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June trip San Fran, Yosemite, L.A. with 3 teenage boys

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Apr 17th, 2012, 09:15 PM
  #1
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June trip San Fran, Yosemite, L.A. with 3 teenage boys

Hi Everyone,
My husband, 3 teenage boys and I are going to California in June/July for 12 nights and I would appreciate any advice you could give. This is the only family trip we will get to Ca so I know we want to see as much as possible.
June 23rd fly into San Fran in time for supper
24th see Alcatraz and other suggestions
25th, 26th, open-maybe the coast?
27th-30th stay in Curry Village in Yosemite, hike and check out park
30th go to L.A. and see cousins- (my cousin works at Warner Bros.), hopefully see some studios, Universal Studios Park maybe La Brea Tar Pits (kids loved dinosaurs growing up) or other suggestions. If we have been to Disney World in Orlando and our time is limited, is it worth it to go to Disney Land?
July 2nd - 5th open- LA, San Diego, or the coast?
We fly home early on the 5th from San Francisco. I wish we could stay longer and fly home from San Diego but these tickets were the only 25,000 mile priced available.
My kids like: nature/animals and hiking, history and military museums, movie related sites, amusement parks, the beach. We have hiked 6 hrs in a day before, so we can do pretty active things to see the great outdoors.
I am reading all of the other family posts on California from last two years, so if you gave someone a lot of info you don't have to repeat it all to me. But someone else may have different requirements and different advice than they needed and I appreciate your time!
My questions are:
We would like to see Big Sur and other coastal areas. We go to beautiful beaches on the gulf coast but are excited about seeing the cliffs and big waves in California. We would also like to go to San Diego to see Sea World and the zoo. Unfortunately we couldn't fly home from San Diego like we hoped. What what you spend your time on for our open days? the coast, San Diego, or more days in L.A., other national parks south of San Fran?
Also any tips on Yosemite not posted already would be great.
We have no hotel reservations yet except for the 3 nights in Yosemite which I got in October. I hope to get hotel rooms that are $150 or less and will look for deals. We haven't rented a car yet either. I know we will be driving a lot. I just want to see as much as we can.
Thanks in advance y'all!
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Apr 18th, 2012, 05:44 AM
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If you like to drive - as I/we do - a great trip awaits you. From SF - you could go down to Carmel/Monterrey for a couple days (less than a 3 hour drive from SF) and from there - get over to Yo via the back way. I always recommend - get a good map and study it - even if you rent the GPS system.

In Carmel/Monterrey - see the Aquarium, Cannery Row, take the 17 mile drive and go down the coast a bit to Big Sur - and have coffee/a snack at say Nepenthe. http://www.nepenthebigsur.com/

Once in LA - it's only a couple hours to SD - and you can always get fairly cheap flights from SD back up to SF. Check Southwest, etc, and for rental cars, I always first go to www.carrentals.com, and then also follow up asking about drop off charges.

There are plenty of other posts in here about what to do in California and come back with more Questions for sure.

BTW - we always buy a Styrofoam cooler, put some ice in it and take it along with drinks, snacks. etc. A very inexpensive investment for all the denaro it saves, not to mention the convenience. If it squeaks a bit - just put a coat or a towel over it.
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Apr 18th, 2012, 06:28 AM
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Since you've been to WDW, I'd skip Disneyland. It's the same as Magic Kingdom. I would definitely carve out time to drive the coast from SF to Santa Cruz, Monterey, Carmel, Big Sur. From Big Sur, it's a 45min drive back to Monterey from where you can head east to Yosemite. Things teens love: The Beach Boardwalk amusement park on the beach in Santa Cruz, watching surfers from the cliffs north of there, taking surf lessons, seeing the Monterey Bay Aquarium, riding bikes along the coastal trail in Pacific Grove.
Have fun.
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Apr 18th, 2012, 06:30 AM
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24th- After Alcatraz go over the GG bridge and see Muir Woods and maybe the Point Bonita lighthouse.
It's great that you got the Yosemite reservation early. Are you sure that you want to go into the LA Basin on July 1? It likely will be hot. Someday the kids decide they would rather go to the Grand Canyon instead of Disneyland/Universal.
Remember that CA still has several other National Parks.
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Apr 18th, 2012, 09:02 AM
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I second the vote for Monterey and Nepenthe. Their Ambrosia burger is life threatening for adults but the kids will love it. The view south from Nepenthe will be one of the highlights of the trip. In Yosemite the mist trail is worth the time if you are esperienced hikers on wet rock. Other than that all the other crowded tourist attractions are worth it, but I generally use the valley loop trail rather than the roads to get to them.
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Apr 18th, 2012, 10:39 AM
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Nepenthe had nice views, but I don't really see why it gets such high marks. I think the snack idea is better there than a full meal. Just my opinion, we did it at the end of the day and it was really foggy when we were there, so perhaps we need to do it again.

