The backbone of Southern California is Interstate 5 (I-5), known as the Golden State Freeway in much of L.A. County, and the
Santa Ana Freeway south of downtown L.A. all the way to San Diego. Everyone hates it and loves it at the same time, kind of a Steinbeck/Route 66 thing. It pretty well connects everything together, and our driving decisions frequently depend on whether we’re feeling lucky about traffic on I-5.
Like it or not, this may affect your summer travel plans.
Even driving to San Diego attractions from O.C. requires one to think about whether they want to risk the Santa Ana Freeway (I-5), which can choke up at any of a half-dozen places, or do you drive inland to take the I-15 freeway south.
Traveling from O.C. to L.A. requires the decision to either drive up the diagonal-running I-5 or take a longer but possibly faster route like the “91” to the “605” to the “10.” More on this on a separate page. It’s worthwhile to check Sigalert on the internet for fairly accurate traffic details.
Traffic and the freeway system is, admittedly, a bigger part of our life than it should be (as the subway system is to New Yorkers), but it’s gotten a little better with major freeway widening projects and the growth of the public transit system.
There are two train options between San Diego and the Los Angeles basin. You can take an AMTRAK train to San Diego, with several stops in L.A. and O.C (a short cab ride from a Disneyland-area hotel to the Anaheim AMTRAK station would allow you to get all the way to the downtown San Diego station without having your own car). From there you could arrange for a car rental, or take a cab or bus to many San Diego attractions. San Diego has a good public transit system.
The regional L.A. Metrolink light-rail commuter train covers a lot of the metro area, but getting down to San Diego requires a transfer in north San Diego County. However Metrolink is cheaper than AMTRAK and runs more often than the national train service. Look for summer travel discounts on the AMTRAK website.
You might wonder why we put up with the traffic complications that come with life in Southern California. Well, for one thing you can go surfing in the morning and then be in the nearby mountains by noon or out at the Colorado River for water skiing or wakeboarding by mid-afternoon (we actually have done this).
Or you can go to any one of many world-class evening entertainment events, after hiking in Joshua Tree National Park or riding waverunners in San Diego’s Mission Bay earlier that morning. The other killer attraction is that the weather is, on the whole, just about the best anywhere in the civilized world. In fact, one of the main Los Angeles, Orange County, Inland Empire and San Diego attractions is the temperate and predictable weather.
It is not very often that you must worry about whether your picnic or trip to the ballpark or other outdoor event will be ruined by weather; it does happen, especially in the winter, but your summer travel plans are likely to be less affected by weather here than just about anywhere else. SoCal is not for everybody, but it does make for a great vacation.