Author Topic: Travel Tips for California  (Read 10510 times)

nnls

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Travel Tips for California
« on: February 20, 2016, 01:16:44 AM »
Hi Everyone,

I will be heading to the USA in mid May, and am planning on spending eight days in California. So far I don't have any real plans, I will be travelling with a friend and we fly in and out of LA (she then heads home and I go on to New York for a wedding)

We had been thinking of hiring a car and travelling up the pacific coast highway to San Fran and maybe to Napa Valley and then head back to LA via Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. Though that may be too much in one trip.  And we haven't decided on anything specific so open to suggestions.

We are travelling from Australia so wont have any camping equipment or anything but could maybe hire? or buy cheap? or just pay a bit more to stay in hotels/hostel.

My friend isn't very moustachian but if I come up with ideas I think she would be happy to go with them. I was just hoping for maybe some suggestions on good value car hire or if there is a better way to get between places, and any tips for accommodation or sightseeing or must sees. 


Thanks in advance


Think

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Re: Travel Tips for California
« Reply #1 on: February 20, 2016, 07:49:48 AM »
You will have time to drive up the Pch. But you probably need to pick between Napa and Yosemite.  Napa and Sonoma are fairly pricey and hard to find deals.  That may be reason enough to go with Yosemite.

Whatever you do make sure you drive through big sur and pebble beach!  There are some great spots for lunch in big sur like nepenthe.  You can save money by enjoying the view at lunch without staying at a pricey hotel.  Also recommend stopping in Carmel by the sea.   

Think

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Re: Travel Tips for California
« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2016, 07:50:35 AM »
For car hire I assume you mean a rental car?  If so just book using kayak.com.  It's no big deal. 

Capsu78

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Re: Travel Tips for California
« Reply #3 on: February 20, 2016, 01:55:58 PM »
PCH is worth driving but not the entire distance from LA to SF..."bend time" a bit by maybe driving to Santa Barbara,cut over to the Freeway then cut back over in time to see Big Sur, Monterey, 17 Mile Drive etc.  Getting stuck behind an truck on the PCH makes it a much less interesting day.
SF to Yosemite is worth it, then maybe a stop in the Solvang winery area on the way back to LA...watch the movie Sideways for a taste of the region.  In my mind, natural beauty of Yosemite (Donald) trumps swirling wine with the snobs in Napa at a more reasonable cost.

nnls

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Re: Travel Tips for California
« Reply #4 on: February 20, 2016, 03:01:06 PM »
Thanks, everyone.

llorona

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Re: Travel Tips for California
« Reply #5 on: February 20, 2016, 04:13:19 PM »
Unless you are really into wine and surrounding yourself with elitists, I would strongly recommend Yosemite over Napa.

There are a variety of options for accommodations at Yosemite. For instance, they have tent cabins so you wouldn't have to purchase full camping equipment although you'd probably need to get a sleeping bag (http://www.yosemitepark.com/curry-village-cabins.aspx). You can also rent private condos and homes. Although the nightly cost of these accommodations is pricier than camping or staying in a tent cabin, you might actually come out even because they have cooking facilities.


nnls

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Re: Travel Tips for California
« Reply #6 on: February 20, 2016, 04:44:16 PM »
Unless you are really into wine and surrounding yourself with elitists, I would strongly recommend Yosemite over Napa.

There are a variety of options for accommodations at Yosemite. For instance, they have tent cabins so you wouldn't have to purchase full camping equipment although you'd probably need to get a sleeping bag (http://www.yosemitepark.com/curry-village-cabins.aspx). You can also rent private condos and homes. Although the nightly cost of these accommodations is pricier than camping or staying in a tent cabin, you might actually come out even because they have cooking facilities.

thanks :) yes I think we will give Napa a miss. We have plenty of decent wine in Western Australia so I am sure we will be fine

nnls

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Re: Travel Tips for California
« Reply #7 on: February 21, 2016, 12:43:56 AM »
For car hire I assume you mean a rental car?  If so just book using kayak.com.  It's no big deal.

Thanks Think, wasn't sure if there was a website for cheaper deals, I hadn't heard of Kayak

deborah

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Re: Travel Tips for California
« Reply #8 on: February 21, 2016, 01:50:49 AM »
In late September I flew into LA, and spent 7 days there, and then 12 days going around the canyons - see http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/circuit-from-los-angeles/ if you PM me I will give you more information. As you are used to the sorts of distances we drive in Australia (esp as you are in WA and work in the Pilbura) you may want to do something similar. I ended up going to quite a few parks - see http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/off-topic/for-those-that-like-solo-travel-a-perspective/msg884652/#msg884652

mm1970

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Re: Travel Tips for California
« Reply #9 on: February 21, 2016, 10:12:32 AM »
I live in Santa Barbara.

