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Driving I-5, Everything a Road Trip Should Have & More!

Are you looking to do a pretty easy, straightforward road trip with lots of great stops along the way? We have driven I-5 more times than we can count, and we love it. It’s got views, things to do, and lots of good food!

Having lived in southern California for several years and then moving to northern California, my family spent a lot of time driving the highways of the west coast. After we moved to Washington, we became experts at the northern stretches of those same highways. I think I must have over 100,000 miles of driving or riding on US Interstate Five, and counting.

Generally speaking, most people don’t think of taking an I-5 road trip. Usually, this particular road is used for long-haul trucking and driving from point A to point B as quickly as possible. But unless you are under some sort of time constraint, there is plenty to do and see along the road. There is certainly more than enough to make a great road trip.

Sit back and enjoy our podcast episode or download and save it for later to listen to during your own I-5 road trip!

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What is US Interstate Five?

Interstate Five, or the I-5 as it is called in California, is the border-to-border cross-country highway running 1400 miles from the Mexican border in the south to the Canadian border in the north. For the most part, it goes parallel to the coast but further inland. In fact, it only runs along the coast for a few hundred miles.

Mt. Shasta on I-5; what a sight!

Make no mistake, the I-5 is a major transportation route and not necessarily designed with scenery in mind. It connects all of the state capitals in all three states, and it runs right through major cities like San Diego, Los Angeles, and Seattle. However, there are some long, lonely stretches in between some of these cities.

Happily, though, there are some truly beautiful and incredible scenic landscapes, fascinating attractions, and great food stops along the way. The I-5 has everything required for an amazing road trip.

You can't beat Seattle for the best city on I-5.

What to See and Do on an I-5 Road Trip

While I-5 might not be as scenic as the Pacific Coast Highway, it does have its charm, especially in spring when the California grass still has that bright green glow. Scenic stretches around Mt. Shasta, along the Rogue River, and through Skagit Valley are just some of the highlights.

Sacramento is another capital city that you will find I-5 drives right through.

For major attractions, there are just too many to mention. However, the highlights include Mission San Juan Capistrano, Disneyland, and Old Sacramento all in California. In Oregon, stop for some adventure with white water rafting on the Rogue River. Of course, the Seattle Center and Pike Place Market are must-stops in Washington.

For the complete article with full descriptions and recommendations, check out Planning an Epic I-5 Road Trip – Best Places to Stop Along the Way on our sister site, Roving Vails.

The Columbia Gorge Vista House is minutes off of the I-5, so don't miss it.

Best Food along the I-5

We love finding the best bucket-list local food on any road trip. Of course, the I-5 is a major route with most stops along the way tending to be generic highway stops with the usual fast food suspects. However, once you reach a city, the options are nearly endless. That being said there are a few places that we almost always stop at.

Balboa Gardens in San Diego, a fantastic stop along I-5.

For example, in San Diego, Las Cuatro Milpas has the best homemade Mexican food, anywhere. This is a small, hole in the wall with the most amazing tamales, but really anything on the menu is superb. Also in California, we always find ourselves needing fuel and food in the San Joaquin Valley. Again, it’s Mexican, but this time at a taco truck called La Jalisciense for al pastor or carne asada.

We also can’t pass by Olive Pit, in Corning, for a jar or two of their famous olives and a muffuletta sandwich. If you’re craving sweets, pie, or a cinnamon roll at Rooster’s in Medford will do the trick. Hungry in Portland? You’ve got to try a few different things from the food trucks on 3rd Ave near Pioneer Square.

Sacramento is another capital city that you will find I-5 drives right through.

Listen to these two podcasts for some road trip tips: Types of Road Trips and Lots More Planning Tips.


While most people on Interstate Five are busily driving as fast as they can between cities, there’s just so much more to the drive. Our recommendation? Slow down, plan an extra day or two, and enjoy the sights along the road. Spend an extra day in Sacramento, stay in a houseboat on Lake Shasta, or just get out and explore something new. Most of all, enjoy the ride!

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