- In San Francisco, learn about the city’s hippy roots as you explore with a local guide
- Take your teenagers on a great road trip along California's legendary coast-hugging Route One
- Explore the wilderness of Yosemite National Park, a Western American gem
- Experience L.A’s welcoming locals, beautiful bike rides, vintage car drives and adrenaline-fuelled rides at Universal Studios
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Get a taste of the Californian lifestyle on this 14-day trip from San Francisco to Santa Barbara. Nicknamed the ‘Golden State’, California enjoys a near constant sunny climate and dazzling ocean vistas. The state is widely considered a cradle of cool, embodying creativity, entrepreneurialism and innovation and housing many of the world's most successful start-ups - perfect for inspiring teens who might be nurturing an idea.
Your road trip starts in San Francisco, a city famous for choosing love not war, during the 1960s ‘summer of love’, in the process revolutionising California and giving birth to the hippie movement (and psychedelic rock for good measure). Then head to Yosemite, one of the most beautiful national parks in the Western USA,
FLIGHT TO SAN FRANCISCO
Your holiday begins today! Head to the airport to board your 11-hour-and-ten-minute flight from London to San Francisco. After landing, you will be privately transferred to your hotel in the heart of San Francisco where you will spend the next three nights, just two blocks from Union Square on the edge of South Market (SoMa), a bustling neighbourhood filled with theatres, restaurants and bars.
With the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Bay on the other, San Francisco is an enclosed wonderland that is perfect to explore on foot. Take a stroll with a San Fran local, who will share all of the city’s hidden gems and explain about the history and culture of each district. Follow in the footsteps of thousands of young hippies who rushed to the 'City by the Bay' in the summer of 1967 with a walk through the Victorian-era district of Haight-Ashbury, the epicentre of the Summer of ‘67 movement.
When brains are saturated with San Franciscan history, spend the afternoon in the shopping district of Union Square before visiting Alcatraz at dusk for a spooky night-time tour of the world-famous prison. The sport lovers among you might love a day spent at an NBA match at the Chase Centre, whereas creating your own fortune cookies in China Town could be the ultimate activity for culture connoisseurs.
Make the most of the sunny days with wander down Lombard Street followed by a delicious brunch in the authentic Mission district, before heading out on two wheels to explore San Francisco by bike. The route takes you to the Golden Gate Bridge, one of the city’s star attractions. At nearly two miles long, it is one of the largest bridges in the world and also one of the most recognisable, making for a rather spectacular cycling tour with fantastic views of the bay. The tour is a little over six miles long and heads over the bridge to Sausalito, a former fishing village that has become a chic seaside resort with views of the Port de Plaisance, a relaxed atmosphere and food that's to die for. You will no doubt have tired legs and full stomachs by the time you leave Sausalito, so head back by ferry before spending the rest of the day in the high-tech Silicon Valley region.
SAN FRANCISCO – EL PORTAL (YOSEMITE)
Head out for one last wander before picking up your 4x4 rental car and making the four-hour drive to El Portal, in the heart of Sierra Nevada, just a few miles from Yosemite National Park. Leaving behind the sometimes-foggy bay (the fog coined Karl by locals), take scenic highways through small towns and along roads lined with pine blanketed mountain sides and giant redwood sequoias. You’ll spend the next two nights in a hotel near to the park entrance.
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK
Yosemite National Park is one of America’s most jaw-dropping attractions and is brimming with all kinds of outdoorsy, adrenaline-fuelled activities and adventures. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984 and features spectacular alpine landscapes, looming granite domes, stunning cliffs, majestic lakes, rivers and waterfalls, giant redwood forests and hundreds of species of birds and mammals, including the park's iconic brown bear. Don your walking boots and head out to explore the network of footpaths that cross the park and meander through groves of cedar and oak trees and around grassy meadows, all the while keeping your eyes peeled for deer, coyotes and black bears. If you’re after a bit more adrenaline, hop aboard an inflatable boat and head down one of the parks’ white-water rapids, or explore the park on a two wheeled bike tour. End the day with a mocktail and nibbles up Glacier Point as the sun paints the entire glacial valley stunning shades of peach and gold.
YOSEMITE – MONTEREY
Head out for one last drive through the wilderness before making the four-hour drive to Monterey. Leave the pine forests and rocky domes behind as you reach the Pacific West Coast. Follow the scenic Route 140, cradled by the Merced River, winding through small western towns like Mariposa with its giant redwoods, until Monterey Bay where you’ll be met with views of the glistening blue sea. You will stay for two nights in the only property on the beach, protected from the swell by a sea wall.
Beautiful Monterey is usually just a stop off on a California road trip, which we think is a real shame. Spent a little longer and you’ll discover the coastal city’s many charms. Nature lovers and families will feel right at home at the award-winning aquarium, home to cuddly-looking sea otters, leopard sharks skulking through kelp canopies and even bat rays that you are able to stroke. Blow the youngster’s minds with a trip to Old Fisherman’s Wharf, where you’ll find shop after shop filled with intriguing trinkets and souvenirs. You may even spot a seal or two sunbathing on the rocky coastline and if this catches the teens’ imaginations, hop in a couple of kayaks and venture around the bay, keeping your eyes peeled for a distant whale fluke or two. If you’re in the mood to stretch your legs, meander along the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreational Trail, where you will be able to discover some of the gems that fill this stretch of shoreline. End the day with a sunset drink on the pristine caster-sugar sand of Carmel-by-the-sea after driving along the infamous 17-Mile Drive. There is also no better place to head than the beach for those who want to get up close and personal with the wild outdoors.
