San Francisco to San Diego

Old May 13th, 2003, 05:28 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
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San Francisco to San Diego

o.k. fodorites, from my last post re: our next family vacation destination, several of you suggested California.
Husband thinks that's the best idea yet. No groans from kids ~ they're thinking "Hollywood would be cool". They like the CA idea better than Mexico. I know I won't get a "warm & sunny" guarantee, but how warm will it be along the coast in April?

If we were to fly into SF, and out of SD, can this trip be done in 9-10 days?
I've started to read CA posts, what an abundance there are! I've never been to CA, but the Rt. 1 drive has been on my list of must-dos. How's the traffic along Rt. 1?

Anywhere along the SF to SD route to see redwoods, or would we need to drive further north from SF? Would love to include Yosemite, but not enough time if we want to do Hollywood tourist stuff including Universal. Will also want to spend 2-3 nights in San Diego. The Zoo and Balboa are tops on our list.
Of course I'm asking for your input! Remember, we're in the beginning stage of planning, so we're open for suggestions. Thanks so much!
Tricia is offline  
Old May 13th, 2003, 08:38 AM
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I won't pretend to know about CA weather north of, say, Ventura. April on the coast in southern CA can be VERY variable, and that's just within one geographic area like, say, Santa Monica or San Diego. Note also that, for whatever reason, we enjoy capricious microclimatic variations that, for example, allow Santa Monica to stay socked-in and in the 60s in June while it's 75 and sunny in downtown LA-- some 17 miles away; note that 30 miles to the south in Long Beach (where I live), it might be 85 and sunny. This past April was a little on the "cool" side-- it stayed in the 60s during the day, dipping to the 50s at night. It also rained a bit more than usual (maybe a whole inch of rain!!). Some weekends, however, it was toasty enough for me (as thin-blooded as they get) to happily enjoy top-down motoring (and get the farmer's tan to boot!), so you never know.

The whole "Hollywood" myth has been built up so much, visitors inevitably have a letdown in store when they actually see it. The actual geographic neighborhood of Hollywood is pretty worn-down-- although the new Hollywood Highland entertainment and shopping center (with the cool Kodak Theatre) is returning some of the glamour to the old girl. Beverly Hills is still really glam and dripping with money, as is Malibu, Brentwood, etc.; Santa Monica is still a fun seaside town, and Venice Beach is still full of low-rent nutcases. If your kids expect to see stars, it's not that simple (although was that the incredible character actress C.C.H. Pounder dashing for "X2" tickets in Santa Monica the other day...?); you might luck out and catch an actual location shoot for a film or TV show, or even a premiere in Westwood Village (rare in April, but you never know).

You could certainly do the SF-SD drive in 9-10 days, but you'd get little tastes of the state, not big glorious servings. BTW, the best redwood forests are north of SF, as I recall.

If you could do it in, say, 14 to 20 days, you could have a more leisurely time, and thoroughly work each place you visit. Three to four days in San Diego, for example, is good. LA should get the same amount. SF, definitely 4 days. See a pattern...? For a "short" trip like 9-10 days, I would pick an area (South or North/Central) and concentrate there.

As you start seriously planning (and you're still really far off, timewise), check back here for hotel recommendations. The discussions get lively, but you can glean some great ideas on good, affordable places to stay. And I think you'll have fun researching the trip!
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Old May 13th, 2003, 09:00 AM
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Before I did too much planning, I would check out the rental rates when picking up in one city and dropping off in another. I wanted to do this last April from LAX to San Diego and the cost was way to high and in some cases, unavailable and that is a distance of less than two hundred miles. If that is the case, I would pick either San Francisco or San Diego and travel in a circle to include points of interest. In nine days we flew into San Francisco, enjoyed the major attractions there, had breakfast in Sausilito, visited Muir Woods for the morning, on to Napa Valley and a winery, spent three days at Lake Tahoe, 3 days in Yosemite, on to Cambria, San Simeon, The Big Sur, Monteray and back to San Francisco and home. We did a narrower circle last year between L.A, Anaheim and San Diego in 8 days.
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Old May 13th, 2003, 09:18 AM
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The weather along the California is definitely variable in April. Some years it is absolutely glorious, this year we had a VERY wet April. You just never know. September is usually the best month for warm, sunny weather.

I think that you can definitely do the trip in 9-10 days. Obviously if you had more time you could see more things, but that is true of any area.

Traffic on Hwy 1 is variable - in some areas it is a freeway, in other areas it is a 2 lane highway, and sometimes it goes straight through towns. South of SF, once you get past Pacifica, traffic isn't an issue. Going through Santa Cruz Hwy 1 turns into a surface street and goes straight through town, so it can get a little clogged. Between Santa Cruz and Monterey, Hwy 1 traffic depends a lot on the day and time you are travelling. During commute times or on a sunny weekend, there will be traffic. Otherwise it's not an issue. South of Monterey, Hwy 1 becomes gets really curvy so it is slow going, traffic or no traffic. You will want to stop a lot anyway to enjoy the views. It goes like this until about Morro Bay. South of San Luis Obispo, I don't have much experience with Hwy 1.

