Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > United States
Reload this Page >

Family trip to California and Hawaii--the California trip report

Family trip to California and Hawaii--the California trip report

Old Aug 3rd, 2004, 11:14 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 850
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Family trip to California and Hawaii--the California trip report

If you don?t like looking at someone else?s vacation then you probably don?t want to read my CA/HI trip report. I don?t feel like there?s much I can add to the knowledge base of this forum regarding our trip last month to California and Hawaii. Much of what we did has been written about here which is how I found out about many things in the first place. California is one of the rare places we?ve visited more than once, but never with the kids. For my husband, traveling is like dining: he doesn?t like the same thing twice and there?s too much out there to repeat. Other than spending a lot of summers in NC (where DH brings his fax and laptop so it doesn?t count as his vacation) California is the only other state where we?ve vacationed more than once.

Thank you ?here today and gone 2 maui?. You?ve provided more information here than a TA could in a career. Thanks to everyone else who helped?you know who you are!

If you have traveled with, or do travel with children, you?ll probably appreciate my perspective more than if you don?t. Our daughter is 17 and our sons are 15 and 11. For our family, a lot of the pleasure we derive from our vacations is from the people we meet and the events that happen along the way. I can?t tell you how many interesting conversations we?ve had and how much local info (and sometimes gossip) we?ve heard over the years so skip those parts if they bore you.

We decided to stay at the Marriott in the Tampa airport the night before our early flight (sorry OO?but that way we had time to take the truck to remote parking and sleep 20 minutes later!). So much for the extra sleep; we didn?t straggle out of our house until 2 am?we got to the hotel at 3 am, and then dealt with the simultaneous meltdowns of the DH and the 11 year-old in the hotel lobby; not our best moment. This is the only time I will mention (whine) that my DH worked late every night the week preceding this trip, made me drive in the whole time in CA so he could work in the car (remember, he?s seen CA and what else could there possibly be to see), and drove the front desk at the Cow Hollow Motor Inn nuts with 20 page faxes flying coast-to-coast because he had a deadline. Okay, that?s off my chest.

Since I was too stressed to sleep, I just stayed up so that I could get down to Southwest?s Rapid Check In when it opened at 5 am so that we were in boarding group A. Little did I know that I would be THE first Southwest customer at the Tampa airport to use their brand-new Rapid Check In program that allows you to check through all the way to your destination, boarding passes and all. It was kind of like sneaking in to Walmart with your hair in rollers to discover that you?re the one-millionth shopper. The entire SW ticketing crew gathered around me to watch and they cheered when it worked. I graciously accepted their handshakes, well-wishes and slinked back to our room.

We got to Burbank about noon that day and all in one piece (but it was a mistake not to take another Zanax flying over the mountains from LV). We had to upgrade to a Ford Excursion because all of our luggage wouldn?t fit into the mini van we?d reserved. We planned to head straight to Santa Maria, have an early dinner and catch up on our sleep. First we wanted to try to get a glimpse of the famous ?Hollywood? on the mountain sign. So five hours later, after one deluxe bus tour to ?see the stars? homes? (we also saw the sign and learned that Courtney Cox gives tour buses ?the finger?, Bob Barker waves and some actress threatened to sue the tour company because the house they said was hers was much smaller than her actual house). We also compared our hands and feet to Sylvester Stallone?s (his are small?ahem) and visited the tacky kiosks on Hollywood Blvd. before we were on our way to Santa Maria (after sitting in 5 pm traffic). Santa Maria was a good stopping point for the night in route to Hearst (IF we had done the 4-hour drive rather than the 9 hour version). We stayed at a Holiday Inn on Hwy. 1 in a suite that was incredibly nice for HI, and cheap. Minor problem though?when we checked out the front desk manager said we?d booked the two-night internet special and had to pay for a second night. I knew we didn?t; he insisted we did; I told my exhausted and furious DH just to pay with our AE and we could dispute it later when I could get my hands on the paperwork at home. The front desk manager told us we were ?dishonorable? to do such a thing and then all hell broke loose. Lesson learned?don?t just take your confirmation number; take the whole confirmation.

