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California in July - need itinerary help please

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California in July - need itinerary help please

Old Mar 17th, 2017, 07:16 PM
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California in July - need itinerary help please

Hello! We are celebrating our 25th anniversary with a trip to California for 5 days... July 24-29. There is too much we want to do and see in a short time, so I desperately need your help in making it more realistic. There's only so much I can do using Bing Maps to measure distances, etc. We'd like to relax some but also see/do as much as we can while we are there.

Flying from Dallas, TX to SFO round-trip is very reasonable right now -- $260/ticket. However, if it's better for time and not too much more expensive, we are open to multi-city tickets and flying in/out of San Jose' or Fresno...depending on the trip itinerary. We are going to rent a mustang convertible!! Ha!

We think we would like to have 2 days in San Francisco. We just want a little time to drive around, spend some time at the Golden Gate bridge, maybe Sausalito for lunch and a 2-hour visit to the Redwoods. We also would enjoy Pier 39 and the cable cars. I don't know what else?

We would love to have 2 days in Monterrey/Carmel. We want to see what we can of Highway 1 since we can go down to the north side of Big Sur, see Point Lobos, maybe a whale watching tour, and maybe have dinner at Mission Ranch. I've heard about the amazing sunsets at the end of Ocean Avenue. Driving up the PCH was the original dream for this trip! Still trying to make it work partially.

We would also love to have 2-3 days in Yosemite since it's only 4-1/2 hours away. See some Sequoias and many of the beautiful sights there. Yosemite looks picture perfect and is on my husband's bucket list.

See? I have a 7 day wish list but only 5 days to do it. Something has to go? Or is there a way to do it all? How do I choose what to give up?

Need to know where to fly into/out of. Need to know where to stay and where to eat, and the "don't miss" places -- since this is most likely a once in a lifetime trip for us.

Thanks for any help you can give. Once we get a plan for a possible itinerary, I can finally buy the plane tickets!!
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Old Mar 17th, 2017, 10:08 PM
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You might have to work your trip around which days you can find accommodation for Yosemite, it's pretty late for that. If you can't find anything, keep checking for cancellations.

SFO will have your only nonstop flights. Can you fly into SF the night before? American has an 8:30pm flight arriving 10:30....you'll be tired, but hit the bed and get an early start on Monday. You might be able to get away with just one full day in San Francisco as well as some of Tuesday morning, then head for Monterey or Yosemite. Something's gotta give.
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Old Mar 17th, 2017, 11:42 PM
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First - you might really luck out and have glorious weather for you 'top down' experience on the GG Bridge/Sausalito . . . But it could also be cold and foggy. Just be ready for it ( the hotter it is in the Central Valley - and it can be VERY hot in late July - the colder it tends to be on the coast.). 'Summer'' on the coast really is on September/early October, not July/August.

Unfortunately you reall would be pushing things to fit in all three destinations. Flying home from Fresno would help a little.

I LOVE Yosemite, but I personally wouldn't try it this trip. UNLESS you can get accommodations in the Valley or at Yosemite View Lodge in El Portal. everything else is too far from the Valley and the traffic in/ out will be very bad.

If you can get a room in Yosemite the I'd drop a day from SF. At least you'd be guaranteed some top down weather driving across the Central Valley and in the park (though you might fry )
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Old Mar 18th, 2017, 05:40 AM
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>> 2 days in San Francisco. We just want a little time to drive around, spend some time at the Golden Gate bridge, maybe Sausalito for lunch and a 2-hour visit to the Redwoods. We also would enjoy Pier 39 and the cable cars. I don't know what else?>top down weather driving across the Central Valley
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Old Mar 18th, 2017, 05:46 AM
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Debbie - thanks so much! Yes I love the idea of flying in the night before because we were going to have to stay in a Dallas hotel anyway to catch a Monday morning flight. So I already found a reasonable 3-1/2 * hotel near the airport for under $150. I'm very open to that idea. Thank you for your help!
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Old Mar 18th, 2017, 05:56 AM
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Stu- guess you didn't see the smiley? But in fact I do have the top down in the heat of the summer on the Central Valley. In fact it is down just about year round except when its raining ( which has been often this winter, thank heavens )

