California Roadtrip - looking for advice
Replies: 10 - Last Post: Jul 2, 2013 10:11 AM Last Post By: stig2013
Jul 1, 2013 5:31 AM
California Roadtrip - looking for adviceI would love some advice on the following roadtrip we plan to undertake beginning Thurs July 4th!! We have 6 weeks in the US and are meeting friends half way through our trip, they will travel with us for 2 weeks!
We arrive in SFO on Thurs July 4th, hope to make the July 4th celebrations. Spend 1 day in SF getting car rental etc organised and set off!
Jul 6th - 10th travel along the Big Sur taking in Monterey, Carmel, etc - Arrive in Santa Barbara Jul 10th spending 2 days here. From Jul 12th - 17th we hope to fit in Los Angeles, Long Beach, Disneyland, Huntington, Newport and Laguna and plan on arriving in San Diego Jul 18th spending 2 nights here also. We will meet our friends in San Diego and they will travel with us until our return to SF
From here we will fly to Las Vegas, spend 2-3 days in Vegas we hope to take a bus tour to Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon. Jul 20th - 23rd From Vegas our next stop is Lake Tahoe (this seems to be quite a drive) Initially we had looked at driving through Death Valley, but with recent temperatures in mind would this be advisable? We will spend 3 days in Lake Tahoe Jul 25th - 27th and return to San Fran we hope to spend 5days in San Fran (Jul 28th to Aug 1st) as our friends fly home that day.
Myself and my partner will then have 2 weeks, we hope to visit Sacramento, Napa Valley and spend a few days in Yosemite.
I would be very grateful for any advice relating to our travel plans, car rental, motels, highway routes
Jul 1, 2013 6:00 AM
1Death Valley: http://news.yahoo.com/death-valley-temps-least-tie-record-034246832.html
Overall, travel plans look fine - not too rushed. If staying in or near Yosemite you'll need to make reservations - even if you plan to camp. It'll be crowded.
Not sure why you'd visit Sacramento - hot, sprawling suburbs infested with strip malls.
Jul 1, 2013 6:48 AM
Jul 1, 2013 7:06 AM
3I don't understand why you are flying to Las Vegas then taking a tour to the Grand Canyon. You'll have more people, which makes a car even more economical. I would suggest driving.
Additionally, that would let you keep one rental for your entire trip, halving the pick-up/drop-off time and possibly saving you on one-way fees, not to mention all those tour fees.
Try to spend a night at the Canyon (south or north rim, not wes).
Drive through Death Valley. Don't plan on any extensive hiking, and carry a lot of water. You'll be fine for a few minutes outside the car, and in the car you'll have ac.
Book Yosemite lodging NOW. It gets packed in summer, and most places, if not all, have already filled up for the season.
Instead of all that time in the Sacramento area, head north along the coast for the coastal redwood parks.
Jul 1, 2013 7:15 AM
4Ian., an Australian who likes ot visit the US, recently toured around the US. He liked Sacramento. The historic section will well worth a visit, and a lot of it has nothing to do with suburbs and strip malls. You might want to rad the rest of the thread; Ian went ot a lot of the places that interest you.
There are a number of wine regions in California, in addition to the better-known Napa Valley. They produce equally first class wine. You will pass through a number of these on the way down the coast, and between Tahoe & SF. One advantage to these other regions is that tasting rooms will be much less crowded and tasting may be cheaper or even free. Tasting fees in the Napa Valley can run $35 or higher.
The plural of anecdote is not data.
Jul 1, 2013 9:02 AM
5This looks like a great itinerary. Any quibbles I have are around the edges. You've done a great job planning it. I offer the following ideas constructively, as someone who's visited California dozens of times and whose been to the Grand Canyon several times. Been to Death Valley three or four times, and driven from Vegas to Tahoe the same number of times. Been to Yosemite twice, but have avoided the high season.
1. Drive to the Grand Canyon and spend the night rather than take a bus.
2. If you drive through Death Valley you will do so at the very peak of the summer temperatures. It will be in the high 120s F and maybe even into the 130s. This is a particularly hot year in the southwest. Death Valley's record temperature is 134 degrees (in the shade, which doesn't exist there). I have to say that, even though I'm generally okay with driving through there and once did it in early August (temp 114 degrees) this year's predicted temperatures would make me especially vigilant.
You ought to be fine, but you would at the very least need to have emergency supplies: five gallons of water, a few quarts of an exercise drink like "Gatorade" that would replace electrolytes; a hat, polarized sunglasses, and sunscreen; a cellphone; an extra container of engine coolant. Also have a tire pressure gauge (you might need to bleed off some air from the tires), and make sure to check the condition of your spare tire.
