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CALIFORNIA DREAMING....PLANNING A FAMILY TRIP TO THE WEST COAST>

CALIFORNIA DREAMING....PLANNING A FAMILY TRIP TO THE WEST COAST>

Old Mar 30th, 2010, 05:03 PM
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CALIFORNIA DREAMING....PLANNING A FAMILY TRIP TO THE WEST COAST>

Thanks to all that have responded to my initial post and have helped me to redraft my preliminary plans.
Here is a link to the original thread if anyone would like to draw on the wealth of information that I have already been supplied with...

http://www.fodors.com/community/unit...so-i-start.cfm


I have now got to the stage of booking flights and accomodation based on a 4 week trip from mid July to mid August this year. We are a family of 4 with 2 boys aged 8 and 11.

This is our plan and I would appreciate any further comments and tips........

FLY INTO AND OUT OF LOS ANGELES FROM MELBOURNE AUSTRALIA


7 NIGHTS.... LA /ANAHEIM /SANTA BARBARA

This will include 3 days at Disney,split between the 2 parks, a visit to La Brea and some R & R at the beach.

2 NIGHTS MONTEREY OR SANTA CRUZ

I still need to research what this area has to offer but it seems like the ideal place to break the drive.

4 NIGHTS SAN FRANCISCO

I have been convinced to add more time here. Will get to a baseball game, go to Alcatraz and still looking for some suggestions.

3 NIGHTS LAKE TAHOE

Rent a cabin in the Sand Harbour area and relax for a few days.

2 NIGHTS YOSEMITE

Tented Accomodation, in the park (mid week)

3 NIGHTS VEGAS/GRAND CANYON

Still need some help here. Will spend at least one night at the GC NORTH RIM and visit Zion. If it is practical to drive from Yosemite direct to the GC, I will do that, spend 2 nights and 1 in Vegas. Otherwise, it will have to be Vegas/GC/Vegas. Also want to see Hoover Dam.

7 NIGHTS SAN DIEGO /LA

Plan on spending 6 nights in La Jolla, visiting the Zoo/Sea World/Balboa Park mixed with plenty of Beach time and then spend our final night in LA doing anything we missed earlier.


There is still plenty of scope to modify this programme if I have skipped something that shouldn't be missed.

Any further recommendations, particularly regarding accomodation and travel times between my destinations would be great. I am probably looking at around $150 a night on average. If I can trim this in some places, I can splurge in others.

I will be writing a trip report on the road so to "give back" to the Forum, as I have on the Asian board previously where I am a regular poster.
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Old Mar 30th, 2010, 07:08 PM
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Your itinerary looks good overall. However, I would still encourage you to take a day or 2 off the LA parts, just so you could expand your time in Las Vegas/North Rim Grand Canyon/Zion to 4 nights. You will probably want to drive from Yosemite to Vegas, spend 1 night in Vegas, then drive to No. Rim Grand Canyon for 1 night, then 2 nights in Zion.
Drive time from Zion to Vegas is 2 1/2 hrs. I believe Vegas to LA is about 6 hrs, but someone else may be able to tell you more accurately.

At GC it is easiest to stay in the park, especially if your time there is so short. We had a spectacular time there one night, sitting in the main lodge with about 50 other people, watching an electrical storm beyond compare.

In Zion, we prefer to stay inside the park, but here you could save money by staying in Springdale at a motel. A free shuttle takes you into the park and around to all the trailheads. The views in Springdale are wonderful, so you won't miss much by staying in town. You will also have easier access to cheaper options for food. An inexpensive place we enjoyed was Canyon Ranch Motel. There is a pool and spa, perfect for the kids in the hot, dry weather. Best Western was comfortable but a little further away.
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Old Mar 30th, 2010, 09:28 PM
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Thanks for your input. I might just add an extra day as I didn't realise that Zion required an overnight stay.

