The best things to do in Malibu, California! Discover the most picturesque beaches, celebrity hot spots, and natural hidden gems.
Last updated: March 13th, 2023
When you want to escape the hustle and noise of Los Angeles, head up the Pacific Coast Highway to explore the spectacular cliffside shoreline of Malibu, California.
It’s hard to believe this laid-back coastal town is only 40 minutes away from the big city lights of LA.
Malibu, CA is most famous for being home to celebrities and the best surfing spots.
It’s an exclusive town with a lot of privacy hedges and million-dollar homes looking out over the Pacific Ocean.
Because of this, I always put a little extra effort into looking red-carpet-ready in case I run into someone famous at the supermarket or on the beach.
And in addition to the 21 miles of scenic coastal beauty, the climate is consistently comfortable.
Malibu has an average of 60-75 Fareinheight (mostly) year-round, making it the perfect place for constant beach time.
So grab your camera and sunglasses, these are the best things to do in Malibu, whether you’re visiting for the first time or you’re a local.
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Table of Contents
Head to a Malibu Beach
Point Dume State Beach
Point Dume State Beach is a panoramic dream with cliffs, rocky coves, tide pools, and large sandy areas. It’s located at the northern point of Santa Monica Bay.
Point Dume spans across a state beach and preserve.
The preserve features aquatic life living along the Pacific Coast, which makes it an optimal place for whale watching and spotting sea lions.
On a clear day, you may even see Catalina Island in the distance, Santa Monica Bay, and the Santa Monica Mountains.
Local tip: If you’re visiting between December and mid-April, be sure to hike up to one of the Malibu cliffsides to watch for the California gray whales during their migration season.
You’ll find Westward Beach nestled alongside Point Dume State Beach and Zuma Beach. From Westward Beach, you can walk to the scenic Pirates Cove.
When the sun is at its highest point and you need a cold drink, I recommend heading over to The Sunset for an authentic Westward Beach lunch.
Zuma Beach is one of the largest (1.8 miles) and most popular beaches in Los Angeles County that’s known for having a long, wide beach with golden sand and excellent surf.
At Zuma Beach, you’ll find 105 acres of classic California beach with volleyball nets, restrooms, and facilities for showering and changing. This is a dream spot for beach lovers.
Additionally, there are tons of food vendors along Zuma Beach and a whopping 2,000 parking spots.
While Zuma Beach is a good place for surfing and windsurfing, keep in mind that the surf at Zuma Beach is turbulent, and there are riptides.
Malibu Lagoon State Beach
Bird watchers won’t want to miss a visit to Malibu Lagoon State Beach, which has 42 acres of wetlands and a beach area that draws over 200 species of native and migrating birds.
The lagoon sits at the estuary between Malibu Creek and the Pacific Ocean. During the summer, you can hike around the lagoon.
Nicholas Canyon Beach
If you’re looking for “Point Zero,” as local surfers call it, head out to Nicholas Canyon Beach.
This beach is less crowded and perfect for adventure-seekers looking to surf, scuba dive, bodyboard, and windsurf.
Local tip: Download the “Our Malibu Beaches” app for planning Malibu beach excursions. You’ll find insider info, details for parking, tips for finding secret stairways, and a Malibu map for navigating your way around all of the nooks.
Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach
Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach is made of a few smaller pocket beaches along the west end of Malibu.
You’ll find this beach along the Pacific Coast Highway. It’s extra peaceful during the off-season in winter.
El Pescador State Beach
El Sol Beach is a scenic gem that’s only accessible by walking from El Pescador or Nicholas Canyon Beach.
As part of the Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach, you’ll find El Pescador Beach just west along the Pacific Coast Highway from El Matador.
If you’re determined to catch waves at the popular Surfrider Beach, get there early. With its well-known name, it’s a busy destination for many.
The swimming areas at Surfrider Beach are also top-notch, but limited and popular.
El Matador Beach
Get ready to be in awe of the caves, sea stacks, and arches that make this area a very popular Malibu spot to take photos.
El Matador Beach is a popular Malibu beach and one of the best places to watch the sunset in town.
If you’re looking for fun things to do in Malibu, I recommend pulling on a sweatshirt, picking up a bottle of wine or a couple of beers, then heading down to El Matador Beach to watch the sunset.