Mtolar: do note stu's comment re Muir Woods. You really won't have time for it. It gets VERY crowded and they often have to close the parking off and you have to drive back out and take a shuttle bus. Just a huge hassle all around.
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Old Mar 18th, 2017, 06:36 AM
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Stu and janisj - duly noted about Muir Woods! Thank you!
So if we could possibly fit it all in, what would you suggest as itinerary? And then what itinerary if without Yosemite?
Janis- I will look up lodging in Yosemite now..probably too late though. Also - San Jose does offer non-stop to Dallas in addition to SFO.
??? What about this??
Sunday 23- late flight to SFO or SJC, hotel near airport
Monday 24- early drive straight to Yosemite
Tuesday 25- Yosemite most all day, then drive to San Francisco maybe after dark, night in SF
Wed 26- San Francisco most all day, then drive to Carmel/Monterey. Night there.
Thurs 27- Carmel/Monterey
Fri 28- ??
Sat 29 - fly out early from ?

Bummer - I just learned that Mariposa Sequoia Grove in Yosemite is closed until fall, but it seems there are others you can see with a hike.

I obviously need a lot of guidance. Really appreciate each of you for your advice and tips. Thank you!!
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Old Mar 18th, 2017, 06:55 AM
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Stu - I just read your entire post about how you would host guests for a day in San Francisco, and I loved it all. I think we may follow your exact suggestions for that day! Thank you!
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Old Mar 18th, 2017, 06:55 AM
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Just a quick note right now - you most likely won't find anything available in Yosemite Valley. If not, book immediately at Yosemite View Lodge in El Portal. They have a good cancellation policy. Then you can keep trying for a place in the Valley.

I would first find out when you can get a place for Yosemite then arrange your order based on that. But if you find availability and if it was me, I'd do SJC or SFO to Carmel first, stay the nights of the 24/25 then drive across to YNP and stay 26/27, drive to SF, drop car and stay the 28th and fly out later in the day from SFO on the 29th.

Or . . . Do SF first, then pick up car, drive over to YNP, then over to Monterey/Carmel and fly home for SJC. It is an easy drive from Monterey to SJC.
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Old Mar 18th, 2017, 06:56 AM
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I'm realizing we may have to give up visiting Yosemite.
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Old Mar 18th, 2017, 06:58 AM
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Janis - these are GREAT suggestions. Let me look into lodging there now to see what's possible.
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Old Mar 18th, 2017, 08:25 AM
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Your itinerary has too much driving time in it, and through some very "un-scenic" areas, IMO. You'll also be driving on Monday - "return to work day", although you would be doing a reverse commute and the only heavy traffic would be on 101 south.

You will encounter some very heavy commute traffic on Wed on your way to Carmel.

I would:
- Skip Yosemite - just too many variables involved and not enough time in your schedule.

- Follow Janisj's advice and visit Carmel & Monterey first - especially if you can find a good flight to SJO. If not, I suggest that you drive from your SFO airport hotel to 380 west, to 280 south, (a very scenic freeway after about 10 mins), to 92 west (extremely scenic) to Half Moon Bay (maybe breakfast there on beautiful Main St (left turn at first light))?. They follow Hwy #1 all the way to Monterey. This route will actually be faster than 101 to Monterey - which will be stop & go all the way till you get 30 mins or so past San Jose.

- Depart Carmel at 9:30 to avoid Bay Area commute traffic. Take 101 to 280 (very scenic once past San Jose area). It is about a 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 hr drive from Carmel to SF with "normal" traffic.

- Stay at a motel on Lombard Street - west of Gough St and as close to Gough street as you can get. There are dozens & dozens of motels in this area. Most motels there have free parking for your car. Driving west on Lombard St & bending right (follow the other traffic), will take you over the GG Bridge (visit the Bridge Museum & complex & views by taking a right turn just before the toll booth). Visit the view area on the north side of the bridge - if it is not mobbed. Visit the Bridge after 3PM - so the sun won't be in your face for the views back to The City. Also, do my Conzelman drive on the North side of the Bridge. Take Alexander Ave (same exit as Conzelman road) to get to Sausalito. Don't take the farther north Sausalito exit indicated on 101 road signs. Have dinner at Tridant to return to the early 70s and a great view of San Francisco.

