HOW TO SPEND EPIC 7 DAYS IN CALIFORNIA

AN AMAZING 7-DAY CALIFORNIA ITINERARY

Are you planning your 7-day 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. Still, there are many other fun and exciting things to do here as well and it is a great place to visit. However, it gets a bit problematic as the state of California is very large, and in 7 days in California, you will not see all the beautiful spots/cities.

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.

In this post, you will find out:

  • How to Get to California
  • What to Pack for One Week in California
  • Where to Stay in California for 7 Days
  • How to Get Around California
  • More Travel Tips For your California Itinerary
  • Map of Places to Visit for Your 7-Day California Itinerary
  • San Francisco – 2-3 Days
  • Los Angeles – 3 Days
  • San Diego – 1 Day
  • Extra: California Day Trip – Big Sur

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links which means I might earn a small commission when you buy a product/service via my link (at no extra cost to you). More about it here.

TRAVEL TIPS FOR YOUR 7 DAYS IN CALIFORNIA ITINERARY

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

What to Pack for One Week in California

California’s climate is different in the north and the south. 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. Also, there are a couple of hikes you want to do.

Where to Stay in For 7 Days in California

You will find some hotel recommendations for each city on this California itinerary below.

How to Get around California

From San Francisco to Los Angeles, you can take a bus or train. It takes a few hours (up to 8 hours) but it’s great if you get the bus in the afternoon and arrive in the evening.

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

THIS IS WHAT I DID

When I visited California, I started in San Francisco. I flew from New York into San Francisco International Airport, but you could also arrive via Oakland International Airport. I then took a Megabus to Los Angeles.

  • BY BUS
  • Getting from one city to other by bus was not bad. This was cheap and all right (and I prefer buses over flying), but the scenery was kind of boring. In the beginning, it was exciting, but there is a lot of nothing in between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
  • BY TRAIN
  • 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.
  • BY CAR
  • Road tripping California would probably be more fun (though also more expensive and less environmentally friendly).

GETTING AROUND IN SAN FRANCISCO / LOS ANGELES / SAN DIEGO

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. 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 San Francisco are via cable cars, which are tourist attractions themselves.
  • Also, hop-on and hop-off buses, which I love, might be a good option for San Francisco, because they also include entry to some attractions.
  • In Los Angeles, you can get around using buses and the metro or rent a car. It’s very spread out here, and so while you can get nearly everywhere by public transportation, it sometimes takes a while. But you can also walk often, like when you are downtown. If you rent a car, California is well-known for its traffic and 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.
  • 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-Day in California Itinerary

  • 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. My tip is to leave a place when it does not feel safe. Just be careful and keep your 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.

Map of Places to Visit in 7 Days in California

Check out this map – here you can see the places to visit in 7 days in California.

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.

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.

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 that took quite a while), you have to plan in some time for traveling.

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 liked. It is actually the best hostel I have stayed at. Check out the gorgeous hostel (though it is named a hotel) – 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, so you need a minimum of 3 days to 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. 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, 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 for LA that you can check out here

Where to Stay in Los Angeles

  • For a luxury hotel, pick Hotel Bel-Air. It 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 with 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 do not really recommend it due to the proximity to LA). It’s a beautiful 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 there but compared to LA and San Francisco, I found fewer 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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Where to Go in San Diego (1 day)

  • Explore Balboa Park
  • 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 La Jolla, which has great ocean views.

Extra: More Places to Visit in California

If you want to skip any of these places and take a day trip during your 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 with lots of state parks that are popular for hiking and camping. The Santa Lucia Mountains are on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other, so you should have some really nice scenery.

If you take State Route 1, you should also see many 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.

FINAL THOUGHTS ABOUT PLACES TO VISIT IN 7 DAYS IN CALIFORNIA

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

I stayed a bit longer and created my California itinerary a bit differently back then. However, I hope you will have a fun 7 days in California using my itinerary because it is how I would – in hindsight – create my next itinerary like this.

Stay safe and have fun!

Safe Travels, Arzo
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