California 8 days road trip LA-SFO

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user901
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California 8 days road trip LA-SFO

Post by user901 » Thu Dec 06, 2018 12:35 am

Hello everyone,

Have a long awaited 8 days CA trip coming up in the last week of Dec. We are flying from east coast in to LA and out of SFO (Okland airport). Family of 4, kids are 7 and 11. Will have a rental car.

Looking at the good suggestion on the the other thread "Southern California Vacation Questions "viewtopic.php?f=11&t=265629, I too decided to get some help from fellow members.

The current plan is to spend 2 days in LA, 3 days travelling on US 1, and 3 days in SFO.

Does this seem reasonable allocation of time?

Need help with two things:
1. Suggestions for paces to stay via Highway 1. Everything seems catered to upscale audience and is quite expensive.
2. Must see places to visit at all the 3 locations. Looking for suggestion about hidden gems or places unique to CA. (Theme parks, expensive dining, wine yards, long treks are out). Like nature and architecture.

Thank you!!

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Raybo
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Re: California 8 days road trip LA-SFO

Post by Raybo » Thu Dec 06, 2018 10:34 am

It is an 8-hour drive from LA to San Francisco on Highway 101. Add several hours if you are taking Highway 1 all the way, though still doable in a single day. Highway 1 out of LA goes via Malibu and its northern coast. After that, Oxnard and Ventura aren't worth seeing. Highway 1 and 101 are the same road from Ventura to the turnoff to Lompoc. While the 16 miles south of Lompoc are through attractive ranching country, Highway 1 from Lompoc to Pismo Beach isn't much to see, unless farm fields float your boat.

The ride only gets interesting once you are north of San Luis Obispo, about 4 hours north of LA driving on 101. From there, Highway 1 heads out to the coast where a visit to Hearst's Castle is worth a couple hours. Get tickets well in advance. A day spent in Big Sur, assuming it isn't raining, would be worth it if you like hiking in the woods. The area around Pfeiffer Big Sur has lodging, though reservations are surely required (though I don't know for sure as the weather will be cold and wet there). There is a hotel in the park, as well.

Be aware that landslides on the Big Sur coast can close Highway 1 at any time. Check the Caltrans website. Here is the link for Highway 1.

Monterey has a fabulous aquarium, but little else in my opinion. The pretty drive from Monterey to SF is about 2 hours on Highway 1, again assuming it isn't raining or foggy.

The LA thread you mention does a great job on LA. I have nothing to add to that.

As for San Francisco, I'd recommend Alcatraz. Get tickets as far in advance as possible at alcatrazcruises.com (the only people who can take you to the island). It should take a few hours. For the kids, don't miss the Exploratorium, a short walk down the wharves from the Alcatraz Ferry terminal. Fisherman's Wharf is worth visiting, so make a day of Alcatraz, Exploratorium and Fisherman's Wharf. Note that Pier 39 is a complete tourist trap that I'd skip, though, if the sea lions are frolicking at the end of the Pier, it is fun to watch for 20 minutes. I'd recommend the Musee Mecanique, if your kids like pinball machines. I really liked walking through the Pampanito, a WWII submarine. Also, the tall sailing ships near Aquatic Park (the other end of Fisherman's Wharf) are interesting if nautical history appeals.

If you like museums, the SF MOMA (museum of modern art) is worth a visit as is the (pricey) Science Museum in Golden Gate park.

If you like to walk and it is a nice day, walk or rent bikes and ride over the Golden Gate bridge to Sausalito. Most tourists ride bikes from Fisherman's Wharf and take the ferry back. Taking the bus to GG Bridge and walking to Sausalito is a good idea if you'd prefer to walk. While Sausalito doesn't offer much besides lunch (and the Bay Model) it is a nice way to get a feel for the Bay Area.

Muir Woods now requires reservations if you plan to go there. Mt. Tamalpias, that looms over Marin County (the one north of SF) has miles and miles of hiking trails and makes a nice day out. It is hard to get to without a car, though you must be renting a car to drive to SF. You don't need or want a car in SF, itself.

Since you are looking for things "uniquely" Californian, my suggestion would be this:

Spend a couple nights in LA.

Get up early and drive up Highway 101 all the way through Santa Barbara to San Luis Obispo. Take Highway 1 from there and stop at Hearst's Castle for your tour and then drive to your lodgings in Big Sur. This will be a long day, so be prepared. You can also find lodging, but little else, at San Simeon a line of motels just south of Hearst's Castle. If you drive to Big Sur, don't do it in the dark.

Spend a day hiking around and exploring Big Sur (assuming it isn't raining).

Drive up to San Francisco, stopping at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. There is a boardwalk with a wooden roller coaster, candy stores, and arcades in Santa Cruz, if the kids need some entertainment on the way. The best Mexican restaurant is El Palomar in Santa Cruz on Pacific Avenue, a good stop for lunch. A stroll on Pacific Avenue is quintessential California beach town.