Would it work to leave Vegas early Am, spend most of the day at the North Rim and then just go to Zion for 2 nights (getting there late on the first night)?
It sounds so beautiful but I have heaps that I want to do in SD and dont really want to loose any time there.
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Old Mar 30th, 2010, 09:51 PM
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Did you already buy your airline tickets? Have you considered flying open jaws? Instead of flying out of the same airport that you flew into, you'll save time by flying out of the airport where you end your trip, usually the cost for the flight is the same. You didn't make any mention of Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon; I have been to both Yosemite and Sequoia National Park & Kings Canyon. I was much more impressed with Sequoia National Park & King's Canyon than Yosemite. Sequoia National Park & King's Canyon don't have the over population of tourists. When you stay in a tent accommodation in Yosemite, you are so close to the next tent that you hear the snoring in the next tent. The caverns in Sequoia National Park are much more impressive than the Jenolan Caves in the Blue Mountains of Australia.
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Old Mar 31st, 2010, 04:40 AM
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When you say La Brea, are you meaning the La Brea Tar Pits? Your boys will be in heaven!

You will have plenty to do in San Francisco...ride a cable car, take a ferry to Sausalito and have an ice cream cone enjoying the stunning view of the City, walk around a lot, go to the fort near the Presido and let the boys explore and down by Pier 39 there is a Boudin Bakery store that has sourdough bread in the shape of animals... I'm taking my boys this weekend to Giants game and we're going to see if we can get a nice alligator shaped loaf of bread! There are wonderful museums and Golden Gate park... you will love your time there!
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Old Mar 31st, 2010, 08:03 AM
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onemoneygirl, just want to be sure you know there's a Boudin in Four Embarcadero -- closer to AT&T than Pier 39.

Also, I want to add to your list of things to do in San Francisco -- almost everyone loves walking across the Golden Gate Bridge (I, who have lived here for 37 years, have never done so. Perhaps this summer!). Oh, and if you're interested in Alcatraz, make advance reservations -- it does sell out, and the tickets are refundable if you change your mind.
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Old Mar 31st, 2010, 08:05 AM
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In Monterey, the Aquarium is a great visit with kids.

The boys would probably love a stop at the Jelly Belly Factory (jelly beans). It is located in Fairfield, CA on I80. You will pass it as you drive fron San Francisco to Lake Tahoe. No reservations for the free tour of how jelly beans are made (www.jellybelly.com). Free samples after the tour!
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Old Mar 31st, 2010, 09:06 AM
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Things we enjoy doing with the children in San Francisco:

Fort Point (I believe it's a Civil War era fort) right below the San Francisco end of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The Ghirardelli ice cream parlor at Ghirardelli Square.

The Exploratorium (great hands-on science museum).

Steinhart Aquarium and the Natural History Museum (which now has a living garden on the roof) in Golden Gate Park. This gets very crowded, plan ahead and if possible, get tix ahead of time). There is also a small herd of buffalo in Golden Gate Park that's always fun to see.

If you can't get a ticket to Alcatraz there are a couple of other ways to get out into the Bay. Once is to take a boat tour that will take you out under the Golden Gate Bridge. The other is to take the ferry out to Larkspur in Marin County.

If you are interested, it's easy to get over to UC Berkeley by BART. The campus is lovely to walk around, and if the campanile is open you can take an elevator ride up and have an amazing view of the entire Bay Area.

Look up Stu Dudley on these boards. He has a wealth of information about the Bay Area in general and San Francisco in particular.

Be prepared to be cold. July and August can be cold, foggy and damp. They can also be lovely, warm and sunny. Just don't arrive in a shorts and a T-shirt and expect to wander around for the evening. Have a sweater handy.

The last time we were up at Yosemite we actually drove over to Hetch Hetchy, which is a second valley that was filled up with a dam to provide water to San Francisco. You can park at one end of the dam and then hike around the reservoir. If the children like to walk and will enjoy the freedom of a hike, it's a lot of fun.
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Old Mar 31st, 2010, 10:49 AM
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Thanks guys, the list of things to do keeps growing.

