The California road trip is one of the classic American vacations, topping many travel bucket lists. When planning your own West Coast trek, consider stops in these five lesser-known cities for a taste of the great variety California has to offer.
To start your journey from north to south, book a comfortable hotel in Redding and get ready to explore the rivers and lakes of Northern California’s fertile Sacramento River Valley. Walk over the famous Sundial Bridge and take the family to see the discovery center exhibits at Turtle Bay Exploration Park. Take a day trip out to enjoy the hiking trails and recreation areas at Whiskeytown Lake.
Sundial Bridge | Image via Flickr by BitBoy
Farther down the Sacramento Valley, stop in the quiet, historic railroad city of Roseville. Take a relaxing walk on the accessible Miner’s Loop hiking and biking trail, or head east to Folsom Lake State Recreation Area for a day of fun on the water. Set aside some time for antique and specialty gift shopping and discover the ways of the native people of California at the Maidu Interpretive Center Museum.
Conveniently located just minutes from San Francisco International Airport, this Bay Area suburb has something for everyone. Weary travelers looking for a few minutes of contemplative peace can join the high-stress silicon valley suits in the San Mateo Japanese Garden in the heart of the historic downtown district. Just north of downtown, locals and tourists alike can enjoy a hike in the hills or a rest on the beach at Coyote Point Recreation Area. Book a hotel near the bay like the Hilton Garden Inn San Mateo to get a great view of the sunrise over the water.
The small city of West Hollywood sits nestled at the foot of the Hollywood Hills, just a few blocks away from the popular attractions on Hollywood Boulevard. Visits to the Chinese Theater, Hollywood and Vine, and a studio tour might be on your daytime sightseeing list, but West Hollywood is all about the nightlife. The Sunset Strip runs right through West Hollywood, and visitors come from around the world to visit rock clubs like the Whisky a Go Go, the Viper Room, the Troubadour, and the Roxy. Comedy fans come to see established acts and up-and-coming talent at the Comedy Store and the Laugh Factory. West Hollywood is also known for its vibrant LGBTQ+ nightlife scene. Consider splurging on a luxury hotel right on the Strip, like the Andaz West Hollywood.
Sundial Bridge | Image via Flickr by xlordashx
In the eastern Los Angeles suburbs, visit a reverent national cemetery and learn about America’s aviation history in Riverside. First, climb the steep-but-manageable hill of Mount Rubidoux Park just above the downtown district. Enjoy the view of the surrounding river valley then head southeast to the March Field Air Museum to follow the evolution of aircraft design from World War II bombers to sleek F-14s. Follow this with a quiet, contemplative walk in the adjoining Riverside National Cemetery.
Having visited these five unique little cities, you might think you’ve seen everything California has to offer, from the rich Sacramento Valley to the glitz and glamor of Hollywood. In reality, you have only scratched the surface, leaving plenty to see and do on your next California adventure.
Cory Hanson is an American travel writer specializing in American and European travel. This is part of a series of American destination posts sponsored by travel search and booking service Hipmunk. Find more Hipmunk posts here, and a full sponsored content disclosure here.