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Suggestions for splitting time between SF & LA

Suggestions for splitting time between SF & LA

Jun 29th, 2010, 09:18 AM
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Suggestions for splitting time between SF & LA

My DH & I are thinking of going to California from May 26-June 5, 2011. We would like to visit San Francisco and the Los Angeles area (Hollywood & Santa Monica/Venice). We will fly to California Thursday May 26 and fly home Sunday June 5 giving us 8 days to split between both places. Mid-week, we plan to drive from SF to LA and possibly stay overnight in between. While in SF & LA we would like to go to a couple of baseball games to check off some baseball stadiums on our list. We plan to start our trip in SF and finish in LA but obviously the 2011 baseball schedule will not be out until winter so we will switch the order depending which teams are home during our dates. Also, I would like to mention this will be our first time to California. Here is what I need from you Fodorites:

1) Will 4 days in the SF area and 4 days in the LA area sufficient for our first trip to California? Concern: I've posted questions about SF & LA previously and many have responded negatively towards LA such as "why do tourists want to come to LA". Maybe as someone that has never been to California I have a fantastical notion of palm trees, the beach, Sunset Blvd, the Hollywood sign/Walk of Fame, Santa Monica Pier. How much time is needed to see these things? Also, I'm aware asking if 4 days is enough seems ridiculous because each destination can take multiple trips until one feels that they have "seen it all". A better question would be: is 4 days enough for a glimpse/taste of the city?

2) How would you split your time between the two? If anyone replies that skipping the LA area is best then what would you do with one week in California? To me, seeing the LA area is a part of the experience that is Southern California.

3) If we continue with our plan to see the LA area: where should we stay? Any hotel recommendations? In SF, I am interested in the Union Street Inn but I would love some feedback on this and any recommendations would be appreciated.

4) If we drive from SF to LA, where should we stop for the night?

Thanks in advance Fodorites!
louistraveler5 is offline  
Jun 29th, 2010, 11:01 AM
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I grew up in Southern California and can honestly say that the LA you might have seen in the movies is only a fantasy created by judicious film editing. The greater LA area is an enormously sprawling blanket of suburbs, businesses, and industrial parks. There are pockets of interest and beauty scattered within this wide expanse and it requires hours of driving the vast, congested freeway systems to get from one to the other.
Granted, there are many places of interest for tourists, but be prepared for lots of driving through many miles of unattractive sprawl to get from one point of interest to the other. This is the reason some people will advise just skipping LA since there are so many other areas of CA that are so much more beautiful and pleasant to navigate.
montereybob is offline  
Jun 29th, 2010, 11:01 AM
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Some addt'l questions:
1) How do you like to spend your time? Are you a shopper? A hiker? Do want beach time or city time? What are your interests?

2) Do you see yourself coming back to this area again in the next couple of years? If you want to cover all of california, then you would focus on just the cities but if you see yourself coming back then someone might suggest just doing the LA and San Diego areas or just doing the Bay Area with some trips to Carmel/Monterey and Napa Valley.
vova is offline  
Jun 29th, 2010, 11:11 AM
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In answer to your specific questions"
1 - IMO 4 days in each is adequate to get a good taste of the city. SF in particular because the City is more compact.
2. Personally, 3 days each and 2 days to get from NorCal to SoCal.
3. In LA, depends on what you want to see. As you no doubt know Dodger Stadium and Angles Stadium are not near each other. You could split your nights between some places close to each stadium. Also, if you are close to Dodger Stadium it isn't hard to get to Universal Studio and with theAngels, Disneyland is nearby. Personally like both the Sheraton and Hilton at Universal.
3. If I had to pick 1 place between the 2 it would be Cambria. On the 1st day you drive Route 1 through the Big Sur and maybe a little sidetrip in the 17 Mile Drive near Monterey and then stop at Hearst Castle before Cambria.
Day 2 you check out Morro Bay and the rock before San Luis Obispo. The string of beach cities (Pismo, Avila, etc.) is next and then Santa Barbara. If you have time for a 2nd overnight, this is where I'd stop.
Then it's down 101 to PCH and then though Malibu and into the LA basin at Santa Monica.
Have fun!
boom_boom is offline  
Jun 29th, 2010, 11:11 AM
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San Francisco is a beautiful as well as exciting city with many diverse charming neighborhoods. One of the most beautiful parts of CA is the drive between LA and SF along the coastal route HWY 1. In fact, it is so beautiful and has so many must see points of interest, that it is best to take 2-3 days for the drive so you have time to explore the Big Sur coast, Carmel, Point Lobos State Reserve, Pebble Beach, Monterey and Pacific Grove. These areas are worth cutting off some days from LA and SF to see.
montereybob is offline  
Jun 29th, 2010, 11:16 AM
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1) I like to see the sights of each city. Walk around and take it all in. Not much of a shopper, a little bit of hiking is fun. I like the beach.