Since you have the car, maybe drive over the Golden Gate bridge and spend the night in, say, San Rafael, a not very interesting town but cheaper than Mill Valley or Sausalito. The next day, drive over Mt. Tamalpias via Fairfax and Fairfax-Bolinas road. Take a picnic if it is a nice day, though it will be cold at the top. Hike around some bit and then drive to SF and return the car.

Do the things you want in SF.
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MJS
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Re: California 8 days road trip LA-SFO

Post by MJS » Thu Dec 06, 2018 10:49 am

Raybo hits the highlights. If you are interested in history, I recommend looking at missions and presidios along the coast near LA. Consider stopping for the night in Solvang/Buellton (Motel 6 if a room is all you want.) Next morning, visit the Danish bakeries lining Solvang's streets.

adamthesmythe
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Re: California 8 days road trip LA-SFO

Post by adamthesmythe » Thu Dec 06, 2018 10:51 am

Route 1 doesn't really need 3 days, maybe 1.5- 2 days with one stop for the night.

I don't know WHERE to suggest for the night, it's been a long time. Many of the small hotels may not have a web presence. San Luis Obispo may be a good place to stop.

Raybo has some good suggestions. If the Exploratorium is still what it was your kids will like it.

rg422
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Re: California 8 days road trip LA-SFO

Post by rg422 » Thu Dec 06, 2018 3:48 pm

There's a few nice hotels along Moonstone Beach in Cambria. The town of Cambria itself is tiny, but we always enjoy our little getaways there.

Typ997S
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Re: California 8 days road trip LA-SFO

Post by Typ997S » Thu Dec 06, 2018 4:06 pm

Great suggestions by all, and I'll add that given your kids age, I would say that the Exploratorium is probably going to be their favorite thing to do in SF. I've been there many times with my kids, and we always enjoy it. My one tip would be to not plan to eat at the Exploratorium itself, as there isn't too much there in the way of food. I'd suggest walking down the Embarcadero (10 minutes) to the Ferry Building for lunch. There's a "roadside stand" type place called Gott's there that is quite good, and that has food that kids will like. It's a little pricey (welcome to Northern California!), but the quality is high. Mom and Dad can grab something from one of the many food purveyors in the Ferry Building and eat it with the kids at Gott's. The "Out the Door" take-out counter of the well regarded Slanted Door (Vietnamese) is right across the hallway from Gott's.

Have a great trip!

adamthesmythe
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Re: California 8 days road trip LA-SFO

Post by adamthesmythe » Thu Dec 06, 2018 4:14 pm

For those that don't know, the Exploratorium is a very interesting place with an interesting history. It was established by Frank Oppenheimer, the brother of the (much more well known) J. Robert Oppenheimer.

It has many hand-on exhibits and things to experience. It is far better at inspiring real curiosity than the slick, glossy exhibits at other science museums.

Teague
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Re: California 8 days road trip LA-SFO

Post by Teague » Thu Dec 06, 2018 4:24 pm

Año Nuevo State Park, if you can still get reservations for the guided tour. http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=523

Late December will be prime season to watch dozens of male elephant seals engaging in their well-known turf battles. There is a live video feed of the nearby Año Nuevo island at http://www.parks.ca.gov/live/anonuevoisland.

This can be a spectacular show, though of course sometimes a bit violent as these untamed blubbery creatures engage in power struggles and battle to claim their interests. Don't confuse this with remarkably similar CSPAN Congressional coverage.
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PugetSoundguy
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Re: California 8 days road trip LA-SFO

Post by PugetSoundguy » Thu Dec 06, 2018 4:35 pm

Former San Francisco resident here and parent of two active boys. Good suggestions above.

When we last visited San Francisco (a December trip), our two boys loved visiting the various abandoned military batteries and fortifications. (Mom and Dad liked it too.) They all overlook the Pacific, of course, since they were designed to protect the city from naval attack. You can find them in the Presidio (former Army base) within San Francisco itself as well as north of the Golden Gate bridge in the Marin Headlands. They are marked on Google maps. And the Marin Headlands is an easy and beautiful place to visit even without checking out the batteries. The Point Bonita lighthouse also is fun to visit there, but its hours are limited. All of this is free.

Fort Point (on the San Francisco side right under the Golden Gate bridge) also is a neat place to visit. It is a restored 19th century fort and is maintained by the National Park Service.

Angel Island (in San Francisco Bay) is also fun. You take a quick ferry ride. The entire island is a state park. I think you can rent bikes there.

