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Road Trip! 7 Scenic California Towns You Need to Visit at Least Once 

What if you were gearing up for a major road trip and ended up missing out on some of the best sights to see? 

Out west, you need more than the best car insurance for California road trips. You also need to know the best cities to visit while you’re tearing down Highway 1. But if you’re not sure which scenic drives, coastal towns, and parts of wine country to visit, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered! 

Keep reading to discover our definitive guide to the most scenic California towns you need to visit at least once. 

1. Big Sur 

Everybody has different priorities when it comes to planning a major road trip. For example, are you a fan of taking breathtaking photos to make your friends back home jealous? In that case, you need to find the time to visit Big Sur while traveling along the Pacific Coast Highway. 

This area combines mountainous terrain, beautiful beaches, and plenty of attractions for those who love the outdoors. For example, there are places to hike, places to meditate, and places to just have some fun in the sun. And if you can spare the time to stay a little longer, there are places to camp (always fun when traveling with kids), allowing you to spend the night in an area described as one of America’s great mythic locations. 

2. Santa Barbara 

Chances are you have heard about tourists coming to Santa Barbara to stay at the scenic resorts. There’s a reason for that: The combination of Mediterranean-like climate and friendly locals makes visiting this city a bit like visiting Greece, and all without having to renew your passport. 

Like Big Sur, Santa Barbara has abundant natural beauty, including mesas, mountains, and coastlines you have to see to believe. In addition to that, you may simply want to stop and take in the Monterey-style architecture that gives these neighborhoods such an iconic look. However, if you plan to stay in one of the major resorts or partake in many of the tourist attractions, it’s important to make sure you have found ways to save some cash so you’ll have more spending money for your trip! 

3. San Luis Obispo 

Do you fancy yourself a student of history? In that case, you need to visit San Luis Obispo at least once during your travels. That’s because this city houses some perfect examples of Americana and has a rich history stretching back to before the United States became its own country. 

Like so many places in California, San Luis Obispo has a complex tapestry of first Spanish and then Mexican cultures before becoming part of America. In addition to visiting sites with ancient historical significance, you can also check out the art deco design of the Fremont Theatre, the famous Madonna Inn (a beacon to travelers of old), and even quirky attractions like Bubblegum Alley. 

And once you get a look at these historic buildings and the beautiful scenery, you may want to extend your stay. 

4. Carmel-by-the-Sea 

Before you say it, we know: Carmel-by-the-Sea is a name straight out of a fairytale. That’s only fitting, though, because the town has something of a fairytale history. Originally conceived as a home for writers, artists, and other creators, the town has now become a kind mecca for travelers out west hoping to soak up some culture. 

You may want to take in outdoor performances at the Forest Theatre stage. Or maybe you want to groove out at the Carmel Bach Festival. Between these events and the numerous art galleries and photography studios in town, there is always something to see, hear, or do in Carmel-by-the-Sea. 

Woman with baby at base of tall redwoods on California road trip

5. Monterey 

While all the towns on our list are historic in various ways, Monterey is unique in that it helped establish plenty of cultural traditions for the state of California. As an example, this city is home to everything from the state’s first public school and public library all the way to its first newspaper and printing press. 

Don’t worry, though: There are plenty of things to check out besides all the local history. This coastal town has the unreal beauty of a postcard, and it’s home to unexpected sights, such as the California sea otter, a threatened species. You might even spot them in the water if you, like countless visitors each year, decide to do some scuba diving. If you’d rather stay dry while having fun, though, you can chase down locations tied to the town’s literary history. As home to influential writers such as Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert A. Heinlein, and John Steinbeck, there’s plenty in the area for book lovers to unpack. 

6. Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley 

Do you like drinking wine (hey, no judgments here)? In that case, you simply have to make a stop in California’s Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley areas. Sonoma Valley basically brought the wine industry to California, and Napa Valley soon became the must-visit tourist spot for wine aficionados from around the world. 

Each valley has wineries that are worth visiting, and there are numerous wine tours available to visitors. These tours help you learn more about the area and the wine itself, including how it is made. And while this area has plenty of amazing restaurants for you to experience, we recommend packing a bag and enjoying the natural beauty of the area with a good, old-fashioned picnic. Just make a picnic basket one of the essential items you pack for your trip! 

7. Redwood National and State Parks 

If you’re a nature lover, you have no choice but to visit the Redwood National and State Parks (not to be confused with Redwood Valley, which is in Mendocino County) during your road trip. This area is home to some of the largest trees in the world, and it’s easy to feel both awed and humbled by their majesty. As an added bonus, if you’re a sci-fi fan, it’s fun to wander around the very forests used to bring Endor (home of the Ewoks in Star Wars) to life. 

While this area (which you can easily access via Humboldt County) is obviously known for its famous forests, it’s worth checking out the iconic coastline areas while you are there. But to really enjoy the Redwood parks, you need to come prepared to hike, as that is the only way to reach many of the camping areas that help extend your stay in one of the most magical places in the entire country. If you’re leaving your car parked for a long time, though, you should consider some electronic anti-theft devices

Get the Best Car Insurance for California Road Trips Today! 

Now you know some of the best places to visit in California during your trip. However, if you want to prioritize travel safety, it’s important to know where you can get the best car insurance for California road trips. 

Here at Cost-U-Less, we’re here to make the road trip of a lifetime more affordable than you ever imagined it would be. Ready to start paying less and getting more for your insurance? Call us at 800-390-4071 or get a fast and free car insurance quote online. You can also find a nearby office and visit us in person. 

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