2) I definitely plan on returning to California. It may not be in a couple of years but I will get back. I guess for a our first time out we were thinking we could get a glimpse of both areas...Northern Cal and Southern Cal.
louistraveler5 is offline  
Jun 29th, 2010, 12:02 PM
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that helps...lots of folks will have good suggestions for you...

I might do as follows:
Stay towards the west side (Santa Monica, Westwood, Beverly Hills...I don't know your budget for hotel stays so there are plenty of options).

- Day 1: hang around Santa Monica and Venice (3rd street promenade, pier, walk around Venice)
- Day 2: Universal Studios...or Disneyland...you won't have time to do both on your trip unless you really love theme parks
- Day 3: You can go south and check out the beach towns of Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach (both have cool little towns and good beaches)....or you can check out West Hollywood and Beverly Hills(Sunset strip, Hollywood, Beverly Hills)
- Day 4: drive to Santa Barbara along the coast (you'll pass Malibu along the way) - spend the day and night in Santa Barbara (2 hours)...walk around, hang by the beach, go to a winery or two...
- Day 5: drive along the coast to Carmel by the Sea...(it will take 4.5 hours and will be beautiful)...you can stop along the way for a hike or to check out a beach if you like or just get to Carmel and walk around the downtown...we've also done the 17 mile drive and stopped at Spanish Bay for a drink and to walk the grounds
- Day 6,7,8 - San Francisco (there might be a day trip in there but not a lot of time for that) Also, the morning of your 6th day you may want to check out the Monterey Bay Acquarium...if you like that sort of thing it is fantastic

you guys can figure out evening activities...but there's lots of good restaurants and nightlife in LA and SF...when you're not at a baseball game that is.
vova is offline  
Jun 29th, 2010, 12:18 PM
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I agree with everything both bob and vova have advised. But do be aware that Los Angeles the city is not a "walking" type of city. It's a bunch of suburbs and mini-cities connected by roads. You can walk around within each of those places, but you can't get from place to place on foot, the way you can in SF. For example, in San Francisco, if you stayed along the Embarcadero (the Hyatt Regency or Vitale for example), you could walk to AT&T Park (1-1/4 miles), walk to Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf (25-30 minutes), walk to Union Square (15-20 minutes), walk to North Beach and Chinatown (10 minutes). You could take easy public transportation (or my preferred mode of transport - my car) to other areas - Golden Gate Park, Land's End, Haight-Ashbury, the Castro, the Marina district, Cow Hollow, the Golden Gate Bridge, and then walk once you get there.
sf7307 is offline  
Jun 29th, 2010, 01:49 PM
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Thanks for all your replies. I'm starting to think about making revisions to our plan.
I would like to focus more on Northern California such as San Francisco (while in SF...all the typical sights plus Muir Woods and bike the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito/Tiburon).

