Grateful for any input on California trip.(19 Posts)
I've spent the last two months on Tripadvisor, but looking through some threads here, would be grateful for any ideas/tips etc.
DH and I are flying in SF, and were planning to spend a couple of days in Napa before going to Yosemite for a couple of days, then driving through Death Valley to Las Vegas (one overnight - don't know where!). Our DC (22 and 23) are flying into LV to join us for the final 2 weeks of the trip.
Three nights in LV, driving to South rim of Grand Canyon to stay over one night, and then long day driving to Santa Monica where we're booked into a hotel for 3 nights (can't move this one). Then wandering up the coast and spending a final three nights in SF.
Not sure where we should stay in Napa. Need a gym, and an outdoor poor for relaxing would be lovely, although we will have a car and will want to explore a little. (Not too much - loads of driving during the rest of the trip!)
Second thing I'm struggling with, we are staying in Santa Monica for three nights, and we could then either travel up the coast road taking our time, or spend one or two nights in a more central position in LA (West Hollywood?), so that the DC will get more of the 'vibe'. Any thoughts?
Thank you for any thoughts/experiences on any part of this trip. I was last in California when I was 21, so things will have changed.
what time of year is this? (relevant for Death valley, and for crowd levels at other places?)
the 'vibe' of LA can be done in a day - Hollywood/Highland, various film locations, stuff like that. For me (I'm not you) I'd spend more time outside the city. I would also spend one night in Vegas and more at the Canyon/Flagstaff/other natural sights, but again I'm not you.
As PP said, Hollywood etc not far from Santa Monica. We used it as a base for Hollywood, Universal etc. Nice beach and pier, lots of posh shops and about 45 mins drive from Hollywood and then another 10 to Universal Studios (a bit drab IMO but was 2 years ago). We got tickets to LA Dodgers baseball which was great fun and not far from Universal too.
We had 3 nights in Santa Monica and didn't have time to do the galleries or downtown LA at all as we focused on the film and TV side ( really enjoyed Warner Bros).
If you do decide to drive up the coast slowly Santa Barbara is a lovely college town, we didn't much like Pismo Beach (a bit down-market) and Monterey has a fab aquarium with sea otters!
Other top tip from our travel agent was not to hire cars in SF as parking was about $45 a night! Taxi to and from airport for car hire later was quite affordable. If you want to go to Alcatraz you really do need to book ahead.
I also agree with PP about Vegas. Not keen myself so I've been overnight twice and each time one night was enough. (However my sister has been 3 times, each for a week!). I'd want more time at the Canyon.
It's June - DH and I will be arriving mid June and the DC a week later.
It's only on MN that I've read about the crowds at Yosemite - we're staying at the new lodge just outside one of the gates (Rush Creek), so I suspect we'll have a couple of early starts to avoid any crowds.
Interesting that you feel the LA vibe can be covered in a day. I think we might just move from Santa Monica into another hotel for just the one night, and stay on the Pacific Coast Road for two nights.
The DC want to see LV and because they'll be arriving there a day after us, they are keen to stay a couple of nights - they have sky-diving and Mariah Carey planned. I'd probably agree with you though!
We did this last year, with our dc aged 19,17,15. I so envy you. We had an amazing time.
My thoughts; all of us loved Las Vegas. We stayed in a lovely hotel , Vdara, mainly because it has no gambling so smoke free and not hoards of people traipsing through night and say, but it has a walkway to Bellagio and is very central. I would recommend it.
We stayed in Santa Monica for 5 nights, way too long. 3 nights is plenty, and as pp said, incorporate Hollywood into that, you don't need to stay there. It was very disappointing as to how we expected it.
We drove from SF to Santa Monica along the Coast road. We stayed overnight at the Apple Farm in San Luis Obispo, quaint and lovely motel, and you can get to Hearst Castle easily from there. We saw whales frollocking in the sea which was stunning. I would probably not drive all the way on the Big Sur as very very windy, and time consuming. I'd drive part of it.
Definitely book Alcatraz in advance, you cannot turn up on the day and hope to go without tickets.
We have been to Napa and Yosemite but not this trip, that was years ago so no advice there.
can't wait until we can plan a similar holiday.
Thank you Twowrongs and ThroughThickandThin
It's funny - the DC say they want to have some down time, but the reality is that we all have a fairly low boredom threshold. Our best holidays have been where things are planned, and we've used our time doing something specific, rather than having too many 'chill' days.
We'll all be in LV for three nights, so I think I might book another show, and with the skydive and exploring, we'll have enough going on. We're staying at the Bellagio.
We're booked in at Shutters for three nights, and I really don't want to cancel that booking. Having said that, I think you're both probably right, and we could do the 'Hollywood' thing from there.
