EV Trip: L.A. Arts District to Solvang

By · June 25, 2014

Southern California is home to about one out of every 10 electric car owners in the entire nation. It also represents the biggest build-out of public EV charging, spanning a wide territory of some of the most culturally dynamic and naturally beautiful places in the world. Whether you own an EV in SoCal or rent one during a visit, an outrageously cool EV weekend getaway is fun and feasible.

EV Trips: Southern California

Source: Google Maps


1Los Angeles Downtown Arts District

Urban Radish and EV Charging

Our Southern California EV extravaganza starts in the trendy and funky Downtown Arts District, where you can get a DC quick charge (or plug into one of 12 Level 2 chargers) at the Urban Radish natural grocery.

Pop into the Urban Radish to discover an 8,000-square-foot, light-filled, organic, grass-fed, free-range artisan gourmet living museum. The purveyor of dried morels, baby romanesco, and quinoa cookies provides the first glimpse of the area’s urban hipster creativity. The neighborhood was neglected for decades. But a few years ago, the disused manufacturing spaces were transformed into a maze of cool shops and hangouts for artists, filmmakers, designers, skate punks, and EV adopters like you.

There are abundant options for caffeination, including Urban Radish, Handsome Coffee Roasters, and Stumptown Coffee. With latte in hand, peruse home furnishings at Guerilla Atelier; knick-knacks and art at Poketo; or handcrafted local clothing at Downtown Design League in the Toy Factory Lofts. Other design destinations include Hammer & Spear, Apolis, Matteo and District Millworks.

For a quick bite, consider The Daily Dose, Pizzanista, or Wurstkuche—or a more complete foodie experience at Bestia or Little Bear. Save room for dessert on the patio at The Pie Hole.

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2Leo Carrillo State Beach

Leo Carrillo State Beach and EV Charging

It’s time to head out of town. The on-ramp to I-10 is less than a mile from Urban Radish. Head west for 15 miles, and you’ll hit California’s Highway 1 (a.k..a Pacific Coast Highway) and its famous coastline. The entire ride from downtown LA to Leo Carillo State Park is 45 miles, well within range of nearly any electric car.

The two Level 2 chargers at the Visitors Center in the Day Use parking lot are free, although there is a $12 fee to enter the parking lot. That’s a modest price to pay for access to one of California’s most beautiful beaches. It has served as a location for photos shoots and movies, including Inception, The Usual Suspects, and the opening of the first scene of The Rockford Files, the popular 1970s television show.

More importantly, it offers 1.5 miles of beach for swimming, surfing and exploring tide pools, coastal caves, and reefs. Take a stroll along the water to find sea stars, mussel beds, and sea anemone. The 2,500-acre park also offers hiking and a shady campground. (If you intend to camp there, make a reservation way ahead of time.) There’s a small store and token-operated showers.

If you prefer bed-and-breakfast luxury over sand between your toes, an alternative EV stop to consider is Topanga Canyon, where you’ll find the Tuscali Mountain Inn. It’s a gorgeous Italian-style villa that offers a relaxing romantic getaway, and free EV charging to guests. During the 1960s, Topanga Canyon was a magnet for many famous artists and musicians.

Charging opportunities are also available 12 miles away, back along Highway 1 in Malibu.

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3Camarillo Premium Outlet

Camarillo Premium Outlet and EV Charging

After unplugging at Leo Carrillo, have no fear about EV range: there are two DC quick chargers, and three Level 2 spots, at the Camarillo Premium Outlet mall, less than 20 miles away. (The QC is in front of the Nike store, near the intersection of Hughes Drive and Camarillo Center Drive.)

Camarillo features discount savings at 160 designer stores, including Armani, Barneys New York, Coach, Kenneth Cole, Neiman Marcus Last Call, Polo Ralph Lauren, and Tommy Hilfiger. There are nearly 40 shoe stores.

This pit stop is optional for those wanting to drive directly (about 60 miles) from the Leo Carrillo beach to Santa Barbara, our next stop. But keep the Camarillo mall in mind on the return trip to Los Angeles.

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4Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara and EV Charging

Shot of Santa Barbara Mission from Flickr/Creative Commons

Santa Barbara has been described as the “American Rivera.” Its great weather, downtown waterfront and Spanish architecture make it a major tourist destination. There are also dozens of EV locations, including at least four at local hotels. Consider staying (and charging overnight) at the charming upscale Canary Hotel or Brisas Del Mar—or the highly ranked Best Western Pepper Tree Inn or Ramada Limited.

Santa Barbara abounds with historic sites, museums, festivals, restaurants, and nightspots. Check out the must-see Spanish architecture at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, which offers breath-taking views from the clock tower, and Mission Santa Barbara, a national historic landmark that remains an active place of worship. Enjoy a stroll along Shoreline Park, a delightful stretch along the coast.

With its local farms, ranches and wineries, Santa Barbara is also a culinary mecca. Hot 2014 Santa Barbara restaurants listed by Zagat include Blue Tavern at Hotel Indigo, The Lark at the Funk Zone complex, The Hungry Cat, or the Santa Barbara Public Market, a hub for local food artisans.

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5The Danish Village of Solvang

The Danish Village of Solvang and EV Charging

If you’re up for more touring, consider the 40-mile drive northwest to Solvang, California. The recommended route, to stay on 101 and drive along the coast through Goleta, provides ocean views and cool climate. (There’s a big change in elevation if you drive through the hills by Cachuma Lake to Solvang.)

For LEAF drivers, there’s a DC quick charger along the way at Nissan Goleta, less than five minutes off Highway 101. (Tesla drivers have access to chargers at Bacara Resort and Spa in Goleta.)

If you already topped up overnight in Santa Barbara, you’ll be fine for the 35 miles to Solvang, where you’ll discover a fascinating small town founded by Danish pioneers in 1911. Solvang retains its Danish character today. It is home to a population of 5,000 people, and four Level 2 chargers.

Solvang and its Danish architecture attract more than a million visitors a year. It’s a little bit touristy but totally enjoyable. Check out the town’s four Danish-style windmills, half-timbered houses, the Danish rural church, and the Round Tower—as well as Danish music and folk dancing. For a bite, try The Solvang Bakery, Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery, Paula’s Pancake House, or one of the city’s many restaurants and merchants offering a taste of Denmark.

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Back to Los Angeles

The route for the 130-mile return trip to Los Angeles depends on the range limitations of your electric car. If you have the pleasure of driving a Tesla Model S, there’s a Supercharger just six miles away in the adjacent town of Buellton. A refueling stop there opens up the possibility of touring Santa Barbara wine country.

EV drivers in other battery-powered cars can simply double back to DC quick chargers at Pacific View Mall in Ventura, the outlet mall in Camarillo, or the Hines Warner Center in Woodland Hills. If your car doesn’t have a quick-charge port, you might want to leave from Santa Barbara, which is 95 miles from Los Angeles—rather than taking the full 130-mile trip from Solvang in one stretch. Between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, there are nearly 100 Level 2 charging stations along 101 where you can top up over a long lunch for the return to the city of angels.

New to EVs? Start here

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  3. Buying Your First Home EV Charger
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