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Elise Dec 30th, 2002 02:43 AM

help me plan family trip to california from uk
Help! I am trying to plan a (whirlwind?)two week family trip (boys aged 5 and 8) to California in March or April 03. We will be travelling from the UK. With so much to do and see where do we start? We will not 'waste' time with Disneyland as we visited Florida 3 years ago. But maybe Seaworld? Legoland? San Diego Zoo/ Wildlife Parks? Knotts Berry? Other than kids attractions where must we (adults) visit for scenary? interest? Is San Francisco a must? Palm Springs? How long do we need in LA? San Diego? Should we include one or two nights in Las Vegas? I'd love to go because it looks so spectacular and include maybe a helicopter trip to the Canyon - but should we take the kids? Sorry too many questions....

junebug Dec 30th, 2002 08:36 AM

Elise, you've got quite a bit of planning to do! The west coast of the US is vast, and 2 weeks is time enough to see and enjoy a very limited amount of things, so your itinerary really depends on what your family enjoys doing on holiday. I would make the following very general suggestions:<BR>- San Francisco - definitely yes, for at least a couple of days.<BR>- Skip Legoland. It's expensive and absolutely not worth it. <BR>- Knotts Berry Farm - yes, but ONLY if your kids really enjoy amusement parks.<BR>- Vegas and Grand Canyon - absolutely yes! Kids have plenty to do in Vegas and the Grand Canyon is simply spectacular, and a must-see if you're visiting the west coast for the first time. Plan on about 3 or 4 days in this area. You can use Vegas as your base and take a day trip to the Canyon via helicopter or small plane. Not inexpensive though (you didn't mention your budget). BUT, if you have no interest at all in casinos/nightlife, you wouldn't need more than a couple of days there.<BR>- San Diego - yes, Sea World is great for children. Coronado Island is lovely too, and they have a wonderful olf hotel there (check it out on the web). <BR><BR>Good luck and have fun!

bennie Dec 30th, 2002 08:54 AM

I'm still in the process of planning our similar trip so I can't speak from experience. However, I have found the guide book &quot;Unofficial Guide to Kids in California&quot; to be helpful. May not have the title exactly right but its one of the Unofficial Guide series.

tom o Dec 30th, 2002 09:20 AM

I would vote a big no for las vegas--the only thing the kids could do there is swim in the hotel pool, if it's warm enough. California, of course, has great scenery, but that may be largely lost with your kids. But there are fabulous places--big sur on the coast, malibu beach farther south, the coast road north of san francisco. and of course yosemite adn the great sequioas. SAn Diego zoo is a must for all ages--best zoo I'v ever seen, by a long shot--the ocean probably would be a hit for all--as you may know, the ocean gets steadily colder as you go north in california--The are seals at the seal pier in SanFrancisco, which I like to go hear sing adn I'm sure the kids would.

Ann Dec 30th, 2002 10:28 AM

San Francisco:<BR><BR>Yes, it should be included.<BR>Highlights: <BR>**Golden Gate Bridge<BR>**Cable car ride on one of the hills downtown <BR>**Alcatraz island trip if you have any knowledge of its history or interest in that area<BR>Best points are out of the city IMO. <BR>**I love seeing the giant redwoods and Muir Woods is barely 10 miles north of the city.<BR>**Big Sur for spectacular coastal scenery.<BR>**Yosemite has amazing scenery but is quite a roundtrip drive.<BR>**Napa Valley would likely bore your kids but is fun for adults.<BR><BR><BR>Las Vegas:<BR><BR>There is only one LV and it should be viewed once. Plus your kids will likely be entertained just looking at all the over the top flashy architecture. Plus it's a cheap place to stay, there are many fun restaurants and it's on the way to the Grand Canyon.<BR><BR>

Celine Dec 30th, 2002 11:16 AM

I would say definitely go to San Francisco and San Diego. But they're at the two opposite ends, so plan for some driving time between them, and maybe stop in Monterey (Monterey Aquarium is awesome). I love San Diego, very nice, there's the San Diego zoo and Marine World close by. I would skip LA (or just spend a day to say you've been there), just because I don't like the city, it's too big. But if you go to LA, definitely stop at Universal Studios (even the Citywalk is fun, and it's free if you don't want to pay for Universal Studios). <BR><BR>Las Vegas would also be fun, if you have time.

