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(15 Posts)
MasterOfTheYoniverse Tue 09-Jul-13 18:21:50

Hello lovely ladies,

Off to California to show kids and DH the sights after a 25 year hiatus!
My head is spinning, so much I want to do that would be totally innapropriate with jet lagged children and no baby sitter.
Am not talking rowdy late nights but things like nappa valley wine tours, a day on Melrose or a yoga retreat along the PCH!

so I have:
-SF 4 days
- 4 days down the PCH
-6 days LA (west side/santa Monica
-4 days Vegas and grand canyon
-3 days Nappa

Would be most grateful if you could advise walking/driving (private) tours, farms, fabulous cliff hanging lunch spots, and any over the top experience that might make it worthwhile for the kids to experience the all american experience?


DalekInAFestiveJumper Tue 09-Jul-13 19:20:34

I live in the SF bay area, but I'm drawing a blank at the moment on everything but the obvious, I'm afraid. Most of the stuff I've discovered of late seems like it would be weird or not so impressive. My big 'You've got to see this!' is Hwy 1, and you've got that covered I see. We love to hop over for a Sunday drive along the coast. We stop at assorted beaches to watch the surfers. In Monterey, the aquarium is nice, as are the whale tours.

Oh! Here's a thought! in SF Grab dinner at one of the piers north of the Bay Bridge. It's been rigged with thousands of LED lights, and does a gorgeous animated light display every night. And on Fisherman's Wharf, the Musee Mecanique is always a hit with the younger set, and fairly amusing for the parents as well!

Muir Woods is lovely, with all the Redwoods.

Oh, and remember a jacket! SF can get chilly, even in summer. Heck, especially in summer!

Ooh, in Napa, the Napa Wine Train is one of my favorite things. Very family friendly.

Hmm, will have a think, and see what else I can come up with.

MasterOfTheYoniverse Tue 09-Jul-13 19:52:49

thanks for your post!
we have the aquarium covered but the whale tour sounds like a plan! Any link? we hang around 2 days in Monterrey.
Can we just turn up for a seafood lunch on the harbour or should we book? ( weekday late july).
Carmel? what's the hype? where to eat? doesn't sound very kid friendly but mine are very tame and would be lovely to see some art galleries. yes? worth it or just do the scenic loop and move on?
Is the Hearst Castle really worth a visit? <<rolling eyes>>

SF: doing the fire truck tour over the GG bridge to sausalito, missed the boat on Alcatraz as no ticks available at short notice (oh well, bothered!)
Please tell me more about where to eat yummy seafood….which pier? or better of off beat? (the wharf seems like a big crowd with small children, no?)
Def doing the Pier 39 experience for a couple of hours and the odd hot dog. Am actually more excited than the kids who have no clue about the scale of things but other than that…prefer quiet.

Chilly weather will be a nice change! 35 celsius in Sweltering humidity here in HK, so that will be a most welcome change!

Muir woods!!!! just looked it up! fab!
Train: check! you have a link?

Thank you so much!

SquinkiesRule Tue 09-Jul-13 20:33:03

We stayed in SF last october, we live closer to Tahoe.
Dd who is now 8 loved Pier 39, she wanted to spend all her time on the double decker carousel.
We love Monterey, we stay in Pacific grove right on the water at lovers point, and walk along the seafront to the aquarium. The pace we stay is so old and cheap and not on any of the booking websites, work of mouth and repeat customers Borgs oceanfront motel If you want a room there, just call once you are in SF and see what they have.

SquinkiesRule Tue 09-Jul-13 20:34:05

sorry for my spelling! the hotel is word of mouth and it's a place not a pace.

DalekInAFestiveJumper Tue 09-Jul-13 21:00:59

For whale watching, I usually go with

I've never had trouble with lunch in Monterey, but I usually go mid-week or in winter, so YMMV.

Carmel is kind of fun for people-watching, IMO, but otherwise not as exciting as billed. The scenic loop, however, is gorgeous.

I liked Hearst Castle, but I thought the price was a bit steep for touring a fancy house. Winchester Mystery House in San Jose is much more entertaining. The lady that built the place was mad as a hatter, and it's a fun tour.

Ooh, for an American classic, the Santa Cruz Boardwalk!

We also usually do Solvang, but I'm not sure a fake Danish city is as exciting to people who can get to the real thing a lot easier than we can. smile

The wharf can be a bit on the crowded side, yeah. But it's fun. I like Pier 39, though as a local I'm not supposed to admit that. There's a ton of crazy attractions near it, too, if you're in the mood for OTT. Ripley's, the Wax Museum, and so on. The Musee Mecanique is there! I usually go for a lobster sandwich instead of a hotdog. Oh man, now I'm hungry. The piers nearest AT&T Park are particularly busy when the Giants are playing. It can be a bit mad-house-y.

