There is one trip I’ve taken that I haven’t quite written about. While my significant other was interning in California’s Palo Alto a while ago, I seized the opportunity to visit him and have one more continent on the list. Road trip in USA, or in the western part of it – to be more precise – seemed like an ideal way to see a decent chunk of this huge land.
Because our flights back to Europe were already booked, we were dealing with a limited amount of days. So we started off in Palo Alto and aimed to finish in San Francisco where our flight was from, and we had eight days to spare in-between for some USA travels.
You might find that places listed below are quite touristy, and I will agree with you, but they are listed because they are fun and awesome – and we managed to see them all in a weeks time. This is to encourage anyone who is traveling to USA anytime in the future and thinking of a road trip – it is definitely possible to see a lot in three states (in my case California, Nevada and Arizona) in such a short time.
Just a few pieces of information: we booked our car from Hertz, and we referred to Google Maps for all the distances and estimated travel times. Our route was Palo Alto – Monterey’s 17 Mile Drive – Los Angeles – Las Vegas – Grand Canyon – Las Vegas again – South Lake Tahoe – San Francisco.
My favorite thing of all was staying with the locals through Airbnb. They were all really kind and helpful with plenty of tips on where to go and how to get there – I highly recommend this way of connecting with locals whenever you can!
Have fun reading (and traveling)!
Pebble Beach on the 17 Mile-Drive.
I am not really sure how popular this place is, but I sure know it wouldn’t have been on my radar if my friend hadn’t told me about it. 17 Mile-Drive is just that – a drive that is 17 miles long and rewards you with some really spectacular views.
If you find yourself anywhere near this area, you simply have to see this! There is an entrance fee of $10 per car, which is worth every penny – I promise.
Venice Beach in Los Angeles.
When I think of Venice Beach, I seriously always imagine a movie (or Baywatch), because it literally looks like you’ve walked into a movie scene. Girls rollerskating, guys walking around with surfboards, everyone just casually living their lives in a 32°C temperature in October.
The beach is huge, warm and simply fabulous and is so much different than the rush and noise of some other parts of LA.
Taking a picture with the Hollywood sign.
Yes, I know, it sounds like the most unoriginal thing ever, but let me surprise you. Hollywood sign isn’t really as accessible as you might think. I thought there is a place where everyone comes and photographs the crap out of it, but as I was Googling this, I realized there is no such thing (or at least I couldn’t find it, or it didn’t exist at the time).
So I came across a page (I believe it was this one) that mentioned some driving and hiking directions, and after getting lost a few times, we actually found a perfect spot (I’m pretty sure you can get much closer, but we weren’t up for hiking and/or potentially breaking any laws).
And there we were! There were only two more people there, so I assume the place wasn’t that easy to find.
Red Rock Canyon in Nevada.
It’s worth mentioning that at the time of our road trip in USA, there was a government shutdown and national parks were closed. This meant we could only see a few national parks, including Red Rock Canyon (we also didn’t get to see Alcatraz Island for the same reason).
Regardless, I still encourage everyone to visit Red Rock if they can! It’s a great opportunity to enjoy Nevada without the city noise and see some spectacular work of nature.
Las Vegas in general.
You might say that this has the most amount of touristy. Well, it does. But Vegas is SO FUN. I do advise taking at least a full day and night to simply soak in the kitsch, colors, people and noise of the Las Vegas Strip.
I really do think it’s fun. We went to see a few really good performance shows, lost track of time under the Ceasar’s Palace’s fake sky, witnessed some awesome fountain/light shows in Bellagio, a woman diving in an aquarium, and ran into funny stuff in the shops. Give it a try.
Grand Canyon, of course.
As I mentioned, national parks were closed at the time of our trip. This included Grand Canyon, too, but our fabulous host told us how to get to a part that isn’t closed. It is located at Grand Canyon West on the Hualapai Indian Reservation and it took us a whole day to drive there and back from Vegas. As you might imagine, all the drive was worth it.
Just look at these views!
Our whole USA road trip was averaging around 30°C, so driving to Lake Tahoe was a bit of a physical shock since it was around 6 degrees when we got there. And when you see Lake Tahoe for the first time, you know it’s an ideal place for a vacation no matter what time of the year it is.
We were staying in South Lake Tahoe, a beautiful city on the California-Nevada border. Whatever we needed was so close to us and it was the perfect place to charge up with some energy prior to our drive to San Francisco and our 20-hour long trip back home.
The little things of San Francisco.
There are many things to San Francisco, the good and the bad ones. There are some dangerous areas, there are some pretty ones, but that’s the reality of most big cities.
So what do I mean when I say the little things? I mean Lombard Street (San Francisco’s crookedest street), the piers, the walks, the cute little restaurants and coffee shops. The parks. The steep streets. The really cool Lyft drivers (one of which told us to see the Lombard Street!). And yes, the Golden Gate.
There are so many beauties in San Francisco and I only had a day or two to fall in love with it. It was still enough!
Any places you would add to this list? What is your idea of a road trip in USA? Let me know!
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