2020 has been a weird year for all, with many cancelled plans, vacations, events and much more! As a family who’s used to spending regular time on an airplane, not being on one this year has felt a little strange! However before school resumed, we decided to take advantage of more locations open throughout our home state and do a bit of road tripping. It was a blast, and we got to spend a lot of time outside social distancing and exploring! It helped that we got a new Outback at the start of lockdown which allowed for a comfortable ride and even internet service for the kids, making it more like their typical airplane flight experience. We planned the trip so that we wouldn’t ever have more than 4-5 hours of a stretch at once.
Our first stop was the Bristlecone Pine Forest up in the Eastern Sierras. This was an awesome experience! We loved seeing trees that were literally around in Biblical times! The different color/genetic variations and their ability to survive such insane conditions is remarkable! It was also a neat time for my husband to show our kids many of his favorite camping and backpacking spots, so that they could share an experience that is very special for him. We also went up to Lake Sabrina, to give the kids a taste of the distinct Sierra lakes created by glaciers and snow melt. It was all beautiful!
Bristlecone Pine Forest was awesome, as was Lake Sabrina!
We spent our first night in Bishop, back at our favorite spot the Creekside Inn. This is such a great little local hotel for a short visit to the area (I’ve blogged about it before) or in our case a pit stop for a longer trip. It’s right in the middle of town in easy walking distance to shops, restaurants, and best of all the Dutch Bakery next door. While their breakfast service and typical nightly cookies are currently on hold with COVID protocols, the service was still great and sitting by the creek is lovely. We met up with my parents here and the kids were able to have a socially-distant visits by the pool and creek outdoors.
Creekside Inn is a great hotel in the Sierras!
In the morning, we were off again. We made a stop at the hypersaline Mono Lake, which is a science teachers dream! We loved learning about the ecosystem here. the unique rock formations. the phytoplankton, algae, and salty sediment. We made another pitstop at Bodi State Park, which was awesome for our new fourth grader to discover an old gold mining down and some California history. Needless to say we hit a lot of academic topics and had some great field trips during our trip!
Mono Lake and Bodi were both awesome destinations!
Our main destination was beautiful South Lake Tahoe, a place I visited a lot as a kid growing up in the Bay Area, but hadn’t been back to since! It was fun for my parents to spend time here with their grandkids (outdoors, of course!) We also got to drive in via Nevada, which was a new state for our kiddos – they missed out on international travel in 2020, but at least they got a state off their list! We spent the first half of our stay at Marriott Grand Residence, and moved next door for the second half to the Timber Lodge. Both properties are lovely, took amazing safety protocols, and staff was phenomenal. The pools were open with reservations/distancing but the hot tubs were closed. We were right in the middle of Heavenly Village, which was convenient for take out (outdoor dining was open) , grocery shopping, and even miniature golf. We also rode the Gondola up to the top of Heavenly, which led to some amazing views and fun outdoor walks and hikes. The Timber Lodge property is a bit newer and was more updated (not to mention our 3 bedroom villa was huge!) but both properties had fun jacuzzi bath tubs, which our kids absolutely loved.
The Marriott Lake Tahoe properties both offered valet service, convenient access to the village/activities and other amenities, great pools, and jacuzzi tubs
The downside of Lake Tahoe was that it was extremely busy – everyone decided to road trip and explore outdoor destinations just like us. We compensated by going out very early in the morning, so we could avoid the crowds. Mr. Cain Travel also did an awesome overnight in the local backcountry, where he avoided people altogether. 😉 We did a lovely hike along Emerald Bay, which combined our loves of beaches/water and forest scenery quite nicely. We also did a Lake Cruise out to Emerald Bay which my kids and parents loved – the crew and services on the Safari Rose were phenomenal. Everyone got a free drink, and there was some scrumptious food as well! We loved sitting out on the deck and enjoying the fresh air and scenery. Social distancing and COVID protocols were well enforced! Other highlights of our stay included Pope Beach, some awesome paddleboard experiences on the lake for me, and even more mini golf for the kids at Magic Carpet Golf, a place that’s been around since I was a kid! We did try to hit Sand Harbor but even arriving at 645 AM the parking lot line was already full and closed! We will have to go back in off-season when there is no pandemic…
Tahoe was full of beautiful scenery and great fun – paddleboarding, hiking, boat cruises, mini-golf, beaches and backcountry adventure
After six days, we started our trek home, but stopped for two nights at the Village Lodge at Mammoth. We had fun in the local area exploring Convict Lake (our kids love skipping rocks and just sitting by the water!) and hiked to Devil’s Postpile. We even continued on to Rainbow Falls, which were beautiful and a great reward for the kids. The Village was a great location because of all the restaurants available for take out (including cocktails!) or outdoor dining. My kids also loved the hotel pool. We had explored Mammoth a few years back, but loved staying in town and can’t wait to go back!
We wrapped up our road trip in Mammoth with Convict Lake, Devi’s Postpile and Rainbow Falls, plus exploring the village with dining and take-away cocktails!
All in all, while we still miss our flights and worldly adventures, our California road trip was an awesome way to get outside, stay safe, and explore this summer!