Our boys also enjoyed just riding the various rail public transit options in the city. From downtown (any of the underground stations along Market Street) I would suggest taking one of the Muni streetcars out to one of the neighborhoods. The N-Judah line goes out to the Inner Sunset. Lots of good neighborhood joints for a quick lunch out that way. You can take the N-Judah streetcar parallel to Golden Gate Park all the way to the ocean. Fun stuff in Golden Gate Park too. (These streetcar lines are underground downtown, and then emerge to tracks on the streets out in the neighborhoods. At the underground Market Street stations, the Muni lines are one level down, the more regional BART subway is two levels down. Different fare structure for each.) You could also take one of the multiple lines that emerges from the tunnel at the West Portal neighborhood. There's a neat commercial stretch there with good places to eat. We lived near there. I see the Xiao Loong restaurant is still there. It was one of our favorites.

As for the cable cars, a good way to avoid lines (at least it used to be) is to take the California Street line instead of the others. It's not quite as scenic, but still is pretty good and who wants to wait in line forever. You might want to catch it and either end of the line (California and Van Ness or the Embarcadero). We combined that with other bus and rail trips. Be sure to get a copy of the city transit map for a few bucks.

Also, if you are driving in the city, Grandview Park (between 14th and 15th Ave. in the Inner Sunset) is a great little park with a terrific view from the top of the hill. We lived four blocks from there. We loved climbing up those stairs at different times of day. We were almost always alone, but on our last visit, we were surprised that the little park has been discovered!

One good thing about all of the above ideas is that they are free or inexpensive. They also allow the kids to burn energy! Feel free to PM me for more info...this brings back good memories. We need to take another trip to SF...

123
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Re: California 8 days road trip LA-SFO

Post by 123 » Thu Dec 06, 2018 4:45 pm

Consider a day at Heast Castle on the way. Advance tickets are advised https://reservecalifornia.com/Californi ... Tours.aspx

Sometimes they have twilght evening tours, including some special tours around the Christmas holidays.
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Typ997S
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Re: California 8 days road trip LA-SFO

Post by Typ997S » Thu Dec 06, 2018 4:49 pm

The great idea of Ano Nuevo (reservations mandatory) reminded me that I should say something about the weather. The winter-time on the Northern California coast can be the best time of the year in terms of sunshine, as the summertime fog is usually not present. That presumes however, that it's not raining, and unlike the summer months, it is possible that it will rain. It can also be cold and windy. So I would say pack so that you can dress in layers and be ready for anything. Since I live here, I'll hope for some good weather for you (and me)!

Starfish
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Re: California 8 days road trip LA-SFO

Post by Starfish » Thu Dec 06, 2018 4:51 pm

user901 wrote:
Thu Dec 06, 2018 12:35 am
Hello everyone,

Have a long awaited 8 days CA trip coming up in the last week of Dec. We are flying from east coast in to LA and out of SFO (Okland airport).


SFO is San Francisco airport. OAK is Oakland airport.

phil64
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Re: California 8 days road trip LA-SFO

Post by phil64 » Thu Dec 06, 2018 5:04 pm

One thing I would definitely recommend especially with kids is try to stay as close to east coast time as possible. Get up as early as possible as the traffic in LA and pretty much all over CA is just awful. We found that hitting the road around 7 -7:30 AM saved us so much time. Not sure when true rush hour starts but we really managed pretty well or just lucky. Had a cousin who went and did nothing but complain about sitting in traffic, but he and his wife like to sleep in.

Hearst Castle and Alcatraz are both great and get your tickets in advance from their web sites as they sell out.

The drive up the coast on highway 1 is also great, pack a picnic and enjoy.

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Re: California 8 days road trip LA-SFO

Post by 22twain » Thu Dec 06, 2018 5:19 pm

Typ997S wrote:
Thu Dec 06, 2018 4:06 pm
My one tip would be to not plan to eat at the Exploratorium itself, as there isn't too much there in the way of food. I'd suggest walking down the Embarcadero (10 minutes) to the Ferry Building for lunch.
10 minutes walk to the Ferry Building??? :shock:

Aha, now I see the Exploratorium has moved. I remember it at its old location in the Palace of Fine Arts, way out at the far edge of the Marina district. I'm long overdue for another visit to SF. Last one was about 20 years ago. :(
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magazinewriter
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Re: California 8 days road trip LA-SFO

Post by magazinewriter » Thu Dec 06, 2018 5:36 pm

It’s been many years, but I’d suggest having lunch at Nepenthe on Route 1 in Big Sur. Gorgeous views from the rooftop deck.

https://www.nepenthe.com/

Typ997S
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Re: California 8 days road trip LA-SFO

Post by Typ997S » Thu Dec 06, 2018 5:38 pm

Ha - yes, I almost mentioned the move of the Exploratorium, but I figured since it was about 5 years ago, I was safe! Anybody using an old guidebook or paper map (anybody still using those?) might be in for an unpleasant surprise, as the new location at Pier 15 is nowhere near it's old location at the Palace of Fine Arts in the Marina.

