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jode Apr 26th, 2001 09:05 AM

Advice re CA intinerary
My husband and I are going to CA for the first 2 weeks in Sept. I have pretty much mapped out our itinerary (a little more ambitious than originally planned) and would like some advice/suggestions as to whether we should stick with it or modify it. Fly into SF - drive to Monterey for two nights, drive to Yosemite (staying in El Portal) spending about 1 1/2 days at Yosemite; up to Lake Tahoe for 2 nights, then over to Napa for three nights (Sonoma)and finally back to SF for three nights before heading home. We added the Yosemite portion after lots of people telling us we HAD to go there since were were in N. CA anyway. Any tips on wineries, or general things not to be missed would be appreciated.

HJ Apr 26th, 2001 12:51 PM

Sounds just about right to me, but I would suggest one change for consideration: reduce Napa to one fill day and two nights and add one more day and night to SF. Get to SF by 11 a.m. and have your plans clear on what you want to see. You have left the best for the last. Remember, in SF you'll want to see the Bay (e.g., Sausalito) as well as the many areas of the city. This takes time. You need three full days in SF if this is your first trip to the City by the Bay.

Oaktown Traveler Apr 26th, 2001 12:52 PM

Whoa Jode... <BR>Contact AAA immediately. You obviously do not have the milegae numbers and road work information for your ROAD TRIP. A great goal but, you will be in your car ALOT of your vacation time. Now, if this was your plan then you have nailed it. <BR> <BR>Specifically: The SF to Monterey is fine, you have reservations for a place to stay right? We have a major holiday in CA during your time frame and you will need reservations. Prices in Montery will go up as well. In addition to that major holiday Montery has a HUGE Blues Festival and youcan't get a romm for miles. I live in that area 3 to 4 days a week. AAA will also get you discount passes for the Monterey Aquarium if you plan to go. <BR> <BR>Yosemite from Monterey is a good 3 day trip with driving. You will pass some California treasures such as The Hearst Castle, Big Sur and Solvang etc. if you are pressing the pedal to get to Yosemite. I would take this leg of the trip apart and set my priorities for this what we really want to see on this leg. Again, you will need reservations for Yosomite in Sept. These spots are often booked 1 year ahead. My dad and his group go to Yosemite every year AFTER the Monterey Blues Festival in Sept. MANY others do the same. They have a blast! <BR> <BR>Your drive from Yosemite to Tahoe is going to be beautiful but LONG. Check this out for actual miles and road conditions due to CONSTURCTION, vs, weather. Sept. is ideal weather is CA. which means lots of construction on the roads before winter. <BR> <BR>Your Tahoe to Napa is also quite a drive. It will be very pretty, I just want you to be prepared for the time involved. SONOMA is REALLY different from NAPA. My husband and I are avid wine collectors an prefer Sonoma to Napa for many reasons. One is that Sonoma is less touristy. Plot out the wineries that you really want to see. Driving around the wine country is great but on a short time frame, have some goals even if the goal is to flow... <BR> <BR>Wine Country to SF...I would cut SF to 2 nights and use one of the nights during the other parts of your journey. <BR>SF has lots to do and see. Pick your passions and then...RELAX before you fly out. <BR>Hope this helps. HAVE A GREAT TRIP. <BR>

Liz Apr 27th, 2001 04:26 AM

While I personally think there is too much driving in this trip, the Monterey to Yosemite portion is a 5-6 hour drive, not 3 would have to go out of your way to add the sights in the previous post. Hard to give you a critique without knowing what you're looking to do and see at these stops.

