Need planning help - 2 weeks seattle to la?

Oct 30th, 2017, 04:27 PM
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Need planning help - 2 weeks seattle to la?

Starting to get a feel for the 2018 trip...tentative dates are two weeks in July (tuesday to tuesday) with a flight from boston to seattle arriving 8 pm day one. 13 completely open days. Fly back from LA to Boston on the 15th day (no free time that day).

Active family with teen boys. We enjoy: hiking, history, amusement parks, and most of all activities that are local to the places we are visiting (examples of previous trip highlights - atv'ing on sand dunes in idaho...whitewater rafting on the colorado river, hummer safari on hells revenge in moab, mammoth dig site in south dakota). All of the items i just mentioned came from the "experts" in this forum, and so once again I'm reaching out to this community.

Ideally I like to spend 2-3 nights at a location, then drive for up to six hours to the next destination. I have no feel for what are realistic driving times in this part of the country. Here are the items my family really want to include: Kayak or whale watch with Orca whales, Redwood NP, Alcatraz, amusement park, Santa Monica beach (or similar type area where we can enjoy the sun, sand, and be amused by the folks around us).

I know about one way rental charges and don't care. I have lots of Starwood points so if we can stay at their properties that's a bonus but not a necessity. I feel that Yosemite would be amazing but that we probably do not have enough time to fit it in enjoyably on this trip. I'm really clueless and starting at ground level here.

Thanks so much!
capecod73 is offline  
Oct 30th, 2017, 08:41 PM
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Can you compare flying to Portland (maybe an earlier flight) instead of Seattle? See what you want of Oregon and SW Washington with a rental car and return it where you rented and then take the Amtrak Coast Starlight south overnight to Sacramento from Portland.
Rent another car from Sacramento and make a big loop for about 6 days in California.
If the goal is to see some big trees in California, you can go to see Yosemite and Sequoia/Kings Canyon for Sequoia trees or you can see Coast Redwoods north of San Francisco at Muir Woods or south of SF at Big Basin.
In Oregon, you can do whitewater rafting on the Rogue River or you can rent a dune buggy or ATV for riding on the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area south of Florence.
tomfuller is online now  
Oct 31st, 2017, 03:17 AM
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I definitely could fly to Portland instead - hadn't even considered it. The overnight train would also work...hmmm...
capecod73 is offline  
Oct 31st, 2017, 03:38 AM
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I think you may need to look at your priorities. There's so much to do in both Oregon and California that I would pick ONE state for two weeks. Even half of California could fill up 2 weeks.

I really enjoyed the redwoods. But I don't know, if Yosemite is calling you, go for that instead. Redwoods does involve a lot of driving. You could just as easily fly into SF and do a loop from there.

Most memorable things I have done:

Sea cave kayaking

Swimming through the cave at natural bridge.

Riding the carousel and roller coaster at Santa Cruz (both national historic sites!)

If your kids like mini golf, urban putt in SF is a don't miss!

I stumbled upon forestiere underground gardens on accident, and it was fascinating.
marvelousmouse is offline  
Oct 31st, 2017, 05:52 AM
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Here's a route I've recommended in the past, but you need to decide if the time allocations work for you.

Map -

This entails a loop around the Olympic Peninsula (beaches, alpine hikes, rain forests, whale watching) then south to Cape Disappointment at the (awesome) mouth of the Columbia River.

It then takes you east to the Columbia Gorge - windsurfing, waterfalls, endless hiking opportunities, Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood... then through the Willamette Valley and out to the southern Oregon coast, the most scenic part. There are dune buggy rides, more incredible beaches, then you're into the redwoods right after the California state line.

Follow US 101 through the redwoods to the Golden Gate Bridge, then south of SF stick to the coast (CA 1) down to Monterey Bay. Visit the cool old-fashioned beachfront amusement park in Santa Cruz, the wonderful Monterey Aquarium, the old Spanish mission in Carmel, and the incomparable Point Lobos state park with its wonderful scenery and wildlife.

