Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > United States
Reload this Page > Need Help BAD! San Fran, Yosemite, Calistoga-Where else?

Need Help BAD! San Fran, Yosemite, Calistoga-Where else?


Dec 3rd, 2017, 06:47 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 16
Need Help BAD! San Fran, Yosemite, Calistoga-Where else?

Hi All,
Family of four that includes two kids-ages 12 and 14.
For spring break we are flying into San Francisco.
So far our itinerary includes:
2 nights Yosemite
4 nights San Francisco.
2 nights in Castiloga.

I have 2 nights that I have to figure out a place to stay!!!
Given that those are our 3 stops on our trip, where else would you go?

Our thoughts are that Redwood Forest is too far north and instead go to Humboldt, drive the Avenue of Giants. But then, where do we stay. We also have Muir Woods on the agenda when we are closer to SF.

We originally wanted to go to Lassen National Volcanic Park, but we are visiting the first week of April and from what I've read, there are parts that may be closed due to snow.

Yosemite, Castiloga and San Francisco...tell me where else to go please!
Any advice on family friendly lodging is helpful too!
raleighgal is offline  
Reply With Quote
Dec 3rd, 2017, 09:45 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 2,229
What are your dates? 2 nights in Yosemite only gives you one full day for the park and I suspect that you have also not accounted for travel time to and from Yosemite.
mjs is offline  
Reply With Quote
Dec 3rd, 2017, 10:04 PM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 429
Travel time to Yosemite is over 3 hours each way without traffic. I would allow more time if that is really important to you.

I think of Calistoga for wine tasting and mudbaths - not what kids would be interested in doing. However, there is Safari West near Calistoga that is really a wonderful place that the kids would love. You can spend a night there, which I would recommend. You stay in luxury tents (with bathrooms!) just like safari tents. You book jeep tours of their grounds as if you were on a safari. They have a dinner that you can book in the evening if you stay over, casual bbq and breakfast is included. It is minutes from Calistoga.

What are your family interests? Plenty to do in San Francisco, of course! You will want at least 4 days there, but you could fill up more: Golden Gate Park has so much to do, including a wonderful science museum and Aquarium, renting bikes if the weather is good or a hike through the park to the ocean. Check the schedule for what is offered at De Young Museum and Legion of Honor to see if it might be of interest. If you would like to visit Alcatraz, that should be booked in advance. So much wonderful food and many different ethnic varieties. Tell us a little more about your preferences and priorities.
ellenbw is offline  
Reply With Quote
Dec 3rd, 2017, 11:59 PM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 61,663
Not enough time in Yosemite - it is about a 4.5 hour drive (and could take longer depending on traffic in the SF Bay Area). So you will want 3 nights there.

Not quite sure about he Calistoga bit. I love the area but between the fire recovery and having children with you, I'm not sure I'd go there.

I would consider doing SF, the coast north of the city and Yosemite, OR SF, Yosemite and the Monterey / Carmel area,

Near Carmel are the aquarium, point lobos, the mission, kayaking, whale watching trips, the northern part of Big Sur, and the boardwalk in Santa Cruz among lots of other attractions.
janisj is online now  
Reply With Quote
Dec 4th, 2017, 01:15 AM
Join Date: Nov 2017
Posts: 5
pretty much second everything Janis said, although I'm not sure if I'd include the boardwalk.

I'd add an extra night onto Yosemite, definitely. Depends on the kids, but I'd consider cutting Yosemite and doing

3 nights SF
2 nights Monterey or environs
3 nights LA/Disneyland

but mostly because the teens in my family would whine so much if I tried to take them hiking in April.
secretagentmouse is offline  
Reply With Quote
Dec 4th, 2017, 05:01 AM
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 15,871
Cut Yosemite for Disneyland?!!!
There's much better stuff to do in the SF part of CA...south to LA for Disney? Leaves me speechless.
sylvia3 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Dec 4th, 2017, 05:30 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 16
Here are some answers to your questions/comments.
*We are traveling the last weekend of March and the first full week of April.
*I've planned on at least 4 hours travel time from SF to Yosemite.
*In Calistoga, I want to go to a couple of vineyards. I was thinking Sterling and Castello di Amorosa since I've read that they are family friendly. I also had Safari West, Old Geyeser and Petrified Rock on my list of items to do there.

