Family trip to CA

Old Feb 22nd, 2024, 11:55 AM
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Family trip to CA

Hello! I am taking my kids (both under 12) in August to CA for our summer trip. We will have 9 nights.

Here are my current thoughts which I would love feedback!

- Day 1-2: fly into SFO early in morning. Stay in SF for 2 nights. Planning to visit typical sights such as Alcatraz, Chinatown, Muir Woods
- Day 3-5: drive the coast to Monterey/Big Sur. Likely stay 3 nights. Open to suggestions on where to stay.
- Day 6-8: drive to Yosemite for 3 nights. Staying at Ahwahnee
- Day 9: drive back to SF for 1 night
-Day 10 - fly home from SFO

Thanks!
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Old Feb 22nd, 2024, 12:12 PM
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Instead of Muir Woods, consider going to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. Much easier drive and on the way to Monterey. Although I love Carmel, with kids I would stay in Monterey. Don't miss Point Lobos and the Aquarium. You'll love your stay at the Ahwahnee.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2024, 02:24 PM
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August has the big car show in Monterey when room prices skyrocket and if you happen to be hitting on those dates you'll want to book something YESTERDAY.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2024, 04:29 PM
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Originally Posted by AustinTraveler
Instead of Muir Woods, consider going to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. Much easier drive and on the way to Monterey. Although I love Carmel, with kids I would stay in Monterey. Don't miss Point Lobos and the Aquarium. You'll love your stay at the Ahwahnee.
Will definitely check out Henry Cowell park. My daughter is looking to see redwoods so that may work! Thanks
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Old Feb 22nd, 2024, 04:31 PM
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Originally Posted by clarkgriswold
August has the big car show in Monterey when room prices skyrocket and if you happen to be hitting on those dates you'll want to book something YESTERDAY.
Yikes! Will check out Monterey then asap! Thanks for the heads up.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2024, 05:19 PM
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Yes -- definitely skip Muir Woods. Not only would it eat up a lot of the little time you have in SF, it requires pre-booked parking, and in August you really need to be there by 8 or 8:30-ish AM to avoid the crowds.

Henry Cowell is larger, has better groves, and is much less crowded

What are your actual dates on the Monterey Peninsula?
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Old Feb 22nd, 2024, 05:30 PM
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Originally Posted by janisj
Yes -- definitely skip Muir Woods. Not only would it eat up a lot of the little time you have in SF, it requires pre-booked parking, and in August you really need to be there by 8 or 8:30-ish AM to avoid the crowds.

Henry Cowell is larger, has better groves, and is much less crowded

What are your actual dates on the Monterey Peninsula?
8/10-13. Was looking at some house rentals by Carmel Highlands for more space but not sure if they will be too far away. Know kids will want to go to the aquarium for sure.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2024, 06:17 PM
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Carmel Highlands and Carmel Valley are fine for short term rentals - just not IN Carmel. The Highlands is a long narrow area but even it's very furthest southern end is still only about 10 or 11 miles from the Aquarium.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2024, 05:51 AM
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You might see sea otters swimming on their backs cracking shells at Point Lobos. Yosmite also has two groves of giant Sequoia trees though sometimes they are closed to the public.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2024, 07:54 AM
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To see the redwoods in Henry Cowell you use the rte. 9 entrance to the park. The other entrance is to the campground which is not in the redwoods.


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Old Feb 23rd, 2024, 08:30 AM
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You will get to see the two different species of redwoods. The coastal redwoods and the giant sequoias at/near Yosemite.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2024, 08:35 AM
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We stayed at the Hotel Abrego when we were in Monterey a few years ago. Sort of an upgraded motel but easy walking distance to the aquarium and the main shopping streets where we found two breakfast spots. There was a pool and I always like to have a pool when traveling with kids. We spent at least half a day at the Aquarium and with kids you might spend more time. Lots of restaurants on the main shopping streets and pier area. A Trader Joe's was walking distance to our hotel if you need to pick up anything.

We were in Big Sur for a weekend wedding and Big Sur has either very pricey places or simple cabins. Of course you never know whether or not Hwy I will be drivable through Big Sur with road washouts and so on.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2024, 11:22 AM
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Welcome. We took nearly the same trip you propose. Under my name you will find a TR entitled Yosemite, Monterey, and Big Sur with details places to visit along the way and driving times. There are some. significant differences. To see the giant trees we headed from the SF area to Oakhurst, CA, a commercial type city but convenient to Yosemite's south entrance. This is the easiest entrance to Mariposa grove and there are many places to overnight. Mariposa Grove, THE home of the Giant Sequoias has reopened. Also nearby and not in Yosemite is Nelder Grove. a less visited park also with giant trees.

