Interstate 5 is the main highway of America's West Coast, running parallel to the Pacific Ocean and U.S. Route 99, from Mexico to Canada. The major states I-5 goes through include California, Oregon and Washington. It runs through some pretty cool cities too: Seattle, Portland, Sacramento, Los Angeles, and San Diego. It also happens to be the only continuous Interstate highway to touch the borders of both Canada and Mexico. These are a few of the best stops along I-5!
Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico
Since I-5 is the only border-to-border highway that actually touches both Mexico and Canada, if you're feeling really adventurous, you can start in Tijuana, Mexico.
1549 El Prado, San Diego, CA, US
I-5 then takes you into San Diego. You could literally spend days exploring San Diego since there are so many things to do here, but the one must-see attraction in the city is Balboa Park. San Diego's natural history museum, air and space museum, zoo, science center, and art museums can be found set among the gardens here...and that's just naming a few attractions you an check out. It's worth at least visiting their legendary zoo or the Automotive Museum!
And if you need a hotel in San Diego, look into the Manchester Grand Hyatt, the Hotel del Coronado, or The US Grant.
7201 Carlsbad Blvd., Carlsbad, CA, US
Surfing, fishing, camping and beach access for day-use visitors make South Carlsbad State Beach a great place to spend some time. If you can, stay to watch the sun set over the water: there's nothing quite like it.
31520 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, CA, US
Next pay a visit to Mission San Juan Capistrano. The history of Spanish missionaries coming to California is important, and also sobering; there are 2,000 inhabitants of this 18th-century mission buried in unmarked graves, mostly Native Americans. The ruins of the old stone building are also quite fascinating to see.
1104 N Mission Rd, Los Angeles, CA, US
Skeletons in the Closet is one of the quirkiest and most morbid attractions in LA! What started out as a joke among staffers making fun of the morbid souvenirs sold at places dedicated to the part of LA's history when murder rates were at an all-time high spun off into a full-fledged shop selling toe-tag keychains, skull-shaped business card holders and other dark takes on kitsch. Just let the guys at the front desk know that you're there to do some shopping!
If you plan on spending the night here, there are loads of nice hotels in LA. Farmers Daughter Hotel, the W Los Angeles and the Georgian Hotel are among the many places to stay!
via Interstate 5 N
15101 Lancaster Rd, Lancaster, CA, US
There's tons of natural beauty along I-5. Between late winter and early spring, Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve explodes with brightly-hued flowers, mostly poppies. Seven miles of trail make for awesome wildflower viewing, or for a good place to stretch your legs after long hours in the car.
17191 Hwy 46, Lost Hills, CA, US
If you're into James Dean, history, pop culture, or offbeat roadside attractions, the Last Place James Dean Stopped in Lost Hills fits the bill quite nicely. James Dean died at the young age of 24 in a car crash while driving in his famed "Little Bastard" Porsche Spyder not far from this gas station. There's a 50's themed diner and general store, all bedecked with the legendarily handsome actor's likeness.
Coalinga, CA, US
New Idria Ghost Town, built around a former mercury mine, was only abandoned in the 1970's so there are still nearly 100 buildings left, although they've been vandalized quite a bit. It's not as rustic as some ghost towns, but it's a cool place to stop and take some gritty pictures.
Gustine, CA, US
Another nice place to stretch your legs is the O'Neill Forebay Wildlife Area in Gustline, CA. It's perfect for camping, or if you pick up some food, for a nice afternoon picnic. If you have time, you can also enjoy the swimming and boating here and at the other nearby reservoirs!