3. I agree with those who question your intention of stopping in Sacramento. I've been in the quaint old section, and I don't think it's worth the time. It's going to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 110 degrees when you're there.
4. The drive to Tahoe (you go through Death Valley to get there from Vegas) is beautiful.
5. Yosemite will be very crowded. You must, must, must have advance reservations. Frankly, it's going to be sufficiently crowded as to make it not worth the visit, in my opinion. But I recognize the divergence of opinion on that. I don't like crowds at all, and will put up with them only in a relative handful of situations.
One example is the Grand Canyon, which will also have a lot of visitors at the time you're going. You'll definitely need to have accommodations booked in advance, but the rims are big enough and the canyon vast enough to handle the crowds quite easily. Yosemite, by contrast, is set up in such a way as to effectively funnel most of its visitors through a limited number of chokepoints, which is why I wouldn't want to be there is high season.
6. I agree about Long Beach. I wouldn't make any special effort to get there.
7. In S.F., make sure to get out to the Golden Gate Bridge rather than just viewing it from afar. There is a very, very pleasant park on the S.F. side, with walks down to the water on both the city side and the ocean side of the bridge. I've spent many fantastic afternoons out there. And of course the walk across the bridge is great.
Also, one of my favorite old-time S.F. restaurants is a place called Sam's Grill, in the 300 block of Bush St. downtown. It's one of the oldest restaurants in the city and has great fish. Be sure to at least try their homemade tartar sauce with that fish. I'm not usually a fan of tarar sauce, but there's an exception to every rule and this is one of them. Another place, Tadich Grill nearby, is also quite good, but they are much better known and therefore often very crowded. The two places are very similar in character and quality.
HAVE A GREAT TRIP
Jul 1, 2013 9:04 AM
Jul 1, 2013 2:43 PM
Jul 1, 2013 6:07 PM
8As #4 said, if you are interested in wine, there are several regions worth stopping in on your way south from SF. Paso Robles is a rapidly growing wine region, but the town itself is not all that interesting. Further south is the Santa Ynez valley which has an abundance of wineries and tasting rooms, and has several charming little towns.
For Yosemite - http://www.evergreenlodge.com is fantastic: lovely cabins, hammocks under the trees, surprisingly good restaurant, bar with live music at weekends. It is just outside (literally a mile) the West entrance to the park. This area (the Hetch Hetchy valley) will be less crowded than Yosemite Valley in the south, which is the main tourist spot. It is also closer to SF and the north where you will be coming from.
Jul 1, 2013 8:25 PM
9I'm happy to say you are not trying to cram too much into your trip. Really, you don't need to fly to Vegas, the desert drive is kind of interesting. I would definitely price out just keeping your rental car, because renting a car for a couple of weeks is going to be cheaper than flying, taking cabs in Vegas and taking bus tours. Plus the bus tours kind of suck, you do get a guide, but you are on their timetable which does not include that much time at the parks. If you already paid for them, then go for it, maybe they'll be okay and at least you won't have to drive. Personally, I wouldn't devote much time to Monterey or Carmel, I find them overpriced, swarming with tourists and really just not THAT interesting. Though the aquarium is cool. Point Lobos, just south, however, is definitely worth a visit. If you're going to Sacramento, you might like toodling around the Gold Country, there are some neat historic sites there like at Coloma and Columbia ghost town. Check out Yosemite Bug as a place to stay near Yosemite. I've been to all the wine-growing regions in California numerous times and Napa is my least favorite, it's very, very expensive and pretentious and corporate. I like Sonoma, though that's still expensive, for friendly and fun, check out the areas around Paso Robles and the Santa Ynez Valley, which is near Santa Barbara. If you want to go to Hearst Castle, make sure you get reservations now! Because they sell out. Have a great trip!
Jul 2, 2013 10:11 AM
10Thank you all so much for your fantastic advice and tips. We have finalized arrangements for the first week of our trip. We arrive in SF July 4th taking the following day to organize car rental and July 6th we will travel through San Jose & Santa Cruz stopping in Monterey. We hope to fit in some of the tourist attractions of Monterey & Carmel and we are staying in Pacific Grove that night. Next morning (July7th) we will drive the coast possibly stopping at Point Lobos, Jade Cove and Hearst Castle. I have reserved tickets for an afternoon tour of the castle. We then continue onto Morro Bay where we have booked accommodation for that night. Monday July 8th we will drive to Santa Barbara passing San Luis, Pismo Beach and Santa Maria. We hope to have a look around SB that evening. We will spend 2 nights here and were thinking of visiting six flags the next day. Thanks again for all your help!
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