Welcome to the Golden State, the epitome of the west coast, home to Disneyland, to Route 1, to fast cars and fast living, to world-class seafoods, to the world’s preeminent film making industry. To discover each and every valuable sight and sound hidden within the confines of this western oasis is to call true adventure your own. From hidden gems like Pismo Beach to state staples like In-N-Out Burger, California itself is well worth both your time and your investment.
Ultimately, California can become as much an adventure as it already is a place. That is to say, the joy that is the Golden State is rooted in the fact that there is so much to be discovered, to be experienced for oneself. When you’re the one who takes the pictures, the memories are guaranteed to last a lifetime. That said, now is a better time than ever to experience California for yourself! And if you’re going to do California justice, you’re going to want an introductory Californian experience well worth your time.
Read on to discover the benefits of the ultimate California road trip: Two weeks’ worth of true California glory, that will introduce you to everything authentically west coast, from eateries to manmade landmarks, from authentic, world-class hospitality to natural majesty! If you’re going to make California your own, you’d better do it right!
Before You Begin
For the purpose of continuity, this road trip begins in Southern California, where courtesy of interstates graced with unparalleled views of the Pacific Ocean and diversified indigenous wildlife, you’ll be provided with sensational sights from your window as you journey north, up the west coast. Rather than provide you with a day-to-day, minute-by-minute synopsis of your prospective road trip, we’ve elected to provide instead a holistic picture, providing you with the flexibility to spend more or less time at select locations, to skip some altogether, or to add your own staple landmarks in, to customize your trip!
Individual stops along the way will be marked by city name, followed by the ideal duration d time to spent in that location.
Stop # 1
The first stop is not so much a stop as it is your beginning location. Nevertheless, seldom make the mistake of blowing through the tip of Southern California without first taking in its unique flavor. Welcome to perhaps the best climatic conditions to be found anywhere in the world, the privilege that is San Diego. While I’m sure you’ll be in a hurry to experience so much more of California’s unique culture, San Diego deserves its days in the sun, as the absolute gem of the California south.
What To See
If you stayed in San Diego for two weeks, you’d still be hard-pressed to get to every attraction! No matter your penchant for adventure, San Diego has something for you. Get a taste for indigenous and international wildlife at the world-famous San Diego Zoo, and at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, a location as famous for its exotic animals as it is for its conservation and endangerment awareness efforts. SeaWorld introduces you to some of a wide variety of otherwise inaccessible marine life, from manatees to the beloved penguins!
Learn more about San Diego’s role as an authority in coastal naval protection, while you tour the USS Midway Museum! San Diego’s vibrant history is furthermore laid out before you when you visit Old Town, a diversified open-air state park that boasts all of the intrigue you’d expect from the region itself. When you’ve had your fill of the area’s history, perhaps after frequenting the San Diego Automotive Museum and Balboa Park, it’s going to be time to find soon food.
Where to Eat
You simply must experience a California burrito for yourself before leaving San Diego. The endeavor is as staple a San Diego experience as they come. Bite down into the unique combination that is French fries and burrito (we promise you’ll love it), and thank us later. Locals often recommend Nico’s, Roberto’s, and Lolita’s, all of which can be found in and around the heart of San Diego. Aptly nicknamed “America’s Finest City," San Diego is never without its quality seafood options. Sample culinary oceanic excellence at such seafood staples as Blue Point Coastal Cuisine, or if you’re in the mood for a world-famous fish taco, make the Blue Water Seafood Market & Grill your go-to option.
Where To Stay
Whether you’re downtown or tucked in the suburbs, San Diego boasts no shortage of tantalizing hospitality options. For those looking to glean the full downtown experience, the iconic Hard Rock Hotel San Diego is only steps from the Gaslamp District, and features the stunning combination of interior excellence and unbeatable views, from virtually any hotel room angle. For a unique option, give the Hotel del Coronado a try. The historical marvel set on the white sands of Coronado Island, though on the pricier end when it comes to San Diego hotel options, promises to deliver lifelong memories alongside a quality stay.
