SF to SD California Itinerary

Aug 1st, 2003, 01:03 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 1
SF to SD California Itinerary

Young family (my wife and I, together with our daugthers 4 and 2 years old, and my mother) are heading out to California in September for a three week West Coast trip. We are first time visitors to California. Mom is coming for some overdue R&R and to lend a helping hand with the kids.

I have seen many great itineraries and incorporated many of the suggestions I found into my own plans. I am looking for your comments and suggestions on our proposed itinerary. Trying to fill in the details on what to do each day, what I must see and what I can skip because of the ages of my children, and where to eat.

Here it goes:

Day one arrive at SFO late. Checking into the Westin at the airport for one night.

Day two through 5 in San Francisco. Pick up car at airport and drive to San Francisco. Staying at the Cow Hollow Motor Inn for 4 nights. Based on the reviews I have seen, I opted for the 2 bedroom apartment. Any suggestions on how to organize our sightseeing in SF would be helpful. Want to see Alcatraz, Golden Gate Park, China Town, possibly Muir Woods, and tour the city. Thought about a day trip to Napa Valley, but I am not sure if the kids would find this enjoyable.

Day six through nine in San Jose. Drive to San Jose. I have a Convention and will need to stay in San Jose for another 4 nights. Would like to have fewer days here, but I cannot change this. Staying at the Fairmount in San Jose. I will hopefully have one free day for a day trip to Carmel or Monterey, but otherwise I will pretty much limited to the general hotel vicinity.

Day 10. Leave San Jose and drive down HWY 1 toward LA. Spend one night along the way (not sure where to stop or where to stay). I am interested in the 17 mile drive, Monterey, Carmel By The Sea, Big Sur. Obviously, if I can squeeze in a day trip to some of these places from San Jose, I can see other palces on my way to LA. I am also thinking of skipping Hearst Castle. I think my kids are to young and my time is limited.

Day 11. Check into Hotel Oceana in Santa Monica. Days 12 and 13-- sight see in and around LA. Skipping Universal and the Getty. What else can we do and see besides enjoy the beach?

Days 14 and 15 -- Disneyland. Staying at the Grand Californian. Anyone avail themselves of the concierge level rooms. Are the extras worth the money?

Days 16 through 20 in San Diego. Staying at the Pacific Terrace Hotel. I hear the area is not ideal, but the property gets good reviews and I cannot beat the price and the fact that there is a kitchenette. I also have reservations at the Hotel Del for a 2 Bedroom Suite. Wife is against spending twice as much money just to stay at the Del. I, on the other hand, think it would be worth the money. I am guessing she will win this debate, but I am reluctant to let the reservation at the Del go until I obtain your comments.

Day 21 -- Drop car off at San Diego Airport and Return Home!!!!
dmesq is offline  
Aug 1st, 2003, 01:18 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 526
For never having been here you have done a great job planning your itinerary! Good choice for San Francico in Cow Hollow. I might skip Chinatown & do Pier 39 & Ghirradelly Square instead. My hesitation in offering too much advice is that I don't have kids so most of my suggestions would be more geared for adults, i.e., wine-tasting, a bed & breakfast in Cambria. So that aside, I would agrue for the Del though, since you may not be coming back this way. Hope you have a great time.
PeggyE is offline  
Aug 1st, 2003, 01:34 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 74
if you decide to stay in the Monterey/Carmel/Pacific Grove area, may i suggest you check out the Pine Acres Lodge (pineacreslodge.com). it's about 4 blocks from the ocean, and has kitchens... we stayed there earlier this summer and were really pleased. it has washer/dryer available on the property (i've traveled with kids!), and they have some pretty good video movies you can check-out - for both adult (interest, not XXX...) and children. we loved pacific grove!
dg is offline  
Aug 1st, 2003, 01:44 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,108
I think this sounds like a great itinerery too.

