California, Here You Come

Stroll San Francisco, sip Napa Valley wine, and hike Yosemite. Here is your best-ever summer road trip

Golden Gate bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge as seen from near Lands End.

"How can you not fall in love with California?" a hiker asks my sister, Mary Kay, and me as we pause at a viewpoint near San Francisco's Lands End. He seems transfixed by the scenery: the Golden Gate Bridge glowing crimson in the afternoon sun, boats darting across San Francisco Bay, wind-scrubbed vistas east toward the Sierra Nevada.

How can you not fall in love with California? Read the newspapers ― the stories of high housing prices and Silicon Valley layoffs ― and you might think it would be easy. But on a day like today, it is the most desirable place in the world.

Northern California has so many world-class attractions, it seems impossible to roll them into one vacation. But I'm about to prove it can be done. I'm taking Mary Kay and her husband, Bob, on a 10-day, 700-mile driving tour. My sister and I grew up just south of San Francisco, not far from this trail, but for the past 20 years, Mary Kay and Bob have lived all over the world. They're not easy to please; they have written off California destinations as overcrowded and overhyped.

Mary Kay and I head back up the hill. We're ready to hit the road and, we hope, fall in love with our childhood home all over again.

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