California dreaming family trip

Old May 14th, 2021, 02:48 PM
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California dreaming family trip

Looking to enjoy some time along the California coast and enjoy some of the natural sights. These are the preliminaries we have come up with so far. Any insight and suggestions are appreciated. Mainly adults and a 15yr old. Planning to travel in early August.

Fresno- Yosemite



(Fly into Fresno on Sunday, stay overnight. Travel to Yosemite to arrive at park by 5/6am. Allow 7-8 hours in the park)



Yosemite- Mt Diablo- Monday (Not sure if Mount Diablo is too much out of the way)



Mt. Diablo- San Francisco (Monday evening- early Wednesday morning)



- Golden gate bridge



- Japanese Garden



- Black Sands Beach



- Shark Fin Cove



- Mount Tamalpais



- Point Reyes Light House



San Francisco - Santa Cruz/Monterey (Overnight stay in Monterey)

- Monterey whale watch tour (Wednesday or Thursday?)



Monterey to Santa Barbara

- Pfeiffer beach/trails

- San Luis Obispo

Santa Barbara (1 or 2 night stay, fly out Saturday)

- wine tastings

Last edited by 882ayanaj; May 14th, 2021 at 03:25 PM.
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Old May 14th, 2021, 04:35 PM
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Your dreaming plan is just that. You can't accomplish all this stuff in just 1 week.

Monday
Get up at 2 am, shower & shave (can 3 people do this in 1 hr?), check out of hotel, and get to Yosemite Valley at 5:30 am. It will still be dark then. Yosemite is very complicated to visit. Not sure you can even get to Yosemite Valley easily. Others know better than I do - but you might need reservations to get in and you may not be able to drive your car in. You may be required to take a bus.

Visit Yosemite until 1:30PM and then drive 4 hrs to Mt Diablo and get there at 5:30Pm - commute time in the Bay Area.

Visit Mt Diablo for 1 hr (what's there?) and then drive to San Francisco and arrive in The City at 7:30 PM. Find a place to park the car, and check into a hotel and ready for dinner at 8:30 PM.

Your 15 year old will be pretty cranky. You have been awake/ traveling for almost 20 hours by then!!!

Tuesday
Visit all those places including Pt Reyes & Mt Tam in 1 day?????? You are kidding - I hope.

Wednesday
Santa Cruz & Monterey and whale watch. This is normally a 3 night event, including Carmel & Pt Lobos

Thursday
Highway 1, Pfeiffer Beach stuff, SLO. You might be able to accomplish this - but it excludes Pt Lobos, Hearst Castle, waterfall, etc

Friday
Drive to Santa Barbara & visit

Saturday
Fly home


NO CAN DO!!!

Skip Yosemite & Mt Diablo, or Monterey & south

Stu Dudley (74 year Calif native & resident)


Last edited by StuDudley; May 14th, 2021 at 05:06 PM.
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Old May 14th, 2021, 05:25 PM
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I'm with Stu on your plan...

There has been speculation that tourist numbers in California will be extremely high this summer. The state is encouraging residents to "see California" to both support the economy and reduce interstate travel. And then there are all the visitors from elsewhere just itching to travel.... Some of the historically and perpetually popular destinations like Yosemite could be wall-to-wall. Hearst Castle has still not announced an opening date. When it does open, pre-booked tickets will be required and will likely go like hotcakes. Before the pandemic, Santa Barbara hotels required a 2-night, sometimes 3-night, stay between Thursday/Friday and Sunday. I'm quite sure this requirement will continue.
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Old May 14th, 2021, 07:24 PM
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Ditto re most of stu's assessment (except for the Yosemite comments since the requirements and access have really loosened up). Currently private cars can enter the park, no reservations required. But as of May 21 one must pre-book entry. I wouldn't stay in Fresno - unless you are landing late in the evening that would be totally wasted time. Plus to get into Yosemite Village by 5AM means starting the drive at 02:30 (!) and you do not want to be driving Hwy 41 in the dark. So a no go all around. But no matter -- FAT > Yosemite Valley to SF (not including Mt Diablo) is seven hours car time!

Shark Fin Cove is 90 minutes south of SF and Point Reyes Lighthouse 90 mins north of SF and that's just the beginning of your problems.

Just lots to be re-worked
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Old May 14th, 2021, 07:26 PM
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oh -- welcome to Fodors. (It really wasn't a baptism by fire -- Honest. All three of us posting so far are Californians and we really do want to help you)
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Old May 14th, 2021, 08:33 PM
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""There has been speculation that tourist numbers in California will be extremely high this summer.""

Yep.

We normally spend 2 months vacationing in Europe every year - except this year (and last year). When we were not in Europe, we seldom left San Francisco or the SF peninsula. This year, we have already cancelled our month in Scotland, and also cancelled our month in Alsace & Burgundy France. We are hoping we can spend most of December in Paris.

