A road trip along the West Coast of the United States will give you the chance to see some of the greatest natural beauty on the continent. Depending on which route you take, the trip can be straightforward and brief or leisurely and meandering ' budget your time and make the choice that works best for you.
Things You'll Need
- Detailed Local Maps
- Weather Radios
- Digital Cameras
Decide whether you want to get from Seattle to San Diego quickly, or whether you prefer a more meandering route. If you're in a hurry, you'll want to use Interstate 5 for most or all of your journey, but if you have time to spare, consider the winding, scenic coastal highways.
Take Interstate 5 south out of Seattle, and continue past Olympia (the state capital) into Portland, Oregon.
Stop in Portland to visit the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, or carry on through the city to the "End of the Oregon Trail" interpretive center in Oregon City, a tribute to the pioneers of the Pacific Northwest.
Continue south on Interstate 5, drive through Grants Pass, and enter northern California near the beautiful Mount Shasta wilderness region. Or, drive west from Portland along one of the highways that leads out to the Oregon coast, and then drive south on Highway 101 along the coast of California, stopping at Redwood National Park to see some of the world's largest and oldest trees.
Connect with Highway 1 a few miles south of Garberville, if you want to take the coastal route, or stick with 101 if you prefer to drive through California's famous wine regions.
Continue south, either through Sacramento (if you're still on I-5) or San Francisco (on Highways 1 or 101), and head for Los Angeles. The inland route will take you through lush fruit and nut groves, as well as drier, more desert-like terrain, while the coastal route will keep you at the edge of the Pacific for the entire trip.
Stop in Los Angeles to visit Hollywood, Universal Studios and Beverly Hills, or attend a live taping of one of your favorite TV shows.
Head south on I-5 once again, following the signs to Anaheim (you may have to start on Highway 101 south, depending on where you are in L.A.), and spend some time at Disneyland or Knott's Berry Farm.
Get back onto I-5 when you leave Anaheim, and continue south to San Diego, via San Juan Capistrano. While in San Diego, don't forget to visit the famous zoo, or maybe spend a day at SeaWorld.
Tips & Warnings
- Purchase a current map of the region you plan to visit, and follow it closely ' it should contain up-to-date information about detours or road closures.
- Consider packing picnic breakfasts and lunches in a cooler if you're trying to save money. Fast food can get expensive, and there are lots of pretty picnic sites along all the major routes. Just be sure to store all perishables safely, and replace your ice as soon as it melts.
- Try to reserve ahead at hotels, motels or hostels ' they often fill up quickly, especially during the high season.
- Remember to include admission costs for museums and other attractions in your travel budget. Just visiting a couple of major attractions could set you back a few hundred dollars.
- Don't forget the sunscreen! Even in the cooler months, it's easy to pick up a sunburn in southern California.
- For your personal safety, avoid stopping for hitchhikers or others who may try to flag you down. If you see a motorist in difficulty, pull off at the next exit and call the highway patrol to come and help.
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