3-Day Ultimate California Adventure Travel Itinerary

California

3 days

Skyline of San Francisco
Rows of palm trees in Santa Barbara
Golf course at sunset in Palm Springs
Vineyard in Santa Maria
Downtown San Diego skyline

About California

Experience the magic of California, a state that offers an unparalleled mix of stunning natural beauty, vibrant city life, and cultural diversity. Explore the iconic Hollywood, the breathtaking Pacific coastline, and the majestic Redwoods. Immerse yourself in the glamour of Los Angeles, the innovation of Silicon Valley, and the charm of San Francisco. Savor world-class wines in Napa Valley, surf in Santa Monica, or ski in Lake Tahoe. Discover the Spanish missions, Gold Rush history, and the rich cultural tapestry that makes California unique. From its sun-kissed beaches to its snow-capped mountains, California promises an unforgettable journey of discovery and adventure.

3-Day Itinerary

Day 1

Exploring the Vibrant City of San Francisco

Morning

Start your day with a visit to the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Enjoy the panoramic views of the city and the bay from this world-renowned landmark. Don't forget to take some memorable photos.

Lunch

Enjoy a lunch in a local restaurant offering a variety of cuisines, from seafood to Italian and Asian fusion. Try the famous clam chowder or the local organic salads.

Afternoon

Spend your afternoon exploring the vibrant neighborhoods of San Francisco. Visit the colorful Victorian houses known as the Painted Ladies, stroll around the bustling Chinatown, and don't miss the historic cable cars.

Dinner

Have dinner in a trendy restaurant in the Mission District, known for its diverse culinary scene. Try some of the local craft beers or California wines.

Evening

End your day with a visit to the lively Pier 39. Enjoy the street performances, visit the shops, and watch the sea lions at the marina.

Morning

Start your day with a drive along the scenic Pacific Coast Highway, known for its breathtaking ocean views. Stop at the picturesque coastal towns along the way.

Lunch

Have lunch in a charming seaside restaurant. Enjoy the fresh seafood and the stunning ocean views.

Afternoon

Spend your afternoon exploring the natural beauty of Big Sur. Hike through the redwood forests, visit the stunning McWay Falls, and enjoy the spectacular coastal views.

Dinner

Have dinner in a cozy restaurant in Carmel-by-the-Sea, known for its fairy-tale cottages and art galleries. Try the local seafood or the farm-to-table dishes.

Evening

End your day with a relaxing walk on the beautiful Carmel Beach, known for its white sand and cypress trees. Enjoy the sunset over the Pacific Ocean.

Morning

Start your day with a visit to the world-famous Hearst Castle. Explore the grand rooms, the beautiful gardens, and the impressive art collection.

Lunch

Have lunch in a local restaurant in San Simeon. Try the local seafood or the California-style pizzas.

Afternoon

Spend your afternoon exploring the charming town of Santa Barbara. Visit the historic Santa Barbara Mission, stroll around the downtown area, and enjoy the Mediterranean-style architecture.

Dinner

Have dinner in a stylish restaurant in Santa Barbara. Enjoy the local wines and the farm-to-table cuisine.

Evening

End your trip with a visit to the vibrant Santa Barbara waterfront. Enjoy the nightlife, visit the shops, and take a walk on the beautiful beach.

Attractions in Itinerary (11)

Golden Gate Bridge

1
Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge spanning the Golden Gate, the one-mile-wide (1.6 km) strait connecting San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean.

Attractions
Landmarks
Architecture
Painted Ladies

2
Painted Ladies

A row of Victorian houses with a stunning backdrop of San Francisco's skyline.

Attractions
Landmarks
Architecture
Chinatown

3
Chinatown

One of the oldest and largest Chinese communities outside Asia.

Attractions
Cultural Experiences
Neighborhoods
Food and Drink
Pier 39

4
Pier 39

A bustling bayside pier featuring scenic views, sea-lion sightings, eateries, shops & entertainment.

Attractions
Entertainment
Shopping
Food and Drink

5
Pacific Coast Highway

A scenic drive along California's stunning coastline.

Attractions
Tours
Big Sur

6
Big Sur

A rugged stretch of California’s central coast between Carmel and San Simeon known for winding turns, seaside cliffs and a great diversity of wildlife.

Attractions
Parks
Beaches
McWay Falls

7
McWay Falls

An 80-foot waterfall that flows year-round from McWay Creek in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, about 37 miles south of Carmel, into the Pacific Ocean.

Attractions
Parks
Carmel Beach

8
Carmel Beach

A beautiful, dog-friendly beach with a scenic coastline, known for its white sand, beautiful sunsets, and surf spots.

