Our California summer vacation!

Still so behind on blogging so many beautiful weddings from this year... but today, I have VACATION photos to share!

In a parallel universe somewhere, I'm living a magical life in California, so I decided that  that's where we would head. We spent 3.5 days in Los Angeles, a day in San Diego, a day on an Amtrak train, a day in San Francisco, and a day in Napa. All places I'd been before, and mostly places where friends or family made the journey that much easier and sweeter.

We flew out of Washington (BWI, not the closest airport) at the absurdly early hour of 6am, meaning that we left our apartment in Dupont Circle at 3am. Uber --> Amtrak train to BWI station --> shuttle to airport, kicking off a marathon travel day. Except it wasn't a day, because much to our bodies' confusion, when we landed at LAX, it was only 10:30am! We were ready for lunch twice over and most places were still serving breakfast. 

We hopped on LA Metro for a few stops and checked into our amazing AirBnB in downtown Los Angeles. Everyone we talked to was super-surprised because LA is known for its car culture, but we didn't rent a car while we were there. If you know me, though, you're probably not surprised at all given that we are car-free at home, and that I picked a place in downtown LA, which has pretty great transit. Our place was a totally hip loft-style converted industrial building near Pershing Square. It had the most gorgeous light! I'm a big fan of staying in AirBnBs on vacation -- being able to "go home" and chill during vacation is really important to me in not getting overwhelmed.

aimee custis photography travel

Our time in LA was pretty stellar. One of my favorite highlights was going to Angel City Brewery, which I'd visited with friends when I was last in Los Angeles. It is in a super-hip old converted warehouse just outside Little Tokyo, and is one of several independent breweries in LA's burgeoning craft beer scene. The beer is great (we got 2 5-beer tastings for $18!), but what I love more than anything is the building. It has these enormous open garage doors on one side, cornhole and art displays, amazing murals, and an upstairs loft area. I dream of photographing a wedding or a styled shoot here one day. If anyone reads this and wants to, call me stat. You pay my travel, the rest is free!

Angel City Brewery Los Angeles

I really wanted to spend a day in LA at the beach, and thanks to some amazing photos by some fellow photographers, I'd been imagining Manhattan Beach... until I realized that as of the subway extension opening a few months ago, you can now take the Metro to Santa Monica. You guys, you get off the Metro and walk two blocks, and you're on the pier. YOU CAN TAKE METRO TO THE BEACH. Clearly, we went to Santa Monica.

santa monica california beach
santa monica california

We met Kian's family friends Steve and Lorna (who live Orange County) for lunch, and the popped down to Venice and walked around (hey, I didn't say we didn't ride in a car! We just didn't rent one!), then I insisted on riding the giant ferris wheel (totally worth the $8 ticket) and we got some coffee. From there, Steve and Lorna had to head home to miss the worst of traffic, but Kian and I grabbed dinner and ate it on the beach during sunset. Swoon!

surfer sunset santa monica california
santa monica pier sunset

The next day, we woke up early, and after getting stuck on Metro trying to get to Union Station, we just barely caught our 3-hour long train ride to San Diego, where we hung out with my Aunt Debby and Uncle George for the day. Debby is my mom's older sister, and it was so good to see her. She showed us around San Diego and then we walked through the Hotel Del Coronado before catching the train back to LA.

The next morning we were up early again to say goodbye to LA and spend the day on Amtrak's Coast Starlight, which is a super-scenic day-long ride to Oakland, following the Pacific Coast Highway (Rt 1) for several hours, and then switching to a gorgeous view of fields and mountains.

Amtrak Coast Starlight California
Amtrak Coast Starlight

On day 6, we woke up, and set off for a day of exploration from our friends Kate + Eric's new place in Oakland. We found a tasty local sandwich shop for lunch, then walked to the 19th St BART station to head into San Francisco to meet up with Kian's brother Paul. On the way, we walked past this stunning old theater. Oakland is way under-rated, y'all.

oakland paramount theater

Paul and his girlfriend Marta are fostering kittens. Paul wasn't sure if we were kidding when we said we wanted to hang out with the kittens. On my behalf, Kian was not kidding. Not in the slightest. KITTENS. Peak vacation!! It was really hard not to pack Dale (the kitten) up in my camera bag and bring him home to DC with me.


Our final day of vacation, we drove to Napa with our hosts Kate and Eric, and met our dear friend Krista and her boyfriend Christian for wine tasting! 

sonoma california travel wedding photographers

After two amazing wineries, we finished up with dinner together where I had the. most. amazing. strawberry shortcake ever. It was so good I forgot to take a photo. Mmm. And with memories of wine, friends, strawberries and sunshine, we headed home to the east coast.