One reply from boom_boom suggested Cambria. I think after SF area it would be nice to make the stops along the way to LA. I found the Cambria Inns...Moonstone Cottages. I thought we could shorten LA to 2 days and just focus on Santa Monica & Hollywood for each a day. Or possibly drop LA altogether.
louistraveler5 is offline  
Jun 29th, 2010, 04:19 PM
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Both Santa Monica and Hollywood are not as exciting as you might think. So skipping LA is not a bad idea. It would give you more time to explore some of the genuinely exciting parts of CA. Cambria is a charming coastal town to either visit or stay in ----- much more interesting and memorable than either Santa Monica or Hollywood. Cambria is one of many sights along the coastal route that are memorable tourist destinations.
montereybob is offline  
Jun 29th, 2010, 05:51 PM
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Geez, montereybob, where did you live in SoCal and how long as it been?
Jean is offline  
Jun 29th, 2010, 08:00 PM
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I've posted questions about SF & LA previously and many have responded negatively towards LA such as "why do tourists want to come to LA". Maybe as someone that has never been to California I have a fantastical notion of palm trees, the beach, Sunset Blvd, the Hollywood sign/Walk of Fame, Santa Monica Pier.
__________________________________________________ ___________
Hello louistravelr5!I too have seen this over and over. Make no mistake, our little sister in No.Cal is absolutely urban utopia and the No.Cal coast? gasp! There is a VERY GOOD REASON why MILLIONS CHOOSE to live in Southern California and we don't need to sell it.

As much as I enjoy Cambria ( we go to get away from it all and use it as a base for wine tasting) I highly suggest you continue down to Santa Barbara. It will be a contrast to what you have already seen and there is no place like it in California.

Also, you might want to start one thread of the LA area and one of No.Cal to get a much more realistic picture for your journey, to help you decide how you'd like to spend your time. Cheers!
SOCALOC is offline  
Jun 29th, 2010, 08:11 PM
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Also louistraveler5, we have a wonderful Aussie family who is doing a "LIVE" trip report traveling throughout California right now. Shanek has a wonderful 'take' on California. See " A Californian Odyssey 2010" from the perspective of a traveler.
SOCALOC is offline  
Jun 29th, 2010, 08:43 PM
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I agree with Socaloc that you might try 2 different threads, one for SF and one for LA. Since you have awhile to plan your trip, it would be helpful to gather as many ideas as possible to gain insight as to what you would like to see and do. I live in Northern CA (at one time lived in SF) and love going to San Francisco every chance I get. But when my daughter moved to LA, I learned to love our LA adventures, too. It became a fun city to explore once I understood the layout and how to navigate it. There is much to experience in LA, so don't let anyone discourage you from going. But please do some research to decide what interests you.

Your time is short for all of this. One idea would be to skip the coastal route and drive the cursed and boring Highway 5 from No. CA to LA (about 5-6 hours, direct). That way you could do all you want to do in LA. The coastal route on Highway 1 is gorgeous but takes a lot of time. If you decide you'd like to enjoy the coast, you could limit your time in LA to West LA and Hollywood areas. You really don't want to spend all your time in the car, do you?
elnap29 is offline  
Jun 29th, 2010, 09:36 PM
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Lots of good advice; I think you will enjoy seeing AT&T Park (ballpark) in SF; that whole area of the city has redeveloped and opened up, especially the nice promenade from the ballpark area to the Ferry Building and around the bend to the piers. (There are street cars as well.)

I would toss in my two cents to take the coast drive as recommended but to stay over in Monterey area (Carmel etc.) and then again in Santa Barbara, which I agree with above poster would be preferable to Cambria. Staying in SB will give you an easy drive to LA the next day and you will, indeed, be doing lots of driving there.

In LA, since you will have had your share of coastal areas I would instead stay inland near the "Hollywood" area or possibly in Westwood near UCLA, because it is a pleasant area and still within striking distance of tourist type spots.

Even though it can seem like there is no there there, it is still fun to come across some of the landmarks or famed areas (Hollywood sign, Grauman's, Hollywood and Vine, Bel Air, etc.). I know you want to focus on the ball parks but if you get the chance on the way, it is a great view from the Getty Museum up in the hills north of LA (depending on which way you go for that stretch, though--it's right off one of the major freeways).

