There are obvious stops along the way if you’re driving through California, but there are also some less obvious stops. California, or the Sunshine State, or Golden State, is beautiful. And while the population is known for consisting of tech geeks, hippies, surfers, filmmakers, new age gurus and health nuts, you’ll find everyone else who is attracted to the diverse nature and sunshine there as well.
My driving instructor, who was from overseas, told me that once you move to LA you never leave. Why? You have the big city, the forests, the mountains, the lakes, the ocean and the desert right there. Within an hour’s drive (when it’s not rush hour) you can either be in the desert, or snowboarding down a mountain. If you drive a bit further you can chillax on a ranch in San Luis Obispo, or have a bath in a hot spring in Ojai.
While I have driven from LA to San Diego in the South and Mount Shasta in the North, I have actually never stopped in all the places I want to see. I keep dreaming of THE road trip. So, below, see my itinerary for such. I’ve started in the South and worked my way up. You could, alternatively drive along the coast from San Diego to Mount Shasta, and then down again through the inland — Yosemite, Death Valley, Sequoia National Forest, Big Bear, Palm Springs and Joshua Tree National Park. I’ve had to zig zag from the coast to the mainland as I just went South to North.
San Diego is known as the perfect little town by the ocean. The weather, the laid back atmosphere, the surfing…it's a haven. I’m an LA chic through and through, but frankly I've never properly explored San Diego so maybe I should give it a chance instead of writing it off as perpetually boring…but given this is coming from a person who said she’d NEVER move to LA it might be that I'm prejudice after two not-so-cool visits to San Diego. It just felt like a sleepy version of LA. I was way too far from my beloved Hollywood Hills.
You have to head to the gaslight district to check out the bustling night life and explore the many mirco-breweries.
Daytime, there’s the massive Balboa Park, where you find hiking trails, concert halls, museums, a zoo…the lot. There’s also apparently free laughter yoga at Sixth Ave and Spruce Street in Balboa Park.
If you prefer another place to picnic, the Velodrome on a Tuesday and Friday evening offers a free view of people racing their bikes…
People recommend heading to Point Loma to hike by the tidal pools and explore the Cabrillo National Monument.
Go to Ocean Beach on a Wednesday to enjoy the local “hippie” farmer’s market. Expect fire breathing to go with your carrots. Tuna Harbor Dockside Market on a Saturday morning, on the other hand, will bring you as much fresh fish as you can eat.
Thankfully, being in SoCal you can enjoy drive-in cinemas. Something about the weather making it possible. One such is South-Bay Drive-in Theatre. You can also take in a movie at The Rooftop Cinema Club, which is, well, situated on a rooftop.
There are many more things to do — visit the Taylor Guitar Factory, learn to build sand castles at San Diego Sand Castles, surf, do grotto climbing and yoga in Grantville, take a ferry to Coronado, check out the murals at Barrio Logan, hike to the top of Cuyamaca to enjoy a view of Mexico and enjoy the Silver Strand bikeway.
Alternatively, you could take a drive to Arizona (enjoy the desert — I’ve been planning to go there for like what…a decade?!), or cross over to Mexico (I always wanted to just keep driving…I still want to do that one day). Just watch out for the drug cartels in Tijuana…
Just a stone throw away form San Diego you find La Jolla. You always see this lil’ town mentioned in the same breath as summer camps for kiddos. And in America summer camps are a thing.
Here you can swim with sharks, surf (apparently Black Beach is for nudists), hike Torrey Pines, check out the hang gliders at Torrey Pines Glider Point, go kayaking, walk along the coast and enjoy the many restaurants La Jolla is famous for.
Stop by, go for a surf, or a swim, have lunch at a beach side cafe, hang out with the hippies and check out the record stores.
This is where the rich and famous come to play at the weekends. Then again, it’s where everyone comes to play in the weekend if they live in LA. It’s your weekend trip away. People tend to avoid it in summer as it gets hot. It’s the desert, after all.
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is one of those things everyone does once. Just to check it out. That's to say: check out Palm Springs from above. You can stop for food along the way at a cafe, or restaurant, or at the top go for a hike in the mountains.
