California Road Trip with Teens

Mar 18th, 2012, 04:07 PM
  #21  
 
Join Date: May 2008
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I like LA, and could tell you lots of cool things to do there. But, iyou only have 5 nights! Skip LA and spend more quality time from San Francisco to San Diego.

Plan for frequent stops to keep the kids happy. The coast is amazing and beautiful, but it is a slow and winding road. Get out for fresh air often.

There is so much to see and do, you have plenty of choices.
PeaceOut is offline  
Mar 18th, 2012, 08:25 PM
  #22  
 
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Tom: "And no idea what Janis means about not having time to drive through LA? You have to go through there some way if you are heading to San Diego"

Look at the itinerary will ya? Sure they have time to drive through LA -- they must. But they do NOT have time to visit Hollywood, or the Getty or most of the other suggested sites. It is a minimum of six hours without a single stop. If they eat a meal(s), take any photo ops, visit any sites/attractions it becomes an entire day's drive. So how is there time to do anything in LA?

They have one night in Big Sur. One night in LA. And one night in San Diego. That simply leaves no time to see/do much.

Of course you'll disagree w/ this . . .
janisj is offline  
Mar 19th, 2012, 03:27 AM
  #23  
 
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Janis. I did look at the itinerary and believe I provided a very nice way for them to also be able to enjoy a short stop in Hollywood. Perhaps they drive faster than you do now, and have a bit more energy?

Again, just so you can more properly appreciate what I was suggesting: Leave early from Big Sur, stop along the way if you like/as suggested - and then get to Hollywood by evening/dinner time, or the next morning if you stopped in say Solvang the 4th night.

You can still walk around and see the "fabled" Movie Star sites - Hollywqood's not that big - and then either stay there for the night - or coffee up and drive two more hours to SD.
Tomsd is offline  
Mar 19th, 2012, 03:31 AM
  #24  
 
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And janis - you did read this from another poster, righto?

"Also, hitting an iconic LA street like Hollywood & Vine, seeing the walk of stars, and letting them put their feet in cement at Grauman's Chinese Theatre will be very memorable for them. We only stayed there one hour, parking was nearby and the kids loved it".
Tomsd is offline  
Mar 19th, 2012, 03:50 AM
  #25  
 
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Uno Mas, here is what I would suggest:

Leave early from SF on your 3rd day to drive to Carmel/Monterrey (two and a half hours) - and park by Cannery Row in Monterrey - and walk around and visit the Acquarium if you think the kids will love it as much as many do. http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/

You can also pick up some fish and chips - or clam chowder, whatever - and the kids might like going to Bubba Gump's Shrimp: http://www.bubbagump.com/locations/monterey/

From there - you can take the beautiful 17 mile drive - and you come out at Carmel - and drive through lovely Carmel on your way to your Big Sur accommodations - arriving there mid/late afternoon.

The next morning - enjoy the drive from Big Sur to Hearst Castle (as noted - the kids may doze off) - and if you plan on staying at say Solvang for the night - take the Hearst Castle tour, or at least go by the Visitor's center and check out the little museum. They also have food options there - and used to have excellent tri tip sandwiches. http://www.hearstcastle.org/

Oh yes, just before (two miles) you get to the turnoff to Hearst Castle (which is before you get to San Simenon) - look for the Elephant Seal beach - and you can pull into the parking lot for a quick look at those big-uns. http://www.bigsurcalifornia.org/elephant-seals.html

From Hearst Castle - you could plan on either stopping at Solvang for dinner - http://www.solvangusa.com/ and/or the evening (it's about two hours/100 miles from Hearst Castle) - or press on to Hollywood - a couple hours further.

While I normally also recommend the Getty Museum, I have not on this thread as I don't think you will have enough time, but a short stop in Hollywood might be fun for the kids (and even you?).
Tomsd is offline  
Mar 19th, 2012, 04:09 AM
  #26  
 
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Uno Mas, here is what I would suggest:

Leave early from SF on your 3rd day to drive to Carmel/Monterrey (two and a half hours) - and park by Cannery Row in Monterrey - and walk around and visit the Acquarium if you think the kids will love it as much as many do. http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/

You can also pick up some fish and chips - or clam chowder, whatever - and the kids might like going to Bubba Gump's Shrimp: http://www.bubbagump.com/locations/monterey/

From there - you can take the beautiful 17 mile drive - and come out at Carmel - and drive through the quaint artist's colony on your way to your Big Sur accommodations - arriving mid/late afternoon.