County Line Beach
County Line Beach is located right next to Leo Carrillo State Park beach in Ventura County.
It’s on the opposite side of Malibu as Pacific Palisades, so if you’re coming from LA, it’s about an hour’s drive.
It’s a good beach for surfing, scuba diving, and surf fishing, and County Line is generally less crowded than the beaches closer to LA.
Plus, across the street, you’ll find the popular Neptune’s Net restaurant.
There aren’t a ton of other activities to do at County Line Beach besides sunbathing and eating at the restaurant (which, who doesn’t like to eat?!).
However, it’s a beautiful place to watch the sunset and an ideal beach option if you’re looking for fewer crowds.
Paradise Cove Beach
With a name like Paradise Cove Beach, it’s no surprise that you can often spot the cove’s pier in Hollywood films, commercials, and TV shows.
Even Marilyn Monroe once casually posed for photos at the dreamy cove.
Ask the Paradise Cove Café about their picnic packages for a unique lunch on the sand.
Then take a post-lunch walk along the shore, east toward Escondido Beach or west toward Point Dume State Beach and Preserve.
Walking along the beach, you’ll get to see the priciest houses in Malibu. These 55 million-dollar houses are part of an exclusive neighborhood called Paradise Cove Bluffs.
Also known as “Billionaires Beach,” Carbon Beach is lined with beach-front mansions that nearly block this beach from public access.
It’s the perfect place to daydream about which Malibu mansion you would live in.
Do keep in mind that you’ll have to visit during low tide because the beach is completely underwater during high tide.
Still looking for more beach options? Read our guide to the best beaches in Malibu.
Malibu Creek State Park
Don’t miss the setting of numerous Hollywood films, including Planet of the Apes and M*A*S*H at Malibu Creek State Park.
This is where you can hike through 8,000 acres of the Santa Monica Mountains.
Malibu Creek State Park was owned by 20th Century Fox Studios from 1946 to 1974 when the State of California purchased the land.
Now the park is open to the public with lots of fun things to do.
Adrenaline-seekers looking for things to do in Malibu, CA can rock climb and mountain bike at Malibu Creek State Park.
The Santa Monica Mountains’ rock walls and steep scenic trails will kick your butt.
If you like things a little calmer, spend the afternoon kayaking around Century Lake or hang out with the horses at Reagan Ranch (yes, Reagan as in Ronald Reagan).
Malibu Creek State Park and the Santa Monica Mountains as a whole also offer a diverse range of fauna and flora that’s ideal for bird watchers.
And Malibu Creek State Park has five miles of nearly flat paths that are perfect for a nice, easy stroll with the whole family.
Point Mugu State Park
Maybe you want to hike but not miss out on beach time in Malibu. Let me introduce you to Point Mugu State Park.
Point Mugu State Park has 70 miles of hiking trails in the Santa Monica Mountains and five miles of sandy beach.
Unfortunately, dogs aren’t allowed on hiking trails, but they are allowed on the beach! Mugu’s Sycamore Cove Beach is the best Malibu dog beach.
Many Malibu beaches have complicated rules about where dogs are allowed on the beach. At Sycamore Cove Beach, they just have to be on a leash.
You can also plan to camp at Point Mugu State Park if you’re looking for a more rugged Malibu experience.
Looking for more of my favorite hikes in the area? Read our guide to the best Malibu hikes.
Leo Carrillo State Park
Named after actor and conservationist Leo Carillo, this park is best for exploring tidepools, coastal caves, and underwater marine life among the reefs.
For those who prefer to keep their feet firmly on the ground, check out the 5.1-mile Leo Carillio Beach trail.
It’s also a good starting point for the 7.2-mile Nicholas Flats out-and-back hike, known for its ocean views.
And if you’re looking for things to do with kids in Malibu, visit Leo Carrillo State Park at low tide. There will be lots of tide pools active with starfish and sea anemia.
Note that dogs are allowed at Leo Carrillo State Park on a leash and north of lifeguard station 3, but only in the designated zones. Keep a lookout for signs along the beach.
Boat Cruise With Malibu Coastal Adventures
If you prefer to be out on the water, call Captain Dave! Or rather, call his local tour company, Malibu Coastal Adventures.