If you can’t get enough of the earth from above, then visit the Palm Springs Air Museum and go for a ride in a little propeller plane. I always wanted to go in one of those, don’t you? Epic little things. Anyway, you can also see plenty of planes on display if you don’t want to take a ride…
Tahquitz Canyon offers you a beautiful waterfall. Mainly because it’s in an Indian reserve and they keep it immaculate for those hiking there…however, it does cost to enter for the same reason.
The Moorten Botanical Garden offers a wide variety of cacti, while the 12 acres worth of public gardens at Sunnylands allow you to wander around more freely. There are also tours of the Annenberg mansion there, but they tend to sell out in advance.
There are plenty of antique shops, art galleries and the Palm Springs Art Museum for those who enjoy art. There are also tours of various houses in Palm Springs — its known for its mid-century architecture, as many stars back then got places in Palm Springs and went a bit architecturally crazy.
I normally hate zoos. Animals in cages make me want to cry. It’s like going to a circus with tigers. I walk out depressed instead of happy. However, the Living Desert Zoo in Palm Springs is big. The animals aren’t in cages, but in massive enclosures. And you can also find hiking trails and incredible botanicals here. They do a lot of trying to reintroduce various wildlife and botanicals into nature. In short, it’s a zoo even I would go to as it’s more of an animal sanctuary than a zoo.
Joshua Tree National Park
When in Palm Springs, head over to Joshua Tree National Park. Here you will find the epic Joshua Trees whose silhouettes at night against a starry sky will fill your dreams with wonder. The Skull Rock, on the other hand, might be a bit more nightmarish…
Hiking and camping are the main attractions in Joshua Tree, but you can also visit any of the many new age towns found here and their many hipster eateries. If you haven’t figured by now, that’s sort of quintessentially Californian…
The Integratron — a UFO looking building in Joshua Tree — was built by a dude who thought he could reverse aging, but died before the building’s completion. Due to its impressive acoustics, it’s now mainly used for sound baths…
Something just as quirky is Noah Purifoy’s Outdoor Sculpture Park. It’s the kind of sculptures I love to hate, but hey, you walk around the desert and look at man’s take on social change through discarded objects turned sculptures. If nothing else, it’s an experience. As is Krblin Jihn Kabin — it was designed to form a connection to a parallel universe. I’ll leave it at that. It’s too complicated even to try to explain, but one guess: acid.
Smith’s Ranch drive-in theatre offers new movies every Friday. Why do I suddenly feel like moving to Joshua Tree just so as to be able to catch movies under the stars by a ranch every Friday night?
Hicksville Trailer Park and Artist’s Retreat is something I spotted many, many years ago. I've been wanting to go ever since. It’s one of the quirkiest places I’ve found for staying the night in the desert…I mean it's themed trailers surrounding a swimming pool. If you prefer, you can stay at the Institute of Mentalphysics instead, which was designed by none other than Frank Lloyd Webber. I’m not sure I could handle that much meditation though…
Want a tiny museum? Free entry? Visit the World Famous Crochet Museum — it’s an upcycled old Photo Booth turned crochet museum. I did say this part of the world is quirky, right?!
Joshua Tree offers a three-three-day music festival, both in May and October. If you don’t get tickets to Coachella (which is practically next door) you can opt for this instead. There’s yoga and meditation, as well as kiddies activities along with the music.
Pappy and Harriet’s in Pioneer Town is a BBQ restaurant that require three weeks notice if you want to get a dinner reservation. It’s a film set for Westerns that’s been converted. And even Arctic Monkeys have come to play on the tiny stage at the restaurant. It’s famous.
For something a bit more fancy, 29 Palms Inn and La Copine are perfect stops for dinner and drinks. Though La Copine closes at 7pm already…
At this point, you're only a little ways away form Vegas, so you could stop by. You know, for a bit of a roll of a dice, or a spontaneous wedding.
In winter in LA, everyone goes to ski in Big Bear. It’s not the closest mountain (Magic Mountain is), but it’s the place to go for the weekend to snowboard, or ski, down the slopes and enjoy cabin life at night.
People come here to go hiking (there are plenty of trails) and swimming/do water sports as well. There’s also the Action Zipline Tour and the Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain (water slides in summer, snow tubing in winter — this is the mountain near LA). The Solar Observatory, Big Bear Valley Historical Museum and Big Bear Alpine Zoo.
