California, aka the Golden State, might just be one of the most exciting and fun states in the US. The area itself stretches from the Mexican border all the way along the Pacific for almost 900 miles. The diverse terrain is made up of forests, beaches, mountains, deserts and farmland. It’s also home to some of the most dizzyingly addictive cities in the US – including the home of Hollywood, Los Angeles, and the hipster haven also known as San Francisco. It has areas of unparalleled beauty such as Yosemite National Park and Big Sur, and plenty of activities. A recent piece of research looking into social media’s favourite road trips determined that California was the most popular state in the US for a road jaunt – and over a million #roadtrip hashtags in the state can’t be wrong.
Just why is California such a perfect road trip destination? That’s easy. It’s a combination of the never-ending sunshine, vibrant cities, breath-taking national treasures and some of the world’s best theme parks on your doorstep. Think of all the quintessential USA destinations you’ve dreamed of visiting, and you’ll find them all here, plus some off-the-beaten-track places you won’t find anywhere else. California is the state where you can dream big – anything can happen. It’s time to take to the roads and explore.
So, you’ve decided on a Californian road trip, but what are you going to see & do whilst you’re there? We’ve got just the thing…
For the Nature Lovers
Yosemite National Park
Nestled in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, you’ll find Yosemite National Park, a park first protected in 1864 and known for its stunning waterfalls, meadows, vast wilderness and much more. Plan a camping trip to explore this fantastic shrine to nature in all its glory.
A vast freshwater lake in the Sierra Nevada mountains, Lake Tahoe is known for its beaches and ski resorts – so you can visit in any season and still find something to do. Even if the weather isn’t particularly warm or cold enough for ski season, strap on your hiking boots and take in the scenery.
Home to numerous state parks, Big Sur is an enticing area of rugged landscapes, seaside cliffs and misty coastline views. You’ll recognise the views at Bixby Bridge as being from many commercials, and the twisty roads make it an enjoyable drive as well as a great place to stop.
Redwood National & State Parks
Home to the tallest trees on earth, Redwood National and State Parks is also where you can find oak woodlands, rivers and almost 40 miles of rugged coastline. Stretch your legs with a hike or spend the night under the stars at one of the many campsites.
For the City Dwellers
The Golden Gates of San Francisco welcomes all types of travellers. There’s so much to see, from the notorious Alcatraz prison to the bustling Fisherman’s Wharf. Go with an empty stomach, as the street food scene is mind-blowing – from clam chowder to fusion food combinations that are a taste sensation.
Known for beaches, parks, museums and the world-famous San Diego Zoo, this city is an ideal stop for those with kids. The harbour is home to the naval ship USS Midway, which you can tour.
The bright lights of Hollywood beckon you to LA, but its film and TV roots are not all there is to the city. Look beyond the Hollywood sign and you’ll find the original Disneyland nearby, the kitschy Santa Monica pier and incredible city views from The Griffith Observatory.
With warm sand and cool surf, Santa Cruz beach and boardwalk is the place to be. If you’re looking for a chilled place to stop and take a break from the road, you can’t get better than here. Don’t forget to check out the vintage rides on the boardwalk if you’re a theme park fan.
For the Foodies
Napa Valley is a haven of countryside scenery and world-famous wines. With stylish hotels and wineries to tour, it’s the perfect stop to take a break from the roads. Take the Napa Valley Wine Train for the ultimate experience. Wine not?
For the Bit of Everything
Monterey & Carmel
Surrounded by the Pacific on three sides, Monterey Peninsula has so much to offer – from beaches and coves to fine dining and even a world-famous aquarium, the Monterey Bay Aquarium. On the South Side, you can explore Carmel-by-sea, a wealthy town with white sand beaches and bluffs. By night, you’ll find plenty of cosy pubs and inns to rest up in.
For the History Fans
Sacramento is the capital of California, and certain parts of the city still hark back to the Gold Rush era with wooden sidewalks and wagon rides. Not one to miss if you’re a history fan.
Columbia State Historic Park
Another must-see for history fans on a Californian road trip is Columbia State Historic Park, home of the largest single collection of existing Gold Rush-era structures. When you visit here, it’s like going back in time to a nineteenth-century mining town – complete with sights and even nostalgic smells.
California is truly a state that has everything an ideal road trip needs – exciting roads to drive on, amazing scenery, bustling cities and plenty of places to stop and get some fresh air. Make it your next road trip destination, and you’ll have memories and stories to share for years to come.
About the author
Leila Jones is a content executive specialising in travel. She loves exploring the USA and has just got back from New York.