Boat cruises are perfect for a romantic date.
You can lean into your partner and watch the dolphins swim alongside the boat or dip into the water and explore the sea caves from a paddleboard.
Malibu Coastal Adventures offers lots of other fun activities too, such as surfing lessons and whale watching adventures.
Or, if you’re interested in other things to do in Malibu for couples, plan a spa day or pack a romantic beach picnic with a bottle of wine from a local vineyard.
Malibu Country Mart
After a long day of hiking and surfing, meet up with the gals at the best seaside shopping destination in Southern California, the Malibu Country Mart.
When it comes to Malibu shopping, the city of Malibu has your back.
The Malibu Country Mart shopping consortium is adjacent to the Malibu Civic Center, where you’ll also find a farmers market on Sundays.
Malibu Country Mart is a prime destination for upscale shopping, dining, celebrity spotting, and spa life.
Treat yourself to an Acai bowl at SunLife Organics and a new “California-chic” outfit from M. Fredric or Cynthia Rowley.
Once you’re feeling your best, hit up the Malibu Car Wash around the corner from the Malibu Country Mart.
This is a spot where you might rub elbows with a local celebrity giving their Ferrari the royal treatment.
Walk Around Malibu Village
Not to distract from the beach, but if the Country Mart didn’t satisfy your shopping sweet tooth, walk over to Malibu Village.
The Villiage is another shopping mall, which happens to be just across the street from the Country Mart.
Here, you can rebuild your wardrobe with unique statement pieces from adorable boutiques.
Malibu Bluffs Park
Maybe you’re traveling with kids and desperate for a playground where the munchkins can run freely.
Malibu Bluffs Park is the perfect place for them to blow off some steam without getting all sandy at the beach.
Malibu Bluffs Park is only a three-minute drive from the Malibu Country Mart and has a gorgeous view of the Pacific Ocean.
If you’re visiting Malibu on a budget, I suggest grabbing sandwich materials at the market and taking advantage of one of the park picnic tables.
While you’re there, check out the ocean-friendly garden that demonstrates how to beautify your garden with wildlife in mind.
And if you’re looking for somewhere to host a family reunion, Malibu Bluffs Park has a community center that can be reserved for parties and weddings.
There’s an indoor space, outdoor picnic tables, and 72 parking spots.
Malibu Pier & Malibu Farm Cafe
Built in 1905, the Malibu Pier is the most recognizable landmark in all of Malibu, California.
It would be a shame to visit Malibu and not see the iconic Malibu Pier. You’ve likely seen its double white towers and long wooden pier in famous Hollywood films.
Trust me when I tell you to stock up on Malibu Farm hot sauce while you’re there.
Their Habanero Mango and Serrano Apple hot sauces are drool-worthy. Luckily, if you forget to pick some up or run out at home, Malibu Farm ships worldwide as well.
The pier is also such a communal Malibu spot that it’s oddly a favorite for both fishermen and celebrities. To fish, rent a rod and grab your tackle at the Ranch at the Pier store.
The Malibu Pier is also a great place to visit if you’re looking for things to do in Malibu for your birthday.
Snap iconic Instagram pictures with friends, treat yourself to something from the artisan shops, and finish the day with birthday drinks and a Malibu seafood dinner.
Local tip: There are a lot of beautiful views to enjoy while dining near the ocean but the breeze can get chilly, so wear layers and bring a jacket.
Malibu Hindu Temple
Everyone wants to go to Malibu beach, but did you know that Malibu is also home to a Hindu Temple? If you’re looking for an unusual thing to do in Malibu, visit this beautiful temple.
Built in 1981, this gleaming Hindu temple stands out against the dark green backdrop of the Santa Monica Mountains.
It remains one of the largest Hindu temples in the Western Hemisphere. How’s that for uniqueness? And the multi-tiered tower that marks the entrance is a sight to behold.
As with many destinations in Malibu, California, you can see the temple in a couple of films and TV shows, such as The Big Bang Theory. Britney Spears even had her baby baptized there in 2006.
The Malibu Hindu Temple is currently only open on the weekends, so plan accordingly.
If you’re really on top of your planning, you can respectfully visit one of the services, which are held every Saturday and Sunday.
