I am traveling with my husband the first week of August for our 25th anniversary. We thought about flying into California and then taking a road trip on the coast. I'd love to have information of where to fly in and step by step where to go, eat, and stay. We are on a tight budget, I may add. Also, we do not drink, meaning places with wine, etc.., doesn't appeal to us. Thank you!
Do you know where you will start and where you will end?
Here are some of my favorites.
Laguna BeachThere used to be the pizza place right near the beach, I forgot the name of it. We got a pizza and sat right above the beach and watched the sun go down over the water. It was great. Laguna is just a very pretty small town.
A road trip up the PCH is not complete without visiting 17 Mile DrI like to get a lunch to go or sandwich from somewhere in Carmel and then drive to 17 mile drive to have a picnic.
Head up to San Franciscowhere you can visit Golden Gate Park. I also really enjoyed the Japanese Tea GardenOther places to see in San Fran would be Haight-Ashburywhere the hippy movement began. Alcatrazhas a very cool audio tour where you can hear all the famous criminals talking and telling you stories about the prison.
Ghiradelli Squareto get an ice cream sundae!
If you visit San Fran, remember to bring a jacket with you...you'll need it every night.
Drive your car down Lombard Street
Comment if you have a better idea of start/finish places or your itinerary and I may be able to give more suggestions. Have fun!
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California has so much to see. Types of activities that are free are beaches (excl. parking), mountains, ocean, etc. There are also nice aspects of history such as the missions that line California from the old "spanish" days. Depending on where you land, there are several specific spots.
Fly into San Diego and look to stay at Ramada Gaslamp/Convention Center. It's cheap and has a history. Great rooftop patio with great views of downtown. It even has one of those old "cage" door elevators. Stroll around the Gaslamp Quarter including Westfield Horton Plaza, Little Italy and then either hop the train or drive up to Old Town San Diego. There are plenty of great restaurants there.Next I would drive up Interstate 15 to Riverside (California) and visit the old The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa.
Sometimes you can get a good rate there but if not, there are affordable Holiday Inn Express hotels nearby. Make your way up the mountain to Lake Arrowhead and you'll be delighted. Breathtaking views on the way up and down and the lake itself is a world away from the rest of Socal in terms of climate, landscape and distance.
On the way "in" to LA, go through Old Pasadena, another piece of LA history. Next, you can visit Downtown Los Angeles. The The Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites is a hotel many movies have had scenes in and it has a great "rotating" bar at the top where you can enjoy great views and some appetizers if you so desire (you can get valet parking for $7 for 3 hours if you validate). The Millennium Biltmore Hotel has movie history as well. "13th floor" and "Cocoon" both shot pool scenes in it's basement pool. DT LA also has a Fashion District and a The Jewelry District that are interesting. You can visit Los Angeles Chinatown, Koreatown, walk along Rodeo Drive and the Hollywood Walk of fame (if you park under the Mann Theatre Mall, it's $3/hr and you're right in the middle of the stars. You'll really get a scene at Venice Beach Boardwalk and the Santa Monica Pier. You can park right on the pier for $3/hr too.
You should probably have enough time to drive to Santa Barbara but I would stay in a neighboring town that's cheaper. Santa Barbara has some of the most beautiful coastline in Socal. A town that's not too far away and interesting is Solvang... a danish themed town.
On your way back to San Diego, you can drive down Pacific Coast Hwy through Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, Long Beach(stop and see The Queen Mary), Newport Beach and Laguna Beach. Once you're back in the San Diego area, drive through La Jolla and cross over downtown to Coronado and visit the Hotel Del Coronado
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Two budget-friendly, ocean-view places to stop and eat along the PCH are Malibu Seafood and then, further north at the county line, Neptune's Net. Neptune's Net is a whole scene, with surfers and bikers and locals and tourists.
I have driven the California Coast from Tijuana to Crescent City (actually between Cabo San Lucas in Baja Mexico all the way up to Vancouver Canada). It's an amazing 800 mile drive up California Highway 1 and 101. You might want to be more specific about which sections as northern, central and southern California all have different attractions to offer. But not to be missed are the Redwood Hwy north of San Francisco and the Cabrillo Hwy Nbetween Los Angeles and San Francisco.