The drive up the CA coast gets more beautiful with every mile, from what I could see as THE DRIVER. We made it to Hearst in time for the movie before our tours despite the delay at the hotel. See the movie first?it puts the whole thing into perspective, although I missed about half of it?the desk manager from the Holiday Inn called me on my cell phone during the movie to tell me there?d been a ?terrible mistake? and he?d confused us with another party (their name RHYMED with ours) and that of course the charge for the second night would be removed (he never actually apologized for telling us we were dishonorable). I was smugly polite and amused to find out later that before he reached me on my cell he?d left messages for us at our house, DH?s cell phone, DH?s office, AND our next destination (DH?s secretary gave him that number because it ?sounded urgent?).

We had tickets for tour one (the Experience Tour) and tour two (upper floors). Tour one was very comprehensive and you learned a lot about Randolph Hearst who was quite a character and apparently could be as mean as a snake. Tour one would have been enough for me but DH loves architecture. You have to go back down the mountain for the second tour, and then get right back on the bus to go up again. Okay. This is not for kids, but we knew that and kept our fingers crossed. The kids HATED every second of tour one. Don?t take yours! My youngest seriously embarrassed us by setting off the security buzzer THREE times (he kept stepping off the tour rug). The oldest (my DH) seriously embarrassed me because he kept forgetting there was NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY. We had heard that the docents could be very nasty about these infractions but Ted, our guide, gritted his teeth and was pretty nice about it but we got a lot of dirty looks. We were relieved when that tour was over and I?m sure Ted was too. Thank goodness we never had to see these people again. We took the opportunity when we went back down the mountain to lock the kids in the car before we went back up for tour two (it was cool outside and we left them water).

There were only fifteen people on our first tour and eight of us on tour two. The bus drivers told us the buses were usually full to capacity (55) on every trip up and down the mountain but attendance had been way down this summer. The bus driver on tour two turned off the canned tape and told us a lot of local history. Interestingly many of the people who work at Hearst grew up in the area and knew &/or worked for the family. Our driver had worked for the Hearst family since he was 19. He told us that Randy Hearst Jr. had taught him the cattle business and over 20 years this he had accumulated 5,000 head of his own cattle. He?s 49, he?s retiring at the end of the year and buying a motor home to travel the country. This driver told us that with such a small group ?if we were real nice? to TED our tour guide we?d probably get to see some things that aren?t ordinarily on the tour. You should have seen Ted?s face when he greeted tour two at the bus. The guy probably still thinks our kids are tied up somewhere in a cave. Ted also grew up in the area and worked on the ranch as a kid. After he got a degree in history he came back and has been a tour guide there for over 20 years. There was a lot of repetition on tour two, but we were the last and only group at the house so Ted also let us see the North Wing which is part of tour three.

Following the tours we back-tracked a little bit to Cambria where we were staying for the night. We stayed at the Burton Inn which I can highly recommend. The innkeeper is a DO who got tired of medicine, left his practice and bought this B&B which he runs with his wife. We had the family suite which was $189 a night. It consisted of two connecting rooms, one with a king bed and the other with two queens. Compared to other inns and hotels I?d priced, we didn?t have high expectations at this price, but both rooms were beautiful. The bathroom was huge and very luxurious. They had stocked the fridge with brie, a large assortment of fruits, pastries and yogurt as well as orange juice and bottled water. It would be a great place to base yourself if you were spending a few days in the area. Cambria is the type of quaint little town that we love. The kids stayed in the room to watch TV and we strolled through the shops for about an hour. We checked out the menu at Robin?s where the inn had made dinner reservations for us later than night (recommended by a Fodorite). The Asian curry menu looked delicious, but there were no cheeseburgers on the menu so we regretfully cancelled that reservation and ate at Bramble?s across the street from the inn. We all had wonderful meals and the service was excellent. I can highly recommend eating here if you have the chance.

We slept late the next morning and got back on hwy. 1 headed to Monterey. About five miles north of San Simeon we stopped to see the elephant seals. There were dozens of seals on the beach (molting season for the males) and we were lucky to be there when a naturalist was on duty so we learned a lot about the seals and their habits. The kids were fascinated. We take manatees for granted because we see them so often and the kids were amazed at how closely they resemble each other.

As we continued the drive the kids were humoring us by using descriptive words about the scenery such as ?magical? and ?breathtaking? but I noticed that they?d put down their Gameboys etc. and were taking it all in. We stopped at Ragged Point for lunch (another Fodorite recommendation). It was a very nice lunch but we would not have cared otherwise because the views were incredible. I second this recommendation.

