The Best of Calif in 10 days!

Old Nov 14th, 2003, 07:30 AM
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The Best of Calif in 10 days!

Bring on the biased opinions! I've been reading many past posts and trip reports, and would love updated input on my own scenario.
This will be a family adventure in mid-April with two adults and two teens. We will have just 10 days, and want to see as much as possible for our first trip "west." The only requirement is that we end up flying home out of San Francisco, and allow at least a day trip to Sonoma. We'd also like to start as far south as possible (San Diego/La Jolla?). The teens really want to tour "Hollywood" and check out "Beverly Hills!"
We are travelling from the East Coast and would like to keep our budget "moderate," but could splurge once or twice. We're open to any and all ideas and recommendations - routes, hotels, tourist sites, "must do's!" I'm thinking that 3 nights in 3 different locales might work best... But which ones? And which day trips once we're there?
I know it's a wide open question, but I'm just starting my research and hoping your input will help narrow down our choices and "directions!" Thanks in advance for any help.
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Old Nov 14th, 2003, 08:47 AM
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I don't know what you mean by "bias" - guess we all have our favorite between Northern or Southern California and everything in between!

Even though I'm in Northern California, I'd recommend more time in Southern California, since there are more things for teens to do in Southern California.

Are you planning to fly open jaw? Arriving in San Diego and leaving out of San Francisco? Or are you planning roundtrip out of SF? Open jaw is usually more expensive but it'll save you one day of driving to get back to the original city.

On the other hand, if you fly roundtrip into and out of SF, you can speed down Interstate 5 and arrive in Los Angeles in about 6 to 7 hours. San Diego is a couple of hours south of LA. That's one whole day of driving out of your ten days.


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Old Nov 14th, 2003, 08:59 AM
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Thanks for the info! Definitely open jaw.
I guess we'd start in San Diego, then LA, then San Fran. Perhaps we should do 2 nights in each of those and 2 somewhere between LA and SF. Any suggestions?
What are some of the "more things for teens to do in southern Cal?"
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Old Nov 14th, 2003, 09:33 AM
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Some things for teens in Southern California, moving north to south:

Six Flags Magic Mountain - I have never personally been there

Universal Studios

Beach Communities, probably Venice

Anaheim -Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm

San Diego Wild Animal Park

In San Diego - Seaworld, San Diego Zoo, museums in Balboa Park (automotive, aerospace, railroad, etc), Old Town.

I'm thinking there's something I've missed!

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Old Nov 14th, 2003, 09:45 AM
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Nice list! I have three teens and they love every place on your list. Especially Magic Mountain. How about a day trip over to Catalina Island? Have fun! You will love California! ***kim***
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Old Nov 14th, 2003, 09:59 AM
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Don't forget Surf City-- Huntington Beach. Seas might still be a little rough to learn to surf, but HB's an upscale surfer-dude-and-dudette kind of town.

The kids could also rent bikes (or rollerblades) and do the Hermosa/Manhattan/Redondo Beach bike path (lots of stuff to do en route). The Santa Monica Pier is less thrilling than a Magic Mountain day, but fun regardless. A trip to Hollywood, centered at the new Hollywood/Highland complex is good for a few hours. Downtown Beverly Hills will probably still be torn up (street revitalization), but you should be able to hit the high-end stores (and plan on hitting Barney's, Saks and up in West Hollywood, Fred Segal). Melrose Ave is always a hit with teens (funky stores selling just about everything).

If you want a real taste of movie/TV production, you may want to pony up for a VIP tour of Universal Studios (a true backlot tour, not the tram ride with the yokels), OR go to Warner Brothers for their tour.
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Old Nov 14th, 2003, 10:40 AM
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A little further north, the Monterey Bay area has things to interest your whole family and is definitely worth spending a couple days.

Monterey itself is a nice town - the Aquarium, Canery Row, and Fisherman's Wharf are fun places. There are several companies that offer boat tours from the wharf. You might even see some whales - will definitely see sea otters and sea lions.

Carmel is a quaint little upscale town.

The Big Sur coast is spectacular with several parks where you can do some hiking.

Santa Cruz is a lot of fun and your kids would probably really like it. The Boardwalk on the beach is fun - in April I believe it is open on weekends (weekdays later in the season). The wharf is great for some seafood, and wonderful views. Downtown is kind of cool with a funky, hippy, counter-culture atmosphere.

Capitola Village is nice - several square blocks of shops and casual restaurants right on the beach - several with patios overlooking the beach or the creek.