Have a great trip.
annw is offline  
Jun 29th, 2010, 09:38 PM
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I've lived and worked in both Northern (Bay Area) and Southern California (LA and San Diego) and each area has uniquely its own attractions.

Your initial plan of splitting your time between the north and the south is very doable if you want to get a taste of California this first trip.

I'd suggest that you do 3-2-3: three days in San Francisco, two days along the coast, and three days in Los Angeles. The drive is better from north to south, as you'll be on the ocean side all the way down. See if you can arrange a north-to-south trip.

Skip Muir Woods. When you drive along Highway 1 in Big Sur you'll have plenty of opportunity to see redwoods. I hate to say this but one redwood tree looks just like another redwood tree. They're wonderful trees, but your time is limited.

Start early on your drive south. Hike Point Lobos that morning, the trails are easy and it's one of the most beautiful spots along the California coast.

Continue south through Big Sur and stop off at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park which will be much like Muir Woods, then continue on south to Cambria for the night.

Next day, if you want to, take a morning tour of Hearst Castle. Then continue on Highway 1/101 south. If you feel like you have the time, stop off near Lompoc at the La Purisma Mission State Park which will afford you a quick glimpse into the Spanish/Mission history period of California history.


Overnight in Santa Barbara. Next day drive to LA.

I'll let the other Fodorites describe how you can divide up your days in both San Francisco and Los Angeles. They're much better at big city attractions than I am. A lot depends on your interests.

In Los Angeles, for example,you may be more intersted in the Magic Castle


than in the Getty Museum or the Getty Villa - or vice versa. The more you tell us of your interests, the better the suggestions will be. Fodorites are incredibly generous and helpful posters.

One more thing: I'm assuming that you're flying into San Francisco and out of Los Angeles or vice versa on some sort of open-jaw ticket, this means that you will be picking up your rental car in one city and dropping it off in another. Shop around for a good rental rate, otherwise, there could be a huge drop-off fee.

You really don't need a car in San Francisco whereas a car is essential in Los Angeles, so a one week rental would be more than sufficient (usually the 5-day and one week rental rate is the same).

Have a fun and safe trip! and welcome to California!
easytraveler is offline  
Jun 29th, 2010, 09:40 PM
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Also you can do part of the coast drive and then cut inland for part of the trip if you are tired of driving. However,were I doing the trip I'd cut the time off the LA part to do the overnights on the coast. That would be something like 4 nights in SF, 2 on coast, 2 in LA....OR, 3 SF, 1 Carmel/Monterey, 1 SB, 3 in LA.

Next trip add time for Lake Tahoe or Yosemite, &/or for La Jolla/SD in the south.
annw is offline  
Jun 30th, 2010, 09:19 AM
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I think et's suggestion of 3/2/3 is great, and will give you a taste of everything. 3 days in San Francisco will give you time to visit lots of the city. If you can, go to a night game at AT&T, so you can sightsee during the day. If you're here on a Saturday, don't miss the Ferry Bldg. and its farmers' market (it's good on other days, but its amazing on Saturday morning).
sf7307 is offline  
Jun 30th, 2010, 08:21 PM
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easytraveler's suggestion is great and just what I would have recommended. You really don't want to miss the coastal drive between SF and LA. Driving through Big Sur is something you will never forget. You can see a lot in SF in three days because it is compact as others have mentioned. LA is more spread out but you can still see quite a bit in 3 days if you plan wisely.

I just noticed you are coming May 26-June 5th. You will definitely get what is called "June Gloom" in Southern California. It's foggy and cool in the mornings but usually burns off later in the day. Not sure about the foggy season for Big Sur but you could experience some fog.

I like the idea of having two threads, one for SF and one for LA. Very different areas.
paula1470 is offline  
Jul 1st, 2010, 01:11 AM
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As a frequent visitor to CA from the UK and having driven from SF to Santa Barbara a number of times, both ways, down the coast road I would suggest passing through from North to South. You are closer to the ocean and it is much easier to pull over for the views without having to cross the other carriageway.
gmhwilson is offline  
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