New York + California road trip itinerary (with Las Vegas)

Last month my dream of travelling through the USA with @aaires came true. We went to New York for a few days and then flied to Los Angeles where we rented a car and drove up the Pacific Coast Highway to San Francisco.

Here’s our New York + California road trip itinerary (with Las Vegas), with a bit of advice on what we might have done differently – hope you pick up some ideas of things to do and places to visit on your adventure. You can amend accordingly, depending on your priorities and the number of days you have!

Day One: New York City


We flyed to New York via Madrid and arrived at 13:30h local time (good to avoid jetlag). We took a taxi to the Airbnb we had booked in Brooklyn, near Prospect Park. Brooklyn seemed a bit rough for us at start but we didn’t have any problems during the 4 nights we stayed. At Prospect Park there is a tube station and we always took the Q train to get to Manhattan (15-20min).

We did the Central Park the first day and the MET museum. We were quite surprised to see things close relatively early and by 5pm we were outside the MET, 5th avenue.

On the other days we did the MoMa (with impressive painting by Piccaso, Monet, etc.), the Frick Collection, the Empire State Building, Times Square and 5th avenue, etc. Most of the times we bought snacks or had street food and generally enjoyed walking around on what sometimes seemed to us like an open air shopping center.

Day Six: Los Angeles


We flyed to Los Angeles. We did the Hollywood Boulevard (with the famous stars walkway), Santa Monica Pier, Venice Beach (where the lifeguards are like the ones on Baywatch), Griffith Park (where you can see the Hollywood sign, a beautiful sunset and look on a telescope), Beverly Hills, etc. The traffic was a bit intense sometimes so be sure to compensate with some sun catching on the beach or a good hike on Griffith Park.

Day Eight: Universal Studies, Los Angeles


We visited the Universal Pictures studios. It is an enormous campus with thematic 3D experiences and rides (Transformers, Simpsons, The Mummy, etc) and also a tour of the studios and scenarios where they shoot films and shows. I found it to be a bit expensive but it’s a day well spend and some of the rides are quite impressive.

Day Ten: The Big Sur 


We rented a car and drove up the coast to San Francisco. But first we had a stop at Malibu beach to have a swim. From there it was a beautiful drive and well worth it. On the way we saw elephant seals and even a group of whales hanging out 1-2 km off the coastline. We stayed one night at Morro Bay because it is a long drive and you want to take the time to enjoy the views. Make sure to stop at the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park to see giant redwoods.

Day Twelve: San Francisco

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We arrived the night before and this was the only place where we didn’t use Airbnb. It was a motel near Market Street which was still pretty central. It was bit noisy and looking back it would have been better to stay on a quieter place (even more because we had a car). We did the Golden Gate Park and the California Academy of Sciences but again it closed really early (5pm) so be warned. We did the Staten ferry which has a nice view over Alcatraz. Since we couldn’t get tickets to Alcatraz  (they run out weeks in advance) we had at least a glimpse over the prison island. At night we went to best of SF standup (runs every Friday) and Fringe Festival was also in town so we went to a show there as well on one of the days.

Day Thirteen: Stanford, Palo Alto


We did a student-led tour at Stanford University in Palo Alto. They have them every day in the morning (11am) or in the evening (15pm). I highly recommend doing this tour as it shows how this amazing campus is organized.

Day Fifteen: Yosemite National Park


We headed inland to Yosemite National Park, such an amazing place. We stayed only two nights but could easily stayed there another two hiking and enjoying nature at this best. Housekeeping camp has fresh/clean towels, bedsheets, good toilets, etc.

Day Sixteen: Yosemite Hiking Trip


What fascinated me more about Yosemite is how men structures are so well integrated with nature. None of the camping facilities has any fences and when you wake up in the morning it’s normal to see wildlife wandering about (deers, squirrels, etc.). On this day we did a hike to the top of Vernal waterfalls and loved it. Make sure to ask the local reception what are the best hikes according to the season.

Day Seventeen: Las Vegas

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We did a tour of Zappos and loved it. Also the Container Park, the Market, Inspire Theater, Work in Progress coworking, etc. there are on to something there with the downtown project.

Day Nineteen: Grand Canyon


We did a day trip to the Grand Canyon South Rim. Amazing views and a mesmerising place. We didn’t do the Skywalk as many of the reviews I read said it was expensive and basically a scam (you have been warned!).

Day Twenty First: Las Vegas Strip

We did the strip including the Bellagio, Mirage Bay, Caesar Palace, etc. There is also a rollercoaster with a full loop which is a nice ride. A whole lot of shows are usually in town. We went to Cirque du Solei “O” show and loved it.

Top Tips: GPS is your friend on this trip. During the “Big Sur” and the trip from Yosemite to Las Vegas there were several hours without cell service. Also there’s lots to see on the “Big Sur” so if you can plan 2 or more days for the trip do it. Also I wouldn’t mind camping on the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park or stayed at Yosemite.

Enjoy your next adventure!