20 October 2016
With stunning national parks, including the eerie Death Valley, the vibrant and bohemian city of San Francisco and all the glamour of Hollywood, California really does have it all, and you'll have plenty of time to explore this fascinating state on this two-week self-drive tour.
Your trip begins as you arrive at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), collect your car and proceed to your hotel in Hollywood.
You'll have a full day today to explore the City of Angels. You'll want to see the famous Hollywood sign, take in the shops on Rodeo Drive and have lunch in Venice Beach, home to the famous Muscle Beach. You may also like to drive through Beverly Hills to see how the stars live, and enjoy some luxurious shopping at Rodeo Drive. Movie buffs will want to visit Universal Studios, where you can tour movie sets and enjoy thrilling rides, shows and attractions that bring the movies to life. In the evening, enjoy the Universal City Walk, filled with restaurants and nightclubs.
You'll leave LA this morning and drive toward Santa Barbara, on the beautiful Pacific Coast. Here you can stroll in the lush Botanic Gardens, hike a scenic nature trail in Los Padres National Forest, join the young and trendy crowd at East Beach or go fishing and whale-watching at Arroyo Burro. You may also like to visit the Santa Barbara Museum of Art or explore the Santa Barbara Mission or the Mission San Luis Obispo, with its manicured gardens. Don't miss the chance to try the fresh seafood at the restaurants on Stern's Wharf.
This morning you'll make the stunning drive up the Pacific Coast toward Monterey, stopping en route at Pebble Beach to look at the lavish mansions before passing through the serene Del Monte Forest, home to black cormorants, brown pelicans, California sea otters, harbour seals and sea lions. You'll spend the afternoon exploring Monterey, where you'll still find many buildings dating back to its beginnings in 1770. The city went on to become the sardine capital of the western hemisphere; now the old sardine factories have been converted into restaurants and boutiques. You may also like to take a whale-watching trip in Monterey Bay.
This morning you'll continue to San Francisco, home to the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Of course you'll want to take a cable-car ride, and you may also like to visit Golden Gate Park's Conservatory of Flowers and Japanese Tea Garden. You could also choose an optional narrated city bus tour. Another major attraction is Alcatraz, the small island in San Francisco Bay that has served over the years as a lighthouse, military fortification and finally a federal prison. This evening, enjoy some excellent dining in Chinatown or in one of North Beach's Italian restaurants.
You have a full day to continue exploring San Francisco today. Head to Lombard Street, "the crookedest street in the world", then catch the cable car that provides spectacular views of Alcatraz, Angel Island, Coit Tower, Yerba Buena Island and the Bay Bridge. You may also like to visit Muir Woods National Monument, a grove of coastal redwoods which are among the tallest trees in the world, or take an optional cycling tour across the Golden Gate Bridge to the beautiful bay town of Sausalito, with a relaxing return trip by ferry boat.
This morning you'll leave San Francisco and drive toward Yosemite National Park. Here you can take in the stunning landscape of granite cliffs and waterfalls, as well as the mountain wilderness of peaks, rivers, meadows and giant sequoia trees. You can also take an optional Yosemite Valley Tour aboard an open-air tram, visiting some of Yosemite’s most famous sightseeing points, with rangers describing the history, geology, plant and animal life of the region.
You'll take in more of California's breathtaking landscapes today, as you head to the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Located in the foothills and mountains of the south-central section of the Sierra Nevada range, Sequoia boasts some of the largest trees in the world and some of the highest mountains in the USA. You'll have the whole day to explore the mountains, canyons and vast caverns before continuing to Bakersfield for an overnight stay.
You'll leave Yosemite early this morning and drive toward Nevada, stopping en route at the awe-inspiring Death Valley National Park before continuing to Las Vegas. Here you can take a stroll down Las Vegas Boulevard, taking in all the themed hotels and casinos. Take in a live show, try your luck in a casino or take a trip to the top of the Stratosphere hotel tower, the tallest building west of the Mississippi, to enjoy the views.
Shopaholics will be in their element in Vegas, as you can enjoy luxury shopping in any of the premier hotels, or drive to one of the designer outlet malls in search of a bargain. The city is also famous for its world-class dining. To see a different side of Las Vegas, visit Fremont Street, a historic street filled with shops, restaurants and casinos, topped by a canopy screen where more than 12 million lights put on a spectacular show.
This morning you'll leave the glitz of Las Vegas for San Diego, home to SeaWorld Adventure Park and the San Diego Zoo. Here, you may like to take an optional Old Town Trolley Tour, in which the guides regale you with colourful, well-researched historical stories that are both entertaining and educational.
Before leaving San Diego this morning, you may like to visit Old Town San Diego State Historic Park to experience life in the town during the 19th century, as it transformed from a Mexican pueblo to an American settlement. You'll then continue to Santa Monica.
You have the full day today in Santa Monica, which boasts 75 museums and art galleries, as well as theatres and excellent shopping. You may also like to visit Santa Monica Pier, once known as the "finish line" of Route 66, where you'll find an aquarium, an amusement park and the famous Hippodrome building. Don't miss the chance to relax on the 3.5 miles of beaches, and perhaps enjoy some swimming, surfing, volleyball, skating or cycling. In the evening, you'll find a wide range of excellent dining - Santa Monica is the home of Californian and fusion cuisine.
You'll leave Santa Monica this morning and return to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) for your onward flight.
Standard fr £829pp
Rates based on twinshare
International flights not included unless otherwise stated