Beaches
Hearst Castle

9
Hearst Castle

A National Historic Landmark and California Historical Landmark mansion located on the Central Coast of California, United States. It was designed by architect Julia Morgan, between 1919 and 1947, as a residence for newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst.

Attractions
Monuments
Architecture
Santa Barbara Mission

10
Santa Barbara Mission

A historic Spanish mission founded in 1786, it's known for its beautiful architecture and serene gardens.

Attractions
Religious Sites
Cultural Experiences
Santa Barbara waterfront

11
Santa Barbara waterfront

A vibrant area with stunning views of the ocean, featuring a harbor, restaurants, shops, and a sandy beach.

Attractions
Beaches
Food and Drink

Local Food and Drinks (12)

Fish Tacos

Fish Tacos

A popular dish in Southern California, Fish Tacos are often made with grilled or fried fish, cabbage, and a creamy sauce. They are a testament to the state's love for fresh seafood and Mexican influences.

In-N-Out Burger

In-N-Out Burger

A staple in California, the In-N-Out Burger is a must-try. This fast-food chain is exclusive to the West Coast and is known for its fresh, high-quality ingredients.

California Roll

California Roll

Invented in Los Angeles, the California Roll is a type of sushi roll that typically includes avocado, crab meat, and cucumber. It's a testament to California's innovative culinary scene and its influence on global cuisine.

Clam Chowder in Sourdough Bowl

Clam Chowder in Sourdough Bowl

A specialty of San Francisco, this creamy clam chowder is served in a hollowed-out sourdough bread bowl. It's a perfect blend of the city's famous sourdough bread and the fresh seafood from the Pacific Ocean.

Cioppino

Cioppino

Originating in San Francisco, Cioppino is a seafood stew that typically includes a variety of fish, shellfish, and other seafood, all cooked in a tomato-based broth. It's a reflection of the city's Italian-American heritage and its access to fresh seafood.

California-style Pizza

California-style Pizza

California-style pizza is known for its thin crust and use of non-traditional ingredients, such as smoked salmon or barbecue chicken. It's a testament to California's innovative and diverse culinary scene.

Avocado Toast

Avocado Toast

A popular breakfast item in California, Avocado Toast is made with ripe avocados and fresh, locally-sourced bread. It's a reflection of the state's health-conscious culture and its abundance of fresh produce.

Mission Burrito

Mission Burrito

Originating in San Francisco's Mission District, the Mission Burrito is a large, fully-loaded burrito that typically includes rice, beans, meat, and other fillings. It's a testament to the city's vibrant Mexican-American culture.

Fish and Chips

Fish and Chips

A popular dish along California's coast, Fish and Chips is typically made with fresh, locally-caught fish. It's a testament to the state's love for fresh seafood and its British influences.

Craft Beer

Craft Beer

California is known for its craft beer scene, with hundreds of breweries across the state. The variety of beers available is a testament to the state's innovative and diverse brewing scene.

Napa Valley Wine

Napa Valley Wine

Produced in California's famous Napa Valley, this wine is a must-try. The region is known for its high-quality wines, particularly its Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.

California Smoothie

California Smoothie

Made with fresh, locally-sourced fruits, the California Smoothie is a popular drink in the state. It's a reflection of California's health-conscious culture and its abundance of fresh produce.

Best time to visit

The best time to visit California largely depends on what you want to do. If you're interested in visiting theme parks or enjoying the beach, summer (June to August) is a great time. However, it can be crowded. For a more relaxed visit, consider spring (March to May) or fall (September to November). These seasons offer mild weather and fewer crowds. Winter (December to February) can be a great time if you're interested in winter sports as the state's ski resorts are in full swing. However, it's worth noting that winter weather can be unpredictable in certain areas.

National holidays

Here you can find the national calendar of all public holidays for the year. These dates are subject to change as official changes are announced, so check back regularly for updates.

DateDayHoliday Name

January 1

Mon

New Year's Day

January 15

Mon

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

February 19

Mon

Presidents' Day

May 27

Mon

Memorial Day

June 19

Wed

Juneteenth

July 4

Thu

Independence Day

September 2

Mon

Labor Day

October 14

Mon

Columbus Day

November 11

Mon

Veterans Day

November 28

Thu

Thanksgiving Day

December 25

Wed

Christmas Day

Please note that during national and public holidays, opening hours for establishments, museums, etc. may vary. Don't forget to check in advance!

How to get around

Renting a car is one of the most popular ways to get around California. It provides the flexibility to travel at your own pace and explore off-the-beaten-path destinations. Most major car rental companies have offices at airports and city centers.

California's major cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego have extensive public transportation systems including buses, trams, and subway lines. These are cost-effective ways to travel, especially in busy city centers.

Ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft are widely available in California. They offer convenient, on-demand transportation and can be cheaper than taxis, especially for longer distances.

Many Californian cities are bicycle-friendly with dedicated bike lanes and bike-sharing programs. It's a healthy, eco-friendly way to get around, especially in scenic areas like the Pacific Coast Highway.

Amtrak operates several scenic train routes throughout California, connecting major cities and tourist destinations. The Pacific Surfliner, for example, runs along the beautiful coastline from San Diego to San Luis Obispo.

In cities like San Francisco, ferries are a popular way to travel, offering stunning views of the city skyline and landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge. They connect the city with destinations like Sausalito, Alcatraz Island, and Angel Island.

For long distances or to save time, domestic flights connect California's major cities and regions. Major airlines operate flights between airports like Los Angeles International (LAX), San Francisco International (SFO), and San Diego International (SAN).

Taxis are readily available in all major cities and airports in California. They can be hailed on the street, at taxi stands, or booked in advance.

Many hotels, resorts, and tourist attractions offer shuttle services for their guests. These can be a convenient way to travel between your accommodation and specific destinations.

For those who prefer a more adventurous mode of transportation, motorcycles can be rented from various outlets. California's scenic highways and good weather make it a popular choice for motorcyclists.

While we strive for accuracy in our "How to get around" section, the information may not always be up-to-date or 100% accurate; we highly recommend cross-checking with local resources before your travel.

Important information

Currency$ USD

Time zoneUTC-5

Driving sideRight

Emergency phone911

Drinking waterYes

Power sockets

Power socket type APower socket type B

Voltage120 V

Things to know about California as a first time visitor

1

California is a large state with diverse climates. The weather can vary greatly depending on where you are, so pack accordingly.

2

California is known for its traffic, especially in major cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco. Plan extra time for travel.

3

Public transportation is available in most cities, but it's not as comprehensive as in some other states. Renting a car may be necessary.

4

California has strict environmental laws. Be mindful of water usage and recycling rules.

5

Tipping is customary in California. Generally, you should tip 15-20% at restaurants.

6

Sales tax in California is high compared to other states, so factor this into your budget.

7

Earthquakes are a part of life in California. Familiarize yourself with safety procedures.

8

California is a very health-conscious state. Many restaurants offer vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options.

9

California has strict smoking laws. Smoking is banned in many public places, including restaurants and bars.

10

If you're visiting coastal areas, be aware of rip currents. Always swim near a lifeguard.

11

In the summer, temperatures can reach over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) in inland areas.

12

In the winter, temperatures can drop below freezing in mountainous areas.

13

California is home to many wildlife species. Be aware of your surroundings and keep a safe distance from wild animals.

14

If you're planning to visit national parks, consider purchasing a park pass to save money.

15

California has a large homeless population, particularly in cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco. Be prepared for this reality.

16

Many Californians are environmentally conscious. Consider renting a hybrid or electric car.

17

If you're planning to visit wine country, consider booking a wine tour. This allows you to sample wines without worrying about driving.

18

California has strict laws about drinking and driving. The legal blood alcohol limit is 0.08%.

19

If you're visiting the desert areas, be prepared for drastic temperature changes. It can be hot during the day and very cold at night.

20

California is a multicultural state with many languages spoken. English is the most common language, but Spanish is also widely spoken.

Packing List

  • Clothing

  • Underwear (3 pairs)

  • Socks (3 pairs)

  • T-shirts (3)

  • Pants/Shorts (2 pairs)