When chillaxing at night, go to meet the locals for karaoke at Murray’s Saloon and Bar.
Pine Knot Village is basically “downtown Big Bear” and you can stroll around and enjoy the village feel.
Only hours away from scenic Big Bear you find Los Angeles. Tinsel Town. La La Land. City of Angels. With it you find the film industry, a health obsessed population, startups galore and so much more. I wrote an article the other day about what to do in LA when visiting, or moving there. I recommend you read it. Because, you know, I wrote it.
If you’re looking for more things, include the following in your itinerary:
The Magic Castle (this is a membership club for magicians and can be a bit of a nightmare to get into, but it's possible), Universal Studios, Disneyland, the Hollywood Walk of Fame (and no, that side of Hollywood is not glitz and glam, it’s run down and hideous, but the Farmer’s Market is epic, the cinemas are legendary as are the night clubs and I like chilling with drinks at Roosevelt Hotel), the downtown art walk, the Getty Center, Six Flags, The Museum of Jurassic Technology, LACMA, MOCA and The Broad.
While researching this (given I might have missed a thing or two that tourists do in LA) I discovered one thing I have yet to explore: The Last Bookstore. It has tunnels built of books, hidden rooms, etc. And I haven’t been. Shame on me! Frankly, I didn't even know it existed…
Of course, you also have to visit Catalina Island. Because that’s what people do in LA. It’s like Palm Springs, Big Bear and Santa Barbara — it’s a place to visit for the weekend. Only in this instance, you need a ferry, or a boat, not a car.
The last time I went camping (it was a very long time ago), I was jumping in waterfalls and off ten meter high cliffs in Ojai. It’s paradise on Earth. I swear. There are also some hot springs in that area that may, or may not, be open to the public. A tip: if driving through California use Google to locate the nearest hot springs at any given moment.
What’s more, Ojai is known as a place to go for retreats. Every new age hippie holds a retreat in Ojai. Kind of like Sedona, Arizona. Ojai has Meditation Mount, so even if not on a retreat, you can stop to meditate atop a hilltop.
Ojai also boasts vineyards, the Ojai Olive Co. at Asquit Ranch, Bart’s Bookstore, horseback riding with Ojai Valley Trail Riding Company, Ojai Valley Museum and the Los Padres National Forest. Meet the Redwoods.
If you visit Ojai in December to January, be sure to stay for sunset when the sky turns pink every night. Yep, pink. It’s a phenomena.
In June, on the other hand, there’s the lavender festival. And in April one celebrates Pixie Month. That’s to say pixie tangerines — the trees are native to the area. Friend’s Ranch offers pixie tangerines, as well as plenty of other citrus fruits. There’s Ojai Day in October and an experimental Music Festival taking place every year as well.
The Ojai Farmer’s Market takes place on a Sunday morning, so if you live in LA and fancy a chance of scenery from the Hollywood Farmer’s Market or Santa Monica Farmer’s Market this is a good day to go there and restock your cupboards.
Obviously, driving from LA to Ojai, you need to stop in Malibu and explore the Inn of the Seventh Ray, do some celebrity spotting, enjoy the beaches and have a drink at Moonshadows. That’s to say, if you don't live in LA and have already done all that.
This is the town where you can hike to Inspiration Point. If you don't get inspired enough at Meditation Mount in Ojai that is.
For serenity, visit the Old Mission Santa Barbara, or the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, or Lotusland (yes, Californians are nature enthusiasts). Stern’s Wharf may also offer a bit of serenity — (who doesn’t enjoy the oceanside?!
The Santa Barbara Museum of Art, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History and the Santa Barbara Courthouse are for those who want to enjoy history and art instead.
Time to stop for a surf? Do it here! There’s even the Pismo Beach Surf Museum! Alternatively, stop for a glass of wine at Tastes of the Valleys which offers more than 1,000 varieties! The Pismo Brewing Company offers beer tasting, if you prefer that over wine.
Price Historical Park is the homestead of Pismo founder John Michael Price and a nice introduction to the history of the area.
The Monarch Butterfly Grove is home to 30,000 Monarch butterflies — you will see them October - February, but the trails at the grove are open year round.
