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Tyler Florence’s Favorite Road Trips

Tyler Florence’s Favorite Road Trips
Chef Tyler Florence shares his top picks for the best drives and views in California

Chef, winemaker, and television host Tyler Florence fell for California through the movies. He recalls thinking, I want to be that person so bad—I want to ride a motorcycle to the desert. I want to see beautiful landscapes. I want to feel that sense of freedom.

When he moved from New York City to California, he turned that dream into a reality. For Florence, true luxury comes in those transcendent moments on his motorcycle that money can’t buy: the smell of the Pacific coming through the Golden Gate, the rich scent in forests of giant sequoias, and the sweetness of strawberries picked fresh. “I’m just in awe of how beautiful it is,” he says of his adopted state.

Inspired by Florence, here are three road trips and experiences that are guaranteed to create unforgettable California moments.

San Francisco to Point Reyes by Motorcycle

Even if you don’t own a bike to rival Florence’s custom Triumph, you can ride from San Francisco into Marin County and understand why he decided to move to California while crossing the Golden Gate Bridge one night. At Dubbelju Motorcycle Rentals in San Francisco, pick up a bike and cruise cliffs along the Golden Gate National Recreation Area’s Marin Headlands.

Or follow one of his favorite routes over Mount Tamalpais, then drop to Highway 1 and head to Stinson Beach, where Florence’s family rents a house. “The views are breathtaking. The sunset—if you catch it just right—is magic,” he says. From Stinson, continue north on Highway 1 to Point Reyes Station, a hub for the Marin County food scene, including many of Florence’s artisanal purveyors, and the gateway to Point Reyes National Seashore.

Top Down in the Desert

Florence heads to the desert for breaks at the high-style Parker Palm Springs and to savor the region’s intangible magic. “The quality of the air is just so special there,” he says, describing it almost like a fine wine. “It’s sweet and it’s dry.”

Nothing beats a road trip in a convertible through the desert’s otherworldly landscapes. Famed for its golf resorts and sleek Mid-century Modern design, Palm Springs is the perfect place to start, especially if you can explore it from behind the wheel of an exotic car (select rental car locations in California offer premium vehicles).

For a great drive, climb from the Coachella Valley along State Highway 62 into the rugged high desert near Joshua Tree National Park. When he’s there, Florence stops for live music at Pappy & Harriet’s, a honky-tonk in Pioneertown. Then loop back to Palm Springs by driving south through the park, past surreal stands of twisting Joshua trees and giant stacks of boulders that draw rock climbers from all over the world.

Above Los Angeles

Florence enjoyed filming episodes of Food Nework's The Great Food Truck Race in Malibu, where cliffs over pristine beaches make for spectacular sunset views. As gorgeous as Malibu may be on the ground, it’s even more stunning by air.

Book a private flight with Elite Helicopter Tours and fly along the beach, catching glimpses of the Venice Beach Boardwalk and the world’s only solar-powered Ferris wheel on Santa Monica Pier. Once over Malibu, you’ll see the oceanfront retreats of moguls and megastars. You may also spot surfers riding the legendary break at Surfrider Beach near Malibu Pier. Then it’s time for sunset over the Pacific.

For a grand tour of L.A., try the company’s Ultimate Helicopter Tour, a 90-minute adventure that flies over Hollywood and Beverly Hills as well as the coast.

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Time to hit the road and explore the Golden State

Road Trips

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Endless sunshine, amazing cities, best-in-class theme parks, incredible natural treasures—no matter what you want to do and see on your next vacation, California has it. But here's the best part: California has all the iconic destinations you've dreamed of visiting, plus a countless number of incredible off-the-beaten-track experiences. With our exclusive trip itineraries, you can visit bucket-list landmarks like Yosemite, then follow a wine road or visit a craft brewery. Top theme parks, secret beaches, city finds—they’re all here in easy-to-follow road trips that visit every corner of the state. So start dreaming about your next California vacation—and dream big.

San Luis Obispo to Ragged Point

San Luis Obispo to Ragged Point
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Stay at the Ragged Point Inn & Resort were you can see what’s blooming as you stroll through the gardens, or work your way down the short but steep 1.2-mile round-trip Ragged Point Cliffside Trail to reach a secluded black-sand beach.

10 Super-Scenic California Road Trips
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10 Super-Scenic California Road Trips

Follow these classic routes for magical scenery and worthy stops

The Highway 1 road trip that passes through Big Sur on California’s Central Coast is perhaps the most famous scenic drive in the...

Wild North Coast

Volcanoes to the Sea

Volcanoes to the Sea
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California’s state capital is undergoing an energetic renaissance. Young adults looking for an urban vibe are moving into this low-key city, with microbreweries, gastropubs, and trendy boutiques popping up to serve them. Award-winning chefs are gaining attention for their focus on hyper-local...

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Eureka is an inviting North Coast town—the largest coastal city between San Francisco and Portland. Start your visit along the waterfront, where a pretty esplanade provides nice views of the harbor and adjacent Humboldt Bay. Explore the...

Golden Chain Highway

Tyler Florence’s Favorite Road Trips SanFranciscoToTruckee_Stop4_NevadaCity_RDVisitCAAug17-779

This forest-wrapped hamlet of handsome Victorian-era homes and tree-lined streets 60 miles/98 kilometers northeast of Sacramento is one of the Gold Country’s prettiest towns. Originally settled in 1849 as a mining camp, Nevada City...

Sierra Adventure

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Blue as a topaz and circled by majestic peaks, this High Sierra gem straddling the California-Nevada border is a bucket-list staple, a place where the air is “very pure and fine...it is the same the angels breathe,” according to author Mark Twain. Lakefront towns dot the shoreline, each with...

San Francisco Bay Loop


Highway One Classic

Highway One Classic
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San Diego is one of California’s sunniest destinations. This waterfront city is overflowing with exceptional dining and craft beer experiences, outdoor adventures, family fun, and great shopping. Explore diverse neighborhoods like Little Italy, the ...

California's Heartland

California's Heartland
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The Tehama Trail is a surprisingly fertile area—a prime place for farms and ranches. Many invite visitors to stop in and buy fresh produce, artisanal olive oils, and other local food products.

The trail links together nearly two dozen vineyards, orchards, and grass-fed beef ranchers and...

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Bakersfield is full of surprises. Once known for oil and agriculture, this Central Valley town is morphing into an arts, culture, and sports hub, while still offering a glimpse of the past. Visit Colonel Allensworth State Historic...

Pacific Coast Highway South

Route 66

Route 66
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This idyllic oceanfront city, bounded by a 3.5-mi/5.6-km-long beach, feels more like a weekend getaway spot than a city just a few minutes west of downtown Los Angeles. Hang out on the city’s broad beach or lively Pacific...

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Protecting an astounding 1.6 million acres/647,497 hectares of pristine desert wilderness, the Mojave National Preserve lets you hear singing sand dunes, explore weirdly contorted Joshua trees, and hike up volcanic cinder cones. Take time to explore, and let the desert’s magic unfold.