He is the greatest American soccer player of all time and one of the two or three best players in Major League Soccer history. Landon Donovan’s 57 career goals and 58 assists for the U.S. men’s national team are both records, he has hoisted the MLS Cup on six separate occasions, and he has scored more World Cup goals—five—than any other Yank.
Donovan is also a world-class fan of Southern California’s many charms—and he speaks from experience. Born in Ontario and raised in Redlands, Donovan established himself as a superstar with the Los Angeles Galaxy and now lives in San Diego with his wife, Hannah Bartell, and their son Talon. Since retiring from professional soccer in 2016, Donovan has worked as a color commentator for Fox Sports and is part of an ownership group seeking to bring an MLS franchise to America’s Finest City. Here are some of his favorite spots in the Golden State.
Where do you live? San Diego
Why there? My wife grew up in San Diego and we moved here about a year ago, to be closer to her family.
Who or what is your greatest California love? I have many California loves: the sun, the beach, the people, the food, the willingness of the people to be open minded.
What is the biggest misperception about Californians? That we are laid back and not tough enough. We are certainly laid back in nature but there is a resilience and toughness to Californians that is underappreciated.
What is the stereotype that most holds true? That we are unabashedly pro-California. We believe that there is nowhere else in the world like California and are not shy about letting people know it.
What is your favorite Golden State splurge? Eating ice cream near any of our beautiful beaches during any month of the year. We have the unique ability to eat ice cream cones in 70-degree weather in the middle of December and I love it.
Time for a California road trip. Where are you going? [There aren’t] many drives more beautiful than the drive up the California coast on Pacific Coast Highway. Malibu, Morro Bay, and Big Sur are musts. There are hundreds of places to stop along the way and enjoy the beach, wine, sunshine, etc.
If you could decree an official state culinary experience, what would it be? I would mandate that you get a fish taco in San Diego, stop by Fishing With Dynamite in Manhattan Beach, have lunch at the Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur, and go wine/food tasting in Napa.
Best California song? "California Love” by Tupac. When I traveled a lot as a young soccer player, I would listen to that song on the airplane ride home to remind me of my beautiful home state. It will forever be etched in my mind.
How would your California dream day unfold? My dream day would definitely revolve around food. I would begin in San Diego and get a breakfast burrito from Roberto’s and eat it on the beach in Del Mar. I would then take a two-hour drive north to Oak Glen (on the way to Big Bear) and go apple tasting up in the mountains. Around lunchtime, I would head west to Manhattan Beach and have oysters at Fishing With Dynamite. After that, I would head north to Santa Barbara and spend the night there.