I wonder if it would be too risky to leave a couple of nights with hotels unbooked, and see what we feel like doing when we're there. Late June though, so might be too busy?
Will look at the Apple Farm and Monterey and Santa Barbara appeal - will the whales be around in late June?
I can't wait!!!
You could have some downtime at the Bellagio by its amazing pools. It's like a city in itself, truly amazing.
I wish we had stayed at Shutters on the Beach, it looks stunning. We stayed at Fairmount Mirimar which was disappointing, although perfectly located for the beach, pier, restaurants, but the hotel left us cold.
I would thoroughly recommend the VIP Universal Studios tour; we loved the behind the scenes look at movie sets which you can only see in detail on this tour; and having priority on the (few) theme park rides. I would also recommend the Segway Tour of Beverly Hills, we Segwayed down Rodeo Drive which was a little surreal. You have to go to Hollywood because, well, you just have to, but be prepared for disappointment.
The Apple Farm is basic but perfectly fine, and very sweet. Otherwise there's The Madonna Inn in the same area which if you don't know about, Google!
it's a long way to go for down time!!
Check on June temperatures in Death Valley (BTW Scotty's Castle is currently inaccessible and may be for some time). Yosemite etc will be crowded but as most of the tourists don't go more than 500 metres from their cars, walking should get you some peace. And if it doesn't...there's still scenery for all!
don't forget the bear issue for Yosemite if you are parked there overnight, and possibly even in the day.
TTAT - Thank you for the Universal VIP and Segway tips - that's just the sort of thing I need. The Apple Farm looks great.
I'll remember the bears - although, tbh special, I'm more worried about the snakes! And hoping that Rush Creek will be built in time.
I don't think snakes are an issue - here's what the park has to say:
I'd go for the drive up the coast between Santa Monica and SF as the scenery is pretty good. Morro Bay is a good stop off point, and Sant Cruz has a great old boardwalk with an historic roller coaster.
We stayed at the Wyndham Grand Desert in Vegas, great apartments but you do need to avoid the timeshare hard sell that they try. It's about a 15 minute walk from the strip but it's quiet and the pools are great.
It will be hot in June in Vegas and in Death Valley, and unless you're really into deserts it does get pretty samey. The Hoover Dam is a good trip and the tour is well worth it.
We were in Yosemite in August and it was very busy in the valley but some of the more easterly parts (Tuolumne) were much quieter - park up and there are some great walks that won't be crowded. And we saw bears in the day time in Sequoia, so do follow the bear advice!
We're definitely doing the drive along the Pacific Coast Road Squirrelled - just not sure whether we'll stay over one or two nights doing it. Nor where, so thanks for the suggestions.
Hope we get to see bears - not too close though!
We stayed at Lompoc and had a long day going up to Santa Cruz. We stopped at Morro Bay and found that quite a pretty town, so you could go Santa Barbara to stay at Morro Bay, then stopover at Carmel / Monterey and then head up to SF. Highway 1 is generally quite a slow road and you will want to pull over and wander around to take in the views and stretch your legs.
Is all your accomodation booked? I think if it was me I would start at the Grand Canyon, then Vegas then California, we did that last year in 3 weeks. Pacific Coast Highway is stunning, I wish we had had longer there!
We stayed in Carmel, which was lovely and Pismo Beach, which we also enjoyed. The only downside was the weather in June / July. Can have a lot of sea mist and murk along the PCH which spoils the view. Was not very warm when we were there which, after a couple of weeks in Arizona, Nevada and Utah, was a bit of a shock to the system!
We have done most of what you have planned over different trips to the SW. PCH is not to be missed - it's a slow drive, partly because you will want to stop frequently to watch the sea. We have friends in Santa Rosa, which is about 60 miles north of SF, it's in the Sonoma Valley which is stunning. Last year we went to the (I think) St. Francis winery and had the most amazing lunch, accompanied by wines from the estate. If you're interested in Snoopy and Peanuts, the Schultz museum is in Santa Rosa and fills in a couple of hours very pleasantly.
We have stayed at a very unposh hotel just outside Death Valley, but I can't remember what it is called. I agree about going to see the Hoover Dam, and we also enjoyed a trip to the Valley of Fire, I think it's called.
Have a great time - we're doing Sonoma, Lake Tahoe and Scottsdale in Arizona in September.
I'd skip Death Valley in June (will much even be open?) and instead drive across Yosemite and down the other side of the Sierra Nevada mountains, stopping somewhere else (maybe kings Canyon NP?). The drive back from GC to LA via the south of Joshua Tree NP has much better scenery too but would mean you'd probably need to factor in a stop there. I'd be tempted to do a stop somewhere even if you take the direct route because even then it's probably 8+ straight hours drive and most of it would be very dull highway driving.
Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks are well worth a visit.
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