The best place to see redwoods is in the Santa Cruz mountains. Big Basin and Henry Cowell State Parks are there and both have giant trees.

I agree that Yosemite would be too much if you want to see the coast from SF to SD. Save it for a future trip (oh darn, that means you'll just HAVE to come back to California).

San Diego is a great town. Old Town is pretty interesting if you want to learn about early California history. There are lots of hip restaurants in the Gaslamp District downtown. From Point Loma there are some incredible views of San Diego, Coronado Island, and you might even spot a whale off the coast. The Mission Beach area is a cool, laid back, classic CA beach neighborhood with lots of little shops and cafes, vacation rentals and so on.
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Old May 13th, 2003, 09:41 AM
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We just came back a few weeks ago from San Diego, LA area (went school vacation week). The weather was unseasonably cool, which was a disappointment for us as we love the beach. We decided to go inland 2 hrs. to Palm Desert,and weather here was in the 80's-it was great.
We did SF to LA 3 yrs. ago in 10 nts.(including 1 night in wine country).We had a great time and saw a lot of sights without feeling rushed. Did a guided Hollywood tour for the kids which they loved. We used National rent a car which did not have any fees for dropping off in a different location.
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Old May 13th, 2003, 02:28 PM
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You can definitely get see the area from SF to San Diego in 9 or 10 days. I would plan on driving route 1. The most scenic part of it is from the Monterey Bay south to Santa Barbara. Route 1 north of Monterey is not nearly as scenic. From SF you could start on the scenic 280 freeway down into San Jose and from there 17 to route 1 toward Santa Cruz and south into Monterey. From there, the drive along route 1 to Big Sur and Santa Barbara is very nice. Traffic along route 1 will be heavier on the weekends, but it should not be too bad in April since that is not tourist season. The best place to see the redwoods is at Big Basin on the way to Santa Cruz/Monterey off of highway 17.

A recommended itineray from SF would be 280 south to the town of Woodside for a tour of the Filoli Estate. Do make reservations. From there I would spend a night or two in San Jose. Some of the main attractions include the Tech and Rosicrucian Egyptian Museums, as well as the Winchester Mystery House, and the Japanese Gardens. Big Basin is a convenient day trip from San Jose (about a 25 minute drive). If you are not going to Disneyland in Anaheim, the kids would enjoy Paramount's Great America in Santa Clara.

From San Jose I'd recommend at least 2 nights in Monterey. The Monterey Bay Aquarium, 17 Mile Drive, Carmel, Point Lobos, and Fisherman's wharf are some of the main sites in the area. From Monterey go down route 1 to experience Big Sur. I also really like Hearst Castle in San Simeon. If you decide to take a tour, as with the Filoli Estate, make reservations. There are accomodations in Cambria near San Simeon.

On the way to Los Angeles I'd recommend a night in either Santa Barbara or San Luis Obispo. Solvang is an interesting Danish community that warrants at least a day trip.
In LA you 3 nights are advisable. In LA in addition to Universal Studios and Hollywood there's Santa Monica, the Getty Center, Mann Chinese Theater, etc.

In San Diego I'd stay 2 or 3 nights to be able to get a good overview of the city. Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo are must sees as are the Gaslamp District, Old Town, and Coronado Island.

Hope this helps. Have an excellent time in California.
TravelCal is offline  
Old May 13th, 2003, 03:21 PM
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I was just recommending an 8-10 trip down the coast to someone else.

My suggestion for a 9 day trip was

Day1 arrive SF
Day2 SF
Day3 SF to Monterey (leave morning)
Day4 Monterey to Santa Barbara (LONG DAY)
Day5 Santa Barbara to Santa Monica (leave afternoon)
Day6 Santa Monica/LA
Day7 LA
Day8 LA to San Diego (leave after morning commute)
Day9 Depart SD

Unfortunately, your arriving and departing air travel often kills two of your days pretty well. The above sample itinerary would give you a taste of just about everything that you could want to see. The coastal hills will be a glorious verdant green at that time. Looks great with the water.
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Old May 13th, 2003, 05:18 PM
Join Date: Apr 2003
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My family recently did the drive from SF to San Diego and it took them 10 days.

Day1: Arrive SF in the morning and spend the night there.

Day2: Leave SF after the morning commute for the day in San Jose. Spend the night in SJ.

Day3: Leave SJ for Big Basin, then on to Monterey.

Day 4 and 5: Monterey and Carmel

Day 5: Leave Monterey/Carmel in the morning for Hearst Castle. Spend the night near San Simeon

Day 6: Drive to Santa Barbara

Day 7 and 8: LA area

Day 9 and 10: San Diego

They felt that they had spent just the right amount of time in each location for a comprehensive overview of what California has to offer: cities, coastline, beaches.
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