Tyler Florence’s Favorite Road Trips VC_NewGoldRush_TylerFlorencesFavoriteRoadTrips_Stock_RF_169974017_1280x640
Halbergman/Getty Images

Tyler Florence’s Favorite Road Trips

Tyler Florence’s Favorite Road Trips
Chef Tyler Florence shares his top picks for the best drives and views in California

Chef, winemaker, and television host Tyler Florence fell for California through the movies. He recalls thinking, I want to be that person so bad—I want to ride a motorcycle to the desert. I want to see beautiful landscapes. I want to feel that sense of freedom.

When he moved from New York City to California, he turned that dream into a reality. For Florence, true luxury comes in those transcendent moments on his motorcycle that money can’t buy: the smell of the Pacific coming through the Golden Gate, the rich scent in forests of giant sequoias, and the sweetness of strawberries picked fresh. “I’m just in awe of how beautiful it is,” he says of his adopted state.

Inspired by Florence, here are three road trips and experiences that are guaranteed to create unforgettable California moments.

San Francisco to Point Reyes by Motorcycle

Even if you don’t own a bike to rival Florence’s custom Triumph, you can ride from San Francisco into Marin County and understand why he decided to move to California while crossing the Golden Gate Bridge one night. At Dubbelju Motorcycle Rentals in San Francisco, pick up a bike and cruise cliffs along the Golden Gate National Recreation Area’s Marin Headlands.

Or follow one of his favorite routes over Mount Tamalpais, then drop to Highway 1 and head to Stinson Beach, where Florence’s family rents a house. “The views are breathtaking. The sunset—if you catch it just right—is magic,” he says. From Stinson, continue north on Highway 1 to Point Reyes Station, a hub for the Marin County food scene, including many of Florence’s artisanal purveyors, and the gateway to Point Reyes National Seashore.

Top Down in the Desert

Florence heads to the desert for breaks at the high-style Parker Palm Springs and to savor the region’s intangible magic. “The quality of the air is just so special there,” he says, describing it almost like a fine wine. “It’s sweet and it’s dry.”

Nothing beats a road trip in a convertible through the desert’s otherworldly landscapes. Famed for its golf resorts and sleek Mid-century Modern design, Palm Springs is the perfect place to start, especially if you can explore it from behind the wheel of an exotic car (select rental car locations in California offer premium vehicles).

For a great drive, climb from the Coachella Valley along State Highway 62 into the rugged high desert near Joshua Tree National Park. When he’s there, Florence stops for live music at Pappy & Harriet’s, a honky-tonk in Pioneertown. Then loop back to Palm Springs by driving south through the park, past surreal stands of twisting Joshua trees and giant stacks of boulders that draw rock climbers from all over the world.

Above Los Angeles

Florence enjoyed filming episodes of Food Nework's The Great Food Truck Race in Malibu, where cliffs over pristine beaches make for spectacular sunset views. As gorgeous as Malibu may be on the ground, it’s even more stunning by air.

Book a private flight with Elite Helicopter Tours and fly along the beach, catching glimpses of the Venice Beach Boardwalk and the world’s only solar-powered Ferris wheel on Santa Monica Pier. Once over Malibu, you’ll see the oceanfront retreats of moguls and megastars. You may also spot surfers riding the legendary break at Surfrider Beach near Malibu Pier. Then it’s time for sunset over the Pacific.

For a grand tour of L.A., try the company’s Ultimate Helicopter Tour, a 90-minute adventure that flies over Hollywood and Beverly Hills as well as the coast.

Tyler Florence’s Favorite Road Trips Pillars_RoadTrips_OR_RD_11220565_1280x640

Time to hit the road and explore the Golden State

Road Trips

Tyler Florence’s Favorite Road Trips vca_maps_no-region
61
November
Average (°F)
Sept - Nov
76°
High
54°
Low
Dec - Feb
65°
High
48°
Low
Mar - May
69°
High
53°
Low
June - Aug
76°
High
62°
Low

Endless sunshine, amazing cities, best-in-class theme parks, incredible natural treasures—no matter what you want to do and see on your next vacation, California has it. But here's the best part: California has all the iconic destinations you've dreamed of visiting, plus a countless number of incredible off-the-beaten-track experiences. With our exclusive trip itineraries, you can visit bucket-list landmarks like Yosemite, then follow a wine road or visit a craft brewery. Top theme parks, secret beaches, city finds—they’re all here in easy-to-follow road trips that visit every corner of the state. So start dreaming about your next California vacation—and dream big.

