as though you were leaving from Los Angeles (which is the best idea you've ever had). do NOT forget the coolest sunglasses you own. if you don't know what I mean, I can make a list for that.
  1. Day 1: 4 hours total driving.
    Getting up early makes this day work and makes it fucking magic. Don't be a wuss.
  2. Head west/north on 101 from the Valley at 5 am. 1.5ish hrs driving depending on where you leave from.
    No I am not fucking with you. This is the only day you have to get up early and trust me it'll be worth it. You will be stunned at how quiet and serene the coast between Ventura and Santa Barbara is.
  3. Stop here. Watch the sunrise.
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    I normally do this heading south and usually further North, but I've stopped at many of these small parks between Ventura and Carpenteria and they're all awesome. Bring coffee and Winchell's donuts if you big time. There will be RVs, so jump over the sea wall and get some alone time with the ocean. Just stop talking and appreciate it.
  4. Get back in your car and head north to Santa Barbara. 0.5 hrs. Here you have options.
    Does a quaint small zoo sound adorable? Santa Barbara Zoo. Are you a stroller/shopper? Park between Stearns Wharf and Downtown, walk downtown first, grab lunch. Walk to the beach. If weather is good: NAP ON BEACH.
  5. If you're extending this trip longer, stop for a night in Santa Barbara and use the rest of your day to hike, hang at the beach, or check out a winery.
  6. If not, drive to Lompoc. 1 hr. Yes, where the prison is. Go to the Lompoc Wine Ghetto (just google the Loring Tasting Room). Taste at Loring and whoever they recommend. There are like five wineries there, you'll love it.
    And now you get to use the term "wine ghetto" and only sound vaguely insensitive and white as fuck. If you left Santa Barbara after 2 pm it's probably too late, try and hit this on the way back. Skip ahead.
  7. Get back in your car. Unless you're drunk. Don't do that, wait. Drive to San Luis Obispo. 1 hr. Check into a room at the Madonna Inn.
    If you didn't know about the Madonna Inn, you're welcome. If you're with a significant other, you're very very welcome.
  8. Dinner options: Madonna Inn Steakhouse, Firestone Grill (Cal Poly student institution, a cultural touchstone for them, also tri tip), whatever sounds good to you.
  9. Day 2: 3.25 hrs driving.
  10. Get up, drive to Hearst Castle. That's Hwy 1 out of SLO, not 101. 45 min.
    Enjoy the same conundrum that has been mystifying the world for years: Do I hate this or love it? Why don't I know?
  11. Continue north on Hwy 1 towards Carmel. Pull over and admire some beaches. Stop and walk into McWay Falls in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. 1.5 hrs.
    McWay Falls is one of only two waterfalls in the state that fall directly onto a beach. You don't get to go on the beach but it's still awesome.
  12. Continue driving north to Monterey. 1 hr. Stop in Carmel. Pick an awesome B&B or hotel in Monterey or Carmel. Enjoy the afternoon in whichever town you stay in. But have dinner in Monterey at Passionfish.
    There are about a kabillion awesome B&Bs and small hotels in this area.
  13. Day 3: 2.75 hrs driving.
  14. Start your day at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It's amazing. Yes, you really have to do it. You will not regret it.
  15. Drive North around Monterey Bay to Santa Cruz. 45 min.
    If you want to extend the trip, stop in Capitola for the night., then pick up here the next morning.
  16. Ride the Giant Dipper at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
    It's one of only two original amusement pier roller coasters left on the west coast. The Boardwalk is a fun half day.
  17. Take Hwy 17 over to San Jose, then 280 North to San Francisco. ~2 hrs depending on traffic. Stop for the night in the City. Eat at Chubby Noodle.
    You could obviously add a million days to an SF visit, so take as much time as you want.
  18. Day 4: 2.75-4.25 hrs driving.
  19. Cross the Golden Gate. Immediately take Hwy 1 just north of the bridge. Drive to Stinson Beach and Bolinas. Check it out. May or may not be your kind of place to spend a half day. 45 min drive.
  20. Keep heading north on Hwy 1. Stop at Hog Island Oyster Co for oysters. 30 min.
  21. Continue on the coast all the way up to Sea Ranch (1.5 hrs) or Fort Bragg (3 hrs). These are motion sickness dependent decisions. If you're sensitive, maybe cut inland early. If not, stay somewhere awesome in one of those towns.
  22. Day 5: 2-3 hrs driving.
  23. Head inland to Hwy 101, drive to Healdsburg. (1.5-2.5 hours).
    It's full of tourists and can be pretty douchy, but it's also kinda great.
  24. Come visit me at the winery. Or we can get burritos. Or go fishing on the river. Whatever.
  25. Go to some other wineries too.
    See my other lists for recommends.
  26. Find a place to stay that's your speed in wine country.
    Lots of options from B&B to camping to ultrachic hotels.
  27. Day 6: 5 hrs driving.
  28. Head south on 101 to Paso Robles. 3.5-4hrs.
  29. Stop at Firestone Walker for a beer.
  30. Continue heading south to Pismo Dunes. 1 hr. I hope you brought a tent. Buy firewood and pitch your tent on the beach at Pismo.
    Go to sleep with the waves crashing around you. Remember the peace in this moment.
  31. Day 7: 4-5 hours driving.
  32. Go home and shower you smell like campfire hippy.