At Our Whole Village, we plan meaningful vacations for families who want to create lifelong memories and show their kids the world in a more conscious and intentional manner.
We help families take meaningful vacations so that they can escape everyday life, show their kids the world and make lifelong memories - with care, confidence and peace of mind.
Your (free) guide to the top travel destinations for families with babies, teens and everyone in between.
Are you jonesing for sunshine, fresh air, and coastal views? If so, consider a family trip down Highway 1, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway. Along the way, your family will enjoy spectacular sunsets, pristine beaches, scenic state parks, and posh waterfront cities. Yes, you’ll get some serious mileage under your belt, but this also makes for plenty of incredible opportunities to make family memories.
Here’s a California road trip itinerary to help your family get in the mood for a fantastic Pacific Coast journey.
While the Pacific Coast Highway is synonymous with the Golden State in many people’s minds, this iconic coast-hugging roadway extends to Seattle, Washington, covering the entire Pacific seaboard. Beginning as US-101 in the Emerald City and birthplace of Starbucks, it passes through Olympic National Park, stretching down into Northern California’s Leggett.
From there, the road splits into CA-1, which continues down to Dana Point, situated between Los Angeles and San Diego. It becomes I-5 for the last handful of miles. Despite this name change, the roadway maintains proximity along the scenic coast. While driving the entire length of the Pacific Highway represents an incredible experience, it’s also one best left to worldschoolers and semi-nomadic families.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t get a flavor for this drive while still visiting some of California’s most famous metropolises and landmarks. Were you to drive from San Francisco to San Diego non-stop, it would take you between ten and 12 hours, depending on traffic. But this complete trip yields little more than scenic views and cramped legs. Instead, it can be broken up into a seven-day minimum itinerary that’s ideal for Spring Break vacationers. Best of all, when you choose the spring months for your trip, you’ll avoid much of the traffic that plagues this drive at other times of the year. Yet, you’ll still enjoy incredible weather.
One of the most fun aspects of travel planning remains mapping out where your family will stop. California’s incredible variety of natural settings and sophisticated city amenities means you’ll find something every member of your family can look forward to. What are some of our favorite stops? Let’s dive in!
San Francisco is at the top of many people’s stateside bucket lists, and with good reason. It boasts scenic views, storied architecture, and a rich history that’s heavily influenced the American Experience. San Francisco also proves highly walkable, although you’ll want to give the cable car system a go, too.
The city’s chill vibe offers endless activities, from fine dining to beach-going and sightseeing of countless historic neighborhoods and sites from Coit Tower to the Haight-Ashbury, the Embarcadero to Fisherman’s Wharf and Alcatraz. And don’t forget the Golden Gate Bridge, one of the most photographed spots in the nation. We recommend Marshall’s Beach or Battery Spencer for exceptional views and the best picture-taking vistas.
Thirty miles from the City, you’ll reach Half Moon Bay. This four-mile-long state park requires a $10 admission fee. But the spectacular views you’ll enjoy make it well worth the price. After a day of exploring San Francisco, there’s no better spot to visit for a stunning sunset. Bring along snacks for an impromptu picnic at day’s end.
We all love a good lighthouse, but Pigeon Point stands out from the pack as the tallest lighthouse on the West Coast. Constructed in 1871, it towers 115 feet above the ground. Painted iconic white, it sits poised atop rugged coastline, upping the scenic factor. It’s got a historic New England vibe, but don’t make the mistake of thinking this lighthouse is retired. It remains an active navigational guide.
A charming coastal escape, Monterey has something for every member of your family. From quaint cafes to delish restaurants featuring a fun admixture of surf culture and fresh California cuisine, you’ll fall in love with the city’s many charms. But the highlight remains Monterey Bay Aquarium, renowned for its engaging exhibits and incredible array of sea life. The cityscape also features Cannery Row, once the center of a thriving sardine packing industry, and now converted into eclectic shops and galleries.
Few destinations pack the picturesque punch of Carmel-by-the-Sea. There’s no better place to stretch your legs while exploring the town’s narrow streets lined with farm-to-table restaurants, art galleries, and lovely boutiques and shops.