Less than 130 miles separates San Diego from Los Angeles, meaning you can easily make the drive in a few hours or less, dependent on Los Angeles traffic. Soon, you’re going to find yourself enjoying the City of Angels! As with virtually any city along the coastline of California, there’s simply an ever-growing portfolio of activities in which to immerse yourself.
What To See
Once you cross Disneyland and ample opportunities for photographing the Hollywood sign from your bucket list, check out Griffith Park, the region’s preeminent hiking and recreation outlet, with simply unrivaled views of the city. The Los Angeles Zoo is furthermore contained within the confines of the park! Rated as one of the top public parks in all of North America, both with regard to size and popularity, Griffith Park proves the perfect introduction to everything that Los Angeles offers.
Once the sun sets, head over to Santa Monica Pier, for an evening of high-octane thrills, Ann to experience a valuable slice of Los Angeles nightlife! Residents and visitors alike regularly flock to the Santa Monica Pier, as much for its sensational views of the sunset as for its history and nightly entertainment. Whether you’re looking for a stroll or for a ride in its world-famous Ferris Wheel, Santa Monica Pier is more than prepared to raise your Los Angeles expectations.
Where To Eat
We guarantee that you won’t have enough time to try all of the amazing foods that Los Angeles offers. Suffice to say, no matter which type of food you’re craving, Los Angeles has it all. Looking for Chinese food? Find Yang Chow Restaurant. In search of Indian cuisine? Badmaash Restaurant is the place to be. Craving some Mexican food? El Coyote Mexican Restaurant treats you to an upscale experience, or check out the Mercado for a more homestyle feel. And as far as upscale eateries are concerned, the Bestia Italian Restaurant comes as highly-recommended as any. Regardless of your state, trust the variety of Los Angeles meal options to deliver quality cuisine, every time.
Where To Stay
As international a destination as any, Los Angeles hosts some of the world’s most luxurious hospitality venues. If you’re in the mood to splurge, check out the Los Angeles Ritz-Carlton, where around every corner you’ll discover incomparable luxury. Onsite dining and spa amenities make this Ritz-Carlton site one you won’t want to miss. For more of a boutique stay, you’re invited to discover Petite Ermitage. Quirky to the end with a terrific view from the rooftop, the Petite Ermitage exists as the out-of-the-way place to be in Los Angeles.
For additional quality Los Angeles hospitality options, search for the Omni Los Angeles Hotel, the Loews Hollywood Hotel, and the Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel. Vacation rentals are a great options for the whole group too, with a whole property to lounge in.
Deservingly in the same conversation with San Diego, Los Angeles, Hollywood, and San Francisco as California’s best city, Santa Barbara is a powerhouse site in its own right. What Santa Barbara doesn’t possess in reputation is more than recounts in quality of life, natural coastal majesty, and a vibrant nightlife.
What To See
If you’re so inclined, Santa Barbara’s wine country is not a thing to be missed. Vineyards abound within the city limits of one of California’s verifiable wine authorities, where tastings, tours, and wine benefits are a common occurrence. Pick up a Santa Barbara signature Pinot Noir or Chardonnay before you leave!
After relaxing under the renowned Moreton Bay Fig Tree and taking in the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, make your way down to Stearns Wharf, the longest deep-water Pier between Los Angeles and San Francisco at the time of its construction in 1872. Today, the Wharf is the most visited Santa Barbara landmark of all time, and the perfect location to catch some signature Southern California sunshine, to pose for a picture, or to fall in love with a coastal breeze!
What To Eat
The simple answer as to the preferred meal of choice in Santa Barbara is seafood. From Brophy Bros. to Enterprise Fish Co., you’re going to find that no matter the respective location of a restaurant, it’s vibrant seafood options come highly recommended. However, if you’re in the mood for authentically brilliant Italian cuisine, stop by Toma Restaurant and Bar, where a quality of Italian bistro otherwise only found in Italy itself awaits your expectant palate. Finch & Fork is another option for quality meals you can trust, a relaxed atmosphere that promises a new spin on classic pub-style foods.
Where To Stay
Upscale hospitality in Santa Barbara doesn’t get better than the Hotel Californian, which despite its steep price tag, holistically succeeds in delivering an unrivaled quality of coastal hospitality, complete with onsite spa and wellness amenities and unprecedented bright, oceanic furnishings. Hotel Santa Barbara also proves a solid stay, and Brisas Del Mar exists as still another option for a high-class, excellently rated hotel experience.