For the PCH - I would recommend taking PCH from LA to  Santa Barbara - it's prettier than the 101 Freeway.

Then, the PCH to San Francisco - well, you can't really take it all the way.  So in this case, take the 101 until you get to San Luis Obispo, then take the 1.  Note: from SB to Bay Area via the Hwy 1, it's at least 7.5 hours.  Long driving day.   You could cut over at Monterey, back to the 101, shorten it a bit.

When in Yosemite, we have stayed outside the park at a hotel.  (In Mariposa), or inside the park in a duplex.  Yosemite's scenic wonders. 

https://www.scenicwonders.com/?gclid=CjwKEAiA3aW2BRCD_cOo5oCFuUMSJADiIMILbUAj27rRw2r1_KSLZ865Z_O7LUySyBExc8fH-MfbBxoCgY7w_wcB

(It was winter, we have two kids).
« Last Edit: February 22, 2016, 02:15:41 PM by mm1970 »

nnls

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Re: Travel Tips for California
« Reply #10 on: February 21, 2016, 03:17:10 PM »
In late September I flew into LA, and spent 7 days there, and then 12 days going around the canyons - see http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/circuit-from-los-angeles/ if you PM me I will give you more information. As you are used to the sorts of distances we drive in Australia (esp as you are in WA and work in the Pilbura) you may want to do something similar. I ended up going to quite a few parks - see http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/off-topic/for-those-that-like-solo-travel-a-perspective/msg884652/#msg884652

Thanks Deborah I will check out those links and send you a PM

I live in Santa Barbara.

For the PCH - I would recommend taking PCH from LA to  Santa Barbara - it's prettier than the 101 Freeway.

Then, the PCH to San Francisco - well, you can't really take it all the way.  So in this case, take the 101 until you get to San Luis Obispo, then take the 101.  Note: from SB to Bay Area via the Hwy 1, it's at least 7.5 hours.  Long driving day.   You could cut over at Monterey, back to the 101, shorten it a bit.

When in Yosemite, we have stayed outside the park at a hotel.  (In Mariposa), or inside the park in a duplex.  Yosemite's scenic wonders. 

https://www.scenicwonders.com/?gclid=CjwKEAiA3aW2BRCD_cOo5oCFuUMSJADiIMILbUAj27rRw2r1_KSLZ865Z_O7LUySyBExc8fH-MfbBxoCgY7w_wcB

(It was winter, we have two kids).

a 7.5 hour drive doesnt bother my friend and I too much, we are used to long drives but we may take a day or two to do the PCH so we can stop a long the way and enjoy the scenery and look out points.

What do you mean about "cant really take it the whole way"? is some of it closed off along the coast.

Thanks for the accommodation link

jengod

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Re: Travel Tips for California
« Reply #11 on: February 21, 2016, 06:37:55 PM »
If I may add a curmudgeon's voice to the mix: California is a HUGE state. I would recommend picking either Northern or Southern California and sticking to one. If you are there for about a week, you will spend a great deal of your time traveling from area to another.

I actually live in SoCal, but if I had to choose one destination for an international visitor visitor, I'd pick NorCal. It's just more scenic. SoCal has its appeal and I love it dearly, but it is actually quite a bit like Australia in climate and foliage: gray-green scrub for miles in every direction.

Also, California is a traffic clogged mess, and you could very well end up spending four hours at a stretch stuck in one small traffic jam or another.

NorCal attractions: Big Sur, Santa Cruz Boardwalk, Monterey Aquarium, a "big trees" park (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_giant_sequoia_groves), the zillions of attractions of San Francisco, walking across the Golden Gate bridge, eating in or driving around Santa Rosa/Marin/Napa/Petaluma/Sebastopol (this would be a beautiful eating tour all by itself if you are a foodie family), some historic Gold Rush stuff if you have kids, downtown Berkeley, Yosemite, etc.

