|California's Grand Tour|
Take this unforgettable drive to some of California’s must-see destinations.
Hear the word “California” and you probably think sun-splashed beaches. But the Golden State is much more than that. From the mighty Pacific on the west coast to majestic Lake Tahoe on California’s eastern edge, the Golden State is a tapestry of diverse and exquisite landscapes. This sweeping arc of a drive takes you to redwoods, mountains, urban playgrounds—and yes, beaches.
Trip Length: 4-5 days
Hollywood (32mi/51km; 39 min). Celeb sightings rank as a highlight here, and lavish hotel lobbies, pools, and bars are good places to star search. Try London West Hollywood , W Hotel , Andaz , and Sunset Marquis Hotel (with its own in-house recording studio!). Or attend a free TV taping to see stars; request tickets well in advance at Audiences Unlimited , Hollywood Tickets , or in person at the Hollywood Ticket Outlet inside Universal Studios Hollywood. INFO (213) 624-7300; discoverlosangeles.com
Los Angeles (6mi/10km; 10 min). Catch a performance of the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by charismatic maestro Gustavo Dudamel at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Designed by Frank Gehry, the venue is acoustically and visually stunning. Post-performance, you’ll find tasty ethnic eats in downtown L.A.’s Koreatown, Little Tokyo, or Olvera Street (site of the city’s birth in 1781). INFO (213) 624-7300; discoverlosangeles.com
Venice Beach (20mi/32km; 28 min). In this quintessentially quirky SoCal beach town, Ocean Front Walk offers a nonstop parade of street performers, rollerbladers, palm readers, and colorful characters. Stroll the whole 3 miles to the Santa Monica Pier , where you can grab a bite and ride the antique carousel. Want a ride back? Hop on Big Blue Bus #1 —a great way to get around car-free.
Monterey (31mi/50km; 45 min). Immortalized by John Steinbeck as the haunt of down-on-their-luck characters, Cannery Row today is a bustling strip of shops and restaurants fronting the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Take a guided kayak tour through the wildlife-rich bay with Monterey Bay Kayaks or Kayak Connection . At the Monterey Bay Aquarium, watch the antics of rescued sea otters, touch a starfish, and learn about protecting the world’s oceans. INFO (877) 666-8373; seemonterey.com
Napa Valley (55mi/89km; 1 hr 12 min). In a valley that reveres fine food and wine, the tiny town of Yountville is a foodie’s sweet dream. Though small, it’s home to incredible restaurants, including Bottega , Bistro Jeanty , Bouchon , Redd , Etoile at Domaine Chandon , and the French Laundry . In nearby St. Helena, stroll quaint Main Street and pick up wine and cheese at Dean & Deluca, then drive to Bothe-Napa Valley State Park for a picnic in a shady glen. INFO (707) 226-5813; napavalley.org