Top 15 Places to Visit During Your California Road Trip – 2024 Guide

California is, without question, one of the most beautiful states. Most guests only visit the popular Golden State sights, though. To fully experience the state’s grandeur, why not take a California road trip and add the following locations to your itinerary?

1. Pier 39, San Francisco

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Every road trip through California must include San Francisco, and you can’t visit the Bay Area without checking out Pier 39. Once a trading pier, shops and restaurants have modernized the area. The real attraction is the seals playing close by, however.

While watching the seals, try some of San Francisco’s signature clam chowder.

TIP: Stay downwind because those cute seals can become quite stinky.

2. Old Town San Diego

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Many consider Old Town San Diego the birthplace of California. Visit the State Historic Park to see what life was like in the old days.

If you aren’t interested in history, check out the area for its tantalizing Mexican cuisine and Californian wines. Popular restaurants in the area include Casa de Reyes and Oscar’s Mexican Sea-Food.

3. Mono Lake & Mono County

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At a glance, Mono County might not look like a promising stop, but when you delve deeper, you’ll discover it is home to several hidden gems.

The most famous of these sites is Mono Lake, a saltwater lake in the middle of an arid desert.

The lake is over 700,000 years old, and the elevated salt content makes floating easy—it is a lot of fun, too. The lake’s gorgeous tufa towers (calcium carbonate rock formations) also create a lovely photo opportunity.

4. Sequoia National Park, South Sierra Nevada

Beautiful Forests

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Sierra Nevada is home to several natural beauties. One of the most breathtaking places is Sequoia National Park, with its dramatic landscapes that will enthrall any art lover. It’s also home to many ancient trees, the most famous of which is General Sherman – the largest living single-stem tree on record.

5. Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles

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You can’t visit California without visiting the famous Hollywood sign, but that’s not the only thing worth seeing on Mount Hollywood. The Griffith Observatory is a public observatory boasts various fascinating exhibits about our planet and space.

If you aren’t a fan of extraterrestrials, the observatory still offers a gorgeous view of LA, including Hollywood, Downtown LA, and the Pacific Ocean. Entry is free, so there’s no reason to skip this landmark during your California road trip.

6. Route 66

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Drive on the infamous Route 66, also known as the Main Street of America. The highway starts in Chicago and terminates at the Pacific Coast in Santa Monica, California. You can travel on it for as long as you want to, taking pictures, and reminiscing.

If it gets too hot on the desert road, stop at one of Route 66’s motels or diners to relax (and buy the t-shirt).

7. Lake Tahoe, Sierra Nevada

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Lake Tahoe is a gorgeous freshwater lake that’s perfect for swimming and fishing. The Sierra Nevada Mountains are a fantastic backdrop for pictures.

If you are in the mood for some history, visit Vikingsholm, a 1929 Nordic-style mansion in Emerald Bay State Park near Lake Tahoe.

8. Asilomar State Beach, Monterey Peninsula

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Everybody wants to see an awe-inspiring southern sunset, so add Asilomar State Beach to your California road trip. Aside from its gorgeous hues, you can camp on the beach and hang out with other nature lovers.

9. Temecula, Riverside County

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Located between San Diego and Los Angeles, Temecula is prime wine country. It is the perfect location for an intimate wine tour with someone special, the height of romance.

There are several prize-winning wineries to explore in the area and balloon rides for an even more memorable afternoon.  This is a wonderful place to visit with your loved one or for a date!

Click here to find escorts for a fantastic wine tasting date if you’d like to share the experience.

10. Big Bear Lake, San Bernardino County

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The San Bernardino Mountains are home to Big Bear Lake. The area is most famous for the Bear Mountain Ski Resort.

In summer, visit the lake for camping and water adventures, such as fishing, paddle boarding, and more.

In winter, check-in for skiing and snowboarding.

11. Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada Mountains

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Yosemite National Park is a California road trip staple for many reasons, but mostly because it is among the most beautiful national parks in the country. Some of its most popular attractions include ancient Sequoia trees, the view over Bridalveil Fall, the El Capitan granite cliffs, and the Half Dome.

To fully enjoy Yosemite, spend a couple of days exploring the park and pack comfortable shoes for hikes.

12. Big Sur

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Big Sur is a gorgeous coastline—one of the longest in the contiguous US. Driving the Big Sur will expose you to several miles of beauty, including Bixby Creek Bridge, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, McWay Falls, and Pfeiffer Beach.

The road is winding and narrow, so drive with care and stay focused. Letting the gorgeous view distract you could prove regretful.

13. Santa Monica Pier & Pacific Park, Los Angeles

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California isn’t all about majestic landscapes and monuments—the fun state also has various spots to thrill your inner child.

If you have doubts, visit the Santa Monica Pier. There, you will find several thrilling carnival rides and games. The rides cost a few bucks, but the pier is free.

14. Death Valley National Park

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Here’s a California road trip destination that’s not for the faint of heart. “The Valley,” as it’s known, is one of the hottest and driest deserts in the US, with temperatures reaching 45 to 50 degrees in summer.

While the environment isn’t friendly, it is gorgeous to behold. If you intend to visit, make sure to pack sun protection and lots of drinking water to stay hydrated.

15. Muir Woods National Monument, Marin County

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Do you want to see California’s indigenous wildlife in one place? Visit Muir Woods at the end of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. The national monument is also a great place to see hulking Redwood trees, some of which have been around for millennia.

Last Touch

That wraps up our list of places to visit during your California road trip. Remember, the key to any successful road trip is planning—avoid complications and map out your trip before leaving. Pack all the supplies you need, including protective masks.

See you on the road.

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