Make Your California Road Trip Dreams a Reality

Like A Local Guide • 23 Mar, 2018

When planning the ultimate road trip you’ll want to be sure to bring good company, a killer playlist and, of course, a well-plotted route from start to finish. It’s important to have a set path in front of you with planned fun around every corner.

Here, Veronica shares some worthwhile cities and attractions along the 450-mile stretch from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

San Francisco

San Fran is so much more than just sourdough bread and the Golden Gate Bridge. Before you set course to Los Angeles, be sure to check out at least some of what this groovy city has to offer.

Go back to the ‘60s on the Magic Bus, a unique two-hour experience that combines theatre with sightseeing. Or get outside for a few hours and hike around the city. There’s no shortage of trails nearbyLand’s End has views you won’t forget, and Mount Diablo takes the cake for best sunset.

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San Jose

You can’t complete your trip down the Pacific Coast Highway without stopping in San Jose.

Get lost in the famous Winchester Mystery House. Complete with 165 rooms, this mansion is not your ordinary historical site. Some people even claim it’s haunted. Just beware of those dead-end hallways and staircases leading to nowhere.

San Jose is rich with intriguing museums you won’t want to miss. Take a tomb tour at the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, or get your fill of fine art at the San Jose Museum of Art. Once you get your culture fix, get a boba for the road at Tastea.

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Felton is one of California’s hidden gems. Here, you can visit a museum completely dedicated to Bigfoot, or learn some local history at the Roaring Camp Railroads.

Situated near the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, this little-known town couldn’t get more beautiful. If you’re aiming to squeeze some camping into your trip, this is the place to go. It’s not every day you get the opportunity to sleep under the canopy of 200-foot trees.

Otherwise check out the Mystery Spot, a museum in the Santa Cruz Mountains exhibiting natural gravity phenomena. It’s even on the way to our next stop.

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Santa Cruz

Just an hour west of Felton, this city is buzzing with excitement. Stop by Veg on the Edge for exquisite vegan and gluten-free eats. Even meat eaters will love this spot.

Once you satisfy your appetite, be sure to take a stroll down the classic Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. This admission-free seaside amusement park is the soul of Santa Cruz. You can get a dreamy view of the ocean from the pier. Or snag some tickets and ride the world-famous 1924 Giant Dipper roller coaster.

If you prefer to ditch the crowds, the north coast beaches provide a peaceful break from the hustle and bustle of the city.

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Next stop, Monterey Bay! This coastal gem is a beauty to behold. It’s a great place to spot sea otters in their natural habitat. And if you want to learn more about these furry little cuties and the effort to conserve their environment, stop by the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Up for a scenic drive? Cruise down the beloved 17 Mile Drive. Follow it all the way down and you’ll find yourself in the adorable village of Carmel-by-the-Sea. Browse the shops or get some coffee at a local café. Enjoy the warm sea breeze.

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Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara is one of the best wine tour destinations in southern California. Santa Barbara Classic Wine Tours offer an all-inclusive tour through four vineyards — they even provide a picnic. After the wineries, take a walk through the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden. If you’re looking for something more adventurous, rent sea kayaks and explore the ocean a bit.

Santa Barbara HarborPhoto credit: Damian Gadal


Malibu has long been hailed as the city California dreams are made of. Many celebrities occupy long strips of private beach here, and the shopping, eating, and nightlife can be pretty upscale. But there’s plenty for the everyday Joe to enjoy, too!

Grab a bite to eat at Malibu Farms, an organic café right on the pier. Head up to the mountains to enjoy nature’s abundant beauty. You can even enjoy a unique guided trek with Malibu Wine Hikes.

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Los Angeles

450 glorious miles later and you’ve made it: the City of Angels! I hope you’re still up on energy because we’re ending this road trip with a bang. You already know about all the glitz and glam the city has to offer, so I’ll spare you the repetition because there are plenty of hidden gems to explore.

Sunken City is a good one. This graffiti-covered lost city slipped into the sea after a devastating landslide. But the ruins left behind are an intriguing sight to see. And just north of downtown is an animal lover’s paradise. The Wildlife Learning Center houses rescue animals such as porcupines, sloths, and wildcats. You can even interact with them!

Another peculiar site is the Museum of Broken Relationships. Artefacts in the museum are donated by the heartbroken. The museum is dedicated to sharing stories about human relationships and their complexities.


Creating your dream road trip is about having fun and being spontaneous, but it’s important to be responsible, too. Don’t to let your guard down with strangers, trust your gut, and always have a checklist to reference. This will ensure you don’t forget to pack anything important or leave anything behind along the way.

That said, if something you’d like to bring is irreplaceable, either financially or emotionally, don’t pack it. But enough of the logistics. Enjoy the open road and good friends, and write a few memories down for later.

Opening photo credit: sk

Like A Local Guide
Like A Local Guide is about stepping off the tourist trail and finding cool and cosy spots where locals like to spend their time. We built a website and mobile app to bring insider recommendations from around the world to your fingertips.


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