- Also, Union St & Chestnut St are close to Lombard St with perhaps 50 restaurants & cafes, shops, etc. This is MUCH better than Pier 39. Read my link about these areas - and also Fillmore St (north of Jackson)- which is also close by (but not walkable from Lombard because of our steep hills). Also close is Ft Point where you can watch surfers surf under the GG Bridge if the surf is "up". Great views of the Bridge & back to downtown. Interior of Ft Point is open Fri through Sun. We often pick up a sub sandwich at Marina Deli on Union & Steiner & eat it at Ft Point. Crissy Field nearby is undergoing some repair work this summer - but walk along the walkway next to the bay at Crissy Field. This is a WHOLE LOT MORE interesting, IMO, than Pier 39 & the Wharf. I've said this twice now!!

Stu Dudley
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Old Mar 18th, 2017, 09:09 AM
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Stu - we are taking your advice for sure. Skipping Yosemite for this trip. Also, I agree with you about Pier 39/Wharf. Your list for San Francisco looks very doable and much more scenic. I like seeing a little bit of the street entertainers and maybe a shop or two, but we are mostly interested in "seeing" San Francisco. I've only been once for one day (without the husband) and we were in a rental. One of the most fun things to do -- seems silly -- was driving the grid up and down those crazy 45ish degree angled streets. Jones Street?! Was unforgettable. That and getting around for your suggestions with Bay Bridge, Embarcadero, Lombardo -- never seen.

As long as my husband gets to see some nature (redwoods, ocean, maybe a short hike), then we will be very happy. Once I have a grip on what an itinerary should look like for SF and Carmel, then I will buy plane tickets by this evening.

I am SO THANKFUL for the time you all are investing to help me.
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Old Mar 18th, 2017, 10:12 AM
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Stop and see the redwoods at Henry Cowell just north of Santa Cruz on your way to or from the Monterey Peninsula. If Pfeiffer Big Sur is open at the time of your trip (they're anticipating reopening in July), you can also see redwoods there.
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Old Mar 18th, 2017, 11:30 AM
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Congrats on 25 years together. This is not the trip of a lifetime. Consider it to be a scouting mission for the California trip of a lifetime.
Come back to California when you have the time to see Yosemite and several other places other than cities.
There are big Coast Redwoods to see at Big Basin not too far from San Jose.
For the sand dunes, try Ano Nuevo State Reserve.
The big trees in Sequoia/Kings Canyon and a couple of groves in Yosemite are Giant Sequoias which is a different species of tree.
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Old Mar 18th, 2017, 12:03 PM
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Look at Columbus Motor Inn in SF, great location between the Wharf & Union Square, walkable to both and parking is included ($40-$60 per night elsewhere). Not exactly an "anniversary" hotel but very convenient.

Hertz currently has some great prices (are you aaa member?) for SF rentals but it seems to double if you decide to return the car to SJC. Book now while the price is down, you do not have to pre-pay and it's changeable.

Monterey is always pricey in July , but down the road in Pacific Grove the Butterfly Inn or the Bide A Wee both currently have decent deals up on booking.com, cancellable rates so again....you can lock something in but change your mind later.
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Old Mar 18th, 2017, 12:40 PM
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Thank you Tom! OK - I agree that we can't enjoy all 3 places. And to this point, we've been discussing making the trip either San Francisco & Carmel/Monterey OR San Francisco & Yosemite.

Well what about skipping San Francisco this trip? I hate to miss the city but am now considering it. What we really love is the ocean/beach AND the mountains' scenic views. So now after we've talked about it and read various comments, what would an itinerary look like for just doing Carmel/Monterey and Yosemite??

Could this work? I could buy plane tickets either R/T out of San Jose' OR I could do multi-city in SJC and out of Fresno, maybe...

What do you think?
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Old Mar 18th, 2017, 12:59 PM
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Very easy - - look a flying in to SJC or SFO and if fresno is too pricey, home from maybe SMF.
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Old Mar 18th, 2017, 01:00 PM
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. . . If you fly home from SMF you can wander up hwy 49 through the gold rush foothills before turning west to Sacramento
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Old Mar 18th, 2017, 01:03 PM
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Is Sacramento (SMF) a possibility? It has easy access to I-5.
Without a rental car, you can take a San Joaquin train from Sacramento to Merced or to Fresno where you can rent a car to go over to the coast.
The YARTS buses not only go to/from Merced they also go south to the Fresno airport.
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