Good luck!

deborah

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Re: Travel Tips for California
« Reply #12 on: February 21, 2016, 07:12:11 PM »
OP lives in Western Australia - the second biggest state on earth. California would fit into it more than 6 times. It has a population of 2.6million people.

nnls

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Re: Travel Tips for California
« Reply #13 on: February 21, 2016, 07:34:34 PM »
If I may add a curmudgeon's voice to the mix: California is a HUGE state. I would recommend picking either Northern or Southern California and sticking to one. If you are there for about a week, you will spend a great deal of your time traveling from area to another.

I actually live in SoCal, but if I had to choose one destination for an international visitor visitor, I'd pick NorCal. It's just more scenic. SoCal has its appeal and I love it dearly, but it is actually quite a bit like Australia in climate and foliage: gray-green scrub for miles in every direction.

Also, California is a traffic clogged mess, and you could very well end up spending four hours at a stretch stuck in one small traffic jam or another.

NorCal attractions: Big Sur, Santa Cruz Boardwalk, Monterey Aquarium, a "big trees" park (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_giant_sequoia_groves), the zillions of attractions of San Francisco, walking across the Golden Gate bridge, eating in or driving around Santa Rosa/Marin/Napa/Petaluma/Sebastopol (this would be a beautiful eating tour all by itself if you are a foodie family), some historic Gold Rush stuff if you have kids, downtown Berkeley, Yosemite, etc.

Good luck!

thanks for the feedback Jengod. We probably wont prebook too much so if the long drives get too much we can stop or if we find it too hectic we will stay in a place a bit longer and miss some things. 

But as Deborah said I am from Western Australia, so I am used to long drives, and will have a friend to share the driving with. But we do want time to enjoy things :)

Rylito

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Re: Travel Tips for California
« Reply #14 on: February 21, 2016, 11:44:43 PM »
If you decide to focus on N. Cal, don't miss driving over the Golden Gate bridge and checking out Muir Woods.  Be sure to plan that as your first stop of the day and get there right as they open, as the parking lot fills up very quickly (I think on weekends you are required to take a shuttle).  The nearby Point Reyes National Seashore is also incredibly beautiful.

Rylito

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Re: Travel Tips for California
« Reply #15 on: February 22, 2016, 12:03:09 AM »
Just thought of one more thing--if you drive up PCH the whole way you may want to stop at Hearst Castle: http://hearstcastle.org/plan-your-trip/


nnls

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Re: Travel Tips for California
« Reply #16 on: February 22, 2016, 12:15:46 AM »
If you decide to focus on N. Cal, don't miss driving over the Golden Gate bridge and checking out Muir Woods.  Be sure to plan that as your first stop of the day and get there right as they open, as the parking lot fills up very quickly (I think on weekends you are required to take a shuttle).  The nearby Point Reyes National Seashore is also incredibly beautiful.

thanks for the tips Rylito.

We are kinda leaning towards just driving all the way up the PCH even if we do get stuck behind a truck, the scenery looks like its just amazing and I have heard there are quite a few places to pull over and enjoy the scenery.

Will add Muir Woods to the list of places we want to go, the problem is once you start researching you realise there are too many places and not enough time. Definitely need to FIRE so i can travel the world and at a decent pace

deborah

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Re: Travel Tips for California
« Reply #17 on: February 22, 2016, 12:25:04 AM »
Chumash Painted Cave is just outside LA on the way to San Francisco.

nnls

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Re: Travel Tips for California
« Reply #18 on: February 22, 2016, 12:27:22 AM »
Chumash Painted Cave is just outside LA on the way to San Francisco.

That's on the list Deborah, I googled that after reading a bit of your blog :)

Thanks again for your help

Rylito

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Re: Travel Tips for California
« Reply #19 on: February 22, 2016, 12:36:25 AM »
PCH is a definite world-class drive.  One thing to keep in mind is that the California coast can sometimes be foggy in spring (May gray and June gloom), which will cut down on your visibility.  If the weather doesn't cooperate, you may want to have a back-up itinerary.

nnls

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Re: Travel Tips for California
« Reply #20 on: February 22, 2016, 01:01:33 AM »
PCH is a definite world-class drive.  One thing to keep in mind is that the California coast can sometimes be foggy in spring (May gray and June gloom), which will cut down on your visibility.  If the weather doesn't cooperate, you may want to have a back-up itinerary.

if the weather doesnt like me, we can just cut back on to the highway and go that way I suppose :)

kiwigirls

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Re: Travel Tips for California
« Reply #21 on: February 22, 2016, 01:42:47 AM »
We did two weeks SF to LA in 2014 (with a side trip to Grass Valley).   

