5 California Road Trip Ideas


Northern California Wine Country

Pinot Gris grapes bloom in Sonoma County, Calif.
Pinot Gris grapes bloom in Sonoma County, Calif.
George Rose/Getty Images

Some tourist destinations don't live up to the hype, but the Northern California wine country delivers. Driving north from San Francisco through the towns of Sonoma and Napa is like being transported to the rolling hills, stately estates and fertile vineyards of Tuscany. A road trip to wine country isn't complete, of course, without a tasting tour of the region's hundreds of wineries, ranging from grandiose castles to cozy boutiques. Even if you're a dedicated sip-and-spitter, we recommend you choose a designated driver or hire a car service for the day.

Wine country offers more than just a good buzz with a view. Some of the world's finest restaurants are nestled in the unassuming towns sprinkled across the sun-soaked valleys. The French Laundry in tiny Yountville is a foodie Mecca, where chef Thomas Keller serves his garden-fresh California tasting menus to those lucky enough to get reservations. To relax after all of that drinking and eating, reserve a massage or mud bath at any of the dozens of spas and hot springs in the region.

Now it's time to head south, where the jewels of the desert beckon.