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3 Must Take Classic California Trips
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3 Must Take Classic California Trips

The Pacific Coast Highway might be the most iconic California road trip, but there are many other classic routes in California.

Natasha Kouyoumjian

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7 min read

October 19, 2022

Disclaimer: California.com is not receiving any type of compensation for reviewing any of the products or services mentioned in this article.

If you’re searching for a location for your next California vacation, you’re in luck. Whether it's an exotic escape to the beach or adventurous hikes to the lake nestled in the mountains, we've got you covered. There are plenty of California trips you can take to soak in those summer vibes, and if you’re willing, get ready to dip your toes into a full length of all kinds of culture California has to offer. 

Where to Go in California in the Summer

“To breathe the same air as angels, you must go to Tahoe” - Mark Twain

Cool Off in Lake Tahoe

A California summer needs a California solution. And what better than Lake Tahoe? North America's largest alpine lake is sitting between the two states – Nevada and California.

Emerald, like the color of the lake.

Emerald Point Trail

Difficulty: Moderate
Time: 1h 48min
Distance: 4.4miles
Elevation: 522 feet
Route type: Out & Back
Pets: Dogs Are not allowed

Your trip to Lake Tahoe won’t be complete without visiting Emerald Bay. For a quick stop at the bay just take the half-mile trail down to soak your feet in the water. But before heading back to the trail make sure to check out Lower Eagle Falls and the historic Vikings' home. You can also rent a Kayak to row over to Fannette Island and get a glimpse of the stone structure that looks like a miniature castle, called “Tea House”. Arguably the most scenic of hikes, this will be one of the most refreshing getaways in California with so much to offer.

D. L. Bliss State Park, Rubicon Trail

Location: 9881 CA-89, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150.
Difficulty: Moderate
Time: 3h 9min 
Distance: 7.27miles
Elevation: 1,020 feet
Route type: Out & Back
Pets: Dogs are not allowed

On one of those California trips to Emerald Bay, you can drive 5 miles straight to this rural area. The Rubicon Trail is a moderately challenging route, taking you out and back near Tahoma, Cali. With the bays right next to the parking spots, this route is a family-friendly area and a great excuse for a summer vacation.  Make sure to check out the balancing rock to cool down and stretch your legs. Don’t forget to leave your furry friends at home, and enjoy the calmness of mother nature. There are plenty of lakes in California just waiting to be enjoyed, including Mammoth Lakes.

The Perfect Monterey City Getaway

The John Steinbeck's Cannery Row at Monterey Bay.

 

Where’s your next NorCal vacation going to be? We’ll tell you. This city is stationed on Monterey Bay in coastal California and is home to many fun activities. If you’re looking for the best family vacation California has to offer, look no further. Besides sitting on the California coast, the city sits atop a huge amount of history. It was the former capital of Alta California, under Spain and Mexico, and the area of the famous John Steinback’s “Cannery Row”.

Don’t forget to check out the preserved laboratory at Cannery Row.

Cannery Row

Monterey's main tourist area is Cannery Row. This place was an area for Sardine canning factories – a big business in Monterey back in the mid-1900s. Whilst there on your California trips, be sure to check out the preserved laboratory that inspired the solidification of one of the main characters of “Cannery Row”. The area is pedestrian and fun to explore.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium attracts over 2 million visitors per year.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Over two million annual visitors to an aquarium? That’s what happens when you’re voted as one of the best in the world. If anything else doesn’t excite you to visit Monterey, this should be the deal-breaker to include this city on your California trip agenda. Dating back to the 30s, this aquarium was the first to exhibit a living kelp forest to its visitors. Located on the bay, the aquarium showcases marine life that could be found just a couple of hundred feet away in the sea. Feel free to spend a day exploring the location and getting introduced to plenty of aquatic animal species you surely have never seen before.  

