Whether you’re looking for a weekend trip or something a bit longer, Orange County is a great place to start your California/Southwest U.S. road trip. Here are five of the best places to go from the O.C.!
Drive six hours north of Orange County through Los Angeles and past vineyards and you will eventually get to San Francisco, one of my favorite cities. It’s worth the drive to go over the Golden Gate Bridge and get a picture of this famous red bridge. Don’t be fooled by the Bay Bridge, which looks a lot like the famous one. You want the Golden Gate Bridge via Highway 101. There is a one-way toll, so if you don’t want to pay, you can get a picture from the shore.
Other things to do in San Francisco:
- Visit the former prison island of Alcatraz. I highly recommend the audio tour.
- Take a cable car as your mode of transportation. Tickets are $5.
- Go shopping (window or otherwise!) in Union Square.
- Walk through the Chinatown gate at Grant Ave. and Bush St.
- Visit the market at Pier 39 on Fisherman’s Wharf.
About a nine-hour drive from Orange County to South Lake Tahoe, the drive up the Highway 5 is well worth it! Visitors can enjoy the snow in the winter and the water in the summer, and there is something for everyone.
Viva Las Vegas, baby! From Orange County, Sin City is an easy 3.5-4 hour drive on the 15 North through the desert. If you want to avoid traffic, you would ideally head out during the week, but if you go out Friday morning/early afternoon, you might get lucky, too. There isn’t too much besides desert and mountains to see along the way, except the World’s Tallest Thermometer in Baker, CA, and then the outlets at Primm just over the California/Nevada line.
Once you’re in Vegas, most people like to visit the Strip at night, but during the day if you don’t feel like lounging around the pool, you can get outside and do some hiking in Red Rock Canyon, which is about 30 miles away from the Strip. If it’s too hot to get out of the car, you can always just drive around and look at the gorgeous scenery.
The Grand Canyon is about an eight- or nine-hour drive from Orange County (depending on traffic and if you are going to the North Rim or the South Rim). The South Rim is open year round and the North Rim is open mid-May through mid-October, depending on the snow. Reservations are highly recommended for lodging and restaurants at the North Rim while it is open and for the South Rim during the busy summer season.
The Grand Canyon has amazing hiking (guided and backcountry) and camping as well as commercial and non-commercial river and mule trips. You can also drive and walk around the rim for scenic viewpoints.
For the skiing or snowboarding enthusiast, a journey to Salt Lake City might be the perfect road trip! Nearly 80% of the state land is managed for public use, so the opportunities are just about endless. Between 10 and 11 hours away, winter activities include snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and of course, skiing and snowboarding at the nearby resorts. During the summer, birdwatching and fishing are popular activities, as is golf, horseback riding, or taking a hot air balloon ride. Salt Lake City also has tons of shopping, with everything from traditional malls to outlets to specialty boutiques and antique shops.