Driving from San Jose to Pasadena via CA-1, what are the must-see scenic stops?
August 1, 2007 8:43 AM   Subscribe

Driving from San Jose to Pasadena via CA-1, what are the must-see scenic stops? The time constraint is 24 hours (from Sunday morning to Monday morning). So far, the only markers on my route are the Mystery Spot and Big Sur.
posted by parttimeninja to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Hearst Castle is pretty cool.
posted by ottereroticist at 8:55 AM on August 1, 2007

The wife and I would go to the pier in Santa Barbara and enjoy a little wine, meat, and cheese. Afterwards, we'd take a stroll on the beach. If you're bringing your S.O. with you this would be an enjoyable thing to do.
posted by chump at 9:09 AM on August 1, 2007

Ottereroticist is right - Hearst Castle is the must see stop on that section of the PCH. The Hearst Castle is a National Historic Landmark, and one of the most amazing buildings in America. It is big, and only accessible through a guided tour. Plan at least two hours for a stop here. But it is really worth it.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in Big Sur is also pretty cool. It is a small park, with a fairly short trail (maybe 1/4 mile) to a really amazing waterfall. This stop takes maybe a half hour.
posted by Flood at 9:23 AM on August 1, 2007

Previous links here, here, here and here, for starters.

I personally recommend getting some artichokes and balsamic vinegar in Carmel, preferably sitting outside by a fireplace with a nice glass of wine. It's scenic, really!
posted by billtron at 9:26 AM on August 1, 2007

Skip the Mystery Spot if you're there at a weekend. The weekend line to park is impossible after 11am, then there's an hour or two to kill before you get your tour of the 'spot'. The mystery is why so many people go -- possibly the low cost? ($5/person + $5 per car). During the week it's a harmless entertainment, and doesn't take too long.

2nding Julia Pfeiffer Burns SP - lovely.
posted by anadem at 9:35 AM on August 1, 2007

Taco Temple in Morro Bay.
posted by hortense at 9:45 AM on August 1, 2007

Yeah, I'd do Big Sur and Carmel, skip the Mystery Spot, check out Hearst Castle, and stop off for leisurely coffee or food at the Madonna Inn (San Luis Obispo), in Solvang, and in Santa Barbara/Mendocino. Maybe walk around downtown Ventura a little (I've had fun antique shopping there).
posted by miss lynnster at 9:46 AM on August 1, 2007

Hearst Castle tours sell out early (or at least they did the day I tried to go), so you might want to book a couple days in advance.

Also, I'd recommend double-checking the drive-time to estimate what kind of window you'll have for stops. I took the 1 from SF down to Bel Air and it took 11 hours, even though I switched over to the 5 at San Luis Obispo. (Tip #2? Fill up your tank in Santa Cruz before you get on the one. Gas along 1 is RIDICULOUS, and of course, I was too cheap to pay the extra dollar all the stations and was probably real lucky to make SLO without walking.)

Try to get as much daylight while you're on the 1 as possible, because it's 1) difficult to see anything scenic at night, 2) potentially foggy, and 3) because of 1 and 2, a little bit sketchy of a drive.
posted by fishfucker at 9:53 AM on August 1, 2007

Although Morro Bay town itself isn't attractive, the huge rock at the harbor mouth is worth checking out, if you like that sort of thing. (Unfortunately Google Earth's view is obscured by cloud, but there are plenty of other links online.)
posted by anadem at 10:01 AM on August 1, 2007

If you're leaving in the morning from SJ, go straight to the Mystery Spot, and you should be there in time to avoid the insane crowds. Haters abound, but there are few places in CA to get that kind of kitsch for $5. I gave tours there for a year, myself.

Santa Cruz is just awesome. Downtown is awesome. Lots of characters. The sea lions at the wharf are awesome (and probably the only ones you'll see on this trip). The Boardwalk is awesome. Get up at 7 or 8 and you'll be able to see any of these things without the weekend crowds ruining the fun.

Moss Landing's really fun to stop and tool around in. Lots of birds in Elkhorn slough and good food.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium!! I don't know if you want to spend two hours there, but those are two hours well spent. They'll make your weekend. Better than Hearst Castle, if it comes to choosing between them.

Stop in Pacific Grove or Carmel to enjoy the Cypress trees.

Julia Pfieffer Burns, for sure. Find your way out to the environmental campsites, to your left after the tunnel. You can get right out to the face of the cliff, behind McWay falls. Climb at your own risk. In the winter, this is whale territory, but it's awesome anytime.

If you're really driving the 1 through Lompoc, take a right off of South H (the main drag which I once lived on) and look for the flower fields. I'm not sure where they may be now that there's more development there, but they still grow seed there, and have lots of flower fields and a flower festival in June.

Pea Soup Anderson's in Buellton or various places in Solvang are good to eat at, and Solvang is nothing if not picturesque.

Downtown Ventura is undergoing major revitalization since my teenage nights spent smoking cloves there, but miss lynnster's right about the antiques, (Nicholby's is really fun to browse through, the women at the front desk have actually called sellers to negotiate prices on items I wanted there) and there are some good places to eat too. The Busy Bee has a real soda fountain, where you can get an ice cream soda. Franky's is good hippie chow- pita melts and such. Casa De Soria on Thompson is my favorite Mexican food there. (Casa Manana in Santa Maria is #1 statewide, but if you're really on the 1 you'll be west of town.)

The Ventura Harbor is nice, too, including the Channel Islands museum with 70's era short documentary. Andria's Fish and Chips (or Cod and Chips if Angel Shark is not your thing) is the best I've ever had. Can you tell I like to eat?

You'll have a lot of missions, adobes and other old buildings to choose from along your route. La Purisima in Lompoc, San Buenaventura in Ventura and Santa Barbara are all pretty neat to see and explore.

I've lived my whole life along this route.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:24 AM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

Keep in mind that your real window for doing stuff is more like 12 hours, since you're not going to be visiting much at night. It'll take about 6-8hrs to get from SJ to SLO on the 1, where it turns into 101 and takes you down the coast to Santa Barbara and all that. I'd say allow a few-to-four hours to get from SLO to Pasadena, but if you're doing that at night then you won't miss anything.

Montana de Oro in Los Osos near SLO is a nice national shoreline if you have time to drive about 1/2hr off the highway.
posted by rhizome at 10:56 AM on August 1, 2007

Nepenthe in Big Sur used to be a standard stop for lunch when I made that run. They have a spectacular view.
posted by dws at 5:35 PM on August 1, 2007

where it turns into 101 and takes you down the coast to Santa Barbara and all that: The 1 leaves the 101 at Pismo Beach, the city of Gaudalupe has some of the most authentic
Mexican food outside of Mexico I recommend Guadalupe's for a meal and the more famous FarWestern for drinks and deserts, Cecil DeMille filmed The Ten Commandment in the nearby Dunes, instead of following the 1 into Lompoc continue on to Los Olivos The 154 is a scenic back route to SantaBabs. Solvang isn't on the 1.
posted by hortense at 12:15 AM on August 2, 2007

Hey, I'm eating some strawberries right now from Watsonville and being reminded for the second or third timt this year that Ventura area fruit stands also have the best strawberries I've ever had.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:36 AM on August 2, 2007

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