Just off 405 South near the beautiful shores of Manhattan Beach is one of the world’s largest airports, LAX. With flights arriving daily from destinations near and far, the baggage carousel is most people’s first experience with Los Angeles and California at large.
The state of California, especially Los Angeles, is semi-famous as a spot that’s a few minutes from everything. Skiing and snowboarding is available in Big Bear and Tahoe, beaches bring cool breezes into Los Angeles, and a long network of freeways connects the whole thing.
Navigating it can be daunting, and those rumors you heard about three-hour traffic are all true. You could easily spend a week getting out of Los Angeles. Hop in a car, grab your maps application of choice and set out on an adventure.
Set on the California/Mexico border, San Diego is one of California’s prime destinations. Twelve miles north of downtown proper, La Jolla’s bluffs and beaches are the perfect spot for a coastal day trip. For less glitzy locales, downtown provides an old town feel where you can stroll your way through shops and restaurants ocean side. Show up early for a Padres game and leave your car in the Ace Parking lot at Petco Park. From there you have easy trolley access to the famous convention center, home to Comicon, and a short walk will bring you to downtown for bars and restaurants.
A day or two in San Diego then it’s off to SLO, or San Louis Obispo by way of the PCH. Route 1 connects to the 101, so you can take it North to San Francisco for a scenic drive, or bypass the ocean side for country side through the 101. Stay the night in SLO, and take an hour drive north to visit Hearst Castle. When you’re done, hit the beach town bars of SLO and sip an IPA from one of California’s many craft breweries.
About six to eight hours later and you’ll find yourself in San Francisco. Home to the Golden Gate, Lombard, and the backdrop of Maltese Falcon and other classic films, the city enchants with its touristy areas and food spots. Catch some of the best tacos in California in the Mission district, and visit Ghiradelli Square near Pier 39 for dessert. The California Science Center also has a living roof and a simulated rain forest. Night life can be found just about anywhere, but Polk street is lined with clubs and great food spots.
The last stop on the journey is Tahoe, a mountain getaway that makes for a good balance to the craziness of San Francisco. Tahoe has hiking, fishing, skiing, snowboarding and even snow shoeing. Tahoe also borders Nevada, so you can hit Harvey’s or Harrah’s for a little late-night casino action. The Sierra Hot Springs, 30 minutes south of Tahoe, are open year-round if you want a place to melt the stress away.
Fans of Western films will want to make a stop over at the Lone Pine Film museum. It’s a quaint place, not worth more than a few hours of your time, but nice to visit. Younger people will recognize pieces from the set of Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, and a whole host of sci-fi collectibles from Tremors and Iron Man. The sight is rich in film history and has a short movie explaining its role throughout California’s development.
Napa Valley is also a great place to spend a day wine tasting, if you can book a tour ahead of time. Anyone of these places makes a good destination for a weekend trip, but for an extended stay it’s easy to absorb them all.
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