Since CA 1 south of Big Sur will still probably be closed (landslides following the fires) swing inland briefly and continue to LA on US 101, stopping in Pismo or Refugio beaches and Santa Barbara for its glorious mission.

Now, this is very ambitious for the time you have available but it depends on your traveling style and preferences. Google maps shows this itinerary at 36 hours, which might be a little low, but if six hours is your limit, it obviously means you'd have six days on the road and seven to see things. If you want to spend a couple of days in each "base," then that would limit you to four bases at most, which could present a time management problem.

If I were thinking about editing this itinerary to make it a little more relaxed, I'd probably look at some "zones" that offer a lot of variety, so you can pack multiple activities into one stay. My votes (but yours might be completely different) would be:

Olympic National Park. Like I said, beaches, mountains, waterfalls, rain forests, whales, even a day trip to Victoria BC (some good whale chasing operations there.)

Columbia Gorge. Limitless opportunities - hikes into canyons with waterfalls at the end, kite or wind surfing in Hood River, white water rafting in White Salmon, U-pick farms in the (gorgeous) Hood River Valley, chairlift to permanent icefields on Mount Hood from Timberline, Stonehenge replica and funky Maryhill Museum (Rodin in the sagebrush) in Maryhill, the Goldendale observatory... all within an hour's drive of Hood River.

Monterey Bay. Redwoods at Big Basin or Henry Cowell state parks, amusement park, beaches and surfing at Santa Cruz, Point Lobos, Carmel mission, beaches and shopping, Monterey aquarium and Cannery Row, more whale watching, Big Sur scenery (north side), Steinbeck center in Salinas... Again, it's a very compact area with numerous options as day activities.

So if I were editing things, rather than starting in Portland and missing Olympic NP, I'd start in Seattle and end in San Francisco, like this -

If this appeals, then a day/allocation timeline could be produced pretty easily.
Gardyloo is online now  
Oct 31st, 2017, 07:54 AM
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That is a LOT of territory for two weeks. Consider gardyloo's plan ( VERY ambitious but doable in your time) or cutting back to just WA & OR, or just CA
janisj is online now  
Oct 31st, 2017, 08:20 AM
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I'm with the others-- too much ground to cover in 2 weeks. Gardyloo's plan is best if you insist on a multi-state driving vacation, but I'd definitely skip trying to get to LA. Otherwise, I'd say focus on one state and really do some exploring. In the case of California, I'm in the "pick north or south, really REALLY do some exploring"; the state is that big and full of great things. I'm STILL exploring the southern end of the state and I've lived here 32 years! And the northern part is still a glorious, gorgeous, thrilling unwrapped treasure to discover. Oregon and Washington-- same. The West Coast is a wonderfully exciting part of the US, and you can spend years enjoying its gifts.
rjw_lgb_ca is offline  
Oct 31st, 2017, 08:29 AM
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Awesome advice - thanks all (especially gardyloo). If we focused on the Olympic to San Fran route what are the opportunities for beach time or amusement parks? In our last trip that was the only negative feedback (Yellowstone to Rushmore) - that we needed 2 days of either waterpark or pool time, or an amusement park. That's really the only reason I was going as far south as LA.
capecod73 is offline  
Oct 31st, 2017, 08:31 AM
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I should add - nice warm weather beach time would be the ideal...and maybe that's not possible if we stick to these areas but that's why I ask you folks
capecod73 is offline  
Oct 31st, 2017, 09:25 AM
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Yeah, I remember that from your trip report There's a 6 flags near SF, never been, but that's the only one I can think of!
marvelousmouse is offline  
Oct 31st, 2017, 09:43 AM
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What do you guys do at the beach?

We went to the Oregon coast every summer as kids. There's plenty to do. It can be warm, but that's not something to count on. But for water sports and people watching, I'd pick the piers and beaches of Southern California.
marvelousmouse is offline  
Oct 31st, 2017, 10:34 AM
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If we focused on the Olympic to San Fran route what are the opportunities for beach time or amusement parks?