The next morning - enjoy the uber scenic drive from Big Sur to Hearst Castle (as noted - the kids might be snoozing at some point) - which isn't that far - 60 some miles - but will probably take a couple of hours. If you plan on staying at say Solvang for the night - take the Hearst Castle tour (plan on 3 hours - http://www.hearstcastle.org/ )- or at least visit the little museum in the visitor center - and they also have some food options there if the kids are hungry. The tri tip (from the beef they still raise on their big ranch) was marvelous.

Oh yes, don't forget to pull over into the parking lot overlook at the Elephant Seal Beach - a couple of miles before you get to the Hearst Castle turnoff - which is also before you reach San Simeon. These big'uns are a treat. The huge males (5,000 lbs) may be out to sea when you go by - but the others are still fun to see. http://wildlifehotspots.com/sansimeon.html

From there - the drive to Solvang from Hearst Castle/San Simeon is about 2 hours (100 miles on good roads) - http://www.solvangusa.com/

and from there on to Hollywood is another couple of hours (longer if you hit the rush hour commute).

And since this is a fast paced trip - I did not recommend your visiting the Getty Museum - but you might keep that in mind for a future visit.
Tomsd is offline  
Mar 19th, 2012, 06:13 AM
  #27  
 
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"Perhaps they drive faster than you do now, and have a bit more energy?"

Since I drive a very hot sports car, have raced everything from Formula Fords, to a Lotus Super 7 . . . I kinda sorta doubt it.
janisj is offline  
Mar 19th, 2012, 06:51 AM
  #28  
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Being that I am at work, I can't take the time right now to do every bit of input that's been provided justice. I am so appreciative though and can't wait to synthesize it all into one trip. I really appreciate the cautionary traffic tips and ways to see the scenic drives and then gain time in other areas.

I held a family conference with my kids suggesting we stick to Northern California on this trip and they said they'd like to stick to the original plan as much as possible.

As many have noted, we all have our own travel personality. Ours is pretty unique (not touristy at all) and also very flexible, so we will just have to see how it all goes. If we can pull off a hike in Big Sur, a kayak somewhere, and a bike somewhere, the trip will be a great success in our view, if not all of yours

As Steve Martin said, "I'd like to thank each and every one of you...thank you. thank you. thank you. thank you..."
Keepswimming1 is offline  
Mar 19th, 2012, 08:07 AM
  #29  
 
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Janis - not bad but try flying jets.
Tomsd is offline  
Mar 19th, 2012, 08:14 AM
  #30  
 
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BTW - if you do wind up visiting/staying in Santa Monica - you might enjoy the drive from Oxnard down the Coast hiway - through Malibu. Probably get to Santa Monica just about as fast and have a much more scenic cruise, and the kids might enjoy watching the surfers along the way.

http://gocalifornia.about.com/od/top...alibu_hwy1.htm
Tomsd is offline  
Mar 19th, 2012, 09:30 AM
  #31  
 
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Janis flew the Space Shuttle
spirobulldog is offline  
Mar 19th, 2012, 12:24 PM
  #32  
 
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Ahhh zooo. LOL Spiro: That explains her radiation damage.
Tomsd is offline  
Mar 19th, 2012, 03:39 PM
  #33  
 
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OK, here's my two cents worth - and that's about what it's worth, two cents, I really am not stuck on any of my suggestions, so, just adapt as you see fit.

