Looking for a fabulous 2-week USA west coast itinerary? Look no further! Here is a perfect itinerary for families and first-time visitors, with a mix of city life, stunning national parks, and more. Explore the USA in style with this USA Itinerary for 2 weeks.
I spent 2 weeks with my family on the USA west coast. With a country as large as USA is, you have to really pick and choose what appeals to you. There is enough and more on the west coast to easily fill a month, if not more! Our 2-week USA west coast itinerary was spent between city life in San Francisco and spending time outdoors at 2 amazing national parks: Yosemite and the Grand Canyon.
This US west coast itinerary is suitable for family travel. This itinerary is also for travelers who want to balance city life in San Francisco and a weekend in Napa valley, with time spent close to nature and some outdoor activities. You would cover many landmarks in San Francisco and a few in California.
What we did leave out due to paucity of time was a road trip to the Big Sur, perhaps next time! It was Big Sur or the 2 national parks, Yosemite and Grand Canyon.
USA 2-weeks West Coast Itinerary Overview
San Francisco (2 nights) – Sedona (1 night) – Grand Canyon (2 nights) – San Francisco (1 night) – Yosemite National Park (3 nights) – Napa Valley (1 night) – San Francisco (2 nights)
We used a combination of flight and car rentals to cover the above. Besides the international flight to reach San Francisco, the only internal flight used was from San Francisco to Phoenix. We rented a car at Phoenix airport to drive to Sedona and further to the Grand Canyon. We again rented a large van to drive with a group of friends to Yosemite national park from San Francisco. And finally, a car to drive to Napa valley.
San Francisco: Gateway to the west coast
San Francisco is a great introduction to the US west coast. No one misses the iconic Golden Gate bridge. But this city offers so much more! You can play tourist at Fisherman’s Wharf but there are other beach spots where locals go and enjoy their day. Kids would enjoy the California Science Center and the Exploratorium. And the Golden Gate park is fun for everyone.
Take a peep into the different districts and areas of the city. Mission district for its street art, Haight district for some cool cafes and boutique stores, stroll around Embarcadero area..
You cannot miss out on fantastic views in San Francisco, be it from Fort Baker or the Twin Peaks.
We spread our days in San Francisco in 3 different parts: both at the beginning and at the end of the trip. But you can follow this 4-day San Francisco itinerary and do it at one go. One of the best tours we took from San Francisco was the Alcatraz Prison Tour.
But if you decide to go further south from San Francisco, there are many unique things to do in San Diego.
Sedona in a day
The consensus in a 2-week West Coast USA itinerary is to fly down to Las Vegas and then drive to Grand Canyon. However, based on a local friend’s advice, we chose to fly down to Phoenix and first drive down to Sedona. If you are visiting Phoenix with kids around Halloween, one cool thing to check out is the Spooktacular Hot Air Balloon Festival.
I wish we had planned for a couple of days in Sedona. The one day spent amidst this stunning red rock town simply did not do justice to the many adventures it offers!
It is heaven for an outdoor enthusiast, it offers trails and hikes with stunning views across all levels.
We did the Pink Jeep Tours to make the most of our Sedona day trip. My 7-year old daughter loved the ride in the pink jeep. And no adult could be immune to the thrill and adrenaline offered by the jeep ride over gigantic boulders and the panoramic landscape at display.
Grand Canyon South Rim
We took the drive from Sedona to Grand Canyon via Flagstaff; considered one of the 10 most scenic drives in the USA.
The first sight of this majestic 200-miles long canyon leaves you in no doubt that it is one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. We chose the South Rim to enter Grand Canyon and made our way to the village. Apart from hiking of course, biking is a good and compact way for a couple / family to take in the highlights of the Canyon. You can read more about our Grand Canyon bike tour and best viewpoints at South Rim here.
I would urge you to not do just a day trip the Grand Canyon. Stay the night and enjoy not just the sunset and starry night but also the stunning dawn breaking over the canyon. The lodging and eating options inside the Grand Canyon are highly in demand. So you would need to book months in advance for the season. We had visited Fish River Canyon on a road trip in Namibia almost a decade ago. But this visit to the largest canyon in the world was unparalleled.