For some mountains, I would recommend Yosemite or Lake Tahoe. If you want to go to Yosemite, make your reservations soon.
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Old Nov 14th, 2003, 02:37 PM
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Try to include Orange County - Laguna Beach, Newport Beach and Costa Mesa [which has one of the best malls in the U.S. and the beautiful O.C. Performing Arts Center].
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Old Nov 14th, 2003, 03:55 PM
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I agree with the Monterey-Camrel suggestion. The Monterey Beach Resort is where we stay with our family. It is a very nice property with a swimming pool, spa, on-site restaurant located directly on the ocean. Your kids will love being right on the beach. is the web address if you are interested. Be sure you request an oceanview room located on the back of the property.

The lobby is beautiful with a fountain, fireplace, etc. Around 5:00 each evening they set out a great appetizer buffet where you can chat with other guests and look at the ocean. ***kim***

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Old Nov 14th, 2003, 05:46 PM
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Vallejo-Six Flags Marine World
Silicon Valley-Paramounts Great America

Check out themepark insider for complete reviews of most theme parks on the planet including all in California.
Paramounts would be a good place to drop them off if they are old enough and you could take in a wine tour or Balloon ride...unless you are an older kid like me and cant wait to ride the newest, fastest,and tallest coaster.
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Old Nov 14th, 2003, 05:59 PM
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I agree, that teens love Six Flags, Magic Mountain and the numerous and thrilling roller coaster rides. You will need to check the website for the days they are open. Because of school holidays, they should be open several days and weekends in April.

Six Flags Marine World is nice, but quite lame in comparison to Magic Mountain.
Old Nov 14th, 2003, 06:30 PM
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Monterey-Carmel area is great, and the drive on PCH in Big Sur is amazing. One thing that I consider a must see on the way north is the Hearst Castle. It truly must be seen to be believed. If you want to do that, order tickets well in advance, as the tours get sold out early. I think even the teens will like it. The other suggestions posted are all wonderful. I also recommend Alcatraz in SF. It's a great thing to see.
Have fun.
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Old Nov 14th, 2003, 06:54 PM
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Ten days isn't a lot of time, so my suggestions might need big editing (or may be tossed altogether.)

Are you and your kids interested in nature? If so, you ought to figure some way to visit the Redwoods, around 5 hours north of San Francisco (smaller groves closer in that would do in a pinch, but nothing like the north coast trees.)

How about history and old west stuff? If so, then the Gold Rush country along the west slopes of the Sierras are magical in April, as spring makes the hills and valleys bloom. Ghost towns, pan for gold, great fun. State Route 49 (a little east of Sacramento) forms the core of the area.

Want desert? Death Valley (4 hrs NE of LA) is absolutely fascinating - natural wonders, great photo ops, nothing like it on the east coast, I can assure you.

You want bias? Okay... First, I don't see the attraction of San Diego for teens, aside from a few hours at the zoo. The beach at the Hotel Del is beautiful, and there is Sea World, but you can see captive Orcas in many places. Nice place to live, but I don't especially like visiting there. (He cringes at SDans' flying bricks.)

LA has major high density tourism attractions. Have you been to Disney in Orlando? If so, Orange County can be skipped. Laguna and Huntington Beaches are nice but Laguna is only for adults and Huntington is great for a couple of hours. You can get equal or better beaches farther up the coast in Hermosa or Manhattan (or Santa Monica/Malibu), and still get some place besides suburbia.

Take an extra day and travel to SF via the coast and take everyone to the Hearst Castle in San Simeon. Like Newport with wandering zebras.

SF is great for adults, IMO somewhat less so for kids. Do all the usual touristy things, sure, but don't be surprised if they start getting grumpy after a couple of days.

So my bias-based itinerary would be:

LA, 3 days
Drive to San Simeon via SR 1, 1/2 day + visit to the castle, 1/2 day.
Hearst to SF, 2/3 day, stop at Stanford Univ. in Palo Alto (very pretty campus) for possible teen intimidation/motivation.
SF, 2 days
Gold Rush country, 1 1/2 days, ending in Sonoma, 1 day.
Back to SF via Muir Woods, Sausalito for last minute shopping in twee shops, then home.

I think I added that up right.
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Old Nov 14th, 2003, 07:32 PM
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Definately consider checking out Big Sur! You must do the drive on Highway One on your way to San Francisco! I am also from the East coast and took my first trip to California (San Francisco/Big Sur) this past Summer. I have never ever seen anything as beautiful as the scenery there. We went whale watching in Monterey, and that was an amazing experience. We also really enjoyed seeing the amazing amount of Sea Lions at the warf in Monterey and in Sanfrancisco. Have a great trip!
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Old Nov 15th, 2003, 06:13 AM
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We did the opposite trip in July of 2001 with our kids who were 9 and 12 at the time. We were there 8 days, not counting travel and business meeting days. We flew into SF and spent 2 nights there. Rode cable cars, walked Chinatown, Fishermans Wharf, etc and took a driving tour the next day before heading to Mariposa. We spent two nights there and did a day trip to Yosemite. I haven't seen Yosemite mentioned yet, but it shouldn't be missed. From Mariposa we drove to Monterey and down the coast. This has got to be the most beautiful drive in America. We even got to see whales. Spent one night in San Simeon, skipped Hearst Castle and drove to LA. In LA we went to the Getty art museum and took a full day driving tour. I found I guy on the net that wrote up a customized driving tour for us that included all the usual tourist spots. We also spent one day at Universal. From there we went to San Clemente where I had meetings for three days. We did take a day trip to the San Diego zoo from there. We flew out of Orange County.

