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Huntington Beach

California is one of the most versatile states and there is so much to see. A road trip is the perfect way to experience this golden state–whether it’s the entertainment hubs, natural beauties, or sites of historical significance you want to visit. So many options can create the ultimate fear of missing out, though. Don’t worry! Instead, use online reviews to help you find all the local treasures and to confirm the most famous sites are really worth seeing! You can also use social media like Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram to ask questions on the spot or search for additional information.

Pre-Trip Essentials

Vehicle Maintenance
Before embarking on any kind of road trip, it’s important to make sure your car is tuned up and ready to go. Schedule a checkup with your friendly service provider. The last thing you want is to find yourself stranded on what should be a fun endeavor. Get your oil checked and ensure all your fluid levels such as transmission, coolant, and steering fluid are good to go. Inspect your tires and make sure there are no problems like tears or bulges and that they still have a good amount of tread left. Check to see if your battery is still charged and there is no corrosion. Have your provider look at your brakes to confirm your brake pads don’t need to be replaced. Safety first!

Familiarize Yourself with Online Review Sites
Make your trip more exciting by using online review sites to decide where to eat, stay, or visit. It’s a fantastic way to discover new places you might not otherwise have known about. Users share their impressions with written reviews and star ratings. They also share photos and you can get an idea of the general prices charged at each place. There are filters to help you discover exactly what you are looking for in your searches. Download the apps for Yelp, Google Maps, or Trip Advisor and you’ll be set.

Pack the Good Stuff!
Even though you’ll be stopping at some places you discover through online review sites along the way, you’ll also want to stash a cooler in your car with some refreshment. During the hot summer months, water is always a good bet, though you should also take something sweeter to boost your blood sugar, if necessary. Pack some healthy snacks, too! Nuts, energy bars, and granola will travel well.

Remember sunscreen! Even on overcast days, California’s sun is a powerful presence. Don’t forget that at higher elevations you are also at greater risk to sun exposure. If you’ll be outside for a long period of time, you’ll want SPF 30+. And if you take a dip in the water, you’ll need to refresh your sunscreen. Tuck your phone charger someplace safe and bring a camera if you have one–you’re going to see a lot!

While I’ve listed some suggested routes below, you can easily pick the locations that sound interesting to you and alter the routes to please yourself. Do a short trip or a long one, this is your own customizable journey.

Take the Trip

San Diego to Long Beach
Take the scenic route aka the coastal route for this trip. Yes, you can get from Point A to Point B faster if you don’t, but what’s the fun in that? Begin in San Diego. If you’ve never been to San Diego before, there is plenty to do before you even leave. Start at Mission Beach in San Diego. Want to relax? South Mission Beach offers more space to spread out. Looking for more excitement? The Belmont Park area has rides, food, and games. If you want to go to tourist locations, Balboa Park is home to over 17 museums, the famous San Diego Zoo, and so much more. Old Town San Diego is the perfect place to experience a little history and squeeze in some shopping. Don’t forget to check Yelp for the best online reviews and backup each choice by looking at Google Reviews, Trip Advisor, Zomato, or another site!

After hopping on I-5 N, you’ll reach Dana Point in about an hour. Time to stop for lunch! You could maybe go longer but why pass up the chance to eat at a place described by one reviewer as having “the best taco” they’d ever had? In fact, on Yelp users give Lupe’s Mexican Eatery 4 1/2 starsbased on 266 reviews. Google Reviews agrees with another 4 ½ stars based on 79 Reviews. If you’re not in the mood for Mexican food, you could always eat one of your snacks while you stroll along the harbor at Dana Point. If you’re in the mood to stay a bit longer, you can visit Catalina Island in a day trip or go whale watching before hitting the road again. Huntington Beach is next! The Huntington Beach Pier is one of the longest piers in California and absolutely stunning. You can enjoy many different views of the ocean and spot all the surfers. You might also check out Ruby’s Diner on the end of the pier if you haven’t eaten yet. While it boasts a mere 3 ½ stars on Yelp, it’s an experience that’s fun to have!

