California is one of the only places in the world where you can spend the morning surfing in the ocean and finish the day carving down a mountain on your snowboard. (Hang on – let me quickly add that to my bucket list!)

Traditionally, we’ve always hit the mountains in the winter and stuck to the beaches during the summer months but this year that’s ALL going to change!

We’re heading to the Sierra Mountains in August which are, believe it or not, more popular during the summer than the winter!

A view of Lake Tahoe during the winter with someone’s face in the way!

How does that work, eh?

Well, all of the cabin rentals in Lake Tahoe, for example, change with the seasons and transform from winter wonderlands to summer stopovers, complete with barbecues ready to smoke that fish you caught on the crystal clear water just hours before.

Back in the day, my favourite part about snowboarding was taking my battered and bruised body (yep, I’m that good on the slopes) into the hot tub and having a beer. When I saw people jump into the freezing cold swimming pool, I thought it was only there for dares and weirdos – I didn’t even think it might be used by normal people during the  summer.

Before kids, we usually avoided California during the high season to snag cheaper plane tickets so, the rare times we were there for the summer, we’d stay and play where the sights and sounds were the opposite to England.


Surely beach life is the Life of Reilly?

It’s a bit like an American coming to England for the summer – they wouldn’t choose to go camping in the New Forest if they haven’t been to London or experienced Stonehenge before. It’s nice, but it’s not for your first trip, unlike Hull on a warm day?!! No contest!!!

Why head to the mountains during the summer?

Now Dylan’s in school we have to take holidays during the summer, or face a very public battle with the UK government. So, after our big trip in 2015 when we went to Disneyland and enjoyed beach days in Southern California, we feel ready to start looking for new experiences.

My new appreciation of rural American culture is great for Alicia, who’s really looking forward to this trip because she’ll get to go back in time to an all-American vacation that’ll remind her of going on holiday as a kid.

So, what will we be looking forward to? Well, the lakes around Tahoe, Mammoth and Yosemite are some of the most beautiful in the world.

Lake Tahoe during the summer. Photo: Erin Toomey

Travelling across the Atlantic Ocean for some ‘nice walks’ would be a snore-fest for anyone under 10 (probably 25, really) but these aren’t normal stretches of water: the shores around American lakes are filled with beach-ready families playing in the sun, while the water is packed with wake-boarders, water-skiers and swimmers.

One of our neighbours in England grew up near Sacramento in California, which is slap-bang in the middle between the Pacific Ocean and Lake Tahoe. Her family always chose the inland trip.

Erin explains: “A day at the lake feels more relaxed to me. You don’t have to worry about sharks or an undertow and, most importantly, the trees and mountains make for a beautiful backdrop to the day.”

A day at the lake is similar to a day at the beach, but with even better views! Photo: Erin Toomey

One of Alicia’s best friends, Jessica, lives in hot – but oh so cool – San Diego. She and her gorgeous family book a week off every summer to head to the mountains.

The Carlson family enjoying Mammoth Mouuntain in the summer!

They say they enjoy it just as much when the snow’s melted as when they’re wrapped up wearing gloves and goggles.

For years, I thought it was the annual Beer Festival that they drove six hours for, but there’s more to it than that, apparently!

“We love it because it is so beautiful and there are so many things to do. We love the outdoors, and it just feels like we are getting away from it all and escaping everyday life,” said Jessica.

“We are spoiled in Southern California and can go to the beaches all the time, so the mountains are a different experience for us with real weather changes, seasons, and different activities offered there that we cannot do at home.”

Jessica and her children visit Mammoth Mountain in the summer and the winter!

What about ski resorts during the summer?

The ski resorts are all open for business and have their gondolas turned on to take mountain bikers to the summits ahead of a high-octane descent.

They also have all of the food and drink that you’d want/expect after a day hiking, plus loads of cool activities for everyone: young and young at heart!

At Northstar there’s miniature golf, pottery and candle-making, plus a guided Wine Walk through the forest. While at Heavenly, you can free-fall down the mountain at 50mph on their 3,300ft zip-line or take a 4×4 tour of the Sierras before tucking into a BBQ buffet back at the lodge!

The Blue Streak at Heavenly includes a 50mph zipline!! Photo:

To get an authentic feel for your trip, you can hire a log cabin, during a winter or summer getaway. We loved having our own place – and big space – to unwind when we were there in the snow a few years ago – it’s much better than being cooped up in a hotel room.

There are cabins available for every budget, even as far as $2,000 a night lake-front estates via Luxury Retreats – just remember to book early to save yourself some money!

This is Squaw Valley, near Lake Tahoe, which was the venue of the 1990 Winter Olympics. Photo credit: Life of Reilly

We can’t wait to see a completely different side (and climate) to the places that we’ve already visited in California.

This summer, we’ll finally get to experience the might and magic of Yosemite, reach the peaks of the mountains we’ve only conquered when they were white with snow, and get that all-American experience at the lakes.

Read all about our summer trip to the Californian – with our two mini people in tow – very soon!


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