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JonnyCeltics's avatar

Taking a road trip from LA to SF (and back) - any advice of what to see/do on the way?

Asked by JonnyCeltics (2716points) August 28th, 2011

I love nature. Da beach. Meeting new people. Sleeping somewhere sound, clean. Museums. Random Sh*t. Really open to anything – so….holla!

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18 Answers

Judi's avatar

Just make sure you don’t come up the 5. It’s an ugly drive. Stay along the coast.
See Hurst Castle!

digitalimpression's avatar

Get on highway 1 and follow it all the way up. Stop at every interesting place you see. You’ll never get to San Fran without forcing yourself to skip a few of them. The best road trips are spontaneous.

Jeruba's avatar

Give yourself a treat and see Santa Cruz, the beach, the boardwalk, the wharf with its aged hippies and broken-down surfers and tourist kitsch. Walk up to the lighthouse and see the young folks on their surfboards brave the infamous Steamer Lane. Visit Pacific Avenue with its shops and restaurants and its colorful blend of humanity.

From Santa Cruz go 6 miles up Route 9 to Felton and visit the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. I once saw 23 French tourists crowd inside the hollow trunk of the Fremont tree.

If you want to spend the night in Felton, I recommend Fern River Resort, right on Route 9 just a little way south of Cowell. Ask for cottage 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8. Well, you’ll be fine with any of them, but 1 and 2 don’t have a view of the river, and the higher numbers have other drawbacks. They’re all housekeeping cottages, so you can shop nearby and cook in. The whole place is a little funky and quirky, but just enjoy it for what it is and forget about what it isn’t. It’s clean and comfy and definitely not generic motel. In cottage 3 or 4, you may be visited by a friendly gray cat named Scooter. Give him a gritch behind the ears for me.

OpryLeigh's avatar

I’ll be doing a very similar route next month so I’m going to lurk here for a bit to steal some of the advice you are given!

Brian1946's avatar

Check out Mavericks, which is a beach just south of SF.

According to Wiki, “Maverick’s or Mavericks is a surfing location in Northern California, U.S.A.. It is located approximately 2 miles from shore in Pillar Point Harbor just north of Half Moon Bay at the village of Princeton-By-The-Sea. After a strong winter storm in the northern Pacific Ocean, waves can routinely crest at over 25 feet and top out at over 80 feet.”

Aethelwine's avatar

Visit Morro Bay and Montana De Oro State Park (just south of Morro Bay) if you are looking for beautiful scenery and nature. I promise they won’t disappoint you.

Just a very short drive south of Morro Bay is San Luis Obispo. This is where you’ll find a little nightlife due to the college crowd. You won’t want to miss Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa located in the heart of the town, and you can stay at Madonna Inn for a truly unique hotel stay. Each room is decorated differently.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

I’ve always wanted to tour The Winchester Mystery House in San Jose.

jca's avatar

Big Sur.

Carmel/Monterey and the 17 mile drive

Hearst Castle

You are in for an incredible journey!

smilingheart1's avatar

Go over to Sausalito if you get the chance when in San Fran and Alcatraz. We were disappointed to not get a tour because we should have booked on line, it’s that popular. My next trip I want to see Hearst Castle and the Winchester House. They are “must see” so I learned after the fact!!!!

zenvelo's avatar

I highly recommend taking Hwy 101 North, and Hwy 1 South. 101 North will atke you past all the Missions, and through the Salinas Valley.

For a funky tourist stop, visit the Mystery Spot near Santa Cruz.

In Avila Beach, near San Luis Obispo, try the hot springs.

At Santa Barbara, Hwy 101 north bound is away from the water, so take Hwy 154 past Lake Cachuma to Solvang, the Danish community. It’s a quick drive from Solvang to Buellton, where you can get Andersen’s Pea Soup, and you’ll be back on Hwy 101.

Judi's avatar

Like @zenvelo said, Sycamore Hot Springs are pretty cool, although I haven’t been there in may years. You can rent cool tubs in the trees by the hour.

Kardamom's avatar

Definitely avoid the 5, you will drive your car off into a ditch in King City, from boredome. Go the 101 route!

If you can, try to visit Solvang, a little town that was settled by Danish immigrants in the early 1900’s. Right off the 101 about 30 minutes south of Santa Maria, at Buellton (where there is a nifty old time restaurant called Pea Soup Andersen’s which is worth stopping at for a bowl of soup and some kitsch) go East on Mission Drive (246) about 2 miles and it will take you right into Solvang. There’s lots of pastry shops and restaurants specializing in Danish, Norwegian and Swedish cuisine. It would be a nice place to spend the night too. While you’re there, you might want to visit the Elverhoj Museum and the Hans Christian Andersen Museum

And don’t miss the Muir Woods

And if you get the chance head to the sand dunes at Oceano because they are simply gorgeous, but these dunes are also the “set” of a lot of Hollywood movies, including the Sheik starring Rudolph Valentino. Apparently they are doing a modern day excavation of the site, to dig up some of the old artifacts from the movie sets. But the photo ops at the dunes, in and of themselves is magnificent!

And I second the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose and the Madonna Inn at San Luis Obispo (you must see the waterfall in the men’s room!) and the Mystery Spot at Santa Cruz.

ram201pa's avatar

I did this exact trip a few years ago. I flew to San Fran and took RT 1 all the way to Los Angeles. Be sure to get a convertible and put the top down. We stopped at Hearst Castle, Big Sur, Monterey and San Louis Obispo. While here you MUST stay at the Madonna Inn. Some posted this info already but it bears repeating.

Have a great timeā€¦rememberā€¦convertible. Also, gas stations are few and far between on Route 1. Have a blast!

Judi's avatar

FYI, Alex Madona passed away a few years ago and customer service went way down. Still a beautiful place to see, and a great place for breakfast. (Dinner service was crap the last few times I was there. )

JonnyCeltics's avatar

these are great – lurve y’all!

jca's avatar

An addition to what @Kardamom wrote: Solvang is where Sideways was filmed, if you’re a Sideways fan (the movie).

Muir Woods is incredible. Take some time, maybe go late in the day when the shadows are long and the park is almost empty. Really stand and smell and just be with the trees.

Kardamom's avatar

@jca is right! Here’s a site that lists some of the places, including the Solvang Restaurant, where Paul Giamatti hung out in Sideways

JonnyCeltics's avatar

Update: Santa Barbara, Solvang, Morro Bay, SF, Hwy 1, Elephant Seal turnout.

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