Eager to escape the Bay Area for an adventure this season but not thrilled by the thought of booking airfare, dealing with crowded airports and the hassles of flying? Or do you simply want the flexibility and room for spontaneity that travel by car provides? Lucky for us, California is home to some of the most iconic road trips in the country.
Whether you’re exploring options for a day trip, a weekend excursion or a week-long vacation, there is no shortage of possibilities. For some inspiration, here are five of our favorites:
Big Sur: If you’ve yet to experience the inimitable beauty of this seaside destination, you’ll realize why we listed this among our top picks as soon as you cross the Bixby Creek Bridge on Highway 1 and follow the winding drive alongside staggering cliffs and vast blue Pacific Ocean. About a three hour drive from San Francisco, Big Sur is teeming with scenic hiking trails, waterfalls, and secluded beaches. It also has a number of choice restaurants from which you can bask in the redwoods and take in the fresh coastal air and stunning views. Two we love are Nepenthe, which offers California fare and a terrace, and the award-winning Sierra Mar at the Post Ranch Inn. When you’re looking for a place to settle in for the night, Treebones Resort offers unconventional lodging with its 16 yurts, giant tents and a human-sized nest.
San Luis Obispo: Named one of the happiest places on earth by contemporary author Dan Buettner, “SLO” offers a laid-back vibe along with beautiful beaches and a thriving downtown featuring more than a dozen microbreweries, excellent restaurants, and plenty of activity. The town is home to the whimsically-themed landmark hotel, The Madonna Inn, and hosts one of the liveliest downtown farmers’ markets in the country every Thursday from six until nine p.m. (except on Thanksgiving and rainy days). Art and culture also abound in San Luis Obispo, with many galleries and museums including the widely-celebrated San Luis Obispo Museum of Art. For a budget-friendly yet comfortable place to stay and eat, check out the Apple Farm Inn.
Solvang: If you’re looking to unwind, wine taste and sample gourmet cheeses and chocolate while browsing boutiques, the Danish Village of Solvang is an often overlooked destination that makes for a wonderful weekend getaway. Located in the Santa Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara County, it’s a bit over a 5.5 hour drive south on Highway 101 from San Francisco and offers more than 20 wine tasting rooms, 35 restaurants and 150 shops. The architecture of many of the buildings reflects traditional Danish style, and the town is resplendent with Danish fixtures including a copy of the famous Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen, windmills, and a giant red clog and Round Tower. From June through much of September, you can also take in a live performance under the stars at the Solvang Festival Theater.
Yosemite National Park: About a four hour drive from San Francisco in the Sierra Nevada, the world-renowned Yosemite is an ever-popular place to visit during the summer months— when wildflowers are in bloom and more of the roads are open to allow you to see as much of the park as possible. Featuring magnificent granite cliffs, crystal streams, waterfalls and enormous sequoia groves, Yosemite is considered by many to be the most scenic national park in the country. Among the most popular hikes are Half Dome by way of the Mist Trail, Yosemite Falls Trail, Panorama Trail and Cathedral Lakes. Lodging in the area ranges from tents and rustic cabins to standard hotels and upscale accommodations such as The Majestic Yosemite Hotel.
Anderson Valley: Looking for a quieter, more relaxed alternative to Napa and Sonoma? You’ll find one in the rolling hills of the coastal region of Mendocino County. Approximately three hours north of San Francisco, this wine-growing region consists of a 15-mile area between Boonville and Navarro and features world-class Pinot Noir and Alsatian varietals. Also in this region, you can visit state parks such as Henry Woods, enjoy award-winning ales from Anderson Valley Brewing Company and tour the cheese-making facility at Pennyroyal Farm. For a fun and unique place to eat and stay, try the roadhouse-style hospitality at the Boonville Hotel.
Already set on a destination for your next road trip but having trouble finding the time to replace a less-than-reliable vehicle? SF Police Credit Union’s Auto Buying Service takes the pressure off by providing you with a personal auto shopper who’ll find the vehicle that you want, based on your specifications at the lowest price possible. Free to SFPCU members, this service acts as your personal concierge for purchasing both new and pre-owned vehicles. And don’t forget, we offer great vehicle loan rates as low as 1.74% APR! And when you’re ready to embark on your travels, don’t forget to take us with you to win up to $300 in our Summertime Adventures Photo Contest. Find details on how to enter at https://www.sfpcu.org/photocontest.