In San Francisco, if you possibly can, cancel the Holiday Inn and book ONE NIGHT into the Hotel del Sol (free parking and kids oriented)

http://www.jdvhotels.com/hotels/sanfrancisco/del_sol

You didn't say what time you arrive and what time you depart - that makes a whole lot of difference, but -

Assuming you have two whole days in San Francisco -

Day 1 - drive around SF, go across the Golden Gate Bridge and do all the rest of the drive stuff. I have made a draft driving map for a friend of mine, but am still struggling with getting onto a website. So, if you want a copy immediately(I think it's a really cool map!), just email me at [email protected] and I'll shoot you a copy. It'll give you a one day drive through SF, or, if you drive like janisj, just a half a day will be sufficient.

Day 2, spend it on foot - or rather, drive to Golden Gate Park and go to the Academy of Sciences. I think this is a better place than the Monterey Aquarium - given your limited time - and it has just as much "fishy" things for kids.

http://www.calacademy.org/

Then drive to Fisherman's Wharf and go to the Hyde Street Pier, which is part of the Maritime Museum, where there are several different historical ships that allow visitors to roam around - kids love these ships.

http://www.nps.gov/safr/index.htm

For dining, walk to either Lori's Diner in Ghirardelli Square or the Rainforest Cafe

http://www.lorisdiner.com/home.html

http://maps.google.com/maps?q=145+Je...isco,+CA+94133

Both of these are within easy walking distance of the Hyde Street Pier and are the places which kids love to go and eat (these aren't gourmet places for gourmands!).

If you have more time, you can always go to other places, such as the Exploratorium, or Lombard Street, "the crookest street in the world", or Chinatown or ... Just skip Alcatraz, it takes too much time and it's really not worth it in comparison to the other attractions.

THEN, when the kids are really tired but, hopefully, you've still got some juice left, leave San Francisco and start southbound to Monterey. You're only about an hour away from San Jose where you can stay in a nice hotel for relatively inexpensive rates.

I'd suggest the Residence Inn in South San Jose. It's right off Highway 101, which is on the way to Monterey. You can book a room with two beds and a pull-out couch which should accommodate the three of you nicely (just contact the hotel with your requirements).

http://www.residenceinnsanjosesouth.com/

If you spend the night in San Jose, you'll be half way to Monterey.

Next morning, day three.

Try and get an early morning start, take Highway 101 to Highway 156 to Highway 1. I'd suggest either bypassing Monterey or a quick driveby.

Go directly to Carmel and check out the downtown, but especially Carmel Beach. If you go early enough, you'll see a lot of dogs frolicking about on the beach.

Then you're on your way to Big Sur. About five miles (?) south of Carmel is Point Lobos. This should be absolutely the one place to do some hiking with your kids.

http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=571

The South Shore Trail is where all the tidepools are and the kids will love that. Try to be at Point Lobos between 10-12 in the morning, give or take a few hours. I sometimes spend all day there.

Next stop off at Pfeiffer Big Sur, which is inland and all about redwood trees and not about the beach. I believe the $10 daily entrance fee to the state parks is good for all day to as many parks as you want to visit.

Come evening, drive a couple of miles south to Nepenthe/ Cafe Kevah for dinner and a glorious sunset.

Night three at Big Sur Lodge.

Day four, start out for Los Angeles. If you have the time, go to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park to see McWay Falls, which is one of the few falls that descend into the Pacific Ocean. (Do NOT hike inland at JFB park!) This state park will be on your left as you head south on Highway 1. Once inside the park, the first parking lot is on the left as well. Park. Look across the road and you'll see a small set of steps, go down these steps and turn right. This path is wheelchair friendly, so is a very easy path, and it'll lead you to views of the falls.

Once outof JFB and as you keep southbound, you will be out of the twisty part of the road and onto fairly flat road. Just above San Simeon you'll probably see a lot of cars parked by the roadside on your right. Find a parking spot and park. All the signs will merely say "Beach Access". This is one of the homes of the elephant seals. The name of the beach is Piedras Blancs.

http://www.slofist.org/main/files/ElephantSeals.pdf

You can stop here for awhile (but not too long!) Then you have a fairly long drive ahead - about two hours.

If you haven't spent too much time along the way, then I would suggest that your next stop be at Mission La Purisma, which closes at 5pm.

http://www.lapurisimamission.org/

This is one of the famous California missions, but it's a state park (19 of the original missions are still in the hands of the Catholic Church) and is very well restored. It will give your children a great idea of that time period of California history. The park rangers dress in period costumes.

