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Aussie family wanting to visit the US in December

Aussie family wanting to visit the US in December

Old Jun 6th, 2010, 08:32 PM
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Aussie family wanting to visit the US in December

Hi!

We are a family of four (2 adults and 2 children aged 5 and 8) who are planning a holiday to the united states for the first time (we live in Australia). We have booked a Disney Cruise for New Years from Cape Canaveral in Florida and have also planned to go to Disney World for a week after the cruise (3rd Jan to 10th Jan). We will be arriving in the US about 15th Dec.

We would love some help deciding on other places to visit whilst we are in the US. We would like to go to NYC and Washington however i assume that this is probably the worst time to come and that it will be freezing!!!! (We are not used to snow or very cold weather). So if we dont go there where else should we go? Obviously we arrive via LA so i guess that would be a great place to start. Was thinking of San Francisco perhaps. Not sure if Vegas would be suitable with children? Wouldnt mind seeing the Grand Canyon.

Any help would be appreciated including suitable hotels for kids - obviously too cold for pools so not worried about that.
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Old Jun 7th, 2010, 12:16 AM
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Sure NY and Washington will be cold and maybe snow but that is what makes it different. Our kids loved these places in winter.They loved the zoo in winter in both places and both had museums with children's areas.Seeing the Xmas tree in New York is fab.
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Old Jun 7th, 2010, 01:13 AM
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Doing the math it seems you have just under 2 weeks - including the time over Christmas. Question - arriving via LA - have you booked your tickets and are you allowed to stop for a few days with these tickets - or the ones you will book.

Assuming you can, I might spend 4 days in California - LA area and/or SF (which will not be warm in December - but warmer than NY obviously). I would skip the Grand Canyon on this trip. Las Vegas is not especially kid friendly and then you need a couple of days to drive to/from/see the Grand Canyon.

Then fly to New York planning to spend Christmas there. NY is spectacular around Christmas and I agree that snow and cold weather will bother you more than the kids. Hopefully it will snow - the kids will love that. You will have enough warm weather on your cruise - but another word of caution - DisneyWorld/Orlando area can also be chilly in January - rarely down to freezing but usual temps only in 45-65 F range during the day.

Then take the train (Amtrak.com) to Washington and spend the rest of the time there. Lodging is inexpensive in Washington in the winter and public transportation is good and underground. All museums and government sites do not charge admission - the idea is our taxes already pay for them - so once you pay for food and lodging, the rest is cheap.

Fly to Florida from DC.

A word about winter travel in northeast US. Flight delays related to weather are relatively common - so make sure your plans include getting to Florida at least one night prior to cruise departure.
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Old Jun 7th, 2010, 02:50 AM
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If you have only 2 weeks you're going to need to be very selective.

First, bag Vegas - it just isn't a place for kids - and in the winter the pools aren't even open - and visiting the Grand Canyon can be difficult (high altitude so it's cold there too).

Also you need to realize that FL is only semi-tropical and you can;t count on beach weather in Dec - although cooler weather will be better for touring mouseland. But if you're doing this stuff in FL then you really don;t need to repeat a pared-down version of it in LA.
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Old Jun 7th, 2010, 02:52 AM
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Sorry - be sure you have booked a flight that gets you into the port in plenty of tim for the cruise. Bad weather at that time of year can cause significant delays and yo should arrive there at lest the day before departure.
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Old Jun 7th, 2010, 03:39 AM
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emmamarie,

Really, what are your interests in touring the U.S.?

Big cities? Then there are plenty to choose from. (Yes, Washington, Philadelphia & NYC will be cold, possibly freezing at times.) If you are more interested in natural attractions, then California, Arizona and Florida make more sense. I agree with everyone else in that Las Vegas is more of an adult attraction and that Grand Canyon will be too cold. Give us some idea here.

I can probably best advise on Florida. Disney World does not require a full week. Are you open to seeing other areas in Central Florida?

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Old Jun 7th, 2010, 04:20 AM
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Hi.. thanks very much for your replies. We dont necessarily need to see large cities - just places that are fun for childen and interesting for adults. We were thinking that since we will be in florida that we would spend some time in orlando and probably miami and Tampa? Also want to see the kennedy space centre.

We dont need to go to disneyland in Anaheim because we will be going to disneyworld - we decided to do disney world after the cruise because of the busy crowds the week of xmas. Things we are interested in is: LA - tour of the city/beaches, movie star homes, rodeo drive, beverly hills. Wouldnt mind seeing alcatraz in SF, golden gate bridge, fisherman's wharf/seals.

