The vacation from Heaven (+the drive from Hell)

Good Morning guys! So, if you’re following me on Instagram, you know we headed to Lake Tahoe, CA to celebrate the holidays with some of my extended family and IT WAS GORGEOUS. My aunt and uncle are absolutely wonderful, and we were so grateful to be able to join them halfway through their vacation. Flights across the country can be expensive, especially around the holidays, and since I went home for Thanksgiving, flying back for Christmas wasn’t in the cards.

One giant perk of my company is that they shut down between Christmas and New Year’s and we all receive paid vacation (that doesn’t come out of our limited PTO days), so I had an entire week off to make the trip. Hallelujah!

WARNING: This post is long & picture heavy. But, if you’re planning on visiting Mammoth or Tahoe – it might be worth the whole read 🙂

We left Orange County on Christmas Eve, and our first stop was Mammoth Lakes, CA. Where, as I mentioned previously, we learned how to put chains on the car. Around 11:30pm we had to stop in Bishop, CA and snag some from the only gas station still open. If you ever have to learn – use a YouTube video and not the instructions in the box. YouTube was significantly more helpful.

Anyway, we finally made it to our first hotel – Holiday Haus  – around 1:30am on Christmas Day. You know its old school when the front office is closed and they leave your room key (actual key) in an envelope with your name and “late check in” taped to a bulletin board.

(Sidenote – when traveling we often use the Hotel Tonight app to snag good last minute deals on motel/hotel rooms)

We skiied Christmas Day at Mammoth, and while it is pricey (about $150 for a single day lift pass), they do offer half day options and discounted tickets for multiple days. The snow was awesome, and there are a ton of different runs to check out. I’m hoping to head back up there in the next 6 weeks or so for the weekend.

That evening we stayed at Sierra Lodge (another low-key old school spot) since Holiday Haus was booked (this was a very go with the flow trip). It was quaint, with covered parking (yes!) and they had a living room area with tea and coffee, a fireplace and a Christmas tree that I loved. I curled up there to Facetime my family after skiing. My only complaint was that their outdoor hot tub was the temperature of a lukewarm bathtub, but hey, you can’t win them all.

For Christmas dinner we ate at Morrison’s. It was convenient (a walk across the street from Sierra Lodge), open and pretty tasty, so it met my qualifications 🙂

If you’re ever in Mammoth, Stellar Brew was a placed we stopped in both days. Its a local coffee shop & breakfast spot that sells some awesome hats & sweatshirts from a local artist (who happens to be an Olympian Marathoner (2012 & 2016) that trains and lives in Mammoth and represents Saudi Arabia – pretty cool). Staff was friendly, prices were reasonable and they had some quick breakfast options.

On the 26th we also popped in Wave Rave – a ski/board shop recommended to us by the guy working at the Santa Monica Patagonia (haha), and we had brunch at Base Camp Cafe (very yummy).


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On our way from Mammoth to Tahoe, we stopped in Reno, NV for about 3 hours. The perfect amount of time to hit the Patagonia Outlet store, watch the sunset over the Truckee River, and enjoy a delicious dinner at Wild River Grille before making the final 50 minute drive to North Lake Tahoe. I also managed to break my Ray Bans, but Uncle Bob came to the rescue and fixed them!

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We arrived in North Lake Tahoe the evening of December 26th, and were happy to be greeted with a houseful of people, food, wine and the cutest pup. I am also proud to say I was the Cards Against Humanity champion (and I have never seen my aunt laugh that hard!) 🙂

Tuesday morning I woke up to the most gorgeous sunrise over the lake. (The photo below was taken from my bed – no joke!) After everyone woke up & had breakfast we decided to snowshoe at Mt. Rose since they had gotten a ton of snow. It was my first time snowshoeing & I loved it.

That evening we headed to Fifty Fifty Brewing in Truckee for dinner with the whole crew (8 adults & one baby) – everyone seemed to enjoy their food and the atmosphere was relaxed and fun (would recommend).

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I upgraded my ski jacket this year and finally decided on the Patagonia Snowbelle – I love that the inside zips out so I can wear the shell & the liner together, the shell alone, or the liner alone (as I am above), and the liner is reversible.

The view below is Lake Tahoe from our snowshoe spot at Mt. Rose.
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Per my cousin’s recommendation, we all headed out to ski at Mt. Rose on Wednesday. We had spring skiing weather in the end of December (AMAZING) and I only needed to wear my pullover and puffy vest.