Ventana Grill is famous for its bottomless mimosas and bloody Marys, as well as their seafood station and carved meat station for Sunday brunch. Splash Café, on the other hand, is famous for sourdough bread bowls filled with clam chowder. If you can’t wait to get your paws on a bowl before you reach San Francisco, this is the place to go. Surfside Donuts is another must when passing through. In the weekends they sell out fast though, so be early! Oh and they have gluten free and vegan options, of course. What’d you think? It’s California!
Sequoia National Forest
If you’re prepared to head inland again, then it’s time for a stop at Sequoia National Forest. Here you will find the Giant Forest — home to 8,000 sequoias. Of course you also have to see the General Sherman Tree which is the world’s largest by mass (at least the world’s largest by mass).
Given you’re on a road trip, you have to drive along the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway — you’ll drive into one of the deepest canyons in the States and enjoy scenic twists and turns along the way.
Moro Rock offers a splendid view of the Great Western Divide. You have to climb 400 steps to get there so, you know, take a break along the way…
If you want to go underground instead, then the Crystal Cave is a must-see. There’s also the Tunnel Log — a fallen tree that’s been carved out so you can drive underneath it.
Death Valley National Park
Going from the world’s largest tree, to the world’s highest temperature — Death Valley holds the record for the highest recorded temperature on Earth — 136 degrees Fahrenheit.
Furnace Creek Visitor Center should probably be your first stop so you can learn about the area and see some exhibitions. After all, you’re heading into the desert, so you want to be prepared.
Badwater Basin sports America’s lowest elevation — it offers salt flats and pools, as well as Devil’s Golf Course (the names here are astounding — if you drive into the Black Mountain’s you’ll find Dante’s View and Coffin Peak that are also worth exploring, if nothing else for the sake of their morbid names…and the fact they’ve been described as “heavenly”). You also find Golden Canyon with its Red Cathedral (a rock formation) and Natural Bridge (also a rock formation) close to here.
Want water? The Panamint Springs offer Darwin Falls. And Death Valley also offer spring bloom — the season when you can watch blossoms all across the desert. In recent years there’s been the super bloom phenomena, so expect a lot of flowers!
The Mesquite Flat Dunes are known for their sea of shifting sands — best observed at dawn (just as the sunrise is great to be seen from Zabriskie Point). Here you can also do sand boarding.
If you like volcanoes, visit the Ubehebe Crater.
Lastly, take a trip along Artist’s Drive (or Artist’s Palette) — so named because of the multicolored stones that line the drive.
Yosemite National Park
Thanks to Apple we’ve all learned about parks and deserts in California, including Yosemite.
Hiking and other outdoorsy things are, naturally, what tends to bring you to Yosemite. Yosemite Valley itself offers you plenty to do, including the beautiful Tunnel View Outlook from where you can see Half Dome, El Capitan and Bridalveil Fall. Other waterfalls in the valley are Vernal Fall, Nevada Fall and Yosemite Falls. El Capitan is well worth a visit as it’s one of the world’s largest granite monoliths.
Glacier Point is another outlook you don't want to miss.
Hiking up Half Dome Cables Route is challenging, but some also say it’s life changing. Just be sure to bring shoes that grip and gloves to hold the cables with (or you’ll lose the skin on your hands). If you want something a little less strenuous, the Mist Trail is a good option — it takes you past Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall to a 600 step granite staircase that leads to the top. However, this trail is also difficult and in spring and early summer when the falls are at their peak, it gets covered with mist, which makes it slippery.
Mariposa Grove is home to 500 giant sequoia trees and the famous California Tunnel Tree. This is where you can drive your car through a tree trunk. It’s one of those photo ops you just can’t miss. You can also visit the Grizzly Giant — a sequoia tree estimated to be 1,800 years old!
Tuolumne Meadows is one of the highest elevation meadows in the Sierra Nevadas and you can enjoy one of the many trails here by foot, or by driving along Tioga Road. Here there are trails as short as 1.5 miles, so if you don't feel like doing something like the Half Dome, this is an option that’s kinder on your legs.
You’re in a place where gold was mined. This is the Golden State. And Yosemite gives you the option to pan for gold. Might not make you rich, but it will probably give you some time to ponder how hard life was back during the Gold Rush. Having researched it for a book I am writing, I learned that it was easier to become rich selling food to the people looking for gold than by finding gold. It was a difficult time, but filled with interesting characters.
