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California this September

(17 Posts)
foodiefil Wed 12-Jun-19 10:16:35

Eventually got round to booking our dream holiday to California this September

Manchester to San Francisco

San Francisco to Napa Valley

Napa Valley to Monterey

Monterey to Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara to Santa Monica

Santa Monica to Las Vegas

Las Vegas

Las Vegas to Manchester


1) do we need a visa? It's a bit confusing online 😟

2) what do you think of our itinerary?

3) any other recommendations or tips?

Thanks in advance 😊

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AttilaTheMeerkat Wed 12-Jun-19 11:04:59

All travellers to the USA need an ESTA prior to entry. Only use the official US government website as detailed below:-

There is a lot of driving involved here; I was thinking in particular between Santa Barbara and Santa Monica (that's just under 100 miles distance) and between Santa Monica and LV (just under 300 miles). You do not want to spend a lot of time sitting behind the wheel.

Where are you planning on staying in LV?

thestringcheesemassacre Wed 12-Jun-19 11:12:29

We went last year and did SF-Monterey-Santa Barb and onto LA. IT was plenty of driving and our kids wouldn't of coped with much more. I'd cut out Napa Valley. Not that its not amazing, just that it will add so much driving time and the rest is in a flow down.
Are you flying to LV? You've not given yourself much time in LA?

foodiefil Wed 12-Jun-19 11:17:23

Thanks for the visa advice - will look now.

Staying at the Excalibur in LV.

Haven't heard great things about LA so wasn't terribly fussed about spending much time there - do you think it's worth spending longer there?

Understand what you're saying about Napa 😔 it's one of the places I was looking forward to most though 😬

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aimingfor2019 Wed 12-Jun-19 11:17:38

I'd also cut out Napa Valley and do an extra day in Monterey. It's really not the sort of place you can take in with 2 part days.

In my opinion you need min 2 days there; one for the town and aquarium, then another for a whale watching tour (very worth it) and maybe an afternoon in Carmel driving home via 17 Mile Drive.

foodiefil Wed 12-Jun-19 11:17:45

Had planned to drive to LV

OP’s posts: |
aimingfor2019 Wed 12-Jun-19 11:22:57

Also I'd spend more time in Santa Monica/LA than Santa Barbara.
We did stayed in Pismo Beach for a couple of nights and did Santa Barbara has a day trip. It was nice but we saw everything we wanted to see in the space of half a day (might have missed something though).

foodiefil Wed 12-Jun-19 11:23:59

Good advice @aimingfor2019

Might be worth skipping Santa Barbara and making that two days in Monterey and 3 in LA?

God I'm glad I asked 🙈

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thestringcheesemassacre Wed 12-Jun-19 11:25:04

We enjoyed LA although I take your point about it. We stayed in Santa Monica and spent some time there on the beach and up in Venice Beach. We also did a walk up to Griffith Observatory and down into Hollywood, etc. Bev Hills etc.

I just think with your holiday you need time to wander and relax.

So jealous though, would love to go again and again

foodiefil Wed 12-Jun-19 11:27:03

I think I'll enjoy LA actually! I want to go to Paramount studios and do naff things like drive to stars houses and go to movie locations.

OP’s posts: |
thestringcheesemassacre Wed 12-Jun-19 11:29:08

Also if you go to Monterey you must go whale watching. It's a brilliant thing to do and you a practically guaranteed to see them.

aimingfor2019 Wed 12-Jun-19 11:31:59

Worth mentioning I'm an outdoorsy/nature/animal person so maybe bias towards Monterey.

If you're looking to break up the drive from Monterey to LA then Santa Barbara or Pismo Beach is worth a night, but on a tight schedule not really worth more.

We did 4 days in LA; 1 day Malibu, Santa Monica & Venice areas, 1 day and then Getty and Hollywood, then 2 days by the pool chilling before we flew home.
If you're a city person you could kill a lot more time in LA but 2days in the city was enough for me. We booked to say in Malibu but after 1 night in the worlds most horrific airB&B we moved to a hotel in Huntington Beach (OC sort of area).

zinrepus Wed 12-Jun-19 11:42:18

Be aware that spending time in LA will mean more driving. Going anywhere usually takes an hour plus because traffic is a nightmare. It's nice to see the Hollywood sign and the LaBrea tarpits are cool, but many of the LA Things To Do are pretty scummy (walk of stars, etc). If you want to do studio tours or parks, that's fine, but you may burn through a lot of cash.

I grew up near San Francisco and would encourage an extra day in Oakland or Berkeley over multiple days in LA. My husband has never been there yet because I would not spend multiple days there if I can help it. Food quality is more consistently good at a (more) reasonable price point in the north than the south.

I agree one day in Santa Barbara should be fine.

2 days in Monterey would be lovely and Carmel is fab (and has some wineries if you want to get that experience without visiting Napa).

That said, if you do go, spend some time in Napa and some in Sonoma on wine country day. Their cultures are slightly different and Sonoma is a little more down to earth.

AttilaTheMeerkat Wed 12-Jun-19 13:24:16

Would suggest you book your tickets for Paramount studios in advance. Places are limited (IIRC there are only 7 places on each tour slot).

Do not bother with the star homes tours; all you will see are gates and manicured lawns.

foodiefil Wed 12-Jun-19 14:11:11

Thanks @zinrepus I wanted to go to Berkeley for Chez Panisse actually. You book one month in advance so hopefully we'll get in.

What else is there to do in LA? Thank you everyone - I'm taking note of all your advice

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BubblesBuddy Wed 12-Jun-19 19:14:47

Get the Lonely Planet guide to LA. There are some gems there but people only mention the rubbish!

We drove along Mulholland Drive, did Paramount studios, drive around Bel Air and into Laurel Canyon. Spent time in Santa Monica, had a look at Rodeo Drive (people watching) and walked around that area. Went to the Max Factor factory museum of make up and costume. There is a Marilyn Monroe dress there. Definitely go to The Getty Centre for the views and the building - it’s fantastic. We also went to the Getty Villa at Malibu and onto the beach! Venice beach is worth a detour and Zuma beach. You can also drive up the canyons such as Topanga. In addition, don’t overlook Pasadena. The Huntington Gallery and Gardens are great. Just avoid the tourist crap and it’s great!

BubblesBuddy Wed 12-Jun-19 19:16:13

Personally I’d have down time in Carmel. It’s just lovely. LV will be ultra hot and it’s grubby and grim. I’d spend less time there!

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