We have instead visited the Gold Rush Country & Tahoe for a week in April, and in mid June we plan on visiting Northern Calif for a week, then 10 nights in Oregon. In Sept (our 50th anniversary) we've reserved a cottage In Carmel for 10 nights, followed by 2 nights in Big Sur. Two nights in Santa Cruz are also in our plans.

Re-think your itinerary

Here is something I posted about a decade ago
https://www.fodors.com/community/uni...ations-356478/
.
Stu Dudley
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Old May 15th, 2021, 07:03 AM
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Thank you for the input!
The getting up and ready in the early morning isn't an issue, but I have considered the lack of light in the early morning that must be taken into account so leaving Fresno and staying overnight closer to Yosemite could be an option.
Mount Diablo was not a definite and can be skipped.
Tuesday- Those are all just possibilities which will come down to a balance of what's most sensible and desirable. So only 2-3 experiences at the most.
Wednesday- Santa Cruz is just a possible stop as well
Thursday- Hearst Castle isn't a point of interest for us, so no loss there.

I could skip Yosemite but others are insisting on it as of right now.
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Old May 15th, 2021, 07:27 AM
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I don't really understand this itinerary either. I gather you intend to drive the coast to go from Monterey down to at least SLO, I guess. The drive alone may be about 5 hours, I think. And then you want to stop at Pfeiffer Beach and go hiking? You mention trails so I gather you don't intend to just drive by it or you wouldn't be mentioning it. I'd forget that. I agree that just getting to SLO that day would work. I never found it that fascinating a place, but you must be attracted by something there. Or you could go to Morro Bay nearby instead for a night, I think it is more interesting and scenic (SLO is not on the coast), but SLO has some interesting buildings downtown.

I guess you are flying out of Santa Barbara. I'd spend my time there doesn't something other than wine tasting, not sure your 15 yr old would find that so fascinating a way to spend time, watching you drink wine. I don't understand why you want to do that, you are flying home, you can't be buying lots of wine or anything. Unless you pay a lot to ship it, I guess, and live in a place you can do that. Some wineries don't allow those below 21 anyway on their tours/tastings. So maybe you plan to leave your child somewhere alone in SB all day? Is he/she ok with that? IF this is a family trip I'd think you'd want to do things together. I was pretty independent as a kid and given a lot of responsibility, but I don't think I would have been excited about the idea of spending a day alone in a strange city at that age.

I stayed at the BW Peppertree Inn in SB which I think is very nice and conveniently located with a car (but not right near the beach), and it allows 1 night stays on Fridays (but not Saturdays), not all hotels require 2-3 days luckily all the time, at least if you don't want want the the top ones.. It's a lot cheaper than some of those fancier hotels closer to the beach, also.

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Old May 15th, 2021, 07:50 AM
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Originally Posted by janisj View Post
oh -- welcome to Fodors. (It really wasn't a baptism by fire -- Honest. All three of us posting so far are Californians and we really do want to help you)
HAHA, i appreciate it! Things always sound better when you have no idea what you're getting yourself into. Now I can revisit with my people and go from there.
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Old May 15th, 2021, 07:52 AM
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Not a Californian, but I would agree with the above posters. Do either San Francisco & Monterey Bay, or San Francisco & Yosemite, or Yosemite & Monterey, there's no way to fit all three into one week. Keep in mind Yosemite gets incredibly packed in the Summer to the point of being almost unenjoyable and you now require reservations in advance to visit in the Summer.

Maybe something like this:

Sun - Fly into SFO
Mon-Wed - San Francisco Bay Area
Thu - Monterey & Carmel
Fri - Either Santa Cruz or Whale Watching Tour
Saturday - Drive back to SFO, Fly Home

Normally, I'd say even just three days in San Francisco is cutting it short, but if you're not interested in going to any museums, than three days can certainly be doable. There are some beautiful hiking areas in the metro area like Muir Woods and Tilden Park that can make up for not being able to see Yosemite.
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Old May 15th, 2021, 08:44 AM
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The Pfeiffer Beach access is very difficult to spot of you are heading south. Then you drive a couple of miles on a narrow road before you hit the parking lot for the beach (you will pay for the parking), I don't recall hiking trails - but the beach there is quite large and spectacular.

You need a reservation for Muir Woods. Tilden Park is in the East Bay. You'll go over a bridge from San Francisco to get to both Muir Woods & Tilden Park.

Stu Dudley .
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Old May 15th, 2021, 08:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Christina View Post
I guess you are flying out of Santa Barbara. I'd spend my time there doesn't something other than wine tasting, not sure your 15 yr old would find that so fascinating a way to spend time, watching you drink wine. I don't understand why you want to do that, you are flying home, you can't be buying lots of wine or anything. Unless you pay a lot to ship it, I guess, and live in a place you can do that. Some wineries don't allow those below 21 anyway on their tours/tastings. So maybe you plan to leave your child somewhere alone in SB all day? Is he/she ok with that? IF this is a family trip I'd think you'd want to do things together. I was pretty independent as a kid and given a lot of responsibility, but I don't think I would have been excited about the idea of spending a day alone in a strange city at that age..
I don't agree with this. I think it's easy to spend a whole day in Santa Barbara without going to a single winery. There's two great pieces of historic architecture (The Old Mission & the Santa Barbara County Courthouse) plus a great family-friendly science museum with a lot interactive elements (MOXI). If you're not interested in architecture or museums, though, than yeah, I don't know what there is to do there besides wine tasting.

