Seeing The State: Where to Visit in California and How to Get Around

Make The Most of Your Trip With a Rental Car and a Stop at a Visitor Center

By Mackenzie Hutson May 21, 2019

Embarking on a new adventure always brings excitement, but it also evokes a slight fear of missing out on the best things the area has to offer. Whether you are flying in from another state or playing tourist a few towns over, there are some stops to make before heading out on your own in an unfamiliar place.

Rather than relying on public transportation or expensive rideshares, consider renting a car to allow yourself the freedom to roam around without compromise. California is home to a dozen-plus rental car companies, some of which charge as little as $5 per day. While visions of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles may flash through your head as you stand in line for your temporary whip, your mind will quickly be eased as the convenience of these services sets in.

There is no better way to see the state than on a classic California road trip, so roll down the windows, belt out your favorite songs, and take in all of the beautiful scenery that surrounds you.

Seeing The State: Where to Visit and How to Get Around
Catch a wave in the Pacific Ocean, soak up the sun on the white sandy beaches, and take in all that California has to offer.

The next stop is one that few recommend these days due to technology and online reviews, but it is still worth your time: a visitor center. With 15 locations across the state and several more for each national park, visitor centers offer honest, in-person recommendations on everything from restaurants to hotels. The knowledgeable staff members are also chock-full of information about the local art, culture, outdoor activities, and top attractions. (You might even find yourself completely changing your original plans to fully immerse yourself in the new location.) They are even able to answer questions about fire danger or weather patterns that may alter your hikes, camping plans, or waterfall chasing—keeping you safe and allowing you to sidestep any huge disappointments you may have encountered otherwise.

Checking out travel services like AAA or talking to travel agents before starting your adventures can also be helpful in gaining information about the worthwhile attractions in certain towns and nearby spots that are worth visiting for the Gram. Although a good amount of information is available online, there is nothing like personalized recommendations from a travel agent and firsthand knowledge from a travel service to inform your stay, especially if you want to see how the locals spend their time and not stick solely to the touristy areas.

Although a good amount of information is available online, there is nothing like personalized recommendations from a travel agent. 

So before you head out on your next adventure in the redwoods of Northern California, the rugged coastline of the Central Coast, Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California, Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, or the beachside camping grounds of Coronado, stop by one of these visitor centers to enlighten your explorations.

Bay Area (and beyond) Visitor Centers

Gold Country 

Seeing The State: Where to Visit and How to Get Around
Check out the tiny towns where gold was discovered, then enjoy the lakes, rivers, and forests that surround the regions.
  • Auburn

  • El Dorado Hills

High Sierra 

Seeing The State: Where to Visit and How to Get Around
Inland locations along the Sierra Nevada make for idyllic winter destinations. With skiing, snowboarding, and sledding opportunities in the winter and lakeside adventures in the summer, mountainous getaways are beautiful year-round.
  • Truckee

  • Mammoth Lakes

San Francisco Bay Area 

Seeing The State: Where to Visit and How to Get Around
Visit all the Bay Area destinations that make it a famous vacation destination. From the iconic Painted Ladies of San Francisco to the vibrant towns of the North Bay, the region offers something for everyone.
  • San Francisco

  • Santa Rosa

Shasta Cascade 

Seeing The State: Where to Visit and How to Get Around
Looking for a remote hideaway? The Shasta Cascade region provides gorgeous scenery and the opportunity to get away from it all without leaving California.
  • Anderson

Central Coast Visitor CenTers

Seeing The State: Where to Visit and How to Get Around
Admire the painted sky as the sun sets on the Pacific Ocean and the cool breeze flows through your hair for a true sense of California life.
  • Merced

  • Pismo Beach

  • Salinas

Los Angeles area Visitor centers

Seeing The State: Where to Visit and How to Get Around
Travel off the beaten path of Los Angeles' popular attractions, take a drive down Route 66, and enjoy the desert landscapes that dot Southern California.
  • Barstow

  • Ontario

  • Yucca Valley

San Diego Area Visitor Centers

Seeing The State: Where to Visit and How to Get Around
San Diego provides the ultimate beach experience. With sunny days, temperate waters, and plenty to do off the shore, this Southern California city was made for relaxation.
  • Oceanside