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OT: West Coast USA Road Trip

essex-commuteressex-commuter Posts: 2,188
edited January 2018 in Commuting general
Planning on going to USA this year.

San Francisco, head East to Yosemite, back West to the coast and down to LA, then across to Vegas.

Has anyone done this, care to share comments/recommendations on where to visit (especially on coast to LA)?

Excited, but want to get it right!

Posts

  • wongataawongataa Posts: 921
    The Big Sur area of coast south of Monterey is great. Monterey itself is worth a visit. It has a good aquarium.
  • grahamcpgrahamcp Posts: 323
    I did a trip a couple of years ago - absolutely brilliant and would love to go back.

    We went SF - Lake Tahoe - Yosemite - Morro Bay - Santa Cruz - SF.

    Whole trip was amazing but SF and Yosemite were the big highlights.

    Our flights were in and out of SF - we had 4 nights there and didn't get the hire car until we were leaving (much better to use public transport/walk places in SF). Loads of must do things there - book Alcatraz tickets in advance - we did a night trip that was pretty cool. Hire bikes and ride over the Golden Gate - can make it into a loop with a ferry back (think we went to Tiburon). Science Museum was pretty cool too, good variety of eateries etc, we were not bored for a moment.

    Yosemite was absolutely stunning. We went in September so there wasn't much water flowing, I'd love to go back to see the waterfalls in full flow. But whenever you go, it is an awesome place. Obviously lots of strenuous walking so work out what you think you are up to and plan accordingly. Even for the very fittest walkers, half-dome from the valley floor would be a push. We mostly did walks but there is other stuff like star gazing trips that are worth looking at.

    On the coast - we both liked Santa Cruz - different feel to some of the other places we stayed - not necessarily a huge amount to do, but we had a great hotel (with our own outdoor hot tub under the stars!) and there is an amusement park there, beach, and we had some nice meals downtown.

    Morro Bay was nice enough too - we chose it fairly randomly as it has a distinctive rock in the bay.

    LA didn't really appeal to us so we didn't venture any further south than that.

    To keep a bit of a lid on costs we just had a basic hire car - if money was no object I think I'd have got a nice convertible or something, would have been nice on the pacific coast highway :-)

    Overall we did exactly 1000 miles over the 2 weeks (10 days with the car) which was about enough, although I did all the driving.

    Are you going as a couple/family/friends?
  • Thanks for that info, very helpful. Funnily enough we were going though details last night.

    So far we are thinking:

    Flying into SF, staying 3 nights. Book Alcatraz in advance.
    Onto Yosemite for 3 nights.
    Back to the coast heading South staying at Monterey and Santa Barbara.
    Onto LA for 2 nights
    Onto Vegas for 3 nights. Book helicopter trip over GC in advance.
    Fly home from Vegas.

    Will pick up car just before we leave SF and drop it off when we arrive on Vegas, no car needed at either.
    I’ve estimated around 1100 miles, will book an SUV size vehicle.

    I will be travelling with my Wife and 14 year old Daughter (she may get a bit bored buy hey I’ve done all inclusive holidays
    somewhere hot for the past 7 years, it’s time for my Wife and I to do something we really want to do)!


    How did you find what to do/where to go in Yosemite, did you just play it by ear when you arrived?
    Did you pay extra for a satnav in the car, it seems the done thing?

    Cheers.
  • veronese68veronese68 Posts: 24,092 Lives Here
    We did it 3 years ago with the pay out from when I got doored, every cloud and all that. There were 4 of us, wife and two teenage kids. We flew into SF and as above didn't hire a car for the 3 days there. Used the tour buses starting from Fishermans Wharf as that was within walking distance of where we stayed. Enjoyed SF, could have spent longer there. Have lunch in the Cheesecake Factory on the rook of Macy's in Union Square. Too much food and too rich, but it's an experience and not too expensive.
    Then got a hire car and went to Yosemite, hired bikes (evil contraptions with coaster brakes only) to travel the valley floor. Could leave the bikes at various places and walk up the trails. It was beautiful but absolutely rammed in August, we got to one of the falls and there were so many people we just turned around and walked away.
    From there we headed to Monterey which was good, highly recommend the aquarium. Saw whales breaching from the deck outside after we were tipped off for where to look. Ate in a fish place on the end of a pier, food was average but could see sea otters and seals from our table and the occasional whale in the distance. Again worth doing for the experience.
    Unfortunately it was a bit misty for most of our drive south, but what we saw looked stunning. You've got to stop at the beach with the walruses.
    Getting bogged down with work, pesky customers. I'll add more later.
  • Veronese68 wrote:
    We did it 3 years ago with the pay out from when I got doored, every cloud and all that. There were 4 of us, wife and two teenage kids. We flew into SF and as above didn't hire a car for the 3 days there. Used the tour buses starting from Fishermans Wharf as that was within walking distance of where we stayed. Enjoyed SF, could have spent longer there. Have lunch in the Cheesecake Factory on the rook of Macy's in Union Square. Too much food and too rich, but it's an experience and not too expensive.
    Then got a hire car and went to Yosemite, hired bikes (evil contraptions with coaster brakes only) to travel the valley floor. Could leave the bikes at various places and walk up the trails. It was beautiful but absolutely rammed in August, we got to one of the falls and there were so many people we just turned around and walked away.
    From there we headed to Monterey which was good, highly recommend the aquarium. Saw whales breaching from the deck outside after we were tipped off for where to look. Ate in a fish place on the end of a pier, food was average but could see sea otters and seals from our table and the occasional whale in the distance. Again worth doing for the experience.
    Unfortunately it was a bit misty for most of our drive south, but what we saw looked stunning. You've got to stop at the beach with the walruses.
    Getting bogged down with work, pesky customers. I'll add more later.