If visiting in July, there's the Yosemite Music Festival. In September-October there are the Sierra Art Trails.
San Luis Obispo
Backtracking to the coastline, it’s time to explore the beautiful town of San Luis Obispo, which is just a stone throw away from Pismo Beach. (If you’re driving South to North along the coast and then back North to South via the mainland, then this would naturally be the stop just after Pismo!)
San Luis Obispo is known as a nice place to live, the home of Cal Poly and for its many ranches. As a visitor you may be keen to visit, or stay in, the Madonna Inn — known for its eccentricities. Nothing to do with Madonna the mother of Jesus, or Madonna the singer — the founder was named Madonna. The hotel boasts 100 uniquely themed rooms and have some epic grounds to explore as well.
Another eccentric place round the corner is Bubblegum Alley, where people have been sticking bubblegum on the wall since 1960.
For something a little less eccentric, the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa is a 1700s Spanish mission with a museum. It’s situated on Mission Plaza, where every Friday evening in summer there are free concerts.
Fancy a glass of wine? Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande produce more than 40 grape varieties and are home to plenty of vineries open to the public, including Talley Vineyards that offers things like berry picking, picnic lunches and live music in addition to excellent wine. So it’s not all about the wine — there are plenty of farms offering other activities.
Lopez Lake is the perfect place for owning a lake house, but if just passing by you can camp (there are over 350 campsites) or rent a cabin and enjoy windsurfing, kayaking, jet-skiing, barbecuing and fishing by the lake. There are also plenty of trails to explore. Another popular hiking destination is Bishop Peak — the trail is only about 1.2 miles, but it offers great views once you reach the top of the 20 million year old volcanic magma that the peak consists of.
As with pretty much every other town in California, San Luis Obispo (or SLO) has one that’s particularly famous. The one here is the Downtown SLO Farmer’s Market, happening every Thursday night in Downtown. As this is an area known for its abundance of farmland, you’ll find about 120 stands selling their wares — including plenty of homemade treats.
If you like movies, as Californians tend to do, visiting the Fremont Theatre is highly recommended — the crazy look of the Art Deco building is a sight to behold and it offers live music, as well as movie showings daily. For the culturally inclined, there’s also the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art.
The San Luis Lighthouse, as well as the nearby Piedras Blancas Lighthouse are also worth visiting (you need to call ahead to get a viewing of the former).
San Luis Obispo has stuck in my head as “the place to buy a ranch outside LA.” Or maybe that cabin by the lake… Now, if only I was a millionaire…
Paso Robles is considered “up-and-coming” wine country, though it’s been around for ages. Basically, it’s a smaller version of Napa Valley, but with its own character. Wineries include Vina Robles, JUSTIN Vineyards and Winery and Daou Vineyards. There’s also a Zinfandel Festival in March and a Wine Festival in May.
Other things to do in the area includes Hearst Castle (built in the early 20th century), olive oil tasting, the hot springs at River Oaks Hot Springs and Spa.
The California Mid-State Fair is on in July/August and offers various events and live music.
With the Pacific coastline to the West and the St. Lucia Mountain range to the East, Big Sur has become known for being a nature lover’s paradise. And, of course, there’s the Keyhole Arch Rock which can be found all over Pinterest and Instagram as it’s “that photo op.” Situated on Pfeiffer Beach, it’s best caught at sunset.
Sand Dollar Beach is another famous beach — mainly for beach combing (you can find both sand dollars and jade here) and surfing. It’s an easy stop along the way if you don’t feel like going for a hike.
Hikes are, of course, one of the most popular things to do in Big Sur. There are several state parks to explore — Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (from waterfalls and hidden coves to scuba diving — the trails here are pretty epic!), Andrew Molera State Park, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Garrapata State Park and Limekiln State Park.
Post Ranch Inn
Yes, I know, this isn’t a town. It’s an inn, or really, a hotel. However, I always wanted to go here, so I have included it as a stop along the way. Because truly, renting a cabin here with glass walls facing the ocean, a hot tub and a fireplace is something everyone should do.
Carmel, or Carmel-by-the-Sea is a nice stop along the way — simply to explore the many quaint streets and restaurants.
