Hearst Castle is a truly fascinating place. It's a very "touristy" thing to do, but fun. I was surprised when we couldn't even see the castle from where we parked. The visitor's center has some cool exhibits to see while waiting for your shuttle time.
The bus ride up to the castle is bit like a roller coaster, since you are riding on a small, winding road, and the driver is driving fast. That part was fun by itself.
The castle itself is amazing. The grounds are lush and green, which is no mean feat in the dry, hot California climate. The tour we took showed us one of the guest houses, as well as an indoor and outdoor pool. We also got to see part of the main house. It was beautiful, to say the least.
My only regret was that I didn't get to see more of the main house. In order to do that, you have to take multiple tours, which can get really pricey.
We've been to Santa Barbara twice, and both times we stayed at the Upham Hotel. The hotel is very old, and it is furnished with antiques. This makes for a much different experience than staying in your average motel.
The grounds are beautiful, and they serve a generous continental style breakfast every morning. We were able to walk to most places of interest from the hotel, which was very nice.
If we ever go back to Santa Barbara, we'll stay at the Upham for sure!
We lived in the Oak Hills Apartments for several months while waiting for our new house to be completed. It was very conveniently located near the BART station. It's also across the street from a shopping center with a Safeway and a Rite Aid.
The employees at the complex were very friendly and helpful. There was a pool, and the grounds were nice.
The apartment itself wasn't that great. The carpet was old, and it needed a coat of paint. The kitchen was extremely small. We had a first floor unit facing the shopping center, so it was never truly quiet in the apartment. Overall it wasn't a bad place to live, but I'm glad I only had to live there for a few months. The rent is comparable to other apartments in the area.
We lived in this apartment complex when my husband first got a job at Microsoft. It is located right across from the main campus of Microsoft. This complex is huge, with hundreds of units. They have a pool, and the grounds are very nice.
The reason I give it only three stars it that the apartment itself wasn't very nice. The carpet was very worn, and the walls really needed a paint job. It was a first floor apartment, which was partially underground, so it was very dark and dank.
The rent was comparable to other apartments in the area. If you aren't too picky, and want to be able to walk to work, this might be the place for you.
When on vacation in SoCal, our friends with kids suggested meeting at the AdventurePlex in Manhattan Beach. We needed to let the kids (ages 2 and 4) blow off some steam, so we agreed.
We paid our $10 to get in, and were amazed when we saw the biggest play structure ever! Think of the play structure at McDonalds, but many times bigger (and cleaner), and you have the AdventurePlex.
My kids had a blast here! The play structure was so big that I was even able to climb up in it. They have a big ball pit, too. They sell food for kids (and grown-ups) here, and it's very reasonably priced.
I know that this facility has other stuff besides the play structure, but we didn't have time to investigate the whole thing. If you live in the South Bay, AdventurePlex is worth checking out!
We went to Wild Rivers back when I lived in LA, and we had a blast. There are tons of waterslides, plus a nice artificial river where you can just float along and relax. The water was a little icky by the end of the day, but what can you expect when there are a zillion people in the water. Be sure to bring your sunblock, because you'll spend a lot of time waiting in line in the sun.
I recently visited my friends in Santa Cruz, and they took me to the Boardwalk for some good touristy fun. This place rocks! They have a giant arcade with tons of games, lots of rides including a vintage roller coaster, and some of the best greasy carnival food I've had in ages. The giant corn dogs are amazing! Be sure to try the fresh salt water taffy. It melts in your mouth...
Home Kitchen is a big kitchen supply store on the first floor of the Redmond Town Center. It carries a wide variety of high-end kitchen supplies. The only drawback is that the stuff is kind of expensive. However, they carry lots of things that are hard to find, so the prices can be worth it.
Cow Chip Cookies is located on the second floor of the Redmond Town Center. They sell freshly made cookies, which are really delicious. My favorite are the chocolate chip cookies. The store is clean, and the employees are friendly.
I needed a new string for a homemade keychain, so I took a trip to Bead Man. This store is fascinating! They sell every kind of bead you could ever think of, as well as strings, clasps, stuff to make earrings, etc. The beads are organized by color and type, and things seem to be easy to find. The employees are very friendly. It's located in the Redmond Town Center, right near the Eddie Bauer store.