Blaise/Courtesy of Visit California
Growing up in California’s Bay Area, some of my favorite memories were spent in the back seat of the family car following a road trip itinerary ripped out of our local newspaper. Whether it was a day trip from my hometown of San Jose to the coastal grandeur of Carmel-by-the-Sea or longer getaways to feel that distinct warm desert breeze of Palm Springs, these drives were about more than just the destinations. The highlights were the stumble-upon gems in between. (A standout moment for me: a spontaneous stop at a U-pick kiwi farm near Half Moon Bay.)
Now, Visit California is highlighting its best road trips in the new 2023 edition of its California Travel Guide — with 13 new itineraries that all conveniently start and end at airports. The travel planning is done for these easy fly-and-drive routes and all you have to do is get off the plane and start up your engine.
“California’s natural beauty, diverse topography, and culturally rich communities are the perfect backdrop for an epic road trip,” Caroline Beteta, Visit California’s president and CEO, said in a release sent to Travel + Leisure. “This year’s guide showcases how the state’s vast network of international and regional airports provide travelers with convenient access to every corner of the California Road Trip Republic.”
Among the itineraries are the week-long 445-mile route from San Francisco to the Wild North Coast, with stops in Bodega Bay, Mendocino, and Clear Lake; and the 411-mile Cactus and Cocktails itinerary that takes you through Palm Springs, Joshua Tree National Park, Amboy Crater, and Mojave National Preserve, ending at the fantastically retro Pioneertown. A family-friendly option is the Animals, Desert, and Offbeat Art route with visits to Legoland California, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and the artsy Borrego Springs. There’s also the three- to four-day, 238-mile Innovation, Nostalgia, and Agricultural Bounty trip from San Jose’s high-tech center to the charming foothill town of Los Gatos, down through Santa Cruz, Salinas, and Pinnacles National Park. It ends in the garlic capital of Gilroy.
For those who prefer more of a themed itinerary, there are a handful of options. Outdoors fans will love the four- to six-day National Park Adventure, which goes through Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia national parks. Set jetters will find themselves in the spotlight on the three- to five-day Movie Locations Tour from L.A.’s Griffith Observatory to Mammoth Mountains with stops at locations seen in “Rebel Without a Cause,” “La La Land,” “A Star is Born,” and “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.” For each itinerary, a QR code provides a link to a more detailed online version of the trip.
To celebrate the joy of road tripping through California, NBA champion and Napa Valley winery Wade Cellars owner Dwayne Wade, who graces the cover of the guide, chatted with Visit California about his love of the Golden State’s open road. “At 41 years old, I need solitude. I like to find moments where no one can expect anything of me, and California allows me to have those moments,” he said. “I’ll drive to the beach and walk next to the water. I’ll drive to San Diego, I’ll drive to Santa Barbara, I’ll drive to Malibu. I’ll drive all over in order to find those moments to connect with myself as I walk along the edge of the water. I get my energy from that.”
Other celebrities also share their favorite California drives in the Visit California guide, with comedian Margaret Cho loving the route from L.A. to her “ancestral home” in San Francisco, which she calls the “ultimate journey.” Actor Anthony Anderson finds comfort on the Pacific coastline, saying, ”There’s nothing better than jumping on the Pacific Coast Highway and stopping, well, wherever we decide to stop. And of course, finding new places to eat.” Director Francis Ford Coppola has plotted out a scenic drive from Napa Valley to Sonoma through Alexandra Valley, saying, “I go from Inglenook and Rutherford directly through St. Helena, then Calistoga to Alexander Valley till I reach Highway 101.”
The 60-page 2023 California Travel Guide can be ordered or downloaded at visitcalifornia.com, and is available at California Welcome Centers. It will also be included in the summer issues of T+L, Better Homes & Gardens, Real Simple, and Food & Wine.