The reason that we are flying in and out of LA is that it we have structured our trip as a bit of a loop, south-north by the coast and then inland on the way back. This will also mean that the hire car can be returned to the same point, waiving any relocation fees.

Does anybody else have an opinion on Kings Canyon over Yosemite?

Yes it is the Tar pits that we want to visit, onemoneygirl. I think I will be in heaven there too!!

The Jelly bean factory is a great tip, my wife is an addict and will stock up there for the rest of the road trip.

I will definately pre-book Alcatraz, I dont want to miss it.
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Old Mar 31st, 2010, 01:00 PM
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I still have some questions about travel times and road conditions on some of my route.

Anaheim to Monterey/Santa Cruz?

Santa Cruz to Sanfransico?

South Tahoe to Yosemite/ Kings Canyon?

Yosemite to Vegas ?

San Diego to LA Airport ?

I know that there will be breaks and things to look at along the way, but if I drive these routes as a single, unbroken journey, obeying the limits, how long would they take me?
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Old Mar 31st, 2010, 01:37 PM
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For travel times, you can try google maps or mapquest. Pick a lodging or a business in each location and then request "direction." This will give you an estimated driving time. (Personally, I would choose to go to Monterey instead of Santa Cruz, as Santa Cruz would add a lot of drive time, and you have a lot to see in the monterey area. Please include Big Sur and Point Lobos State Park for an hour or 2).
Here is a website that might help with Lake Tahoe area accommodations: http://www.gotahoenorth.com/lodging/lodging-by-type
Also, I'd like to suggest Meeks Bay Resort, on the west shore of Lake Tahoe. The cabins are rustic but all right on the lake with a fun beach for kids. I haven't stayed there but we checked it out a number of times for that possibility with the kids. Tahoe Vista also has resorts right on the lake. These are all more rustic accommodations but fine for a family who wants beach and swim time.

Regarding N. Grand Canyon: I think it would be a long day trip from Vegas. I can't remember how long the drive is - perhaps 4 hrs from Vegas? You could leave Las Vegas early, I guess, drive to No. GC and then drive back down the mountain to spend the night in Kanab. The motels are cheaper there than at GC. Then in the morning drive to Zion. You really want to make that drive in the daylight because the views are incredible entering the park in that direction.

Another idea would be to drive from Yosemite to Vegas (takes most of the day), spend the night in Vegas; then drive to Zion. This leg is only 2 1/2 hrs and much easier on your kids since they would have spent the previous day in the car driving from Yosemite. Then the kids would have lots of fun hiking and playing in Zion for 2 days, 2 nights (or even 3 nights)before you set off for another drive to GC. If you don't want to spend the night at GC, spend the night in one of the little towns down the mountain, or for better choices, try to make it to St. George. But it would probably be easier on your kids to spend the night in GC or close by.
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Old Mar 31st, 2010, 02:03 PM
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Time adjustments: My husband says the following:

Las Vegas to Grand Canyon North Rim - 4 1/2 to 5 hrs.

GC North Rim to Zion - 2 1/2 to 3 hrs.

Zion to Las Vegas - 2 1/2 hrs.

(Of course, I suggest going in reverse: LV to Zion to GC North Rim, to Las Vegas. And I'd try to fit Bryce in there too).

More info: http://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisi...ions_n_rim.htm
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Old Mar 31st, 2010, 04:53 PM
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Thanks for that elnap29. It helps me fill in the dots.

