if you go north.... and see SF then head east thru sacramento and up to Tahoe / Reno
lake Tahoe and the area around there is really great if you like to get outside, and reno has a lot of the vegas type stuff but smaller and you do not have to go thru death valley to see it.
also in SF there are some great china town places to eat.
if you go to SF by car then take the costal route and stop off in Santa Barbara and Monterey
each has different history and things to see. Monterey is where a big / famous aquarium is and used to be "Cannery Row"
Santa Barbara has one of the old spanish missions and is just an amazing place with some great beaches.
i can go on as i grew up in a town called Stockton, home of the Mudville 9 - at least that's the story