California's Central Coast

Old Jun 21st, 2016, 02:47 PM
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California's Central Coast

Lawdy, I needs some help!!! DH and I are flying in and out of San Jose in early October and have six nights to visit the Central Coast of California. We'd like to spend the first night in Santa Cruz...and we're open to suggestions from there! Interested in checking out some state park action, the Monterey Aquarium, a winery, beach scenery, McWay falls, a mission, and good walks... Cities that intrigue me are Carmel, San Luis Opispo, Paso Robles, Cambria, and Solvang. The more I research, the more confused and overwhelmed I get! Can y'all help a southern gal make a plan? Thanks!!!
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Old Jun 21st, 2016, 04:35 PM
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Top 'o the head...

Big Basin or Henry Cowell redwoods on the way to Santa Cruz or as a day trip.

Santa Cruz boardwalk amusement park.

Steinbeck Center in Salinas.

Monterey aquarium.

Pacific Grove - check if some butterflies are in town.

Carmel Mission, shopping, eating, house envy and beach.

Point Lobos state park.

Nepenthe for an expensive burger and a priceless view.

Big Sur, McWay Cove, Pfeiffer redwoods.

Piedras Blancas elephant seal colony, just before...

Hearst Castle

East Village in Cambria

Morro Rock

Avila/Pismo Beaches.

... and many more.

If you're going as far as Solvang (which frankly leaves me cold) then keep on going another 45 min. to Santa Barbara, the most beautiful town on the California coast - beautiful mission, fabulous architecture, beach, you name it.

With six nights I'd spend four in the Monterey Bay area, doing day trips to the Big Basin or Cowell redwoods, Point Lobos, Salinas, etc., then buzz down CA 1 to Cambria or thereabouts for a couple of day trips to the Hearst Castle, Pismo, Santa Barbara etc. Then roar back up US 101 to San Jose (around 5 hours from Santa Barbara) unless you're flying home from LAX.

Others will come up with more. Managing your time will be critical.
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Old Jun 22nd, 2016, 10:49 AM
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Are you flying out of San Jose? If so, I would limit this trip to Santa Cruz (your choice, not mine), Carmel area, Big Sur, and Cambria, with visits from there to the wineries on the west side of Paso. My favorites include Niner, Halter Ranch, Calcareous, Tablas Creek, and Brecon. If you venture to the east side of Paso then include Villa San Juliette, Sculpterra, and Cass.

I definitely would not bother with Solvang.
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Old Jun 22nd, 2016, 12:57 PM
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Carmel has one of the most beautiful missions IMO. Solvang kind of leaves me underwhelmed to be honest, but there are some good wineries in the surrounding Santa Ynez Valley which is very pretty with rolling hills and live oak trees.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2016, 06:32 AM
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Big Sur for sure. Carmel. Morro Bay. Skip over San Luis Obispo.
Head on down to Solvang for great food, too.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2016, 09:18 AM
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I also like the little town of Pescadero which is south of Half Moon Bay. It's really only a few blocks long, has a wonderful bakery. We get sandwiches and head for a nearby beach.

Next door to Monterey is Capitola. Another nice beach town to visit.
In Santa Cruz try the Crows Nest Restaurant. Ocean views and nice sunsets from the deck but gets crowded so go early.

Also in Santa Cruz you can park by the surfing museum ( gets pretty crowded ). There is a sidewalk along the ocean with many view points. Great place to watch surfers. . There is a pier with several walk up restaurants. Great place for chowder and a beer and watch the seals.

Enjoy your visit!
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Old Jun 23rd, 2016, 11:33 AM
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Also in Santa Cruz you can park by the surfing museum ( gets pretty crowded

You can also park downtown, and take the shuttle or walk to the beach. We just did that this past Sunday.

Monterey is 40 miles from Capitola - did you perhaps mean Pacific Grove? (Capitola is a cute beach town, just not that close to Monterey)
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Old Jun 23rd, 2016, 11:50 AM
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Meant to say Capitola is close to Santa Cruz. very cute beach town but then, there is no shortage of cute beach towns in that area.

I enjoyed kayaking in Monterey Bay. Saw lots of wildlife, went with a guide, outfitter provides all the gear, pretty easy even for beginners.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2016, 03:17 PM
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Thanks for all of your kind words and tips! I'll avoid Solvang, and definitely hit Santa Barbara.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2016, 05:28 PM
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Just FYI, it's a 5-hour drive back to San Jose from Santa Barbara, so if Paso Robles is still on the list you could break up the drive with a stop there and spend the last night near SJ.

But I think you're going to find your 5-6 days go by very fast. I'm not sure I'd drive all the way to Santa Barbara if I had to go back to San Jose. I'd turn at Cambria.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2016, 05:58 PM
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If you want to spend your last night near the airport, I suggest Los Gatos- only 11 miles to airport but it's a very high end town with many shops, restaurants, wine tasting etc.

Testa Rosa is a beautiful winery on the edge of town and worth a stop if you have time and/or interest. There is also an outdoor area where you can enjoy a small plate along with a nice bottle of wine. Great place to end a trip to California.
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