MotoTrojan
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Re: California 8 days road trip LA-SFO

Post by MotoTrojan » Thu Dec 06, 2018 5:42 pm

Madonna Inn would be a good place to stay.

If you like a little adventure, ATV rental in Pismo is a BLAST and great way to kill a couple hours.

San Luis Obispo is a very cool town. Moe's BBQ is tasty (have one in Pismo too).

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Re: California 8 days road trip LA-SFO

Post by GCD » Thu Dec 06, 2018 6:53 pm

Raybo wrote:
Thu Dec 06, 2018 10:34 am
Monterey has a fabulous aquarium, but little else in my opinion.
Agreed, unless you are a John Steinbeck fan. Then there is lots of historical stuff there. Steinbeck set Cannery Row in Monterey.

Other than that observation, it's been so long since I drove that route that I will defer to all the other great advice you are getting here.

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Re: California 8 days road trip LA-SFO

Post by ebrasmus21 » Thu Dec 06, 2018 7:12 pm

123 wrote:
Thu Dec 06, 2018 4:45 pm
Consider a day at Heast Castle on the way. Advance tickets are advised https://reservecalifornia.com/Californi ... Tours.aspx

Sometimes they have twilght evening tours, including some special tours around the Christmas holidays.
If you're driving north on the HYW 1 then Hearst Castle is a must.

Also, the drive on the HYW 1 from San Luis Obispo County into Monterey County is one of the most beautiful drives in the country - well worth it.

4nwestsaylng
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Re: California 8 days road trip LA-SFO

Post by 4nwestsaylng » Thu Dec 06, 2018 7:48 pm

MotoTrojan wrote:
Thu Dec 06, 2018 5:42 pm
Madonna Inn would be a good place to stay.

If you like a little adventure, ATV rental in Pismo is a BLAST and great way to kill a couple hours.

San Luis Obispo is a very cool town. Moe's BBQ is tasty (have one in Pismo too).
I once stayed at the La Cuesta Inn in San Luis Obispo, it was clean and well located near restaurants (always check Tripadvisor, things may have changed). The Splash Cafe is a local place, maybe overrated but is a good bet. There is also the Applefarm which is very popular. If it is getting late in the day, better to stop at San Luis Obispo, because after that there is a long uphill grade (but you will be on the "hill" side, not the edge) which you go up before getting to Paso Robles. That hill grade was well known, as the railroad had to build tracks down it to get to SLO.

4nwestsaylng
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Re: California 8 days road trip LA-SFO

Post by 4nwestsaylng » Thu Dec 06, 2018 8:05 pm

Another good area to stay in the SF area is one of the hotels near the airport. You can get some good rates, and even take the BART train into SFO so you won't face the high parking charges.I like the TownPlace Suites in Foster City, very safe, clean, and restaurants around, Starbucks, etc.. Right off the freeway 101.

Market Street area not so great,you may have heard of the "sanitation" problems. A friend of mine went there with kids and they saw human feces, and a woman walking naked on the street, just wearing a raincoat!

Ferry Building a good bet. Also the Maritime ship museum (not sure of the name) at the foot of Taylor Street has old sailing ships the kids can crawl around in. It is a federal "park" so there is an admission fee, but well worth visiting.

If you like gardens, there is the Filoli estate south of SFO (see www.filoli.org)

Chinatown is fun to walk around. I like Hunan's Home restaurant, very authentic and reasonable.Look it up on Tripadvisor. Also Alioto's at Fisherman's Wharf is Italian oriented seafood.

It might be worth a splurge to stay at least one night up on Nob Hill. Sometimes there are great specials, try the Stanford Court website. A great walk for the family, if you have your walking shoes on, is from Nob Hill, down through Russian Hill, to the wharf where the ships are. Just remember you have to walk back up. Stop for coffee or something at a small cafe in Russian Hill area, there will be few or no tourists.A quiet area far from the noise of Union Square or Market Street.

I agree a walk on the beach area at the Marina, over to Fort Point, gives some great vistas. They could fly a kite there with the breezes.

ladycat
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Re: California 8 days road trip LA-SFO

Post by ladycat » Thu Dec 06, 2018 9:17 pm

Solvang is interesting, and different from other tourist towns. May be a good place to stay after driving north from LA.
Hearst Castle is interesting, but I think it would be much more interesting for the adults and the children may be bored.
Two thumbs up to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It's one of the best in the country. Half-day there is a good amount of time. The Fish Hopper on Cannary Row is our favorite restaurant.

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Re: California 8 days road trip LA-SFO

Post by kelvan80 » Thu Dec 06, 2018 10:07 pm

We lived in monterey for two years with kids so I'll have to heartily disagree. I would consider spending two nights there and look up the previous threads of what to do. Check out Carmel river valley beach, denis the menace park, Point Lobos, obviously cannery row, aquarium, the wharf, the seals, George's birds, I could go on and on.

