California is a land of many scenic views: It's got beautiful beaches, beautiful deserts, beautiful farmlands, and more.
Here's the route I took for my amazing week of road tripping:
1. Fly into Orange County, and spend the night there.
2. Leave Orange County and head into Palm Springs.
A hot desert land of sharp lines and bright colors, Palm Springs is a total culture shock from the soft surfer zen you just left. It's a fairly boring 100-mile two-hour journey, but you'll get there early enough for a brunch at Kings Highway, the celebrated diner of the Ace Hotel Palm Springs. Don't miss the avocado toast or ricotta pancakes, with a classic Bloody Mary.
Ace Hotel is also an amazing place to stay in Palm Springs. The rooms at this SoCal location of the hippest hotel brand are so cozy that you'll want to sleep in, but the pool, staffed with an all-day DJ in the shadow of a gorgeous mountain range, is where you should spend the bulk of your day.
3. Hit up Palm Canyon Drive.
When you're ready to dry off, head to Palm Canyon Drive. The main strip of Palm Springs, it's lined with midcentury modern art and design boutiques and furniture shops; A La Mod furniture is my favorite. Before calling it a night, enjoy a root beer float or milk shake, including lactose-free flavors, at Great Shakes.
4. Wake up early and hit the road.
Pick up a coffee at the Stumptown kiosk in the Ace Hotel lobby and leave as the sun is coming up for a day trip into the desert. Taking Route 10, you'll pass through a handful of little desert towns with their own claims to fame; if you're hungry, Keedy's in Palm Desert is a rare find.
The real adventure, however, doesn't begin until you drive by Coachella and onto Route 111, passing the mysterious Salton Sea and Bombay Beach on your way to Salvation Mountain, which is quite literally in the middle of nowhere.
5. Hop back in the car and drive to Joshua Tree National Park.
6. Make it another early morning and do an early-morning drive to the Mojave Air and Space Port.
7. And then make your way out to Bakersfield for the evening.
8. Wake up early and head to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
9. Exit the park via Route 180 and head another 60 miles into the adorable hidden gem of downtown Fresno.
10. Get back in the car and head to the artichoke capital of the world.
11. Wake up early and hit the Pacific Coast Highway.
The Pezzini Farms market offers sweet artichoke cupcakes, and you'll need them to power through the next park of the trip, which is drive-heavy and aesthetically pleasing. Go south, starting at Carmel-by-the-Sea, and make your way down the rocky Big Sur stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway.
12. Stop at all of the roadside landmarks on your way into Big Sur.
13. And spend some time in the iconic Henry Miller Memorial Library.
First make a lunch stop at the Big Sur Bakery, where you'll find a succinct menu of farm-fresh lunch items and coffees. After that, be sure to check out the Henry Miller Memorial Library. It's got a very distinct commune feel, with a boat in the yard and lots of art installations all over the lawn. Performances run all year round, and the library also has a great collection of books about Big Sur and the surrounding area for sale.
14. Play with the seals!
15. Hit the road again and head to San Luis Obispo.
San Luis Obispo is often known as one of the surfiest surf towns in the world. But amidst that chilled-out vibe lies the Madonna Inn, a resort so bling Liberace would blush. Stop here for dinner! The food here is actually only okay, but the entire hotel is dripping icing-like with shimmer pink crystals – and that's what you're stopping for. You can even take some of that ambiance home in the form of one of their iconic colorful crystal goblets.
16. Drive one more hour to get to Santa Barbara, where you'll sleep for the night.
17. Head to Disney California Adventure park!
You've got one more full day left, and to make it count, leave Santa Barbara and head to Disney California Adventure park to end your vacation in the Happiest Place on Earth. Not to be confused with Disneyland, this park is its sister hub built in 2001, and it's focused all on the history of California.
It seems kind of silly to spend a day at a theme park when you've just experienced national parks, desert, and actual aerospace hubs, but Disney's California Adventure park is a super sweet send-off that will remind you of nearly every facet of your California trip.