California is a state in the United States of America unlike any other. Not only is the north and south different in terms of weather, landscape, and culture, but the whole state of California can take weeks or months to explore in all its entirety. Beyond the major urban centers of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego, the state is freckled with deserts, farms, beaches, vineyards, mountains, and more. Whether you are seeking time on the beach or hiking and skiing in the mountains, choosing where you want to go plays in a major role in what attractions are going to be available to you.
That’s not to say you can’t do it all—if you know how to plan a vacation to California. We have come up with several tips to help you figure out the best itineraries when traveling around or taking road trips from San Francisco to Los Angeles, San Diego, and beyond.
The Top Places to Visit in California
First, you want to choose a place to center your stay, which is usually one of the more popular cities in California, such as the following:
The City by the Bay is famous for the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, Alamo Park, Alcatraz, cultural diversity, performing arts, beaches, and excellent public transportation options. Go for the sophistication, leave inspired.
Conveniently located near Malibu, Los Angeles, and Beverly Hills, Santa Monica is a popular destination for tourists. One of the reasons is the bay scene, the other would be the food at the pier.
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Also, Santa Monica has a school where you can learn the art of swinging on a trapeze.
Being that San Diego is near the Mexican border, the influences from Mexico are everywhere here. From the cuisine to the nightlife, you can enjoy a Latin element while enjoying a Mediterranean like climate that is endless sun. There’s also the San Diego Zoo for kids of all ages.
The affluence of Santa Barbara makes it a must-see for those who love luxury. With wide beaches, expansive vineyards, top-ranked restaurants and shopping, as well as a gigantic national forest, this place has everything for a mature crowd.
Known as the Entertainment Capital of World, LA is home to over 17 million people, Hollywood, amusement parks, scenic beaches, coastal roads, and something for everyone.
The state capital known as Sacramento is energetic and youthful, making it ideal for younger travelers as well as those who like going off the beaten path. If you like eclectic and low-key, you’ll like Sacramento.
Once you know where you want to go, you can start picking what attractions should make it onto your must-see list for California. After that, it’s all about connecting these destinations to one another for an epic California road trip.
Planning Your Road Trips in California
Here are some of the best courses to see all that astounds in California:
1. San Francisco to Los Angeles
The possibilities for travel from San Francisco to LA are endless. You have several routes to choose from, including I-5, which takes 6 hours and US Highway 101, which is longer but far more scenic than I-5. If you take US Highway 101, you can hit places like the Spanish city of Santa Barbara, the quaint Dutch town of Solvang, pass over the Golden Gate Bridge, visit the Redwood National and State Park, and more.
2. Los Angeles to San Diego
Traveling from LA to San Diego is everything you ever thought CA would be. The Pacific Coastal Highway route brings you through Newport Beach, Huntington Beach (also where the International Surf Museum is located), and Oceanside, so if you want to catch some waves, be sure to bring a surfboard. Also, you will be going through Anaheim, where Disneyland is located. Other favorites along the way from LA to San Diego include Crystal Cove State Park, Balboa Park, and Black’s Beach.
3. San Francisco to Yosemite
When going to Yosemite National Park from San Francisco, you take I-580 E and CA-120 E, which takes about 4 and a half hours to 5 hours in total—but this shouldn’t scare you away. Why? Because you are traveling an epic food and wine trail. Walking around Yosemite at the end of the journey is an added benefit! With the main route going through wine country, you will find plenty of wineries to make multiple pit stops when traveling to and from the majestic Yosemite National Park. Upon arriving at the park, you can enjoy all kinds of outdoor recreational activities, such as kayaking, hiking, camping, fishing, and more.
Other Things To Consider When Visiting California
As we had mentioned earlier, California is humongous and diverse. There is no way you can see everything worth seeing in a few days, but going up and down the glorious Pacific Coastal Highway (US Highway 101) is one way to ensure you are going on the best road trip ever. Because of this, you need to be realistic in your time constraints. Going from Point A to B will take time, so know where you wish to go before anything else.
After that, there are other considerations, such as how to hire a car in California and what you need to have a successful road trip. Remember to pack for varied weather, since San Fran tends to be cooler and rainier than San Diego. Yosemite is up in the mountains, so it’s colder than LA.
You will also want to have a reliable GPS, since the roads around Cali can be confusing for first timers.
Now that you know some of the top places to visit in California, along with the best routes for getting around, you should be able to plan a memorable California road trip without any problems. Keep in mind that California is expansive, vast, and home to millions of people from all across the globe. You’re sure to have a wonderful time.