An Instagrammable San Diego Road Trip

Even with the peak of the pandemic behind us, many of us are still making vacation plans to destinations reachable by car, paving the way for the adventure of an unforgettable road trip. Everyone who’s ever packed a cooler full of snacks, gotten behind the wheel, and hit the open road knows that “getting there is half the fun” is a factual statement, and what is a road trip without capturing the perfect Instagram shot along the way? Whether you’re traveling west or taking the south route to San Diego, here is our guide to some of the coolest spots en route to get that perfect Instagram photo, or film the next viral TikTok!

From the North

Driving to San Diego from Northern California or the Pacific Northwest may well be one of the most picturesque road trips on the planet. The Pacific Coast Highway traces a trail between the ocean and (depending on the region) mountains, forests, and charmingly inviting beachfront communities, making it postcard-perfect regardless of the mile marker. Take a moment to pause alongside any of these stops — you won’t have to expend a lot of effort to create the perfect transition for a TikTok, or snap the perfect Instagram shot. The views will do it all for you. 

  • Golden Gate Bridge: When making your way down the west coast, this famous San Francisco span is a true must-see.
  • Lombard Street: Also known as the “Crookedest Street in the World,” San Francisco’s Lombard makes for great snaps. (Photo: @san_francisco_live)

Lombard Street in San Francisco

  • Bixby Creek Bridge: This famous historic bridge in Monterey County is famous for its graceful arches and fantastic Pacific views.
  • Santa Monica Pier: Don’t miss this legendary theme park, dining destination, entertainment hub, and shopping center in L.A. (Photo: @sam_ericson5433)

  • LACMA Urban Lights: Visit the “streetlight”-style art installation by artist Chris Burden outside the famed Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Credit: @aragon_28

From the East

Heading into San Diego from points east can really be an adventure. From desert vistas to artists’ enclaves, natural wonders to iconic oases, making your way here from the center or southwest of the U.S. is one of the most-undertaken American journeys for a whole host of reasons. If you decide to find us via this breathtaking corridor, here are the roadside pit stops to pull over and film a TikTok or IG Reel that your friends will be envious of.

  • Route 66: As much of a destination as any stop along its length, the “Mother Road” stretches from Chicago to Santa Monica.

  • Salvation Mountain: This prominent, brightly painted art fixture is located in the Salton Sea-adjacent artists’ compound known as “Slab City.”

Salvation Mountain

Credit: @budandbodybuilding

  • Las Vegas Sign: Nevada’s notorious, glittering desert jewel needs no intro. Snap a selfie at the Strip’s infamous Googie “Welcome” sign. 

  • Seven Magic Mountains: Located between Sin City and the California border, these bright, built-up boulders are a brilliant backdrop.
  • Cabazon Dinosaurs: Take a trip back in time to the age of the giant lizards when you grab some shots with these massive Mesozoic monsters. 

Once You Arrive

Although the road here is absolutely chock-full of stunning stops, San Diego itself is no slouch when it comes to great places to grab iconic images. Our beautiful beaches, magnificent museums, breathtaking park spaces, and lovely landmarks are the stuff of legend. So you certainly won’t need to give your inner shutterbug a rest once you arrive to stay with us at The Dana on Mission Bay. Here are some of our favorite spots around San Diego County.

  • Balboa Park: With over 1,200 acres of gorgeous green space, museums, restaurants, and more, Balboa Park is as ‘gram-worthy as it gets. 

Credit: @asyatravels

  • Pigment: Nestled in the heart of North Park, Pigment’s funky decor and attractive merchandising make this gift shop a very visual place. 
  • “Greetings From San Diego” Mural: This photogenic wall has become just as much of a San Diego landmark as L.A.’s hillside “Hollywood” sign. (Photo@ sandiegostreetdocument)

  • Sunset Cliffs: Spectacular sunsets are a hallmark of the San Diego experience. And one of the best places to check them out is in Ocean Beach.
  • Scripps Memorial Pier: You simply can’t leave San Diego without securing a pic for your feed at one of the most iconic spots in San Diego.

  • Artelexia: This traditional Mexican craft store in Old Town (itself an eye-catching destination) is a vibrant festival of color, beauty, and creativity.

Ready to start planning your itinerary? The team at The Dana is looking forward to welcoming you once you reach San Diego. Take a look at our special offers to select the San Diego travel deal that’s right for you, and we’ll make sure to have your room ready once you arrive. And be sure to tag us in your road trip photos on social using the hashtag #DriveToTheDana along the way!