The Getty Villa is a work of art unto itself and is the “little sister” to the world-famous Getty Center in Los Angeles.
Technically, the Getty Villa is located in Pacific Palisades (next to Malibu), but just barely.
Explore ancient art exhibits, the stunning architecture of the Getty Villa, and the four gardens that blend Roman architecture and open-air spaces.
Admission to the Getty Villa is free, but parking will cost about $20.
You can also sign up for the 40-minute Getty Villa garden tour that takes you through a unique and very fragrant herb garden.
In the garden, you’ll find a variety of fruit trees, including pomegranate, apricot, fig, and pear trees, as well as familiar herbs such as mint, basil, thyme, and sage.
Local tip: If you are looking for unique things to do in Malibu, make a reservation for “Tea by the Sea” at the Getty Villa. The price is a bit steep at $44 per person, but the delicious tea party and a meal inspired by the herbs, vegetables, and fruits that grow in the villa’s garden just steps away make it a very cool experience.
Scuba Diving With Malibu Divers
If you’re looking for a fun Malibu coastal adventure, sign up for a scuba diving course. Malibu Divers has scuba diving courses available for every level.
Book ahead of time so you can do the online knowledge training at home. Then you’ll be ready to dive into the pool when you arrive.
The classes begin in enclosed swimming pools before moving to open waters.
Better yet, if you really want to make the most of your time in Malibu, find somewhere near your home and start your diving training early.
That way, when you arrive in Malibu, you’ll be able to fully enjoy the kelp beds that are close to the shore for beginner divers.
Dolphins are also often spotted along the Malibu coast, and you might just be lucky enough to see them in the water.
After too many days sunbathing on the beach, you’ll need a good hike to get the blood flowing.
My recommendation? Hike to the top of Sandstone Peak, where you can see all across Malibu, California, and even the Channel Islands and Santa Cruz Island from the top.
This is a three-mile moderate out-and-back hike that’s dog-friendly.
However, there’s no shade, so be sure to wear a sun hat and sunscreen. Take snacks and plenty of water for your furry friend too.
If you’re looking for more dog-friendly things to do in Malibu, take a hike in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Unlike most of the Malibu beaches, dogs are allowed on Solstice Canyon trails as long as they’re on a leash.
Solstice Canyon sits inside the picturesque Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and offers several options for hikers at all different fitness levels.
Plus, Solstice Canyon is also a great spot for avid bird watchers.
There are some beautiful hiking trails at Solstice Canyon, including my favorite, the 3.2-mile Solstice Canyon Loop.
This trail takes you past a waterfall (although a very small one) and the oldest existing stone building in Solstice Canyon and Malibu.
In 2007, fires in the Santa Monica Mountains devastated Solstice Canyon, but the wildlife is recovering.
Along the Solstice Canyon trails, look out for alligator lizards, fence lizards, acorn woodpeckers, and maybe even a red-tailed hawk.
Another hiking option is the 3.7-mile Escondido Falls Trail. This is a fun hiking trail that takes you along shaded paths and then to a waterfall.
Escondido Falls is the tallest waterfall in the Santa Monica Mountains, measuring 150 feet high. Just note that in late summer it’s sometimes dry.
In general, winter is the best time to visit Malibu if your aim is to see things like Escondido Falls, Malibu Creek, or the wetlands at Malibu Lagoon State Park.
When you first head out on the Escondido Falls Trail, you’ll notice that it weaves through residential areas.
Don’t worry, this is part of the hike. Follow the map and you’ll soon arrive in the forest.
Keep in mind that while it’s tempting to wear shorts to Escondido Falls, I like to wear long pants for extra protection as I scale the boulders to reach the waterfall.
And of course, I wear my swimsuit underneath my clothes to take a dip. Standing under Escondido Falls feels like a dream come true after a sweaty hike.
Adamson House Museum & Malibu Lagoon Museum
The Adamson House is a gorgeous 1929 Spanish Colonial residence, estate, and garden area that’s located along the Pacific Coast within Malibu Lagoon State Beach Park.
Taking a tour of the Adamson House Museum is a great way to learn more about the history of this unique area of California and to get a close-up look at this gorgeous estate.
The interior of the Adamson House still has most of its original furnishings and tile work from the 1930s.
