Driving the coast of California is a must on most everyone’s bucket list, but there are some best-kept secret cities that will make a scenic road trip through the state unforgettable. From the Mojave Desert to serene beaches, here are some of the best underrated stops on your next trip.
The city of Solana Beach is the perfect stop to unwind along California’s coastline. Although downtown San Diego bustles just 25 minutes away, visitors enjoy a slower pace in this tiny, sun-soaked town. Take a picnic and watch surfers along Fletcher Cove, or stroll through the Cedros Design District for shops, galleries and restaurants.
Also see: The 12 best American road trips
Emma Jeans Holland Burger Cafe in Victorville, Calif., has served travelers on Route 66 since 1947.
Located in Victor Valley and just over an hour’s drive away from Los Angeles, the city of Victorville is a unique place to make a stop. It boasts the iconic California Route 66 Museum as well as one of the best diners in the country, Emma Jean’s Holland Burger Café. If you’re making a pit stop in Victorville, consider going during the San Bernardino County Fair, the only fair still located along Route 66.
Wine not stop in Sebastopol? Rated one of America’s best small towns, this charming Sonoma County spot has no shortage of wineries and craft breweries. Some local favorites include Iron Horse Vineyards, Merry Edwards Winery and Fog Crest Vineyard among countless others.
Mount Diablo near Walnut Creek.
Looking to stretch your legs? Walnut Creek, or the “Jewel of the East Bay,” offers excellent restaurants and even better hiking for those looking to stop. If you dare to brave the 3,849-foot summit of Mount Diablo, you’ll be able to take in breathtaking views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Do you know the way to San Jose? We hope you do, because it’s a perfect place to stop on your California road trip. Museums, food and nature reign in this California city. Like Walnut Creek, San Jose’s Alum Rock Park offers weary travelers 740 acres to stretch their legs. The city’s bustling food scene caters to even the pickiest eaters with cuisines ranging from Indian to Cajun.
San Luis Obispo
Gross, but real: Bubblegum alley in downtown San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Once a Spanish mission town, this colorful city is one of California’s oldest communities. San Luis Obispo, or SLO Town, boasts one of California’s best farmer’s markets. But perhaps the city’s biggest claim to fame is its Bubblegum Alley, where people have been covering the walls with chewed bubblegum since 1960.
The scenic landscape of McWay Falls near Big Sur.
Sweeping views and a dramatic coastline make the Big Sur region one of our favorite spots in California. Virtually untouched until the construction of the Carmel-San Simeon Highway in 1937, the region presents visitors with bright blue waters, a rocky coast and incredible sunsets.
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