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Where to Visit and How to Get Around California
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Where to Visit and How to Get Around California

Deciding where to visit in California? Take a classic California road trip, roll down the windows, pump the tunes, and take in the scenery.

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6 min read

April 13, 2022

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 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.

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 California attractions; you might even find yourself completely changing your original plans to fully immerse yourself in the new location. They will also be open to answering 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.

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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

Check out the tiny towns where gold was discovered, then enjoy the lakes, rivers, and forests that surround the regions.

Auburn

Ranging from theaters to galleries, boutiques, farmers' markets, museums, and the great outdoors, a variety of activities await you at Placer County. To find out more about where to stay and how to get around the area, drop by the Auburn Welcome Center.

El Dorado Hills

You can find the El Dorado Hills visitor center just off of US Highway 50 in the Town Center. The lovely staff will help you track down local restaurants and make hotel bookings. The center is also pet-friendly so feel free to stop by with your furry friend. 

High Sierra

Inland locations along the Sierra Nevada make for idyllic winter destinations.

Truckee

Within minutes of ski resorts, lakes, golf courses, biking trails, and more, Truckee is one of the ideal places in California for outdoor enthusiasts. Visitors can also enjoy the local foodie scene and just soak up the fresh air. For more information on what to do and where to stay, the Truckee Welcome Center is at your disposal.

Mammoth Lakes

The Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center is unlike many others. It is a partnership of several agencies, providing visitors with the best possible information. These agencies include the National Park Services, US Forest Service, Mammoth Lakes Tourism, and Eastern Sierra Interpretive Center.

San Francisco Bay Area

From the iconic Painted Ladies of San Francisco to the vibrant towns of the North Bay, the region offers something for everyone.

San Francisco

With a variety of landmarks such as Alcatraz Island, Pier 39, Aquarium of the Bay, and of course the Golden State Bridge, San Francisco is a hot California travel destination. If you don’t know your way around the area, you can get all the free information you need at the San Francisco visitor center.

Santa Rosa

Right in the heart of Sonoma County, the Santa Rosa Visitor Center is surrounded by the area’s restaurants and art galleries. The staff will give you insightful tips as well as directions. You can even buy locally made gifts and souvenirs from the center.

Shasta Cascade

The Shasta Cascade region provides gorgeous scenery and the opportunity to get away from it all without leaving California.

Anderson

The Anderson Welcome Center provides free maps, brochures, and tourist information for the area’s state and national parks such as McArthur Burney Falls Memorial State Park, Lassen Volcanic National Park, and Castle Crags State Park, among others.

Central Coast Visitor Centers

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

The Merced County area is home to a variety of tourist sites, restaurants, and activities for the whole family. Lodging and accommodation are also abundant in the area; simply drop by the Merced California Welcome Center for information on vacancies. Besides lodging resources, the center offers maps, tours, and souvenirs.

Pismo Beach

Aside from a myriad of activities including cruises, seal-watching, and sightseeing, Pismo Beach is a haven for shopaholics — with over 40 brand-name stores where you can shop till you drop. Travelers can find a number of resources including maps, hotel information, and referrals at the Pismo Beach Welcome Center. The center also provides wi-fi, public telephone, restrooms, refreshments, access for people with disabilities, RV parking, and even a picnic area.

Salinas

The Monterey Bay beaches, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, and the Giant Redwoods of Big Sur and Santa Cruz are only a few of the attractions in Salinas. The area is also famous for its plethora of music and food festivals including the Monterey Jazz Festival, Bach Festival, as well as the Garlic Festival, and the Artichoke Festival. Any information on lodging and accommodation — besides other resources — is available at the Salinas visitor center.

Los Angeles Area Visitor Centers

Travel off the beaten path of LA's popular attractions, take a drive down Route 66, and enjoy the desert landscapes that dot SoCal.

Barstow

You can find the Barstow Welcome Center off of the I-15 halfway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, inside the Outlets at Barstow. The center will help you plan your California road trip around the local area, where you go hiking, shopping, visiting museums, exploring the Mojave Desert, and let’s not forget the historic Route 66, just to name a few.

Ontario

With various activities ranging from extreme sports to quiet retreats, the Greater Ontario area has something for everyone. Should you need help planning your vacation, make sure to stop by the visitor center at the Ontario Mills Premium Mall.

Yucca Valley

Located on Route 62, the Yucca Valley Welcome Center is your source for information on where to stay, where to eat, and what to do in and around the area. And there’s no shortage of attractions in the region Joshua Tree, Big Bear, and Palm Springs are just a few examples.

San Diego Area Visitor Centers

With sunny days, temperate waters, and plenty to do off the shore, San Diego was made for relaxation.

Oceanside

Boasting a variety of cultural landmarks such as the California Surf Museum, the Oceanside Museum of Art, and Mission San Luis Rey, Oceanside is one of the best places to visit in California. The city is also a popular destination for kayaking, surfing, boating, biking, and much more. Head over to the Oceanside Welcome Center to obtain all the information you need.

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