San Francisco to Los Angeles

Old Jan 23rd, 2004, 07:28 AM
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San Francisco to Los Angeles

We are planning a visit to see family in both San Francisco and Los Angeles. My husband and I are also planning to take five days for the two of us to make our way from SF to LA, stopping to relax and sightsee along the way. I'd appreciate any advice about routes, destinations, and meals/lodging along the way. We will be there during the last two weeks in February. Coming from NY, the weather will be a huge improvement even if it's cool! Thanks, everyone.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2004, 08:15 AM
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With 5 days for this trip, you will be able to see quite a bit. I think it's great that you have that long to make the journey.

General comments about the route:

There are several routes you can take, the coast route being the most scenic. Hwy 1 goes from SF down to San Luis Obispo where you can take 101 the rest of the way down to LA. Between SF and Santa Cruz, an alternative to Hwy 1 would be Hwy 280 to 17 to 1. This would take you over the Santa Cruz mountains. Both routes are good and have their selling points. If it is raining, I would recommend the 280/17 route rather than Hwy 1 north of Santa Cruz just because that area is prone to mud slides.

Hwy 1 south of Monterey is the Big Sur coast, which is spectacular. It's pretty narrow and twisty so if a big storm comes in, I would recommend cutting over to Hwy 101 for this section. Hwy 101 isn't as scenic, but it's pretty - rolling hills, oak trees, some wineries, a couple missions.

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Old Jan 23rd, 2004, 09:13 AM
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Thanks for the advice. I'd appreciate any info on good places to stay along our way. I'd like to make some reservations since it's less than a month away. Any ideas?
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Old Jan 23rd, 2004, 09:18 AM
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With five days for the trip you can see a lot along the way. On the first day, go from San Francisco to the Monterey Bay peninsula; have a look around Monterey, then see Carmel and spend the night there. The next day visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Point Lobos, which is near Carmel; stay again in Carmel. On day 3 drive through the beautiful Big Sur country, with a stop for lunch, and spend the night in the charming little town of Cambria. On the 4th day you could take one or more tours of Hearst Castle before driving on to Santa Barbara to spend the night. The 5th day would be touring Santa Barbara before heading down to Los Angeles.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2004, 09:26 AM
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In Carmel we like the BW Carmel Bay View Inn, which is up toward the top of Ocean Avenue, directly across from Piatti's Restaurant, another favorite. (Only rooms at the top part of the motel actually have views of the ocean, but all the rooms are pleasant and newly decorated in country style; some have fireplaces.)
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Old Jan 23rd, 2004, 10:34 AM
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I like underhill's itinerery. I think it will allow you to see a lot and have a relaxing trip.

The trip from SF to Monterey is about 2-3 hours depending on route. I would recommend a stop in the Santa Cruz mountains to see the redwoods if you are interested in the outdoors. Big Basin and Henry Cowell state parks are very nice. Roaring Camp in Felton has a steam train you can take for a tour through the forest. Santa Cruz is also nice, but in February there isn't much going on since it is primarily a beach town. If you come down Hwy 1 from SF, Half Moon Bay is a nice town to stop in. Further down near Davenport is Ano Nuevo where you can see the elephant seals.

As for what town to stay in on the Monterey Peninsula, it really depends on what you are interested in. A lot of people love Carmel. I think it's ok, but a little too quaint and upscale for me. Pacific Grove is known for having nice B&Bs. Monterey has a variety of lodging from budget motels to luxury hotels.

In Cambria, Moonstone Beach is a nice area to stay in - a row of inns and motels on one side of the road, the beach on the other side.

If you are more budget conscious, Morro Bay is a nice town a little ways down the road from Cambria. It's a little town with a nice harbor and some decent budget motels.

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Old Jan 23rd, 2004, 11:58 AM
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The Big Sur drive is great, gorgeous scenery. I highly recommend the Hearst Castle tour, it's great. If you decide to do that, make sure you buy your tickets well in advance (you can do it on the Hearst Castle web site). As for places to stay, I recently stayed at the Inn at Spanish Bay in Pebble Beach. I would recommend this even for non-golfers, the hotel is truly spectacular--huge rooms, fireplaces, top notch service--very romantic.
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Old Jan 24th, 2004, 12:07 AM
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5 days should give you plenty of time to see the sites between SF and LA. I'd recommend visiting San Jose, Monterey, Big Sur, Hearst Castle, and Santa Barbara.

From SF to San Jose the most scenic route is the 280. Along the way in Woodside the Filoli Estate is a nice Georgian mansion with guided tours avaliable. It's where all the outside shots for the soap opera Dynasty were filmed. Do makes advance reservations if you plan to go.

http://filoli.org/index.html

From there spend the night in San Jose. The downtown area would b the best place to stay as it is easily walkable. The Tech museum and the SJ Museum of Art are nice to see. The Winchester Mystery House and the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum are also interesting. The Japanese Gardens in Kelley Park are quite relaxing as well. Big Basin, just outside of San Jose has impressive coastal redwoods. It is off of Highway 17 on the way to Santa Cruz and Monterey.

http://sanjose.org/

http://bigbasin.org/


In Monterey I would recommend 1 night. I concur with the visiting the Aquarium and Point Lobos. The Carmel Mission is also nice. As far as places to stay here, Pacific grove is probably the best bet. There are quite a few inns and B&B's there.

http://pacificgrove.org/

From Monterey take Highway 1 down through Big Sur and on to Cambria. Spend the night in Cambria and take a Hearst Castle tour the next morning. As with the Filoli Estate, reservations are advisable.

http://www.hearst-castle.org/

I also agree with the previous poster's suggestion of staying one night in Santa Barbara.

