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Essential Tips for California Road Trips

Three travel insiders share their favorite stops, shops, sights, and eats

In this episode of the California Now Podcast, host Soterios Johnson interviews three travel and lifestyle influencers and gets them to share their top tips and must-dos while road-tripping across the state.

First, Johnson connects with Amber Mamian, a Temecula-based mother of six and the founder of the family travel website Global Munchkins. She talks about her family's recent journey from Hollywood to Oceanside, with a fun-filled stop in Huntington Beach. Whether it was indulging in a cotton candy dessert in the shape of Marie Antoinette's wig, or exploring the California Surf Museum, she says the whole family was enthralled (and behaved admirably) from start to finish.

Next, Johnson talks to Francesca Murray, the travel writer and influencer behind One Girl One World. Murray recently embarked on road trips in Southern California and the Central Coast, and she offered fresh insights from both. From the luxurious shops of Laguna Beach to the chill vibes of Catalina to the breathtaking vistas of Big Sur, Murray says you feel like you're traveling the world within the state's borders.

Finally, Johnson chats with Henry Wu, a San Francisco–based photographer and co-founder of This Life of Travel, who recently took a mini-break in Napa Valley and Sonoma County. Wu tells Johnson about a few must-visit places in wine country, and also shares some expert-level tips for taking stunning, Instagram-worthy photos of it all.

Editor’s note: These three interviews were recorded in the last week of September, just prior to the oil spill off the Orange County coast. If you are planning a visit to the area, please check with your destination ahead of time for the latest updates on that evolving situation.

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Amber Mamian, Global Munchkins

Francesca Murray, One Girl One World

Henry Wu, This Life of Travel


Global Munchkins founder Amber Mamian says the secret to a great family road trip is including everyone in the planning process.


Sky's Gourmet Tacos

The Grove

Universal Studios Hollywood

Jurassic World – The Ride

The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash

Universal Express Passes

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Barton G. The Restaurant Los Angeles

Huntington Beach

Duffy Boat Rentals

Jan's Health Bar

The Waterfront Beach Resort


The Seabird Resort

Oceanside Pier

Beach Break Cafe

Privateer Coal Fired Pizza

California Surf Museum

The Rising Co.


Santa Barbara

One Girl One World travel and beauty expert Francesca Murray believes road trips are a fantastic way to practice self-care.

Los Angeles

Laguna Beach

Surf & Sand Resort

Urth Caffé

Gina's Pizza

Santa Catalina Island

Catalina Express

Bluewater Grill

Long Beach

Gondola Getaway


The Boathouse on the Bay


Vision Quest Ranch

Monterey Zoo

17-Mile Drive

Big Sur

Bixby Bridge

Big Sur Lodge

Pfeiffer Falls

Big Sur River Inn

San Francisco–based travel photographer Henry Wu loves to feature California in his work.


The Cypress Tree Tunnel

Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

Hofsas House Hotel



Downtown Napa

Riza Plants


Oxbow Public Market

The Dutch Door


Napa River Inn

Sonoma County

Ledson Winery & Vineyard

Chateau St Jean

Beltane Ranch

La Michoacana Natural Ice Cream

About the Host

Soterios Johnson, formerly the local host of National Public Radio’s Morning Edition on radio station WNYC, moved from New York City to Davis in 2016. By combining his journalistic instincts with his personal curiosity, Johnson uses the California Now Podcast platform to develop a deeper understanding of his adopted home.

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