7-Day California Itinerary

HOW TO SPEND 7 DAYS IN CALIFORNIA

Are you planning your California itinerary and wondering how to spend one week in California? Then read on as you will find your answer here.

California is most famous for Hollywood and all the movies that are made there, but there are a lot of other fun and exciting things to do here as well  – it gets a bit problematic as the state of California is very large which will not allow you to see a lot in 7 days in California.

But there are a few cities that I suggest you visit during your one-week itinerary: San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego. 

San Francisco is more in the north of the state and has a different vibe from LA and San Diego in the south and so you get to experience different atmospheres and places.

If you have time, you can even add in a day trip – but we will talk about that later.

Los Angeles, California, USA downtown cityscape at sunset_
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TRAVEL TIPS FOR YOUR 7-DAY CALIFORNIA ITINERARY

First, here are my travel tips for a California 7-day itinerary to some of the best destinations.

How to Get to California

When I visited California, I started in San Francisco. I flew into San Francisco International Airport, but you could also arrive via Oakland International Airport. I then took a Megabus to Los Angeles (you can also fly into Los Angeles International Airport, among others). 

This was cheap and all right (and I prefer buses over flying) but scenery was kind of boring. At the beginning it was exciting but there is a lot of….nothing in between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Road tripping would probably be more fun (though also more expensive and so environmentally friendly).

You can also travel between cities by train – it takes more time but the views are supposedly good (you need to get a bus in San Diego to get to the city center).

From Los Angeles to San Diego, it is only about 2 hours by car, train, or bus and I surely don’t recommend flying there for that short distance though you could fly into San Diego International Airport.

What to Pack for One Week in California

The climate in California is different in the north and the south, so San Francisco was cooler than LA or San Diego. Depending on the season, pack appropriately – and most importantly, pack comfortable shoes. San Francisco is very hilly, and you will be doing a lot of walking in the other cities, too.

Where to Stay in California For 7 Days

You will find some hotel recommendations for each city on this 7 days in California itinerary below. So, for each city you will find a luxury, mid-range and budget place to stay.

How to Get Around California

San Francisco is not geographically big, but, due to the many hills, curvy streets, and hidden alleyways, getting around only on foot could be tiring. But I never used any cabs, just walked or took the tram or bus.

San francisco Hyde Street Cable Car Tram of the Powell-Hyde in California USA
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Another great way to get around SF is the cable cars, which are a tourist attraction themselves. Also, hop-on and hop-off buses, which I love, include some tours and entries.

In LA, you can get around using the buses and metro, or you can rent a car. It’s very spread out here and so while you can get nearly everywhere by public transportation, it sometimes takes a long time. But you can also walk places, like when you are in downtown.

San Diego has decent public transportation, with buses, trains, and trolleys. You can take a ferry to Coronado Island. But to go to nearby La Jolla, you will probably need to take a cab or Uber, or rent a car.

More Travel Tips for Your 7 Days in california

While I was visiting California, I did not take any special precautions. I felt quite safe, even going to watch the sunset from the Golden Gate Bridge. Of course, LA Downtown after sunset was a bit dodgy but this is when I left a place – when it feels not safe, just leave.

Just be careful and keep you belongings close to you and practice common sense.

Look into a city pass, like the Go San Diego Pass, for discounted entries to popular tourist spots.

If you do rent a car, California is well-known for its traffic and also its roads that are hard to follow because of changing names and winding streets. GPS or a map is very helpful if you are driving.

One Week in California Itinerary

This itinerary is divided into three parts: San Francisco for 2.5 days, then another 2.5 days in Los Angeles, and 1 day in San Diego. There is about half a day in between each to account for travel time.

So, here are the best things to do in California in 7 days.

San Francisco – 2-3 Days

San Francisco is often called the most beautiful city in the US and once you visit you will know why people love the “City by the Bay” so much. Without a doubt, it is one of the best cities to visit in the US (and of course also in California).

San Francisco - the most beautiful city in the USA @shutterstock
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In general, I suggest staying between 2 and 3 days if you have a week in California. Depending on how you get to LA (remember, I took a bus which took quite some time) you have to plan in some time for travel time as well.

Best view of San Francisco_
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Painted Ladies with Arzo Travels
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Where to go in San Francisco
  • Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge
  • See San Francisco Bay
  • Ride the cable car
  • See the views at Twin Peaks
  • Visit Alcatraz
  • Relax at Golden Gate Park
  • Visit Fisherman’s Wharf
  • See the sea lions at Pier 39
  • Stop by Lombard Street
  • Visit Alamo Square and see the Full House houses
  • Explore “The Castro”
  • Visit Union Square

I wrote a detailed itinerary for San Francisco that you can check out here.

