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California, for most intents and purposes can be divided into three: LA, San Francisco, and wine country.

It's strange to think, but LA is the 21st century equivalent of Renaissance Florence. No other city in the world has as much cultural reach and influence as the City of Angels. Just think: you've already seen half the place on TV, and heard about the rest in the lyrics in countless songs. But nothing compares to seeing it for yourself.

Head north up Highway 101, taking what might be the world's most beautiful drive, and seven hours later you'll hit San Francisco. Buy an ice pack for your calves (the topography here is punishing) and prepare to hike the sites, from Chinatown to Market Street, and over to the piers.

By now you'll be ready for a drink. Continue north to hit the Napa and Sonoma Valleys.