*Seeing as though we will be there the first week of April, will many trails be open at Yosemite? If I extend our stay by one night, what would be a good 2 full day itinerary? Keep in mind I have two teens/tweens who

*While headed to Anaheim is a good suggestion, we are already headed to Disney World soon, so that's not an option.

Thank you for everything! Please keep the suggestions coming!
raleighgal is offline  
Reply With Quote
Dec 4th, 2017, 05:37 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,692
Gretchen is offline  
Reply With Quote
Dec 4th, 2017, 07:08 AM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,366
I think you & especially the kids would enjoy Carmel/Monterey/Pt Lobos more than you would the wine country. I think the kids might get bored to death in Calistoga.

Muir Woods just introduced some new access & parking regulations. During spring break it may be difficult or impossible to visit it on the spur of the moment. I would suggest that you instead visit some of the other Redwood tree areas between San Francisco and Monterey. Even a drive from Pt Lobos to Bug Sur (A+ scenic drive) would reward you with some views of Redwood trees.

Here are some things to do & see while in the Bay Area:

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Reply With Quote
Dec 4th, 2017, 07:09 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 61,663
I'm sorry but tbe napa/Sonoma area us not all that great for teens/Tweens- at leat not nearly as much to see/do as in the Monterey area.

In march/April, the Yosemite back country will not be accessible bur e waterfalls, mirror lakes will be AMAZING.

You will want two full days just for the Valley floor (ergo three nights)
janisj is online now  
Reply With Quote
Dec 4th, 2017, 08:21 AM
Join Date: Mar 2015
Posts: 2,771
I did say it depended on the teens, folks. And there’s more to LA than Disney. Yosemite would be my pick. LA would be more popular with most teens.

Agree that you really do want two full days for the valley floor if you’re going to be driving that far. And I’d go to the redwoods before I’d go to wineries. 1) you can drink everywhere. And 2) there really isn’t anything more boring at 12/14 than visiting wineries with parents. The redwoods are amazing.
marvelousmouse is offline  
Reply With Quote
Dec 4th, 2017, 10:18 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,988
I would agree with Janisj, even if you have taken the road trip time into consideration. We have done family trips to all of these areas (we're from LA) every single year for the last 25 years, at various times during the year. Except Calistoga.

Question as to Calistoga . . . is the area back up and at full speed since the October fires??? You may wish to check on that first.

You know, you could get the wine tasting experience in the Monterey area, since they are a wine making region (OK, maybe not the best wines in the world, but at least you can have the experience!). But, as JanisJ said, that whole area between Big Sur and Santa Cruz is chock full of cool stuff for families and tweens to do, whether you're in the middle of winter, or in summer.

Definitely get an extra day in Yosemite. Although at that time of year, you're not going to be river rafting or swimming in the Merced, or swimming in one of the 2 pools in the Valley, there's still sufficient stuff to do, from short hikes to renting bikes that would allow you, in April, to get an excellent overview of how truly magnificent Yosemite is.
Surfergirl is offline  
Reply With Quote
Dec 4th, 2017, 10:28 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 20,055
Instead of Calistoga, consider driving from Yosemite to the Monterey area. Lots of things to do: Monterey Aquarium, Carmel Mission, Point Lobos Natural State Preserve (http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=571 ), and you can visit Henry Cowell State Park for redwoods on the way to San Francisco. If going up the coast, stop by Año Nuevo to see the elephant seals.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca...7624512998387/ and subsequent pictures.
Michael is offline  
Reply With Quote
Dec 4th, 2017, 11:59 AM
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 2,780
I agree with the suggestions to spend the extra two days in Monterey which will give you time to drive down into the part of Big Sur which is open.
If the parents want to visit Calistoga and a couple of wineries, let them, it is their trip and presumably their budget which is paying for the trip. Kids can suck it up for a few hours.
jamie99 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Dec 4th, 2017, 01:38 PM
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 12,213
I agree that April is a great time to be in Yosemite. At the Valley level, there won't be much, if any snow that time of year, so trails in and around the valley will be just fine. And with such a short visit, you don't have time for much hiking anyway, so you won't run out of trails.
november_moon is offline  
Reply With Quote
Dec 4th, 2017, 02:14 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,366
>>April is a great time to be in Yosemite. At the Valley level, there won't be much, if any snow that time of year,<<

