Coasting: 5 Must Stop Cities On The California Coast

5 Must Stop Cities on the California Coast
Photo: Rian Castillo/Flickr CC

As road trips go, it’s safe to say that taking a journey along the Pacific Coast Highway on the California coast is one of the best around. Not only do you get to benefit from the glorious California sunshine, but the 1000 kilometres or so that you get to explore is a natural paradise too.

Incredibly scenic, the California coast drive sports some of the most amazing coastal views the USA has to offer. But you’ll also spot smaller villages, forests, and a vineyard or 10 along with way. If you were to take your time, the drive is around ten hours not stop. But if you’re hoping to make a few stops along the way, then here are five that you should think about going with.

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Driving with Kiddo: 6 tips for tear-free, toddler-friendly road trips

Scenes like this from the Icefields Parkway - not yours to behold when you're trying to beat the crying clock of your bambino. Photo credit: Walter Lam/Flickr/CC
Scenes like this from the Icefields Parkway – not yours to behold when you’re trying to beat the cry clock of your bambino. Photo credit: Walter Lam/Flickr/CC

As I drove north on the Icefields Parkway, the western spine of Canada (aka the Rocky Mountains), the road trip was a blur. I was racing against time: trying to get to my destination before my then five-month-old woke up hungry and angry after being in a car for WAY TOO LONG on this seemingly NEVERENDING (translation: two days) road trip.

We sped by so many sights – Castle Mountain, Crowfoot Glacier, Mount Chepheren – instead of stopping to bask in the grandeur of the Canadian Rockies like all the other happy-looking families, we didn’t. There was just one panicky thought on repeat in my head: ‘When is this road trip going to end?’

We were on day two of travel across British Columbia and part of Alberta to go see my partner in central Alberta. Here we were on an incredibly beautiful road trip that people from around the world pay big bucks to come and do. Frankly I didn’t enjoy the scenic surroundings because I didn’t pack enough supplies or give myself enough time to get there. We ended up having to stop in David Thompson, kiddo balling his eyes out and mommy very frazzled for a snack, leg stretch and calm down.

Fast forward a year. Many road trips – Tofino, Victoria, Kamloops, Lesser Slave Lake, Calgary, Drumheller – big and small later, we are starting to find our family travel groove. I once interviewed Micheal A. Palmer – an international traveller, family guy and author. He travelled across Canada with his wife and THREE, yes, three kids a few summers ago and had all kinds of wisdom to share. The uptake: plan, stop often, eat healthy. You can read more here.

The summer of 2015 we explored Alberta. After a few slightly stressful trips, I decided to try to start learning from our four-wheel journeys. Whether I’m driving alone with our little dude or we’re on a trip with the whole fam (mama, daddy + tiny tyrant), if I implement the six tips below, it makes for a tear-free trip.  Read more

Head to the Rockies: 10 Reasons to Love Stunning Jasper, Alberta

So many reasons to stop on the way to Jasper to bask in the scenery.
So many reasons to stop on the way to Jasper to bask in the scenery.

Sometimes you just need to go to the mountains. The Rockies specifically. You need to heed their call, fill your psyche with John Muir quotes, gulp clean air and enjoy weekend full of sweaty, outdoor, family fun. Jasper is this place.

“The mountains are calling and I must go.”

~ John Muir ~

A town of 4,000, Jasper is in the middle of Jasper National Park and hugged by the Rockies and bordered by train tracks. It’s the slightly more granola, woodsy version of Banff. A popular escape for Edmontoninans (like us!) and folks from Grande Prairie and Prince George, Jasper is a year-round outdoor adventure destination. While the shoulder seasons are a less busy, Jasper buzzes in the summer with tour buses, hikers and campers and swells on winter weekends with waves of downhill, cross country and snowshoeing crowds.

Recently, our little family escaped to Jasper for some cozy cabin time, a downhill adrenalin rush or two and a morning cross country ski workout that would’ve made any of my Cross Fit/P90x buddies proud. BUT besides all the magical, mountain-y stuff Jasper offers,  the mountain town also boasts a fantastic restaurant scene, cute, indie shops and a walk score of a million (okay, or 100).

I’ve been lucky enough escape to the Rockies and Jasper twice this year and write about it a couple of times (like here and here). This time I’m sharing more photographic evidence of Jasper’s awesomeness rather than my words. Herewith, my 10 reasons why Jasper is the stuff of John Muir quotes and Oprah-esque opportunities to connect with both yourself and your loved ones.

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Get Outta Town: 5 small town Alberta shopping road trips

Christmas ornaments for days at Greeland Garden Centre.
Christmas ornaments for days at Greeland Garden Centre.

Do you ever get the urge to drive straight out of town until the mega malls disappear in your rearview and the traffic thins out? I do. Lately I’ve been poking around in the suburbs and small towns near Edmonton for my shopping fix, which has lead to some pretty fruitful mini-road trips. These half day or day-long forays into Edmonton’s neighbouring towns are my lazy version of a weekend getaway. They don’t require booking a hotel or packing a toothbrush – they are easy, fun and a fab opportunity to go shopping at local shops and tasting at local restaurants.

Coming from a small town, I am a huge fan of a quaint downtown and family-owned stores. If you’re like me and love to poke little shops across Alberta, from the historic downtown stores of Fort Saskatchewan to the hip and charming boutiques of Leduc’s Main Street then this is your local-loving shopping primer. And, as a wee bonus, I’m also going to share a tiny handful of my fave Edmonton indie shops that specialize in Canadian and Albertan goods. Read more