Los Angeles to San Francisco Roadtrip

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aude
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Los Angeles to San Francisco Roadtrip

Post by aude » Mon Nov 11, 2019 11:29 pm

All,

I have some business meetings in San Francisco early the week following Thanksgiving and see an opening to take the family (spouse plus kids 13, 10 and 7) on a vacation the week before. We are flying into L.A. around 11/22 and they will fly out of S.F. around 12/1. This is somewhat last minute, but we are nailing down the itinerary ASAP. We will likely largely stick to the Pacific Coast Highway, but happy to deviate for good stuff. Our interests include the outdoors, history, etc. We are not obsessed with Hollywood, celebrities, etc. The kids would love opportunities to go to the beach, see some tidepools, etc. It's OK that the water is cold and the air will be "cold". We're hardy midwesterners and might even have wetsuits in the trunk. Any ideas on must-see places or places that you'd want to stay if you did this trip again would be appreciated. We have a pretty healthy budget for the trip. Thanks in advance and let me know if you need Midwest travel ideas!

Thanks,

Aude

bikesandbeers
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Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco Roadtrip

Post by bikesandbeers » Mon Nov 11, 2019 11:50 pm

Monterrey Bay aquarium would be the #1 family stop by me, followed by Hearst Castle.
Big Sur Coast is very pretty, and a walk around Point Lobos.

You probably don't want to spend too much time wine tasting wth kids, but there is lots of good wineries along the way. If you like beer, you could also hit up one of the Firestone-Walker breweries. There is also a new family friendly brewery/restaurant opening is Atasacadero call Wild Fields.

Santa Barbara Courthouse and downtown SB are very cute, could also think about visiting the UCSB campus.

this is ignoring everything in the SF Bay area proper. No shortage of things to fill your time.

MotoTrojan
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Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco Roadtrip

Post by MotoTrojan » Mon Nov 11, 2019 11:55 pm

Madonna Inn is a fun eclectic hotel about halfway. Themed rooms.

jakerm17
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Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco Roadtrip

Post by jakerm17 » Tue Nov 12, 2019 12:40 am

Hearst Castle for sure! They offer a number of tours that are all great but make sure you buy tickets ahead of time.

Morro Bay is a great beach town that is about 30 minutes south of Hearst Castle - would be a good place to do a night.

TTBG
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Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco Roadtrip

Post by TTBG » Tue Nov 12, 2019 12:48 am

+1 to both the Monterey Aquarium and the Madonna Inn.

My other suggestions, mostly in northern CA:
- Dream Inn in Santa Cruz.
- the UCSC Seymour Marine center is sort of a smaller version of the Monterey Aquarium, but it's less crowded and has a cool whale skeleton.
- Natural History museum in Santa Cruz (small, so you probably wouldn't spend more than an hour there).
- Henry Cowell Park in Felton (has a 1 mile loop thru redwood trees) followed by lunch at the Cowboy grill.
- Pinnacles National park has some pretty strenuous hikes but also some short cave hikes (if the caves are open). There's not much else in the area so it would be just a daytime stop on the way to somewhere else.
- it's about as touristy as they come, but kids do seem to like the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose.
- Or if you're looking for even weirder touristy stops that kids might like, there's the Mystery Spot near Santa Cruz.
- I always recommend the Alcatraz tour to anyone who goes to SF. For 5 people you should try to plan ahead and buy your tickets in advance.

And there's alot of good suggestions in this similar thread: viewtopic.php?t=265658.

Be ready for crowds and traffic anywhere you go over Thanksgiving weekend! I hope you have a great trip!

anonenigma
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Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco Roadtrip

Post by anonenigma » Tue Nov 12, 2019 1:34 am

Santa Barbara Mission is beautiful. Stop before or after for breakfast/lunch at the Daily Grind which is between the Mission and the 101.

There’s also a cool monarch butterfly sanctuary in Goleta, near UCSB. It looks like the butterflies are going to be around during your visit. See https://www.sblandtrust.org/portfolio-i ... -preserve/

Los Osos/Baywood Park is just south of Morro Bay. Montana de Oro state park is there and a very nice place to hike. Noi’s is great for casual Thai food, and Back Bay Inn is a great place to stay.

The mission in San Luis Obispo isn’t as nice as Mission Santa Barbara, but the area around it is terrific.

Drive through Pescadero and maybe have lunch at Duarte’s. Visit the Pigeon Point Lighthouse, which is right there.

Visit Stanford, which is an incredibly beautiful campus. Don’t miss the Main Quad, including the Burghers of Calais and the Memorial Church. If the timing’s right (limited hours), stop at the Pulgas Water Temple (https://sfwater.org/index.aspx?page=93) as you drive up the 280 towards San Francisco.
Last edited by anonenigma on Tue Nov 12, 2019 2:38 pm, edited 2 times in total.

skjoldur
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Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco Roadtrip

Post by skjoldur » Tue Nov 12, 2019 1:35 am

You can take a kayak tour in Monterey Bay or in the Elkhorn Slough at Moss Landing (about 1/2 hour north of Monterey). You will see sea otters, harbor seals, and other cool sea life.