The Beach Boardwalk amusement park in Santa Cruz gives both. and

Note the Pacific is quite cold, so in July there's no guarantee that you're going to be comfortable swimming, even if it's perfect beach weather, pretty much anywhere. That said, flights to LAX or San Diego are pretty cheap from most anywhere.

Which raises another possibility, just to confuse things. The only proper "amusement park" that I know of in the coastal Pacific NW is actually in Vancouver BC. The Playland amusement park at the PNE (Pacific National Exhibition) grounds in east Vancouver is another old-time park - wooden roller coaster etc.

So you *might* consider something like this -

Fly into Vancouver, then head east through the (warm) Fraser Valley to Harrison Hot Springs, an old-fashioned resort town on a beautiful lake. Then follow (beautiful) BC Hwy 3 over the Cascades and south on US 97 through lovely red-rock country to Chelan. In Chelan, take the Lady of the Lake ferry up fjord-like Lake Chelan to Stehekin, from which you can hike or bike or horseback ride into the North Cascades.

Then south on US 97 through the Yakama reservation to Maryhill on the Columbia River and west to Hood River and the Gorge (see above for attractions.)

Then out to the Pacific at Cape Disappointment and up the coast past Ruby Beach and the Hoh rain forest to Hurricane Ridge at Port Angeles, then across on the ferry to Victoria.

From Victoria (whale watching, wonderful Royal BC Museum) drive a couple of hours north to the ferry to Powell River on the BC "Sunshine Coast." This is a breathtaking area not well known to US visitors, but there are actually swimming beaches along the coast - - as well as picturesque towns, terrific seafood, and inexpensive lodgings.

From there you take a final ferry back to Horseshoe Bay north of Vancouver - - and you're done. Note this route could also be done as a loop from Portland, which might be cheaper to access than Vancouver.

Links to explore -

Columbia Gorge -

Cape Disappointment -

Ruby Beach, Olympic NP -

Hoh rain forest -

Hurricane Ridge, Olympic NP -
Gardyloo is online now  
Oct 31st, 2017, 11:27 AM
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One thing to keep in mind regarding the Columbia River Gorge. There was a massive fire this summer that did a real number on the area. The Eagle Creek Fire was so big that embers were blown across the river to the WA side and started fires over there as well. Many hikes by trails are close and for at least a year. So while there is still a lot to see, there is also a lot of destruction and will take many years to recover. Just keep that in mind with your planning and you should be good.
mms is offline  
Oct 31st, 2017, 12:25 PM
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What mms said. It's the main reason I wouldn't start in Portland, actually. The Gorge is unique and amazing but not sure what it will look like in terms of trails next year. I like the gardyloo's BC idea, if you aren't sold on Southern California. Don't know about playland, though. I don't think it's impressive from what I have heard.

I live north of Seattle, and most people who want their theme park fix go to Silverwood in Idaho. Santa Cruz Boardwalk is not a true theme park for me- it's great for nostalgia but otherwise is more carnival rides. I love it because I love old coasters and also that's probably the most intact looff carousel I've seen. Don't think teen boys would be impressed by that though.
marvelousmouse is offline  
Nov 1st, 2017, 12:13 AM
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Your wish list:
"kayak or whale watch with Orca whales, Redwood NP, Alcatraz, amusement park, Santa Monica beach (or similar type area where we can enjoy the sun, sand, and be amused by the folks around us)."

I love the Northwest. But it’s 1150 miles from Seattle to Los Angeles, or about 1,000 from Portland. And when I look at your list, you can do just about all these things (and so much more) if you fly into San Francisco and just do a California trip.

This is what I would do--roughly.

Fly into SFO.
3 Nights San Francisco. See Alcatraz. Golden Gate. Ferry Building. Much more. Possibly stay across the bay (fun to ride the ferry, and sometimes cheaper). See coastal redwoods as a daytrip from here John Muir.