MONTEREY - SANTA BARBARA
Today you will leave behind the quaint coastal towns as you continue south to Santa Barbara, along the panoramic Highway 1 (around a four-hour drive). Enroute, there’s the option to take a beach buggy ride through the Pismo Beach dunes, a great place to blow off some steam. The city of Santa Barbara, founded by the Spaniards at the end of the 18th century, has become a hub for rest and relaxation. Its white-washed, red-roofed stucco houses and palm-lined beaches give the city a Mediterranean feel, earning it the city the nickname of the ‘American Riviera’. Whether you want to spend the afternoon hitting the waves during a fun family surf lesson or simply flopping down on the warm sand surrounded by other sun worshippers, Santa Barbara is the ultimate beach break on any Californian adventure. Spend the night in a hotel overlooking the white horse-filled Pacific Ocean and just a stone's throw from the pier.
SANTA BARBARA - LOS ANGELES
Hop back onto Highway for the last picturesque stretch of driving and continue for just an hour and a half along the beaches of the Pacific to Malibu. Next up is L.A, the destination most teenagers look forward to most, with its sprawling network of avenues and the famous Santa Monica Pier Ferris wheel in the distance. For the next four nights, you will stay in a mission-style hotel and enjoy all of the hustle and bustle that fills the ‘City of Sunshine’.
Los Angeles is a clash of cultures where everything is supersized. Wander down Hollywood Boulevard and the Hollywood Walk of Fame, where TV and film-loving explorers can spot the names of their favourite celebrities. Get to know L.A. in a classic car and cruise through the city's iconic neighbourhoods, just like in a movie. After seeing the main sights, delve deeper and explore popular spots further, such as the legendary beaches of Santa Monica and Venice on beach cruiser bikes, a must for any family with teenagers. Cycle along the beachside path, allowing teens to gawp at the superstrength show at Muscle Beach (you can even have a go yourself on the exercise bars that are scattered along the silvery stretch of sand). While in L.A, don’t miss a trip to Universal Studios, the ultimate day out for teens and adults alike with its scream-worthy rollercoasters and adrenaline pumping rides. For the ultimate experience, purchase Express Passes to rule out any pesky queues.
Sadly, your time in California has come to an end. Return your hire car to the airport and catch your overnight flight home, which will arrive back in the UK the next day.
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SAN FRANCISCO – ALCATRAZ ISLAND
In San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz, also known as 'The Rock', was the most famous federal high security prison in the United States between 1933 and 1963 – partly because Al Capone was detained there. IT was said this was the jail from which it was impossible to escape, due to the cold water and strong currents in the bay.
A DAY IN SILICON VALLEY
Accompanied by a private expert guide, set off for a day to the heart of the high-tech region of Silicon Valley, home to the internet's greatest successes. In the itinerary: Visit the famous Google campus and the Android building before visiting the offices of the tech giants Facebook and Apple. The day continues with a detour to the garage where Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak created their first Apple prototype before joining one of America's top universities: Stanford.
Optional – From San Francisco
KAYAK IN MONTEREY BAY
The bay, located between Santa Cruz and Monterey, is home to a marine reserve inhabited by sea otters, seals, sea birds, fish and turtles. Kayaking through this reserve allows you to get close to marine mammals and other species living nearby, and also to enjoy superb views of the harbour, the famous aquarium and the famous Cannery Row, once home to sardine processing warehouses and now a gentrified residential area with several tourist attractions.
BUGGY IN THE PISMO BEACH DUNES
What better way to roam the Oceano Dunes than in a dune buggy? After the initial vehicle briefing, the two-hour practice trip to a public beach on the Pacific coast begins. There is sensational scenery at the meeting point.
LOS ANGELES OF FILMS AND SHOWS
A private tour designed specifically to appeal to teenagers and introduce them to the iconic places of Los Angeles by visiting the most popular locations in some of the best American TV shows and films. The day begins at the Griffith Observatory, which offers a superb overview of the city, before heading to the Walk of Fame, the legendary avenue and tribute to American cinema. Continue with a tour of celebrity homes before wandering around the UCLA campus, a small town where you can see students coming out of the library featured in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or cheerleaders training for an upcoming American football game. Then head to Santa Monica's Pier for its small amusement park and Ferris wheel, seen in the film Iron Man and the show NCIS Los Angeles, and to Venice Beach for its famous canals and colourful architectural houses, the back drop for Hank Moody's escapades in Californication.
AT THE END OF THE ROAD... SAN DIEGO
Fancy extending your seaside trip for a few more days? San Diego, in southern California, awaits. Expect well-known surf beaches, the Gaslamp Quarter with its vibrant bustle, Balboa Park with its museums and the authenticity of the Old Town.
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