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Driving the 101n in California?

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1. Posted by TravlScott (Budding Member 14 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

I have been thinking about traveling a lot lately. I think it's the non-stop working that has caused my mind to drift outside office walls. Whatever the cause I would really like to get out. I was not thinking of anything fancy. I live in California, but I have never driven the lenght of Highway 101. I have been on small segments of that famous stretch of raod (mostly samll connections in San Francisco or down in Los Angeles), but I have never explored it from top to bottom and that trip, most of all, sounded interesting to me.
I'm thinking of San Francisco to San Diego. North of the city would be nice to see, but I'm starting from Sacramento, right in the middle, so that would be a bit out of the way. I was thinking of renting a car, driving down then just flying back to Sac. I have a week of vacation. I'm thinking of going in May or if that doesn't pan out then in mid-late August. I don't have a budget planned yet. I'm more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of guy, so I'll just take a couple hundred for the drive itself (the rental car and air fare would be seperate) and just go.
If anyone has any suggestions for places to see along the way, or if anyone has any figures (costs, distances) or cautions I'm all ears (or eyes in this case). Thanking you in advance...

2. Posted by Lugor79 (Full Member 72 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

I did this drive, from San Fran to San Diego. My suggestion is get a good tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, a gas stove and drive. It's pretty cheap, $10-$15 a night in a state or national park. Drive, if you see something you like, stop, if not keep driving. Find a Panera bread every once in a while and go online and find a park to spend the night in (depending on where you are and where you want to be). Enjoy!

3. Posted by jambo101 (Respected Member 414 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

South of San Francisco its rt 1 that hugs the coast not rt 101.. Rent a Miata if possible..

[ Edit: Edited on 05-Mar-2010, at 02:21 by jambo101 ]

4. Posted by TravlScott (Budding Member 14 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

Quoting jambo101

South of San Francisco its rt 1 that hugs the coast not rt 101.. Rent a Miata if possible..

Don't the two cross or converge at some point though? I though they did? But I could be wrong.
So why a miata?

5. Posted by Dodger (Inactive 873 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!

I do have to preface this by saying its been quite a few years since I did those roads. But I dont rate any of Hwy 1 south of Santa Monica. Much less the stretch between LA and San Diego. Id look at going south through Yosemite maybe even take in Mono Lake, then cut over to the ocean road and go north taking in Big Sur, Monterey, and Santa Cruz. If you have time keep heading north of San Fran for the Giant Redwoods. Way more scenic than just crossing off a road on your bucket list.

6. Posted by Calcruzer (Travel Guru 2003 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!

Well, here's my suggestions for things to see along Hwy 101 (presuming you meant that road and not Hwy 1) between San Francisco and San Diego:

(1) First of all, take Interstate 280 between San Francisco and San Jose. It is much more scenic and quicker as well.
1st stop is in San Jose (at Winchester Blvd and Interstate 280) to see the Winchester Mystery House. There's also a very nice mall across the street (Santana Row)

(2) Next stop south is Gilroy. If you go during the last week of July, the final weekend is when they hold the Gilroy Garlic Festival---which normally gets around 130,000 visitors over the three day run. East of here near Casa de Fruta is where they hold the northern California version of the Renaissance Festival in the April-May timeframe. There are also many places to get fresh garlic here--this is the town that grows the best garlic in the world.

(3) Next stop is to take a 5 mile detour off of Hwy 101 to Castroville. This is the "artichoke capital of the world" and they hold their Artichoke festival during the second weekend of May. Not much to see except the artichokes and the festival, though.

If you haven't been there, detour over to Monterey and their Cannery Row--and Carmel by the Sea and Pebble Beach (not actually on Hwy 101, though).

(4) Now drive back to Salinas and get off the highway to see the John Steinbeck National Museum--just a mile off the highway--though you have to backtrack about 4 miles north to get to it.

(5) Next head south to San Miguel and their interesting mission--still in good shape.

(6) Next is Paso Robles--one of my favorite cities in all of California. Fantastic wineries all over the place--as well as olive oil places, a gigantic racetrack (now abandoned) that was built by Alex Trebek of Jeopardy fame and was to be the center of a gigantic housing development that never happened because of the recent recession. There is a nice central square and there are farms that specialize in goat cheese and organic farming of figs and dates and other great vegetable items. The major wineries are on Highway 46 both west and east of town--but there are over 45 wineries in all. Some of my personal favorite wineries are Opolo (Zins), Midnight Cellars (reds), Wild Horse (pinot), Sculpterra (zinfandel ports and Cabs), Gelfand (Cabs and Syrahs), and JanKris (sparkling wines).

