driving tour of California

May 30th, 2007, 06:03 PM
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driving tour of California

My husband and I plan to do a one-week driving tour of the California coast, including a visit to wine country. Any thoughts on where to start, places to be sure to visit? Thanks!
Jamie11 is offline  
May 30th, 2007, 06:07 PM
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When do you plan on doing this? Also, are you talking about Northern or Southern California? A week is not long enough to do justice to both. Also, it would be helpful if you described what things you are interested in.
Otis_B_Driftwood is offline  
May 30th, 2007, 06:26 PM
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We'd like it to be a fairly relaxing drive and don't want to stay in a different hotel each night. We definitely want to spend a day or two in wine country and a day in SF. Have been told that we should visit Carmel and Santa Barbara, too. Possible? We're traveling the last week of July.
Jamie11 is offline  
May 30th, 2007, 07:09 PM
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Good luck with that plan. I agree with Otis that you're chewing off too much for a week. Either north or south CA. Unless you like to be on the road all the time and just drive through some of the most scenic areas in the US - SF, Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Carmel, Big Sur, Santa Barbara. Stop awhile and enjoy it.
JayZee is offline  
May 30th, 2007, 08:51 PM
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by "wine country" I'll assume you mean Napa/Sonoma. But there are wine regions all over the state and up/down the coast.

I agree w/ what's been said before - w/ just a week I'd either concentrate on the north (Monterey > SF > Sonoma), or the south (Santa Barbara > Big Sur > Monterey)
janisj is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 08:42 AM
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The Hearst Castle is a great place to tour if you're going to be passing down through Santa Barbara. It's kinda in no man's land so the hotels there will not be fancy. You need to book this in advance. In the wine country, we stayed at Vinter's Inn ages ago and it was fabulous. I agree trying to drive the entire coast will be too hard but I guess it's doable. You just won't be able to savor a whole lot. I'd select a vineyard you want to see and stay in that area. Stopping in San Francisco, the Hilton by Fisherman's warf is nice but we've stayed many times at Argonaunt (sp?) and love that place. It's next to Giardelli Square on the water. Monterey is fabulous and the acquarium there is very famous. Carmel is very close by; that is also a fabulous place though pricey. Any hotel over $200/250 will probably be OK, but remember, CA is expensive, especially so by the coast. You could easily spend over $300 a night for a luxury hotel. In LA you might want to visit the Getty museum. There's also Venice boardwalk close to Santa Monica if people watching (and odd at that, lol) is something you find interesting. South from there is Laguna Beach or Corona del Mar which are very beachy nice places (I live very close by), but don't offer anything very touristy outside the beaches or shopping. There's the recently built Montage or the beautiful Ritz Carlton-but expect to easily spend 400 or more at these beautiful on-the-water places.From there I'd probably recommend San Juan Capistrano if you'd like to see a historic mission-it's in the middle of this quaint town. The last southern stop I'd recommend is Del Mar or La Jolla in San Diego county.
parisnewbie is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 09:55 AM
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Thanks, all! Based on your input, I've winnowed down the scope of our trip to the Monterey Peninsula, San Francisco and Sonoma (or Napa). We'll likely have 8 nights in California, so hopefully we'll be able to enjoy each of these locales.

If you have any additional thoughts on where to stay, dine and what not to miss, I'd love to hear from you.

Jamie11 is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 10:54 AM
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Here's an original idea. Why not get a hold of the Fodor's guide to Northern California or the Compass guide to Coastal California and do a little basic research before posting questions on this forum? That could really help you "winnow" down the scope of your trip.
Supercilious is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 11:04 AM
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Wow. Thanks for clarifying, supercilious. I didn't realize this "forum" was only for folks who had a clear idea of their travel plans. I appreciate you setting me straight.
Jamie11 is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 11:45 AM
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Don't worry Jamie. Some people can be a little testy. Your question was fine and I sure you are doing other research than just this message board - LOL.

I think your plan is a good one, and with 8 nights, you will be able to see a lot without moving around too much.

Since you will likely be flying in and out of SF, I would spend time there first, and then head out. I don't think it makes much difference logistically if you visit the Monterey area first or the Sonoma area. Just a matter of what you want to do.

With regard to lodging and restaurants, a lot depends on your budget and your interests.

In the Monterey area, I like the town of Pacific Grove a lot - it is right in between Monterey and Carmel. While you are in that area, you can do a day trip into Big Sur - you wont have time to drive the whole thing, but you can get a nice taste.
J_Correa is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 01:21 PM
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Hi Jamie. Most folks frequent this board because of their love of travel and to be helpful, but sometimes there are those that cut you short. It's not infrequent but it is always unwelcome. Don't let that keep you from asking questions. BTW, JCorrea helped me a lot when we planned our trip to SF. There are many other locals who regularly contribute that you will appreciate.

Sharing some suggestions from our trip in Sept 05. We just did a day trip to Napa but had a wonderful day even tho we are not into wines. Lunch at Brix (pricey but Napa experience) was nice and we loved Coppola vineyards and Domaine Chandon tasting. In San Francisco, try to get to Mama's on Washington Square for breakfast and the Empress of China was great for dinner in Chinatown. The Grey Line city tour of SF was worth the money with a couple of stops with terrific views.

