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Seattle to Los Angeles and back . . . ideas for family stopping places?


Apr 22nd, 2014, 12:37 PM
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Seattle to Los Angeles and back . . . ideas for family stopping places?

We are going on a road trip from north of Seattle to Los Angeles and back . . . wondered if there were any ideas about good stopping places / decent areas to stay on the way there and back.

My husband and I will be traveling with our 8 year old, 11 year old, and a 14 year old in some kind of SUV rental vehicle (they get motion sick in cars but are less so in a taller vehicle). We have about 16 days maximum to play with from mid to late June but haven't decided yet for sure how long we want to be gone. Staying with relatives in the Los Angeles area, and we aren't doing Disneyland. Went once two years ago and that was enough for us : )

Things we'd like to see -- the redwoods by Yosemite, Legoland (optional), San Diego Zoo (Optional), the coast, the Grand Canyon (optional, but requested by the kiddos), seeing the Golden Gate Bridge, etc . . . haven't really finalized our itinerary yet. I know we can't do all of it!

It is hard to know what is really doable! We'd prefer to do a few things really well rather than checking off as many items as possible on our want to see list. Think we and the kids can handle driving 8 - 10 hours at a time, but less is always better. We are pretty familiar with the Seattle/Portland area but haven't seen much farther south in Oregon.

Any ideas of things that we can do / good places to stop in decent areas of town? Planning to stay in midline hotels - non smoking if possible - with probably no more than 5 days in Los Angeles itself . . .

How would you do a similar trip? We have AAA so I'll be ordering their maps and info this week, and I'm going to try to reserve hotels early so I don't have to play find the hotel on the way down . . .

Thanks for any ideas!
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Apr 22nd, 2014, 01:51 PM
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Well, I guess the very first thing you do is decide for how many nights you will stay with the relatives.

And then you tentatively cement yourselves to such dates

(I'm pretending that your trip window is June 15 to July 1)

SO IF you told me 3 nights would be spent in L.A. with those relatives, and that they were June 22,23,24, then it would make sense to divide your path considerations into before and after.

It would probably make sense to drive to the Grand Canyon after such a visit in L.A., and then you'd have the option of returning home the faster way, via Utah.

And that in turn would demand that you place considerable importance upon your chosen path when heading south from Washington.

So I guess your path would be dictated to include the Golden Gate Bridge, and then (later) eastward toward Wawona, CA for those redwoods, and then on toward L.A. on what is a relatively dull path.

IF the more popular redwoods near the northern California coast (town of Orick, CA) are suitable, then your path would be easier to work with.

At any rate, mostly zoom through northern Oregon, and then pick your path for heading into California... IF interested in the redwood forest near Orick, CA... then you'd take the coast route, and likely remain in that vicinity all of the way to San Francisco... perhaps not dawdling too much, so as to preserve time you can spend there.


Now back to your time after staying with the relatives in L.A.

IF you leave there on the 24th, and drive to the Grand Canyon, it's about 7 hours, and 500 miles to get to the town of Tusayan, AZ, which is right near the Grand Canyon.

Perhaps you're best off selecting a spot like Kingman, AZ or Williams, AZ for an overnight stay, to break up that trip.

Maybe you spend the next night right near to the Grand Canyon, before then heading east, and up through Utah on your path home.

I'll leave the minor details to you and to others... but that's how I would begin to plan.
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Apr 22nd, 2014, 02:27 PM
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I'd drop the Grand Canyon given the time constraints on this trip - the Arizona/Utah "red rocks" national parks are spectacular and worthy of their own trip (springtime is wonderful.)

I'd go south down the coast, with overnights in Bandon, Ferndale, San Francisco, Monterey and Santa Barbara, then back north via Yosemite, CA Hwy 49 through the Gold Rush country, then I-5 to Ashland, Oregon, then home.

"Don't-miss" points heading south include the Avenue of the Giants in the redwoods, the Santa Cruz Boardwalk amusement park, the Monterey aquarium, Hearst Castle, and Mission Santa Barbara, all for their historic and scenic value, which are awesome.

Coming back, a day or two in Yosemite is important, but use Calif. Hwy 49 (as in 1849 gold rush) through a string of very picturesque and historic towns, including the "museum" town of Columbia, then over to I-5 and to Ashland, where you could add a little Shakespeare to the trip. http://www.osfashland.org/

Southbound - 6 days, LA, 5 days, northbound 5 days. Fewer days in LA would be great.

Map - http://goo.gl/maps/SU9K0
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Apr 22nd, 2014, 02:54 PM
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Decide if you want to see the Sequoias in Mariposa Grove in Yosemite or the Coast Redwoods in Redwood National Park in northern California. You can also see Coast Redwoods in Muir Woods a few minutes north of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Ask the kids MD about TransDerm Scop (Scopolomine) to prevent all motion sickness for 3-4 days at a time. It is a patch that you stick behind the ear.
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Apr 22nd, 2014, 03:08 PM
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Really - Going through Utah is faster to Portland than the I-5 trip up through Oregon? Not that I mind a reason to stay off of I-5 but I just assumed that would add too many hours to the trip and I was resigned to going back to the I-5 corridor. I'll have to mapquest it out and see what it looks like.

