Pacific Coast Family Trip

Old Dec 23rd, 2013, 05:29 AM
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Pacific Coast Family Trip

We are 2 families planning this trip for summer 2014. Kids ages 17, 16 and 10. Would like to start at San Francisco and finish in Seattle, Washington. Not sure if time will allow us to go to Vancouver. Need to know best route, recommended places to visit and to eat. Arriving on July 19, 2014 and departing on August 2, 2014.
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Old Dec 23rd, 2013, 06:02 AM
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Highlights would be the redwoods in northern California, the Oregon coast from Brookings to Cannon Beach, the Columbia River Gorge, Mt Rainier NP, and Olympic NP. Other high point, according to your preferences, might be Crater Lake NP, Mt. Saint Helens, and the San Juan Islands (my choice).

The problem with going to Vancouver is extremely annoying delays at the border. Also, if you are renting a car, some companies do not allow them to be driven into Canada.

Since you will be traveling at the height of the tourist season, it would be wise to book rooms as soon as you know your itinerary.

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Old Dec 23rd, 2013, 06:54 AM
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Need to know best route, recommended places to visit and to eat.

A guidebook would be useful, perhaps Fodor's?
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Old Dec 23rd, 2013, 07:35 AM
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My thought would be to fly to Seattle. See Seattle. Take the Amtrak train or bus to Vancouver (passports in hand). Walk around Vancouver including Stanley Park. Return to Seattle and rent a car for your trip south along the coast. Cross the mouth of the Columbia on the US 101 bridge into Astoria Oregon. Stay somewhere on the northern Oregon coast.
Continue south along the coast until you get to San Francisco. See Muir Woods north of SF if you missed the Redwoods NP.
If the car has to be returned to Seattle, drive up I-5 as far as Medford OR and detour over to see Crater Lake NP.
I-5 is not the best route if you want to sight see.
(buy the guidebook).
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Old Dec 23rd, 2013, 02:48 PM
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It just depends what you want to do. You can drive that route straight up the freeway San Francisco to Seattle. Or you can meander around both along the coast or inland. There's loads of scenic areas.

You've only got 2 weeks and are covering a LOT of distance, I wouldn't try to add on Vancouver/Canada (which is 3 hours further north from Seattle).

There's loads of national parks, state parks, miles of beautiful coastline. Do you have maps? And guidebooks yet? There's so many things that are personal choices. Many people adore the Olympic National Park area with rainforests and all near Seattle. While I more prefer mountain areas. Or the coastline. And even for going to the ocean. Some prefer the Oregon Coast, some the Washington Coast.

I don't mean to be unhelpful, but your question is HUGE as is the PNW!!
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Old Dec 23rd, 2013, 03:26 PM
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If you’re set on going just one direction, you will definitely want to drive north on the 101 for scenery. If you want to save the best for last, fly into Seattle and out of SF.

You can also pick and choose in reverse order from some highlights of our round trip using SF as a base. We had 9 days (no kids), you have 14, so doable.

We left SF around 6:00 AM, connected to the I-5 north, stopped for a short lunch in Oregon and made it to Olympia, WA around 7:30 PM. We hauled to get there! We later slowly returned south on the 101.

Here is another poster’s suggestion for things to see and do on the I-5 route if you do decide to make a loop. The area around Mt Shasta is very scenic.

Some of our highlights:

While in Seattle, we took the ferry across to Vancouver Island to see the Butchart Gardens. You can save money by exchanging currency there and taking a city bus to the gardens instead of paying high tour prices for two families. Don’t miss! Purchase ferry tickets in advance.

Pike Place Market:

We liked The Pink Door Restaurant for Italian and there are some very good seafood restaurants on the waterfront. We left our car at the hotel and took the hotel shuttle downtown and to the waterfront area.

See the original Starbucks, and take the kids to the top of the Space Needle.

The rest is returning in reverse order, heading south.
From Seattle we dropped down into Portland. Don’t miss Multnomah Falls, a star attraction!

See 2 & 3 for a “bypass” route:

We made it downtown to the walk-friendly Pearl District in Portland for dinner. People either love it or hate it. We liked it and found a nice reasonably priced place to eat.

From Portland, we drove to Cannon Beach then drove south along the coast. Near Brookings, OR, we stumbled across Azalea Park. Two hundred year old large azaleas made it interesting for a quick stop but may bore the kids.

We missed doing the Rogue River jet boat tour at Gold Beach but is on our list for next time. Will cost some change but looks like fun for all ages.