I highly recommend visiting this Malibu attraction during the holidays when you can check out the Adamson House and Pier decked out in vintage-style holiday décor.
The Adamson House even has holiday tours led by docents with live holiday music and refreshments.
Local tip: Does the forecast call for rain? Don’t waste time in your hotel room. Visiting the Adamson House and Malibu Lagoon Museum or the Getty Villa are my favorite things to do in Malibu when it rains. Then, once the weather clears up, you can head to the beach.
If you’re in Malibu during the California whale migration from February to April, book a three-hour Whale Watching Expedition. This is one of those Malibu tours that you can’t miss.
Every year, whales travel all the way from Mexico to Alaska.
The tour begins at Point Mugu and makes its way to the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (an area of ocean near the Channel Islands).
Sea Lions at Point Dume
For more animal-watching, head to Point Dume State Beach. To the south of Point Dume Beach and near the Point Dume cliffs, jagged rocks jut up from the water.
Here, you’ll find Sea Lions sunbathing on the rocks and diving into the water.
If you’re at Point Dume State Beach, you’ll likely notice their heads popping up as they hunt for fish not far off the shore.
Sometimes you might even see the larger males battle it out for the best rocks to lounge on.
Neptune’s Net & Malibu Seafood
Neptune’s Net is a local seafood dive across the Pacific Coast Highway from County Line Beach.
Neptune’s Net was first opened in 1956 by NASA Aerodynamicist Eastman Jacobs, and they’ve been serving up fresh seafood ever since.
Just be advised that you can’t make reservations ahead of time here. Tables are first come, first served, so it’s best to show up early before the dinner rush.
Malibu Seafood cafe and fish market opened in 1972. It’s run by commercial fishermen who joke that “the reason we don’t serve breakfast is we’re out catching lunch.”
Nobu is the number one place to get Japanese fusion food in Malibu. It’s delicious, and as expected in Malibu, the views are gorgeous.
Show up as soon as they open.
You can make reservations by calling (the online reservation button doesn’t work), but they’re always so busy, you should plan to arrive early to claim your spot.
Circle X Ranch
If you’re a secret waterfall lover like me, I recommend taking the 2.7-mile trail to the Grotto. The footing isn’t great, so be ready for a little rock scramble and bouldering.
Local tip: the waterfall is best in the spring before the summer dries everything out.
What better way to see the Southern California Coast than from the air? Book a Tandem Paragliding Flight with a local paraglider.
They’ll handle the cables and steer. All you have to do is sit back and try not to catch bugs in your mouth while taking in the views.
Rides take off from and return to Carbon Beach and you can choose between a non-motorized flight or a motorized flight.
Either way, you’ll float high above the ocean and Santa Monica Mountains. This is no doubt one of the most fun things you can do in Malibu, California.
Learn How to Surf or Standup Paddleboard
If you’re looking for a fun but challenging water activity, one of the best things to do in Malibu is to take surf lessons.
Looking for a more chill way to experience the Pacific Ocean? Stand-up paddle boarding, otherwise known as SUP, is a fun sport to try out.
It’s also one of the best ways to experience the tranquility of the ocean and even see dolphins, whales, or seals up close.
There are some basics you should read up on, but once you master standing up on your board, you’ll be ready to start exploring.
Malibu wineries are hidden gems, tucked into the Santa Monica Mountains.
Trancas Country Market
Trancas Country Market is on the west end of Malibu along the Pacific Coast Highway and near El Matador State Beach.
Here, you’ll find an adorable vintage grocery store, a surf and skate shop, and a couple of boutiques.
Stop by the postal annex to send beachy postcards, visit the hairdresser for those split ends, and satisfy your sweet tooth at the candy shop.
Malibu Horseback Riding
Life doesn’t get much better than trail riding in the Santa Monica Mountains with ocean views and a beachy breeze in your hair.
Booking a trail ride in Malibu is the perfect opportunity to make those childhood horse-crazed dreams come true.
Plus, horseback riding tours are one of those simple and fun things to do in Malibu that often get overlooked.
And if you’re tying the knot soon, how cute would horseback engagement pictures be?
Start your Pepperdine University visit with a campus tour to get a lay of the land (and learn where to find the best tater tots in Malibu).
Spend the rest of your day soaking up the sun at a nearby beach.