Caitlin Apr 27th, 2001 11:05 AM

I believe that Oaktown Traveler was saying that a good trip to Yosemite (driving plus time in the park) would involve three days, leaving from Monterey. It's not clear from Jode's posting if she iscluding getting to Yosemite in that 1 1/2 days; I assume that's the other half of the first day, though. <BR> <BR>There is a lot of driving here, especially from Yosemite to Tahoe; that will eat up almost a whole day, leaving you one day to see the Tahoe area. Not sure it's worth the long drive just for that, though it's beautiful in Sept. Personally, I'd spend another night in Yosemite and lop one off the wine country or cut out Tahoe and add time in other areas (Tahoe is beautiful, but I'd choose Yosemite over Tahoe. especially given the geography of the rest of your trip). I would spend a good part of one of your days in the Monterey area drivng around the Big Sur area (and stopping at the parks, because the driver won't get much of a view). I assume that you want to visit both Napa and Sonoma; keep in mind that you'll need a few hours to get between the two. You'd probably have more fun picking one or the other, given how ambitious (and tiring) your itinerary is. I also prefer Sonoma over Napa, but Napa would make more sense geographically if you're doing it between Tahoe and SF. I wouldn't suggest cutting out one of three nights in Sf because I assume that one of them follows your last wine-country day and you'll be pulling in in the evening and then have two days for the city. Your trip is quite ambitious, but if you're the type that likes to go, go, go on vacation rather than kick back (though these locales are really conducive to relaxation), you'll probably have fun.

sue Apr 27th, 2001 12:37 PM

Last summer we stayed at the Tanaya Lodge in Fish Camp near the Wawona entrance to Yosemite. Not the first time we've stayed. It's a great place! We then drove to Monterey. It did not take very long and we were travelling with kids 6 & 10 yrs. We are quite familiar with the roads in CA so we knew where we were going. It's absolutely absurd that it would take more than the previously stated 5-6 hours. I'm trying to think of what worthwhile sights there are between Monterey and Yosemite except the old Casa de Fruita! Guess I lived in the central valley too long!

jode Apr 30th, 2001 06:24 AM

Many thanks to all who respoded. Each brought up some valid points to consider. I must admit Yosemite was not part of our original plan but so many people tell us that it is a "must see" if only for one day that we have included it. We have already made all of our reservations - some nights were dictated by availability in using Hilton Honors points. We have allocated a full day to get to Yosemite - staying at a place in El Portal which I believe is close to the entrance. That give us a full day in the Park (not enough but better than nothing) and we spend that night in Lee Vinning which I believe is close to the other side of the park and on our way to Lake Tahoe. We (or I should say me more than my husband) are the type who like to see as much as possible when we travel - we don't know when we will get out this way again and never view vacations as "relaxing" but rather more of a chance to see and do things we don't have back home (Boston). While most of our trip is planned and booked we still have not decided on the wineries we want to visit - any suggestions on some in the Sonoma area that are particularly worthwhile? Thanks again for all the great comments.

sarah May 6th, 2001 07:44 AM

Jode <BR> <BR>TOO MUCH DRIVING!!! <BR> <BR>cut out either Montery, Tahoe or Yosemite. Pick one of these and discard. <BR> <BR>Monterey - Aquarium, and that is about it. Unless you are avid aquarium goers I wouldn't bother. I do love the area, I am going there in two weeks, but you have to trim this trip down. <BR> <BR>Yosemite - if you like to hike, this is the spot - and it is soo unique and splendor abounds. I you are not outdoorsy types - cut this one out. it is an eternal trip to get to. <BR> <BR>Lake Tahoe - for ever to get to and nothing to stop and see before you get there. It is the destination. Gambling and boat cruises. We always hike the trails and rent kayaks at Camp Richardson. <BR> <BR>PLEASE tell all of us that you are going to cut one of these destinations out. My choice would be Monterey. Yosemite and Tahoe are specatular. OH, If you go to Tahoe, we always have dinner at the golf course on the lake and I am drawing a blank on this I think it is Evergreen Golf Club. When you face the lake at the "Y" go right past all the casinos and it is just after the last casino. At sunset the view over the mountains and lake are so spectacular. It will rest in your memory forever.

kam May 6th, 2001 11:13 AM

I would cut Tahoe from your list of places. Monterey Peninsula, Yosemite and the wine countries of Sonoma and Napa (although we also like Sonoma better) combined with SF are more than enough to see. Tahoe is a beautiful mountain lake, but once you're there it's just a pretty lake and you have lakes back East. To us it's a wonder because it's so big and in the Sierra. You need more time in Yosemite--at least 3 days and you can use the extra time also in SF and the surrounding Bay area. ENjoy.