In SF, I would skip the wine country since I don't know how much touring you could have with 2 little kids. For transportation in SF, you can buy multi-day transit passes which are good on all buses, Muni and cable cars. This is very convinient. Your kids probably wont be that interested in Chinatown, but they may be interested in Dim Sum since the food comes around on little carts and you get to pick what you want - kind of a novelty.

Once in San Jose, you can squeeze in a day trip to Monterey, but squeeze would be the operative word, because it's a bit of a drive. Since you will be going through Monterey on your trip south anyway, I would save it for then.

You might consider a day trip over the Santa Cruz though, which is about a 30-45 minute drive. Other options for day trips are the Santa Cruz mountains, and Half Moon Bay. The Santa Cruz mountains are a great place to see redwoods. Big Basin SP and Henry Cowell SP are there. In Felton is Roaring Camp which is an old logging camp set up for tourists now with a general store and all that, plus rides through the redwoods on a steam train - your kids would love it. Half Moon Bay is a small town over on the coast between SF and Santa Cruz. It's a nice place to visit, and there are several beaches between Half Moon Bay and Pescadero which is a little further south. The beaches are great for wandering around, doing a little wading, and some have tide pools.
J_Correa is offline  
Aug 1st, 2003, 02:02 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,379
Very doable itinerary. The LA portion-- well, there are thousands of things to do in the LA area. You're in Santa Monica, so take the kids to the SM Pier, then grab a bite somewhere on the Third Street Promenade. Maybe head up to Montana for some more genteel strolling and shopping. Beverly Hills for a more "power-shopping" destination, maybe up to Sunset in the BH/West Hollywood stretch for those boutiques and a Chinese Chicken Salad at Chin-Chin (LA institution). You might find a trip to Old Town Pasadena fun-- restored turn-of-the-century section of town, great shopping, dining and nightlife. Not far from the Norton Simon Museum, which is very worthwhile.

The new Hollywood/Highland complex can be the nexus of your visit to Hollywood one afternoon. You could maybe head east on Wilshire to downtown LA and check out architectural gems old (City Hall) and new (Disney Hall), as well as the hideous new Cathedral.

Your girls might be a bit young for the Aquarium of the Pacific, down in Long Beach, but it's a fine institution (but you can skip it if you get to the Monterey facility, which is the gold standard), and the Queen Mary is a short schlepp away. Big boat.

I'm wondering if you might consider trading a day in San Diego for one in Laguna Beach, an upscale but slightly more artsy beach community with a charming downtown area and very popular beaches? Then again, you might prefer a day in La Jolla instead.

Anyone else...?
rjw_lgb_ca is offline  
Aug 1st, 2003, 02:50 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 298
I usually agree with rjw but... when I was a kid Laguna Beach bored me to tears. Tons of boutiques and walking - no fun for kids! Beach is good - but I bet the adults would rather be shopping.
Alice is online now  
Aug 1st, 2003, 03:06 PM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 274
I would skip Napa with kids but make sure you take them to the playground at Yerba Buena Gardens in downstown SF. the playground is wonderful and there is also a beautiful merry-go-round. there is a parking lot at 5th & mission streets near-by.

A place we like to stay in Big Sur is the Big Sur Lodge, right in the Pifeffer state park. They have a grassy lawn & a small pool that they keep heated all the time. It is perfect for families. (BTW, the pool at the Fairmount in San Jose is suppose to be great!)

You will all love the Monterey Bay Aquarium, if you can fit it in.
laurelt is offline  
Aug 1st, 2003, 03:16 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 747
You have a reasonable plan. With kids that age, you don't want to get too carried away in the ground you are trying to cover. Try to take plenty of breaks in places where they can run around. Having hotels where there is room to run and play is also a big plus (which is why I might splurge on the Hotel Del in SD).

In SF, try to get over to Ft Funston (on the coast south of town) to watch the hang gliders soaring along the cliffs. Pier 39/Fishermans wharf will also keep the kids entertained. In GG park, there is a good playground near the carousel (SE corner ?). Four days in SF with pre-schoolers seems a bit much to me.