For food reservations in SF, we use as it does reviews and is just an awesome resource for finding fun food.

The wine train!

Oh, my go to silly hotel. Very OTT and amusing.

Pitmountainpony Thu 11-Jul-13 04:24:46

Codmother fish n chips truck at the wharfe...amazing seafood.sf.
Nepenthe at big sur for drinks nd Lunch......amazing views.
Deetjens for breakfast or big sur bakery on big sur.
Eselen institute.....if you book ahead you can go in the middle of the night to jacuzzi in the cliff it. Very exclusive so you cannot go during the day unles you stay there.......but once in a lifetime experience. Have a great trip.

MasterOfTheYoniverse Sat 13-Jul-13 05:34:14

Hello & again thank you for all the tips.

Sounds like we should avoid the wharf as its a racing weekend, cant deal with huge crowds!
BUT, since we wont be going to Alcatraz, we can watch the race on the water and we have purchased ticks to do lunch on board one of the official america's cup yachts. Figured it would be a good way to see the bay? Its about $60-$80 per person!!

We'll do the wharf/pier 39 on monday when its quiet. Musee mecanique sounds lovely as well as the Hyde pier.

Also was thinking about brunch and a stroll through vintage shops around Ashbury/Haight? friends recommend lunch at chachacha? OK with 5 & 9 year old? is it worth booking
or would you go up Nob Hil/alamo park and walk around to see the pretty house and lunch/shop on Fillimore. Very different athmosphere I guess?

Squikie thanks for the recomendation, looks lovely!

Dale thanks for all the links. We actually have friends in san Jose, so might do the mystery house. Santa cruz broadwalk sound fun on the way down to Monterrey. Had not even thought about booking restaurants, will go on open table.
We want to do a couple of fairly fancy/established tables (Tadich for instance in SF & then one in Nappa) but we'll have kids in tow. They are well behaved and used to sitting properly with adults. Not sure about etiquette in American restaurants? Are kids usually welcome or is that encroaching on someone else's kids free time???

We'll definitely stop at Nepenthe for lunch.
Am so gutted I did not hear about the Esalen institute before…..there's actually a great family workshop we could have done but all full now and cant see us waking up the kids for the middle of the night bath!!
Next time!

claraschu Sat 13-Jul-13 06:01:58

We loved the Exploratorium in SF- best science museum ever. It's a vast cavernous space, packed with hands on activities for kids.

claraschu Sat 13-Jul-13 06:07:31

You can take your kids to any restaurant you want.We have never felt unwelcome anywhere.

JustinBsMum Thu 18-Jul-13 20:48:13

As you drive down the coast there are sea otters at Morro Bay, seals at San Luis Pier and dune buggies to hire at Pismo Beach. There are acres of dunes though it might work out quite expensive for a family. Morro Bay has lots of restaurants. It is west of San Luis Obispo which is a nice university town with lots of restaurants and good shops and not too big so easy to get to off the Highway.
Morro Bay is about 30 mins off Highway 1/101, south of there is Montana d'Oro, which has a lovely cliff walk if you drive to the end of the track where the tourist guide place is. Along and back takes an hour or so.
You have to go back onto the highway to get to San Luis Pier (there is a military area between the two) but it is very pretty, again it is a bit of a drive off the Highway. San Luis Pier is at the north end of Avila Beach Drive from what I can see on google maps. Pismo beach is 8 miles long so worth seeing and kids love the dune driving. Perhaps you would have to phone and book at this time off year.

JustinBsMum Thu 18-Jul-13 20:52:34

Pre -book the buggies, I mean.
There are many hotels, apartments etc to rent all along Avila, Oceano, Pismo beaches if you haven't already done that. Pismo is considered a bit busy ( but probably isnt' by British beach standards).

MasterOfTheYoniverse Fri 19-Jul-13 00:21:37

Thank you all for the tips.
All set & Flying out in a few hours!
Kids barely slept which means they will probably sleep through a good chunk of the flight! Hopefully!

Pitmountainpony Wed 24-Jul-13 17:55:04

Have a wonderful trip... We head up that way in ten days time so we will be taking some tips from here too..thanks JustinB...the cliff walk sounds lovely.

AmericasTorturedBrow Thu 25-Jul-13 07:52:53

I live in LA (SantaMonica/Westside) and have 2 small DC, lots of tips for you if you want them (places to go with children, restaurants, which beaches are best, and could give you numbers of a few babysitters if you want!)

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