Starfish
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Re: California 8 days road trip LA-SFO

Post by Starfish » Thu Dec 06, 2018 10:21 pm

For SF:

1. Check out Corona Heights Park and surrounding neighborhoods.
2. I like the walk from the windmill in Golden Gate park to Legion of Honor museum, on the shore... actually the entire walk to Ghirardelli is very nice. Once you get to the touristic side is not tat nice anymore. The nice part ends at
3. On the other side of GG bridge there is a spectacular drive to Nike AA missiles and Point Bonita.
4. Go to Telegraph Hill on the stairs.

SF is pretty small, in 6h you can circle it.
There are also some very good restaurants. You should at least try the ice cream at Humphry Slocombe.
Do not stay around Market street, not much to see.

I don't like LA and I think there are only a few places to see that are worth it. Probably Manhattan Beach and Corona del Mar.
Monterey has a very impressive aquarium, but it is expensive for a family and it will take many hours from your trip.

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Re: California 8 days road trip LA-SFO

Post by celia » Thu Dec 06, 2018 11:39 pm

MJS wrote:
Thu Dec 06, 2018 10:49 am
Raybo hits the highlights. If you are interested in history, I recommend looking at missions and presidios along the coast near LA. Consider stopping for the night in Solvang/Buellton (Motel 6 if a room is all you want.) Next morning, visit the Danish bakeries lining Solvang's streets.
+1 for a night in Solvang.
+10 for Danish donuts called aebleskivers. I don't know anywhere else you can get them, except from a Danish bakery.

I agree that you should also visit at least one of the 21 California missions. They go along the coast primarily and were originally a one-day horse ride from one mission to another.

And stop in Monterey to enjoy the views of the Pacific coast with huge overlooks and cliffs.

user901
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Re: California 8 days road trip LA-SFO

Post by user901 » Fri Dec 07, 2018 12:41 am

Thank you everyone for the amazing suggestions. You guys rock!!

I will go through them in detail and come back with any questions that I have.

Regards.

kevinpet
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Re: California 8 days road trip LA-SFO

Post by kevinpet » Fri Dec 07, 2018 1:21 am

Most of everything from Leo Carrillo beach (near LA/Ventura county line) to San José is either a relaxing coastal B&B with obscure wine recommendations, or farmland.

Some items of note:
Guiseppe's in Pismo Beach is good pizza and gelato. There's also a park, Dinosaur Caves, nearby. This is a frequent stop for us making the trip. The cinnamon bun shop isn't really worth a stop.
If you take the 101 North from there, you will pass Pinnacles National Park on the day hike only side. It's an interesting view of California's landscape.
Monterrey has a big aquarium. Likely not worth a special trip, but if you are going through there, maybe.
Santa Cruz Boardwalk is the real deal. I recommend the wooden Giant Dipper roller coaster.
Big Basin has cabins (though you'll need sleeping bags). It's the most accessible coast redwood forest with really big trees.
When my kids were little, they loved the steam trains at Vasona Lake Park in Los Altos.
Town of Woodside, sandwiches at Robert's market or breakfast as Buck's (never been, but the origin of several companies). Up the hill you can find Alice's, which is usually too crowded. Watch for bicyclists.
You can drive by the Google campus in Mountain View, but I think south of University in Palo Alto has the most "Silicon Valley" feel. Recommend Curry Up Now for something unusual but typical of the area. There's also the computer history museum, but even I wouldn't subject a 7 year old to that kind of sitting still and reading placards.
A better museum is Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos. It's laid out as a history of flight, highlighting California's contributions. The Burger King next door has a helicopter out front for kids to play in.
Aside from San Francisco, Berkeley is a unique town. The campus is beautiful, but the real attraction is the vibrant town, unusual non-chain college student food (try Top Dog), and book stores. Up the hill is the Lawrence Hall of Science and Tilden Park, which has a train and carousel hidden somewhere.
Mission Dolores in San Francisco has a real sense of history. One of the few graveyards in the city. (Everybody else got moved to Colma, the city of the dead.)

By the way, check your tickets to make sure. You said SFO but also Oakland. SFO is San Fransisco Internation, located in Millbrae on the Peninsula. Oakland's airport is OAK, in Oakland in the East Bay.

I lived too far out in the suburbs to say much about LA. Take a drive down Las Virgines or Kanan and you'll see the fire scar.

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Re: California 8 days road trip LA-SFO

Post by TTBG » Fri Dec 07, 2018 3:15 am

If you want to see redwoods but can't get a reservation or don't want to deal with the crowds in Muir Woods, try Henry Cowell State Park in Felton (near Santa Cruz). There's an easy 1 mile loop and a small nature center. There are a few restaurants in Felton, all very kid friendly, so it could be a nice stop on your way to San Francisco.