San Jose is not bad with kids; the Childrens Discovery museum is 3-4 blocks from your hotel; it should be a lifesaver. The Tech museum is more aimed to school-age kids, though, and Rosicrucian and Winchester will bore them. Vasona Park in Los Gatos is good with kids, as is Kelley Park in SJ. For a day trip, I would do Roaring Camp and Big Basin rather than put in the driving down to Monterey.

Definitely don't try to take the kids to Hearst Castle, though two of you could go while the other takes the kids down to the beach and tidepools. I would consider skipping the Big Sur bit entirely; yes it is very scenic, but it is also slow driving and would make for long days in the car for the kids. If you want to do it, I would try to use two nights for the trip south; one in Monterey, and one in SLO or Morro Bay. In Monterey, stop at Dennis the Menace park, and visit the acquarium.
curmudgeon is offline  
Aug 1st, 2003, 03:18 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,379
Alice, you might be right-- but the kids could be in strollers, noshing on ice cream, while the adults do the window-shopping thing. The kids will not "get" the galleries, so yeah, that's no good. It's a sweet little community, though. Just trying to find something nice on the way to San Diego. How about Newport or Balboa...?
rjw_lgb_ca is offline  
Aug 1st, 2003, 03:30 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 591
Sounds like a great trip. As far as the Hotel Del goes, I would suggest only staying here with kids if you do not stay in the old part of the hotel. The reason I say this is that the 1st thing we encountered upon our checkin last April was an angry couple complaining very loudly about all the kids in the hotel-I think a lot of people are paying a lot of money, and are looking for a romantic getaway.And in the old part, it is very formal, and people do unfortunetly give dirty looks to people with kids. Also, the walls here are very thin-also heard people complaining about this to the management(about crying, noisy kids.) If you are staying in the newer building,you will not have to be worried about this, which may be more relaxing. However, you won't have the ambiance of the older section. You will however be able to enjoy the beach and the pool, and the grounds are very nice for walking. Also a plus is being able to walk into Coronado center, which is very nice. Is it worth 2ce the price? I would say probably not, however I have never seen the pacific Terrace.
jd is offline  
Aug 1st, 2003, 03:56 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,014
I have kids just the age of yours, and I will suggest, maybe as your day trip from San Jose, to check out the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk! Great carousel and "old time" beach boardwalk, kinda funky and charming at the same time. It makes a nice stop for a few hours to break up your drive. Although Monterey and Carmel are lovely, there isn't a lot there for the kids except the park mentioned above. Big Sur, Cambria and Hearst are better for a trip without the little ones, unless you can camp. You have a very full schedule with lots of drive time!
moneygirl is offline  
Aug 1st, 2003, 04:06 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,108
This is sort of off topic, but Alice's comment about shopping in Laguna reminded me of a general question about shopping on vacation I've been wanting to ask, so I guess this is as good a place as any.

I've noticed a lot of posts recommending great shopping in different locations, and I've been wondering what kind of shopping do people do on vacation? Do people go into these shops and buy things? Do they just window shop? How much time do people devote to shopping while on vacation. I am not much of a shopper myself, so I am very curious.

For me the noshing on ice cream and the day at the beach sounded good rather than wandering around boutique shops.
J_Correa is offline  
Aug 1st, 2003, 04:12 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 8,981
The kids will love Pier 39 in SF because of the hundreds of harbour seals there. You could have lunch at Pier Market and ask for a window seat so that they could still see them. I think the children might like to ride the cable cars. The Powell-Mason line takes you to Chinatown where you could walk and sightsee until the children are tired. It is an easy drive over the Golden Gate bridge to visit Muir Woods, also a good choice for the kids. The children will also enjoy the ferry over to Alcatraz from Fisherman's Wharf but once on the island will probably be bored with the tour but it does not last that long and I am sure they can handle it.
cd is offline  
Aug 1st, 2003, 04:16 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 298
Ok rjw-

If they want to stop in Laguna just to stretch their legs and do the ice cream thing - maybe just a walk down the shop lined main street with ice cream and then back along the beach for the kids to run around for a bit. They'd have a nice scenic stop.

