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School’s out and that means vacation time for a lot of us. A lot of the time, when I think about taking a vacation, all I can think of is how incredibly expensive it is and how my family will never be able to afford to take one. But, vacations don’t always have to be these huge, expensive things that take so much time to plan, pack for and actually do. Road trips make for some of the best and most interesting family vacations. Not only can they be very family budget friendly, road trips are also the most fun.
We live in Southern CA and even though I’ve lived here my entire 39 years, there is so much of the state that I’ve never seen. There are so many beautiful parts of the state that I want my kids to experience and learn about and planning a road trip is a great way to experience so many of them.
While these California Road Trip Destinations are just a starting point for all the great places in California to visit, I know that my family will love spending time together and learning more about our state.
- Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Area of CA: San Francisco, CA
Description: The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the first images you think about when you think about California. But, there’s more to the park than just the bridge. This area is also a US National Recreation area that protects over 80,000 acres of ecologically and historically significant landscapes. With more than 15 million visitors every year, it is also one of the most visited National Parks.
What Makes It Special: There are so many different things to see and do within this National Park. The Golden Gate Bridge is, of course, one of them. You can’t forget about Alcatraz Island, Muir Woods National Monument with its giant redwood trees and various camping sites that will bring down the cost of your vacation even more!
- Humboldt Redwoods State Park
Area of CA: Weott, CA
Description: This state park has over 53,000 acres, including 17,000 acres of old-growth coast redwoods.
What Makes It Special: With over 250 camp sites and 100 miles of trails for hiking and biking, this area is the perfect setting for nature lovers. The 32-mile Avenue of the Giants winds it’s way through Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Along the Auto Tour, you’ll find 8 interesting places to stop!
- Lassen Volcanic National Park
Area of CA: Mineral, CA
Description: Ever wanted to visit a volcano? Here’s your chance! In this National Park, you can see steam vents (which are called fumaroles), mountain lakes and volcanoes.
What Makes It Special: Take a drive through the 30-mile Lassen Volcanic National Park Highway where you can see everything from steam vents, boulders from past volcanic eruptions and visit Lassen Peak, which is the highest point of the park at 8,512 feet.
- Los Olivos, CA
Description: Los Olivos is a small, charming town with lots of wineries and horse ranches. Known for its vineyards and art scene, you’ll be able to taste different wines from the regions, explore local shops, eat delicious food and take in concerts.
What Makes It Special: Make sure to check out the Los Olivos Historical Walking Tour where you’ll learn things like how the stage coach line ran from San Franciso to Los Olivos before continuing on to Los Angeles and San Diego and how the town was named for a nearby ranch that had 5,000 olive trees.
- San Luis Obispo, CA
Description: SLO is a beautiful area to explore and have fun. It’s a great area for families to visit, as well as adults without kids. There’s so much to do and see, like Hearst Castle (the 250,000 acre estate that was built by publishing giant William Randolph Hearst) and the San Luis Lighthouse (built in 1890), which has docent-led interpretive tours.
What Makes It Special: San Luis Obispo is halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco and is the perfect mix of beautiful beaches, wineries, historical sites and Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, the Spanish mission founded in 1772 by Father Junípero Serra.
- Solvang, CA
Description: Solvang is one of my favorite places to visit in California. It was founded in 1911 by a group of Danish people that came out west to build a life away from the harsh midwest winters. Many of the buildings in town look like traditional Danish buildings and many of the restaurants and bakeries in town serve food that you would find in Denmark. Make sure to try the aebleskivers, which are pancake puffs and are delicious!
What Makes It Special: Charming shops and museums like the Hans Christian Andersen Museum, which is located above a great bookstore. In the museum, you can learn more about Andersen and see hundreds of volumes of his work, many that are first editions.
- Julian, CA
Description: Julian is another one of my favorite places to visit in California. It’s located about an hour east of San Diego, in the Cuyamaca mountains. The small town feel is something that I really love and love walking through all of the fun shops & trying out all of the great restaurants.
What Makes It Special: With so many things to do from mining for gold, hiking, fishing at Cuyamaca Lake or picking apples in the Fall from the local orchards, it’s a great place to getaway and enjoy a quiet time with your family.
- Joshua Tree National Park
Area of CA: Twentynine Palms, CA
Description: The Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert come together in Joshua Tree, which means you’ll be able to find a unique collection of animals here. It makes for a perfect place to hike and camp but make sure you head out during a time of year that has weather that works for you and your family. Temps in the summer reach over 100°F during the day and stay over 75°F at night. Spring or Fall is a great time to go with temperatures staying around 85°F during the day and 50°F at night.
What Makes It Special: The Ranger Program is great because you’ll be able to explore different areas of the park with park rangers and volunteers. Learn all about the wildlife and vegetation that inhabit Joshua Tree and how they have adapted to survive in the desert.
So, now that you have some ideas about where to go on a road trip in California, it’s time to start getting ready to GO! For us, that means packing up and getting our minivan ready to go. My minivan is VERY old and has over 150,000 miles on it so when we head out, we make sure to check all the tires, headlights, windshield wipers and we always head to Walmart to get an oil change. Because we do have a high mileage vehicle, we make sure to stick with Pennzoil® High Mileage Vehicle® motor oil. It’s perfect for vehicles like mine because it helps clean out sludge that lesser oils leave behind and also helps to reduce leaks and oil consumption in worn or higher mileage engines. Plus, it helps keep my engine running clean and going strong. I need my minivan to last us for a long time so this is so important to us!
I love that I can head to Walmart and get my oil changed at the Automative Care Center. Not only am I getting my van ready for our summer road trip, but while the oil change is happening, I can buy all the supplies and snacks I need for out trip! Plus, I can save money because Pennzoil® High Mileage Vehicle® motor oil is on Rollback (down to $35.88 from $39.88) until September 28th! Find your local Walmart Automotive Care Center and head in for an oil change today!