Or if you stop in Santa Cruz, the Museum of Natural History on E. Cliff Dr. is another possibility - it's small enough that you can get thru it in an hour but is fun for kids.

Be forewarned that the weather in late Dec could be awesome, sunny and cool, but it could also be raining. And in CA a quarter inch of rain can be like a foot of snow anywhere else -- roads close, accidents pile up, and traffic slows to a crawl. So keep an eye on the weather forecast and be sure to check road conditions.

fasteddie911
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Re: California 8 days road trip LA-SFO

Post by fasteddie911 » Fri Dec 07, 2018 7:59 am

Someone above mentioned getting lunch along route 1 at Nepenthe. We went earlier this year and it was crowded and an ok view, relatively speaking. I'd suggest getting a picnic lunch and pulling off the road somewhere else for a better, quieter view. Also, Carmel is a nice cute town you can walk around and driving further up the coast along Santa Cruz and Half moon bay is just ok.

surveyor
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Re: California 8 days road trip LA-SFO

Post by surveyor » Fri Dec 07, 2018 8:59 am

A very nice Uber driver earned a good tip by taking us down Lombard street on the way to Coit tower. Not much there besides the tower on the hill but the kids saw it there and kept asking to go see it. The real highlight was the walk from the tower to the Exploratorium. Mostly a set of stairs that serves as a "street" for residences on the side of the hill. On eastern time this killed an early morning for us before the Exploratorium opened.

Typ997S
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Re: California 8 days road trip LA-SFO

Post by Typ997S » Fri Dec 07, 2018 9:19 am

kevinpet wrote:
Fri Dec 07, 2018 1:21 am
Most of everything from Leo Carrillo beach (near LA/Ventura county line) to San José is either a relaxing coastal B&B with obscure wine recommendations, or farmland.

Some items of note:
Guiseppe's in Pismo Beach is good pizza and gelato. There's also a park, Dinosaur Caves, nearby. This is a frequent stop for us making the trip. The cinnamon bun shop isn't really worth a stop.
If you take the 101 North from there, you will pass Pinnacles National Park on the day hike only side. It's an interesting view of California's landscape.
Monterrey has a big aquarium. Likely not worth a special trip, but if you are going through there, maybe.
Santa Cruz Boardwalk is the real deal. I recommend the wooden Giant Dipper roller coaster.
Big Basin has cabins (though you'll need sleeping bags). It's the most accessible coast redwood forest with really big trees.
When my kids were little, they loved the steam trains at Vasona Lake Park in Los Altos.
Town of Woodside, sandwiches at Robert's market or breakfast as Buck's (never been, but the origin of several companies). Up the hill you can find Alice's, which is usually too crowded. Watch for bicyclists.
You can drive by the Google campus in Mountain View, but I think south of University in Palo Alto has the most "Silicon Valley" feel. Recommend Curry Up Now for something unusual but typical of the area. There's also the computer history museum, but even I wouldn't subject a 7 year old to that kind of sitting still and reading placards.
A better museum is Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos. It's laid out as a history of flight, highlighting California's contributions. The Burger King next door has a helicopter out front for kids to play in.
Aside from San Francisco, Berkeley is a unique town. The campus is beautiful, but the real attraction is the vibrant town, unusual non-chain college student food (try Top Dog), and book stores. Up the hill is the Lawrence Hall of Science and Tilden Park, which has a train and carousel hidden somewhere.
Mission Dolores in San Francisco has a real sense of history. One of the few graveyards in the city. (Everybody else got moved to Colma, the city of the dead.)

By the way, check your tickets to make sure. You said SFO but also Oakland. SFO is San Fransisco Internation, located in Millbrae on the Peninsula. Oakland's airport is OAK, in Oakland in the East Bay.

I lived too far out in the suburbs to say much about LA. Take a drive down Las Virgines or Kanan and you'll see the fire scar.
Great ideas. One small correction, Vasona Park is in Los Gatos rather than Los Altos. I used to always get the two mixed up when I first moved to the area. :happy If you do want to check out the train, make sure it’s running this time of year. The park has a holiday lights festival in the evening (nice, but very crowded) that might impact the running of the train in the daytime.

Teague
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Re: California 8 days road trip LA-SFO

Post by Teague » Fri Dec 07, 2018 9:53 am

If you've never had one and you're a meat eater, grab a tri-tip sandwich with sides somewhere along the central coast. If you have never had a good one, it's worth a try.
Semper Augustus

vested1
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Re: California 8 days road trip LA-SFO

Post by vested1 » Fri Dec 07, 2018 11:45 am

If you're going to stop in Monterey I would consider staying at one of the bed and breakfast places near Lover's Point in Pacific Grove (PG). You can rent kayaks at lover's point or at the kayak shop near the wharf. There are so many great restaurants that it's hard to pick the best. The Fishwife in either Seaside or PG, Fandangos in PG, Googies in Seaside and Baja Cantina in Carmel Valley are some of our favorites. The recreation trail that runs from Marina to PG skirts the Monterey Bay is flat and very scenic, especially in PG. It never snows and averages around 20" of rain per year, and most years there isn't even a single day with frost.

