3 Week Itinerary – Things to do in California

If you have three weeks for a vacation in California you can see most of the major cities and national parks! This is a sample three week California itinerary arriving and departing from San Francisco which loops east to Yosemite, then south all the way to San Diego and then back north to San Francisco via Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and the Big Sur.

I’ve included the daily driving mileage and driving time to give you an idea of how much driving is involved in this three week California itinerary.

Total mileage for this 3 week California itinerary – 1560 miles (2510 kilometers)

Total driving time for this 3 week California itinerary – approx. 28 hours

1. San Francisco

Stay 2 days

Things to see include Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz (make sure you get your tickets in advance), Golden Gate Park, & Pier 59.

2. Yosemite National Park (170 miles, approx. 3 hour drive depending on traffic in San Francisco)

Stay 3 days

Things to see include the fabulous Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, Glacier Point, and El Capitan!

Possible lodging – Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite (book early as Yosemite will sell out far in advance!)

Yosemite Falls

3. Death Valley – (long drive in the winter since Tioga Pass is closed, approx 7 hours, 390 miles)

Stay 1 day

Things to see – Catch Sunrise at Zabriskie Point, Furnace Creek Visitor Center, Badwater salt flats

Possible lodging – Furnace Creek Inn and Ranch

4. Las Vegas – (approx. 2 hour drive, 140 miles)

Stay 2 days

Things to see –  the Strip, the Venetian Casino and Grand Canal, the Bellagio Fountains

Possible lodging – The Bellagio (where you can catch the best Cirque du Soleil show ‘O’)

5. Palm Springs – (approx. 4 hour drive, 250 miles)

Joshua Tree National Park

Stay 2 days

Things to see – Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, Joshua Tree National Park

Possible Lodging – Palm Mountain Resort and Spa

6. San Diego – (approx. 2.5 hour drive, 140 miles)

Stay 3 days

Things to see – San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, Mission Beach, Torrey Pines State Reserve

Possible Lodging – Paradise Point Resort

7. Orange County  – (approx 1.5 hour drive, 100 miles)

Stay 3 days

Things to see – Disneyland, Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Knott’s Berry Farm

Possible Lodging – Disney Grand Californian Resort

8. Los Angeles – (approx. 1 hour and fifteen minute drive if traffic is good from Disneyland to Santa Monica, 40 miles)

Stay 3 days

Things to see – Santa Monica beach, Hollywood, Universal Studios, Griffith Observatory

Possible Lodging – Loews Santa Monica Beach

10. Santa Barbara -(approx. two hour drive, 90 miles from Santa Monica)

Santa Barbara County Courthouse with the spectacular view from the clock tower

Stay 2 days

Things to see – Stearns Wharf, Urban Wine Trails, Santa Barbara County Courthouse

Possible Lodging – Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront

11. Monterey – (approx. 4 hour drive, 240 miles)

Stay 1 day

Things to see – Big Sur, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Monterey Bay Aquarium

Possible Lodging – Monterey Hilton Garden Inn.  If you have more time consider staying in Carmel which is a more beautiful and walkable small town with a beautiful beach.

12. San Francisco

Time to head home!

Tip – To quickly find more details on any of the attractions in this itinerary see the clickable attractions on our California map

Tip – If you want to save driving time on this trip and have time for other attractions such as Big Sur, consider cutting out Las Vegas which will save you about 3 hours of driving time, and give you two extra days.

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