In summary, we a had a day and half in SF, one day in Yosemite, one day driving down the coast, two and a half days in LA, and one day at the SD zoo. That's 7 days with two half days of just driving. If I were to do it again, I would add a day to Yosemite and skip the zoo.

The water temperture in California is much colder than the east coast. Even south of LA in July it was too cold for me to get in, but the kids braved it. Also, the plane tickets and rental car were the same price flying open jaw. Let me know if you want any more detail.

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Old Nov 15th, 2003, 09:12 AM
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Thanks so much, everyone, for your answers so far! This really helps me narrow down an itinerary. I'll post again when I have a tentative plan for your comments. I really appreciate your input.
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Old Nov 15th, 2003, 10:09 AM
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I agree that other places can substitute for San Diego to shorten your trip. Santa Barbara is nice if you drive up 101. It has a large beach with wide bike path (where everyone can rent bicycles), a zoo, and a shopping district extends from the beach all the way up State Street. I always find it very relaxing and a lot less traffic than LA--but just about two hours north of LA.
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Old Nov 15th, 2003, 10:49 AM
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We want to second the Route One recommendations.

A good way to do it is to plan on
staying the night in San Simeon. There are several good motels there (Find them on the Web) and then go on an early tour of the castle. Tour One is for first timers.

It will take about three hours to get to Monterey after the tour(s).

There are several places to eat along the way. One of the most spectacular is the Inn at Ragged Point

You can get Hearst Castle Tickets on the Web.

Get gas at Morro Bay or San Luis Obispo.

It is EXPENSIVE on Route One.

When our "kids" were kids they like it.:-B
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Old Nov 15th, 2003, 10:55 AM
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RE San Diego & teens-

Having been one there myself, and having brought my own teens back many times, I can tell you it is a great place for them. The zoo is the largest in the world after can spend a quick afternoon or multiple days there alone. There is a great IMax thearter and the many Balboa park musuems within walking distance of the Zoo.

If it is open then, kids of all ages love the turn-of-the-century carousel in front of the zoo. Sit in the outside ring of animals and compete for the golden ring to win another ride.

Favorite thing for teens has to be renting skates or bikes and cruising the boardwalk in Mission Beach. Actually, it runs from south La jolla through Pacific Beach and down past the roller coaster, which is an exciting old wooden one. Plan to stop at some of the many odd eateries and shops along the way and out on Mission Blvd on the south end.
Unless you're really lucky, it won't be ocean weather in April, but watching the surfers in Mission Beach, Ocean Beach, La Jolla, or North Beach on Coronado is fun.

Coronado is another good place to rent a bike or surrey if the weather's nice. You can take the little pedestrian/bike ferry for only $2, and you get a nice cruise of San Diego Bay to Coronado. It starts near the Star of India sailing ship and maritime museum, both interesting tours for adults and teens as well.

In LA, Rodeo drive is interesting for window shopping. Check out Santa Monica, drive by UCLA area (get in a college tour if your kids are that age??), and Hollywood is interesting for a stroll in the daytime. Magic Mountain is good for teens (mostly roller coasters) especially if you've done Disney elsewhere.

Don't miss driving Big Sur, again if the weather is decent, and try to see one of the California Missions.

Have fun!

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Old Nov 15th, 2003, 09:48 PM
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If you're starting on a Fri, I would fly into Los Angeles, only because its so much easier to get around LA on the weekends. Traffic is down(usually) and you'll have a much better time than during the week. The Holiday Inn Bel Air is nothing fancy, but perfectly located for visiting UCLA, BHills, Hollywood, and then heading up the freeway north. It's right around the corner from the Getty, and if you think your kids won't want to go to a museum, insist on this one!

If it was up to me:

Fri Sat Sun Los Angeles
Mon night Santa Barbara
Tues Hearst Castle Tour
Tues/Wed Night Carmel
Wed Point Lobos State Park
Thurs Monterey (Aquarium?)
Thurs Eve drive up to San Fran
Thurs Fri Sat San Francisco
(take a drive up to the northern coast one day, Redwood forest etc)
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