If you're not interested in spending much time in San Francisco, one option for a good week-long trip would be to fly into San Francisco, spend the week driving down the coast, and then fly out of LAX (or Santa Barbara, if that's cheaper).

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Old May 15th, 2021, 09:56 AM
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Sirhan makes the best recommendation. Do ONE of these combos. SF/maybe Point Reyes/Yosemite - OR - Yosemite / Monterey / Big Sur - OR - Yosemite / SLO / Santa Barbara. Any of those would easily fill a week.

re staying somewhere between FAT and YNP . . . NOPE. Any accommodations en route to the south entrance would still likely be 90 minutes from the Valley. It isn't just lack of light - hwy 41 is a winding mountainous road and the is wildlife on/ near the road. You ONLY want to drive it in daylight.
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Old May 15th, 2021, 12:29 PM
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I also agree that is too much to fit into one week and traffic in summer will be insane. I would cut something.
I do not agree that the presence of kids, teens or otherwise, should dictate your itinerary. Let each person pick one MUST including the teen.
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Old May 15th, 2021, 12:46 PM
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FWIW, Santa Barbara has a nice zoo. Now open, but advance tickets currently required.

Also, the Santa Barbara Bowl is very much looking forward to opening fully this summer. It's a wonderful venue that gets both well-known performers and up-and-coming artists. If you end up staying in SB, it would be worth checking the Bowl's calendar.
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Old May 15th, 2021, 02:29 PM
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Keep in mind that the second week of August is Car Week on the Monterey Peninsula so if that's time frame you're considering, check hotel availability and rates to see if you'd even want to come here that week.

Parking in Big Sur is difficult in summer. The lot at Pfeiffer Beach fills quickly and they'll turn you away at the highway if it's full. You need to be flexible on the Big Sur day based on where you can find parking. Getting an early start helps.
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Old May 15th, 2021, 04:36 PM
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Car Week! How could we forget?! I wouldn't look too hard for hotel availability... I doubt there is any, even this far in advance. In the past, my husband and his car friend booked their lodging a year in advance. When even that got to be difficult, the friend bought a time share!
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Old May 16th, 2021, 06:27 AM
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We just did the trip from Sacramento to Yosemite to Fresno in April for the first time and wanted to make a couple of suggestions:
If you fly into Fresno then I would drive straight Oakhurst and spend the night there before going into the park. We didn't realize that it is almost an hour's drive just to get to the entrance of the park from Oakhurst and some of the road is winding and it is all pretty slow. Once you get into the park then it is only around 20 minutes to the valley floor where the most scenic drive and vistas really start.

The drive into the park from Oakhurst is more winding than the drive into or out of the park to El Portal which is the more northerly gate. There are lots of great places to stay on Oakhurst including some new properties that were just opening up when we were there in mid-April. We chose Oakhurst because with Covid we weren't sure how many restaurants would be open. But there was plenty of choice. The drive from Fresno to Oakhurst is easy-only around 50 minutes on good roads.

Speaking of roads I wanted to mention that we drove the stretch between Sacramento and Oakhurst on highway 49 and parts of it are extremely curving and slow-think hairpin turns-very nerve-wracking. And to be honest, IMO I didn't think the vistas made the fear worth it (compared to some place like Big Sur where there is at least a "pay-off").

Wanted to add that we actually preferred the drive out of the Yosemite Valley to El Portal over the drive in from Oakhurst. We thought it was more open with better vistas.

Also If you went straight to SF from Oakhurst you can go there through Modesto-about a 3 and a half hour drive. If you decide to keep Yosemite on the trip plan, I would be tempted to go to SF from Yosemite and make my base there and just spend a day visiting the Marin area sights. That way you wouldn't have to change hotels as much either.

Last edited by jpie; May 16th, 2021 at 07:21 AM.
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Old May 16th, 2021, 03:02 PM
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Originally Posted by jamie99 View Post
I also agree that is too much to fit into one week and traffic in summer will be insane. I would cut something.
I do not agree that the presence of kids, teens or otherwise, should dictate your itinerary. Let each person pick one MUST including the teen.
This is how we generally function. Our young person is pretty laid back so while we're looking for every one to have a good time we won't be catering to one person.
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Old May 16th, 2021, 03:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Jean View Post
FWIW, Santa Barbara has a nice zoo. Now open, but advance tickets currently required.

Also, the Santa Barbara Bowl is very much looking forward to opening fully this summer. It's a wonderful venue that gets both well-known performers and up-and-coming artists. If you end up staying in SB, it would be worth checking the Bowl's calendar.
Thanks! Wine tastings were the only things I thought of, but will check out the venue for events. Our girls are considering surf lessons as well.
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