Epic Road Trip Itinerary: Los Angeles to San Francisco Road
We had the opportunity to take an EPIC road trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco this past Spring Break. We only had one week, but we were determined to see and do as much as we could. We’ve decided to share this epic road trip itinerary in case there are any adventurous readers out there that would like to give it a try!
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I’m not going to lie, this epic road trip is pretty dense. We felt exhausted at the end of each day, but very satisfied by what we managed to see. Needless to say, we had a lot to talk about at dinner each night!
I will list out what we did here with short detail. I will provide more detailed information and suggestions for various stops in future blog posts. Keep your eyes open!
Are you ready to get this party started? Here we go!
DAY 1: LOS ANGELES TO SAN SIMEON
Day 1 of this epic Los Angeles to San Francisco road trip itinerary involves making stops on the road between Los Angeles and San Simeon.
First stop: Solvang
This is a charming little town in the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley. Solvang is full of old-world inspired Danish architecture. You can find lots of bakeries and little stores along the way.
Read our detailed list of things to do in Solvang HERE. Want to make sure you get Instagram worthy photos in Solvang? Read our suggestions for great picture opportunities HERE.
Second Stop: OstrichLand USA
This is located a short distance away from Solvang. You can buy some feed and actually feed ostriches and emus. If you are terrified of animals, you probably want to skip this one. I love animals, and even I was a little scared to feed these guys. The family absolutely loved this stop!
Find out more about Ostrichland USA and feeding the ostriches in our post HERE.
Third stop: Harmony, Population 18
This is a short 10 to 20-minute stop. This is a very small “town.” There is a store with some really amazing glass art. We stopped in and wound up taking home a glass hummingbird to hang from my kitchen window. Now I can feel like Snow White when I wash the dishes!
Fourth Stop: Cambria
Cambria is another beautiful town along the coast. My youngest asked if we were in the town where the Gilmore Girls live.
We ate absolutely amazing ribs at Main Street Grill. The food here is off the charts good! You will not be sorry you stopped here if you love BBQ! We took a walk along the main street and checked out the local small shops.
Fifth Stop: San Simeon
Our final stop of the day was in San Simeon. Before heading to our hotel, we went out to watch the elephant seals at Piedras Blancas elephant seal rookery. These guys were really entertaining to watch!
After checking into the hotel, we went to grab dinner. Just a warning, this is a very small town. Everything closes early, including restaurants.
Day 2: SAN SIMEON TO SAN FRANCISCO
Day 2 of this epic Los Angeles to San Francisco road trip itinerary will take you from San Simeon all the way to San Francisco.
First stop: Hearst Castle
Take a tour of the Hearst estate. Hearst Castle is a popular landmark, so be sure to make reservations in advance if it is a busy travel season. Allow time to park, get wristbands, then wait in line for the tour bus to drive you up to the estate. There are multiple guided tour options as this is a very large estate. If this is your first visit, it is recommended that you take the Grand Rooms tour. After taking the Grand Rooms tour, I wanted to take all of the other tours. We were on a tight schedule though, so we had to keep going!
Second Stop: Gilroy
We were getting tired of sitting in the car and remembered that there is a very large outlet in Gilroy. It was a nice break from driving. We took a walk around, grabbed some coffee, and did a little shopping.
Third Stop: San Francisco
At this point, you are probably tired as you drive in to San Francisco. Stop by your hotel to check in, then take a walk over to Ghirardelli Square for some great dessert. Rest up for the next day.
Day 3: SAN FRANCISCO DAY 1
Are you ready for Day 3 my friends? This will be your first full day of sight seeing in San Francisco for this epic Los Angeles to San Francisco itinerary.
First stop: Cable Cars
We stayed near Fisherman’s Wharf, so we walked over to the Hyde and Beach Fisherman’s Wharf stop. Arrive as early as you can because lines get longer as the day goes on. We bought a round trip ticket for each person. We took the Cable Car to Union Station.
Tickets cost $7 each way for everyone ages 5 and older. Seniors age 65+ and disabled pay the same, but price is $3 from 9pm to 7am.
You can purchase tickets at the turnaround or pay cash only to the conductor upon boarding the car.
Once you arrive at Union Station, walk around the city, check out the stores, and take plenty of pictures.
Second stop: Macy’s
We took our road trip during Spring Break. It turns out this is a great time to take a stroll to Macy’s at Union station. Macy’s has an annual Spring display that is a must see. The windows outside had beautiful, magical displays, as did the inside of the store.
Third stop: Boudin Bakery
Take the cable car back to the original Fisherman’s Wharf stop. Walk to Boudin Bakery and enjoy a delicious meal and bread. Order a bread bowl with clam chowder, you are in San Francisco after all! You can see how they make their fresh bread from the street by looking at bakers working away at the windows.
Fourth stop: Fisherman’s Wharf
Take a stroll from the bakery over to the Fisherman’s Wharf. The Wharf has a lot of little shops and food to eat.
One of my favorite things at the Wharf is the piano staircase. Just walk up each step and it plays a note.
You can also find a huge merry-go-round.
Don’t forget to check out the sea lions! This is arguably the best part of visiting the Wharf.
Fifth stop: China Town and Ghirardelli
Head out to China Town for some dinner and to take in the sites. Stop after at Ghirardelli for some dessert. We personally love the cookies!