Word of warning I have been to LA twice and its really not up to the hype.  Although Disneyland is worth it if you have never been!  Otherwise 1 day to do the highlights and then head north.  Santa Barbara is lovely - nice beach and great Mission.  Pacific Coastal highway is fantastic - drive all of it (its not that far by NZ/Australian standards) Hearst Castle is worth a look, Monterey is fantastic & do visit the Aquarium. 17 mile drive is OK but just a lot more of the scenery & its a toll road so you have to pay!.  Carmel by the Sea is very cute and worthy of a meal/coffee stop.  San Fran is awesome - three days easy and a day trip to Muir Woods and Sausilito. 

Don't know if you will have time for Yosemite - we left it for another trip as it needs a couple of days.

Did you say you were flying in and out of LA?  It might pay to look into a flight from SF back to LA to save the hassle of driving?  Otherwise I think that its only a days driving on the motorway to get back to LA.

nnls

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Re: Travel Tips for California
« Reply #22 on: February 22, 2016, 01:48:55 AM »
We did two weeks SF to LA in 2014 (with a side trip to Grass Valley).   

Word of warning I have been to LA twice and its really not up to the hype.  Although Disneyland is worth it if you have never been!  Otherwise 1 day to do the highlights and then head north.  Santa Barbara is lovely - nice beach and great Mission.  Pacific Coastal highway is fantastic - drive all of it (its not that far by NZ/Australian standards) Hearst Castle is worth a look, Monterey is fantastic & do visit the Aquarium. 17 mile drive is OK but just a lot more of the scenery & its a toll road so you have to pay!.  Carmel by the Sea is very cute and worthy of a meal/coffee stop.  San Fran is awesome - three days easy and a day trip to Muir Woods and Sausilito. 

Don't know if you will have time for Yosemite - we left it for another trip as it needs a couple of days.

Did you say you were flying in and out of LA?  It might pay to look into a flight from SF back to LA to save the hassle of driving?  Otherwise I think that its only a days driving on the motorway to get back to LA.

Thanks Kiwigirls. The flights are in and out of LA, we had two nights for LA planned just incase there are any jet lag issues (driving on the wrong side of the road exhausted didn't seem like the best idea)  We were hoping to do the drive back via Yosemite. Hopefully we have time

mm1970

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Re: Travel Tips for California
« Reply #23 on: February 22, 2016, 02:21:07 PM »
Quote
What do you mean about "cant really take it the whole way"? is some of it closed off along the coast.

Sorry, I mean that the 1 and the 101 merge for a bit, and it's not all along the Coast...some of it is inland.

So, the 1 splits from the 101 at around Gaviota and goes through Lompoc.  I wouldn't bother with that stretch. 

nnls

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Re: Travel Tips for California
« Reply #24 on: February 22, 2016, 03:01:04 PM »
Quote
What do you mean about "cant really take it the whole way"? is some of it closed off along the coast.

Sorry, I mean that the 1 and the 101 merge for a bit, and it's not all along the Coast...some of it is inland.

So, the 1 splits from the 101 at around Gaviota and goes through Lompoc.  I wouldn't bother with that stretch. 

Thanks, that makes sense

Urchina

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Re: Travel Tips for California
« Reply #25 on: February 22, 2016, 10:15:40 PM »
I also live in the Central Coast area.

Since lots of driving doesn't bother you, I would take Hwy 1 (PCH) for as much as you can. I actually love the section of 1 that goes from Gaviota through Lompoc, because it takes you through Rancho San Julian, which is one of the few remaining large ranchos in the Central Coast. 101 is also lovely here, but I like that stretch of 1 a lot.

Santa Barbara has a classic Mission, but I really love La Purisima mission in Lompoc. It's situated on agricultural land much as it would have been when it was operating, and it's a really cool park.

Hwy 1 is a stunner and well worth the drive, but it is slow and twisty compared to US 101. Hearst Castle is fun, but be sure to make reservations in advance, as they often sell out (http://hearstcastle.org/tour-hearst-castle/tour-tickets-pricing/). In that area, we are particularly fond of Cayucos, a tiny little beach town just north of Morro Bay( a bit south of the castle) and the really epic smoked fish tacos at Ruddell's.

I'd take 2 days for 1, and drive from LA to San Luis Obispo or Cayucos the first day (especially if doing a Hearst Castle tour), then go up to Monterey and visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium in the early afternoon. It is SO cool, and completely worth it.