Kay May 6th, 2001 12:29 PM

IMO== <BR>Your route to Lake Tahoe via Lee Vining makes a lot of sense.==also pretty drive <BR>Yosemite IS a great hiking park, however it will be "packed" around Labor Day weekend. Sometimes number of cars allowed in are limited !! <BR>Plan I would consider-- =after Tahoe I would drive down intersrtate 80 and go over to Napa(takes 3-4 hours from Tahoe ) Stay either in Yountville <BR>or St Helena overnight. You'll have time to check out a few wineries that same day. Next day depending on meals and shopping head "up-valley" toward Calistoga. North of Calistoga on highway 128 is beautiful Alexander Valley (great little wineries and beautiful scenery.) Eventually you will see a sign for Healdsburg--(go that way NOT on to Geyserville) Healdsburg is small town with town square, lots of shops .Antique and otherwise, good eating places. Not sure of availability of lodging. However, Santa Rosa is 20 min. south with lots of places to stay <BR>Healdsburg is on highway 101 and can get to San Francisco in about 1 1/2 hrs.(68 miles) <BR>Hope this help...PS You must get a good California map and one of the Napa & Sonoma Valleys..

Jode May 7th, 2001 08:29 AM

Again, thanks for all your comments and suggestions. We went over our route again and my husband thinks that the only "painful" driving day will be from Monterey to Yosemite and we plan to leave very early in the morning to make that leg of our trip. We will be in Monterey until Labor Day (have reservations) and plan to spend 1/2 of Monday (if possible) and all of Tuesday at Yosemite and hope since it is after the holiday the crowds will be less that day. We are not hikers and think that a full day and possibly some of the prior day will be enough to hit the high points. As far as Lake Tahoe - we are looking at that as a place to just relax and enjoy the lake, etc. Our trip was pretty much dictated by the fact that we are using Hilton points both in San Francisco (4 days/3 nights) and in Sonoma (actually it is a Hilton in Rhonert Park)for three nights. Does anyone have a recommendation for wineries in the Rhonert Park Sonoma/Santa Rosa area? Any other not to miss suggestions would also be appreciated.

D.B. May 7th, 2001 09:28 AM

Just go to and type in sonoma wineries, you'll have more info than you know what to do with. <BR> <BR>Stick to your plan. <BR>

kam May 7th, 2001 09:29 AM

Actually, I think driving from Monterey to Yosemite on Labor Day might work quite well. Most of the other tourists will be going the other way. You'll probably run into traffic near Merced and won't see much pretty scenery until you get near Yosemite. You might arrive to find a very crowded Yosemite, but many daytrippers and weekenders will depart that night and Tuesday might be pretty uncrowded. Since we know you're locked into hotels, we will try to work within your itinerary. No wineries that I know of in the Rohnert Park/Petaluma area---they start near Sonoma and go up the Sonoma Valley and then along the Russian River and the Dry Creek area. There are a number of the outside Healdsburg. You should pick up a map of the Sonoma Wine Country before your trip. One cellar that everyone likes is Gloria Ferrer Champagne Caves on hwy 121.One of our favorites is Ravenswood with their yummy zinfandel, cab and merot. In the town of Sonoma there are two wine shops where you can taste several wines of the area and buy with a case discount. There's also the mission and the Sonoma Jack Cheese shop, where you can cheese taste and then order picnic supplies. The popular CA chain "Piatti" is located in the El Dorado Hotel and I would recommend it for dinner. Another restaurant, if you wanted to splurge a bit (and you'll need to reserve from home) is John Ash & Company in Santa Rosa.Going farther up the valley you come to Glen Ellen and Valley of the Moon Winery (Sonoma means moons in Indian) and Glen Ellen Winery. Jack London State Park is here, named after the author of Call of the Wild and other books. You come next to Kenwood where Kenwood Winerey and the fantastic Chateau St. Jean winery are located. All of this could be one day from Rohnert Park if you drive directly and early. The second day I would head up 101 to Healdsburg and the Russian River area of Sonoma Co. You could bring a picnic from Lisa Hemenway's (yes, related, a granddaughter I think) Tote Cuisine--a gourmet on the go experience!Good wineries around Healdsburgh are Rodney Strong, Mill Creek,Hop Kiln, Davis Bynum and White Oak. Ferrari-Carano Winery on Dry Creek Road is probably one of the prettiest. Getting up to Geyserville you will find Trentadue, and the spectacular Chateau Souverain with their yummy cafe for lunch in case you decided not to picnic. Geyser Peak and Pedroncelli wineries are also good. I actually think the longest drive of this trip will be from Lee Vining over to Tahoe. To ask for maps of the area and other info, contact the Sonoma Co tourist program for a free visitor guide 1-800-326-7666 or Happy travels.

