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Stops to Make on Your Road Trip from Sacramento to Los Angeles
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Stops to Make on Your Road Trip from Sacramento to Los Angeles

Perhaps no common route surpasses the iconic Interstate 5, a road trip from Sacramento all the way to sparkling La La Land.

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5 min read

December 14, 2021

Road-tripping is one of the best ways to experience the Golden State—period. And perhaps no common route surpasses the iconic Interstate 5, a road trip from Sacramento all the way to sparkling La La Land. The coolest thing about this journey is how unbelievably diverse your itinerary is going to look; you go from farm-to-folk to history, pass by reservoirs and poppies, try world-class steak, and even get the opportunity to splash around a little; all of this in the span of six and a half hours. Naturally, we suggest extending the trip for a tad longer than that (you’ll thank us later). 

In truth, Interstate 5 has a multitude of diversions and attractions within 30 minutes of the main drag—calling them scenic would be quite an understatement.

Must-Do Stops on Your Sacramento to Los Angeles Drive 

Built during the California Gold Rush, Stockton's seaport serves as a gateway to the Central Valley and beyond.

1. Stockton

If you’re driving from Los Angeles to Sacramento, then seeing ocean-bound freighters dotting Stockton’s waterways can come as a bit of a surprise to you. This Central Valley gem is surprising in all the right ways. While it’s 70 miles from the coast, Stockton lies on a winding channel carving its way inland from San Francisco Bay. So what is there to do in this fascinating port city? Well, you can get a taste for the seafaring life at Stockton Marine—this is where Opportunity Cruises’ riverboat steers visitors through the Sacramento Delta’s intricate web of inlets and bays. Or, you could wander down the waterfront and watch a bit of live music, baseball, or ice hockey at the side-by-side Stockton Arena and Banner Island Ballpark.

2. Pea Soup Andersen’s in Santa Nella

The original Pea Soup Andersen’s (opened in 1924) is just north of Santa Barbara in Buellton, but the one in Santa Nella gained its own notoriety over the years. First, its windmill is an ode to Danish culture and visible from the interstate, and second; well, it’s pea soup, but it’s the best of its kind on the entire West Coast. This family-friendly stop serves up hearty comfort food such as all-day breakfast, onion rolls, and crispy fried chicken. Pea Soup Andersen’s also features an eclectic gift shop with items for parents and kids. Before you leave, stop by the on-site bakery to pick up crullers, cookies, and other sweet treats to replenish your car snacks. As far as stops for your Sacramento to Los Angeles drive go, this is definitely one of the most belly-filling. 

Nestled in the San Joaquin Valley, San Luis Reservoir State Recreation Area is popular for boating, board sailing, camping, and picnicking.

3. San Luis Reservoir State Recreation Area in Merced County

Nestled in the hills of the San Joaquin Valley, the San Luis Reservoir was built as a way to contain runoff from the Sacramento River, which would have otherwise flowed into the ocean. Today, however, the water it holds is enveloped by a pretty cool (and free) visitor’s center. A perfect leg-stretcher, the picnic areas in the San Luis Reservoir State Recreation Area are armed with shade, manicured grass to lounge and run around on, and a place to grill; that is if you’re taking your sweet time driving from Los Angeles to Sacramento. Plus, the adjacent San Luis Creek’s North Beach area is like a haven for road-trippers—there are plenty of hiking spots (San Luis Creek Trail, we’re looking at you), green hills polka-dotted with wildflowers, and the calmest waters you could ever splash around in.

4. Harris Ranch Inn and Restaurant in Coalinga

No matter how you slice it, all the best road trips from Sacramento include a stop at Harris Ranch Inn and Restaurant, a favorite drive-in and fly-in destination for all. Designed as an early California-style hacienda, this traveler oasis has become internationally recognized for homegrown beef, fruits, vegetables, and nut crops. And as you can probably guess, menus here are absolutely loaded with steak, so do make sure to visit on an empty stomach. Considered to be one of the first and largest farm-to-fork dining destinations in California, Harris Ranch personifies what’s greatest about this particular road trip and it comes with a family-friendly pool that some drive for hours to swim in.

One of the most recognizable structures at the Kern County Museum is the Beale Memorial Clock Tower, located on the lawn in front of it.

5. Kern County Museum in Bakersfield 

Driving from Sacramento to Los Angeles is all well and fun, but you’re still in a car—you need to stretch your legs a little. And what better place to combine leisure with a little bit of learning than the Kern County Museum in Bakersfield? Founded in 1941, this place provides an interpretive experience via historical relics of all sorts; all of them offer fascinating glimpses into the olden days of Kern County. Wander around 16 acres in search of cultural artifacts that lie across 56 historic buildings. The combination of centuries-old artifacts in a serene setting is going to make your stop more than worth it.

The intense blooming season for the California poppy falls within late winter to early spring, during the months of mid-February through mid-May.

6. Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve in Lancaster

An easy road trip from Sacramento, Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve is an eye-popping paradise staged by Mother Nature. Remote in the hills west of Lancaster, a protected area notes a perfect microclimate for poppies (California’s state flower); this is where you can experience a technicolor display of these bright orange wonders unfurling in the sunlight. And even though these poppies bloom in spring, there are a few other factors that influence whether or not your trip will actually be worth it—these include the sun, clouds, heat, rain, and even wind. Make sure to check the conditions before visiting, and if everything is good to go, then you’re in for a spectacular viewing.

Amusement parks are the ultimate source of heart-pounding, easy fun. How did we get off alive? The world may never know.

7. Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia

National Lampoon’s Vacation fans make the drive from Sacramento to Los Angeles to see a theme park fictionally known as Wally World—in reality, the Griswold family actually went to the iconic Six Flags Magic Mountain. Open year-round, this amusement park boasts rides that range from adrenaline-fueled to whimsical; tuning out the real world is easier here than anywhere else. Six Flags bills itself as ‘The Thrill Capital of the World,’ boasting more roller coasters than any other theme park in the country. Its newest addition, West Coast Racers, features two side-by-side tracks with four individual launches, pitting cars against each other in a twistin’, turnin’, upside-down race to the finish line.

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