Dreaming of California Driving

I Adore RoadTrips!

Love Them!

Since I was young I have loved getting out on a family roadtrip and I love to drive.  This may have stemmed from growing up on an island with alot of windy roads.  My hero as a kid was Mario Andretti.  Some of my all time favorite driving experiences have been driving (very fast) through the deserts of the Middle East (yes I got to drive there!) and through the narrow and windy tropical rainforest roads of St. Lucia.  My first US cross country road trip was in 1981 and I have been across country in a car several times since.  My kids don't even really consider it a roadtrip if the drive is less than four hours.

Two summers ago Carissa Rogers (another Travelingmom) and I rented a car and set off for a roadtrip from southern Oregon to San Diego to attend Blogher.  The picture above is from the beginning of that roadtrip.

This Monday the Travelingmoms are talking all about California during their weekly #TMOM twitter party and I will be there too.  California not only has some of the most fun destinations but they also have some of the most interesting ways to get there!  Here are my 5 favorite roadtrips in California:

1. Scenic Coast Highways

If you are the driver you really need to keep your eyes on the road but even still driving along Highway 101 in southern California is one of my favorite drives in the world.  The ocean on one side and beautiful hillsides on the other. From Santa Barbara to Santa Monica you will spend most of your time on a coastline drive. You may even recognize several stretches of road from your favorite movies or television shows.  The map may tell you that this stretch of road will take you an hour and a half to drive but you may want to give yourself more time because there are so many fun and interesting stops along the way.

2. Best Short Driving experiences

Driving just for fun is something that is easy to do in California.  My favorite driving experiences have been going down Lombard Street in California and driving through the trees in the Redwood forest.

San Francisco is famous for its cable cars and steep streets.  But one of those is streets is the most famous stretches of road in the US. Lombard Street is not only one of the most scenic drives in the US it is also really fun to drive.  It is, thankfully, a one way road. It stretches between Hyde and Leavenworth and even though it is a major tourist attraction there are several private homes along this stretch. Dinner guests would have to find another place to park as most driveways along this road are too short for even one car.  Lombard Street even has it's own Google+ page!  

Heading north from San Francisco on Highway 100 you will reach Humboldt Redwoods State Park.  This is where you can drive through a giant tree.  One reason kids might love this adventure is that the redwood forest was the setting for one of the Star Wars movies.  They could all pretend they are Ewoks or Luke Skywalker zipping through the trees.  Imagination goes wild when you're in amongst those giant trees.  One of my friends said that one of their families favorite things to do there is to look for the giant banana slugs - so there's that too.

I don't even have room here in this post to retell my story of driving in Carmel California with my cousin Betty Marie - massive amounts of laughter were involved with that one.

3. National Parks Tour

So this is wild but did you know there are 26 National Parks in California! The best thing to do is to buy an annual National Parks pass before heading out on your roadtrip OR make sure you plan to buy one at your first stop at a National Park.  The cost is $80 but since there is a fee to enter every National Park you will make up your money after just three or four parks - and that still leaves you with 20+ more parks to see.

So far my favorite National Parks in California have been:

  • Redwood National Park - Big Trees
  • Joshua Tree - Big Boulders and Big Star Gazing at night
  • Yosemite - Big Scenic Landscapes (actually this one is still on my list of parks to visit but I have read just about everything that John Muir has written about Yosemite and I almost feel like I have already been there)

4. The Amusement Park Hop

If your kids are more of the roller coaster thrill seeker types there is plenty of that in California as well.  Just like the National Parks there are so many Amusement Parks in California you could spend your entire road trip vacation just hopping from one roller coaster to the next.  Again, trying to find something for everyone is not always easy and we have a mix of thrill seekers and those who aren't as thrilled going a gazillion miles an hour with their feet dangling in the air upside down and around about.  Our California Amusement park adventure took us to:

  • Disneyland - a classic
  • LegoLand - its more than just a few lego blocks stacked up into a replica of the Statue of Liberty (although you might see something like that while you're there).  You may want to give yourself a couple of more hours at this stop than you have initially planned for.
  • Universal Studios - we are BIG Back to the Future fans and my kids went nuts getting to see the clock tower up close and personal.
The great thing about an Amusement park hop is that you can do this with the kids OR you can even do this with your grown siblings or girlfriends.  Its a fantastic way to spend time together reconnecting and just having fun being kids again.

5. The Ultimate RoadTrip

The great thing about spending time in the car with your kids is that eventually you talk.  There is no laundry to be done, they can't go clean their room, and they can't go outside and play.  The great thing about a California family road trip is that there is always something for every one in the family along the way.  In our family we have a blend between people who love to go on hikes, to people who love museums and history, to people who love explore funky shops, to people who love frisbee golf, and some who love to explore everything about pop culture.  Trying to plan a family vacation where there is something for everyone is always a challenge.  But in California we can be at Universal Studios on one day and at Joshua Tree the next.  

Be spontaneous.  Get in a car with your family, your spouse, really good friend, or someone you just want to get to know better.  There are fun places to stop all along the way that you may not have planned on but that make for lifelong memories.  

This is the great thing about a California roadtrip - you can just get in your car and go.  You will find adventures all along the way.

What site would you most want to see in CA? Join us on 7/22 at 9pm EST to chat #VisitCA #TMOM RSVP http://bit.ly/11Umfvc

This post is part of a sponsored twitter party by VisitCalifornia.com.  All thoughts and comments and enthusiasm for driving through California are my own.