J Correa Dec 30th, 2002 11:35 AM

If I were planning this trip, I would fly into SD, stay a couple days, drive up the coast to LA, spend a day at Universal Studios, maybe a little time at Santa Monica, and then continue up the coast, taking several days to get to SF, spend a couple days in SF and fly home. <BR><BR>Along the way I would stop in San Simeon/San Luis Obispo area, visit Hearst Castle, Morro Rock, stop in Monterey, see the Aquarium, Fisherman's Wharf and some other sites. If the weather is good, stop in Santa Cruz, esspecially if the Boardwalk is open. For redwoods I would recommend Henry Cowell State Park and Roaring Camp Railroad in Felton - they have a narrow gage steam train that you can ride through the redwoods. The kids would love it. Then continue up to San Francisco.<BR><BR>I wouldn't do LV or Palm Springs if I were planning the trip. Some people like it there, but I prefer the coast.

Lexma90 Dec 30th, 2002 12:08 PM

Decisions, decisions!<BR><BR>Last year, we took out 3- and 7-year old kids to San Diego, and they had a great time (so did we). Here's my review of what we visited.<BR><BR>We stayed in la Jolla. We wanted a place where we could walk to dinner AND walk to the beach AND stay in a suite sort of place, and I couldn't find anything like that (in our price range) in San Diego. In la Jolla, I went running every morning on the cliff walk, we visited the beach and the sea lions, and walked to dinner each night.<BR><BR>We spent a day at Legoland. I'm not a big fan of amusement parks, so my standards are high! It's definitely a park that's better for younger kids, I would think 8 is the upper range for maximum enjoyment. There is a people-powered ride, a car-driving area (my older kid LOVED this), several lego-building areas, including a car area where you can race your creation against others, and other rides. The food was on the better side of typical park food, and you could get reasonably healthy snack stuff.<BR><BR>Seaworld. I guess it's worth the visit, though it's extremely commercial. The animal shows are fun, and we all loved them. The food is expensive and there is no snack foods to buy there, other than ice cream &amp; sno cones types of things. There's an area where you can feed the seals; that was fun. Crowded.<BR><BR>San Diego Zoo. To my surprise (I'd never though about it), the zoo is very wooded and hilly. Its plant collection is more valuable than the animal collection. We all got a lot out of the bus tour. The zoo is so big, and so special (to a kid, one lion is much like another), that we adults appreciated it more than the kids, though mine really loved the pandas &amp; the hippo enclosure, where you could see them swimming underwater. <BR><BR>We decided to skip the Wildlife Park since things are very spread out &amp; we'd be doing more walking than our youngest would enjoy.<BR><BR>We didn't even consider Knotts Berry Fam or Disneyland; maybe some other trip.<BR><BR>San Francisco is a must - it's a delightful city. <BR><BR>Have fun planning!

Mar Dec 30th, 2002 12:16 PM

Things for boys to do in LA: What do your boys enjoy? Are they big train fans? Check out the free train museum (lots of climbing in and out of cabs) at Travel Town in Griffith Park. Horseback riding? Also available in Griffith Park. Rent roller blades at the beach in Venice or Santa Monica and enjoy the scenery and the path along the sand. Rent bikes in the same location! My kids love that! Kids this age need downtime so don't feel pressured to have a big outing everyday. It will still be chilly at the beach but a good hotel will have a heated outdoor pool. A good public park in any major city should be duly noted in your travel book, &quot;just in case&quot; they need an hour of ball throwing, jungle gym climbing and general steam blowing! Have a great time! Make sure they get to try real Mexican food which you cannot get in England. They might enjoy Old Town in San Diego or Olvera Street in LA for that &quot;old&quot; Mexican village feel. Kind of touristy but what kid would know? And they can buy fresh tortillas from someone who just made them in front of their eyes. <BR>Mar