Ready to move on? Jump on the Pacific Coast Highway so you can enjoy the sites as you make your way to Long Beach. Once in Long Beach, Appu’s Cafe is the place to go! With a 5 star rating on Yelp (based out of 323 reviews), it’s the definition of a hidden treasure. Yelp proves its special value when it comes to Appu’s Cafe since several users mention it is located in the back corner of a medical building. In Long Beach, you can also visit the Aquarium of the Pacific, or explore the Queen Mary. You’ll probably want a day for both based on user feedback!

Whether you stop at one of these places to eat or somewhere else, Yelp and Google Reviews will help you to optimize your experience by knowing what to expect when you get there!

Santa Barbara to Santa Cruz
Onward to Santa Barbara! State Street in Santa Barbara offers the ambiance of a European open-air market stateside. There are over 300 shops and 160 restaurants…which could be overwhelming if you didn’t know know to check your apps for reviews first!
After your time on State Street, head to Morro Bay. Morro Rock cannot be missed! The rock has an ancient history and was once used to guide mariners. Take a bunch of pictures and enjoy the sea breeze. With a large outdoor waterfront patio and a solid four star rating on Yelp, you’ll next want to stop by Giovanni’s Fish Market for a bite to eat.

Time to get back on the road! Once you reach Santa Cruz, there are many options for how to spend your time. If you’re interested in spending time outdoors, you can check out one of the parks and hike among the redwoods! Big Basin Redwoods State Park is a beautiful experience. For just $10, you will be able to park for the day and start to explore all that the park has to offer.The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is also an experience you’ll probably want to have. It’s free just to stroll the boardwalk and soak in the atmosphere, but there are also day passes available for the rides. Also, take a peek at Yelp, with over 1300 user reviews, there’s an abundance of tips to help you get the most out of your visit.

If you want to duck inside for a bit, Santa Cruz Surf Museum is free of charge. Located inside of a lighthouse, the museum houses artifacts spanning a hundred years of surfing in Santa Cruz. There’s a great view once you go outside, too. Check Trip Advisor for several positive reviews and photos of this charming attraction.

Santa Cruz to San Francisco
Shortly after you hit the road, you’ll be itching to get out and explore the beauty again. Half Moon Bay is just about thirty miles into your drive and has a lot to offer. Right off the highway, Dad’s Luncheonette is a great place to stop! An actual historic train caboose, Dad’s Luncheonette offers an assortment of comfort food. And Yelp users seem to agree, giving the location an average of 4 ½ stars based on 105 reviews. Just be sure you call ahead on the weekend! Since it’s a small location there might not be any room for you! Did you just eat before hitting the road? Do some shopping instead. Yelp users have given the shop of Oddysea 5 stars based on 63 reviews! If you’re bringing your kids along, it’s an excellent choice! Oddysea self describes as “an interactive retail shop and outdoor garden” so there are plenty of opportunities for your children to learn and explore. You can check out a sampling of their unique products on their product page and get a better idea of what to expect by browsing through Oddysea’s Yelp page.

You’ll next head to San Jose and The Winchester Mystery House. Worth seeing because of its unique history and interesting architecture, The Winchester Mystery House has recently launched a new tour opening more secret rooms to the public. Make sure you’ve budgeted for the visit, though! The online reviews think it’s a bit pricey! But the price is probably well worth it ahead of the film about Sarah Winchester that comes out next year starring Helen Mirren!

And now It’s time to make your way to San Francisco. Alcatraz Island is a stand-out experience in the San Francisco area. Be sure to book your tickets for Alcatraz Cruises beforehand, though, they often sell out a month in advance! You can’t miss the Golden Gate Bridge, either. Trip Advisor users give it a glowing 4 ½ stars and besides you already know you can’t miss this iconic site! Want to try a highly rated unique place to eat? Miyako Old Fashioned Ice Cream in Fillmore has 4 ½ stars on Yelp and users praise both the food and the service.

Once you’ve had your own experiences at all of these places, or any others that you choose from reading online reviews, be sure to leave your own feedback! You’re likely to encounter something unusual or special and it’s fun to give back and be a part of the new and most important form of advertising. You can also tweet out a compliment, snap a pic and upload it to instagram, or leave a review on Facebook.

What’s the best place you’ve discovered using online reviews? Tweet us @uthinkcreative1 and let us know!