Road Trip: LA to San Francisco
A couple of weeks ago, two friends and I were discussing how badly we needed a break from the LA scene, so we started brainstorming on where we should escape for the weekend. It had to be somewhere special: Las Vegas is too crazy, and San Diego is too close. After a very fun and long brainstorming, we came up with a ROADTRIP TO SAN FRANCISCO!
Part I — Los Angeles to San Francisco: To take the 101 all the way to San Francisco, so we could experience the amazing views.
Part II — San Francisco to Los Angeles: To take the I-5 directly to Los Angeles.
The travel estimate for “Part I” of the trip is around 12 hours and for “Part II” is around 6 hours.
It was set and done… San Francisco here we come!
Departure: We left on Saturday morning at 7 a.m., half asleep and half awake, but full of excitement.
First stop: Santa Barbara.
Santa Barbara is around an hour and a half from Los Angeles, so it was a perfect spot for us to have breakfast. Santa Barbara is a small beautiful beach town, and it’s mostly famous for being a student town (the University of California, Santa Barbara is located there). Oprah Winfrey has a gorgeous house there as well. In this town you will find plenty of cozy little restaurants where you can just sit down and enjoy some delicious breakfast with a great cup of coffee.
After we had breakfast, we took some time to walk around and get to know the lovely Santa Barbara a little bit better.
Second Stop: Hearst Castle.
It takes like a little more than two hours to get here coming from Santa Barbara, but the views you will see on your trip to get there will make the time fly by.
Hearst Castle is a MUST SEE. However, we did not know it was so popular, and that spaces for the tours around the different sections of the castle are limited.
Tip: Buy your tickets in advance to guarantee you will see the section or sections of the castle that you would like to visit.
We did not know this, so we could not get into any tour. Everything was sold out! We could only enter a small gallery with the story of William Randolph Hearst and his castle. There are a few original items to showcase… it is basically like a consolation price for all those that did not make it to the tours. Anyway, we decided to at least take advantage of the beautiful views and take lots and lots of pictures.
And off we go again. The next stop is Monterey Bay, another two and a half hours away. It was time to just relax and enjoy the view….
In this part of the trip, you will see the most amazing views of the mountain, the woods, and the beach. There are plenty of view points for you to stop by and take breathtaking pictures. These are views that I had only seen in postcards and travel books. Seeing all this beauty live is even more spectacular. The air smells fresh with a hint of wildflowers mixed with sea breeze. It is unbelievable.
On the final part of the journey before arriving in Monterey Bay, you will go through a small mountain town called Carmel. It is like a fairy tale town. It simply beautiful and it feels very cozy. Even the gas station is super cool.
Finally, we arrived at Monterey Bay. This town is famous for its aquarium. It is supposed to be one of the best in the US. I wish we could have seen it, but all the photo shooting while driving through the panoramic highway put us behind schedule, so we had to skip it. We only stopped for food. And off we went again. Straight to San Francisco!
Once you arrive to the famously amazing city of San Francisco, the fun only escalates. There is so much to do in this city that I think the best I can do is to give you my Top 10 tips to get the most out of a quick escapade to San Francisco:
1. Stay at the Hotel des Artes. This hotel is like sleeping inside a museum of contemporary art. Every single room is an original masterpiece, and it is amazingly cozy.
Note: It includes continental breakfast (toast, bagel, fruit, coffee, juice and milk), so this is good news for your budget.
2. Live the night and party at Mission. This is where the local hipsters go nowadays. There are a bunch of bars and clubs for you to choose from. In fact this place is perfect for bar-hopping. Grab some dinner and wine at Loló to start the night.
3. For breakfast go to Cafe de la Presse. This place has amazing breakfast and service. The French toast is to die for, and the atmosphere is just lovely. It feels very European.
4. If you are a foodie, you have to go to the Ferry Building. It is an ongoing market of gourmet and special food items: artisan high-end chocolates, smooth flavorful gelatos, gourmet mushrooms, specialty organic coffee, etc. This place is amazing for unique snacks and exclusive souvenirs for that special person waiting for you back home.
From there, walk all the way to Pier 39. It is not as far as it may seem. Enjoy the walk! Once you get there, go all the way to the end and take lots of pictures. This is a great spot for you to take a picture of the infamous Alcatraz. Try to ignore your urge to eat here; Fisherman’s Wharf is only a few feet away. The most fabulous clam chowder and fish and chips await there for you. YUMMY!
5. For your general souvenirs shopping go to Chinatown. Key chains, coffee mugs, t-shirts, you name it, you will find it all here, and at reasonable prices. Also, as a fan of truly authentic Chinese food, I highly recommend you to eat here. My suggestion to you is to try Kan’s Restaurant for some exquisite dim sum.
6. You will love lunch or dinner in Little Italy. The Italian flair is everywhere. Pasta, pizza, ravioli, tiramisu, cappuccino, espresso… the choices are endless. Also, you can choose from a fancy restaurant or a traditional trattoria.
7. Have a beer and enjoy happy hour at Irish Bank. This is a very cozy Irish bar. You will feel like you’re at home just with a little bit of more beer than you probably carry in your fridge and a little bit of noise. But that’s good, right?
8. To spoil yourself with a very special dessert go to Ghirardelli Square. There are no additional words that can describe this place. Enjoy it!
9. If you feel like having an additional field trip within your trip to San Francisco, I have two small detours for you: Muir Woods and Sausalito.
At Muir Woods you will witness the tallest trees you have ever seen. Some of them are more than 1,000 years old. It is unbelievable. When I went there, I could literally breathe tranquility.
Sausalito is a small town outside of San Francisco. You can make a quick visit there and enjoy a cup of coffee while admiring a beautiful view of the city of San Francisco.
10. And last, but most certainly not least you cannot miss these three landmarks: the Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, and Lombard Street.
Bonus Tip: WALK all you can… it’s the best way you can get to know a city… especially one like San Francisco.