Exploring Northern California

Join us as we celebrate our 20 years running, and satisfy your wanderlust by making San Jose the destination for your next Rock ‘n’ Roll Race Weekend. Race to the finish line as you get inspired knowing you’re surrounded by the minds at eBay, Cisco, PayPal, and Adobe. San Jose’s vibrant downtown district and diverse food scene, as well as its incredible hiking and thrilling theme parks, attract visitors from all walks of life. The heart of Silicon Valley may be what brings you to Northern California, but it doesn’t mean your trip has to come to an end. There are many spectacular NorCal destinations within a few hours’ drive from San Jose, so continue exploring, one mile at a time.

Monterey – 1 hour 15 minutes

Only a few places on earth can live up to the raw physical beauty of its reputation, and Monterey County is among them. Monterey is a favorite destination for visitors from all over the world, offering the quintessential California experience, with a little something for everyone to enjoy. Begin downtown and see it as novelist John Steinbeck did while gaining inspiration for his stories. Then stroll down historic Cannery Row, which houses a blend of specialty shops, art galleries, restaurants, and world-class attractions. The most famous attraction is the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where you can look through a window to the ocean. Or marvel at the wonders of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary by scuba diving with the starfish or kayaking among sea otters. Choose to take it all in by land via a bike or surrey cart and ride from beach to beach along the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreational Trail.

Carmel-by-the-Sea and Carmel Valley – 1 hour 15 minutes

Drive south and see the legendary golf courses, mansions, and scenic attractions (including the Lone Cypress) that make up the scenic 17-Mile Drive. Schedule a tee time and golf among the greats at Pebble Beach. Experience quaint and cultured Carmel-by-the-Sea, an artistic community perhaps most famous because of its former mayor, Clint Eastwood. Wander down the streets of shops, art galleries, and whimsical homes, which capture a storybook atmosphere that can be appreciated by romantics of all ages. Soak up the sunshine as you make your way down Carmel Valley Road and enter Monterey County’s lush countryside. Satisfy your taste buds with vintages poured by the winemakers and dine at award-winning restaurants. End the day with a stunning sunset on Carmel Beach.

Big Sur – 2 hours

Experience the unparalleled natural beauty of Big Sur. Go on the United States’ top road trip and drive down the captivating coastline that makes up Highway One. Feel the salty breeze on your face while standing next to the iconic Bixby Bridge. Immerse yourself in the wilderness by camping or hiking among the endless cliffside redwoods while overlooking McWay Falls at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Bring your camera but don’t forget to put it down for a minute to soak up everything that Big Sur has to offer.

Santa Cruz – 45 minutes

Perhaps best known for its surf culture, this ultra-mellow, seaside charmer doesn’t disappoint. Take a stroll through yesteryear with a corndog in hand on the famed boardwalk that features classic arcade games and rides including the Giant Dipper, a classic wooden roller coaster that has thrilled visitors for over 90 years, and the famous Looff Carousel, built in 1911. Go downtown where Pacific Avenue is known for its vintage clothing stores, cafes, and galleries. Rent a bike and ride along West Cliff Drive to Natural Bridges State Beach, known for its bridge shaped rock formation. And don’t forget to stop at the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum located in the lighthouse that overlooks acclaimed surf spot, Steamer Lane.

San Francisco – 1 hour

This hilly city is known for its iconic Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, elegant Victorian houses, and year-round fog. It may measure less than 50 square miles, but San Francisco packs a punch, offering a trendsetting and diverse culture that makes up what is arguably one of the best cities in the world. In the bay sits former prison Alcatraz Island where inmates like Al “Scarface” Capone served time. No trip to San Francisco is complete without a ride across the Golden Gate to idyllic towns of Sausalito and Tiburon, in neighboring Marin County. Catch a local ferry full of breathtaking city views to get back to the city. However, if you continue north to Marin County, you’ll soon reach the land of the giants, a grove of coastal redwoods at Muir Woods National Monument. From Muir Woods, continue up Highway One to another breathtaking, uncrowded park, Point Reyes National Seashore. From Haight-Ashbury’s hippie counterculture and Union Square’s chic shops to the touristy Embarcadero and Fisherman’s Wharf, the “City by the Bay” truly has it all.

Napa Valley – 1 hour 45 minutes

Take a sip (er, trip) along the Silverado Trail into this land of impressive estates, expansive tasting rooms, charming towns, and chic lodgings. The Silverado Trail spans 30 miles between the cities of Napa and Calistoga where you can drink in California’s legendary wine region. Napa Valley exploded into the global spotlight following the 1976 Judgement of Paris, when a Chardonnay from Calistoga won a blind tasting and forever changed the international perception of Northern California’s wines. If you’re a lover of great wine, fantastic food, and beautiful views, Napa Valley is the place for you.

With so much of Northern California right at your fingertips, take a few extra days following your Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose race to make the road trip up and down the coast, and explore the beauty this region of the country has to offer.