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USATourist News Magazine by Elizabeth Blair
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USATourist News Magazine

January 2009 - California Road Trip

In this issue:

Happy New Year! Everyone at wishes our readers a happy and healthy 2009.

A common request we receive on our USATourist forums is advice on road trips. Many of you are searching for suggestions, attractions and hotels. Now that the gas prices are on the downswing road trips are looking more and more attractive, so we decided to dedicate this issue to a California road trip. If you have a particular region you would like to see covered in an upcoming issue please stop by our forums and let us know. We love hearing from you.

The Routes

Where you start your journey is up to you. Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area have numerous international airports while regional airports are scattered across the state - all with rental car offices. If you wish, you may begin or end in the surrounding states. Las Vegas (Interstate 15) or Reno, Nevada (Interstate 80) are easy cities to begin your trip. If you start in Phoenix, Arizona (Interstate 17 to Interstate 40) you can visit Sedona and the Grand Canyon along they way. If you would like to see the Northwest, start in Seattle, Washington or Portland, Oregon (both on Interstate 5). However, it is much cheaper to return your car to the original pick-up location.

Huntington Beach Pier

Families and couples enjoy the sunset along the Huntinton Beach Pier.
Photo by Jeff Blair ©

In California the scenic Route 1, also called Pacific Coast Highway or Highway 1, is a winding road offering gorgeous coastal views and pull-off areas to stop to enjoy the scenery and take photos. Carmel and Monterey are wonderful stops along this route. If you are short on time and want to avoid the long coastal drive between Los Angeles and San Francisco take Interstate 5 - you won't be completely without scenery. At times, miles of vineyards and orchards line the highway.

Below are a handful of California towns I recommend you visit (listed from south to north) - this past summer my family and I ventured up and down the coast of California. It's a great time.

Huntington Beach - Surf City USA

Huntington Beach, California, also known as Surf City USA, is the stereotypical beach town. Surfers and beachgoers enjoy the surf, sun and sand all day while beach cruisers (bikes) and joggers make their way along the beachside sidewalks. We stayed at the Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort - located directly across the street from the beach and enjoyed good eats at places like Fred's Mexican Café, a fun after-beach stop for happy hour and dinner. Ruby's, a 1940's themed diner, sits at the end of the pier and is another fun locale. Strolling along the pier at sunset is amazing! If you need beach rentals, Zack's (there are two on the beach) rents pretty much any piece of beach equipment (surf boards, bikes, etc.) under the sun. One morning we chose to experience a two-person surrey cycle and rode for an hour along the beach.

San Diego Gas Lamp Quarter

The Gas Lamp Quarter is the historic area of San Diego. It is a popular area for tourists to enjoy the shops and restaurants.
Photo by Jeff Blair ©

San Diego - Perfect Year Round

San Diego is known for its terrific climate and fun atmosphere. It really is a city for everyone. Families love visiting SeaWorld and the nearby LegoLand and adults enjoy shopping and dining in that Gaslamp Quarter. Of course, everyone loves the beaches. The city has plenty of lodging options from beachside resorts to high-rise hotels downtown. During our most recent stay we experienced the San Diego Omni which is located on the southern edge of the Gaslamp Quarter and connects to the Padres Petco Park via a skybridge. The San Diego Trolley is a one block walk and the Seaport Village is only 1/2 mile away. Watch out though - parking costs are high in downtown San Diego. However, parking garages charge about half of what the hotels charge for valet.

Solvang - America's Danish Village

Windmills and yummy pastry shops line the streets of Solvang, a charming 1911 Danish Village. One of Solvang's special features is the various tributes to the famed author Hans Christian Anderson. A park honors Anderson and a museum in the town is dedicated to his life and holds photos, displays, and a miniature replica of his childhood home. Across the street from the museum is a replica of the Copenhagen statue, inspired by the fairy tale The Little Mermaid. Hadsten House Inn and Spa is my favorite hotel in Solvang - for more reasons than one. Every evening the hotel offers a complimentary glass of wine, cheese and fruit to guests and every morning guests receive a complimentary breakfast buffet. The inn is a renovated motel but the rooms are pure luxury.

Windmill in downtown Solvang

You'll find charming windmills throughout the Danish town of Solvang.
Photo by Michelle Leco ©

San Luis Obispo - in Central Coast Wine Region

San Luis Obispo (SLO) is a quaint town filled with fabulous restaurants, wine tasting and shopping. We stayed at Holiday Inn Express which offers a free continental breakfast. The nice thing about this hotel is the town trolley stops right outside of the hotel and is only 25 cents a ride. A short ride takes you into downtown.

One of the most fun (and yet disgustingly memorable) attractions in San Luis Obispo is Bubble Gum Alley which goes back to some time in the 1950's. It's exactly what the name implies, a narrow alley set in downtown SLO layered with blobs and globs of chewed bubble gum.

The San Francisco Bay Area - Lots to see and do

San Francisco is of course a very popular destination but the entire bay area has tons to do, see and eat. We ended up staying in San Mateo County at the newly remodeled Courtyard Oyster Point Waterfront which offers guests a free shuttle to the local CalTrain station which provides train service into San Francisco.

Bubble Gum Alley

Elizabeth stops to pose with her son in Bubble Gum Alley.
Photo by Jeff Blair ©

One of my favorite San Francisco attractions is Pier 39. The Blue and Gold Fleet departs from the pier for the Escape From the Rock cruise, a 90-minute narrated ride under the Golden Gate Bridge and around Alcatraz.

If you want to keep going heading north, be sure to revisit our August 2008 USATourist News Magazine issue in our archives to learn more about Fort Bragg and the Mendocino Coast.

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Thank you for reading our USATourist News Magazine.

Happy and Save Travels!

Written by: Elizabeth L. Blair

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