I've been to the Arches national park as a child and I agree. That area would be great to go to all on its own. Just not sure when the next road trip is going to be in the cards! Plus, not sure how the travel times equate to Southern California traffic at the end of June.

Thanks for the idea about the back roads on Hwy 49 . . . that is much more our speed than I-5 and we'd all enjoy the history. And the Shakespeare!

So tell me about the Redwoods -- pro's and con's of each park? That was one of the things I couldn't decide which would be the best . . . I've wanted to see them ever since I was little.
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Apr 22nd, 2014, 04:46 PM
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So tell me about the Redwoods -- pro's and con's of each park? That was one of the things I couldn't decide which would be the best . . . I've wanted to see them ever since I was little.

Well, with your itinerary, the north coast redwoods are really a "freebie" as US 101 (which you should use for the southern Oregon coastline anyway) goes right through them. You pass through various California state parks and Redwood National Park as you travel between the OR/CA state line south to around Garberville. You simply can't miss them.

I've taken a number of visiting British friends on drives up and down the west coast (I've made the trip between Seattle and SF/LA at least 50 times over the years) and unanimously - to a person - they've proclaimed the redwoods to be the highlight of the trip.

The big trees you'll see in Yosemite (Mariposa Grove) or Sequoia National Park are different species than the ones in, say, Humboldt County (Giant Sequoias vs. Coast Redwoods.) The coastal trees are taller, the sequoias bigger around. Both/all are jaw-dropping.

(Car for scale, taken on the Avenue of the Giants, a byway off US 101, last January - http://gardyloo.us/20130117_51a.JPG and http://gardyloo.us/20130117_66a.JPG )

There are some coastal groves north of San Francisco in the Marin hills, Muir Woods, and a nice grove on the way to the Monterey Bay, Big Basin redwoods, also a few near Big Sur, but the big groves in Humboldt and Del Norte counties are hard to match.
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Apr 22nd, 2014, 04:47 PM
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Sorry, forgot to cancel the italic code. Editing function please, O Fodor Gods!
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Apr 23rd, 2014, 02:00 PM
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The kids want to go to the Grand Canyon, so you just goooooooooooo there!!

It's like letting them pick their own menu/store items so you won't have to think for them. (and in this case, perhaps so you need to do less thinking about the whole trip)

(it's easy to pick a route between Seattle and Spokane, but if going from Seattle to Miami, somebody or something has to cause you to opt for one vs. the others) {so let it be your kids... so they can take/know/get/feel some of the credit/blame, while reducing your seeming responsibility (in their minds) )

And I don't know where the "Portland" reference came from, but if wanting to high-tail it on a steady and reliable quickest path to "north of Seattle" from The Grand Canyon, one goes through Utah, where there isn't much traffic (ahem, S.L.C. at rush hour can be a giant exception) and where you can better anticipate how much time you'll need.

(Clarity just in case: A trip home from AZ via Utah to
"north of Seattle" would not include Portland)

That would afford more variety to your trip, but it would mean being very selective and precise in the spots you pick for sightseeing on the way south through California.

If it were just you, yourself, wanting to know a completely thorough immersion in all things California, maybe you would leave out the Grand Canyon. But, well, there is no Brady Bunch episode set in Bishop, CA...
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Apr 23rd, 2014, 03:25 PM
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So 5 days going down, 5 days in LA, and 5 days driving back. That's a LOT of driving.

Then you start throwing in the Grand Canyon? (which is not between Seattle and LA). And San Diego (which is south of LA so adding more driving time both south and north again)

To me this just sounds like an *awful* lot of time in the car/RV (especially for kids that get motion sick!) and not much time in places seeing and doing things.

I'd try for more time or less distance.
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Apr 26th, 2014, 03:05 PM
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Thanks for all of your responses! They've given me great information and we'll be able to plan a much better trip. Looking forward even more to going now!
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Apr 26th, 2014, 05:16 PM
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That is exactly what I was thinking. California is one thing, but add in Oregon and Washington, and possibly Arizona and Utah. Yikes. That is a lot of ground to cover. I live in California and just envisioning driving this distance in two weeks both ways is waaay more than I would like to tackle.

Can I ask why you are flying into Seattle when most of what you have on your 'to do' list is in California? Seems like a lot of extra miles. Is there anything in particular you wanted to see up north? Seattle to San Diego to Grand Canyon to Seattle is over 3200 miles. That's 60 hours driving time: about 4 hrs each day, every single day, not including day trips.
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