If you’ve lived in California, chances are you’ve made the trek between San Francisco and Los Angeles. It’s a quick plane ride, but taking to the road provides a fun adventure whether the commute is for business or pleasure. This stretch of the sunshine state is no epic road trip, but there is a lot of fun to be had in its 380 miles. There are three main highways from which to choose. For the no-nonsense commuter who is going for record time, Interstate 5 is the ticket. A warning, it is a smelly 6 hours. The highway is peppered with cattle ranches providing the only scenery. If time is of no issue and you’re looking for a leisurely drive, then Highway 1 is a good choice. It adds quite a bit of time to the trip, but the views are certainly worth it. You’ve seen these breathtaking, coast hugging roads in numerous car commercials. I highly recommend taking this route at least once. A perfect middle of the road choice is Highway 101. You can get there in a reasonable amount of time, the scenery is pleasant, and there are many stops and towns along the way to turn the drive into a mini vacation in itself.
There are three outlet malls for the thrifty brand name shoppers. Gilroy Premium Outlets and Camarillo Outlets are your best bet. The Pismo Beach Outlet is limited and not worth the stop. If you’re looking for more of a vintage variety, the thrift shops in Ventura are a thrifter’s paradise. Main street is sprinkled with eclectic shops filled with one-of-a-kind treasures. If you find yourself passing through Nipomo on a Saturday or Sunday, stop by the Swap Meet and Flea Market. There are over 300 vendors, a variety of food offerings, and a fun land for the kiddos.
Food & Drink:
It’s worth it, find unique local eateries than to succumb to the fast food convenience. Split Pea Soup Anderson’s boasts that they have “everything for the traveller.” It makes for a fun stop and the diner serves up a good fare including that famous pea soup. Nearby is the Danish village of Solvang with lots of shops and authentic Danish bakeries. Try out a traditional abelskiver, a delectable pancake ball. The Shop in Santa Barbara has fresh locally-sourced food. The Red Scooter Deli is a friendly spot in Paso Robles if you’re craving a sandwich. Mt. Madonna Inn is a whimsical pit stop. Eat at The Copper Cafe within the inn. A must if you’re a fan of the color pink. It was the founder’s wife’s favorite color. Even the salt in the shakers is pink. Palermo in Ventura is good for coffee or tea to keep you caffeinated.
There are endless sites and attractions along the way that will give you good reason to pull over and take a break. There’s a variety of berry picking if you are looking for a little farm excursion. Strawberries in Oxnard. Blueberries in Santa Barbara. Ollaliberries in Paso Robles. Even pimentos in Greenfield. You can visit about 13 of the 21 California Missions along this stretch of the 101 highway. They make nice quick ways to add a touch of culture and California history to your trip. Of course, don’t pass up the beautiful beaches. There’s no better way to stretch your legs quite like dipping your toes in the ocean. There are many opportunities to have a beach pit stop. The pier and beach playground in Ventura is fun for any age. Refugio, El Capitan State Beach, and Pismo Beach are all picturesque and Instagram-worthy.
You might be tempted to stop at any of the many wineries along the way or the Firestone Brewery, just don’t drink and drive. You will be bombarded with photo ops, pull over to snap your pics or have your travel companion man the camera. Watch for speed limit signs. The maximum goes between 65 and 70 often and it’s easy to space out and miss the signs. Look for the beige historical landmark signs or fruit stands if you need a rest from driving.
Whether it’s a quick jaunt between the cities or a longer road trip, this span of California can be a delightful experience. More times than not, it’s the journey rather than the destination that enchants us. From peaceful, rolling farmland to stunning, coastal vistas there is adventure to be had.