San Francisco
Definately Alcatraz-we like the night tour(last tour)
Maybe a Segway Tour
Chinatown-perhaps have Dim Sum, see fortune cookie factory and kite shop
Ride the Trolley Cars
Fishermans Wharf- touristy/tacky-but we liked it
The Mona Lisa was probably our favorite meal in SF

Monterey Aquarium is very good
Kayaking in Elkhorn Slough is really cool, the otters turn over on their backs and crack open shells using rocks as tools-very cool to see and hear.
Point Lobos-nice hiking
Driving Pebble Beach Golf Course
I would go all the way down and see Hearst Castle

Yosemite
See Maripossa Grove-hike as much as you can here
Have a meal at Wawonna Hotel near Maripossa
Take the shuttle to Glacier Point, then hike down Panorama Trail that connects with the Mist Trail(great hike)
Lots more to do in Yosemite-spend as much time here as possible. To get away from the crowds, then hike higher in elevation and away from the roads.
Hetch Hetchy and Tioga Road are both worth seeing
Sunday Brunch at The Awahnee

The earlier you start and the later you finish the better in Yosemite. For instance-If you get up and get with it at Maripossa Grove, you can be one of the few there. By 9AM it can be packed.

You might want to spend a day at Point Reyes National Seashore north of SF. It is just different than the coast south. I wouldn't say I like either one better, they are just different. Check when low tide is at Pt. Reyes and go tidepooling.

We bring one of those coolers that can collapse down. They don't sweak and seem to stay cooler longer. We always picnic a few times when doing National Parks.


We like the zoo in SD. We liked even more the Wild Animal Park(the zoo owns it). However, I think you need to do the "extra" tours there to appreciate it and they are pretty expensive. Feeding the giraffe and rhinos were very cool though.
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Apr 18th, 2012, 10:44 AM
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If you are flying from SF and presumably driving back from San Diego to SF, don't bother with the coast north of SF. Just take the CA 1 from San Luis Obispo to SF. Plan for a few days and you'll be able to visit Hearst Castle, see the elephant seals nearby, go to the Monterey aquarium and generally enjoy a drive up the coast.
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Apr 18th, 2012, 11:02 AM
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The views from the restaurant at Nepenthe are actually better than the views from the cafe/snack bar -- they are sensational. The food is good, not great, but it's a fantastic place for a break on your drive down the coast. Not sure what jcarlinsv means about the ambrosia burger -- the only thing that will give you a heart attack is the cost ($14+?), otherwise it's just a decent burger.
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Apr 18th, 2012, 12:25 PM
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I agree that Point Lobos is on the must do list.
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Apr 18th, 2012, 01:00 PM
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With the 2nd-5th timeframe, you can either do SD or the coast back to SF, not both. Being that this is a holiday weekend, a drive up the coast might be problematic - 2-3 night minimums at hotels and all that. You might want to head down to Santa Cruz/Monterey for 1 night before going to Yosemite (I think someone else mentioned this too). Then after LA, spend a couple days in SD and fly back to SF before your flight home.
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Apr 18th, 2012, 03:00 PM
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As a parent of teens, I definitely think you should add the following to your itinerary:

1. Walk or bike the Golden Gate Bridge. Google-search this site to get details on where to park or rent bikes.

2. Visit 1-2 Southern California beaches. They are fun and your kids will love it. Venice Beach (Muscle Beach) is close and easy to reach from Los Angeles. It is a "scene."
Also go to an Orange County beach. There are many and each have different attributes. Surfers go to the beaches known for big waves (ie Huntington Beach), others have more amazing natural beauty, etc.

3. Visit Hollywood and see the Chinese Theatre, the Walk of Fame, find some favorite or classic celebrities.

Beyond that, I wanted to touch on your interest in military and history. California has fascinating history. Four options:
a. Go on a walking tour in San Francisco of the Gold Rush era, Chinatown and many others. Stu Dudley on this board recommended this group. I have gone on a couple and became a believer. Especially loved the Chinatown one. Very fun. http://www.sfcityguides.org/index.html

b. Visit a California Mission. There are 21 missions, most of them from San Francisco south to San Diego. Some are further from the freeway or major cities than others; they all have different hours. What I would suggest is figure out your overall schedule and find a 1-2 hour block on your driving days to stop at one. Two good sites: http://missiontour.org/index.htm, http://www.missionscalifornia.com/

c. The Presidio. A Spanish Military Installation, there were several out west. The Presidio in San Francisco is a district at the South End of the Golden Gate. I have not been so you will need to research it to see if it is worth a stop. People often talk of riding bikes through its extensive trail system. http://www.presidio.gov

d.The Huntington Library and Gardens in Pasadena. Owns some of the most famous history in the world--Shakespeare's First Folio, a Gutenberg Bible, and more.