As your family continues traveling down the coastline, one of the most spectacular moments will no doubt be crossing the Bixby Creek Bridge. Circa the 1930s, the concrete arch bridge is one of the most popular stops along the Pacific Coast. Just be forewarned it also represents selfie central, so be prepared to deal with crowds. But we think you’ll agree the views make it well worth the crowd surfing.
The soul of Big Sur’s rugged coastline is Point Sur, a state park and naval facility. The area includes a beach between Point Sur and the mainland created by millennia of erosion. On Wednesdays and weekends, visitors can pay $15 per person to take a guided tour. One of the highlights of a visit remains the massive volcanic rock towering at the end of Point Sur. Home to the Point Sur Lighthouse, the facility was constructed in 1889 as a response to multiple shipwrecks along the treacherously rocky coastline.
Of the many incredible destinations your family will see on a road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway, one of the most spectacular remains McWay Falls. Imagine a perfectly aligned waterfall plunging to the land and rocks on the beach below. To say McWay Falls is photogenic proves an understatement. Depending on the time of day and tide, you’ll either catch the falls descending directly to the sandy beach below or the water. Either way, this breathtaking scene will stick with you a lifetime.
San Luis Obispo is one of California’s oldest European settlements. Yet, despite its storied history, one of the city’s most famous attractions is a bubblegum-covered alleyway reachable from Main Street. True to its word, not one spot of concrete shows along the colorful chewing gum-encrusted alleyway. Besides this one-of-a-kind attraction, the city houses California Polytechnic University. It also boasts a popular farmers market and the Spanish colonial Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa.
For the best in laid-back beachy living, visit Pismo Beach. It features an iconic wooden pier extending across sunbaked sand more than 1,000 feet into the Pacific Ocean. Few destinations offer better sunset views, so make sure you fit this spot into your itinerary for evening. Other sites worth seeing include Dinosaur caves, which offer aerial views over the beach and pier. You’ll also enjoy the Eucalyptus tree grove, created to attract Monarch butterflies, who migrate through the area between November and February.
If you’ve longed to see Denmark but don’t know when you can take your family, Solvang is the spot for you. Despite its sunny and temperate climate, it features traditional Danish architecture, including rows of quaint boutique stores, a windmill, and even a Copenhagen sausage garden. The Scandinavian-style town also hosts a Mortensen’s bakery, darling coffee shops, and decadent Old-World-style chocolatiers your kids (and you!) will love.
Santa Barbara has a unique flavor and flair you’ve got to experience. Known as “the American Riviera,” it bears architectural witness to Spanish colonial influences. Coupled with SoCal’s incredible Mediterranean climate, your family will fall in love with this charming locale. Besides a rich history and favorable climate, Santa Barbara also marks a popular tourist spot characterized by a classy and upmarket vibe. Popular tourist spots include the Santa Barbara Pier and beachfront. And you’ll want to make time to stroll down State Street, renowned for its delectable restaurants, famous wine bars, and more.
There are many great activities in and around Los Angeles, from Disneyland to Universal Studios, the Griffith Observatory to the Hollywood sign. Of course, the “City of Angels” has also gained a reputation as Tinseltown, and there are plenty of ways to feel starstruck in this sprawling metropolis. Whether you choose to explore Hollywood or head out on one of the many movie studio tours, get ready to experience a little of the glitz and glamor of the film capital of the world.
There’s so much to see in San Diego that it’s hard to know where to start. Coronado, La Jolla, Old Town, the Gaslamp, Balboa Park, and Torrey Pines are just a few of the tantalizing spots awaiting your family. Kids will fall in love with fun attractions such as the San Diego Zoo and Legoland, and there are endless ways for adults to appreciate this incredible location, too. There’s no better place to end a vacation than one of America’s most picturesque and dynamic cities.
On a family trip from San Francisco to San Diego, you’ll find an endless array of famous landmarks and hotspots worth a visit. Along the way, you and your kids will learn about the “Golden State’s” history while savoring sunny days, pristine beaches, and tasty restaurants serving up the best in California cuisine.
What else do you need to know as you start planning the perfect California road trip itinerary? We’ve got you covered. Let’s schedule a phone call to discuss your family’s needs and travel style and how we can create a meaningful travel experience your entire family will never forget.
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