I am sure there are many places to see in these areas.
Thanks for your help
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Old Jun 7th, 2010, 04:44 AM
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Emmamarie - I agree with what has been said about Vegas and the Grand Canyon for this trip. New York City is magical at Christmas time. The weather can be cold, sure, but Central Park with a blanket of snow is beautiful and the store windows decorated for the holidays combined with the festive feeling in the city make it a very special place. I am partial to San Francisco over Los Angeles - you can get around without a car and the food is the best in the country, IMO. I also find it much more beautiful, but it will be cooler than LA. You could take a couple of days and go to north or south of San Fran - the entire area is just beautiful.
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Old Jun 7th, 2010, 05:09 AM
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I would look for a suites-hotel for your family. A few popular chains are Embassy Suites, Homewood Suites, Residence Inn, and Springhill Suites. Depending on the chain and the location, you will find that these suites offer free breakfasts, evening receptions, indoor pools, etc.
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Old Jun 7th, 2010, 05:19 AM
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I know I am going to offend some people here, but I would skip Miami and Tampa. Too much driving around (on the "wrong" side of the road for you) for too few attractions of interest to small children. Exceptions: Everglades National Park http://www.nps.gov/ever/index.htm and the Florida Aquarium http://www.flaquarium.org/Exhibits/ Maybe Monkey Jungle and/or Butterfly World too.

St. Augustine is an easy, 2-hour drive (via interstate highway)from Orlando and is under the radar of many tourists, particularly international tourists. It is small, compact, mostly walkable and offers many things of interest to all age ranges: history, good & reasonable restaurants, art galleries, shopping (two nearby outlet malls) and gorgeous scenery. Here are some links:
http://www.oldcity.com/
http://www.visitflorida.com/St_Augustine
http://www.getaway4florida.com/
http://www.getaway4florida.com/nights/

In the Orlando area, here are some additional ideas:
Winter Park Boat Tour http://www.scenicboattours.com/home.htm
Blue Spring State Park (winter manatee refuge) http://www.floridastateparks.org/bluespring/
Boggy Creek Airboat Rides http://www.bcairboats.com/
SeaWorld http://www.seaworld.com/orlando/
Gatorland http://www.gatorland.com/

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Old Jun 7th, 2010, 05:30 AM
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I would concentrate on California and Florida only... with a week in California there is time to fully explore the Hollywood and surrounding areas, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Venice Beach,... Consider a short flight up to San Francisco for Golden Gate, Muir Woods, Chinatown and a drive along the coast...

Then jet over to Florida and use Miami's South Beach as a stop to see the Florida Keys, Everglades, and beach... head north along the coast to the space center and your cruise dock... you will have a full agenda and any more travel around the holidays will possibly strand you in a long weather related delay... the last three years, unusual winter weather has left millions of tourists sleeping in airports for days on end without any chance of catching cancelled flights...

In summary... LA for 3/4 nights... fly to SF 3/4 nights...fly to Miami 2/3 nights... drive down keys/everglades 2/3 nights...drive up Florida coast to space center 2/3 nights and get on cruise.... back on dry land... drive to Disney and return home... have fun!
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Old Jun 7th, 2010, 06:05 AM
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Emma,
My suggestions for that time of year with 2 children:

Arrive LA and spend 2-3 days.
I (and everyone in my van, especially the children) found the Tour of Stars Homes really boring. The driver talked about a lot of stars that people under age 40 didn't know and you mostly see fences. Instead, I would suggest you go to Rodeo Drive area, the Chinese Theater area, La Brea Tar Pits http://www.tarpits.org/, maybe up to Griffith Observatory for the view, and over to one of the beaches.

Then choose either to rent a car and drive Hwy 1 up the coast or fly to SF.

The stretch of highway Morro bay to Monterey is our GOR with the Hearst Castle at San Simeon http://www.hearstcastle.org/ and elephant seals on the beach http://www.elephantseal.org/
followed by dramatic cliffs and a curvy road. Not sure if weather/closures ever a problem in December. On through the coastal towns up to Big Basin Redwoods State Park http://www.bigbasin.org/index.html to see the big trees, then drop car in SF.

Else, fly to SF and pick up a day tour or rental car for any place you want to go out of the city.
Ride the cable cars, go to Alcatraz (make reservation in advance), see the Golden Gate Bridge, cross the bridge and go to Muir Woods http://www.nps.gov/muwo/index.htm. The SF zoo is OK--you can visit our koalas.