Nepenthe in Big Sur was mentioned as a place to stop for lunch or dinner. I would opt for the Kevah Cafe there, which is outside overlooking the ocean in one direction and the towering cliffs above Ventana to Anderson Peak in the other.

As far as driving up the coast from L.A. at the end of December it's a roll of the dice. I worked in Big Sur for over 20 years and took numerous helicopter rides during that time to restore utility service due to extreme weather and extended road closures. If you do drive that route keep an eye out for condors near Grimes Point (Google the location).

Point Lobos shouldn't be missed, if it's open for visitors, but wherever you go keep an eye on the ocean for the possibility of seeing orcas, dolphins, or whales (Grey whales at that time of year). My wife and I walk the rec trail regularly and see dolphins and whales close to shore on occasion. About a month ago there was a large pod of humpbacks within 100 yards of the shore, breaching to capture bait fish in their huge maws. Orcas are usually further out but can sometimes be seen close to shore as well.

ebrasmus21
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Re: California 8 days road trip LA-SFO

Post by ebrasmus21 » Fri Dec 07, 2018 11:53 am

kevinpet wrote:
Fri Dec 07, 2018 1:21 am
Most of everything from Leo Carrillo beach (near LA/Ventura county line) to San José is either a relaxing coastal B&B with obscure wine recommendations, or farmland.

Some items of note:
Guiseppe's in Pismo Beach is good pizza and gelato. There's also a park, Dinosaur Caves, nearby. This is a frequent stop for us making the trip. The cinnamon bun shop isn't really worth a stop.
If you take the 101 North from there, you will pass Pinnacles National Park on the day hike only side. It's an interesting view of California's landscape.
Monterrey has a big aquarium. Likely not worth a special trip, but if you are going through there, maybe.
Santa Cruz Boardwalk is the real deal. I recommend the wooden Giant Dipper roller coaster.
Big Basin has cabins (though you'll need sleeping bags). It's the most accessible coast redwood forest with really big trees.
When my kids were little, they loved the steam trains at Vasona Lake Park in Los Altos.
Town of Woodside, sandwiches at Robert's market or breakfast as Buck's (never been, but the origin of several companies). Up the hill you can find Alice's, which is usually too crowded. Watch for bicyclists.
You can drive by the Google campus in Mountain View, but I think south of University in Palo Alto has the most "Silicon Valley" feel. Recommend Curry Up Now for something unusual but typical of the area. There's also the computer history museum, but even I wouldn't subject a 7 year old to that kind of sitting still and reading placards.
A better museum is Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos. It's laid out as a history of flight, highlighting California's contributions. The Burger King next door has a helicopter out front for kids to play in.
Aside from San Francisco, Berkeley is a unique town. The campus is beautiful, but the real attraction is the vibrant town, unusual non-chain college student food (try Top Dog), and book stores. Up the hill is the Lawrence Hall of Science and Tilden Park, which has a train and carousel hidden somewhere.
Mission Dolores in San Francisco has a real sense of history. One of the few graveyards in the city. (Everybody else got moved to Colma, the city of the dead.)

By the way, check your tickets to make sure. You said SFO but also Oakland. SFO is San Fransisco Internation, located in Millbrae on the Peninsula. Oakland's airport is OAK, in Oakland in the East Bay.

I lived too far out in the suburbs to say much about LA. Take a drive down Las Virgines or Kanan and you'll see the fire scar.
Could not disagree with you more here. You're saying that the MB Aquarium is *maybe* worth seeing yet you're singing the praises of the Santa Cruz boardwalk? People literally travel from around the world to go to the MB Aquarium; I'm not sure the boardwalk could make the same claim.

RudyS
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Re: California 8 days road trip LA-SFO

Post by RudyS » Fri Dec 07, 2018 2:58 pm

Another place to see the coast redwoods is Big Basin State Park. Near Santa Cruz, south of San Jose. The roads reportedly have been improved since the last time I was there decades ago, but the trees are great there. I'd check the sate park's web site and TripAdvisor.

moehoward
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Re: California 8 days road trip LA-SFO

Post by moehoward » Fri Dec 07, 2018 3:09 pm

user901 wrote:
Thu Dec 06, 2018 12:35 am
Hello everyone,

Have a long awaited 8 days CA trip coming up in the last week of Dec. We are flying from east coast in to LA and out of SFO (Okland airport). Family of 4, kids are 7 and 11. Will have a rental car.

Looking at the good suggestion on the the other thread "Southern California Vacation Questions "viewtopic.php?f=11&t=265629, I too decided to get some help from fellow members.

The current plan is to spend 2 days in LA, 3 days travelling on US 1, and 3 days in SFO.