kerry Dec 30th, 2002 02:48 PM

Personally I think Disneyland is much nicer than Disneyworld, but would not waste another trip on the same thing. Knotts Berry Farm would be good substitute. <BR><BR>I love San Diego zoo, but at the same time, I think I am all zoo-ed out, but it is gorgeously landscaped and more pleasant than most with comforable bus ride. I did visit the zoo in Regents Park :). San Diego is a nice place, but I stayed a long weekend and thought that was enough unless you are taking a boat somewhere. Some very pretty gardens there and lots of museums--coast is also beautiful. <BR><BR>I did not care much for Universal studios, and think that it would appeal more to teenagers than adults or small children. <BR><BR>Santa Cruz is not what it used to be and I would skip it as a stop. Santa Barbara is much prettier!<BR><BR>San Francisco has several fun activities for children--cable cars, ferry rides, Alcatraz.<BR><BR>Grand Canyon would impress anyone of any age--Huge.<BR><BR>Yosemite has gorgeous waterfalls and lots of wildlife and tram that tours the valley floor. Fun for adults and children, but a little cold in March--usually gorgeous in April!<BR><BR>Palm Springs is a golf resort town. If you like to Golf--include it.<BR><BR>I would fly to San Franciso and spend a few days there and in wine country, drive south visit Monterey and acquarium, Carmel (lots of crashing waves on the coast), down to Santa Barbara (swim and rent bikes to pedal along the beach paths--some seat 4 people like a carriage) and into LA for Knotts Berry Farm etc. then to San Diego. You could then decide to drive to Yosemite for or fly to Vegas and go to Grand Canyon. I think two days in Vegas is plenty. <BR><BR>Check website for Ano Nuevo --elephant seal refuge--pretty neat for kids.

Elise Dec 30th, 2002 03:42 PM

Goodness! Thank you all SO much for your informative and detailed replies. I really appreciate every suggestion. We are thinking now that we might fly into San Francisco for 3/4 nights and maybe take a trip to Yosemite by train from there. Will we need to hire a car for these few days or can we see the main 'tourist spots' by cable car? After SF we would fly down to San Diego for 3/4 nights then on to LA (maybe Santa Monica) for 1/2 nights and lastly drive across to Las Vegas for 3 nights to include a trip to the Grand Canyon. With young children we don't want to spend toooo much time driving so I'm hoping this sketchy plan is a good compromise? Thank you all once again. Any comments anyone about car hire in SF or kid friendly hotel (3plus or 4 star) suggestions at any location?

mike Dec 30th, 2002 06:14 PM

General hotel suggestion:<BR>One of the best hotel deals for families in the US is Embassy Suites.<BR>All 2 room suites with either king or pair of queen/double beds in the bedroom, plus a pull out sofa bed in the living room, 2 TV's, kitchenette, and free breakfast buffet.<BR>They're all over the US in major cities.<BR>The trick is to find the newer ones because they age quickly.<BR>But for value, space, and convenience they're very dependable without many bad apples in the chain.<BR>Similar concepts have sprung up within other chains, Marriott Suites, Residence Inn, Homewood Suites, etc. Embassy and Marriott Suites are the best in this ncihe IMO.

will Dec 30th, 2002 10:39 PM

I would cut Las Vegas to 2 nights and not include the Grand Canyon-it's a 2 day trip in itself, especially if you've been driving a lot the rest of the trip. <BR><BR>I asked an 8 and 9 year old their favorites and they both agreed almost completely: <BR><BR>1. Legoland<BR>2. Las Vegas (tigers, dolphins, lion cubs, pool, pirate show, arcades). <BR>3. Sea World<BR>4. Los Angeles Zoo<BR>5. LA Natural History Museum <BR>6. Disneyland

will Dec 30th, 2002 10:41 PM

P.S. Definitely try for April, the weather will be much more co-operative!