Drive down Hwy 1, coming down from San Francisco. Stop at Half Moon Bay at least briefly (cute town and huge waves on the shore). This is a really pretty drive, especially you won’t be seeing Big Sur. Stop at Big Basin to see redwoods if you didn’t see John Muir. I read there is also a zip line in that area. Stop at Santa Cruz.

3 nights at Carmel. See: Monterey Aquarium. Go whale watching (Orcas can be seen in Monterey.) Cannery Row. Carmel Mission.

Drive to Yosemite (4 hours or so) Get an early start.

2 nights Yosemite. Stay in the park if you can, if not, then El Portal. Lots of threads on both lodgings and a plan of action.

Drive to Pasadena. (5 hours or so)

2 nights Pasadena. Go to Huntington Library or Norton Simon; plus one day 6 Flags in Valencia and 1 day Universal Studios in Burbank.

3 nights at the beach—either Santa Monica, Redondo or an Orange County Beach. Surf lessons at Huntington Beach. Do Knotts Berry Farm or Disney/CA Adventure. In Los Angeles, go see the dinosaurs or the La Brea Tar Pits. The Getty Museum. Venice Beach scene. Mission churches. San Diego day trip.

Fly home Orange County (my preference) or LAX.

You might be able to get away with one less day in San Francisco and add it to Yosemite.

Yosemite--get going early. The traffic into the park is getting pretty bad. Or you could leave the afternoon before, but get there before dark.

You may notice I had you go past 6 flags and stay at Pasadena. that's because you would end up not getting to 6 Flags until mid afternoon. So either, stay in Valencia and find a place with a decent pool. Or go on to Pasadena, do some things there, and drive back the next day to 6 Flags.
5alive is offline  
Nov 1st, 2017, 05:37 AM
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5alive - you just confirmed what I didn't want to admit to myself...I would absolutely love to go to Oregon, Washington, and now BC thanks to Gardyloo's amazing itinerary...but it probably isn't the right fit for my family at this point. I didn't get to travel much in my youth, so now that I have the means to do so these places are all new and exciting for me, and the memories and time spent with our boys is priceless, but as they get older I do need to ensure they are enjoying themselves too. They really like spending time at a great pool when we are on vacation, or at an amusement park, so I want to ensure I meet those requirements even though they aren't my first choice.

So I think an all California trip makes the most sense, even if I'm a little sad at the idea. First world problems lol!

Couple of questions...

We go to Disney World every 2-3 years - is there a reason to go to Disneyland or is that a let down and we'd be better served by Knotts or SixFlags?

The three days at Carmel - is that specifically for the whale watching opportunity? In looking at a map I'm wondering if we should go from SF to Yosemite, then back over to the coast...possibly a little further south. Someone mentioned sea kayaking earlier in the thread which I'd like to incorporate, and I saw something about dune buggies at Pismo Beach which looked fun - just trying to determine how to fit these in if possible.

My oldest is a history buff and a massive Reagan fan (don't hate the 15 year old lol) so I was thinking of going to his Presidential library - any feedback on that from folks who have been?

Orange County airport -why do you prefer that airport? Sometimes I'm willing to pay more if the convenience is a big enough difference so I want to understand how different it is from LAX.

I truly appreciate all of the information I've been given so far in this forum!!!
capecod73 is offline  
Nov 1st, 2017, 07:50 AM
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So I think an all California trip makes the most sense, even if I'm a little sad at the idea. First world problems lol!

I agree wholeheartedly. Some ideas...

The three days at Carmel - is that specifically for the whale watching opportunity?

