Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Vacation With Staying Power

Some of us might associate a “staycation” with the following terms: “cheap,” “budget” and/or “value-oriented.” (Yes, you know who you are.) For some travelers, the staycation is a byproduct of hard times—it’s an ugly neologism for having to stick it out at home instead of logging more stamps into the pages of your passport. It’s almost as vile in its origins, some might argue, as the phrase, “dining al desko,” which, sadly, is something I practice on a near daily basis.

Well, you can call me an optimist (or a fool), but I like to think of the staycation in a much more positive light. For me, the staycation is more of a mini-break; it’s a short holiday where I don’t have to fret about baggage fees or airport traffic and one where my internal clock won’t go out of whack. Looking back, I’ve covered a lot of staycations for work in the past two years. From Torrance (my hometown), Bel-Air, Rancho Bernardo and Palm Springs to Del Mar, Manhattan Beach and Long Beach, I’ve been lucky enough to recharge my batteries for much-needed and short—but entirely relaxing—weekend stays.

This past weekend, I visited Huntington Beach, aka Surf City USA. Although I’ve lived in Southern California for the entirety of my life, I’ve actually never been to Huntington Beach. So, it was definitely a treat to be able to stay there for two nights at the Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort and to explore its charming downtown with 20 or so other fellow journalists and their plus ones.

It was also — in a funny way — somewhat strange to feel like a tourist in a city that’s only about 20 miles south of your home base. Our group of 24 even packed ourselves into the O.C. Cruiser at one point. Serenading us with the entire anthology of Beach Boys songs in the background, our tour bus dropped us off at the Bolsa Chica Wetlands and dog-friendly Dog Beach. Later, on a walking tour of downtown, we certainly fit the part of tourists from elsewhere or, at least I did with a gigantic camera hanging around my neck. It also didn’t help that when we stopped by the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory for a fudge-making demo, the proprietor of Zack’s mistook me for a Japanese tourist, clasping his hands together while bowing and exclaiming, “Konnichiwa.” (Almost makes you wonder how they’re going to enforce that immigration bill in Arizona. Perhaps I should start carrying my passport with me if I cross state lines.)

No matter; I still had a blast posing as a semi-tourist in my own backyard. In fact, I think we don’t often appreciate our own local neighborhoods as much as we should, whether or not we’re mired in an economic recession. For evidence, feel free to take a look:

Our day of touring began with a ride aboard the O.C. Cruiser.

The first stop? The Bolsa Chica Wetlands where we got up close and personal with the resident birds.

Next stop: Dog Beach. I need to take Odie here one of these days. This pug was so cute.

Speaking of dogs, I love how there are "Doggie Walk Bags" everywhere, and they even come with instructions, too.

Moving on, we headed to the International Surfing Museum where even the doormats are shaped like surfboards.

Then, it was time for lunch at Fred's Mexican Cafe where I had one of my faves: mahimahi tacos.

Later, our downtown walking tour took us to an antiques shop ...

... where you can buy your own set of Rockem Sockem Robots.

And even though downtown has a lot of stores that you might find elsewhere, like a gigantic Forever 21, it still has a lot more character than some other beach cities along the coast, I think.

But, of course, no matter where you go, food and drink will play a major factor in whether you want to come back or not. So, in the name of good journalism, we just had to stop for a Guinness Milkshake from 25 Degrees ...

... and observe a fudge-making demonstration at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, where we discovered that making fudge is tough—but delicious—work.

Later, we'd indulge in dinner at Duke's where Eliot and I felt compelled to polish off this entire mud pie (Yes, we can, and we did).

And the next morning, we'd enjoy my favorite meal of the trip: breakfast.

So, wherever you’re headed this summer—or in the near future—I hope you’ll take the time to take in your surroundings, even if they’re only a car ride away.


  1. Hi Deanna,

    You really got some great photos last week! We had a lot of fun with you and the entire group. Thanks again for visiting us here in Surf City USA!

  2. Thanks, Madison, for taking care of our group!

  3. A Japanese tourist? That had me snickering, sorry. As for the fudge-making, everything tastes better when you work it with your own hands. I think I'll put this on my to-visit list...