Help me choose: Northern or Southern Cal

Dec 17th, 2009, 11:02 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 464
Help me choose: Northern or Southern Cal

My DH & I have never traveled to California. About us: late twenties and will be flying from Austin, TX. We need help deciding so I would love opinions and suggestions.

When: April 24-May 1, 2010

Option 1) Northern California: San Francisco/Muir Woods & Monterey/Carmel. We can fly into San Francisco and spend four days then drive to Monterey/Carmel.
How would that work out...any other ideas?
Mid-range hotel suggestions for San Fran? Hotel suggestions for Monterey?

Option 2) Southern California: Santa Monica & San Diego
I was thinking we could fly into LAX and drive to Santa Monica. I would like to visit the Santa Monica Pier and Third Street Promenade. Is either of those worth a visit? Any hotel suggestions for the Santa Monica area?
If not, I was thinking we could just spend the day in Santa Monica then start our drive to San Diego. We could stay overnight between Santa Monica & San Diego if anyone has a great suggestion for town/hotel.
Any hotel suggestions for San Diego?
Would you do a different itinerary for Southern California?

I'm open to all ideas, opinions, suggestions for this first time traveler to California!
Which would you choose?
Thanks in advance for the replies!
louistraveler5 is offline  
Dec 17th, 2009, 12:10 PM
Join Date: Aug 2009
Posts: 108
You can't go wrong - either San Francisco or LAX!!
Either way, consider going to San Simeon, which is about half way between the two, to see the Hearst Castle. It is a marvelous drive from San Simeon to Carmel on Route 1, one of the most scenic roads in US. Also, east of Monterey is Mission San Juan Baultista. And south of Salinas is the Pinnacles National Monument - sort of a fun place. Check our profile and go to our site for some ideas. So much to see. enjoy.
RVtraveler is offline  
Dec 17th, 2009, 12:59 PM
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I agree that you have two highly desirable alternatives.

Using SF as a base, you could do a day trip to Monterey or Carmel-by-the Sea driving on Highway 1, skirting the ocean, through Pacifica and Half Moon Bay. You could return to SF via a faster route stopping, if you wish, at Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

The Napa and Sonoma Valleys make another good day trip from SF.

If you fly into San Francisco and out of LA, you could do the drive RVtraveler described and end up at the Santa Monica Pier, which you want to visit.
happytrailstoyou is offline  
Dec 17th, 2009, 02:06 PM
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Take the Nor Cal option, with a sidetrip as far south of Hearst Castle, you can do it roundtrip in a day from Monterey.
boom_boom is offline  
Dec 17th, 2009, 02:12 PM
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If you want to see beautiful scenery, the northern trip is definitely the one to take.
montereybob is offline  
Dec 17th, 2009, 04:21 PM
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Although I love both trips, I would take the San Francisco trip. You can make both Muir Woods and Napa in a day if you like. Monterey/Carmel is a great visit as well. I am not sure you should do both on your first week. I would choose Muir if I could do only one.

If you intend to do Alcatraz, you often need to reserve the ferry a week or more before your visit.
stumpworks73 is offline  
Dec 20th, 2009, 07:14 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
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" ... I would like to visit the Santa Monica Pier and Third Street Promenade. Is either of those worth a visit? ..."

NO ... they are nothing special, IMNSHO.
tom_h is offline  
Dec 20th, 2009, 07:24 PM
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While I live in an LA county beach city (and within 2 hrs of San Diego/ La Jolla), I'd much rather vacation in Carmel/Monterey.

Unless you REALLY want to be immersed in a very dense, ultra-urban environment, 4 days in SF may be a bit too much.

Seeing as you have only 1 week, and 1/2 of each day (1 day total) will be wasted on travel, decide if you like natural beauty (Carmel/Monterey) or the bright lights of the big city (SF).

If you opt for Northern Calif, and if your budget allows, I would strongly recommend Carmel or maybe Pacific Grove over Monterey, for a hotel/inn. Carmel is uber-romantic, very charming, and walkable.
tom_h is offline  
Dec 21st, 2009, 02:13 AM
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 2,870
I live in Santa Monica and agree with happy trails - do both! Fly to LA from Austin on SW, then drive up the coast to San Francisco and return home from there (or visa versa). A week is plenty for the drive (those of us who live here do it in way less) won't feel rushed at all and you'll get a good taste of both SoCal and NorCal:

Days 1,2 - Santa Monica/Hollywood
Day 3 - Lunch in Santa Barbara, then stay in San Simeon
Day 4 - Carmel/Big Sur
Day 5 - Santa Cruz/Redwoods
Day 6, 7 - San Francisco/Marin(or Napa)

Hotel recommendation in SM - Embassy Hotel Apts Gorgeous Spanish building and cool gardens, old world charm, huge rooms, very reasonable, no room service, but a block from the promenade...
crosscheck is offline  
Dec 21st, 2009, 06:16 AM
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 9,285
I agree with doing norcal first; save socal for a future trip. I also was not that impressed with 3rd street promenade.
ncounty is offline  

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