Monterey is another quaint town by the sea, just a stone throw away from Carmel. Here you can go whale watching, look at the sea lions, check out the sea otters, explore the Dali17 museum or the Monterey State Historic Park.
While it’s called West Cliff Drive, walking along this 3-mile pathway has apparently convinced a lot of people to move to Santa Cruz…It runs from the Santa Cruz Wharf to Natural Bridges State Beach (this is where you find the funky rock formations that are Insta worthy) and along the way you’ll discover various coves and beautiful scenery.
There's also the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk if you feel like something a bit happening…it has a fairground and enough junk food to keep you going.
If you love surfing (or watching surfers), then Steamer Lane is a great spot to visit. If you prefer going for a swim, head to the Garden of Eden, which is a swimming hole surrounded by redwood forest. Alternatively, visit Shark Fin Cove for a swim by the ocean in an incredibly beautiful setting.
Feeling thirsty? Jump on the Brew Cruz and go for a ride to the different taprooms and breweries about town.
The Old Cove Landing Trail at Wilder Ranch State Park is a scenic hike that includes passing by Fern Grotto Beach — a secluded beach cove with an inland sea cave dripping with ferns. You will be able to look out over the Pacific on this hike — likely seeing dolphins, whales and seals from your vantage point.
Here you can visit the garage where Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak built the first Apple computer. Surely that’s worth a stop?!
More prone to chasing thrills? Why not visit a haunted house? The Winchester Mansion was built by Sarah Winchester, who inherited a fortune from her husband of Winchester Rifles. As she was certain the mansion was haunted by people killed by Winchester rifles, she kept building staircases and doors leading nowhere to confuse the ghosts. Contemplate that the house has 160 rooms, but 2,000 doors…
For more ghosts, the Rosicrucians (a community of mystics) have the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum which has a lot of Egyptian artifacts…and metaphysical theories, on display. You can enter a replica of a tomb here…
If, after encountering some ghosts, you need to calm down, go for a stroll in the Heritage Rose Garden or the Japanese Friendship Garden.
Child at heart? The Children’s Discovery Museum lets you (or rather: your kids) play their way through the exhibits, so that they learn as they go along. Other places for children and adults alike include two theme parks: California’s Great America and Raging Waters. There are some serious rides here that will leave you with your adrenaline pumping!
There’s also the NASA Ames Research Center and the Lick Observatory for those keen to learn about space. And if you prefer art, the San Jose Museum of Art, the San Jose Institute of Contemporary and Art the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles.
Lastly, stop by at History San Jose to see a small town older version of the city — including a fully operational ice cream shop.
Finally, we have reached San Fran. Home of the hippies, techies and new age folks. I love San Fran — for visiting. I couldn’t handle the overcast days for too long. But I do love fog and San Fran’s fog is so much part of the city they’ve named it Karl. Walking in the hills of Berkeley and watching it roll in is probably pretty epic. I’m saying that because I have walked in those hills and I love it up there — reminds me of the Hollywood Hills with the lights twinkling in the night, spread out like stars across the hills.
If in San Fran you have to visit Fisherman’s Wharf and check out the sea lions (not sure if the clam chowder served in sourdough buns is the best here, but I had some here and you HAVE to some while in San Fran; also play some antique games at Musée Mécanique when at the wharf). Heading to Chinatown is another must (and the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory lets you in on some secrets to fortune cookie making). Of course, taking a ride on a tram is also something you just have to do.
The Ferry Building hosts an indoor market where you can eat till you go silly.
For an urban hike, Lands End is a great choice as you get to see a lot of the landmarks along the way. You can also go to Fort Point to check out the view of Golden Gate Bridge and, of course, hike across it if you feel like it. Golden Gate Park is another place to go for a stroll.
The Exploratorium After Dark is an…experience. Where you can drink cocktails. The Tactile Dome is, apparently a must.
If you’re feeling morbid, or just want a reality check, there’s always a visit to Alcatraz that can be arranged…
Lombard Street is known as the crookedest street ever…so if you want to experience what it’s like driving in San Fran you might want to start here — then you’ve tried the worst (or best) already.
San Fran has a unique vibe. Truly. It’s worth a visit just to “feel” the city.