Suzie May 7th, 2001 10:03 AM

Drove from Tahoe to Mammoth Lakes last summer. I didn't think the drive was bad at all. Good choice for getting from Yosemite to Tahoe. You'll enjoy the drive from Yosemite Valley to Lee Vining. Beautiful scenery. Lots of years when there has been heavy snow the pass only opens on Memorial Day. Some years we've driven with huge snowbanks on ewither side of the road only to find on our return a few weeks later that it had all melted. This year was not a big snow year. The trip should be beautiful Stop often before you get into Lee Vining as there really isn't much there. Where are you staying in Tahoe? Don't recall any Hiltons there.

jode May 7th, 2001 11:18 AM

Suzie, <BR> <BR>Thanks for your info - our Hilton stays are in San Francisco and Rhonert Park. We are staying at Lakeside Inn in So. Lake Tahoe - I know it is not as plush as some of the others in the area (although rated 3 stars by AAA) but they had a great special - $119 for TWO nights (not per night) and includes breakfast and dinner for 2 for one of the nights. We thought this would be a good way to save some $$ for San Francisco where I'm sure we will need them !

DawnCt May 7th, 2001 11:30 AM

We took a similar vacation in 1999. We flew into San Francisco where we stayed for two nights. We visited Alcatraz in addition to Fisherman's Wharf. The next day we had breakfast in Sausalito and toured Muir Woods. By noon time we were in Napa Valley and had a wonderful tour of the Mondavi Winery. By 7 pm we were at Lake Tahoe where we spent three wonderful days, hiking and doing water activities. From there we went by Mono Lake, stopped at Bodie the Ghost Town and entered Yosemite from the west entrance. We drove through Yosemite, stayed in El Portel and toured Yosemite for a couple of days. Be sure to visit the Mariposa Grove of giant trees. We drove by Fresno and stayed overnight in Cambria. Great little town. The next day we drove up the coast, stopped at the Hearst Castle and a few look out points and spent the night in Monterey. We visited Carmel briefly, enjoyed the Acquarium and en route back to SF stopped in Santa Cruz to ride the roller coaster, flying home from SF to Ct that night. Our trip was nine days with four boys. Everyone had a great time.

Suzie May 7th, 2001 11:38 AM

Wow Dawn just reading that made me dizzy. You certainly saw some sights! Jode your rate sounds awesome. I've wanted to book the Lakeside Inn before but I don't know much about it. Hope you'll consider a trip report on your return. Have a wonderful time.

jode May 7th, 2001 12:11 PM

Dawn, <BR> <BR>Your trip makes mine seem tame - kudos to you and your boys for fitting so much in and still having a good time. I can't wait to show my husband your itinerary - he will be thrilled with ours in comparison ! ! I will definitely post a trip report when we return in mid September. In the meantime - keep those ideas and suggestions rolling in. Thanks again to all.

D.B. May 7th, 2001 12:51 PM

Make it to Tahoe during the week if you can, because it is a resort town weekend rates are higher than weekday. Another reasonably priced yet nice place is the Best Western Express (stayed there last year), there is also a restaurant next to the property and a small store across the street to grab some snacks. Think about trying the Mississippi River boat cruise on the lake. Check this site for more stuff around Tahoe. <BR> <BR> <BR> <BR>There are wineries around Sebastopol and Healdsburg. <BR>

Suzie May 7th, 2001 01:12 PM

Actually by September the activity at the lake really dies down. The weather is stunning but the nights are starting to cool off. Although I spend substantial amounts of time there in July and September I've never made it on to one of those cruises offered by Tahoe Queen or one other that I can't recall. I did however go on the catamaran offered by the Hyatt at Incline. Awesome!

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