Carl Dec 30th, 2002 11:40 PM

Elise,<BR><BR>I would say to skip SF as there is lots more for the kids to to in LA and San Diego. Also, the westher in SF will most lielyy be rainy and foggy as opposed to the sunshine in outhern California (LA and San Diego) I have found SF to be largely overrrated and somewhat dirty as well. Nothing like what people make it out to be.

Frank Dec 31st, 2002 02:43 PM

Elise,<BR><BR>With only 2 weeks, you would be better to focus your trip on one area of California (Northern or Southern). Given the ages of your children you may want to focus on the Southern part of California. San Francisco does not have very much for kids. My children (9 and 10) liked Southern California much more. LA and San Diego abound with things to see and do for your children (Seaworld, the beaches, Santa Monica Pier, a boat ride to Catalina Island). Las Vegas is also a great family destination. I have always seen lots of familes there on my trips to Las Vegas. There is so much more to Las Vegas than just gambling. Some of the places that the kids should enjoy are going to the top of the Stratosphere (tallest building in the western US) They even have a roller coater up there as well. There is also a roller coaster at New York New York. The free circus acts at Circus Circus Hotel are also nice, as well as the Fremont Street Experience (light and sound show) .If you have time while in Las Vegas, take a side trip to Hoover Dam.<BR><BR>Have an excellent trip.

will Jan 1st, 2003 12:52 AM

Agree that you should skip Northern California with such young kids, too much to see and do in Southern California. Don't miss the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach. <BR><BR>Fly into San Diego, and take your return flight from Las Vegas. Then hire a one-way-car-rental between the two cities. <BR><BR>Definitely skip Palm Springs.

John Jan 1st, 2003 08:05 AM

I tend to agree that southern California has more to offer to families with children than the northern portion of the state. The other issue is the distance between your destinations. SF to LA via the coast (Hwy. 1) takes two days, and if your kids are like most, the beautiful scenery ceases to impress them after a point (say, 30 minutes) and what's left are hours and hours in the car. The same thing goes for Yosemite - several boring hours in the car each way, then a beautiful (but in April not all that welcoming in terms of weather) mountain valley. <BR><BR>Set against that are the beaches, amusement parks, zoos, Hollywood attractions, and other relatively more kid-friendly things to do in the south. <BR><BR>If you want to include Las Vegas, do so by flying there rather than the 6-hour drive from LA. The Grand Canyon is a long car trip from LV or LA, plus in April it might still be quite chilly (due to the altitude at the rim - over 7000 feet). You could monitor the weather reports to decide if you should go there or save it for a future trip (say to the desert southwest - Grand Canyon, Monumemt Valley etc.) - when the kids are a little older and will appreciate the visual and cultural diversity of this wonderful area.<BR><BR>

Elise Jan 1st, 2003 04:30 PM

Thanks again everyone for your thoughts and a very Happy New Year to you all.

lynette Jan 1st, 2003 08:34 PM

Elise,<BR><BR>If your heart is set on San Francisco, there will be plenty to do in the Bay Area for your boys if you prefer exploring on your own, as opposed to just hitting amusement parks. In San Franciso, don't miss the Exploratorium, Golden Gate Park (rent bikes or skates), the Arcade Museum by the Cliff House Restaurant, and ride the cable cars all over town! Further south, in Santa Cruz, your kids will love the Beach Boardwalk... I'm not sure of their spring hours, but you can check. Rio Del Mar would be a beautiful place to stay, and you can see the famous California Redwoods! I don't disagree that Southern California has a lot to offer, I just wanted to give you other options! Happy Planning!

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