312 3rd Street, Folsom, CA, US
Whether you're a Johnny Cash fan or not (the singer famously played a show for the prisoners here in Folsom), you're sure to find the Folsom Prison Museum interesting. You can see inside an old cell, and look at handmade weapons crafted by the inmates at one of California's most notorious lockups.
via County Road 99W
320 Broadway St, Chico, CA, US
If you keep driving up I-5, you'll reach Chico, home of the National Yo-Yo Museum! Located in a super-cool indie toy store, the Yo-Yo Museum boasts the world's largest yo-yo, 80 years of yo-yo artifacts, and hosts the National Yo-Yo Championship each year. It's a super cute way to kill an hour!
via Flournoy Ave
15312 Highway 299, Shasta, CA, US
The town of Shasta, which was active during the mid-19th century, is mostly abandoned today. However, the old buildings have been preserved at Shasta State Historic Park. Step back in time at the jail, the store, the church, the museum, the post office, and the school.
20359 Shasta Caverns Rd, Lakehead, CA, US
The stunning Lake Shasta Caverns, which must be reached via a boat, are one of the coolest attractions in the area. As you traverse the system of caverns, you'll learn about their fascinating history and see all kinds of wild rock formations. It's a bit of a trek, with about 600 stairs total, but it's well worth the effort.
4303 Sardine Creek L Fork Road, Gold Hill, OR, US
Once you reach Gold Hill, OR pull over at the Oregon Vortex/House of Mystery, a 1930s-era attraction and roadside classic not far off I-5. Whether or not you believe in the scientific analysis of the "vortex" that causes the laws of physics to seem irrelevant (as I suspected in high school science class), it's still a fun stop. Plus, they have a cute curio shop with offbeat oddities.
Umpqua National Forest, OR, US
Next, bask in some breathtaking natural beauty at Umpqua National Forest. This massive woodland preserve is packed with shaded trails, fields of wildflowers, misty waterfalls, and cozy cabins. Even taking a quick detour to drive through this beautiful forest is a must!
245 Blair Blvd, Eugene, OR, US
From there, you'll find yourself in Eugene, OR where you can grab a drink at Blairally Vintage Arcade. It's part dive bar, part hands-on museum dedicated to the most beloved arcade games of the past, and 100% retro fun. Cheap beers and free pinball make this place the perfect place to spend a few hours, which might turn into the whole night.
Planning on staying the night? There are some rad hotels in Eugene, like C'est La Vie Inn, Inn at the 5th and the Campbell House Inn.
400 SW Kingston Ave,, Portland, OR, US
After that, if you keep driving up I-5, you'll hit the city of Portland. The International Rose Test Garden is free, and you can't deny that the best way to meet The City of Roses is in their rose garden! You can see all kinds of varieties of the flower here, and take in some awesome views of Portland.
1005 W Burnside St, Portland, OR, US
Need some more reading material for when you're not in the driver's seat? Powell's City of Books is a legendary independent bookstore. It's utterly massive, so if you're looking for something in particular, grab a map; otherwise, it's just as fun to aimlessly get lost among the rows of books and stumble across something you never knew you needed.
And stay the night at one of Portland's hip hotels: Hotel Modera, The Nines and the Hotel Vintage Plaza are awesome spots.
3029 Spirit Lake Highway, Castle Rock, WA, US
Whether or not you were alive when the Mount St. Helens volcano erupted in 1980 or not, it's still a formidable sight to see. The Mount St. Helens Visitor Center offers amazing views of the mountain, excellent exhibits, and a trail. If you're feeling daring, you can buy a permit to climb to the top and stare into the crater. It's ideal for beginner mountaineers, but make sure you check up on the status of the volcano before you attempt to conquer it.
12245 Tilley Rd S, Olympia, WA, US
Ahh...back to nature, since the beauty along I-5 in the Pacific Northwest is legendary. The secluded forests and lake (complete with swimming beach!) at Millersylvania State Park are completely relaxing. It also has awesome camping if you find yourself so enchanted by the surroundings that you can't pull yourself away.
The best time to road trip down I-5: In the summer there's a significant amount of fog along the northern part of the route. The best weather is generally from September through early October, as well as late April and May. Also keep in mind that the summers are high tourist season, and road conditions in winter can be slightly precarious, especially up north.