Tour Of California
California is always prime road-trip territory – sun, surf and cities are a potent combination – and this 275-mile California drive is further proof, taking in some of the most beautiful beaches, roads and forests in the state’s south. The route also calls in at several of the host cities featured in this year’s Tour of California, so holds particular appeal for cycling fans. It combines well known stop-offs like Santa Barbara with lesser known, but no less appealing, spots such as Big Bear Lake.
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This unrushed beach town sits midway between San Francisco and LA, making it well accustomed to featuring on Californian car-hire itineraries. Walk the beach-lined seafront and its 365-metre wooden pier, snatch a designer bargain at the Pismo Beach Premium Outlets or hire an ATV and try riding the town’s huge dunes. Out on the ocean, windsurfing, kayaking and diving are all on offer. Finish the day with a clam chowder dinner at Splash Cafe. Leaving town, an 81-mile drive brings you to Santa Barbara.
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The Santa Barbara coastline is sometimes referred to as “The American Riviera”, and you can see why – its wide sands, green hills and Spanish Revival architecture make quite an impression. Fittingly, it’s a great place to cycle, whether you’re after a beachside pedal or a tougher ride in the nearby Santa Ynez Mountains. In town, visit the strikingly designed County Courthouse then enjoy the cafes and seafood diners of State Street – try a meal at the Mediterranean-influenced Cadiz. Moving on, you’ll skirt the northern fringes of LA before arriving in Pasadena in just under two hours.
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Pasadena is the site of the annual Rose Bowl Game, the huge American Football match known as the “Grandaddy of Them All”, so its sporting heritage encompasses far more than just the Tour of California. It’s also a highly enjoyable city for visitors. Sitting at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains, it has a fine range of cultural venues – don’t miss the collection of Old Masters at the Norton Simon Museum or the priceless manuscripts at the Huntingdon Library. Elsewhere, set aside time for shopping in the Old Pasadena district. Back on the road, Ontario is just a 40-minute drive away.
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Once little more than a farming town, the city of Ontario now has a population of well over 150,000. For those passing through, its best known attraction is Ontario Mills, billed as “California’s largest outlet” and housing more than 200 stores. To learn more about Ontario’s agricultural heritage, meanwhile, pay a visit to the Graber Olive House, then settle down to one of the seasonal menus at Market Broiler Restaurant. Heading east into the San Bernardino National Forest, the road reaches Big Bear Lake after 61 miles.
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Big Bear Lake
The site of a time trial stage at this year’s Tour of California, Big Bear Lake has an open setting among woods, mountains and, of course, the blue waters of the reservoir itself. Cyclists can make the most of some testing mountain-bike trails, in addition to gentler paths along the shoreline. If you want to keep staying active, it’s also a long-established destination for watersports. Other points of interest include the Big Bear Alpine Zoo rehabilitation facility, which cares for local wildlife, and the Alpine Trail bobsled track. Both are open to all.
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