There are quite a numner of wineries along your route in the Santa Cruz Mountains above San Jose, Monterey, and Santa Barbara as well. So you may be able to fit in a winery tour along the way as well.

Have a great trip.






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Old Jan 24th, 2004, 05:17 AM
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Most everyone has given you good advice so far. But the last suggestion to drive from SF to San Jose for your first night is kinda silly. San Jose is definitely not a scenic mecca and it sounds like you want a leisurely trip down the coast. You would be MUCH better served getting to Santa Cruz and around the bay to Monterey and avoid the whole SJ area traffic mess.
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Old Jan 24th, 2004, 06:02 AM
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I agree that staying in San Jose for the first night doesn't make much sense. However I do agree with driving 280 as long as you avoid the commute time. I would make one small change. I would take 280-85-17.

I would stay the first night in the Monterrey/Carmel area. Personally I would choose Carmel.

I have made this same trip many times as we lived in both the SF Bay area and San Diego at the same time and just went back and forth between the two. We did this for 5 years up until about 18 months ago. We would alternate between Hwy 1 and 101 depending on weather and a few other factors. We always stayed one night in Solvang.
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Old Jan 24th, 2004, 06:20 AM
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Another vote for Underhill's itinerary which makes the most sense for the amount of time you have. Going north-south or south-north, either way that itinerary makes a whole lot of sense.

February is still the rainy season in California. Rain in California is different from rain in the Pacific Northwest in that it really doesn't drizzle very much. It just comes pouring down. If you find yourself driving in stormy weather, it is best to avoid the coast and the mountains. Highway 101 would probably be your best choice in this respect and you may want to have some alternate destinations planned along 101.

Another possibility is to spend more time in either LA or SF and drive directly between the two metropolitan areas via Interstate 5 - a 6 to 7 hour drive. Take 5 only if you don't want to stop anywhere along the way.
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Old Jan 24th, 2004, 09:47 AM
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But it you MUST stop along Interstate 5 (and you're going to have to at some point), make it at the Harris Ranch for some very fine beef in one of the two restaurants. You can have some packaged at the butcher shop to take to your relatives if you wish. Keep in mind, however, that valley fog can be very thick in February, and the route is known for multi-car accidents as a result. Although 101 would be slower, it's safer.
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Old Jan 24th, 2004, 09:49 AM
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Forgot to say that the drive down Interstate 5 while fast is one of the most boring we've ever experienced.
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Old Jan 24th, 2004, 09:56 AM
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I like Hann's general itinerary. San Jose is actually a bigger city than SF and does have quite a bit to offer. It all depends on what your looking for: museums, dining, theater, etc. So 1 night there is good idea and you can also combine a visit to an area winery or the the redwoods.

I agree that Carmel is probably the best place to stay the second night. I enjoy the quaintness of the the town. There are lots of art galleries, shops, and nice cafes. Too bad it won't be warm enough to eat outside because one of my faorite things to do there is people watch while have a latte and a pastery.

From Monterey I would do one night each in Cambria (the Moonstone Beach area is very nice) and Morro Bay.

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Old Jan 26th, 2004, 08:49 AM
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I can't imagine staying in San Jose in preference to other more interesting areas--and I grew up in San Jose.
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Old Jan 26th, 2004, 09:01 AM
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Underhill - I can't imagine picking SJ over other places in the area to visit either. I live in San Jose and think it's a nice place to live. I wouldn't really choose it as part of a vacation though.
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Old Jan 26th, 2004, 05:16 PM
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Underhill and J_Correa: Don't worry, you're not crazy. Franklinn and Hann (same guy) recommending a visit in SJ is our bad boy from last year who took over nearly every thread about NorCal and turned them into SJ chamber of Commerce screeds.
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Old Jan 27th, 2004, 08:19 AM
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Underhill - I definitely agree that I5 is one of the most boring drives around. We made that drive at least twice a year for several years when I was a kid. We lived in Southern California for awhile because of my dad's job and would come up the the Bay Area and the Sacramento valley to visit family. We were incredibly happy when we were able to move north again - no more I5.

To this day, when I drive from the Bay Area to Sacramento, if I have the time I go up through the delta and avoid I5 all together.
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Old Jan 27th, 2004, 09:56 PM
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bluesky9ny,

As you can see there is a person here with several names claiming to live or have grown up in San Jose and saying what a nice place it is but then turns around and bashes the city saying that it is not a place to visit. Then he/she accuses anyone here who has anything positive to say about the city of assuming more than one name to promote SJ for the Chamber of Commerce. It's the same accusations with different aliases. It's a recurrent problem on Fodors with a disgruntled person whose has a vendetta against San Jose. If San Jose is such a terrible place, why would this person want to live there?? By the same token the realestate prices are some of the highest in the nation, so it can't be all that bad. Many tourists visit San Jose all the time. How this person can say to skip it is beyond me.
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Old Jan 28th, 2004, 02:55 PM
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Sounds to me as though Robinsen has a problem believing that anyone would even prefer Paris to San Jose!
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