(7) Next consider going west to see Hearst Castle over on Hwy 1 near Cambria--and visit Moonstone Beach just outside of town

(8) Next stops are Morro Bay--a tourist center and Pismo Beach (ditto)--both old style California beach town (Morro Bay is actually 20 miles west of Hwy 1, but a must see). San Luis Obispo is halfway between the two and a college town--though the most interesting thing to see there is their weird hotel--the Madonna Inn--which has rooms that feature caves, fountains in a room, and 40 other unusual theme rooms. Too tacky for me==but some people like them.

Continued in next post

7. Posted by Calcruzer (Travel Guru 2003 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!

(9) Heading on south, stop in Los Olivos and visit the wineries just north of town. The town and the wineries were featured in the movie "Sideways" and the scene at the Los Olivos Restaurant was one of the highlights of the movie. The Firestone winery (named after the family of one of TV's featured guys in "The Bachelor" is still here, though it is no longer owned by the same family.

(10) Next stop: Solvang--a California town that looks just like a Scandinavian with lots of wonderful bakeries, windmills, aebleskivers, and smorgasborgs all over town. This town is especially festive during the summer months--as is the next stop--

(11) Santa Barbara--with the best preserved (and second largest) mission in all of California. There is a rose garden next door worth visiting and downtown all the action is along the beach and along State Street in town.

(12) Heading on south, some like to stop in Ventura--while for me the next major stop is along Hwy 1 (Malibu) as opposed to staying on Hwy 101). If you stay on Hwy 1, also visit Santa Monica--while if you stay on Hwy 101 go visit Universal Studios (and the Universal Citywalk) in North Hollywood. Of course, Hollywood is worth a visit--then go see the oldest part of Los Angeles--Olvera Street just north of downtown LA. Going on down Hwy 101, the next stop is Knotts Berry Farm (Buena Park) and Disneyland (in Anaheim).

(13) Next place is a side trip to Laguna Beach (actually on Hwy 1). During the period from mid-July to mid-August, they hold some major art festivals here. The main one (Laguna Beach Art Festival) should be visited during the day, while the Sawdust Festival is good during the day, but dramatically fabulous at night--and maybe the single best thing to go see on this whole list. They also hold the "Pageant of the Masters" during this festival, where lifesize paintings and scuptures come to light--but tickets are pricey and next to impossible to get.

(14) Farther south where Hwy 1 and Hwy 101 meet again is San Juan Capistrano--where they have a mission famous for being the place where the "swallows come back to Capistrano" always on the same day--April 19th, I believe. It is one of the three most beautiful missions in California.

(15) Now go on south to Del Mar, just a short ways north of San Diego. There is a racetrack here almost right along the beach (where the turf meets the surf) where the races are run during the summer months--they move down south from the burning up heat of LA to the more pleasant San Diego summer weather. Going here and visiting the nearby cities of Del Mar and La Jolla are both fun places. (Upscale and expensive, though)

(16) Mission Bay in San Diego. There is a large bay right alongside the freeway (I-5/Hwy 101) in northern San Diego city. It's a popular place to sun oneself or to go ride waverunners or go sailing. Sea World is right next door---also at one of the islands in the bay they hold the sand-sculpting contest (in June, I think--I've seen it but don't remember which month.)
Only a few blocks away is "Old San Diego" which has historical spots as well as great small shops and restaurants where one can get great Mexican food and frozen margaritas. South of here in San Diego proper, visit Shelter Island and also go to the Gaslight district just south of the business district. Also go see the San Diego Zoo (maybe the country's best) and the Fleet Museum in Balboa Park just a few blocks north of the business district.

That's it for me--maybe someone else wants to add or clarify my list

8. Posted by jambo101 (Respected Member 414 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!,-121.585693+to:US-101+S&geocode=FUZWNAIdrvm5-A%3B%3BFYggGQIdnEzO-A&hl=en&mra=dpe&mrcr=0&mrsp=1&sz=8&via=1&sll=36.164488,-121.755981&sspn=2.168484,3.532104&ie=UTF8&z=8

9. Posted by TravlScott (Budding Member 14 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!

Oh man Calcruzer. That was quite a mouthful. I don't think there is any clarifying to be had. Thank you for the detailed suggestions. I have a friend who lives in Pismo Beach and it's about time I visit her so I definitely like that suggestion. I appreciate your time in replying. I'll have to print out your posts and keep them handing when planning my trip!

10. Posted by daveydave (Budding Member 13 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!

I have driven the 101 / 1 several times. PHENOMENAL!

Take as much time as you are able to. There is too much to see along the way. Don't drive a single mile of if at night. If you're driving North, keep on driving! The coast is just as cool in Oregon.


I'll be driving it again before long. For sure. I should be so lucky as to be driving a Miata or comparable ....