Feeling political? Capitol State park is home to the California government and a great place to visit as it is also home to a museum. There’s also the Crocker Art Museum if you want more culture and Old Sacramento (a district that pays homage to yesteryears) has no less than five museums, if you want to go museum hopping. Sutter’s Fort also takes you back in time.
Another district well worth exploring is Midtown, as it has some of the hippest bars, eateries and boutiques Sacramento has to offer. Fairy Tale Town, on the other hand, lets kids act out their favorite fairy tales on stage. In case you’re bringing the kids…
Lake Tahoe is one of those places everyone in LA talks about. Kind of like going to Big Bear and going skiing, this is a place for skiing, chilling in front of the fire in log cabins, water sports on the lake, hiking (particularly in Emerald Bay State Park and D. L. Bliss State Park), biking and enjoying a natural landscape that’s very different from the more tropical and desert-like landscapes you find in LA.
People generally come here for the wine, or you know, weekends away with the girlies or significant other at a local spa. You can also hop on the Napa Valley Wine Train for a tour of some of the top wineries…and just to sit back and enjoy the view, or indulge in the food from their gourmet restaurant. There are different tours on offer — ranging from just a ride, to stops at wineries, a twilight tour and a Murder on the Orient Express tour…
If you feel like something a little more heavenly, different companies offer helicopter, hot air balloon and glider rides in the area.
There are six Michelin-star restaurants in Napa Valley, so let’s just say that dining won’t be a problem.
If you feel like a hike, the Robert Louis Stevenson State Park has a lot to offer.
Want to travel back in time? Then check out the Napa Valley Museum as well as the Hatt and Historic Napa Mill, or the Bale Grist Mill.
A tip: check out what performances, festivals, outdoor movies, etc. are on at the different wineries. They have a lot to offer. There's also the Napa Valley Opera House, which hosts a lot of different types of performances throughout the year.
Mount Shasta is where you go on spiritual pilgrimages…or hit the slopes on the mountain. It’s a new age kind of place and I once convinced my friends to go there with me as I wanted to go on a spiritual journey before leaving California. The one epiphany I had? Don’t leave California. I still did. Sometimes I don’t know why I don’t listen to myself more… Then again, I found Cape Town. So maybe I listen sometimes…
Anyway, Mount Shasta is sort of at the end of the state and the road going there is pretty epic. I’d totally return to enjoy the peace and quiet while working on my next novel, or script. It’s on my bucket list together with the rest of this road trip…
I love California. Maybe because of that reason, I always take the piss when writing about it — all the eco-hippies who are gone with the fairies one moment, only to chase after fame and riches the next (whether they want to be the next Mark Zuckerberg, or Pamela Anderson — Silicone Valley v.s. Hollywood). To be fair, Californians stand for a lot of what’s good in the world — from healthy eating and looking after the planet, to human rights and startups that are trying to save the world with one invention or another. But they also love the ego, get carried away by airy fairy ideas (ranging from health fads to aliens) and are notoriously flaky. The surfer dudes and dudettes are, of course, ignoring all this and simply chilling on the beach. Sometimes I think they got it right. I, on the other hand, pretty much sum up all the other stereotypes if you mix them together and give it a good stir.
I love California. I love the changing nature, the seasons, the land, the beaches… I even love strange weather phenomena like June gloom and El Nino. OK, so it sucks when it rains for a month straight, but we really need the rain, right?!
The thing with living in LA was that it wasn’t just LA (and no, LA is not pretty — it’s notoriously not pretty, but there are incredible neighborhoods) — it was knowing that if I jumped into my car and drove, in whatever direction I was driving, I’d discover something amazing. The whole of California is filled with epic nature and amazing places.
More than anything, I love nights when the desert winds rustle my hair — those uncharacteristically warm nights, when the Santa Ana is blowing and all bets are off. The nights when anything is possible…when the coyotes are howling in the canyon and the silhouettes of palm trees and cacti look like beautiful paintings against the moonlit night sky. The wind chimes are singing as the Santa Ana swings them gingerly and the lights are twinkling like stars in the hills. It’s magical.
Yes, I love California. And one day I’d really love to go on the road trip I’ve described in this article. I have a feeling it would be absolutely epic!
For more inspiration, check out my Pinterest board: Californication
Looking for more information? Use the below sites, as well as sites dedicated to the different national parks, cities, etc.