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The state of California is diverse and exciting. From mountain ranges, beach towns, to the desert, California will keep you entertained and wowed. For those who are thinking about tackling it in just a short amount of time, here’s a great day-by-day guide to make the most of your two-week stay in the Golden State.
The journey begins in San Francisco. Spend your day in Golden Gate Park. Learn about our planet in the California Academy of Sciences. Take a relaxing walk through Japanese Tea Garden before eating lunch in Union Square.
The next day, find yourself back in Union Square for shopping and more wonderful food. Just don’t forget to visit the iconic Golden Gate Bridge for a photo-op before hitting the nightlife scene in the Mission or North Beach district. If you plan ahead you can probably find a fun pub crawl to end the night with.
Day three is all about wine, culture, and food. What could be better? Napa Valley has too many wineries to count. And it seems that each one you visit gets better and better. Plan ahead and pack your own wine country picnic of cheese and sandwiches.
No matter which season you’ve decided to take your California adventure on, Lake Tahoe is a must-see. The lake sits partly in California while the other sits in Nevada. The summers are warm for water sports and winter is snowy and playful. Spend the night here to experience the nightlife of casinos, bars, and lounges.
Day five is a slightly ambitious one but you won’t be sorry. Taking Highway 49 will bring you through historic Gold Country, with plenty of Gold Rush towns to stop in, explore, and even pan for gold! Driving north towards Grass Valley will take you to the site of the largest mine in California.
Touring through the stretch of Gold Country should still allow you to make it to Yosemite National Park with plenty of time. The majestic park will leave you in awe of its mountain peaks, forests, and wildlife. Soak in the view of the largest granite monolith, El Capitan. Mist yourself in the infamous Yosemite waterfalls like Bridalveil Falls or Lower Yosemite Falls. Before settling in for the rest of the evening, drive up to Glacier Point to see the best viewpoint of the park; gazing upon Half Dome, Yosemite Valley, and even more waterfalls.
Your morning in Yosemite should open with a nice and easy hike to really soak in the beauty of the park. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, sign up for a whitewater raft trip on the Merced Trip.
Hop in the car and take the trek to Monterey Bay. This trip normally takes around four hours. Monterey Bay’s Cannery Row caters to tourists. Visit the infamous Monterey Bay Aquarium, stock up on souvenir collectables in the shops all along this past sardine-packing district. The history is rich here too. Monterey was home to California’s first state constitution in 1849. Monterey State Historic Park offers self-guided tours through the Path of History. Once your history itch has been scratched, jump in the car and take the scenic 17-Mile Drive for some of the most amazing California views.
The 17-Mile Drive will take you to Carmel, a small and boutique-style town. Carmel offers high-end shopping and the most classy art scene in the area. Visit the Carmel Mission, California’s second Spanish mission. Eat some of the most delicious seafood, caught locally of course.
Bring Day nine to a close after taking the Highway 1 stretch through Big Sur. Driving through Big Sur will feel like driving through a photograph. The coastal scenery encompasses what California beauty is. Stop along the way to savor different waterfalls, ocean overlook views, and more. Stay in a beautiful and beachy Air BnB to finish the day or, if you’re a real nature lover, drive up one of the mountains to find a spot to pitch a tent.
Santa Barbara is one of California’s most gorgeous beach towns. Downtown you’ll find a self-guided walking tour to admire the town’s Spanish Mission-Revival architecture like the Courthouse and El Presidio de Santa Barbara, the last Spanish military outpost. Rent a bike and cruise the path along Cabrillo beach until you reach the most popular one in town, East Beach. Indulge in even more locally caught seafood.
Hit the California Coast Highway for the perfect Los Angeles experience. The drive from Santa Barbara to Malibu is not only gorgeous, but it’s also just about an hour. If you’re still in the mood for the beach, Malibu has plenty to choose from, as does Venice. Walk the Venice Boardwalk which is always crawling with people and events (like bodybuilding competitions). Finish off your first L.A. day by strolling around iconic Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.
Visit the Getty Center and learn the works from artists like Monet. Drive through Hollywood to Sunset Boulevard. Bus and van tours are offered all over Sunset to drive past celebrity homes and other Los Angeles sights. After, stretch your legs down The Walk of Fame to see all the stars. For even bigger film buffs, infamous Warner Brothers Studio also offers tours through the studio in Burbank. Bring the night to a close at the Hollywood Bowl where you can catch a show.
No California trip would be complete without a day at Disneyland. Purchase tickets ahead of time to The Happiest Place On Earth. A word of warning though, hitting both Disneyland and California Adventures in one day can be difficult. It’s best to skip the Park Hopper Pass that allows you admission to both and just pick one. Either way, you will not regret your decision.
Last but not least, your journey is wrapping up in San Diego. Head to Balboa Park, a culture zone with a number of museums to choose from. Whether or not your trip has involved children, hit the San Diego Zoo to visit all the animals and enjoy your inner kid. After crossing the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge, you can take a beautiful beachfront walk along Coronado Beach. To finish off the last bit of your trip, indulge in the nightlife of San Diego in the Gaslamp Quarter.