10 Super-Scenic California Road Trips
Jeffrey Murray/Getty Images

10 Super-Scenic California Road Trips

Follow these classic routes for magical scenery and worthy stops

The Highway 1 road trip that passes through Big Sur on California’s Central Coast is perhaps the most famous scenic drive in the...

Tyler Florence’s Favorite Road Trips CoastalRocks_FortBragg_LH_1280x642

Trip 4 days 10 stops

Wild North Coast

Wine, Romance & Sunsets
Tyler Florence’s Favorite Road Trips VCW_D_SC_T6_Mt Shasta_Kodiak__35a2159_1280x642
Kodiak Greenwood

Trip 4- 6 days 10 stops

Volcanoes to the Sea

Booming Waterfalls, Craft Breweries
Tyler Florence’s Favorite Road Trips Sacramento_TowerBridge_DeltaKing_1280x642_0

Begin your trip in the center of the state, home to the capital city of Sacramento. Like many cities, California’s state capital is undergoing an energetic renaissance. Young adults looking for an urban vibe are moving into this low-key city, with microbreweries, gastropubs, and trendy boutiques...

Tyler Florence’s Favorite Road Trips EurekaCarsonMansion.CourtesyRedwoods.info__1

After so much wildness for so much of your trip, Eureka is an inviting and lively switch. This once rough-and-tumble seaport town, the largest coastal city between San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, has split-personality charm: a sense of history in the handsomely restored, Victorian-era Old...

Tyler Florence’s Favorite Road Trips VCW_D_GC_T8_HelwigWinery_Flippen-1280x642

Trip 4 days 10 stops

California Gold

Whitewater Rafting, Tucked-Away Wineries
Tyler Florence’s Favorite Road Trips Sac_StateCapitol_1280x642

Begin your trip in the center of the state, home to the capital city of Sacramento. Like many cities, California’s state capital is undergoing an energetic renaissance. Young adults looking for an urban vibe are moving into this low-key city, with microbreweries, gastropubs, and trendy boutiques...

Tyler Florence’s Favorite Road Trips VCW_D_GC_T7_WellsFargo_Columbia_Flippen_Webdam-1280x642

With throwback charm and a treasure trove of historic artifacts, this park presents the Gold Rush in living, breathing color. Costumed docents do more than lead tours of this carefully preserved Mother Lode town—the state’s second largest city at the peak of the Gold Rush; they actually live and...

Tyler Florence’s Favorite Road Trips VCW_D_Yosemite_Hero_20140503_Yosemite_hero_1280x642

Trip 6-7 days 10 stops

Sierra Adventure

Granite peaks, alpine valleys, towering trees-the High Sierra is nature's playground all year-round
Tyler Florence’s Favorite Road Trips VCW_D_HS_T3_Tahoe_Swim_Farnum_0

Blue as a topaz and circled by majestic peaks, this High Sierra gem straddling the California-Nevada border is a bucket-list staple, a place where the air is “very pure and fine...it is the same the angels breathe,” according to author Mark Twain. Lakefront towns dot the shoreline, each with...

Tyler Florence’s Favorite Road Trips CalaverasBTSP_sized

On your way to this park, save time to visit the charming Gold Country town of Murphys (a great place for wine tasting and innovative dining along the town’s main street). Then continue north and east to discover peaceful groves of giant sequoias at this under-the-radar park. Established in 1931...

Tyler Florence’s Favorite Road Trips VCW_TI_5_Hero_Baybridge-IMG_5424b copy

Trip 3-5 days 10 stops

San Francisco Bay Loop

Discover this something-for-everything loop tour around an iconic bay
Tyler Florence’s Favorite Road Trips PaintedSisters_SanFrancisco_1280x642

End your road trip by exploring one of the world’s great cities. Famous for grand-dame Victorians, classic cable cars, dynamic diversity, a beautiful waterfront, and a soaring crimson bridge, the “City by the Bay” truly has it all. Trend-defining cuisine ranging from Michelin-starred dining to...

Tyler Florence’s Favorite Road Trips VCW_TI_6_Hero_CC_BigSur_coast_TS_1280x648

Trip 5-7 days 10 stops

Highway One Classic

Take the trip that captures the heart and soul of the Golden State
Tyler Florence’s Favorite Road Trips SanDiego_Skyline_JohnBahu_1280x642

Start in one of California’s sunniest destinations, not just in terms of the weather, but also in attitude. In the heart of the city, shop in Horton Plaza, or catch a baseball game at Petco Park. See the giant pandas at the San Diego Zoo. Next, explore one of the city’s diverse neighborhoods,...

