The usual question is ... what are you interested in seeing? "Worthwhile" is such a personal choice.
In winter we watch for migrating birds along the Sacramento Valley, but I'm guessing that you'll be making this drive soon.
Old Sacramento is popular with tourists & locals, and the Railroad Museum is pretty good. Strolling around the grounds of the state capital is a nice break.
Thanks for the info!
I would say the must see stop on that route is Old Sacramento. Maybe you could have lunch / brunch on the Delta King.
" But I think crossing over at Hwy 4 in Stockton is a bit faster." It is a much faster route.
I will preface this comment by saying I hate I-5. I would still suggest that without a pressing need to stop some where on 99 between Lodi and Bakersfield I would stay on that route and cross over to 99 somewhat closer to Bakersfield. A little map checking indicates it is probably a shorter trip in miles to cross over in the Stockton (yes 4 should be faster) or Lodi areas but having some familiarity with both routes I think time wise sticking to I-5 should be faster.
Those who might know better should probably comment. And yes 99 is a lot faster now then when I first started using it circa 1955 and no I was not driving then.
You might as well switch to 99 in Sacramento, rather than farther south in Lodi or Stockton if you're set on taking 99 the rest of the way. Old Sacramento would be a good break in the drive from Red Bluff.
We've driven both routes MANY times over the past 40-some years (most recently, just last weekend). Hwy 99 has segments of road construction and rough pavement that can be irksome. I-5 is much better road and a little faster if you want to get to Bakersfield in a hurry. You can cross over from I-5 to 99 at Lerdo Highway (a few miles south of Kettleman City) or on Hwy 58 at Buttonwillow. There's an excellent restaurant, Willow Ranch, at the Buttonwillow exit on I-5.Edited: 14 July 2013, 00:02
I'm sticking with my original suggestion of Hwy 4. The section of Hwy 99 between Sacramento and Stockton is loaded with on ramps & off ramps. I just don't like it. Then the Original Poster can continue to Bakersfield on Hwy 99 as desired.
Google Maps suggests that I-5 to Hwy 4 to Hwy 99 is 4 minutes slower than I-5 to Hwy 204 (very near Bakersfield.)
And yes, Hwy 99 is much much nicer & faster without the traffic lights it used to have!
I lost a message that was probably overly long.
In my experience Google Maps bases it travel times on traveling at the speed limit and I think 99 would have more places that will not be the case. I would suggest that 4 minutes is probably an underestimate of the time saved on I-5. It will still be a long trip and up to an hour or even more is probably worth the advantage of going through real towns to stop in and avoiding the long boring stretches of I-5 south of Tracy. It is simply not the route I would take.
I particularly miss the stoplights in Livingston (I think that is where they were) that lasted long past when they were gone elsewhere on 99. Are there still long parts south of Modesto where it is no longer a freeway and was in fact a limited access highway. It has been at least 10 years since I have driven it there.
Indeed, Google maps bases its time estimates on driving the speed limit. Due to the (rough) condition of parts of 99, that estimate is probably fairly accurate. But in the REAL world, anyone driving the 70 mph limit on I-5 will be passed by everyone, including some of the truckers. If you don't have your cruise control set somewhere close to 80 mph, you'd better stick solely to the "slow lane."