Listen, we’re not here to judge you if your only reason for a SoCal road trip is to taste test all the legendary fish tacos. All we’re saying is that there’s so much more to sunny SoCal. We’re talking stunning skylines, sandy beaches, awe-worthy desertscapes and the list goes on (and on and on). Driving from Santa Barbara to San Diego — especially with detours to Palm Springs and Huntington Beach — is the perfect road trip route any time of year. Check out our recommendations below and get to know this part of the Golden State.
Old Mission Santa Barbara
Hit the road in the center of SB at the Old Mission Santa Barbara, home to Franciscan Friars, a detailed regional museum, and a sprawling complex of beautiful Spanish-style buildings that date to 1786. Even if you don’t explore any of the structures, wander the grounds, make a wish in the stone fountain, and marvel at the beauty of the Santa Ynez Mountains to the east. The Mission is also a popular outdoor events destination, make sure to check their calendar before you plan your visit!
A vehicle doesn’t need to be your only form of transit during a road trip. When you get the Los Angeles, get the best views of the beach on The Strand, also known as the Marvin Braude Bike Trail. Rent a bike and cruise this paved ribbon of 22 miles along the city’s coast. For a detour, head up to the Santa Monica Pier and hop on the carousel.
Pink’s Hot Dogs
Good thing you got your workout in, because next we’re headed to Hollywood hotspot Pink’s. This L.A. staple has been serving up hot dogs named after celebrities for over 80 years. The Rosie O’Donnell, for instance, comes with mustard, onions, chili, and sauerkraut. Heads up: They get busy after midnight, which, of course, is when a hotdog is the most delicious.
Bolsa Chica State Beach
Surfing and surf fishing reign supreme at this three-mile-long strip of shoreline in Huntington Beach. There’s a campground for overnight guests, and prime birdwatching at the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. Whatever you do, make sure you’re here at sunset. The views are far out.
Look! There in the desert! A brontosaurus and a Tyrannosaurus Rex! Not to worry, Ms. Dinny and Mr. Rex along I-10 in Cabazon aren’t real. They are, however, a really big attraction for road-trippers heading to Palm Springs, and for $13, you can even climb to the top.
There are tiki bars, and then there is Bootlegger Tiki in Palm Springs. Located in the same space as the original Don the Beachcomber restaurant, this iconic Hawaiian dive bar is renowned for its sweet libations that pack a punch. The menu has everything from traditional options such as Blue Hawaiian to new drinks comprising tequila, Ancho Verde and mole bitters. Reservations are available for one or two hours. Pro-tip: Don’t plan to drive after a stop here.
Channel your inner Maverick and Iceman and end your journey by visiting a really big ship in America’s Finest City, San Diego. Attracting more than 1.4 million visitors a year, this decommissioned aircraft carrier remains the most visited historic naval ship museum in the world. The ship plied the seas between 1945 and 1992 and now sits in San Diego harbor with airplanes from numerous eras throughout history.
Not sure where to stay? We’ve got you covered. In Santa Barbara, consider spending the night at the Canary; in Los Angeles, try the Everly. In Palm Springs, check out the Rowan. Finally, in San Diego, check out the Palomar San Diego.
All photos courtesy of Unsplash.