Balboa might work as well, what with the amusement area and all. Depends on why they are stopping and how their kids are I guess.
Alice is online now  
Aug 1st, 2003, 04:35 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,379
I'm not a shopper, but a "buyer"-- I step into most stores only to purchase something I need. Except for books, CDs and electronics-- I "shop".

Laguna Beach's downtown area is not just shops, remember-- it's an artists' community, and there are a large number of art galleries, everything from photorealism to American Abstract. My firm's graphic designer is an outstanding abstract sculptress and a damn fine photographer, and she could find galleries to represent her in a second in Laguna.

If you're into modern art and want to get a real glimpse of LA's current scene, there are numerous galleries up and down La Brea in West Hollywood. However, the best art bang for your buck is Bergamot Station in Santa Monica, an outstanding collective of independent galleries as well as home of the Santa Monica Museum of Art. Another place I'm trying to get my friend representation.
rjw_lgb_ca is offline  
Aug 1st, 2003, 08:13 PM
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 3
Looks like a great itinerary. The Fairmont Hotel in San Jose is definitely a great property with a convenient Center City location. Some things in San Jose to consider doing with the kids would be the Childrens Discovery Museum, Tech Museum, Winchester Mystery House, and the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum. I agree with others about going to Kelley Park. The Japanese Gardens(kids love feeding the koi fish), History Park, and the Happy Hollow Park and Zoo are also worthwhile.

Also Downtown there's a Farmer's Market in San Pedro Sqaure on Friday mornings as well as Music in the Park at Plaza De Cesar Chavez Park in front of the Fairmont Hotel on Thursday evenings.



Check out the Metro Newspaper to get an idea of what is going on in the city and Silicon Valley. It's a free weekly paper that you can find at newstands. Below is the link to the Metro Paper


As far as day trips outside of the City, I also agree that Monterey would be too far. I would suggest doing Monterey on Day 10 when you leave San Jose and spend the night there. In Monterey area the Aquarium, Point Lobos, and Fisherman's Wahrf are some of the things I would recommend seeing. 17 Mile Drive is a take or leave it type of thing. If you have time, then I would do it. Carmel is also a great place to stroll, especially the downtown area in and around Ocean Avenue. Lots of shops and cafes in the area.

For doable daytrips from San Jose I would advise Big Basin or the Roaring Camp Steam Railroad in Felton to experience the coastal redwoods. As far as amusement parks in the area, in September they will only be open on weekends. Some ideas would be Paramount's Great America and Raging Waters. The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is also nice.




Definitely skip wine country and I also think it's a good idea that you decided to skip Hearst Castle as well. I think after a half hour the kids would be bored with it.

Riverton is offline  
Aug 1st, 2003, 08:28 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,380
How about the wild pigs in San Jose? Haven't heard anything about them lately....
bookhall is offline  
Aug 1st, 2003, 10:57 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,536
I can't believe nobody has suggested you (or your wife while you're busy) take your kids to Happy Hollow. They are just the perfect ages for it and it's literally five minutes from your hotel. Small kid zoo and cheesy little kid rides all included for an entrance fee of I believe $5.00. Definitely the answer to one of the days you're in your conference (my daughter is two and a half and LOVES the place). Also Bonfante Gardens in Gilroy which is about an hour's drive, it's a very nice new amusement park also geared to very young children. Just not as close as Happy Hollow.
MonicaRichards is offline  
Aug 1st, 2003, 11:08 PM
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 3

Bonfante Gardens, great idea. Oh, BTW I recommended Happy Hollow Zoo in my previous post.
Riverton is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2003, 09:04 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 433
I'm a new Grandmother, and curious to learn, what 2-4year olds really are able to enjoy and learn from, and what is too much? Example, wouldn't a place like the aquarium be mor meaningful and memorable for an older child? Please teach me.
bodi is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 09:00 PM.