If you still haven’t had enough of the Southern California coastline, you’re invited to journey farther north directly up the coast, where you’ll find Monterey, the site of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Pinnacles National Park, and of course the iconic Monterey Bay. For the same of diversification, we’re traveling inland for our next Golden State adventure, into the heart of the west coast where Fresno makes its name as the unofficial fog capital of Central California!
What To See
It’s difficult to know where to start when it comes to describing what to do and what to see in Fresno. If there’s any location where you may wish to spend more time than ew have allotted, it might be Fresno: how are you going to do justice to so many winning sights and sounds?
There’s a shocking proximity to Yosemite National Park, the ultimate National Park experience known for its massive sequoias, granite cliffs, and rich Sierra Nevada history. There’s China Peak, which offers year-round recreation like you’ve never before experienced, from ski and snowboard venues to hiking and biking outlets. There’s Woodward Park, a bird sanctuary from heaven if there ever was one, where locals and visitors alike flock to discover natural rejuvenation. And there’s the Fresno Art Museum, where American and Latin-American works of art decorate world-class installations. Good luck finding the time to fully appreciate each of these sensational venues for adventure!
Where To Eat
First and foremost, know that any meal you experience in Fresno, California, when paired with one of the region’s wines, becomes infinitely more memorable. That said, on its own the vast array of meal possibilities available to Fresno visitors is enough to warrant a return trip. If it’s an upscale pub atmosphere you’re craving, head down to the Yard House! Deliciously catered pub foods and a vibrant environment awaits. Texas Roadhouse regularly serves up award-winning, choice meat cuts, and Campagnia Bistro is your go-to location for a fancy dinner you’ll never forget!
Where To Stay
Fresno also comes packed with respectable hotel options. The Homewood Fresno Suites represent a definitive bargain for a night’s stay, with onsite Internet and an outdoor pool thrown in. La Quinta Inn & Suites also promises to deliver a quality stay without compromising too much of your allotted road trip budget.
There’s simply too much to see and to experience in Santa Clara; you’re going to need at least two days to gain a full appreciate of this region’s penchant for thrill! As far as quality of attractions is concerned, Santa clara’s sights and sounds prove unique in their own nature!
What To See
Start things off at the Winchester Mystery House; we promise you’ve never experienced anything like it! This location once stood as the personal residence of Sarah Winchester, and today stands renowned for its odd quirks, as well as its lack of a cohesive building plan. Given that the Winchester family served the nation with high-quality rifles, those residents of the building claimed on many occasions that the site itself was haunted by the souls of those individuals killed by the family guns. From the time of her husband’s death until her own death in 1922, construction reportedly ceased on the house itself.
Crank the fun up a notch at California’s Great America! The area’s preeminent theme park, this location is characterized by both water and land attractions, with regularly scheduled live entertainment. Other local attractions include the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum. the San Jose Municipal Rose Garden, and the Triton Museum of Art, for those culture-enthusiasts.
Where To Eat
Sample iconic Santa Clara dishes on nearly every street corner! At Birk’s, you’ll find yourself the privileged guest of the region’s choice steaks and seafoods, and at Parcel 104, California-style cuisine comes right to you. Frequent the Fish Market Restaurant for the catch of the day, and stop by Mio Vicino or Tomatina if you’re in the mood for some classic Italian.
Where To Stay
No matter your individual hospitality preferences, there’s a stay perfect for you. For those who enjoy hotel regality, cozy up inside the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara, typified by an outdoor pool, and wildly popular onsite Tuscan eatery options. The Avatar Hotel and Embassy Suites provide two more feasible budget options, without surrendering undue hospitality quality.
Regarded by many to be both the financial and the social epicenter of Norther California, San Francisco, the gem of the Bay Area, necessities all the time you could possibly dedicate to discovering its every secret. With a tantalizing selection of main event features, together with a supporting cast of hidden attractions known only to locals, the affectionately titled “Fog City" can more than elevate any getaway to memorable status.