If you’re looking for things to do in Malibu besides the beach, hike into the Santa Monica Mountains to see the cross.
Another option is to plan to visit during one of the free family art days.
Otherwise, when I want a laid-back family-friendly environment, I go to the Malibu Cafe near campus.
This Malibu Cafe location is about 20 minutes from campus, heading into the beautiful Santa Monica Mountains.
Or ditch the rest and lose your voice cheering at a Waves game. Pepperdine ranked second in the 2022 West Coast Conference (WCC).
Local tip: If you can, plan your trip in conjunction with the Malibu Film Festival, which is celebrating its 23rd year in 2023.
Lisa Smith Wengler Center for the Arts
There are tons of things to do in Malibu at night, including events at Pepperdine University! For a classy evening, I like to dress up for a concert at the arts center.
The Lisa Smith Wengler Center for the Arts hosts over 250 events per year.
As part of Pepperdine, you’ll see diverse performances from touring artists to student productions. And the events range from theater shows to jazz concerts to symphony nights.
Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art
Anyone on the hunt for more unique and free things to do in Malibu can’t miss the Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art.
Dedicated in September 1992, the museum is part of Pepperdine campus, but open to the public.
The museum holds exhibitions of internationally recognized artists, senior art students, and works from the Weisman collection.
Their main focus is on Californian artists, which creates a special connection between the school and the community.
Walk Around the Historic Campus
After the G.I. bill was passed in 1944, Pepperdine was overflowing with students. Unable to expand in Los Angeles, they opened their Malibu campus in 1972.
Whether or not you’re religious, the stained glass of the Stauffer Chapel is extraordinary.
Visit Holiday Road During the Holidays
If you’re visiting the Los Angeles area during the holidays, Holiday Road is the best place to be on a dark winter evening.
Gather a group of loved ones and walk through the light displays with a warm cup of cider in hand.
From November 25th to December 27th, Holiday Road at King Gillette Ranch transforms into a winter wonderland complete with Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, elves, and LA’s best food trucks.
It’s ADA-accessible and fit for the whole family.
The entrance comes at a price, though. I recommend purchasing tickets online during the pre-sale when they’re a little bit cheaper (starting at $25).
Day Trip to Catalina Island
Catalina Island is just off the coast of Malibu–you can see it from Point Dume. To visit, book a round-trip ferry from Long Beach or San Pedro to the main island town of Avalon.
It’s a 50-min boat ride or, if you’re ready to splurge on a special weekend getaway or honeymoon, you can take a helicopter, which is only 15 minutes.
Once on the island, the brightly colored town of Avalon is reminiscent of Italy’s Cinque Terre. There are so many things to do on the island that you might want to stay the night.
Road Trip the Pacific Coast Highway
Situated along the Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu is the perfect starting point or addition to coastal road trips.
Los Angeles is Malibu’s neighbor to the east and Santa Barbara is about 1.5 hours west.
The nice thing about road-tripping on the coast is that you get to enjoy so many serene views the whole way.
I always enhance a California road trip by taking time to pause at beaches, restaurants, and boutiques.
Local tip: If you’re trying to save money, look for slightly cheaper hotels out of town. Check places like Pacific Palisades or San Fernando Valley.
And just like that, you now have 41 things to do in the Malibu area!
If you’re new to the city and still feeling unsure where to begin (#toomuchfun), there’s always the option to take a tour with a local.
The Wine, Food, and Beach Tour is a good introduction to the city.
From downtown Malibu, you’ll drink wine and eat good food while cruising the area.
The tour guide will point out the best hangout spots and celebrity houses, and you’ll even get to visit a private beach.
Keep in mind that this tour runs on beach time: it says it takes about five hours but usually goes a little longer.
If you’re visiting Malibu for the weekend and trying to figure out how to do a little bit of everything, this is one of the best ways to spend a day in Malibu.
However you decide to experience the city, it’ll be a trip to remember!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rosie Queen is a travel blogger and creative writer who grew up on the South Side of Chicago. Since moving to Huntington Beach in 2019, she has been exploring every nook of Southern California and beyond with her adventure-seeking husband and adorable Golden Doodle, Indy. She’s obsessed with her dogs, color guard/marching band, national parks, and road trips.
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