Where to Stay in San Francisco

For a luxury stay, check out The Ritz-Carlton that is perfectly located (close to Union Square) and has all the amenities and facilities you can expect from a luxury hotel.

I stayed in a hostel near Union Square, which I actually really, really liked and which has been the best hostel I have stayed at. Check out the gorgeous hostel – given it is a hostel, prices are quite high though.

Los Angeles – 3 Days

I arrived by bus in LA and discovered the city – and the beautiful surroundings. There is so much to do and see – especially outside LA, that you need a minimum of 3 days so get a first glimpse of the area.

Santa Monica pier at Sunset one of the best places to visit in LA in 3 days
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LA itself was not my favorite place – but I think, you are either a NY or LA person, and I am definitely more into New York City. However,I did have some great memories and I was impressed with the beautiful places around LA, and so it is a must for any California itinerary.

Los Angeles - Echo Park a must-see in LA
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Hollywood, California a must-do in 3 days
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What to do in Los Angeles in 3 Days
  • Stroll Venice Beach
  • See Watts Towers Art Center
  • Visit LA Fashion District 
  • Explore Chinatown
  • Have a picnic at Echo Park Lake
  • Go to the Griffith Conservatory
  • See Shakespeare Bridge
  • Hike the Hollywood Sign Trail
  • Visit the Hollywood Walk-of-Fame
  • Take pictures at Mulholland Scenic Overlook
  • Wander Rodeo Drive
  • Visit Santa Monica Pier
  • Explore White Point Park
  • See the Getty
  • Relax at Huntington Beach

I have a detailed 3-day itinerary LA that you can check out here

Where to Stay in Los Angeles

For a luxury hotel, you can’t beat the Hotel Bel Air, which is an icon in the city and boasts amenities like an on-site restaurant, pools, etc.

A more mid-range option is Level DTLA, which is still a nice hotel and has a great location for getting to some popular attractions.

A budget hotel that has clean rooms, a good location, and even a restaurant is the New Seoul Hotel.

San Diego – 1 Day

It is only about 2-3 hours from LA to San Diego – you can take a bus, train, or drive there (or fly but I not really recommend it due to the proximity to LA). It’s a very pretty trip as you spend some time traveling along the coast. SO, make sure to add San Diego to your California itinerary.

Drone view of the Children's Pool in La Jolla San Diego is one of the best things to do in 1 days in San Diego
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San Diego is a beautiful city and I liked the vibe but compared to LA and San Francisco I found less attractions I wanted to see and visit. So, while you could stay longer than 1 day, I think, with only one week in California, 1 day in San Diego is probably enough.

Drone view of the Children's Pool in La Jolla San Diego is one of the best things to do in 3 days in San Diego
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Mission Beach Sunset and View of Downtown, San Diego California, USA
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Where to Go in San Diego (1 day)
  • Explore Balboa Park
  • Take the ferry to Coronado
  • Relax at Mission Beach
  • Visit La Jolla
  • See the Point Loma Tide Pools
  • Explore San Diego’s Old Town
  • Wander the Gaslamp Quarter

Check out my detailed itinerary for San Diego to find out more about the city and what to do & see.

Where to Stay in San Diego

If you stay in San Diego, I would suggest taking a hotel in the downtown area or in La Jolla, which has great ocean views.

For a luxury option, I suggest the Pendry San Diego Hotel Downtown, which has great amenities and service, or the Pantai Inn in La Jolla, which offers a boutique experience and great location.

For a mid-range hotel, try the San Diego Marriot Gaslamp Quarter in the downtown area, which has a good location, or the Hotel La Jolla, which has pretty balcony views.

For a budget option, you could stay at Holiday Inn Express – Downtown San Diego, or the La Jolla Cove Suites, which has vintage décor and good location. 

Extra: More Places to Visit in California

If you want to skip any of these places and take a day trip during your 7-day California itinerary, then here is my suggestion:

California Day Trip – Big Sur

This is a place I haven’t gotten to myself, but I recommend it if you want to take a day trip while in California.

California itinerary
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Located along the central coast, Big Sur is an area that has lots of state parks that are popular for hiking and camping. The Santa Lucia Mountains are on one side and the Pacific Ocean in on the other, so you should have some really nice scenery.

If you take State Route 1, then you should also see a lot of views of seaside cliffs and coastlines covered in mist.

Big Sur is between San Francisco and Los Angeles, so if you drive down during your weeklong California trip, you can take this road and see Big Sur on your way.

CONCLUSION: ONE WEEK IN CALIFORNIA ITINERARY

Hopefully this 7-day California itinerary has shown you the best things to do and places to see while you are here. You can divide the days up as you like, but with only one week in California, this is how I would do it.

I did stay a bit longer and created my itinerary a bit differently back then. However, I hope, you will have fun 7 days in California using my itinerary.

Stay safe and have fun!

Safe Travels, Arzo
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