I suggest that when in Yosemite you hike the trail to Sentinal Dome. It is a bit over a mile and not a difficult hike. Approaching the dome it will seem formidable but. just walk sort of around the back to the NE side and from there the walk to the top is easy. At the top you will be rewarded with a view among the best in the park. A 360 degree view of the entire valley including most of the iconic sites.
Enjoy your trip.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2024, 11:50 AM
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I do hate to disagree with basingstoke. But I would 100% avoid hwy 41 and the south entrance. Oakhurst to the Ahwahnee is close to a 2 hour drive over a very (very) twisty turny mountain road. You can no longer drive to the Mariposa Grove -- you must park at the grove's Welcome Plaza and take a shuttle bus to the actual grove. Typically the Welcome Plaza's parking lot is completely full by about 10:30 AM but in August it will be much busier much earlier - - if it is full you are out of luck. Including a stop at the Mariposa Grove / shuttles / etc makes the trip from Oakhurst into the Valley a good 4 hours minimum.

Carmel to Oakhurst is about a 4 hr drive. So you are talking 8-ish hours if you try visiting the M. Grove on the way (IF parking is available). Carmel using hwy 140 from Merced to El Portal takes about the same. El Portal to the Ahwahnee is about a 30 minute drive - so maybe 4.5 hours Carmel > to the hotel.

Since you are in the Valley 3 nights consider doing a day trip to the Grove during your stay. Much easier to get there early enough to find parking when only driving an hour or so from the hotel instead of all the way from Carmel.

(Plus the drive to YNP via 140 is a lot easier than driving the Fresno/Oakhurst/41 route)
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Old Feb 23rd, 2024, 01:01 PM
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Thank you for the update janisj. I was there before the renovation of Mariposa and at that time the driving time from Oakhust to Mariposa was about 20 minutes and scenic.

I assume the hike to Sentinel Dome has not changed and is still more than worth the effort.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2024, 01:34 PM
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Originally Posted by basingstoke2
Thank you for the update janisj. I was there before the renovation of Mariposa Grove and at that time the driving time from Oakhust to Mariposa Grove was about 20 minutes and scenic.

I assume the hike to Sentinel Dome has not changed and is still more than worth the effort.
Definitely - Sentinel Dome is a must -- parking on the Glacier Point Rd. It been a while since I hiked it but IIRC its maybe 3 miles total round trip from the parking area - not strenuous at all . . . unless the 8,000+ ft elevation bothers you.

Oakhurst to the Mariposa Grove Welcome Center is about a 30 minute drive. The shuttle from welcome center to the Grove is 2 or 3 miles.

( note: I added 'Grove' to the quote of your post since Mariposa is a separate town and unrelated to Mariposa Grove, so that could be confusing. Mariposa is over on hwy 140 between Merced and El Portal and is more than an hour's drive from Mariposa Grove)

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Old Feb 25th, 2024, 07:20 PM
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For our 3 nights after San Francisco, I found 3 great VRBO options but they are very different location-wise.

Right now I think wed spend at least a day at the Aquarium/DT Monterey and 1 day for Big Sur/hike state parks. Not sure yet about third day.

The first VRBO is directly on a quiet stretch of beach by Watsonville. Pro - love being on the beach and very updated amenities, Con - will being further north be inconvenient for sights?

The second is in Seaside. Pro - closest proximity to Monterey and updated amenities. Con - less charm than others.

The third one is in Carmel Highlands. Pro - very charming, great view of the water. Con - less amenities and further south.

I may be making this a harder decision than it needs to be but appreciate any thoughts!
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Old Feb 25th, 2024, 07:48 PM
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Since Watsonville isn't actually on the beach my guess is it might be in Pajaro Dunes?? If so, I'd go for Carmel Highlands 1st then Pajaro Dunes 2nd -- assuming rates are semi-similar. Hwy 1 between Castroville (the Artichoke Capital of the World ) and Carmel can be congested so it could be a 40+ minute drive

For other things to do -- Point Lobos 100% for sure. Also maybe kayaking either in Monterey Bay, or - if you choose Pajaro Dunes/'Watsonville' - in Elkhorn Slough / Moss Landing.
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Old Feb 26th, 2024, 05:05 AM
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Originally Posted by janisj
Since Watsonville isn't actually on the beach my guess is it might be in Pajaro Dunes?? If so, I'd go for Carmel Highlands 1st then Pajaro Dunes 2nd -- assuming rates are semi-similar. Hwy 1 between Castroville (the Artichoke Capital of the World ) and Carmel can be congested so it could be a 40+ minute drive

For other things to do -- Point Lobos 100% for sure. Also maybe kayaking either in Monterey Bay, or - if you choose Pajaro Dunes/'Watsonville' - in Elkhorn Slough / Moss Landing.
You are right! The one by Watsonville is Pajaro Dunes! Point Lobos and kayaking sounds great too.
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Old Feb 27th, 2024, 02:33 PM
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I've lived on or close to the cost for all my life (I'm 76). Not a fan of Monterey - too scrufty and the Cannery is a close second to SF's Fisherman's Wharf in tackiness. I would stay in Pacific Grove or (my preferred) Carmel. Much nicer than Monterey, IMO.

Here is where se are staying in downtown Carmel in October this year.
https://www.vrbo.com/1618863?

Stu Dudley
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