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First Timers to N.California:Need Itinerary Assist

First Timers to N.California:Need Itinerary Assist

Old Feb 8th, 2012, 05:51 PM
  #1  
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First Timers to N.California:Need Itinerary Assist

My husband and I are starting to plan a trip to California,and really need help with our itinerary.We are experienced travelers in Europe,but somehow don't seem to be able to put this together.SO...We fly into S.F and then have 7 days before we arrive in Santa Barbara to begin the "visiting family "portion of the trip which will conclude in L.A.We have been to S.F.,but nowhere else.I have read all the postings I can find and feel overwhelmed with the options.Based on my readings,I think we should drive from the airport to Mendocino for the first night,then wend our way down to Sonoma,staying in Healdsburg to sample a winery or two and a good restaurant.The next day,we head for Rt.1 .Should Half Moon Bay be our next night destination??I am overwhelmed with the choices and need help in deciding where our stops should be,both in terms of beauty and memorable lodgings.Restaurant suggestions would be much appreciated as well .We want to experience the exquisiteness and deliciousness of that coast..Your suggestions ??
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Old Feb 8th, 2012, 06:00 PM
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The drive down to Half Moon Bay is very pretty - but if it were me - I would continue on and spend a couple nights in the Monterrey/Carmel area where there is more to do - such as the Acquarium, Cannery Row, 17 mile drive, yada yada.

Then the drive from there to Big Sur and on to say San Simeon - is spectacular - and I would suggest staying in Cambria and touring Hearst Castle.

As for Napa - you might also consider staying both nights in the same place - for ease of checking in, etc, and from one end to the other in the Napa Valley - you can usually make it in an hour if I recall correctly - assuming it's not a weekend.
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Old Feb 8th, 2012, 06:09 PM
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I agree with Tomsd! We did the "reverse" version - flying into LA...staying in Santa Barbara, then to Monterey and ended in San Francisco.

Monterrey is beautiful - we stayed on Cannery Row. The aquarium was wonderful. If you enjoy wine - you can also visit a vineyard or two in Carmel.

Hearst Castle was great, the drive incredible along Rte. 1. There are different tours you can do at Hearst Castle- check their website in advance.

8-)
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Old Feb 8th, 2012, 06:50 PM
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I would skip Mendocino. It is a long drive, and although charming, not THAT unique relative to everything else you will see. I would rather be drawn and quartered than endure that drive.....only to have to return in a few days. And I love to drive!

You can easily head over to Bodega Bay from Sonoma...or better yet, Tomales and Tomales Bay - where you can see the ocean, enjoy the freshest oysters, and find your way to the Cowgirl Creamery for some super cheese.

Driving to Carmel...you can easily just stop in Half Moon Bay for lunch - depending on the time, of course. Or just head straight to the Carmel area. All three cities - Monterey, Pacific Grove and Carmel are terrific and you can easily find loads to do for a few days. Meanwhile, as you drive you catch some great ocean views!
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Old Feb 8th, 2012, 07:03 PM
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I agree with all of the previous posts. They are filled with excellent advice. I would also consider eliminating Mendocino because it is such a long drive if you are pressed for time. If you have lots of time for that long of a drive then it would work to leave it in. I suggest using mapquest to get estimates of driving times between each major sight to help you determine at what points you will want to cut up the drives to rest and spend the night. On each driving day add in 2-4 hours for lunch and sight seeing as their are Soooooooo many places you will want to stop to take in and enjoy all the scenic beauty and charming seaside towns.
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Old Feb 8th, 2012, 11:14 PM
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Just time for a quick comment now: The Mendocino coast is fabulous -- but you just don't have the time to drive all the way up there just to turn around and drive back south the next day. So IMO - don't go to Mendocino/Ft Bragg unless you can spend at least 2 nights there.
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Old Feb 9th, 2012, 07:03 AM
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While the Mendocino Coast is beautiful (we used to dive for Abolone up there years ago - by the Russian Fort)- unless you are road warriors like I am (and my wife can be at times - it might be a much to try and include that if you do the other things that have been suggested.
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Old Feb 9th, 2012, 04:00 PM
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Not to be pedantic (well maybe a bit) Ft Ross is on the Sonoma coast (not Mendocino)
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Old Feb 9th, 2012, 08:46 PM
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Thanks for the Mendocino reality check.We have taken it off our list.I am also considering eliminating Sonoma.Those wineries are not that important to us,and we can do some tasting in Carmel.SO,with Mendocino and Sonoma off the itinerary ..if each of you were to choose a lovely destination for your first night,after a long flight from the East coast,where would it be ??Inns/restaurant suggestions would be so appreciated.Thank you so much for your great posts.
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Old Feb 13th, 2012, 12:46 PM
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If you do not intend to spend any time in SF, I might just head to Half Moon Bay and spend a very luxurious night at the Ritz-Carlton and have dinner. It's not too long a drive and then you can proceed down 1 to Carmel/Monterey the next morning to spend a couple of days and then points south like Big Sur, Cambria and Hearst. With 7 days to get to Santa Barbara, you can spend a couple of nights in Carmel, a night in Big Sur, a night in Cambria and really explore the coast at a leisurely pace.
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Old Feb 13th, 2012, 01:45 PM
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Thanks, SAB for the suggestion,which we will consider.Any suggestions for places to stay in Carmel and Big Sur in the $300. per night range ...??
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Old Feb 13th, 2012, 02:19 PM
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The Highlands Inn just south of town is nice, or the Carmel Valley Inn is also very nice but no ocean view.