The Monterey Peninsula is a gold mine for visits with kids. The whale watching operations mainly work out of Monterey, e.g. but there are some departures from other places. Carmel's main offerings are its old Spanish mission, a beautiful beach, and a picturesque (some say "quaint" but I hate the word) downtown shopping area, many, many houses worthy of robbing a bank to buy, and spectacular weather. But there's much more - fabulous scenery and marine wildlife at Point Lobos, the terrific Monterey aquarium, historic Cannery Row, the northern Big Sur coast just south of Point Lobos - - redwoods at Big Basin or Henry Cowell state parks (north of Santa Cruz, an easy day trip from Monterey/Carmel) and terrific food everywhere. There are also sea kayaking operators in the Monterey area.

In looking at a map I'm wondering if we should go from SF to Yosemite, then back over to the coast...

...My oldest is a history buff...

Two birds with one stone. Map -

Head from SF east through Sacramento to the gold rush country along CA Hwy 49 in the Sierra foothills. This is a stunningly beautiful area featuring a string of incredibly historic small towns that will have your history buff reeling. (You MUST read some Mark Twain and Bret Harte before visiting.) Just look at a map and google any of the towns shown in the area - Murphys, Jamestown, Columbia (a restored town now a state historic park).. they're all beyond fab. Add a side trip to the Calaveras Big Trees and you've got giant sequoias added to the menu; stay in Murphys and sample some of the wines being produced in this up and coming vineyard zone.

Then visit Yosemite and zip back across the central valley to the Monterey Bay area and south from there. Although you'll have to use US 101 from Salinas down to Paso Robles due to the CA 1 closure, cut over to CA 1 and visit the Hearst Castle before continuing on south to Pismo or Santa Barbara.

As for LA, while I grew up there I'm probably not the best source on resources for kids. I do know that Disney has gotten breathtakingly expensive, and if your kids are regulars in Orlando I don't know about the cost/benefit. Of course there are also Magic Mountain, Universal, and other options, but if it were me I'd probably look at more "traditional" options like the Griffith Park observatory, the Santa Monica pier, the tiny but fun amusement park on the Balboa peninsula (a hidden gem, see ) or maybe a day trip out to Catalina Island. Running out of options in LA is simply impossible.

Orange County airport (SNA) is much easier to navigate than LAX, but not all destinations are served nonstop from there, so it's worth checking. If you want beach time in LA, then SNA is easier if you're looking at the Orange County beach towns like Huntington, Newport or Laguna Beaches; if you want to visit Santa Monica, Venice, or any of the South Bay beaches (Manhattan, Hermosa, Redondo) then LAX is more convenient.
Gardyloo is online now  
Nov 1st, 2017, 08:08 AM
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Take Gardyloo's suggestion and put it in stone. That would tick every one of you boxes. Disneyland could be a bit meh if they are old hands at DW but it is the original and California Adventure could be worth a day (I go to DL every 3 or 4 years and spend at least two full days every time)

Knott's is fine but not in the same league as DL or Universal.

I'd maybe concentrate on 'different' things like the Santa Cruz boardwalk, the Monterey bay aquarium, San Diego zoo and wild animal park, Santa Monica pier instead of full on amusements.
janisj is online now  
Nov 1st, 2017, 09:11 AM
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This is amazing. Looking at flights, Yosemite hotels and dates right now. I might have further questions but essentially Gardyloo and 5alive have gotten me a game plan and I owe them both dinner and drinks if they ever come to Cape Cod THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!
capecod73 is offline  
Nov 1st, 2017, 09:54 AM
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Well that didn't take me long to come up with some questions...I'm trying to use hotel points for Starwood (Sheraton, Westin, etc) and specifically in San Francisco there is one hotel near Fisherman's Wharf and then a bunch on 3rd street - which area is preferable? Is there any reason we would need a car for our time there?

Moving further south - any specific hotel recommendations in Carmel/Monterey area and/or is one place better as a base point?

Looks like I can get some nights in Santa Monica using points...should all of our LA time be based from there or should we move for a night or two closer into the city? If so, any particular section that makes sense...I'm sure we will want to do the typical touristy stuff one day there - walk of fame, studio tour.

Thanks again!
capecod73 is offline  

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