Only twice have I been tempted to use the term "hidden gem". The first time was when I visited the Gardens of the World in Thousand Oaks. The second time was when my friend Jason, a Disney lover like myself, took me to Wal Disney's Carolwood Barn in Burbank.
Walt's Barn was originally built in the backyard of his Holmby Hills home on Carolwood Drive and acted as a workshop for the Carolwood Pacific Railroad (the miniature railroad also built in his backyard). When the home was sold, Walt's daughter Diane saved the barn. In 1999 Walt's Barn opened in Griffith Park along with the 1/8 scale train tracks and Walt's Carolwood Pacific. According to the Carolwood Society website, "Walt spent many hours in the Barn not only working on his trains, but thinking about new projects and ideas. One could day that this Barn is the birthplace of Imagineering."
If you didn't know where Walt's Barn was, you wouldn't know it was there which is what earns it the legitimate title of "Hidden Gem". After you park in the dirt lot at the base of a hillside you walk up a little booth with a friendly docent that gives you a sticker and accepts donations. Immediately to the left is a miniature train track of very small scale that runs through a miniature western town. In case you hadn't figured it out, Walt was enamored with all things train.
The barn itself has been placed inside a ring of train tracks, surrounded by grass and resting comfortably under shade trees. Docents wander here and there to ask questions (including the original model for Tinker Bell!) Inside the barn you find a museum with all sorts of Disney artifacts, from posters to memorabilia to Walt's desk. Right next door you can even climb inside a real life-size train car direct from Disneyland.
If you want to spend a peaceful, Disney afternoon in Griffith Park, this is the best way to do it. Pack a nice picnic, ride Walt's 1/8 scale train, and really make a day of it.
If you're driving up the coast of California on Highway 101 we've got the perfect diversion. And it comes with pea soup!
Pea Soup Andersen's is located in the quiet hamlet of Buellton, just off the 101. If you've done any extensive traveling around California you may recognize their roadside signs with mascots Hap-Pea and Pea-Wee playfully splitting pees and announcing the number of miles to the next location. They're a welcome site for hungry road trippers.
Once you've arrived, you will not be disappointed if Americana is your jam. From the neon signs and the cardboard cut-outs you can put your face in to the pressed penny machines and the mini museum, Andersen's has it all. And that's before you've even been seated in the restaurant! Once inside you are handed a menu as a formality, though why anyone would want to order anything other than pea soup and a Monte Christo sandwich is a mystery.
Filled up on pea soup and nostalgia, it's back on the road for you! Happy and satisfied, thanks to Andersen's.
Photos from peasoupandersens.net
Imagine that you’re driving down the highway on your way from Chicago out west to California. Maybe you have the top down. Maybe you’re rapping “Going Back to Cali” into your Diet Coke. Maybe Ryan Gosling is riding shotgun and you’re making him read every “Hey Girl” meme on your Pinterest “Funnies” board. Go wherever your imagination takes you.
Now imagine that as you drive you see a big blue whale on the side of the road. Or a fifty-foot-tall spaceman holding a silver rocket. Or a row of spray-painted Cadillacs nose-down in a Texas field. No, Ryan didn’t spike your Coke. You’re not seeing things. These man-made wonders are just a few of the sites along the mother of all highways, Route 66.
Route 66 was established in 1926 and covers 2,448 miles across Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, making it one of the most epic road trips in the world. In its heyday, the Mother Road connected the main streets of countless communities across the US, boosted local economies, and provided a means for millions of Americans to experience the freedom of the open road.
Unfortunately, as was beautifully and heartbreakingly documented in the Pixar film Cars, the “Main Street of America” was bypassed in many towns in favor of the newer, more direct Interstates. By 1985 so much of the original road had been replaced by faster, flashier freeways that Route 66 was officially removed from the US Highway System. Progress had won out and many Mom and Pop establishments were forced to close their doors. But don’t think that’s where the story ends. It wasn’t just slabs of concrete that made Route 66 what it was – it was the people. The people that harnessed their ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit to create giant jack rabbits and barbed wire museums and opened their doors to welcome travelers just as they would old friends. Looking back, it’s probably a blessing that many of these unique, quirky places were passed by the Interstate because now they’re just far enough off the beaten path that they are able to be preserved for future generations of road trippers and freedom seekers without falling victim to progress.
Today Historic Route 66 is known for taking the seemingly average aspects of life and celebrating them. There is no subject too big or too small to be honored and commemorated. But we weren’t kidding when we said that road tripping on Route 66 is an epic undertaking. That’s why we’ve got your back. Whether you’re planning to visit just the sites in your own state or tackle the road in its entirety (which is epically fun), we’ve compiled 66 Kicks that highlight the best of the best so you won’t miss a single one.
Up first, Illinois.