From there, it's a short couple of hours (or several hours, depending on traffic) up to San Francisco, where you can do lots of San Francisco things. I think Air BnB might be a good resource for staying in SF -- it gets expensive fast.

From there, I'd either explore the Sonoma County coast, or head over to Yosemite for a couple of days. Yosemite is a pretty heavily visited park, so if you're going to go in May you may want to make reservations for a place to stay well beforehand. Then it's a pretty straight shot back down I-5 to LA (five hours between SF and LA on I-5). Or you could take a long day and drive 99w down -- that takes you right through the heart of the Central Valley's agricultural land.

I have not much to say about LA, as I spend little time there, but the pier at Santa Monica is fun, and Honey's Kettle Fried Chicken in Culver City is pretty awesome stuff.

Have a fun trip!

nnls

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Re: Travel Tips for California
« Reply #26 on: February 22, 2016, 10:59:52 PM »
I also live in the Central Coast area.

Since lots of driving doesn't bother you, I would take Hwy 1 (PCH) for as much as you can. I actually love the section of 1 that goes from Gaviota through Lompoc, because it takes you through Rancho San Julian, which is one of the few remaining large ranchos in the Central Coast. 101 is also lovely here, but I like that stretch of 1 a lot.

Santa Barbara has a classic Mission, but I really love La Purisima mission in Lompoc. It's situated on agricultural land much as it would have been when it was operating, and it's a really cool park.

Hwy 1 is a stunner and well worth the drive, but it is slow and twisty compared to US 101. Hearst Castle is fun, but be sure to make reservations in advance, as they often sell out (http://hearstcastle.org/tour-hearst-castle/tour-tickets-pricing/). In that area, we are particularly fond of Cayucos, a tiny little beach town just north of Morro Bay( a bit south of the castle) and the really epic smoked fish tacos at Ruddell's.

I'd take 2 days for 1, and drive from LA to San Luis Obispo or Cayucos the first day (especially if doing a Hearst Castle tour), then go up to Monterey and visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium in the early afternoon. It is SO cool, and completely worth it.

From there, it's a short couple of hours (or several hours, depending on traffic) up to San Francisco, where you can do lots of San Francisco things. I think Air BnB might be a good resource for staying in SF -- it gets expensive fast.

From there, I'd either explore the Sonoma County coast, or head over to Yosemite for a couple of days. Yosemite is a pretty heavily visited park, so if you're going to go in May you may want to make reservations for a place to stay well beforehand. Then it's a pretty straight shot back down I-5 to LA (five hours between SF and LA on I-5). Or you could take a long day and drive 99w down -- that takes you right through the heart of the Central Valley's agricultural land.

I have not much to say about LA, as I spend little time there, but the pier at Santa Monica is fun, and Honey's Kettle Fried Chicken in Culver City is pretty awesome stuff.

Have a fun trip!

Thanks Urchina, would you recommend staying overnight in Cayucos or a bit further up the highway?

Thanks for the food tips, will seek them out as well. If we arent in a hurry on the way back from Yosemite we will take the slower way and enjoy the scenery I think, far nicer drive than a highway

trashmanz

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Re: Travel Tips for California
« Reply #27 on: February 22, 2016, 11:08:49 PM »
If I had to choose between Napa and Yosemite, def Yosemite but I'm not a wine drinker. I don't live far from Napa but I have little reason to go there. I'm more of a beach Forrest or mountain person I think. It's pretty there though in some areas.

deborah

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Re: Travel Tips for California
« Reply #28 on: February 22, 2016, 11:14:34 PM »
Of course, the Getty Villa is in the way out of LA along the Pacific highway - I drove to it on my first day from LA airport and it was nice. You are supposed to pre-book, but it is free except the car park is expensive.

nnls

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Re: Travel Tips for California
« Reply #29 on: February 23, 2016, 05:03:04 AM »
You may also want to consider doing your trip to Yosemite first and do the return down PCH from SF. You'll be on the cost side of the road for better views and easier access to the many turn outs for viewing. The section of PCH from SF to Carmel, and the section from San Simeon/Cambria (cute town and nice walking path along Moonstone Beach) and to LA is very easy  but the section in between is very twisty with many hairpin turns although breath taking scenery but can be very foggy that time of year. There are also some nice Redwood groves a few miles from Santa Cruz at the Henry Cowell state park and Big Basin state park if you want to see big trees.