  • Sweater or Jacket

  • Swimsuit

  • Sleepwear

  • Comfortable walking shoes

  • Sunglasses

  • Hat/Cap

  • Toiletries

  • Toothbrush

  • Toothpaste

  • Deodorant

  • Shampoo/Conditioner

  • Body wash/Soap

  • Razor

  • Shaving cream

  • Sunscreen

  • Lip balm

  • Personal medications

  • Travel size first aid kit

  • Travel documents and essentials

  • Passport/ID

  • Flight tickets

  • Hotel booking confirmation

  • Travel insurance documents

  • Credit/Debit cards

  • Cash

  • Guidebook/Map

  • Electronics and gadgets

  • Smartphone

  • Charger for smartphone

  • Power bank

  • Headphones

  • Camera

  • Charger for camera

  • Adapter plug

  • Miscellaneous items

  • Snacks

  • Water bottle

  • Travel pillow

  • Eye mask

  • Ear plugs

  • Books/Magazines for entertainment

  • Travel size laundry detergent

  • Reusable shopping bag

Weather Conditions

California, known for its diverse climate, offers a unique weather experience depending on the region and time of year you visit. In Southern California, including Los Angeles and San Diego, you can expect a Mediterranean climate with mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers. Average summer temperatures can range from 70-85°F (21-29°C), while winter temperatures typically range from 50-70°F (10-21°C). It's advisable to pack light clothing for the summer and a light jacket for the cooler evenings. In contrast, Northern California, including San Francisco and Sacramento, experiences cooler and wetter weather. Summer temperatures range from 60-80°F (15-27°C) and winter temperatures from 40-60°F (4-15°C). It's recommended to pack layers as the weather can change rapidly, especially in San Francisco due to the fog. The Central Valley, including Fresno and Bakersfield, experiences more extreme temperatures. Summers can be very hot, often exceeding 100°F (38°C), while winters can be quite cold, sometimes dropping below 40°F (4°C). Be sure to pack accordingly for these temperature swings. The coastal areas are often cooler than the inland areas due to the marine layer, a cool, damp fog that can blanket the coast. If you're planning on visiting the beaches, it's a good idea to bring a sweater or light jacket, even in the summer. If you're planning to visit the mountains, such as the Sierra Nevada, be prepared for cold and snowy conditions in the winter. Temperatures can drop below freezing, so pack warm clothing and be prepared for potential road closures. Lastly, California is prone to natural disasters such as wildfires and earthquakes. It's important to stay informed about current conditions and heed any warnings or advisories. Remember, California's weather can vary greatly even within a single day, so it's always a good idea to check the forecast and plan your activities and packing list accordingly. Enjoy your visit to the Golden State!

MonthHi / Lo (°C)Weather Overview

January

20° / 7°

January is the coldest month in California, but it's still relatively mild compared to other states. It's a great time to visit if you prefer cooler temperatures.

February

21° / 8°

February sees a slight increase in temperature, but it's still quite cool. It's a good time to visit if you want to avoid the summer crowds.

March

23° / 9°

March marks the beginning of spring in California, with temperatures starting to rise. It's a great time to visit for outdoor activities.

April

24° / 10°

April sees a further increase in temperature, with plenty of sunshine. It's a good time to visit for beach activities.

May

26° / 12°

May is the start of the summer season in California, with warm temperatures and long sunny days. It's a great time to visit for outdoor activities and sightseeing.

June

28° / 14°

June is a warm month in California, with temperatures often reaching the high 20s. It's a great time to visit for beach activities and water sports.

July

30° / 16°

July is the hottest month in California, with temperatures often exceeding 30 degrees. It's a great time to visit for beach activities, but be prepared for the heat.

August

30° / 16°

August is equally hot as July, with temperatures often exceeding 30 degrees. It's a great time to visit for beach activities, but be prepared for the heat.

September

29° / 15°

September marks the end of the summer season in California, but temperatures remain high. It's a great time to visit for beach activities and sightseeing.

October

26° / 12°

October sees a decrease in temperature, but it's still quite warm. It's a good time to visit for outdoor activities and sightseeing.

November

23° / 9°

November marks the beginning of the winter season in California, with temperatures starting to drop. It's a good time to visit if you prefer cooler temperatures.

December

20° / 7°

December is a cool month in California, but it's still relatively mild compared to other states. It's a great time to visit if you prefer cooler temperatures and want to avoid the summer crowds.

Did you know?

Did you know that California is the most populous state in the United States?

1 of 10

Places near by California

Las Vegas

Las Vegas

A vibrant city known for its nightlife, entertainment shows, and casinos

4.5h
435 km / 270.3 mi
How to get there
Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

A natural wonder known for its layered bands of red rock and vast scale

9h
750 km / 466.0 mi
How to get there
Phoenix

Phoenix

A city known for its high-end spa resorts, Jack Nicklaus–designed golf courses and vibrant nightclubs

6h
595 km / 369.7 mi
How to get there
Portland

Portland

A city known for its parks, bridges and bicycle paths, as well as for its eco-friendliness

2.2h
973 km / 604.6 mi
How to get there
Seattle

Seattle

A city known for its futuristic Space Needle, a 1962 World's Fair legacy

2.3h
1138 km / 707.1 mi
How to get there
Denver

Denver

Known for its cultural attractions, including the Denver Art Museum, and outdoor activities

2.3h
1645 km / 1022.2 mi
How to get there
Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City

Known for its high-end shopping and dining, as well as its vibrant nightlife

2h
1086 km / 674.8 mi
How to get there
Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

A wilderness recreation area atop a volcanic hot spot

6.5h
1380 km / 857.5 mi
How to get there

Albuquerque

Known for its New Mexico cuisine, vibrant arts scene, and Pueblo-style architecture

2.5h
1187 km / 737.6 mi
How to get there
Boise

Boise

Known for its River Greenbelt, a park and trail system along the Boise River

2.2h
896 km / 556.7 mi
How to get there

Other Destinations in California