We continued up Hwy. 1 and stopped at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park for about an hour. It was a great place to get a taste of the California Redwoods and the kids were very impressed with it. We did the hike to Midway Falls which was very easy. It was somewhere in this area that we had to stop for gas at the only station we?d seen --$3.69 a gallon?makes our prices seem like a bargain! There were a lot of motorcycles at this stop and the boys were wowed by them. We had seen a lot of motorcycles on this drive which kept the boys competing to see who could name the most models.

The kids were tired of stopping to look at the scenery (?Ooo ahh, more beaches and cliffs that look just like the last ones.? Ok I get the point.) DH is still in his own world so I head for Monterey. On the way we did the 17 mile drive. It didn?t impress the kids as much as it did us but the boys are golfers and loved seeing Pebble Springs. We entered through a Hwy. 1 gate and it took another complete loop for us to find the Pacific Grove gate so it turned out to be the 30-something mile drive. We drove through Pacific Grove and I looked longingly at the Grandview Inn, where DH and I stayed on our last trip, but continued on to our $359 a night Holiday Inn Express room in Monterey. I had considerable difficulty finding a room in Monterey when I was making our hotel reservations, but it was peak season.

It was also bike week in Monterey. Oh my gawd. Hence the problem finding a hotel room--I have never seen so many motorcycles in my life. I snuck over for bike week in Daytona when I was a teenager so I immediately knew I could not let our daughter out of our sight! The guy at check in assured me this was a much tamer crowd than the one that gathers in Daytona (phew). Well, he forgot to mention that to the cyclists at our hotel. As we dragged our luggage to our room on the first floor, guys on the third floor hooted down at my daughter (?hey baby?want to go for a ride?? OMG?does anyone still use that line?) So much for Monterey. The only time we went out was to go to the Monterey Fish House; highly recommended by Fodorites but having an off-night while we were there. We had a long wait and none of our meals were very good. Since so many others here love the place, I?ll chalk it to up to being an incredibly busy Saturday night with a lot of demanding customers. Back at the HI, it finally quieted down around 3 am. We didn?t bother to call the front desk because we were the only non-bikers staying at the place so it seemed pointless.

The next morning we headed for San Francisco. We stopped at Half Moon Bay to go to a Garden Shop that I like and had lunch. The kids couldn?t wait to see the Golden Gate so we didn?t linger in HMB. The Skyway Bridge at home is pretty impressive but the GG wowed them. We stopped for the scenic view; it was very busy because the Walk for Life (breast cancer fundraiser) ended there that day. We stood for a little while and cheered with the rest of the crowd as the walkers came in. My mom was a 10-year breast cancer survivor so that was pretty neat. The boys loved a van that was parked there; it had two HUGE, very life-like looking breasts adhered to the back door.

We drove on to the Cow Hollow Motor Inn. We have never stayed so far from the hub of the city so I was a little apprehensive. I decided to try it because so many here love the Inn and the area, and I can see why. The inn was very inexpensive ($119 a night) but very nice. I wouldn?t want a room on Lombard because of the noise. The woman who checked us in was extremely helpful giving us directions and explaining the transit system in the area. There are a dozen very good restaurants within walking distance as well as the Metro Theater, Walgreens, a market and a laundry mat. Union Street shopping is just a few blocks away. You could live in this area and never have to leave because anything you need is right there.

We had to return the rental car to the Hyatt at Fisherman?s wharf. I?ll spare you the details of that trip. Suffice it to say it?s the reason we never use a car in SF. Since we were there, we decided to go ahead and get the wharf behind us. Of course the kids loved it. We had dinner at the Hard Rock, which was surprisingly good and then walked around for a couple of hours. We caught a cab back to the hotel which was only $8 or $9.

The next morning we went to see Alcatraz. As someone here recommended I booked tickets on the first ferry and I highly recommend doing that if you want to avoid the crowds. When you buy tickets ahead of time be sure to include the audio tour. You can rent it when you get there but that line was huge. We picked ours up and walked right in and were the first visitors of the day. I won?t go into the tour because it?s been written about so often. I will add that the kids loved it. Our daughter told us that she didn?t expect to enjoy it so much. Our oldest son found the morgue which we had never seen. It wasn?t gory enough to impress him though. We stopped back by the wharf; son #2 wanted to do the bungee trampoline again and the two teenagers just wanted to walk around and people watch. Son #1 wanted to have lunch at Bubba Gumps and it was pretty much what we expected; average food, fun atmosphere. After that we headed off for our city tour we?d booked for the afternoon.