You asked about La Brea: Technically this location has no dinos. They feature many prehistoric mammals, like mammoths and saber-tooth cats. During the summer months there is often a dig going on in one of the pits. Go on a weekday, and if you are lucky they will be working and you can watch them working through the glass.

If you really want to see dinosaurs, the Natural History Museum at Exposition Park totally remodeled its dinosaur hall. This is right near USC, just south of downtown. The old hall was great, I can only assume this one is even better. Great T-Rex fossils. http://www.nhm.org/site/explore-exhibits

You could probably squeeze in both museums and Hollywood in a day. Just depends how long you will spend at each site.

Finally food: You should have heard of In-and-Out Burgers. Southern California also has Tommy's burgers (several locations), and Ruby's (including a couple on the beaches). A regional chain called Mimi's had really fresh baked goods, and very large amounts of food for the price. Not necessarily worth driving a long ways, but if they are near one of your stops, a good choice. Years ago, we enjoyed Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles in Los Angeles, but please check current reviews on yelp before visiting.
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Apr 18th, 2012, 03:13 PM
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If you want a military museum - none better than the floating one - the USS Midway here in SD and also - the smaller Marines' museum out at Miramar - where they filmed Top Gun. http://www.midway.org/

As for Segway riders - I can't stand them but walking or riding bicycles across the Golden Gate Bridge is great. And the coffee at Nepenthene is very good and they also give refills for fifty cents I believe it is.

I would definitely opt for 2 days down at Carmel/Monterrey and a drive south to Big Sur.

As for Yo - two of our favorite things to do there are to rent bikes - and go by Upper and Lower Yo falls, and also get out to El Capitan to watch the climbers. That's where a good pair of binos - even - compact - are worth their weight to bring along. The grassy meadow is a perfect place to do this: http://tinyurl.com/6mdovm4

Oh yes, San Diego also has some great beaches, surfers, boat rides, and the like.
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Apr 18th, 2012, 03:18 PM
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Uno mas: You can feed the giraffes at Safari Park (the new name of the Wild Animal Park) for very little (couple dollars for the treats - which their long tongues gently take from your hand) - or you can go on the ride in the back of a truck that goes out into the animal enclosures ($70 or so), but you don't have to do that to get a good view of the animals, etc.

I would also recommend you get to the Cheetah run - which I have been meaning to do: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZHCMs16c5o
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Apr 18th, 2012, 09:17 PM
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Thanks so much for everyone's help. Those are great suggestions! We may fly from L.A. back to SF for our flight home to save driving time. I see that Southwest has some flights for $100. That way we can just concentrate on seeing what we can from SF and Yosemite down and spend the last few days in L.A.
Tomfuller: yes we have to go to LA and see the cousins! We live in Memphis so we see them rarely. In regards to the heat, that was my other question. We have regular days in summer with heat index of 105 degrees so we are used to burning up. Will we need some long pants and shirts anywhere around San Francisco etc? It is hard to imagine being cold in July but could you explain which areas are cold and should we split our packing for cold/hot or mostly shorts with just one warm outfit. I think it gets really cold at night in Yosemite?
Tomsd: Yes we are all about saving money. We have an Igloo Maxcold cooler that stays cold in the summer for 5 days! We love taking it on road trips but obviously we can't bring it on the plane. We will get a cooler though. Thanks for reminding me.
Thanks to everyone about good places to stop such as other parks, kayaking and the museums and good beaches and views.
My kids are interested in Hearst Castle but they also saw a show about the Winchester Mansion (and hello they made guns!). Does anyone know if it is worth going to?
Lastly, we hope to get some great seafood so close to the coast. Are there any good seafood restaurants (not $50 a plate, may $30 or less)?
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Apr 18th, 2012, 09:28 PM
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The Winchester house was built by a descendant of the factory owners. Nothing about the Winchester rifle there. If given a choice, choose Hearst Castle.

As for weather, from Morro Bay north the coast can be foggy and cool.
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Apr 18th, 2012, 09:41 PM
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Michael, How do we find the elephant seals? Will they still be there in late June?
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Apr 18th, 2012, 09:54 PM
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If you go to Alcatraz you should definitely get your tix in advance. Only use this site to get your tix:

http://www.alcatrazcruises.com/
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Apr 18th, 2012, 09:55 PM
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They are right by the road. I saw them share the field between the highway and the ocean with cows. The location is just a few miles north of San Simeon.
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Apr 18th, 2012, 09:57 PM
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Elephant seals are at Ano Nuevo:

http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=1115
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Apr 18th, 2012, 10:31 PM
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I appreciate it Michael and Suzie!
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