At Pinnacles park (recommended above) you can probably see California Condors, and the hikes are good (can be rugged).

Big Basin Redwoods State Park north of Santa Cruz is a great place to hike and drive through some big redwoods

The San Francisco Academy of Science is a good museum/aquarium in the city, in Golden Gate Park.

playingwithfire
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Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco Roadtrip

Post by playingwithfire » Tue Nov 12, 2019 1:43 am

Check out the Sand dunes near San Luis Obispo and rent atv for a few hours! If you’re going inland, definitely try to see the sequoia and redwoods, but that’s out of the way.

phxjcc
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Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco Roadtrip

Post by phxjcc » Tue Nov 12, 2019 2:10 am

You can drive and park on the beach in Pismo Beach/Oceano
If you do this, kids will love Sylvesters Burgers in Oceano.

San Luis Obispo mission is beautiful.
If you want to see farm animals, most animals at Cal Poly are now off limits to the public.

Montana de Oro state park has GREAT tide pools

If you like Zin or Pinot, Paso Robles has great Wineries.
Try Halter Ranch.
You can then take 41/46 to the coast from the 101.

Great fish and decent Mexican food at Taco Temple in Morro Bay

Sebastian's across from the castle is now food trucks. WTH?

Just north of Hearst Castle is the Elephant Seal Reserve, and now is the best time of year to go, the girls are back as are the adult alpha males.

Obviously HWY 1 from SLO to Carmel.

Ragged Point is the last stop for a long time.

Everybody raves about Nepenthe in Big Sur for food, I find it meh.

Splurge for Roy's on 17 mile drive--eat lunch outside, worth it for the view.

fasteddie911
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Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco Roadtrip

Post by fasteddie911 » Tue Nov 12, 2019 7:01 am

Some of our favorite stops along this route include: Ojai, Santa Barbara, Solvang, Carmel and of course Big Sur. Not sure if they're particularly exciting for kids. Also, I vaguely recall somewhere around Hearst Castle there being an exotic animal farm and I think it was zebras you could see right off the road.

carolinaman
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Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco Roadtrip

Post by carolinaman » Tue Nov 12, 2019 9:04 am

I have never been to Northern California but a must see for me as a golfer would be Pebble Beach as well as the other courses in area. Also, drive along PCH thru Big Sur and visit to Monterey. When we visited relatives in Oxnard many years ago, they took us to the village of Solvang that was inland a short ways for Santa Barbara. It was touristy but had lots of wineries and nice Danish restaurants.

It sounds like a great trip and time to visit. Enjoy!

helloeveryone
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Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco Roadtrip

Post by helloeveryone » Tue Nov 12, 2019 9:11 am

aude wrote:
Mon Nov 11, 2019 11:29 pm
All,

I have some business meetings in San Francisco early the week following Thanksgiving and see an opening to take the family (spouse plus kids 13, 10 and 7) on a vacation the week before. We are flying into L.A. around 11/22 and they will fly out of S.F. around 12/1. This is somewhat last minute, but we are nailing down the itinerary ASAP. We will likely largely stick to the Pacific Coast Highway, but happy to deviate for good stuff. Our interests include the outdoors, history, etc. We are not obsessed with Hollywood, celebrities, etc. The kids would love opportunities to go to the beach, see some tidepools, etc. It's OK that the water is cold and the air will be "cold". We're hardy midwesterners and might even have wetsuits in the trunk. Any ideas on must-see places or places that you'd want to stay if you did this trip again would be appreciated. We have a pretty healthy budget for the trip. Thanks in advance and let me know if you need Midwest travel ideas!

Thanks,

Aude
Monterey Aquarium is amazing. Kids and Adults will love it.
While in Monterey the 17 mile scenic drive was beautiful.
Muir Woods is great as well. Make sure you get online and reserve a parking slot. That is a must otherwise you get turned away.

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dm200
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Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco Roadtrip

Post by dm200 » Tue Nov 12, 2019 9:42 am

My wife, young son and I did that in the 1980's. Great trip!

Lots of good ideas others have posted.

I would include a visit to one of the large groves of Coastal Redwoods.

In San Francisco, we enjoyed a several hour bus tour of the city. We also had dinner in Chinatown.

17 Mile drive was very nice

When we did this, it was a circular trip from LA to San Francisco and back. We chose to go north - along the coast first because both my wife and I have a problem with heights - and when driving north - you are in the travel lane away from the edge/cliff. :)

Another possibility might be to go more inland - visit Sequoia/Kings Canyon national parks - see the big trees. The central valley is nice - lots of agriculture - and Yosemite was wonderful.

