Please can I have your opinions on this California itinerary?(78 Posts)
I’m planning a 3 week trip to California next August with my DH and 3 DC (they’ll be 16,14 and 11 at the time of departure).
I have loosely put together the following itinerary, please could people in the know tell me if it seems good, stupid, whatever!
Fly to San Francisco, 3 nights here.
Drive to Monterey, 3 nights here.
Drive to LA, 3 nights here.
Drive to San Diego, 3 nights here.
Drive to Las Vegas, 3 nights here.
Drive to Bakersfield, 3 nights here.
Drive to Modesto (as a base for Yosemite), 3 nights here, then drive to San Francisco for (night) flight home.
I only chose Bakersfield because it seems like a good place to drive to, but I am happy to scrap this, it’s purely a stop for ease, not sightseeing.
I am also not bothered about the ‘3 nights everywhere’ rule, it just worked out handy that way.
We won’t be doing Disney, so don’t need to work this into the plan.
Honest opinions please, I don’t mind being told it’s a foolish plan!
I should add, we’re very used to spending long times in the car, so long drives won’t be a problem, as long as they’re pretty!
I am very unsure about Bakersfield - and having looked at Wikipedia I am even more sure I wouldn't stay 3 nights there. The only thing I knew about was that its police have the highest rate of killing civilians in the US (admittedly if you are not black this shouldn't really be a concern). I don't think its really somewhere to stop.
Okay - personally I wouldn't spend 3 nights in Monterey but spend at least one of those nights on highway 1 further down the coast. I've done SF to LA with one in between stop, but taking longer along the coast would be better.
I would consider spliting the drive to Las Vegas too, maybe at Palm Springs? We liked it the one time we stopped there.
Personally I might drive via Nevada to Yosemite and go in via the back and Mono Lake.
Oh and Modesto is too far away for Yosemite, lots of places to stay much closer. The roads will be busy and you would just psend days being stuck in traffic jams.
Bakersfield is a NO! It's pitsville and unbearably hot in August. California is SO wonderful. Vegas and Bakersfield are a total waste of time.
Go to Santa Barbara/Ojai... Ventura Beaches... the beaches of L.A. (Manhattan, Redondo) then drive along Palos Verdes (where I'm from) and have drinks at Terrania. Go to Disneyland in Anaheim on the way to San Diego!
I would ditch Bakersfield. We went to California 2 years ago, landed in San Francisco and stayed there for 3 nights. We went to Monterrey - not sure I'd spend 3 nights there though, went whale watching and it was amazing. We did spend 4 nights in Santa Barbara - loved it. Lots to do, such a pretty town, I'd definitely make time for it in your itinerary.
Terrannea sorry (spelling)
Southern California is awesome. Don't underestimate it.
You'd be mental to miss out on our beaches! Bakersfield over Manhattan and Redondo Beach? That's just silly!
We did a similar trip this summer, without the Bakersfield/Modesto leg, we did Anaheim instead.
San Diego to Las Vegas is going to be long drive, I'd consider breaking that up. We did Anaheim to kingman (5 hours) then used Kingman as a base to visit the Grand Canyon. We spent two nights there then drove to Las Vegas (4hrs).
Bakersfield?! :-). It's a gas stop at best.
You are allocating same amount of time to small little towns as you are to huge cities. Is that on purpose?
I'd do 1/2 day in Monterrey and spend the night in Santa Barbara. Leisure morning breakfast, then on to La.
Give yourself another day in Vegas and head to Grand Canyon. There's helicopter and flyover tours.
Yosemite is incredible. If you love nature and want a break from all the cities, I'd spend 3 full days here at least.
Personally, unless you're heavily into gambling and casinos, I wouldn't spend more than 1 day / 1 night in Vegas directly.
It will be an oven.
Oh and Bakersfield? Also an oven.
Yes to what pp are saying about Vegas too. It was hellish hot, we stayed for three nights, two would have been enough. We went to see the cirque show Love, based on Beatles music, which was just amazing and pretty much made the trip to Vegas, but other than that there wasn't a lot we wanted to do other than gawp at the weird and wonderful architecture.
After I’d written my post I actually researched Bakersfield, and I agree with you all, I think I was thinking of somewhere else, is there another famous Bakersfield in the US?!
I am not bothered about the nights spent in a place, it just literally worked out that we had 7 places which divided up into 21 perfectly.
I am getting so confused with this holiday, there’s too much we want to see and I’m getting frazzled trying to fit it in!
Thank you for all your help, I’m trying to take it all in, I promise!
Las Vegas is just on the itinerary so that we can drive up the strip at night, really not bothered about spending any time in the actual town, we do want to fit in the Grand Canyon though.
Is the heat in the hot places dry heat or humid heat? I can cope with dry heat, but humidity kills me.
It's dry heat, but it's so freaking hot, it was 43 degrees in Vegas. Im used to Florida and the humidity there, Vegas made me come close to throwing up from the heat.
Vegas heat in August is very hard going but ok. I did a similar road trip last August with my daughter (didn't make SF sadly so looking to go back next year) one of my favourite places was Newport Beach/Balboa Pier amazing seeing all the Dolphins and Whales chasing our boat.
1 night monterrey and do 2 nights santa barbara instead
Right, I’ve made a few changes, what do you think now? I’ve left off number of nights spent there in the hopes you lovely people might offer some advice.
Fly to San Francisco.
Things we want to do there - Alcatraz, Winchester House, a day in San Francisco itself.
Hotel at Santa Barbara after an early start from San Francisco and some time spent at Monterey.
Hotel at LA.
Things we want to do there - Hollywood sign, general mooch round LA.
Hotel at San Diego.