There are other beautiful natural areas in California in the winter--Lake Tahoe and Yosemite--but the uncertainty of the weather that time of year means you might have beautiful clear days to drive, see the snow covered mountains and waterfalls, hike around, ski, etc. or you might have a snow storm that requires chains on tires to even drive the mountain roads. If you wanted to plan one of these from SF, you would need a back-up plan in case the weather did not cooperate.

From there I would fly to Washington, DC.

Personally, I don't like NYC much in December--the chances of snow are very low, but it seems like rain is common. The crowds are huge and the hotel prices high. I do like the decorated store windows, but not standing in line to pass in front of them. It gets dark early that time of year. If you do choose NYC, consider booking the Radio City Music Hall show. It is a spectacle that both children and adults can enjoy.

I think Washington DC is better at that time of year with children on a long trip. Prices are lower. Crowds are not as large. If the weather is wet/cold, then there are many indoor museums and you can take an evening driving tour to see the monuments lit up. Smithsonian museums are open every day except Christmas.

Space center is a good choice in Florida. You may also enjoy seeing manatees in the wild at Blue Spring State Park http://www.floridastateparks.org/bluespring/.

Hope you enjoy your trip to the US as much as we did our trip to Sydney, Canberra, and surrounding parks last year.
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Old Jun 7th, 2010, 07:57 AM
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I'm with gary: stay in the southern part of the US.

As mentioned, hotel rates in NY in December are astronomical and it would not be fun to be stuck in a hotel room if your flight is cancelled or delayed because of the weather.

I'd also suggest substituting San Diego for San Francisco. There are plenty of kid-friendly places to go to in San Diego - the world famous SD Zoo, Marine World, etc.

Not trying to be too discouraging, but weather in San Francisco can be unpredictable in December - could be rainy and cold. With only two weeks, I'd try to plan on warmer and better weather areas to visit.

Just my two cents.
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Old Jun 7th, 2010, 08:59 AM
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The above posters are right. With only two weeks, stick to parts of California and Florida. Most of the rest of the US, except for parts of Arizona and that will be out of the way for your trip, will be too cold.

As much as I love the area around San Francisco, it can not only be chilly during the winter but it also may rain a lot. You'll probably be ok in the city itself but it may be too cool and wet to enjoy the surrounding areas. It also might be nice, but I'd hate to travel all the way from Australia and have vacation plans fall through because of lousy weather.

That being said, Yosemite can be gorgeous in winter - but you have to be able to get there and it will be a lot colder than what you're used to.

I've only been to Disney World once, so I'm not an expert by any means, but are you sure you want to spend an entire week there?
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Old Jun 7th, 2010, 09:01 AM
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Well I'll chime in on NYC beng magical at Christmas - much better than FL without the beach (it's usually too cold in Dec)- and except for Disney and the beach there's not that much for kids in FL. Granted NY is more expensive - but you get what you pay for.

As for LA - over-rated and not that much to do. SF is muchmore intesesting and accesible.
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Old Jun 7th, 2010, 09:02 AM
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Oh- and I don;t get the "stucK' in NY. there are a million and one things to do - in all weathers. How could you be stuck in a hotel room?
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Old Jun 7th, 2010, 11:50 AM
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San Diego Zoo and Old Town are good suggestions with children and that time of year.
I agree that SF weather is unpredictable that time of year. I wore lots of sweaters and windbreakers when I lived in Northern California.
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Old Jun 7th, 2010, 12:33 PM
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NYC has so much going on at Christmas - skating in one of the beautiful rinks - Central Park, Bryant Park or Rockefellar Center. The Nutcracker Ballet at Lincoln Center - your kids are the ideal age for it. The Christmas bazaars. A visit to Macy's Santa Claus. Sure its crowded but its a great experience that would be so different from an Australian Christmas.
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Old Jun 7th, 2010, 01:45 PM
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The stuck in NY thing is about sleeping in airports and missing their cruise!!!
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Old Jun 7th, 2010, 02:46 PM
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I was curious myself about Grand Canyon South Rim in December (access from Phoenix) to combine with the red rock of Sedona and the petrified forest in off-season.

Found this thread from last year:
http://www.fodors.com/community/unit...and-canyon.cfm

and this weather information:
http://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisi...-condition.htm

so it would be beautiful, but possibly quite cold and snowy.
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