Since we have a family of five, it doesn?t cost much more for us to do a private tour and it?s much easier. Unfortunately the helpful woman at the desk had left for the day when we called down for recommendations. The night shift told us that Grayline was the only co. that offered city tours, which of course is not true. That was one question I forgot to ask here so we got out the phone book, looked through the yellow pages and took our chances. We booked a tour with Le Grande Affair. We gave them the list of things we wanted to see and they determined it would take about four hours. Many of the things were drive by?s because kids have a saturation point. A British driver picked us up at the wharf in a white stretch limo. They included two bottles of champagne although we had requested soda. We drove by Pac Bell Stadium, the Marina, and Golden Gate Park. We wanted to drive across the Oakland Bay Bridge since the kids have never seen a double-decker bridge. Unfortunately the tour was pretty much a bust because the driver knew almost nothing about SF (our first clue was when HE asked us where and what the Columbarium was!). $200 later we made the best of it and the kids liked the limo ride. He couldn?t get us to Coit Tower or Twin Peaks and was afraid to drive down Lombard!! We cut the trip short by two hours and the company gave us a refund. Live and learn. He dropped us off at the hotel where we had a quick meal at Mel?s Diner across the street (not remarkable but fun for the kids) and settled in for the rest of the night.

The next day my two ?biggest? kids (DH and the 11-year-old) took the ferry to Six Flags (DH met his deadline and had stopped terrorizing the front desk with his faxes). The 15-year-old was numb and wanted to stay at the hotel, watch a baseball game and finish reading his Harry Potter book and that was fine. DD and I took off for shopping on Union Street with lunch at Roses first (very good food). We got back to the hotel around 5:30. DH and junior weren?t back yet so we had dinner at a gourmet burger place behind the hotel (I don?t remember the name of the place but it was good) and went to see Anchorman at the Metro. You can only appreciate that movie if you grew up in the 70?s!

On our last day in SF I got up before everyone else and went to get my spray-tan at a place on Union. That?s a little embarrassing to admit, but I?m terrified of skin cancer having grown up in FL; and I was NOT leaving for Hawaii the next morning with my lily white skin! If you?re not familiar with these newer tanning booths, you stand in this small cubicle/shower-like space and you do quarter turns as it sprays you. You have a choice of darkness/deepness of the ?tan? on a scale of one to ten, with ten being the darkest. I use a six. When I got back to the hotel everyone was awake. When I walked in the room it went silent as they all gawked at me. I had forgotten to tell the tech that I?m a ?six? and she obviously sprayed me with the ?ten?. Did you ever see that episode of Friends with Ross in the tanning booth? I called the salon in a panic and they said just to take a show in two hours instead of four. I did and all was well.

We spent the last day in Chinatown. We walked huffing and puffing up Lombard and took the cable cars as far as we could. This is probably my favorite Chinatown once you get off the main drag. The kids loved it. I could not drag the boys out of the fish markets; they were fascinated. Being an animal lover I could not watch them put the live toads in plastic bags for whatever fate they were about to meet. My daughter has a friend who just graduated from her high school and just moved to SF the week before to attend the Art Institute. She was homesick and her mom asked us to look in on her while we were out there so she was going to meet us in Chinatown. It was another OMG moment. They attend a private high school where the dress code is very conservative; in the week the girl had been in SF this petite strawberry blonde now had purple hair, a tattoo and more fresh piercings than a pin cushion. Her outfit, which was beyond words, was accessorized with a fuscia boa and army boots. It was impossible for our shock not to register so she quickly explained that her new roommates had given her a ?makeover? and ?all the kids dress this way?. Then of course, ?please don?t tell my mom.? Great. My son asked if the piercings hurt; her answer ?not so much now.? OMG. So our eclectic little group made our way to North Beach for dinner (no one along the way seemed to think our dinner companion was out of the ordinary). We passed on the Stinking Rose due to mixed reviews and went to Trattoria Contadina on Mason St. We all had wonderful meals?I highly recommend this place. Unlike the other areas, we saw quite a few vagrants. One man asked us for money for food and the girls gave him their doggy bags from dinner; he was eating the leftovers as we walked our friend to her bus stop. Very sad.

