San Francisco Bay Area / Central Valley / High Sierra / Los Angeles – 6 days
• San Francisco
• Sequoia National Park
• Los Angeles
Day 1 San Francisco
If you need a little retail therapy, there’s no better city to satisfy your craving. Spend the morning exploring the shops at Union Square, where they offer everything from Macy’s to Armani. Try the many fine art galleries, which sell works by big names like Picasso and Chagall and by rising contemporary artists. There are also many fascinating museums around the city, such as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Asian Art Museum, the Exploratorium, and the Fine Arts Museum. In the afternoon, catch a trolley to Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, where you can spend the afternoon browsing the many shops, galleries, and museums along the wharf or at nearby Ghiradelli Square. Enjoy a ferry ride to the infamous Alcatraz Island, the former penitentiary to some of the most notorious federal criminals of the 20th century, such as the Birdman of Alcatraz or Al Capone. Savor some of the freshest seafood you’ll ever taste at a romantic restaurant, or people-watch while snacking on a sourdough roll bursting with steaming chowder. In the evening, head over to the Theater District and catch an evening performance.
Day 2 Oakdale/Yosemite
Drive about two hours east on I-205 and take a break in charming Oakdale. Chocolate addicts can get a fix at the Hershey Chocolate USA’s Visitor Center Gift Shoppe, and then walk off the calories by exploring the many antique and collectibles shops nearby. If you’re curious about the Wild West, visit the Oakdale Cowboy Museum. Here you can learn about Oakdale’s western legacy and why it earned the title of the “Cowboy Capital of the World.” Enjoy lunch downtown, and then drive two hours east on Highway 120 to world-famous Yosemite National Park, the “Rock Climbing Capital of the World.”, This park is a “must do” if you’re looking for natural wonders in California. Check into your hotel and hop on a Valley Floor Tour tram, where you’ll get an introduction to some of Yosemite’s most famous sightseeing points in Yosemite Valley, including El Capitan mountain, which attracts rock-climbers from all over the world. On this two-hour tram tour, park rangers describe the history, geology, and plant and animal life of the region. If time permits, take a brief .8- kilometer walk to the bottom of Yosemite Falls. Then enjoy dinner at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls.
Day 3 Yosemite
Yosemite National Park has enough attractions to entertain you for days. If you only have a day, and weather permits, it’s recommended that you drive or catch a shuttle to cover the most popular areas and take shorter hikes. On the way to visit the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoia in Wawona, stop at one of several overlooks to take pictures of the famous Yosemite Valley. Then drive up to Glacier Point, the highest point in the park accessible by car, for some of the most amazing views of the park. Enjoy your picnic lunch here or grab a snack from the café. After lunch, you can hike beautiful trails and later watch a Crayola-colored sunset over Half Dome. If you’d rather see more of the park, head over to Tuolumne Meadows at the eastern end of the park, with many “high country” vistas and several meadow trails. Return to Yosemite Valley for dinner.
Day 4 Fresno/ Sequoia National Park/Visalia
Drive about two hours south on Highways 140, 49 and 41 to Fresno, a major agricultural center in California and home to an underground city. Cool off inside the subterranean tunnels, courtyards, and grottos of the Forestiere Underground Gardens, lush with fruit-bearing trees and grapevines. Or, if visiting in late February to mid-March, try driving the Fresno Blossom Trail, a self-guided tour of the various orchards putting on an annual display of stunning spring blossoms. Linger over lunch in historic downtown. After lunch, drive about an hour east on Highway 180 to Sequoia National Park, one of California’s lesser known national parks with some of the most striking scenery in the world. From its towering giant sequoia trees and soaring mountain peaks, to cascading creeks and flowering meadows, this park, like Yosemite, is a true masterpiece. For dinner head over to Visalia, the heartland of California agriculture, where there are more than 200 restaurants to choose from in its charming downtown. Overnight in Visalia.
Day 5 Kingsburg/Bakersfield/Pasadena
Drive on Highway 99 and stop for breakfast in Kingsburg, a Swedish immigrant village where you can meander along fruit orchard trails and browse the shops. Then head over to Bakersfield, a burgeoning haven for artists, performers, and musicians. Tour the newly remodeled Bakersfield Museum of Art, located in downtown Bakersfield, where you can later enjoy a leisurely lunch. Drive two hours south to Pasadena off I-5, where you can cruise Colorado Boulevard through Old Town, then tour the Gamble House, the Pinnacle of Arts and Crafts architecture. Then take Highway 110 west about 20 minutes for an evening in Los Angeles. Soak up L.A.’s cool vibes with a night out in Hollywood or West Hollywood – areas bursting with new restaurants, cool clubs, and bars.
Day 6 Depart Los Angeles
Enjoy the morning at Getty Villa, overlooking the sunlit waters of Malibu, the community where many celebrities make their home. Getty Villa, located on the Pacific Coast Highway, is an educational center and museum dedicated to the study of the arts and cultures of ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria – featuring Roman-inspired architecture and gardens and a wonderful gourmet café. After lunch, head to the airport.