Mom & Daughter Road Trip to Carmel

My 19-year-old daughter Elsie and I love a good road trip! I’ll be honest I don’t always love a 5-hour drive…but I’ll never pass up quality time with her. The memories we’ve made during those car rides will be cherished forever and I definitely have her Taylor Swift playlist downloaded into my memory at this point. <3 

This year we decided to head up to Carmel, a spot I’ve been visiting most of my life having grown up in Northern California. But this was the first real-time for Elsie, minus the time we went during COVID…but we’re not counting that one!


La Playa Hotel
Camino Real &, 8th Ave
Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93921
Website | Instagram

We stayed at the Historic Playa Hotel, originally built in 1905 as a home for the heiress to the Ghiradella fortune. Over the years it was expanded and became a hotel, most recently undergoing 15 million dollars worth of renovations. 

Known as the Grand Dame of Carmel, the property is located in a quiet neighborhood just steps away from the beach, and it’s an easy walk to all the shops and restaurants on Ocean Avenue. The hotel itself is a perfect blend of both the Craftsman style of the original home and the Spanish Revival.

There are 75 guest rooms to choose from and we had what’s called a superior ocean suite. It’s a large bright room surrounded by windows, and the most perfect view of the gardens, pool, and of course the Pacific Ocean. Each room has a beautiful art deco style armoire filled with everything you need to make some of the hotel’s signature drinks. In fact, there’s a little card box with the recipes, I made “The Angela”. If you want to give it a try here’s what you’ll need:

“The Angela”

Casa Dragones Tequila Blanco (or your favorite)
Chinola Passion Fruit Liqueur
Grapefruit Soda
Dehydrated lime wheel.

Pour 1 large jigger of @casadragones into your shaking tin along with 1 small jigger of Passion Fruit Liqueur. Shake and strain into a highball glass. Add ice and top with Grapefruit Soda. Garnish with dehydrated lime wheel. Cheers!

To grab a drink outside of your room, you can walk over to Bud’s, named after one of the former owners. The bar has recently been restored and offers not only cocktails but food as well! Oh, and don’t miss the champagne breakfast offered every morning!

The grounds boast beautiful gardens filled with all the flowers Carmel is so renowned for, and a pool if that’s more your thing than the ocean.

I really can’t say enough good things about our stay at the hotel which was more like visiting a stately home. The lobby feels like an elegant living room and the staff was beyond accommodating and friendly. Because my daughter had recently injured her foot, we made good use of the Mercedes shuttle when needed.



There’s PLENTY to do in Carmel! Of course, you have the beach, which can be foggy in the morning, and has the most beautiful sunsets. I would recommend dressing in layers to account for the weather, especially if you are like me and are always cold! There are so many wonderful art galleries, nearly 100 to be exact, lining the streets and quaint alleyways. You will also find lots of high-end boutiques and plenty of spots for souvenirs right on Ocean Avenue and surrounding streets.

If you are looking to get active outdoors, there are tons of places to hike and explore. We decided to drive to Big Sur down Highway 1, first stopping at Garrapata Beach and hiking down to see the famous Calla Lillies bloom. If you catch them in bloom it is a breathtaking sight! Between January and April, the small valley is bursting with beautiful flowers from the bluffs to the beach and this spot is only about 15 minutes south of Carmel. 

We also played “tourists” and stopped at the iconic Bixby Bridge for a quick photo. Doing this during the week is advised, because on the weekend trying to find a place to park is next to impossible. The Bridge of course is famous for being one of the highest bridges of its kind in the world and one of the most photographed (you may also remember it from the opening sequences of “Big Little Lies”).


Then onto Big Sur which is less than an hour south of town. Honestly, spending a few days just recharging in Big Sur would be a dream. But that will have to wait for another trip. For this trip, we had enough time to grab lunch at The Big Sur Bakery and buy some handcrafted items from local artisans at Mother Botanical and Shop.


During our stay, we ate at 5 restaurants that I highly recommend!

1 – La Bicyclette
This somewhat exclusive spot features European Country Cuisine and is super hard to get into, but here’s a little trick that worked for us: We were told they hold open 40 percent of tables for walk-ins…which is what we did and make sure you go early! This was by far our favorite dinner spot. We had the yummiest pizza and salad here.

2 – Stationæry
Having claimed itself as your “favorite neighborhood restaurant,” it definitely would be ours if we lived there. It’s the perfect spot for breakfast, lunch, and brunch, plus you can eat inside or on the patio. We had lunch before we left town, still thinking about the grilled cheese and tomato soup, it was that good!

3 – Casanova Restaurant
This is the cutest little Italian/French restaurant that looks like something out of a fairytale and it has an incredible food and wine list. But be warned, it’s definitely on the pricey side.

4 – Dutch Door Doughnuts
This little spot is in the Carmel Plaza for doughnuts fried while you wait, and let me tell you…they don’t get much fresher than this!

5 – Big Sur Bakery
This cute little bakery is tucked in the trees and is less than an hour south of Carmel, and so worth the drive! The food is divine, but you also get to explore all of the darling little shops.  

As I mentioned at the top of the blog, I’ve been going to Carmel my entire life, but I have to say this two-day trip with Elsie will definitely go down as one of my favorites!