West Coast of America - Fly Drive

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Jul 30th, 2009, 07:55 AM
  #1
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West Coast of America - Fly Drive

Travelling from the UK we would like to do the classic western flydrive trip incorporating 4 nights in San Francisco and all the best tourist attractions within reach of a 2 week trip.

We would love to hear some recommended itineraries and suggestions for "must see" places.

We are a group of 4 intrepid over 55's with a taste for the sites, good food and the odd glass of wine!
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Jul 30th, 2009, 08:07 AM
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February? August?
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Jul 30th, 2009, 08:20 AM
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Besides the time of year, 4 nights in SF leaves you "only" 10 days. Do you want to see the mountains, desert, national parks, cities, etc? There are so many possibilities it would help to narrow it down. And since this has a tag including "Nebraska" is there a particular reason you want to go there?
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Jul 30th, 2009, 08:24 AM
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Not sure why you tagged "Nebraska" - my guess is you meant "Nevada" but your finger slipped

Anyway - we first need to know the time of year and where you are flying in/out of . . . .
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Jul 30th, 2009, 10:08 AM
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IMO, the Monterey, Carmel, Pacific Grove, Big Sur area is a must see if you enjoy beautiful coastal scenery and great restaurants. Yosemite is also a must see. If I could only go to two places, I would pick those two.
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Jul 30th, 2009, 10:45 AM
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Whoops! Yes my finger slipped, should have typed Nevada (and I've only had one beer so far!!)

We plan to go in October, flying from UK to San Francisco but could fly back from LA or San Francisco
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Jul 30th, 2009, 10:46 AM
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Would anyone know if there is any benefit to taking internal flights to cut down on the driving times?
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Jul 30th, 2009, 10:58 AM
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October is gorgeous in SF..I would fly into SFO and then spend 3-4 days there, then head down the coast Big Sur, Carmel and then to Santa Barbara..spend a couple days then head to San Diego for 3 days and you can take a flight from SD to Vegas for cheap on Southwest..takes an hour+ flight time and you have leave out of SD or you can arrange to leave out of LAX..2 hour drive from SD to LAX.
Have fun!
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Jul 30th, 2009, 11:10 AM
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The benefit is obviously if there's nothing in between you want to see. Southwest Airlines is having some good fall sales right now so it may be worth checking. [You'll have to go to their web site as they are not listed on places like kayak, orbitz, etc].

One consideration is if you want to see places along the coast down to Big Sur, and then to San Simeon, maybe Santa Barbara etc, you're obviously going to need a car. And you'd be close enough to LA that you could leave from there rather than flying from SF to LA.

If you wanted to concentrate on SF and places like Yosmite, wine country, and maybe Monterey & Big Sur, you obviously wouldn't need to take any internal flights.

Are there places in LA that you think you particularly want to see?
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Jul 30th, 2009, 11:17 AM
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October is the absolute best time of year along the coast so you are in luck.

(had to pause a bit to wait for the Trafalgar Square Plinther switch over )

By Nevada I assume you mean Las Vegas. If so - you may have a problem driving there from SF or the coast because the best route over the Sierra often closes for the season early to mid-October. The other route is not very nice through Bakersfield/etc.

But w/ 2 weeks you could easily spend it all in California and still only have a beirfe overview of a small wedge of the state. Cal is massive (Basically San Diego to Crescent City is the same as Lands End to John o'Groats).

So w/ just 2 weeks and arriving in SF - here is one option (only one of many)

• Arr. in SF and spend 4 days
• Pick up your hire car and drive down the coast through Half • Moon Bay and Santa Cruz to Monterey/Carmel. Stay 2 days/nights in Carmel.
• Then down the coast through Big Sur - try to stay one night in Big Sur - but most places are pricey and book up early
• Farther down the coast for the next night - where you stay will depend partly on whether you want to tour San Simeon/Hearst Castle.
• then 2 nights in/around Santa Barbara - definitely tour some wineries in this region - plus it will save you having to do a day trip from SF up to Napa/Sonoma
• then down to either LA or San Diego for the last 3 nights before flying home.

I personally would skip Las Vegas. But if it is a must (and most of my UK friends do want to go there) you could fly over for a day from LA or SD, or drive over for an overnight trip.
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Jul 30th, 2009, 11:33 AM
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October is a good month to travel that area. You will most likely encounter pleasant temperatures and lower crowds due to kids being back in school. As far as internal flights go, you could fly from San Francisco to Monterey but check prices to see if it fits in your budget because that is an expensive fare. To drive south along the coast from Monterey is very scenic so, flying south from there, you would miss one the most beautiful drives in California. Once you got to Santa Barbara, you could fly to LAX for your trip home. Several airlines fly that route with one way fares under $300. Driving that route would be cheaper but, as you get closer to LAX, not scenic and lots of traffic.
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Jul 30th, 2009, 11:41 AM
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With four of you I think the math on flying v. driving will make the answer self evident.