    Looking forward to it....
  • diydiy Posts: 6,680
    edited January 2018
    I did the big Sur on a Harley with the mrs pre kids
    4349680656_9d27b2b801_o.jpg

    One of the best holidays we did. basically just rented the bike, bought the scenic route map and stayed in motels along the way. Bike was appalling though :D
  • grahamcpgrahamcp Posts: 323
    With the car hire take into account that you'll probably want to pay extra for better level of insurance. I think the basic doesn't even cover theft and may leave you liable for the entire value of the car should the worst happen! Sort a separate policy out before you go or just expect that you will end up paying extra on pick up (the base price for ours was cheap as chips so it wasn't that bad overall anyway). We borrowed a satnav with US mapping from a friend - the hire companies charge quite a bit, probably the easiest way but we were looking at either buying the maps for our own satnav or as some other people suggested buying one off ebay and then selling it on again afterwards (that seemed like a bit of a faff to save a few quid though, think I'd rather pay a bit extra for convenience!)

    I think we had dedicated guidebooks for both SF and Yosemite, and got details of some walks off the internet. The staff in the visitor centre area are all super helpful with info on excursions/walks etc. Bear in mind some walks are very strenuous so pay attention to the estimated difficulty levels / time they are expected to take.
    Big thing for Yosemite is sort out where you want to stay and get it booked! We stayed at the Yosemite View Lodge which was still a bit of a drive from the main valley visitor centre area but wasn't too bad; we didn't find many other viable options, and didn't want to camp. Yosemite is vast - you probably don't want to end up miles away from the main bit.
  • diydiy Posts: 6,680
    yeah you need VIP insurance as equiv. Fully comp
  • diy wrote:
    yeah you need VIP insurance as equiv. Fully comp

    We've booked 'platinum' on the car (well my travel agent friend has). Will check if that's top dollar, name suggests it is.
  • veronese68veronese68 Posts: 24,092 Lives Here
    A few other points I've thought of. We had one way car hire booked and paid for, our documentation clearly stated it was one way and even said there was nothing else to pay yet we had to pay a further $300 for one way car hire. I argued the case with the manager and they were very underhand about it, eventually I had to pay as they wouldn't give me the car without it. I managed to claim it back on my return at least.
    In Yosemite we stayed in sort of fixed tents, can't remember the name of the place. Only two per tent though so with 3 of you might not be the best way.
    I had to work for a couple of days near Santa Barbara so the wife took the kids to a theme park inland, 6 Flags as I recall. It was hotter inland and even the kids didn't enjoy it. Working was preferable I reckon so I would avoid that like the plague. Universal Studios wasn't too bad if you want to do something like that. We weren't impressed with LA generally. The area around the walk of fame and Chinese Theatre was awful. Venice Beach was a bit of fun.
    San Diego was nice though, much nicer than LA which was just a huge sprawling metropolis with too much traffic.
    I found the list of things our MD, a Californian) gave me by way of recommendations.
    San Francisco
    Giant's baseball game day or night
    Hike up to Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill offers a great view of the city. It's a bit of a climb but it's a nice urban hike.
    The Exploratorium science museum – more interesting for adults than it sounds
    Golden Gate Park
    Fishermans Wharf – very touristy – I have eaten at Aliotos several times – not haute cuisine but not a bad night out
    Sutro Baths – hiking – very interesting
    Lands End - zip lining course called the Fort Miley Adventure Challenge.
    In-N-Out burger

    Monterey – Aquarium, Cannery Row, the famous “17 Mile Drive”

    On the way to Goleta:
    Piedras Blancas – elephant seal colony
    San Simeon – Heasrt Castle
    Cambria – Interesting little shopping town

    Santa Barbara

    Santa Barbara
    Restaurants – all casual
    Dargans – Pub like with good food
    Santa Barbara Shellfish – at the end of the Pier
    Brophy Bros – Seafood – crowded
    Lo Arroyos – Mexican
    Cold Spring Tavern – over the pass
    To Do
    State street – 20 or so blocks of Starbucks and shopping down to the beach
    Cold Spring Tavern – over the pass, beautiful drive, restaurant in woods
    Saturday morning Farmers Market

    Los Angeles
    In-N-Out burger
    Labrea Tar pits
    Peterson Auto Museum
    Griffith Observatory
    Natural History Museum – Creepy old dioramas – I think they have a night session so no school kids.
    Venice Beach
    Santa Monica Beach
    Santa Monica Shopping – Ye Olde King’s Head pub still draws Brits on holiday but you can imagine what it’s like
    Bikes on beach

    San Clemente
    Pedros Tacos – fast taco stand – fish tacos – worth a visit


    SanDiego
    Zoo
    In-N-Out burger
    USS Midway Aircraft Carrier
    La Jolla shopping and beach
    I'll add more comments later, nearly time to head for home.
  • This is fantastic information, I'm collating it all. really appreciated, thank you.
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