The UC system is one of the best public university systems in not just California but across the globe. Each of its 10 campuses are extraordinary when it comes to education, boasting a number of distinguished faculty in almost every academic discipline. All of the UC system’s alumni combined are responsible for contributing about $50 billion per year in economic impact, making it the most advanced educational system in the world. One thing that instantly differentiates these campuses from one another is location. If you find yourself traversing down California’s coastline, make it a UC road trip instead and see all of the beautiful regions where the UC campuses are placed. Starting from the northernmost campus and ending with the southernmost, here is a list devoted to pinpointing the best sights around each UC location.
As the northernmost campus, UC Davis is home to the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, which is an outdoor museum that offers resources to bee pollinators and teaches visitors on pollinator habitat gardens. The museum is a place for studying bee life and the plants that are needed to ensure their existence. The haven was created thanks to a charitable donation from Häagen-Dazs and was developed by the UC Davis entomology department and the California Center for Urban Horticulture; together, they helped to actualize the ambitions of Häagen-Dazs.
Founded in 1864, UCSF is unique from all of the other campuses in that it is a school dedicated to health science — and one of the best in the United States at that. If you find yourself near UCSF, Twin Peaks is only a seven-minute drive away. The 360-degree view of San Francisco from atop these iconic hills is truly a sight to behold. You can’t get a better view of the city than from Mother Nature’s natural elevation.
As the first (and our favorite) UC campus, UC Berkeley is a historic site to behold. When in Berkeley, one scenic spot that you can’t miss is Tilden Regional Park. Located between the Berkeley Hills and the San Pablo Ridge, Tilden Park is a beautiful place with a botanical garden, swimming lake, merry-go-round and rideable miniature train. There’s a number of things to do at Tilden Park for people of all ages.
UC Santa Cruz
Easily one of the most famed spots in Santa Cruz is the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, which is conveniently located only 11 minutes away from UC Santa Cruz. The boardwalk is California’s oldest surviving amusement park and is situated alongside miles of sandy beach for you to relax on. If going to the beach really isn’t for you, there are also arcades, miniature golf, laser tag, carnival games and even roller coasters to ride on.
Although it may be the newest campus, UC Merced is the only campus to have a research station located inside Yosemite National Park. Yosemite might be an hour and half drive from Merced, but this station is a must-see. If the drive really is too far, Lake Yosemite is right next to UC Merced. In fact, this man-made lake bounds one side of UC Merced, and its two canals flow through the campus.
UC Santa Barbara
Goleta Beach Park is as close as can be to UC Santa Barbara, with walking trails that will take you straight to the campus lagoon. This is a beach that offers a wide range of amenities, from barbecue pits to a playground — did we mention free parking as well? An additional benefit is that it’s much less touristy than the Santa Barbara pier, Stearns Wharf, so you can avoid the crowds of people on your road trip.
Affiliated with UCLA, the Hammer Museum is an art museum known for its contemporary art exhibitions. The museum was founded by Armand Hammer (the great-grandfather of actor Armie Hammer) as a means to display his personal art collection. Now, the museum has expanded to become one of the most critically acclaimed in the city and hosts more than 300 programs throughout the year.
Amounting to a 2.7-mile road trip, Mount Rubidoux’s trail is perfect for those looking for something a little shorter in distance. This natural gem provides a moment of serenity and peace with its rocky desert landscape, just minutes away from the bustling Inland Empire. At the top of the hill, you can take in 360-degree views of Riverside’s downtown, as well as the surrounding nature.
The Irvine Spectrum Center is more than just a mall. It has more than 100 boutiques and shops, a carousel, an IMAX theater, spa, 30 food spots, a comedy club and a 24 Hour Fitness. When in Irvine, you literally can’t miss this shopping and entertainment hub — and we mean it. It also has a 108-foot Ferris wheel that you can spot from miles away. The architecture of this outdoor mall is spectacular with features — like a grand, illuminating fountain — that are inspired by the Alhambra in Granada, Andalusia, Spain.
UC San Diego
For those seeking an adventure, the Ho Chi Minh Trail is the trail for you. This hidden gem in La Jolla is a sight to behold with its naturally made formations that twist and turn in all sorts of ways. With that being said, this trail isn’t a piece of cake, as it will have you crawling and climbing all over the place. If you’re looking for something a little less risky, Scripps Coastal Reserve, which is a part of UC San Diego, offers the calming, scenic biodiversity trail.
The UC system is incredibly vast and each of the campuses that constitute it have sights and scenery nearby that make it worth the drive out. Next time you get inspired to drive across California, make it a UC road trip instead.