 You could also consider just a central coast and  southern coast trip too with a trip to San Diego from LA along the coast as well as the Cambria to LA section.

Thanks for the idea of going Yosemite first to come down the PCH on the coast side, I don't think we will have time to also fit in San Diego, maybe next trip!

Adding Getty Villa to the list Deborah

And I am also more of a beach, bush, out doors person as well. But we do like our wine so thought we might check out Napa but after what everyone has said on here we might give it a miss and just buy a nice bottle of something to enjoy on the beach or at night in Yosemite :)

Gerard

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Re: Travel Tips for California
« Reply #30 on: February 23, 2016, 07:46:48 AM »
I think it's fine to give yourself two or three days in LA to start with, especially if it's your first time in the US. Aside from excellent Mexican food and some pretty good museums, LA will also give you that full-on "holy crap I can't believe people live like this" experience that Americans don't realize is a cool/weird thing about America. Go to a sidewalk cafe in Santa Monica and see tables full of Prada-wearing 8-year-olds planning plastic surgery. Go wander around Venice Beach. Take the bus and meet people who think they're movie stars. Go to some stores (especially the 99 cent store) and marvel at what people will buy.

mm1970

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Re: Travel Tips for California
« Reply #31 on: February 23, 2016, 10:40:12 AM »
Quote
I actually love the section of 1 that goes from Gaviota through Lompoc, because it takes you through Rancho San Julian, which is one of the few remaining large ranchos in the Central Coast. 101 is also lovely here, but I like that stretch of 1 a lot.

I guess my kid gets carsick, so I avoid that stretch!  Rancho San Julian has great beef...

If you are a wine drinker, you can easily avoid Napa and hit the central coast.  We have a lot of wineries - from downtown Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez Valley, etc.  And if you opt to stay somewhere mid-way along the Central Coast, you can surely get wine - Paso Robles is about half way if you end up staying in that area.

jengod

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Re: Travel Tips for California
« Reply #32 on: February 23, 2016, 10:56:45 AM »
Of course, the Getty Villa is in the way out of LA along the Pacific highway - I drove to it on my first day from LA airport and it was nice. You are supposed to pre-book, but it is free except the car park is expensive.

http://www.getty.edu/visit/villa/plan/parking.html
http://tickets.getty.edu/shows/villa%20admission/events/3

Parking reservations link is above. It's $15.

It's a nice place to stop and get lunch. Lovely, lovely gardens and fountains.

jengod

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Re: Travel Tips for California
« Reply #33 on: February 23, 2016, 11:14:34 AM »
Chumash Painted Cave is just outside LA on the way to San Francisco.

I've lived here all my life and never heard of this before. Going to take the kids sometime soon. Thank you so much for the tip!

nnls

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Re: Travel Tips for California
« Reply #34 on: March 01, 2016, 12:36:17 AM »
Of course, the Getty Villa is in the way out of LA along the Pacific highway - I drove to it on my first day from LA airport and it was nice. You are supposed to pre-book, but it is free except the car park is expensive.

http://www.getty.edu/visit/villa/plan/parking.html
http://tickets.getty.edu/shows/villa%20admission/events/3

Parking reservations link is above. It's $15.

It's a nice place to stop and get lunch. Lovely, lovely gardens and fountains.
This is a great place to stop on the way in or out of LA. Mid week is less crowded.

Again, to the OP, I would seriously consider doing the coast highway from north to south rather than the other way as it's a spectacular drive and you lose so much of the view going south to north - and your passenger even more so. Remember , we all drive on the "right" side of the road here :-)!

One route I usually suggest to friends who want to do a longer road trip in Calif (assuming they don't want to spend a lot of time in one area) but don't have a lot of time is to head north up Interstate 5/Hwy 99 (a boring drive) to Yosemite then either go west to San Fran and the Napa and Sonoma Wine country or just San Fran, and then head south on Hwy 1 all the way back with stops in Santa Cruz, Monterey and Carmel, Big Sur, etc...

The other route I suggest is to take Hwy 101 north to San Fran and then come back on Hwy one. That way is more scenic than I-5, less driving, and usually much cooler temps and (maybe) still green in May.

That is a good point, may be better to go yosemite first and reverse what we were originally thinking

Mikila

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Re: Travel Tips for California
« Reply #35 on: March 01, 2016, 05:44:19 AM »
You have been given some good information here.  I grew up near Yosemite.  Something I didn't see mentioned is that the coast hwy will be slow going.  It winds through town after town, and consequently the speed limit is frequently low and you stop at lots of red lights.  If you go north by way of the coast, plan on this.  Google maps may give you a better idea of travel time.  Of course if you travel up hwy 99 one-way, it will be only for speed.  Nothing to see there. 

