JOURNAL : June 1, 2011
|Series||An Itinerary for Visiting California|
This was supposed to be a list of Top 10 Places to Visit in California but someone recently asked me for a suggested itinerary when visiting California.
For simplicity California can be divided into four main areas — Southern California, San Francisco, Northern California, and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. If planning a trip to California you'll fly into a major airport like LAX, SAN or SFO, and then most attractions are within a 3-hour drive. For the Sierra Nevadas in the east, San Francisco or Reno/Lake Tahoe have the closest international airports.
From about San Luis Obispo and Morro bay down through Santa Barbara and the vast Los Angeles metropolitan area and down to San Diego is all Southern California. The eastern portion of is dominated by the Mojave Desert, with points of interest including Joshua Tree National Park and the Salton Sea.
If one were to fly into LAX, most of Southern California is accessible within a driving radius of 3 hours. Within the city are numerous world-famous tourist destinations. Besides visiting Hollywood, all the beach cities, parks like Disneyland in Anaheim and Magic Mountain in Valencia, be sure to visit Griffith Park Observatory to see the cityscape spread out below. At night it's a sparkling panorama. A drive along Mulholland Drive starting in Hollywood Hills offers spectacular views of both LA and the San Fernando Valley. From Santa Monica take the Pacific Coast Highway heading east towards Malibu, or south towards Palos Verdes. To escape from L.A. take the Angeles Crest Highway into the mountains, or take the 210 east to the 18 north and ride the Rim of the World Highway to Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear. A lengthy vacation could be spent just exploring the sprawl of Los Angeles.
Just a couple hours south from L.A. is lovely San Diego. Compared to its noisy northern neighbor the pace is more mellow, the freeways are less congested, and everything is closer together. Within a few miles of downtown San Diego are Balboa Park and the world-famous San Diego Zoo, Sea World, the Gaslamp District, Hillcrest, the fabulous malls of Mission Valley, Coronado, Point Loma, Mission Bay, Pacific Beach, and Harbor Island with its excellent view of the city. A brief drive north is La Jolla, Torrey Pines State Park and the Del Mar Racetrack. To escape the city head east to Cuyamaca State Park or north to the area around the old western town of Julian. If I've missed anything please forgive me.
Golden Gate BridgeView All Sizes
San Francisco is usually considered part of Northern California, but for a visitor it's better to fly into San Francisco and explore from there, then travel to Northern California as a separate excursion since they are very different experiences.
Sea Lion near Monterey
Big Sur RiverView All Sizes
The Rugged Coast of Big SurView All Sizes
Within a 3-hour radius is Golden Gate Park and Bridge, Silicon Valley, and wine growing regions like Napa and Sonoma. Head south to Santa Cruz, the Salinas Valley, Monterey, Carmel and Big Sur, or go east and you're in the heart of the great agricultural region known as the Central Valley.
Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks all live within these mountains about a couple hours from each other along curvy mountain roads. Many tourists tend to drive the 4 hours from San Francisco to Yosemite National Park and spend a couple days exploring the natural beauty. Mono Lake and Lake Tahoe are also near.
Half Dome from the Valley FloorView All Sizes
Redwood National ParkView All Sizes
Mt. ShastaView All Sizes
While Southern California is predominantly desert and chaparral, Northern California is a mostly lush green region with its center at around Redding. Many beautiful National Forests abound, including Redwood, Trinity, Shasta, Lassen, Klamath and Modoc. All are within a 3-hour radius of Redding. Head north along the 5 freeway to pass directly through Shasta Lake, the cone of Mt. Shasta, and on up to Oregon. Head west from Redding along highway 299 through the cool river valleys of Trinity National Forest. Head east along the same highway into the high desert around Modoc. Both the Sierra Nevadas and Northern California should appeal to hikers and campers. Unfortunately, the closest international airport is Sacramento.
At 840 miles, California has the longest coastline of any of the 48 contiguous states. From San Diego to Crescent City it's at least an 18-hour drive, but the coastal beauty of rocky cliffs and broad beaches along the way is well worth it. In addition to flying into an area and exploring within a driving radius, taking the Pacific Coast Highway is an excellent way to really see California, and points of interest along the way.
Motorcycling Shasta LakeView All Sizes
In Griffith Park
Well, that depends on what you'd like to experience and how much time you have.
Pick an area and decide on a half-dozen adventures. Browse photos on Daily Venture until you see something you like. Tailor your trip to your tastes — Immerse yourself in the crowds and be entertained at popular destinations, or enjoy peace with your loved ones in the sublime wilderness. Take a hot air balloon ride. Rent a motorcycle or an RV instead of a car. Go nuts!
California is a sushi menu of delights for everyone. The land will be around for a long time until it falls into the Pacific. If you don't see it all you can always come back.
About this day
June 1, 2011
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