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San Francisco, Los Angeles… names that make you dream. If you visit California, why not plan a tour between the two big cities and take the opportunity to discover less famous but equally interesting sites? Here’s a little guide to make sure you don’t miss anything on your trip.
San Francisco, a city apart
The itinerary obviously starts in San Francisco, a surprising city. Count on 3-4 days to explore the sites of interest of the place. Remember to book your accommodation in advance, as hotels are often full. Also, think about moving away from the center of the city, it will be less expensive. Once you are comfortable, you can discover the mythical Golden Gate Bridge. Those who have already discovered it recommend to go by bike (or by car) on the other side and to eat in Sausalito to have the best view on the bridge.
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Another site of interest worth visiting is Alcatraz prison. Once back in town, take the winding Lombard Street. Finish your introduction to San Francisco by climbing onto the cable car.
Now it’s time to take the car. Renting a car is very simple in the US, a driver’s license, a credit card and being over 21 years old (sometimes even 25) are the only formalities that will be asked for and many agencies are available. Heading south!
Meet the mythical redwoods
Your first encounter with nature will amaze you. Leave your car and enter the Big Basin Redwoods. This is California’s oldest nature preserve in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Here you can hike the 128 miles of trails to immerse yourself in incredible nature. The locals love this place because they can make a unique experience: kissing an ariolimax, or banana slug, a very imposing endemic species!
If you have some time for your road trip, make a small detour to the coastal town of Santa Cruz. You will be able to embark on a boat to see whales.
Carmel, a city not to be missed
It’s time to get back on the road and continue south. Drive along the Monterey Bay to arrive in the homonymous city where you must visit the superb aquarium. A short detour to visit the San Carlos Borromeo mission will take you back in time. Continue along the coast to Carmel-by-the-Sea. This is the perfect place to take a break and relax on one of the beautiful beaches. You can also discover an incredible 200 year old cypress tree not far from here.
You can still find nature in the Pfeiffer Big Park. Here you can see the river flowing into the ocean and the high quality of the vegetation and wildlife. Point Lobo is also an ideal place for wilderness lovers. It is the perfect place to watch the sunrise.
If you like golf, there are several places for you: the superb Pebble Beach green and the no less sumptuous Carmel Valley Ranch.
Before leaving Carmel, you can still see the amazing little houses built by Hugh Comstock that will transport you into a fairy tale. Don’t miss the thatched cottages known as Gretel, Tuck Box, Hase or Obers (historic district).
Another amazing house, the Tor House is located on a very windy rocky promontory. It is a place totally out of time, a bit magical, a bit mysterious that can be visited by reservation.
I will finally add before leaving Carmel that the little town had a very famous mayor in the person of Clint Eastwood.
Another fascinating encounter with nature
From Carmel, you can easily reach Big Sur Redwoods. To get the most out of the area, spend a few days there and camp. You’ll have the opportunity to drive the famous Newton B. Drury Scenic Road, which is 10 miles long and crosses Prairie Creek where you may encounter herds of elk.
There are also many hikes and Trees of Mysteries, an attraction where you can learn about woodcarving, and get some height with the Sky Trail Gondola. Beautiful beaches are also available.
Mc Way Falls
Here is a little known place and yet it deserves your attention. This site is absolutely heavenly. You will find a dream setting highlighted by a superb waterfall that plunges from a rocky cliff of an incredible color to the ocean, over 24 meters.
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The place is about sixty kilometers from Carmel. Particularly photogenic at sunset, it is an interesting stage and moreover you will be alone, because the place is little known by the tourists.
Santa Barbara, does it tell you something ?
After this unequalled break, take the Highway 1 to continue your road towards the city of the angels.
A stopover is necessary in a famous coastal city: Santa Barbara. It is not only the place which was highlighted by an old and mythical series, it is also a site which proposes to the visitors a pleasant and soft atmosphere. Here, the climate is exceptional, and the streets invite to relax in an optimal way.
Plan at least half a day to discover the city. But there is nothing to stop you from staying longer. Start in the city center and walk around so you don’t miss any of the beautiful facades like the colorful library.
Continue to the military fortress of El Presidio. You will be able to observe two buildings, typical of the colonial architecture of the XVIIIth century. Take advantage of your visit to Santa Barbara to explore the courthouse (I advise you to climb to the top of the tower for a unique view of the city and of course the ocean) and the small Our Lady of Sorrow chapel.
Art lovers can get lost in La Arcada. You can wander through art galleries, romantic fountains and statues. Historical museum, Franciscan mission, zoo, botanical garden and sea center are some of the other places to visit. You will have the opportunity to discover the history of the city, the whales, or a flora of any beauty.
We’ve arrived in Los Angeles!
You arrived at your destination. To have a good idea of the city, it is advised to stay there 4 days at least. There is indeed a lot to do!
Start with the famous Walk of Fame and take a picture of the stars named after the most famous stars. Venice beach is also a must-see destination. It is the beach not to be missed.
The Getty Center is also an interesting site with its ultra-modern design. Moreover, it houses the J. Paul Getty museum. Rodeo Drive will appeal to shopping fans. Spend a few hours in the famous neighborhoods of Beverly Hills and Santa Monica. I invite you to stay or spend a day at the Sixty Hotel pool in Beverly Hills!
Go back to the superb viewpoint of Griffith Park from where the view of the city and its surroundings is remarkable. The place is also accessible at night to observe the sky and its myriad of stars. The telescopes are free and accessible until 10 pm.
Spend a few hours at Disney Park (Anaheim), the only theme park designed by Walt Disney himself.
The cinema in the spotlight
Well, it’s no surprise that Los Angeles is the world capital of cinema. Start with the mythical white letters that overlook the city. Then head to Universal Studios Hollywood. Head to the San Fernando Valley and discover the world of movies and series.
There is also a theme park where you can immerse yourself in your favorite movies. Don’t miss a guided tour of the backstage area and studios. Want more? No problem, a few kilometers away, Warner Bros Studios or Paramount Pictures Studios will welcome you.