If you think you will go to Yosemite, I recommend searching their website.  Most of the cabins and campgrounds in the park are booked a year + in advance.  If they are indeed all booked, I would recommend searching for accommodations in Groveland, CA.  It is the nearest town, about a .5 hr travel outside the Park.  Beware the tourist traps.  It does have a cute downtown. 

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Catmandew

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Re: Travel Tips for California
« Reply #36 on: March 01, 2016, 07:53:19 AM »
Hi,

I did a very similar trip last year in Mid-May so I am happy and excited to impart some advice unto you.

If you are arriving in Los Angeles, CA and in CA for 8 days. You should consider the following:

- Take Route 1/101 up to Monterey, CA.
    Along the way, I would advise you to stop at Hearst Castle. It is $25 for a tour and I believe a nominal fee to take the shuttle up and explore the grounds. We did the Grand Rooms tour and it was worth it. Very fascinating history and an amazing compound.

Head north, a little past Hearst Castle, and you'll come across a pull-off where you can observe elephant seals. There is a wooden boardwalk/platform and it will allow you to get within 10ft of the seals. When we were there in Mid-May there were a LOT. Very cool and FREE.

Another note worthy stop is the town of Cambria (prior to arriving in Monterey). It is a small village, some restaurants, a winery, and a brewery.

There is no need to go past Monterey on Route 1/101. All the scenic views are between LA and Monterey, CA and there are plenty.

Also, if you are in LA - Check out the Getty Museum. Admission is free but parking is $10 or $15. It is a beautiful art museum and offers some of the best views of the city of LA. Worth a stop.

- San Francisco
- Do the typical stops. Golden Gate Bridge and I would also recommend Coit Tower. :)

- SKIP NAPA VALLEY
- Forget about it. It's pretty and blah blah blah. But it is hard to come by deals and a wine tasting will cost you anywhere from $15-$40. NOT Mustachian. Also - it is a bit out of your way.

- Yosemite Valley
- Just go. Yosemite National Park is beautiful. We only spend a day here (as we were not planning on hiking and were pressed for time.) Do the loop drive, get out, stretch your legs and do the short hiking paths to Bridal Veil Falls, etc. Also - drive up to Glacier Point.

- If you have time: Drive South towards Fresno and then aim to visit King's Canyon and Sequoia National Park (they are next to each other.) Well worth the visit. Then head back to LA. :)

If you want a good and much cheaper wine tour experience - visit the Finger Lakes in New York State. You mention you're flying to New York for a wedding. If you have time and are in rather close proximity - travel to the Finger Lake region and visit the wineries there. There are hundreds of wineries and most of the tastings fall within the $3-$5 range. It is like the Napa of the East. :)

You can google Seneca Wine Trail, Cayuga Wine Trail, Keuka Lake Wine Trail, etc. There are also a fair amount of breweries on the trails too.

If you have further questions, I'd be happy to provide more details or advice.

Happy travels!

nnls

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Re: Travel Tips for California
« Reply #37 on: March 01, 2016, 03:27:00 PM »
You have been given some good information here.  I grew up near Yosemite.  Something I didn't see mentioned is that the coast hwy will be slow going.  It winds through town after town, and consequently the speed limit is frequently low and you stop at lots of red lights.  If you go north by way of the coast, plan on this.  Google maps may give you a better idea of travel time.  Of course if you travel up hwy 99 one-way, it will be only for speed.  Nothing to see there. 

If you think you will go to Yosemite, I recommend searching their website.  Most of the cabins and campgrounds in the park are booked a year + in advance.  If they are indeed all booked, I would recommend searching for accommodations in Groveland, CA.  It is the nearest town, about a .5 hr travel outside the Park.  Beware the tourist traps.  It does have a cute downtown. 

Sent from my XT1526 using Tapatalk

Thanks Mikili, we will look at groveland as I dont think we will be prebooking incase we dont make it

Hi,

I did a very similar trip last year in Mid-May so I am happy and excited to impart some advice unto you.

If you are arriving in Los Angeles, CA and in CA for 8 days. You should consider the following:

- Take Route 1/101 up to Monterey, CA.
    Along the way, I would advise you to stop at Hearst Castle. It is $25 for a tour and I believe a nominal fee to take the shuttle up and explore the grounds. We did the Grand Rooms tour and it was worth it. Very fascinating history and an amazing compound.