Tyler Florence’s Favorite Road Trips SF_Harbor_Myles_1280x642

Finish your trip in one of the world’s great cities. For a novel way to visit “the City by the Bay” park your car and explore by foot, bike, and unique public transportation. Pedal bikes across the Golden Gate Bridge and back, then explore the lush Presidio, a former military base that’s now a...

Tyler Florence’s Favorite Road Trips VCW_TI_7_Hero_CV_SunflowerField_Flippen.jpg_1280-sized_downsized_0
Laura Flippen

Trip 3-5 days 10 stops

California's Heartland

Pick fresh produce, relax in cool gardens, and learn about local farming heritage
Tyler Florence’s Favorite Road Trips SundialBridge_1280x642

This relaxed city has some secret gems that make a pleasing start to your trip. Start at Sundial Bridge, a functional work of art, the remarkable pedestrian bridge, designed by renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, spans the tree-lined, trout-filled Sacramento River in Redding’s Turtle...

Tyler Florence’s Favorite Road Trips VCW_D_CV_T9_Buck Owens Crystal Palace 4_sized

This rapidly growing city in the southern Central Valley is full of pleasant surprises. Once known for oil and agriculture, Bakersfield is morphing into a Central Valley hub for arts, culture, and sports, while still offering a glimpse of the region’s past. One fascinating historical site worth...

Tyler Florence’s Favorite Road Trips VCW_TI_8_hero_Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 11.35.53 AM_v3
Myles McGuinness

Trip 4-5 days 10 stops

Pacific Coast Highway - South

Beach Towns, Iconic Theme Parks
Tyler Florence’s Favorite Road Trips VCW_D_SantaBarbara_Hero_CC_SBarbaraPier_KG_1280x642

Start your coastal cruise in this elegant city hugging the coastal mountains, where classic Spanish architecture gives the region a sun-washed European look straight out of the Riviera. The Santa Barbara, nicknamed “the American Riviera,” may have a burnished antique look of much of the...

Tyler Florence’s Favorite Road Trips BalboaPark_night_1280x642

End your trip with at this sunny, waterfront city. Downtown, shop at Horton Plaza, or catch a baseball game at Petco Park. See the giant pandas at the San Diego Zoo. Next, explore one of the city’s diverse neighborhoods, Little Italy, North Park, South Park, East Village—pedestrian-friendly...

Tyler Florence’s Favorite Road Trips VCW_D_IE_T10_DE_Route66_Barstow_Lauridsen1280x642

Trip 3-4 days 10 stops

Route 66 - Mother Road

Legendary Highway, California Dream
Tyler Florence’s Favorite Road Trips SantaMonica_BikePath_JoakimLloydRaboff_1280x642_0

Start your trip in this idyllic oceanfront city, bounded by a 3.5-mi/5.6-km-long beach, and feeling more like a weekend getaway spot than a city just a few minutes west of downtown Los Angeles. Car-free options, including a shuttle to Los Angeles International Airport (8 miles/13 km south) make...

Tyler Florence’s Favorite Road Trips VCW_D_DE_T5_Anza-Borrego_Manley-1280x642

On your way to this park, you’ll pass through the little community of Borrego Springs. Stop in at the town’s visitor center to get driving maps to an astounding collection of enormous prehistoric animals—metal sculptures made by artist Ricardo Breceda—that dot the surrounding desert landscape....

Tyler Florence’s Favorite Road Trips VCW_D_NC_T1_RedwoodNP_Manley-sized
Harriot Manley/Sunset Publishing

Trip 8-10 days 10 stops

Ultimate Northern California

Explore the best of Northern California's Great Outdoors
Tyler Florence’s Favorite Road Trips SanDiego_RegionOpener_1280x642 copy

Trip 8-10 days 10 stops

Ultimate Southern California

Beach Towns & Big Thrills
Tyler Florence’s Favorite Road Trips LA-GriffithObs-1280x624_0

Your trip begins in California’s largest city. L.A. has nonstop action and things to do, but it can be a challenge to navigate, so planning your trip in advance is a big plus. Start in the coastal city of Santa Monica, with a wide, uncrowded beach, a signature pier topped by carnival rides and...

Tyler Florence’s Favorite Road Trips KingsCanyonNationalPark_TomHilton_1280x642

Famous for their giant sequoias, soaring mountains, deep canyons, and roaring rivers, this tandem set of parks have plenty to see, even though they are less well known than Yosemite, roughly 75 miles/120 kilometers north. Within the borders of Sequoia & Kings Canyon are Mount Whitney, the...