On April 6 2001, we stayed at the Groveland Inn in Groveland after driving from the SF Peninsula where we live. That night, it snowed heavily and the entrance to Yosemite Valley was completely blocked off. Access was not allowed even for 4WD & chains. We were told that the Merced River access was at a lower elevation, and we might be able to get to the Valley that way - with chains. We drove west to find a place where we could purchase chains for the car, and did so. We then entered Yosemite Valley without having to put on the chains. We stayed in the Valley for 2 nights. Lots of snow, and it showed one evening in the Valley

Next stop was Sequoia NP. We had to put on chains to enter the park, but took them off the next day. Lots of snow.

Then we visited the southwest USA - Calif Central Valley, Arizona, Sedona, Grand Canyon, Zion, and Death Valley. On April 23 we drove north on 395 on the eastern side of the Sierras. We did not have reservations for a place to stay because the snowpack was heavy and we did not know which roads were going to be open. Most of the roads that were supposed to be open that time of year - were not open. Plus it was snowing heavily. We finally got to South Lake Tahoe and stayed there for the night. We drove west on Hwy 50 and it was a little challenging (I don't have much experience driving in the snow).

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Reply With Quote
Dec 4th, 2017, 02:15 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,366
>>On April 6 2001<<


Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Reply With Quote
Dec 4th, 2017, 02:29 PM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 61,663
Of course that could happen, but even last winter which was historic in terms of snow and rain, early April there were no road closures or chain requirements. One anecdote does not mean that happens every year.
janisj is online now  
Reply With Quote
Dec 4th, 2017, 03:19 PM
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 3,045
Well... I do think marvelousmouse isn't wrong to think of things teens would like to do.

At least one of the sellers of the Alcatraz tour pairs it with a segway tour of San Francisco. My teens really loved that. When put together, consider your day done.

San Francisco is just such a cool place for kids to wander around in.

Go to Amoeba Music in Haight Ashbury. My oldest and I did it and loved this place. You can pre-listen to selections and decide if you want to buy them. And it is just huge.

Some (maybe not all) of the walking tours put on by the San Francisco Library might appeal. We ended up not doing this as a family, but I have done these on solo or couple trips. I think my own teens would have liked the Chinatown one the most. They guide took us places I wouldn't have thought to go and also was allowed access into a small private temple for our group only (not the public). My thanks to Stu for sharing this resources here btw.

If you do spend any time on the Wharf, don't miss Musee Mecanique on pier 45. It is so fun, mechanical toys from decades ago. You don't pay an entry fee; you pay to make the toys work.

Also, there are two amusement parks near San Francisco. My kids have done both. Preference would be to Six Flags over Great America.

Consider also whale watching if you don't have that option near home. I also believe there is ziplining available that we didn't get to.
5alive is offline  
Reply With Quote
Dec 4th, 2017, 04:47 PM
Join Date: Mar 2015
Posts: 2,771
Musee Mechanique is a great suggestion. I second that. So much fun. Also Urban Putt- restaurant with indoor, elaborate SF themed mini golf.

I’m going to have to check out amoeba music, thanks 5alive!

I took a bike tour and the teens might like that too, if the weather is good. I saw lot of street art and neighborhoods I wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
marvelousmouse is offline  
Reply With Quote

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 01:04 AM.