http://highlandsinn.hyatt.com/hyatt/...3-00006cce7ebf
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Old Feb 13th, 2012, 03:00 PM
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Thank you so much Tomsd.Just checked them out,and we will consider them.Have you ever stayed in any smaller places near Carmel/Big Sur ??Also,we want to see so much of that coast between Monterey and Big Sur,and also hope to visit Pt . Lobos.Would it make sense to stay in one location,even if it means retracing our steps at times??We would like to avoid a different bed each night.ALSO,due to family needs in Santa Barbara we now have only nights for the Carmel/Big Sur tour.We need to make our reservations soon.Any other places for us to explore would be so appreciated,as well as restaurant suggestions.INow that we have even less time,I need to prioritize.Thanks for your suggestions.
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Old Feb 13th, 2012, 03:25 PM
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I too would skip Mendocino. It is such a long drive and little reward. You may also consider going to Santa Cruz. In between Monterey and Half Moon Bay is Santa Cruz right along Highway 1. Santa Cruz has a century old fashioned boardwalk and an almost mile long wharf that includes great restaurants. The downtown has a lot of very unique shops and restaurants as well. Santa Cruz has been the playground to San Francisco and Silicon Valley for over 100 years. Santa Cruz is home to surfing in California and has a great little surfing museum in a red brick light house at Steamer Lane, one of the world's premier surfing spots.

Half Moon Bay is also great. I recommend dinner or lunch at Miramar. It's literally right on the coast and has great food.

Enjoy your trip.
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Old Feb 13th, 2012, 05:08 PM
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My favorite place in Carmel is the Mission Ranch -- it is a way from Ocean Ave, the typical visitor destination in Carmel.

Favorites for other Fodorites is the Seven Gables Inn in Pacific Grove; and the Tickle Pink Inn (next to the Highland Inn).

Some of the places I like to eat in Carmel/Pacfic Grove are Passionfish and Peppers in PG, Christopher's, Grasings, La Bicyclette, Cantinetta Luca in Carmel, and the Fish Hopper in Monterey.

If you are up for a BIG splurge, try the Post Ranch Inn, near Big Sur, either to stay or for a meal. Or both.
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Old Feb 13th, 2012, 05:17 PM
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I would try to get all the way to Carmel/Monterrey the first night - and even if you decide to stay down by Big Sur - that's only a half hour or more south from Carmel. Actually - if you stayed at the Highlands Inn and did the Carmel/Monterrey sights (Cannery Row, Acquarium, 17 mile drive, etc) - you are part way to Big Sur the next day by staying at the Highlands Inn.

Nepenthene is also a fun place to stop and they have rooms there or at the other nearby place - which is up on the hill - Vantana is it?

http://www.nepenthebigsur.com/
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Old Feb 13th, 2012, 05:19 PM
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Actually - it is Ventana - and if you did stay there (never stayed there but had dinner there and it has a great view overlooking the Ocean)- you have a 45 or so minute jump the next am heading down to San Simeon/Hearst Castle.

http://ventanainn.com/
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Old Feb 13th, 2012, 06:04 PM
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All the sights in Carmel, Monterey, Big Sur, Pacific Grove, and Pebble Beach are easy to drive to from any location in that area, so your idea of staying in one place is an excellent one. I agree with recommendations to stay at Mission Ranch or Seven Gables Inn if you can get a room in your price range. The Monterey Plaza Hotel in Cannery Row with a bay view room is also very nice. Ditto for the International hotel there. Point lobos is a must see, as is the world class Monterey Bay Aquarium. Do not leave out a drive and walk or bike ride along the scenic coastal drive in Pacific Grove. As you stroll through the charming village of Carmel-by-the-Sea, you will find a wonderful bistro sized restaurant on every block. They are all great. There is so much to see and enjoy on the CA central coast that you will only be able to scratch the surface in the time you have allotted. So do what you can and return again and again.
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Old Feb 13th, 2012, 10:15 PM
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For winetasting, I'd suggest skipping the Carmel/Monterey area and wait until you're near/in Santa Barbara.

The central coast of California has some of the best wines - try looking into either the San Luis Obispo wineries or the Santa Barbara wineries:

http://sanluisobispo.winecountry.com/

http://www.sbcountywines.com/

http://santabarbara.winecountry.com/

There are tasting rooms in downtown San Luis Obispo and you might like to stop for lunch and visit in San Luis.


For dining in the Pebble Beach area, try the Stillwater Grill in the Pebble Beach Lodge and sit by a window to look out at the green of the golf course and the blue of sea and sky:

http://www.pebblebeach.com/dining/th...-bar-and-grill
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Old Mar 2nd, 2012, 06:24 AM
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A nasty flu invaded our house almost 2 weeks ago,and even today,as I write this,my head feels as though a mass of sticky cotton candy has taken up residency where a healthy brain once functioned.In the midst of this cloud I have managed,with your collective good sense to make our hotel reservations.We will stay 2 nights at Mission Ranch,Carmel and 2 nights at Glen Oaks,Big Sur,in a cabin amidst the redwoods.....which I HOPE will give us a very special experience.We will carry all your superlative suggestions with us.So many thanks for your helpful,thoughtful sharing.I,in turn,wish all of you good health;free of this particularly nasty virus afflicting many of us in D.C......not the usual political variety!!!
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