Into CA, you will drive through the Avenue of the Giants, and if you have time, do a quick jaunt into Ferndale to see a small town made up of gingerbread Victorians. We lunched at The Victorian Inn.

Visit the CA wine country. Other interesting stops: Mill Valley north of the GG. Hike/run part or all of the beautiful Dipsea Trail (fun to do some research on). I was able to run it from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach several times, once in the marathon. Check out nearby Tiburon and Sausalito.

Must have tools for discounts when traveling: Goldstar and Travel Monkey sites. We purchased some great deals for Alcatraz, Bay cruises, and electric bicycle rentals across the GG Bridge, etc. I found it best to subscribe to emails for specific destinations to keep posted on advance discounts. Sometimes there is a small time window to purchase.

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Old Dec 23rd, 2013, 04:50 PM
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Old Dec 23rd, 2013, 10:48 PM
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I wouldn't include Vancouver. I would want to build in time to get out of the car and see things and do things.

With older kids like your group, I would include a few days in Bend, Oregon and do some rafting, hiking and biking. Sunriver, the community just south of Bend is known for all of those. But, hiking you can find all the way along the route. Examples: Columbia Gorge, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Hood.

You could also consider windsurfing lessons in Hood River. Or the boat ride on Crater Lake.

I read about a pretty good zipline outside of San Francisco, down near the redwood park near Monterey. I will try to look that up if you're interested.
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Old Dec 24th, 2013, 10:56 AM
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We spend 2 weeks in Oregon, 2 weeks in Washington. You need a lot more time to see California too. Personally, I would go with just each place. Fly into Seattle, Portland, or somewhere in California.

I think HTtY gave you a great list for starters.

There is a link to a trip report last year of just Washington. This basically covered Olympic, Seattle, Mount Rainier nicely. North Cascades and San Juan Islands were rushed and could have spent more time there. I think that trip was about 11 days. Could have spent another day in Seattle as well. A person could include Mt. St. Helens on either a Portland/Oregon trip or a Seattle/Washington trip.

I just think your better off really seeing each place and experiencing them, rather than rushing thru them. Like you could see Olympic in a day, but we spent 3 days and could have spent 4.

If you went with California, there is so much to do there too.
Really the Northern California and Southern California are two different trips, IMOP.
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Old Dec 25th, 2013, 04:54 AM
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Another think you could include when you get to the Seattle area is to visit Victoria, on Vancouver Island - part of British Columbia. You can take the car ferry across from the Olympic Peninsula and then back through the San Juans and maybe see a pod of Orcas as we did.

Victoria in some ways is like taking a trip to Great Britain.

You would have to have your passports in order to visit either Victoria or Vancouver.
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Old Dec 25th, 2013, 04:58 AM
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Another favoite of ours is the historic/classic Timberline Lodge - on Mt. Hood - an hour plus east of Portland. If you drove out along the mighty Columbia River - you could also see seven great waterfalls - with Multnomah being the most spectacular. You can look up through the windows in the restaurant ceiling at the waterfall.

The kids would also probably appreciate seeing the young skiers/snowboarders at summer camp - training on the Glacier on Mt. Hood.
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Old Dec 25th, 2013, 01:03 PM
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Old Dec 27th, 2013, 05:19 AM
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Well, definitely, Vancouver will need to wait until next visit! As I read in your suggestions, it appears that better beginning our trip in Seattle will be the choice. We will need to decide the specific places to visit considering the group preferences. I will keep you posted on the planning process.
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Old Jan 18th, 2014, 08:04 AM
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We did Mt. Rainier, Columbia River Gorge and the Oregon coast for the first time this past summer and absolutely loved it. Mt. Rainier is definitely all about hiking and spectacular scenery. We did the Skyline Trail and I'd have to consider it one of our top hikes ever:

Along the Columbia River Gorge, stop at some of the fruit stands along the "Fruit Loop". They have great fruit, homemade jams, pies, etc. If you like educational/historical, stop at Bonnieville Dan. Then there's the famous Multnomah Falls. It's literally right across the street from the parking lot. You can hike to the top of the falls if you want a tough workout, but the best shots are from the street level.

The Oregon coast was spectacular. It's dotted with so many state parks that you'll have trouble deciding which ones to stop at! Cannon Beach, Yaquina Head Lighthouse, Cape Foulweather and Heceta Head Lighthouse were just a few great spots.

The kids would probably enjoy a stop at Tillamook Cheese FActory along Highway 101. They have free samples, great homemade ice cream and self-guided tours.
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