Help plan extended California trip

Mar 29th, 2011, 10:36 AM
  #1  
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Help plan extended California trip

I am planning a month long visit to California sometime this summer (my dates are flexible). I'd like to spend 5 nights to a week in several different places, and I will have a car. Three areas where I definitely want to spend time are San Francisco, L.A., and Napa/Sonoma. I'm also considering San Diego, and perhaps somewhere closer to the central coast, like Monterey. I will be looking for small hotels/condos to stay, but plan to mostly explore the surrounding areas. I'd love more specific suggestions from you as to your favorite areas (if you think Healdsburg is the best place to be for a few days, for example), perhaps the top five cities/towns you'd want to visit/live in. Part of the purpose of this trip is to decide if I'd like to relocate to CA, so I will be exploring some of those daily points of interest from each home base (grocery stores, walkability, restaurants, gyms, etc.). Thanks so much for any tips!
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Mar 29th, 2011, 11:01 AM
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Driving your own vehicle or flying in and renting?
Do you want a large or medium city? Coastal, mountains or desert? California has it all, the good, bad and ugly.
The Bay area has one of the highest cost of living indexes in CA. Over the last 20 years, many more people have moved from California to Oregon than have left Oregon to go to another state. Before committing to living in CA check out Oregon as well. Beware of areas that are prone to mudslides, forest fires, falling into the ocean, earthquake faults and floods.
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Mar 29th, 2011, 11:11 AM
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Hi tomfuller- I will probably drive my own car.

I grew up in a DC suburb and lived in Manhattan for several years. I like cities, but I think I'd prefer a medium city now. What I really would like is walkability. Not necessarily an entire walkable town (like Manhattan), but defintitely a town square/pedestrian area where many shops/restaurants are easily accessible. Also interested in a good school system. Coastal or mountains sound great- I'd probably lean more toward mountains if I was 2 hours or less from the coast. I'm not too familiar with desert and not sure I'd like it.

Interesting info about Oregon- I will start doing some research there, too. Thank you!
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Mar 29th, 2011, 11:20 AM
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What size is a small city?

Off the top of my head, I can think of Davis (but it gets hot in the summer) and Petaluma. Sonoma is another possibility as far as town square, shops, etc. but I don't know about the school system.
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Mar 29th, 2011, 11:24 AM
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<<>>

Then I'd suggest you move elsewhere
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Mar 29th, 2011, 11:39 AM
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Thanks for the suggestions, Shanti.

Sf7307- ha, is that true? Part of the reason for this trip is that I obviously know SO little about California (have only been 2x- once to San Fran and once to Santa Monica). Disappointing about the school systems, but surely there must be a couple of good schools in most districts...? How about the private schools?
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Mar 29th, 2011, 11:46 AM
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Take a good look at Eugene, Oregon. It's 1.5 hours from Florence (Coastal) You go over the Coastal Range (mountains) to get to the ocean. Going east 1.5 hours will get you into the Cascades. Eugene is the home of the University of Oregon. It should have excellent education.
Do your research on the cost of living in any area you are considering moving to. I-5 is the major route from Seattle to San Diego.
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Mar 29th, 2011, 11:54 AM
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Look at the Santa Barbara area too. Coastal town, beaches, not too big. Inland nearby is Ojai, a more artsy community.

Berkeley, across the bay from SF, is of course a university town and we loved living there. Look at the Elmwood district, or across the city line in Rockridge, which is in Oakland. Schools are fair. (public education in CA has been badly damaged by the tax cutters.) There are a lot of private schools in the area.
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Mar 29th, 2011, 11:59 AM
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There are plenty of good public schools in California, but they tend to be in the most affluent districts, where fund-raising is easy. There are also good private schools, but they cost as much as tuition at a good private college.
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Mar 29th, 2011, 12:00 PM
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A few years ago, I knew someone who worked south of San Francisco - and lived in Davis. I think he stayed near work during the week and only saw his family on weekends. He said it was the least expensive area that still had excellent schools. And it's a university town so that helps with keeping the schools up to par.

I used to live near Petaluma and friends liked the school district. I lived in Santa Rosa and the local school district was very good plus my kids got to take courses at the local junior college while still in high school - but I don't think Santa Rosa would meet your town square criterion.
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Mar 29th, 2011, 12:42 PM
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How about the Santa Cruz area? Santa Cruz, Capitola, Aptos - these cities sort of run together and are all great places to live. I have elementary school and junior high aged cousins in the Aptos school system and my uncle is quite happy with the quality of the education. I know other people with kids in the Santa Cruz school district and they are pretty happy with the education too.

All of these areas have really walkable/bikeable areas. Capitola Village and downtown Santa Cruz may be what you are looking for in terms of a town square feeling.
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Mar 29th, 2011, 03:06 PM
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Thanks, tomfuller. I had a cousin attend University of Oregon- I'll have to ask her for advice on Eugene.

Charnees- thanks for the SB and Ojai suggestions. I've heard great things about Berkeley elsewhere.

Shanti- I'll look into Davis and Petaluma as well.

november_moon- I'm not familiar with Santa Cruz at all, but I like the sound of your descriptions.

I know California is an expensive place to live. How does the cost of living compare in each of these different areas? Do any of these places have significantly worse traffic than others?
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Mar 29th, 2011, 03:15 PM
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Traffic to where? By that I mean will you be commuting somewhere, or are you just talking about traffic in the area generally? If the latter, I'd have to say Berkeley has the worst traffic of Berkeley, Davis, Petaluma and Santa Cruz ----because it's closest to a big city and a lot of commute traffic "passes by".
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Mar 29th, 2011, 03:33 PM
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General traffic- not necessarily for commuting to get to another town, but just driving around to run errands, etc. How are the public transit systems? I took the BART while I was in San Francisco, and it seemed fine to me for a short trip.
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