There are so many awesome road trips you can take to explore the U.S. and honestly, we want to do them all. You can drive Maine to Florida, New York to Cali, or a million other routes in between... but have you ever thought of road tripping from Vancouver to Tijuana? We have, and it sounds epic. Here's how to take on this different kind of road trip in nine great stops.
Vancouver is a great seaport city, with tons of culture and outdoor activities. Spend some time in Stanley Park, a 1,000-acre park that's a favorite with both locals and visitors. Try cycling along the 14-mile seawall by the waterfront that leads from the Vancouver Convention Center to Kitsilano Beach Park (we know, ambitious...yet beautiful). And for great food and shopping, visit Granville Island, where former factories now house some of Vancouver's trendiest restaurants and shops. The Granville Island Public Market has been referred to as one of the best in North America, so it's definitely a must-see as well.
Our Hotel Pick: Granville Island Hotel
Seattle is simply beautiful, and despite its reputation for rainy weather, people absolutely fall in love with it. Of course, you can't miss out on "iconic Seattle" Pike's Place Market, one of the oldest continuously-operated farmer's markets in the U.S. The space needle is Seattle's other famous icon and is well-worth the trip to the observation desk at the top for 360-degree views of the city. Once you've covered all of Seattle, we recommend making the 90-mile drive to Mt. Rainier National Park for stunning scenery and outdoor opportunities like hiking and mountain climbing.
Our Hotel Pick: Ace Hotel Seattle
Related Link: Pike Place Ranked the Country's Top Farmers Market
Portland is known as a hipster city with an eccentric vibe and population. If you happen to catch Portland on a weekend, we highly recommend the weekly Saturday Market, which really represents the quirky spirit of the city -- and is the largest weekly open-air market in America to boot. Located in Waterfront Park, the market boasts tons of locally made crafts, live music, and international snacks. When passing through the city you'll definitely hear about the famous VooDoo Doughnut, which always has a line of people waiting for creative doughnuts topped with things like bacon, Oreos, and Captain Crunch. The doughnuts are weird, but so is Portland and that's why we love it.
Our Hotel Pick: Ace Hotel - Portland
Redwood National and State Parks
Redwood State Park has natural beauty that just can't be missed. The park boasts about 40 miles of pristine coastline and, of course, the largest trees on Earth. Visitors to the park can take advantage of the extensive hiking and cycling trails, kayaking and horseback-riding opportunities, and either traditional camping or backcountry camping. Expect to see some incredible wildlife including California sea lions, bald eagles, Roosevelt Elk, and giant green sea anemone. The park has five visitors centers, the largest being Kuchel Visitors Center. It's definitely worth stopping by to get oriented and learn about the ranger-led programs that are available seasonally. The center also has numerous exhibits, and an educational video that we recommend checking out.
How Many of the Country's Top 10 National Parks Have You Visited?
San Francisco is a no-brainer on any West Coast road trip. Famous for the Golden Gate Bridge and its colorful Victorian-style houses, the city is a bustling cultural center with, well, pretty much everything. Check out Pier 39 for great views of the bay and the city's famous sea lions, as well as yummy chowder bread bowls and an array of Californian wines. We recommend taking a day to visit Alcatraz, which served as a federal penitentiary from the 30's to the 60's and housed famous convicts like Al Capone. Through the self-guided tour you'll experience the life of an inmate firsthand. We know, it's creepy -- but you've gotta do it. For some down time from the gritty city jungle, head to the beautiful Golden Gate Park, one of the biggest urban parks in the world.
Our Hotel Pick: Laurel Inn
Big Sur may be sparsely populated, but there's definitely no shortage of visitors to this beautiful coastal spot. In fact, it's one of the most photographed places in California. Big Sur is made up of about a 90-mile stretch of beautiful California coastline and has long attracted artists like Hunter S. Thompson and Jack Kerouac. One of the main attractions in this bohemian area is Pfeiffer Beach, which is located just north of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. The beach is known for its purple sand and a beautiful rock arch, which coupled together make for breathtaking pictures at sunset. Make sure to also check out the Henry Miller Memorial Library, which may seem obscure but is in fact a well-known art and cultural center that hosts lovely outdoor concerts.
Our Hotel Pick: Ventana Inn & Spa
Santa Monica is a beachfront town in west Los Angeles that is famous for the Santa Monica Pier. At Pacific Park on the pier, patrons can enjoy carnival rides all year round. The park has the world's only solar-powered ferris wheel, which is down-right awesome, and there are a bunch of other family-friendly rides too. The most popular activity in Santa Monica is just spending a day hanging out on the iconic pier and at the beach. You can also find people strolling on the nearby Third Street Promenade, which has tons of shopping options including a newly updated mall with a dining terrace. The street performers are always a highlight on the promenade, and you'll see tons of locals running, biking, rollerblading, and walking their dogs. So rent a bike, grab some gelato, and enjoy a day in the sun!
Our Hotel Pick: Ocean View Hotel
San Diego is known for it's perfect year-round, which really just isn't fair when we think about it, but it keeps us coming back! San Diego is actually the oldest town in California, founded in 1769. The beautiful Balboa Park is one of the main draws to this coastal city...well, besides the perfect beaches. The park is a 1,400-acre site that's home to the famous San Diego Zoo as well as a bunch of other historical buildings, museums, and gardens. Known for its Spanish-Mexican-style buildings, this park makes for a gorgeous scenic walk even if you skip the museums and just enjoy the outdoors and the zoo. Check out the city's Seaport Village for unique shops and restaurants on the waterfront. There's usually a bunch of eclectic street performers on the pier, which is always a sign of a good time in our opinion. We're sure you'll enjoy an afternoon out in this area.
Our Hotel Pick: Hilton Grand Vacations Club at MarBrisa
Tijuana is just a short ride from San Diego and can make for an awesome couple of days. There's bargain shopping galore and tons of yummy food just south of the border -- tacos anyone? Tijuana is one of Mexico's main industrial and financial centers, and it is the largest city on the Baja California Peninsula. The Tijuana Cultural Center is a main attractions; it opened its doors in the early 80's and now draws about a 1.5 million visitors a year. The museum is a center for regional arts and has exhibits that chronicle the early history of the Baja peninsula; it also houses an IMAX theater. Avenida Revolución is the main tourist strip in downtown Tijuana, and is a good place to start for shopping; there are tons of shops selling traditional Mexican crafted goods including leather bags and jackets, as well as silver and turquoise jewelry.
Be Sure to Take a Look at Mexico's 10 Best All-Inclusives