps away from a beautiful stretch of beach for an after breakfast/lunch/dinner walk.

Laguna Beach and Balboa Island (pictured here) were two of my Pop's favorite OC getaways.

Las Brisas is an upscale Mexican restaurant perched on the cliff adjacent to Main Beach. This Laguna Beach institution features a large outdoor bar patio surrounded by colorful rose bushes. Las Brisas is a great choice to celebrate a special occasion, or a comfortable spot to sip an icy beverage, enjoy the view or enjoy a So Cal sunset.

Related: So Cal Burgers

Montage Laguna Beach is a world-class resort offering panoramic views of The Pacific Ocean. You don’t need to stay at the hotel to enjoy the scenery. Walk the grounds or have a drink on the deck of the cocktail lounge. The Montage sits on the land that was the filming location of several classic movies, from “Treasure Island” to the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz comedy “The Long Long Trailer.”

Along with being home to several great restaurants, Laguna beach is an artist’s enclave, there are plenty of art galleries to browse in the quaint downtown shopping area.  And, festivals, from The Pageant of the Masters to the Sawdust Festival, there’s often something special going on in Laguna Beach.

Distance from LAX: 52 miles

Traffic411 Tip:  Make Laguna Beach a scenic side trip when you’re traveling between OrangeCounty and San Diego. Driving North on the 5 (Santa Ana Freeway), exit “Beach Cities’ in Dana Point, take Pacific Coast Highway north through Laguna Niguel, Laguna Beach, Corona del Mar and Newport Beach and rejoin the 405 from Mac Arthur Blvd. Reverse course if you’re driving South on the 405, exit Mac Arthur Boulevard.

See what it’s like in Laguna Beach right now: Check out the live Laguna Beach Earthcam


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Farewell Firestone: Rare freeway off ramp closes

The now-closed Firestone Boulevard off ramp was one of only a few 'left side' freeway off ramps in California.

If  you drive on the Santa Ana (5) Freeway between Orange C0unty and Los Angeles, you’ve probably noticed the Firestone Exit – it’s one of the few left exit ramps in California. Drivers exit on the left side of the freeway instead of the usual right side of the freeway.

The Firestone Boulevard exit shut down forever in March, as part of a freeway rennovation project. So, here’s to the memories – a few pics of the Firestone Boulevard off ramp from the 5 (Santa Ana freeway) in Norwalk.

A now-extinct relic off LA's Santa Ana (5) Freeway, the left-exiting Firestone Boulevard off ramp.

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