Agree the aquarium in Monterey is not to be missed and the drive along the shore in Pacific Grove (don't know name) was beautiful with all the golf courses (and lighthouse). A stop at Pebble Beach at the end of the 17-mile drive was a highlight. We didn't have time to drive much farther south but outside Carmel is Point Lobos State Park and it is a must. There are trails for even the most novice hiker that have unbelievable views. We drove as far as the Bixby Bridge which we are glad we didn't miss.

Have a wonderful time! The best part is just the incredible coast scenery--pull off and take it all in.
texasjo is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 03:00 PM
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We liked Napa better than Sonoma for wine country. A full day will cover some wineries and scenery. San Francisco is worth a couple full days. To really relax after that, spend the rest on the Monterey Peninsula. We just returned from one of our many delightful stays in Carmel. If you base yourselves in Carmel, staying in the village, you can walk to all the galleries, shops, restaurants, the beautiful town beach. You can take short drives to Monterey (aquarium, history), Pacific Grove, 17 mile drive, Pt. Lobos, Carmel Valley (wineries there). We stayed at a charming old B&B, www.vagabondshouseinn.com close to everything. One of the most charming and romantic restaurants anywhere is Casanova for fine French/Italian food. L'Escargot has great French food prepared by owner/chef in a lovely setting, Flaherty's is good for seafood, and Roy's (Roy Yamaguchi from Hawaii) in Pebble Beach has superb Pacific Rim cuisine. From Carmel you can even drive partway to Big Sur to get a feeling for that spectacular coastline.
xkenx is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 03:18 PM
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Yes, I would not try to get all the way to Santa Barbara and back. The ideas to give San Francisco at least two days (I would prefer three) is a good one. I don't agree with the person who prefers the Napa Valley to the Sonoma Valley. The latter is 18 miles long with over 44 wineries, and is not as crowded as the Napa Valley with its string of towns. The scenery is beautiful. Whatever. Both are about an hour from San Francisco, and Monterey is around 2 hours.
jtrandolph is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 03:25 PM
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texasjo - I am so glad that I was able to help you in planning your trip. I love this area - there are so many great places to see and things to do.
J_Correa is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 06:11 PM
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If you have access to any of the high definition channels, look for a show called "Destination HD". It is one of the Discovery High Def channels. Anyway the other night they had a great travel show on driving the Calif Coast, historical tid bits as well as some places to stop. Althought I have done the drive on Hwy 1 several times, I learned a few new things. Enjoy your trip!
May 31st, 2007, 06:18 PM
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I too prefer Sonoma County, and the area North of Santa Rosa..esp. Healdsburg, a MOST charming town. Lots of wineries, shopping and restaurants. Plenty of hotels, a few motels, lots of B&B's and private vacation rentals too. I always suggest checking out www.sonomacountyvacations.com to find unusual rentals, many under $200. a night. Do get to Armstrong Woods. A beautiful State park in Guerneville filled with majestic Redwood trees, and few tourists. Drive the Russian River to the Pacific and visit Bodega Bay. Check out the spa in Freestone called Osmosis... Google it. All very fun things to do and see and not as frantic as Napa.
kleroux is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 08:42 PM
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i agree. the land north of healdsburg/geyserville and on up to the redwoods is gorgeous.
this past weekend, though, 'charming' healdsburg looked a lot like the hamptons: crowded with shoppers and well-dressed city folk. ugh. how i miss the days pre-fancy hotel on the square when you could be the only one sitting in the shade, with maybe a few families. forget that these days. the crowds and the packed shops made sonoma's main square look "quaint" by comparison.

kerikeri is offline  
May 31st, 2007, 10:50 PM
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You have a lot of people giving you advice but you have never once expressed what activities might interest you.

I am afraid that you are wasting the time of these valuable contibutors.

You seem to be focused on the California Coast but you are getting mostly information about Healdsburg and Geyserville which are not coastal towns. Why don't you give more information about your itinerary?
Supercilious is offline  
Jun 1st, 2007, 08:24 AM
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Supercilious. . . everyone's suggestions for a relaxing trip to Napa/Sonoma and the northern California coast have been right on and extremely helpful. Since you seem to be more interested in critiquing my messages than sharing your thoughts on the topic at hand, I'd prefer that you no longer participate in this dialogue.

Everyone else . . . Many thanks to each of you for your terrific suggestions and valuable insights. We're booking our trip this weekend, making reservations at L'Escargot and Brix (thanks texasjo and xknex), and will delve into a great little book I picked up to help us further sort through the hundreds of wineries we might visit.

Two final questions if I may... Have any of you dined at The Girl and the Fig in Sonoma? Has anyone taken a hot air balloon ride in wine country? They're pretty pricey ($400-500/per couple) so I don't want to book one if the experience isn't worth it.
Jamie11 is offline  
Jun 1st, 2007, 01:24 PM
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Two great restaurants near the Sonoma square we've enjoyed are Cafe La Haye and Girl & the Fig. Recommend reservations because both are fairly small.
JayZee is offline  

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