My cousin’s husband is an ex-college skier and was instructor at Whistler (and other places), so he helped give us some tips & things to work on, which were super helpful!

We didn’t eat out every night while in Tahoe, instead opting to cook since we were staying in a gorgeous AirBnB. I was in charge of dinner Wednesday night, and I made healthy baked chicken fajitas for the group (which were a hit!). If you’re interested in the recipe let me know!

Thursday morning we set out to explore Tahoe City. The first few photos below are taken from the dock of the house, and the next handful from downtown. We really couldn’t have asked for better weather while we were there. So much sunshine!

In Tahoe City we ate at Tahoe City Sushi & The Fat Cat – both of which were pretty good. We wanted to go to Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co. but the wait was unreal. (and I was starving!) Everyone in Tahoe loves dogs (same!), so we actually met multiple shop dogs when stopping in all the stores. One dog named Frank was curled up in his own leather chair with his name on it when you walked into the store, and a goldendoodle puppy named Ollie was beyond excited to greet us in a local jewelry store.

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Friday morning we headed to breakfast with my uncle at his local spot, the Old Post Officebefore heading to Donner Ski Ranch for the day. While the views from Donner were gorgeous, the skiing was pretty bad. The two reasons we went were (1)  a friend’s mom used to work there (back in the day) and spoke highly of it and (2) a half day pass was only $54. Well, we quickly learned that you get what you pay for, and will not be returning. In Donner’s defense – some of the back side lifts weren’t open and those appeared to be the best, BUT there are so many better places to ski in the Tahoe area. I wouldn’t bother with Donner.

The drive up there was beautiful though, and we had a great view of Donner Lake. After we finished skiing we ended up driving down along the lake as well.

We spent the evening in Truckee watching the Michigan game with my Aunt & Uncle in Mellow Fellow – a bar that everyone but me had been to before and loved. It had a great vibe, the bartenders were awesome (and cut us a killer deal since we were there forever) and I actually ran into an old classmate from an Economics class in 2012 who was there with some family.

I still can’t get over how crazy it was – to run into an old friend/classmate 2000+ miles away from the school, in a small bar in a mountain town. Nuts!

We finished off our evening with dinner at Casa Baeza, a family owned Mexican restaurant in Truckee. It was okay, not everyone’s favorite (if you’re looking for Mexican food in Truckee haha).

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Saturday morning we were up and out of Truckee nice and early to begin the journey back to Orange County. We stopped in Sacramento because we’d never been there and I wanted to see the capitol building (gorgeous by the way – if you’re into cool old buildings like me!) We walked around for a bit and found something to eat (I don’t remember where) before hopping on the road for the 6ish hour drive back to Newport.

The drive started off great, no traffic or major issues. but it ended up being quite the fiasco. If you’ve driven in Southern California you know how much of a clusterf*** it can be. Long story short, because of the rain (+ snow) that fell, many roads & highways were flooded or closed. The grapevine pass was completely closed when we tried to go over, so we sat in stopped traffic for a while before police escorted us all off the highway and we got back on going north. Over the course of a few hours, we tried multiple different highways/ roads, but all were flooded (which we found out after driving 5 miles on it and having to turn around), or closed. It was not fun (to say the least), but finally, around 10:30 pm (we were supposed to arrive home at 8:30pm) we got on a route out of Bakersfield to head home. We did end up having to drive through serious fog, freezing rain and snow, but FINALLY made it home at 3:30 am on New Years Eve/Day.

Our 6 hour drive from Sacramento turned into about 14 hours, but hey, we survived and had an amazing vacation, so its all good.


If you actually read this crazy long post then I applaud you. Thanks for stopping by Cassidy Lou!

xo, Maddy

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  • Reply Nikki

    What a fun trip!! It looks fantastic! Super jealous that you get paid vacation between Christmas and New Year’s. That is so nice for people that travel to see family (or who just want to travel). These pictures are amazing!! Sorry your drive back was so bad. We had one of those (actually driving in California – from Oregon to San Fran) and it was like the longest car ride of my entire life.


    January 17, 2017 at 7:07 pm
    • Reply madelinewp

      It is super nice and a huge perk for sure!

      January 20, 2017 at 5:06 pm

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