Things we want to do there - San Diego zoo, a look round San Diego. (I will have to bite my tongue to not say ‘Go fuck yourselves San Diego’ )
Hotel at Las Vegas, want to take in Joshua Tree National Park on the way, does this need a night’s stop of its own?
Things we want to in LV, see the strip at night, Grand Canyon.
Is there a good place to stop to take in Death Valley and the Sequoia National Forest before we go to Yosemite?
And finally, Mariposa for our gateway to Yosemite? Or is this still too far out?
Purely based on my experiences of visits some of those places this summer I'd say-
Alcatraz is fascinating, but even then a half rather than whole day. Book the first tour of the morning (you can book the tours three months on advance and they do sell out, so book as soon as you can) with the jet lag you'll easily be up and ready to go by then. Then you can come back and have lunch on the mainland (there's nowhere to eat on Alcatraz island) and do fishermans wharf in the afternoon.
When people talk about LA traffic being awful it's not a joke. Whatever driving time your sat nav gives you, triple it. While in LA we did the Warner studios back stage tour, its was excellent, one of the highlights of our trip. It really is a true backstage tour, I got to sit in the gazebo from the Gilmore Girls in the middle of Stars Hollow. They also have props from superhero and Harry Potter on display, all the batmobiles and you get to walk around a working soundstage.
I'll be honest, I found San Diego city quite sketchy, far more so then San Francisco which I'd been warned about. It has a very large homeless population, probably because of the very pleasant year round climate. The zoo was great, and I enjoyed Balboa park but the rest I wouldn't do again.
We didn't do the helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon due to my DD having a huge phobia of heights, so instead stopped off and visited the south rim (she still didn't like the drop, but she would have been hysterical in a helicopter). We walked about four miles round the rim which was surprisingly pleasant. We then made use of the free bus back to the car park, saw some wildlife along the way and watched a film in the visitors centre. Although my choice without the phobic child would have been a helicopter trip in retrospect I'm glad we did it the way we did.
Sorry, addition to my above post. The Las Vegas strip at night isn't that amazing, are you thinking of Freedmont street with the lit up overhead canopy? That's actually quite a long way from the strip. Driving in Las Vegas is awful too, while walking the strip is hot even at night, and you get hassled a bit by people wanting to sell you stuff and beggars. I'm making it sound awful, it's not, but it's not something I'd drive miles just to see either. I didn't hate Las Vegas at all, and would go back just for the shows (which are amazing but expensive), but other than the shows unless you're into gamble and/or clubbing there's a limited amount to actually do, especially with under 21s in tow.
Sequoia - look at Visalia - still a good 1 hour + drive in but closest town and is nice.
Imo Modesto is too far from Yosemite village to do Yosemite each day - you will prob only drive in for one day. We stayed Yosemite West (near Glacier pt road) 20 mins from the valley.
It is difficult to do coast- Monteray & Santa Barbara and also the mountains - Yosemite and Sequioa - we picked mountains.
Vegas x 3 - flew to SFO for £30 each
San Fran x 2 picked up car left late afternoon drove to central valley overnight in Modesto
Yosemite West x3
Visalia x 2
LA Sherman oaks airb&b house with pool x 3- for Getty, Santa Monica, Hollywood
Newport Beach x 2
Las Vegas x 1
We decided San Diego was too far - did all our beach stuff in La. But we have driven Big Sur before and been to SF a lot and been to San Diego . Been to Grand Canyon and monument valley a few times before too. Decided it was too far west to do this time.
Vegas surprised us - have been a few times pre dc - the dc loved it and lots to do- good place to get over jet lag - daytime casinos, pinball museum, gameworks. We stayed in a non casino hotel so there was a nice pool scene.
We drove from Newport Beach to Vegas in a day - it was okay - about 5 hrs our longest drive of our trip and interesting to drive through the desert.
LA is not a mooch about city- it takes ages to get anywhere- you will need a plan!
Don't go to Death Valley in August. It will be unbearably hot.
We've stayed in Evergreen Inn and Suites just outside Yosemite. It was lovely and would recommend, but more importantly anywhere you stay in that area is close enough to Yosemite Valley to travel in each day.
That's an awful lot of driving to pack in, probably too much in even three weeks. CA needs to be savoured and seven different destinations is I would argue too much to cram in. I would say less is more here. Kids could also get fed up with repacking and the long drives in the car every few days.
Forget Bakersfield; its the arse end of nowhere!. It is in the Central Valley and its bloody hot there in August.
Two days in Monterey is more than sufficient time to spend there too.
I've been to Vegas in August; I will never forget seeing the temperature sign that read 97 degrees at only 09.40.
Driving up the Strip at night can also be traffic jam hell too because a lot of people have that self same idea.
Trip 1 (no kids and NFL games to see) SF (3 nights I think), down to Monterey ish 1 night, then to Santa Monica (should have stopped another night on the way), then to San Diego (skipped LA), 3/4 nights in San Diego including the museum and back to Anaheim and crossing the border into Mexico (not sure if I'd do that now), then drove into the desert and stopped at Palm Springs (surprisingly enjoyable), on to Las Vegas 1 night, then on to Grand Canyon 1 night, then back via Las Vegas to San Diego and flights home.
Trip 2 (2 small children) SF airport 1 night, Yosemite 3 nights in a cabin just outside the park, on via Mono lake to Lake Tahoe 1 night (should have spent longer), then onto Lassen for the drive in volcano 2 nights, the across to Eureka 1 night, then down to Mendocino 1 night (would have loved to have stayed longer), then south to wine country for 1 night (wouldn't have bothered), then SF for 3 or 4 nights and home.
Sf - 3 nights
Death Valley for one night
I think 4 nights in vegas
Whatever you do, book Yosemite NOW. It gets booked up WAY in advance. Work the rest round it.
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