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6 SPECTACULAR SELF-DRIVE WEEKEND GETAWAYS

While on a Work Trip in Orange County

By Kayreen – 17th Mar 2021

One of the great things about staying in Irvine is that you are practically not too far from anywhere, even to well-known places seen in movies. Whether you plan a weekend getaway to unwind up north or enjoy a scenic view down south, the city is a portal to remarkable famous tourist destinations. The possibilities are infinite – from exquisitely manufactured realities to breathtaking natural wonders.

Take a break every weekend and check out these road trip ideas. Pack a day or two of necessities (do not forget to bring your GPS), grab your keys, and set-off for a self-drive holiday. Safe travels!

(Note: We understand your sentiments in these trying times. Hopefully, our article gives you joyful anticipation and helpful insights for future travels as we all patiently wait for COVID-19 disruption to end.)

Yosemite National Park (314.5miles/ 506km via CA-99N, 5 hours 14 min)

A vast expanse of enormous mountain rocks, granite cliffs, mile-high waterfalls, towering trees, and thriving wildlife, Yosemite National Park is indeed an impressive artwork created by nature and truly a sight-to-behold. The park is open to visitors at any time of the day for the whole year (but due to current pandemic interruption, please check related resource pages for updates). 

Take pleasure in the wide range of activities like watching raging waterfalls, admiring wildflowers bloom, and camping at the national park. Or just purely exploring the park by leisurely indulging in winter sports such as skiing and skating. Though experience in Yosemite differs dramatically depending on the season, you can always check and plan accordingly depending on your preference (remember to book in advance, especially during peak season). Do not miss this most revisited park in the United States!

Sequoia National Park (243.5miles/ 392km via I-15N, 4 hours)

Aside from Yosemite National Park, not far away is another enthralling alternative just by the utter height and size of its attractions – the Sequoia National Park. Its distinctive features of gargantuan proportion are the majestic sequoia and redwood trees, towering hundreds of feet above. Enter the world of the giant trees and be overwhelmed. Look up and gaze in admiration at its famous star attraction – General Sherman Tree. The largest single-stem tree in volume living on earth!

Las Vegas (267.6miles/ 430.7km via I-15N, 4 hours)

Come on, who misses out on Las Vegas when in California? Crank it up and take the route straight through the desert! You might think that it is boring, but actually, the drive is breathtakingly stunning – highlighted by the iconic sign (Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada) at the entrance as you arrive. Sin City is known for luxurious casinos and nightclubs, but fascinating events are also on display along its streets, such as incredible live entertainment, colorful festivals, and a budding culture. Everything is always available in this 24-hour town. Commonly addressed as the City that Never Sleeps, the clock never stops here. Navigate around hotels with free unique shows (however, do check the timing so that you can catch them), laze in the sun at glamourous resort pools, and feast on delectable buffets. Remember to visit some strangely interesting and cool landmarks on your way. By then, as you leave, you will now understand what this catchy line implies – what happens in Vegas; stays in Vegas.

San Francisco (412 miles/663.05 km via I-5N, 6 hours 19 min)

Following the I-5 N route, it takes a little more than 6 hours non-stop drive from Orange to San Francisco. Keep in mind to start your trip early (Friday night) to arrive at Hawk Hill on time and watch the sunrise braze through the arches of Golden Gate Bridge. The famed and most photographed suspension bridge, often depicted in movies where villains and aliens repeatedly destroy, but in reality, failed to (such a fan of Hollywood movies, but who’s not?). For the rest of the weekend, you can chill at the lovely sightseeing spots like Pier 39. Fancy digging into the freshest and delicious seafood dishes. Or stroll down Lombard Street with the eight sharp turns, making it the most crooked street in the world. Visit the mysterious and creepy Alcatraz Island. Enlist in its eye-opening historical tour – this former prison used to house the most notorious criminals. And on your return drive, you can add this good oldie’s song (I Left My Heart In San Francisco by Tony Bennett) to your playlist, aptly describing SF as the city by the bay.

Grand Canyon National Park (489miles/ 787km via I-40E, 7 hours 28 min)

Another masterpiece of nature, the Grand Canyon showcases a stunning sunrise and sunset – rays sprawling across the rugged landscape and jagged walls creating a streak of kaleidoscopic mineral colors. It is such a glorious natural beauty and timeless awe-inspiring. Both North and South Rim are accessible by paved roads. First-time visitors usually choose the South Rim, not only for its most popular viewpoint at Mather Point but also for its abundance of visitor services and family-oriented activities – from hiking, mule rides to rafting trips, even a helicopter tour over the canyon. However, only certain areas are eligible for such particular activities. Find out ahead of time which activity is available before deciding to proceed. Also, temperatures could drastically vary throughout the canyon depending on the weather; check the forecast in advance before making a plan to visit.

Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend (544.9miles/ 877km via I-15N, 8 hours 32min)

The magnitude and sheer beauty of Horseshoe Bend not only equals but exceeds expectations of the long weary journey. Absolutely, worth it! This insta-famous magnificent landscape is just mind-blowing and seems too beautiful to be real. Marvel at the artistry of nature and reflect on its immense power. Stand along the perfectly carved edges and stare down at the crystal blue-green water in adoration. However, keep safe and remain conscious of your surroundings – the place can be windy, and some areas are barrier-free.

A dazzling nearby attraction, Antelope Canyon, is also just a few minutes away. The captivating sight of light beams falling on high, narrow, and red-pink canyon walls makes this site stands-out from others. It draws a serene and peaceful vibe, which is so intriguing and compels you to explore more. Take note that you can only visit this place with a guided tour.

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