Monterey Moon Tree and Colton Hall

No matter if you’re a sucker for history or don’t care about museums at all, embrace this on your California trip. Colton Hall is where the California constitution was written, which is now turned into a very peculiar museum. Surrounding the museum there’s a park where sits a coastal redwood whose seed was carried to the moon on Apollo 14. Given the name “Moontree”, the tree was planted in front of Colton Hall in the summer of 1976. Be guaranteed to add this to your trip to the west coast vacations.  

The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco connects the city to Marine County.

Explore the Limitless San Francisco 

Mark Twain said, “The coldest winter I ever spent is summer in San Francisco”. If you’re looking for breezy California trips that help you avoid the fierce sun, San Francisco is the answer.

Not the typical California feel, but we’d still beat the drum for this area. Either as a traveler exploring new places or on a wholesome family getaway, San Francisco is a lifestyle. The golden gate bridge, Alcatraz, amazing architecture, hills, and history all leave the tourists who come to this town rolling in fascination and thrilled to come back.

Order the Clam Chowder in a sourdough bread bowl.

Fog And Everything That Comes With It

There are plenty of things to mention about San Francisco, and as we’ve hinted already, a good piece of advice would state –  don't go to San Francisco in shorts. Yes, it’s California, but they have something called microclimates – it could be sunny on one side of the city and cold on the other. Though not a common thing to do while packing for places to go for the summer, be sure to pack layers. Fog is a persisting company, so it gets cold by California standards.

In fact, the city is famous for its fog, and everything that comes with it. And if Sourdough is the result, count us in!  Wondering how these two are correlated? Well here’s a fun fact: San Francisco bakers claim that the fog makes the sourdough rise better. So be sure to try the sourdough bread, especially at Fisherman’s Wharf. If you’re ordering the clam chowder, ask them to put it in a sourdough bread bowl to make it the most memorable meal of your California trips.

Let’s meet at the land's end, it's the edge of the world.

Festivals & the City

Being the origin of the hippie movement in the 60s, and the LGBT civil rights movement in later years, San Francisco is always alive. The town is always full of festivals, so you’ll likely always be able to catch one while there. Try the yearly “Bay-to breakers”. This festival hosts all the people who run from the bay to the ocean and then end up hanging around town all day with crazy costumes and lots of street food. Roaming around the city needs no cars. San Francisco’s public transportation system is pretty reliable, and the town’s best areas can be discovered on foot. Though San Francisco is known to require an unforgiving budget, take out all the extremes and it can turn out as a very budget-friendly summer getaway. The best discoveries are done on foot, so don’t miss out on the Golden Gate Bridge and Park, Lands End, the Palace of Fine Arts, Baker Beach, Golden Gate Park, and Washington State Park.

To get a shot of the Painted Ladies from afar, you have to climb to the park

The Full House House

San Francisco is one of those destinations in California that holds lots of history - its movie culture in particular. While most come to get to know the city, many are drawn to it due to its association with the “Full House” series. So if you’re looking to find the old Victorian house that was featured in the opening scene of everybody’s favorite childhood sitcom, it’s located at 1709 Broderick St.

For a little pick-me-up, try hugging a tree (no, seriously, this works).

Muir Woods Fern Creek Loop, San Francisco

If you’re seeking a good adventure to find a little tranquility outside of the city, a good option would be to go on a coastal hike. And not just any, but the Muir Woods.

Location: Mill Valley, CA 94941.
Difficulty: Easy
Time: 25 min
Distance: 1.3miles
Elevation: 42 feet
Route Type: Loop
Pets: Dogs Are not allowed

Muir Woods trailhead is an old grove of redwood forests, located just across the golden gate in Marin County. The trail is stroller-friendly and has multiple scenic views. Rivers and wildlife are very much alive, so you’ll get a good sense of nature on this short and easy paved route. For little mountain vacations near San Francisco, just drive a few miles down and you wind up in Napa Valley and Sonoma County for the perfect little vacation on the north coast.

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