Part 2 Hawaii on the way.
Jayne11159 is offline  
Old Aug 3rd, 2004, 11:23 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 3,959
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Jayne: Turn off the "Smart Quote" option in your word processor. It causes apostrophes and quotes to come out as question marks when posted on Fodors.
fdecarlo is offline  
Old Aug 3rd, 2004, 11:51 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 355
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Jayne - I live in CA not far from SF and I loved your report! It brought back memories of travel with my two sons . . . always an adventure. Can't wait for your Hawaii report.
GloriaE is offline  
Old Aug 3rd, 2004, 01:51 PM
  #4  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 850
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks fdecarlo but it took me a while to figure out how to turn on my computer, let alone reset something. At least you've solved the mystery for me regarding why those question marks show up in odd places.
Jayne11159 is offline  
Old Aug 3rd, 2004, 02:09 PM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 13,488
Likes: 0
Received 2 Likes on 2 Posts
So far it sounds a lot like a Griswold family vacation.
clarkgriswold is offline  
Old Aug 4th, 2004, 10:16 AM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 231
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Glad to see the start of your trip report, Jayne. I like your total honestly about what it's like to travel with children and knowing when to cut things short. I wish some of the parents I met along the way on various vacations understood this. During our climbs to Diamond Head and the Moana Trail, we ran across families with children who perhaps should have turned around and left. On Diamond Head, toddlers were screaming their heads off and on the Moana Trail, teenagers and their parents were having very nasty conversations about the hike. Still, the parents felt the need to "press on", I guess because since they came this far, they were going to continue no matter what.
Cats_Do_Dance is offline  
Old Aug 4th, 2004, 11:47 AM
  #7  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 850
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Cats Do Dance,

I feel sorry for the children who have parents who drag them along at all costs. My sister was in college in the Orlando area when Disneyworld opened and she had a part-time job at Tinkerbell's gift shop. She saw plenty of miserable children. It wasn't unusual for her to see kids with chicken pox and other obvious illnesses. Her most vivid memory is of a little boy, about four, who kept crying and telling his mom he had to go to the bathroom and she ignored him. When he wet his pants she spanked him all the way out the door.

There were a number of things we had to skip in HI because our kids have limits. Son #1 was so carsick by mile marker 12 on the road to Hana that we turned around. After that we figured an attempt to go up the winding roads to Haleakala would be futile. We only looked at Diamond Head from our hotel balcony and we skipped restaurants that weren't kid-friendly.

We only do these major expeditions every few years because it's so hard to hold the kids' interest with a six year span in age differences. Instead we take a cruise and usually spend quite a bit of the summer in NC. We took the kids to Europe four years ago and they enjoyed themselves about 20% of the time. Since the kids are older our original plan was to go to Italy this summer but I was too cowardly to go. Now that I think about the five us in Italy moving from place for three weeks I shudder. Friends of ours did a Mediteranean cruise this summer and said it was the perfect way to give their kids a taste of Europe.

Of course I was kidding when I said that I locked the kids in the car, but we did leave them at the bottom of the mountain with their books and Gameboys. That way we were happier, the kids were happier and the tour guide was absolutely happier!
Jayne11159 is offline  
Old Aug 4th, 2004, 12:38 PM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 231
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Jayne - Before our vacation to Oahu, I reminded my husband this was "not" a National Park vacation. Neither my daughter or me wanted to do all this hiking my husband loves to do while we're in the parks. I even marked a big "NO" in our Frommer's guidebook next to the Makiki-Moana Cliff Trail. Just doing Diamond Head & Manofa Falls worked out perfectly for us. Being upfront about what each of wanted on this trip was one reason why I think it went to well. BTW - I STILL miss Oahu.

Can't wait to read the rest of your trip report.
Cats_Do_Dance is offline  
Related Topics
Thread
Original Poster
Forum
Replies
Last Post
Keepswimming1
Road Trips
9
May 22nd, 2012 12:03 PM
jet29
United States
12
Jul 6th, 2006 11:38 AM
moneygirl
United States
5
Jan 13th, 2006 08:58 AM
lmavolio
United States
8
Oct 24th, 2005 03:37 PM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On


Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Manage Preferences Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Your Privacy Choices -