Day 4: SAN FRANCISCO DAY 2
Day 4 of the epic Los Angeles to San Francisco itinerary involves more sight seeing. There is a lot to do in San Francisco. And, believe it or not, we didn’t even have time to do it all!
First stop: Alcatraz
Make sure to take a tour of Alcatraz Island when you are in San Francisco. Walk the same halls as Al Capone and learn about life on “the Rock” for both prisoners, employees, and their families. Alcatraz Island is of the National Park Service and the official website can be found here.
Plan ahead to purchase these tickets. You’ll want to eat before you go. There is no food sold on Alcatraz Island.
This part of your itinerary will probably take around 3 to 4 hours from start to finish. You will be taking the boat to and from the Rock, and listening to the audio tour while walking around.
Second stop: The Painted Ladies
Take a drive to see the the Painted Ladies and take a seat on the park grass that the Full House Family did back in the 1980’s.
Third stop: Full House
Take a short drive to the house that is used as the exterior look of the Tanner household from Full House, and now Fuller House.
Fourth stop: Dinner at Urban Putt
We discovered Urban Putt, a restaurant with bar and mini golf. This place had delicious food and a really fun indoor mini-golf vibe. Because there is a bar, people under 21 years old are not allowed at Urban Putt after 8p.m.
This mini golf location is a must-see. Each “hole” is a piece of art, in my opinion.
Day 5: SAN FRANCISCO DAY 3
This is the last full day in San Francisco for our Los Angeles to San Francisco road trip itinerary.
First stop: Lombard Street
This is a fun street to see, and even more fun to drive through! This street has sharp twists and turns. If you go the right time of year, there are beautiful flowers all along the hedges.
If you have kids with you, be sure to drive down this street! I still have fond memories of my trip to San Francisco as a kid. I very vividly remember being in the car as my Dad navigated down twisty Lombard Street, in a stick shift no less!
Second stop: The Golden Gate Bridge
Park at the Battery East Parking Lot, which is the secondary visitor center lot. From here, take a small hike towards the Golden Gate Bridge while taking pictures along the way. You can also walk on the bridge and take pictures while you’re up there.
Be sure you take a sweater. It get’s cold!
Third stop: The Disney Family Museum
Allow at least 2 hours to tour the Disney Family Museum. You get to learn about Walt’s life, from beginning to end. It is very informative. There is a lot of walking, so be sure to keep on your comfortable shoes. Keep in mind that this is in fact a museum. Do not enter expecting to find amusement park rides, etc. Nonetheless, my elementary school age kids enjoyed it.
Fourth stop: Golden Gate Park Koret Children’s Quarter
At this point, you have had your kids do a lot of walking on this trip! Treat them to a trip at this special park.
Big kids and little kids alike will love the playground at Golden Gate Park Koret Children’s Quarter. There are spinning seats, zip line type playground equipment, a large rope web mountain that they can climb to the top, and cement slides where you have to sit on cardboard to slide down. There is also a carousel here.
*If you want to continue on to Reno, here are some more suggestions:
Day 6: SAN FRANCISCO TO RENO
Continue on to Day 6 if you and your company are up for it! We have friends in Reno and made some stops along the way before making it to our destination.
First stop: The Fortune Cookie Factory
Go to the Fortune Cookie Factory in Oakland and see how fortune cookies are made! This is a small family-run factory and you will be guided through the factory.
The cost is $2 per person.
Don’t go if you have a kid that wants to run around and touch things. This is a small operation with lots of machinery.
Second stop: University of California, Berkeley
Take a driving or walking tour around the campus. It is beautiful. Did you know that Disney filmed the Mary Poppins “Chim Chim Cher-ee” film segment on top of one of the university buildings? You’ll know it once you see it if you are a Disney buff. The building is “South Hall.” You will definitely have to walk through the UC Berkeley campus to see this one.
Third stop: Zachary’s Pizza
Go to Zachary’s Pizza Berkeley location and get some Chicago-style pizza. It is so good! So good, in fact, that my boyfriend and I used to have pizza there every Friday night after getting through the school week! That boyfriend is now my husband. Maybe Zachary’s helped that along.
Be sure to allow about 30 to 40 minutes for the Chicago-style pizza to cook. Trust me, it’s worth the wait!
Fourth Stop: The Jelly Belly Factory
Did you know that you can get a tour of the Jelly Belly Factory? I didn’t tell my kids until we were pulling up to the building. Wow were they excited!
The factory tour is free. You are behind glass this time, so not quite as stressful with little ones. Shop at the Jelly Belly Factory Store and or grab a meal at the Jelly Belly Factory food area.
Read about our experience at the Jelly Belly Factory Tour in our post HERE.
Last Stop: Reno!
We stayed at a friend’s home here. At this point, we sort of took it easy at this point because we were tired!
We enjoyed snow shoeing and sledding. We also grabbed a great breakfast at Squeeze In. This place was absolutely delicious and you must try if you are in the Reno area.
After enjoying our friends’ company for a couple of days, we took the 380 Highway from Reno back to Los Angeles. It is a more scenic route and was also a quicker drive home.
Enjoy your road trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco! Comment down below to let us know some of your favorite stops along the trip from LA to SF! Please share your experience with us in the comments below! Be sure to subscribe so that you can stay in the loop about local events and adventures!
FIND MORE TRAVEL IDEAS HERE:
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Solvang Danish Village: Is it Worth It?
Instagram Worth Photo Opps in Solvang!
Ostrichland USA: A Fun Road Trip Detour