If you have visited Mission La Purisma, then I would suggest that you spend the night either in Santa Barbara, or better, further south in Ventura. The hotels in Ventura are less expensive than Santa Barbara and you will also be closer to LA. It'll be about an hour and a half drive from Mission La Purisma to Ventura (non-peak-hour traffic!). You can find accommodations suitable to your budget via tripadvisordotcom. There are several hotels right along the oceanfront.

Day five, drive to Los Angeles. (You're not going to get me into a debate over what to see or whether to skip LA altogether! )

Night five - at your friend's house in La Jolla.
easytraveler is offline  
Mar 19th, 2012, 04:01 PM
  #34  
 
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I like most of easytravelers suggestions.
z
I do think the Monterey Aquarium is way better than the Academy of Sciences though.

As far as what time to be at Point Lobos Tidepools-that would dictate when low tide actually is.

I think skipping Alcatraz is probably a good idea.

I'll put my two cents worth in and say Skip LA.
spirobulldog is offline  
Mar 19th, 2012, 04:05 PM
  #35  
 
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Some very nice input by easyt and perm it me to add this:

Depending on the weather - you might go "indoors" the first day if it's not sunny - otherwise take advantage of a nice Bay Area day and drive around.

And to add to her idea of heading south "early" (the afternoon of the 2nd day) - since you will be familiar with the Marina/Hotel del Sol - you can easily pop up to 19th Ave (just head to the Golden Gate and take the sign that says Golden Gate Park or 19th Ave/Daly City (the one NOT heading toward Sausalito) - and then rather than stop halfway at San Jose (to borrow from Gertrude Stein's comment about Oakland - "There's no There There") - just keep on driving another hour plus to Monterrey and check into a nice/inexpensive hotel down there, preferably close to the beach. The next am - you can sleep in if you like - and/or walk along the beach - and then see Cannery Row, possibly the Acquarium, and then head on to your hiking/exploring of the Big Sur area.

Here is one list of hotels in Monterrey: http://tinyurl.com/6qjsf8c
Tomsd is offline  
Mar 19th, 2012, 04:10 PM
  #36  
 
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And when you get south of San Simeon - you can decide if you want to stop for dinner, and/or overnight at Solvang - or keep heading further south.

Staying in Ventura isn't a bad idea at all - as the next day -you can leisurly drive down the nice coast road/Pacific Coast Hiway/route 1 - through Malibu to Santa Monica (say an hour) -and then take 10 a short distance over to the 405 and on south to SD(another two hours), or you might even be starting out from Hollywood (also about two hours down 5 to SD) - depending on what you decide.
Tomsd is offline  
Mar 19th, 2012, 04:18 PM
  #37  
 
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And fyi - here is one list/map of hotels/motels by Hollywood. We stayed in a very basic/two star - which was clean and quiet - (and inexpensive - and mainly just slept there - and that's all you need as it's just a stopover if you decide to stay there. http://hotelguides.com/california/ho...ca-hotels.html
Tomsd is offline  
Mar 19th, 2012, 05:30 PM
  #38  
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Thanks again. Very unsure as to what we'll do but not too worried about it either. Just can't wait to get going. Tomsd - weather will be a big factor.
Keepswimming1 is offline  
Mar 20th, 2012, 04:17 AM
  #39  
 
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Sounds like a good trip. We also did the trip down the coast hwy in a convertible and it was wonderful to be able to see in all directions with out obstruction. The down side is less visibility when the top is up and it will need to be when it is rainy or too hot. One thing to be aware of though is that many convertibles have very small trunks, so be sure you and the kids don't pack too much. Some even use trunk space for the top when it is open.

Have a fantastic trip.
emalloy is offline  
Mar 21st, 2012, 07:42 AM
  #40  
 
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I haven't looked at the "long range" predictions yet, but we just had a late "winter" storm blast us - so hopefully - you will have good weather when you come out.

And nothing better in California than driving around in a convertible. I really do miss the ones I have had.
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