What To See
Understand that when it comes to the host of amenities available to you within the city borders of San Francisco, few cities can rival the portfolio of attractions before you. Quite obviously, you need to find the Golden Gate Bridge, the art-inspiration and staple of California history which since 1937 has thrilled passerby with both its scale and rustic hue. Then there’s Alcatraz Island, once a high-security prison turned tourist attraction, although unless you’ve booked your tour months in advance, chances are you’re not going to get closer than the water’s edge.
Take a stroll through the haven for shade that is Golden Gate Park, before sauntering down to Pier 39, where there’s always tantalizing seafood and entertainment alike! venture through Fisherman’s Wharf to discover your inner-tourist, before taking a stroll through busy Chinatown, magnet for Chinese culture and favorite of locals and visitors alike. You’re going to want to take a photo on Lombard Street, the near-vertical, one-way street famous for its tight turns.
What To Eat
When it comes to San Francisco, seafood often takes center stage. Locations like Liholiho Yacht Club and Cotogna routinely deliver masterful seafood plates to eagerly satisfied guests. However, the diversity in meal options when it comes to San Francisco runs deep. State Bird Provisions puts a new spin on rustic, homestyle cooking. SPQR delivers unrivaled Italian bistro. Spruce allows visitors to sample American classics. Californios is among the finest Mexican eateries in the region. No matter what food you’re feeling, trust the diverse Bay Area options to more than satisfy.
Where To Stay
You’re never at a loss for quality hospitality when you’re in San Francisco. The Bay Area’s Four Seasons always makes for a one-of-a-king experience; the Omni San Francisco delivers world-class views from every corner; the Fairmont San Francisco allows its award-winning wellness and spa venues to speak for themselves; the Argonaut Hotel is the very definition of boutique mastery. Choose from among a wickedly broad selection of stays, perfect for any budget!
Lastly, Napa effectively delivers the last of a now thoroughly rounded-out California experience. What’s an authentic introduction to the California way of life without some choice Napa Valley wines? Allow yourself multiple days to thoroughly sample a taste of everything that makes Napa an absolute can’t-miss California location.
What To See
Predictably, this list begins local wines. Venture into Napa Valley for some the world’s finest wines, everything from Monticello Vineyards to the Napa Valley College Estate Winery to Silver Oak Cellars. Pair these excursions with perhaps a trip to the Sonoma TrainTown Railroad, a smaller rendition of a traditional full-scale model, one that makes frequent trips to a town complete with a petting zoo and other entertainment. Take to rockville Hills regional Park, where the finest in Napa wildlife is laid out before you. Check out any one of the several walking tours of Napa, to personalize your time in the region, and to learn more about its rich history!
What To Eat
So long as you’re pairing an excellent choice in Napa wine with your meals, you can’t go wrong when it comes to Napa eateries. Japanese cuisine comes alive at Morimoto Napa, or if you’re in the mood for classic Italian, stop by Allegria. Spanish tapas are perhaps never outdone at Zuzu, or if you’re in the mood for more of an international sampler, try Grace’s Table on for size. Ultimately, it’s a litany of sensational eateries that will leave you satisfied as can be.
Where To Stay
Hospitality selections in Napa are not as diverse as those in perhaps Los Angeles or San Francisco, but they are nevertheless world-class. Bed and breakfast is elevated at the Candlelight Inn Napa Valley, where an outdoor pool and onsite bistro promise to make your stay a memorable one. The Napa River Inn manifests much of the area’s history, with predictably first-class lodging amenities. Take to the Milliken Creek Inn & Spa if you’re looking for a unique slice of Napa rejuvenation.
Experience the Golden State
From San Diego to Napa, California has so much to offer any and every visitor. From the history buff to the casual tourist, California awaits indulgence, and offers educational opportunities, countless venues for world-class relaxation, and a truly unparalleled vibe. Exist among the finest quality that the west coast offers, and capitalize on this invitation to experience the select best of California, courtesy of a two week road trip!
Judith Ann Abayari is the new professional article writer for Trip101.com. She Studied English Literature and Creative Writing. She is a new travel blogger that wants to conquer the world through writing. She has experience with online contents like blogs and public relations.