Touring California from the West Coast to the Wild West
On such a winter’s day….
If those words are starting to sound more like your reality than lyrics from the Mamas and Papas song, it might be time to start planning your next getaway to the west coast. From up north in San Francisco to the south in San Diego – and many points in between – there’s a lot to explore.
And while you’re out west… Las Vegas might not technically be a city in California, but don’t tell some residents of Los Angeles that. At just a four-hour drive from L.A., Vegas makes for a quick and easy trip whether you’re looking for entertainment and night life on the world-famous strip, or you’re more interested in the natural beauty of nearby national parks.
Whatever kind of adventure you’re seeking, We’re here to help make sense of it all and point out some highlights you’ll find along the way.
SPECIAL OFFER: A Day in L.A. has partnered with Dylan’s Tours in San Francisco to help you explore even more of the Golden State. If you book a tour with Dylan’s and A Day in L.A., you’ll receive 10% off of both tours.
As one of the most famous tourist destinations in San Francisco, Fisherman’s Wharf is a must-see. Take in views of the bay, Golden Gate Bridge, and Alcatraz Island while dining on clam chowder served in a sourdough bread bowl. Visiting the sea lion colony that lives there is a fun stop, too.
This neighborhood was the epicenter of hippie counter-culture in the 1960’s, and you’ll still get a sense of that history when you visit the Haight today. Tie-dyes, vintage stores, mural-covered buildings, and the smell of incense in the air will have you feelin’ groovy in no time.
Golden Gate Bridge
Nothing symbolizes the city of San Francisco quite as much as the Golden Gate Bridge. You can see it from many places in the city, but it’s worth a visit to see this modern wonder up close. You can even walk across the bridge if you have time.
Located in Mill Valley, just outside the city, this National Monument is famous for its gigantic old-growth redwood trees. Most of the coastal redwoods have been growing for hundreds of years, and the oldest is believed to be 1200 years old.
This neighborhood is the oldest Chinatown in the United States, and also the biggest outside of China. Enjoy the colorful scenery, ornate temples, and dim sum restaurants, and pick up a souvenir at one of the many shops that line the streets.
Santa Monica Pier
One of the most recognizable sights in the Los Angeles area, the pier is a must-see stop on any visit. Snap a photo by the famous Route 66 sign and then hop on the giant Pacific Wheel to take in 360-degree views from the bay to downtown.
No trip to Los Angeles is complete without a stop in Venice Beach. From the Venice Canals to shopping on Abbot Kinney to walking along the boardwalk, there’s plenty to do in this beach community. The Venice Boardwalk is home to some real characters, like those that frequent Muscle Beach and the skate park. You never know what you’ll see in Venice on any given day.
Perched high atop a hill in Brentwood off the 405 freeway, the Getty Center boasts some of the finest works by world-famous artists, as well as some of the best views in town. Art buffs will appreciate the exhibits inside the museum, and everyone will appreciate the beautiful grounds and gardens surrounding it.
Griffith Park and Observatory
This urban oasis is nestled in the hills behind the Hollywood and Los Feliz neighborhoods, and home to the famous Greek Theatre. Wander the trails to catch a glimpse of the Hollywood sign and a panoramic view from Downtown to the beach, then step inside the observatory and look to the stars through one of the telescopes.
Hollywood Walk of Fame and Grauman’s Chinese Theater
If you’re visiting Los Angeles for the first time, you’ll probably want to make a stop here. Stars bearing the names of famous actors and actresses line the sidewalks while the restored theatre, originally opened in 1927, provides the backdrop. Great for a photo op or two before you move on to the next stop.
Balboa Park boasts an impressive 1,200 acres of trails, gardens, museums, and is also home to the San Diego Zoo. The largest urban cultural park in the U.S. has something for everyone, from hikes through palm forests to art installations…or just grab a seat by the Lily Pond and take in the view and beautiful architecture of the Botanical Building.
San Diego Zoo
One of the most famous zoos in the world, the San Diego Zoo opened over 100 years ago and is home to thousands of animals. Don’t miss the giant pandas while you’re there – they’re a perennial favorite of zoo visitors.
San Diego is famous for its beaches for a reason: they’re beautiful to look at and fun to play at. Mission Beach is popular for its paved boardwalk that runs the length of the beach and makes it easy to walk, bike, and access its many shops and restaurants. The Belmont Park amusement park has fun rides and attractions, too, including a roller coaster and miniature golf.
Old Town San Diego
Established in 1769 with only a mission and a fort, Old Town San Diego is California’s oldest settlement of the Spanish colonization period. Today, Old Town is filled with shops, restaurants, and museums that will give you a taste of San Diego’s heritage. It’s a great place to wander around with the family for an afternoon.
This neighborhood is an interesting convergence of old and new. The Gaslamp Quarter, as it was originally called, was once home to San Diego’s brothels and saloons. Today, those nineteenth-century buildings have been fully restored and are occupied by a plethora of shops, restaurants, and nightclubs.
Stay on the Strip
Themed hotels, 24-hour casinos, world-class entertainment and millions of glittering lights are just a few of the things you’ll find yourself surrounded with here. The Vegas strip is completely over-the-top, and proud of it. Staying in the heart of strip makes it easy to get from place to place. For a luxurious hotel experience, book a room at the Bellagio, Caesar’s Palace, or the Venetian. Traveling with kids? The Excalibur has long been a family favorite with activities that are fun for all ages.
See a Show
From Cirque du Soleil to stand-up comedians and magicians to larger-than-life concert experiences, there is never a shortage of entertainment in Las Vegas. Some shows play throughout the year while some rotate in and out, or only play for a limited run. New shows are added regularly so check the Visit Las Vegas website before you go and see what’s playing during the dates of your visit.
Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
You don’t have to be a guest at the hotel to enjoy their impressive seasonal displays in the 14,000-foot conservatory. Bellagio’s horticulturalists design wildly imaginative installations using a combination of natural and man-made materials. While you’re there, step outside and enjoy the water show at the Bellagio Fountains.
This National Historic Landmark is quite a site to behold. More than 80 years after its creation, the Hoover Dam is still the highest concrete dam in the Western Hemisphere and was named one of the Top 10 Construction Achievements of the 20th Century. You can drive from the Las Vegas strip to the Hoover Dam in under an hour.
It’s hard to believe it when you’re standing on the bustling strip, but Las Vegas sits smack in the middle of the desert and is a stone’s throw to some of the most beautiful natural wonders in the country. A drive from Vegas to the Grand Canyon will take about 4.5 hours and you’ll get to experience the beauty of the southwestern landscape along the way.
PLANNING YOUR TRIP