Drive to Lower Antelope Canyon
On the second full day at the Grand Canyon, we chose to drive to the Lower Antelope Canyon and the Horseshoe Bend. I can assure you it was well worth the drive. Everyone needs to take a guided tour inside the Lower Antelope Canyon.
Located in Arizona, Lower Antelope Canyon is a mesmerizing natural wonder renowned for its warm hues and stunning rock formations. This natural wonder captivates visitors with its intricately carved sandstone walls, creating a breathtaking display of warm colours.
Horseshoe Bend is located in Page Arizona and most travelers combine a visit to Antelope Canyons along with this. You can cover Lower Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend easily in a day.
Yosemite national park for families
Yosemite national park must be a part of any USA west coast itinerary. If you are not up for hiking many of the easy to moderate to challenging trails that this vast park offers, don’t sweat. There are many places like the Glacier point where the car goes right to the end. Whether you rent one of the mountain lodges from a rental platform or check into a hotel room, the park offers something for everyone in the family.
The stunning panorama at the Glacier Point, the Sentinel Dome hike, the Yosemite Falls, and Sunday brunch at the Majestic Yosemite Hotel were our top things to do in Yosemite with kids.
Minus the kids, I also enjoyed the trek to Vernal Falls or what is popularly named as The Mist Trail.
I am really glad we were able to include both Grand Canyon and Yosemite national park in our itinerary during the 2 weeks in USA.
A fun weekend at the Napa valley
A weekend with friends fit right after the active trip to Yosemite national park and just before our last leg at San Francisco. There are about 400 wineries across Napa, Sonoma and Calistoga. So you better research into which ones you want to visit. Here is a blogpost on some of the best wineries & vineyards to visit in Napa, Sonoma, and Calistoga to get you started!
We went with friends who reside in the Bay area and are interested in wine and the local produce at Napa valley. With them, we explored the large and popular estate of Domaine Carneros and the small off-beat Venge winery.
The last 2 days playing tourist in San Francisco rounded up our 2-weeks USA west coast itinerary. We spent about 10 days in California, but there are so many interesting places to visit in the Golden State. You could do a 2-week itinerary or even more just for California! Our USA West Coast Itinerary for 2 weeks includes exploring city life, visiting breathtaking national parks, and more.
Travel Tips to the USA
- The first things to sort out in planning a USA trip is the visa. That is, if you are not from one of the EU countries, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore or some others that don’t need a visa to enter US. Luckily, we all have a 10-year visa so this was not an issue. Check all the requirements with your country’s US embassy website for a tourist visa.
- Do your research and plan your itinerary: USA is a huge country. It is not possible to cover a coast, let alone the country in 2 weeks. So figure what excites your: city life, architecture, national parks, adventure activities and decide accordingly.
- National Parks in the USA: According to me, the national parks are the best part of this country. So whichever states you may cover, make sure you visit atleast 1 national park in your USA itinerary. Check the full list of national parks in the USA.
- It is great to do a road trip in the USA: The wide open roads I the USA are made for driving holiday. We drove in bits and parts during our 2 weeks in USA: from San Francisco to Napa Valley, From Phoneix to Sedona and further to Grand Canyon, from SF to Yosemite and it was pure pleasure. There are lots of places to enjoy and scenery to be seen if you drive between cities, or from a city to a national park. The only place to avoid cars is within large cities like New York or San Francisco.
- Book your international flight separately from the domestic flights within US to get better deals. We booked our international leg from Delhi to SFO on Emirates. But while researching on flight options from SFO to Phoenix, there were plenty of American airlines options with more convenient time slots.
- Tipping norms in the US: Unlike most countries in Asia and a few in Europe, tipping is the norm in the USA. You are expected to tip all sorts of service from waters and bartenders in restaurants to cab drivers etc. The general practice is 15-20% of the total amount.
- Some cash is required. Which is surprising for a developed country like the US. You can use your credit or debit card at all hotels, most restaurants, bars, national parks. But outside major cities, there are many local small businesses that prefer to accept cash.
- Crime in big cities: American cities are not free from crime so do be careful with your possessions in cities. Don’t leave personal belongings in your rented car.
- Travel Insurance: USA has insanely high medical costs. So don’t come for a US trip without travel insurance covered for all family members.
[This post was originally published in 2021, and later updated in 2023.]
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Have you been to the US west coast? Which area or town has been memorable for you? Share in comments below.
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