Does this seem reasonable allocation of time?

Need help with two things:
1. Suggestions for paces to stay via Highway 1. Everything seems catered to upscale audience and is quite expensive.
2. Must see places to visit at all the 3 locations. Looking for suggestion about hidden gems or places unique to CA. (Theme parks, expensive dining, wine yards, long treks are out). Like nature and architecture.

Thank you!!
3 kids traveling on Hwy 1? Its a beautiful drive for about 1 hour then it gets old fast. Take the fastest route and enjoy SF and the nice weather. As someone mentioned, go over to Santa Cruz, kids will love the beaches.

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dm200
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Re: California 8 days road trip LA-SFO

Post by dm200 » Fri Dec 07, 2018 3:22 pm

We (wife, I, small child) did this years ago. Recommend seeing a Redwood place, Monterey peninsula, and many things in SF - such as a bus tour and Chinese food in Chinatown.

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Shackleton
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Re: California 8 days road trip LA-SFO

Post by Shackleton » Fri Dec 07, 2018 3:32 pm

A few things I haven't seen mentioned in the thread

Winchester Mystery House (https://winchestermysteryhouse.com/) is in or near San Jose. I haven't been there in over 20 years so no idea what it's like now, but it is very unique! Basically, Sarah Winchester was an heiress of the Winchester Repeating Rifle fortune and became convinced that the ghosts of people killed by the rifle were going to haunt her unless she continually built her mansion. So she had people working all the time on the house, adding rooms, stairways that went nowhere, etc. That's from memory so I probably got some of it wrong. But definitely the sort of thing you can't find other places.

On the Marin side of the GG Bridge is Cavallo Point Lodge (https://www.cavallopoint.com/index.html) located on the grounds of what was Fort Baker in the early 20th century. It has a great walking trail around the grounds with signs where you can call a number from your cell phone to get an audio tour while you walk. Cavallo Point also offers lots of fun classes (cooking, art, etc) for families, and has two restaurants, one of which I seem to recall may have had or has a Michelin star (Murray Circle).
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John88
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Re: California 8 days road trip LA-SFO

Post by John88 » Fri Dec 07, 2018 9:33 pm

Do the kids like trains, if yes Roaring Camp is very close to Santa Cruz in Felton

mrsbetsy
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Re: California 8 days road trip LA-SFO

Post by mrsbetsy » Fri Dec 07, 2018 10:55 pm

Native here so I'd like to add a couple of ideas. It really depends on what you and your children are interested in, but they are a wonderful age to explore the area.

#1 Ano Nuevo is fantastic for this age. Tide pooling afterwards is a bonus.

#2 Check out the Lands End hike. Free parking right above the famous Cliff House. Lots of different short trails to explore. You can go down to the beach and go up to a wonderful rock labyrinth. Views of the Golden Gate are constantly around the corner. Keep walking and you'll end up at Bakers Beach and you will walk across the Golden Gate Bridge to Vista Point. Do it! They will remember it forever. Take an Uber or Lyft back to the Cliff House and enjoy a cocktail and snacks.

#3 Definitely stop for the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Don't skip Cannery Row! There's a great museum and also a Mission. Take notice of the adobe walls.

#4 Fishermans Wharf and the sea lions are pretty cool. A ferry ride over to Angel Island is interesting. You can take a tour...hint it was not the Ellis Island of the west. Definitely do Alcatraz. Ask them to tell you why there are old cannons there. Read Al Capone Does My Shirts. It's the tale of a guard and his family who lived on the island.

#5 Definitely take in Lombard Street and Ghirardelli Square - how can you go wrong with chocolate and ice cream? They will warm a chocolate chip cookie if you prefer!

Enjoy your trip!

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Re: California 8 days road trip LA-SFO

Post by Starfish » Sat Dec 08, 2018 3:35 am

I would personally give a wide berth to all tourist traps: Santa Cruz boardwalk, Carney Row, Ghirardelli (bad ice cream an chocolate with huge lines, SF has great ice cream/chocolate if you want), Fishermans Wharf (I wouldn't even come close to it!) and Alcatraz (not as bad as the others, but not worth it in my opinion).
I think the Monterrey aquarium is great but it's an exaggeration that people come from around the world to see it (some people do, for sure, but very few). If you like aquariums or you've never seen a large one, this is pretty good. There is a larger aquarium on the east coast, in Atlanta, and others around the world. This one has sea otters, it might be pretty unique. Is it worth 250$ and pretty much a day of a trip? I guess it depends.
I guess the trains in parks, (even the one in Felton), I guess in a shape or another can be found anywhere. But if you HAVE TO take a train, at least the Felton train goes through a redwood forest and has a robbery staged on the way... again, is time and money (not cheap). I wouldn't even consider it for such a short trip.

BTW, some of these places might be closed in december.

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