I guess my response to the route question would be with another question or two. What sorts of things in particular do you want to see? Do you want beach time, or Las Vegas, or perhaps mountains? Deserts? Do enormous trees (the redwoods) have any appeal? California is twice the size of GB, so you need to sort out your priorities a bit.
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Jul 30th, 2009, 11:59 AM
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Thank you to all repondants so far........my brain has just gone into overdrive!
Reading some of the replies we are beginning to think the California coastal highway may be the trip to take and driving is probably the answer. If memory serves me right, San Diego is south of LA, so would we need to drive through LA to get to SD? Gardyloo - as this may be a once in a lifetime trip we want as much variety as possible but we can probably give Las Vegas a miss!
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Jul 30th, 2009, 01:14 PM
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I support your leanings that the coastal drive is a must do. Yes San Diego is south of LA and you need to drive through LA to get there. That part of the drive is not as scenic as up north.
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Jul 30th, 2009, 04:03 PM
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I am not fond of the drive through LA, but SD is a lot of fun, so we make that drive when we need to. It isn't bad, just can be slow due to the traffic. Some of the freeways can be confusing, but if you are coming along the coast, it is much easier.

I think that SF to SD would be the perfect trip - I may be biased, but I think that the central coast of CA is the best of the state
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Jul 30th, 2009, 05:29 PM
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A drive in California is great! You can schedule or improvise stops at all the quaint towns along the way, and drive during non-rush hours.

Practically every small city along the coast has something quirky and interesting, and the natural beauty is ubiquitous. You'll be able to make small detours to see redwoods and vineyards.

The coast between San Francisco and Santa Cruz has its allure, and the local produce is fantastic. This is the home of the Maverick's surf contest, and there are some great restaurants with history in prohibition and with resident ghosts. Some nice tidepools, jazz clubs, cute downtowns, especially Half Moon Bay, horseback riding, sea food and harbors, beautiful fields of crops and flowers along this stretch of the coast.

California beach towns are great, so I suggest a stop in Santa Cruz (ride the old wooden roller coaster, The Big Dipper at the Boardwalk) and Capitola, a sleep over in Cambria (Hearst Castle), explore Point Lobos http://pt-lobos.parks.state.ca.us/ ("the greatest meeting of land and water in the world").

Then, south of L.A., Balboa Island and Laguna Beach, especially, are well worth a day or two. Catalina Island is another romantic and environmentally and historically interesting destination.

You will have a great time! So many great suggestions above, (Big Sur, Monterey, Santa Barbara) but take lots of breaks along the way to explore that which draws you in. Lots of interesting characters and shops along the Californian coast! Stop by at least a few missions.

Oh, and L.A. is so much fun! Traffic is horrible, but I think the Getty is extremely worthwhile, and other places like the Hollywood Bowl, the Farmer's Market, and the Tar Pits are also interesting destinations.

In San Diego, La Jolla is gorgeous, Balboa Park is a great collection of museums, and the zoo and wild animal park are superb.
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Jul 31st, 2009, 05:30 PM
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I woke up when I read Sue's comment that "as this may be a once in a lifetime trip we want as much variety as possible". For a lifetime trip I believe she should mix the coastal and inland experiences, and not miss some world famous attractions. Here's a possible route.

Do the usual San Francisco stuff, but be sure to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge and up to Muir Woods to view the redwoods. Redwoods are the tallest trees in the world, I believe.

Then cut loose from the coast and head for Yosemite National Park. It's only about 4 hours drive. Maybe 1 night there because the waterfalls may be fairly anemic in October.

Then to Sequoia National Park to view the largest living things (trees) on earth. To just drive around and look at the largest of the large takes just a few hours. She could stay overnight or go out of the park and stay overnight part way to the next destination, which could be.....

Death Valley! Lowest point in the western hemisphere, and scenically awesome in its austerity. Maybe stay there overnight.

From there it's only 2 hours to Las Vegas. Other than San Francisco, that's the only destination Sue mentioned. So maybe she should be allowed to go there. (But not be allowed to spend much time there). Because she needs to head to Los Angeles, where hopefully she will have a couple of days before heading up the coast to San Francisco. She should allow 2 days for the latter if she decides to take the scenic route (Hwy 1).

What about San Diego? Well, she won't be allowed to go there. Not enough time.
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Aug 5th, 2009, 04:05 AM
  #18
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Thank you all for the helpful advice, much appreciated.
Another couple of questions:

Which is the best area in San Francisco to stay within walking distance of restaurants? and can anyone recommend a good mid range hotel?
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Aug 5th, 2009, 09:15 AM
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Sue, what is your hotel budget? (There are hotels in every price category imaginable in SF). Also, do you prefer a "downtown" type area, or a "neighborhood" area -- for example, there are some well-priced and decent motels in the Cow Hollow/Marina neighborhoods that offer free parking. They are not in, but are very close to a couple of upscale residential neighborhoods that are very fun to walk around and have tons of good restaurants, bars, shops, etc.
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Aug 5th, 2009, 09:21 AM
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Sue, what kind of restaurants are you looking for? High-end, gastromic "make a detour" type of places, or just good local places? Price range? Type of food?
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