I don't know how much time you are planning to spend on your trip. If you at least have a week, I would suggest driving along the Pacific coast.
Big Sur and 17-mile drive south of Monterey are quite picturesque.
Fort Ross (north of San Francisco).
Redwood, of course (near Crescent City).
Dunes (south of Florence).
Numerous lighthouses in Oregon.
I am sure the list is incomplete, but that is what I have visited so far and I liked very much. What I would not do is to drive on I-5 from Los Angeles to Red Bluff because there is nothing to see. Mount Shasta is nice, but it is the only interesting site on I-5 in Northern California whilst the coast has a lot more to offer.
For photos of many placeslisted below, and many major towns along the I-5 corridor, click this link and choose the town or city you want to see pictures of. Might help determine where you want to stop. It is in ABC order.NWPJ Photos
On I-5 from Redding, up north a ways is a neat area I do not know the name of, but you can not miss it. Large bridge, and tons of canyons and water. Lots of boating, and neat to venture into.
Ashland. You should for sure stop in Ashland. Shopping, Shaeakespeare.... well, lots of shopping, and very cute, quaint town of 22,000. Before Medford about 14 miles.
Through Oregon, stop at "The Vortex." About 20 miles or so east of Grants Pass along the highway. The Vortex is weird, and their is a few. $20 bucks I think. :-/ But cool still.
Also, in Grants Pass is a nice downtown for shopping, and some neat river rafting if you got time. Depending on how far you drive, you might want to take a night here to sleep. Lots of hotels and motels, and camping as well.
Roseburg has gas stations, expensive though, but drive on through till you get to Eugene. You might like the downtown in Eugene. College crowd, artsy, also a university there. Visit Skinners Butte which overlooks downtown's skyline for a cool view.
Salem, farther north of Eugene has Oregon's state capital. Neat to visit. Nice city to shop in and explore as well.
Of course, stop in Portland. About an hour and thirty minutes north of Salem. In the Portland suburb of Tigard is a great, huge shopping center, and cheaper costing hotels in the burbs. Downtown Portland has trams, lots of shopping as well, theaters, and the waterfront.
If you are heading still northward Vancouver's Fort Vancouver may interest you. Ulyssess S. Grant was stationed there, a former Civil war general and U.S. President, and it has a great history to explore. Might even get a hotel here instead of a Portland suburb. Might be cheaper, plus closer to exploring Mount Saint Helens or Mount Rainier, two wonderful mountains located in Washington.
Stop in Kelso/Longview for some gas. Tends to be cheaper.
Centralia has an outlet mall if that tickles your fancy.
Olympia and Tumwater are worth exploring. Olympia has the capitol of Washington State with the amazing Capitol Lake which lines the city. From the capital building you can get expansive views of Olympia's skyline and the Olympic Mountains. Shopping downtown is nice, and lots of waterfront activity. Fresh seafood.
Check out Tacoma's glass muesum and the downtown Theater District. Easiest to see it all is go to Union Station and walk to the glass muesum. Parking is free just a few blocks away from the city core, up the hill.
If you make it to the Seattle metropolitan area, visit Seattle of course. Light rail, downtown shopping at the impressive Westlake Center. Lots to do there. Visit Kerry Park for a view of Seattle and Volunteer Park for interesting views on top of a historic landmark. If you got the dough, go up the Space Needle for dinner one night, or for five dollars go to the top of Columbia Tower, the cities tallest building, for a drink at Starbucks. If you buy food at Starbucks, you ride the elevator free! Pike Place Market is a must visit for fun and fresh seafood!
Across Lake Washington from Seattle is Bellevue and it is changing very fast. Bellevue Square Mall is a must visit mall in the region, and it extends many blocks and into hih rise buildings. Great views of mountains and water.
If you are still heading north, good place to get a hotel is in Lynnwood. It is the convergence zone of Interstate 5 and I-405. The city has many hotels and places to eat and is home to the Alderwood Mall. A major mall with over 250 shops indoor and out. Note, Lynnwood is urban sprawl, but nicer then most.
Northward still? Okay, pass Everett unless you want to see a show or hockey game at Comcast Arena. Maybe take a tour of Boeing.
At Mount Vernon, about an hour and thirty minutes from Everett, you turn westbound and check out La Conner. Nice quaint fishing village with tourist shops galore!
Last stop, Bellingham. Great downtown with shopping, places to eat, and a fine eatery atop of the cities tallest building, Bellingham Tower. Resonable pricing for good meals and fabulous view of Bellingham Bay, mountains, and the city skyline. Shopping downtown is nice, and a artsy college town as well.
Wow, hope this helps you Imperfect Ending. There is so much to cover in so little time! Best of luck, and contact me if you need any help. I love helping people plan trips to remember. Done it many times. Here too.
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