If I was pressed for time, would you suggest Zion/Bryce over the Grand Canyon North Rim? I know it is hard to compare and if it was just me, i'ld do it all, but my wife has a certain tolerance level for long car trips and I dont want to push my luck.
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Old Mar 31st, 2010, 05:04 PM
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On the Yosemite vs Kings Canyon question - Yosemite is one of the most heavily visited parks in the country, and for good reason because it is spectacular. I've been to Yosemite several times and would go back a hundred more times. In July and August it will be a zoo though so if you go expecting it to be really really crowded, you will be prepared for it. If you are interested in communing with nature or are easily frustrated by traffic and gobs of people, then you will be disappointed by Yosemite. The roads will literally be bumper to bumper. I personally have no problem with crowds in cities, but out in the woods, they really bother me, so I don't go to Yosemite in the summer time.

Kings Canyon and Sequoia are much less heavily visited and are very beautiful. Not as dramatic as Yosemite, but very much worth seeing. I've really enjoyed the time I've spent there and am probably going to go camping in Kings Canyon for several days this summer.

In the end, it depends what you want to do - and availability of lodging may end up making the decision for you (in favor of Kings Canyon).
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Old Mar 31st, 2010, 07:12 PM
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Found this website of drive times from Las Vegas. It's a rough guide but should help somewhat.
http://usparks.about.com/library/dis...e-lasvegas.htm

I don't feel I can advise you about Bryce vs. Grand Canyon. Each is fabulous and so very different. Bryce is not that far from Zion (about 2 hrs, maybe a little less) and some people go there from Zion as a day trip. If you go to Bryce it is advisable to take a walk down into the canyon to experience the hoo-doos from a different perspective. This is simple to do and does not take a lot of time, whereas GC hiking into the canyon is a major ordeal. Bryce is very accessible.

The elevation at both GC and Bryce is higher and therefore cooler. Nighttime temps require a jacket or sweater.
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Old Mar 31st, 2010, 10:24 PM
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I highly recommend making reservations for Alcatraz on line; this attraction books up fast, especially on weekends, worst, during summer break when students are out of school.
Steinhart Aquarium would be a slightly better place to attempt on a weekday as opposed to a weekend day. I recently discovered city guides tours in San Francisco operated by the public library; the tours are free, open to donations, the guides are volunteers, each week different guides take turns leading tours; I don't know if your boys would enjoy this though. You can learn more from www.sfcityguides.org
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Old Apr 1st, 2010, 10:06 AM
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A couple little things. When my sister-in-law visited with 4 kids about your age we stayed at a great hotel just outside Zion Called the Desert Pearl Inn-it was a favorite hotel of the trip. Besides being lovely with a great pool we could walk down to the little town of Springdale for souvenir shopping and meals. There is a little llama farm you walk by and the kids just loved it.

http://www.desertpearl.com/welcome/

Also we live in LA and another thing we did with guests for the first time was to visit Griffith Observatory and we had a blast. the observatory is free but pony up for the 45 minute show on the skyscape ceiling-they kids will love it. Also the view of LA are spectacular and they even let you line up to catch a glimpse of whatever they are observing in the telescope-we saw mars-very fun!

http://www.griffithobs.org/

At the beach be sure to take them to Santa Monica pier-they will like that and Venice beach is always fun as well. At both beaches you can rent bikes, in-line skates etc. that is a fun way to get around the areas.

http://www.santamonicapier.org/
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Old Apr 1st, 2010, 10:57 AM
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Alcatraz is a priority so I will certainly heed your recommendation to book Globalchar.

Desert Pearl looks fantastic and is within our budget. I also think the kids would love Griffith Obs. I had a look at the Santa Monica Pier site and saw a restaraunt called BubbaGump Shrimp. As a big Forrest Gump fan, we will have to eat there for the novelty value alone!!!!! Thanks jpie.
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Old Apr 1st, 2010, 11:15 AM
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Since you are a Forrest Gump fan, you'll love Bubba Gumps. There is also one on Canery Row in Monterey just down from the aquarium if for some reason you don't get to the one in Santa Monica. We go every year for my husband's birthday - he loves it.
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Old Apr 1st, 2010, 02:48 PM
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There is another Bubba Gumps at Pier 39 in San Francisco.
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