Head north, a little past Hearst Castle, and you'll come across a pull-off where you can observe elephant seals. There is a wooden boardwalk/platform and it will allow you to get within 10ft of the seals. When we were there in Mid-May there were a LOT. Very cool and FREE.

Another note worthy stop is the town of Cambria (prior to arriving in Monterey). It is a small village, some restaurants, a winery, and a brewery.

There is no need to go past Monterey on Route 1/101. All the scenic views are between LA and Monterey, CA and there are plenty.

Also, if you are in LA - Check out the Getty Museum. Admission is free but parking is $10 or $15. It is a beautiful art museum and offers some of the best views of the city of LA. Worth a stop.

- San Francisco
- Do the typical stops. Golden Gate Bridge and I would also recommend Coit Tower. :)

- SKIP NAPA VALLEY
- Forget about it. It's pretty and blah blah blah. But it is hard to come by deals and a wine tasting will cost you anywhere from $15-$40. NOT Mustachian. Also - it is a bit out of your way.

- Yosemite Valley
- Just go. Yosemite National Park is beautiful. We only spend a day here (as we were not planning on hiking and were pressed for time.) Do the loop drive, get out, stretch your legs and do the short hiking paths to Bridal Veil Falls, etc. Also - drive up to Glacier Point.

- If you have time: Drive South towards Fresno and then aim to visit King's Canyon and Sequoia National Park (they are next to each other.) Well worth the visit. Then head back to LA. :)

If you want a good and much cheaper wine tour experience - visit the Finger Lakes in New York State. You mention you're flying to New York for a wedding. If you have time and are in rather close proximity - travel to the Finger Lake region and visit the wineries there. There are hundreds of wineries and most of the tastings fall within the $3-$5 range. It is like the Napa of the East. :)

You can google Seneca Wine Trail, Cayuga Wine Trail, Keuka Lake Wine Trail, etc. There are also a fair amount of breweries on the trails too.

If you have further questions, I'd be happy to provide more details or advice.

Happy travels!

Thanks for the suggestions about places to stop, and where the elephant seals are.

I think we will skip Napa Valley, everyone seems to think its not worth it :)


I have a list of everyone suggestions that I have been forwarding on to my mate.

Jana

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Re: Travel Tips for California
« Reply #38 on: March 01, 2016, 04:40:41 PM »
Thumbs up for The Elephant Seals by Hearst Castle and Northern CA
LA isn't that great-just a big city but if you are there, The Getty Museum is amazing if you like museums.
Laguna and Newport Beach are pretty.
If you make it as far as San Luis Obispo-there's some amazing beach hiking cliffs at Los Osos-The land is owned by PG and E.

Cheers to a lovely vacation!

JoJo

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Re: Travel Tips for California
« Reply #39 on: March 01, 2016, 07:02:00 PM »
A few more tips on the 101 drive.

* So happy someone mentioned the elephant seals, we stop there every time we do the drive.  Not to be missed.
* If you will be around Hearst Castle overnight, the cheapest place to stay on the entire pacific coast is in the town of San Simeon just a few miles away.  It's sort of an ugly tourist town with some dumpy hotels but you can get a place for about $50-60 on various hotel search sites.  We always go into Cambria nearby to visit the nicer Moonstone beach and have dinner (love Main Street Grill)
* Stop at Julia Pfeiffer state park.  This is the classic shot of a ribbon waterfall falling onto the white sand below next to the crashing waves.  Not sure if it's still allowed but alot of people just park on the road and walk down (as opposed to parking in the official lot and paying $10.  The same can be done at some of the other state parks and beaches on that stretch of road.)
* There are many, many pull outs and beaches to stop... pretty remote out here... often have a big stretch of beach to ourselves.
* There are also some shorter and longer hikes on the coast, we've just done some short ones.  It's alot of fun just to stop and find your own private vistas.
* In Monterey/Carmel area there is the 17 mile drive on a private road that is $10.  Alternatively you can do the shorter and free drive from Monterey to Pacific Grove with similar views.
* the Mission in Carmel is beautiful
* You can do whale watching from Monterey if you're interested in that.

I also am voting for no Napa.  The wineries charge ridiculous tasting fees because it's such a famous area.  No thanks for paying $25 to have 6-8 sips of wine.