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Watty
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Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco Roadtrip

Post by Watty » Tue Nov 12, 2019 10:06 am

One thing to keep in mind is that if you drive up Highway 1 along the California coast that is a long slow drive that will eat up a lot of time.

Depending on how much time you need to spend in San Francisco and Los Angeles that might not leave you with a lot of time to enjoy the coast.

If you don't have any business meeting in LA it might make more sense to Fly into San Francisco the just drive down the coast as far as Monterey then loop back up to San Francisco. You could also drive along the coast part of the way and then go inland to catch an interstate to drive the rest of the way.

Remember that many of the attractions and restaurants will be closed on Thanksgiving day. You may want a condo for that Wednesday and Thursday so you can make your own meals that day.

I have not seen any mention of Disneyland or the other amusement parks in LA. If that comes up I would skip those since they can be even more crowded than usual over holidays and will even sometimes get to the point where they turn people away.
Last edited by Watty on Tue Nov 12, 2019 10:07 am, edited 1 time in total.

Dave55
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Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco Roadtrip

Post by Dave55 » Tue Nov 12, 2019 10:07 am

Route 1 Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to Santa Cruz is just gorgeous. If you stop in Carmel, park your car on Scenic Road around or south of 8th street. You can go down to the beach or walk along Scenic Road which follows the beach and coast, great views. There is another great walk along the ocean/Monterey Bay in Pacific Grove about 5 minutes drive from the Monterey Aquarium. Head over to Lover's Point and park on Ocean View Blvd. Then walk west on Ocean View away from Lover's point. There are tide pools along the path and spectacular views all the way to Santa Cruz on a clear day. I would also stop in Santa Barbara, check out the town and visit the Pier there.

Dave

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Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco Roadtrip

Post by Former BH Lurker » Tue Nov 12, 2019 10:11 am

San Luis Obispo is a wonderful, quiet college town. We like (a lot) a small Italian restaurant there called La Locanda. There is a new hotel downtown that we have not tried that may be nice. "New" generally is.
Having gone up and down the state many times taking every possible route, I suggest the following: from San Luis take Highway 1 north towards Cambria and San Simeon (Hearst Castle). There are tours at Hearst Castle, now run by the state. Check on-line for times and tickets. On the way there from Cambria you will pass a beach (right off the highway) where Elephant Seals congregate every year. Very interesting. If the family is into natural history, definitely stop and watch. It can be quite a show.
From Hearst Castle I recommend backtracking to Cambria and then eastward to 101 via Highway 46 and then north up 101. Why? From San Simeon to the Monterey peninsula Highway 101 is very, very windy and, frankly, boring for anyone not sitting in the front seat. Car sickness anyone?
On Highway 46, you will roll through one of the state's wine regions. Olives are also grown there. Something we have found really quite fun is olive oil tasting. The whole family can do it. We like Pasolivo, which has a tasting facility ("Pasolivo Ranch") right where they press the olives. It is not far off Highway 46. https://www.pasolivo.com/ Oak trees and Acorn Woodpeckers abound.
For SF, where I have lived and still work: Yes, you can go to Fisherman's Wharf. And, yes, Dungeness Crab will be in season and available at stalls on the street there. And, yes, it IS delicious. And, yes, you can go to the Boudin Sourdough Bread facility right there and watch them bake and eat some of their product -- also delicious. That can be fun. But, here are a couple of recommendations that are less touristy: 1. The Cable Car Museum http://www.cablecarmuseum.org/index.html Not only do you get to learn about the cable cars' history, but right there are the engines and giant flywheels that power them. And, hey, it's free. 2. A walking tour of a part of the City, as it is arrogantly called, using City Guides. https://sfcityguides.org/ . Interesting and, hey, it's free.
Sorry to go on so long. You probably are experiencing recommendation overload. Perhaps the best one would be: explore on your own.

RetiredArtist
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Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco Roadtrip

Post by RetiredArtist » Tue Nov 12, 2019 7:19 pm

When you get to San Francisco, don't leave ANYTHING in your car, not even in the trunk.

kacang
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Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco Roadtrip

Post by kacang » Tue Nov 12, 2019 8:09 pm

If it's on your way, Ano Nuevo State Park is excellent for viewing the elephant seals in it's natural habitat. Closer to San Francisco, Fitzgerald Marine Reserve at Moss Beach has tide pools, best seen during low/negative tides.

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Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco Roadtrip

Post by Sandi_k » Tue Nov 12, 2019 8:19 pm

Greater NorCal thoughts...

1) Yes to the Monterey Aquarium. Note that tix are EXPENSIVE, so be prepared.

2) We really enjoyed staying at a nearby hotel a few years back, that really cast us back to 1970's beach hotels - in a good way. It's the only one right on the beach, and the rooms have drop-down vents in the room so you can hear the ocean at night. They also allow BONFIRES ON THE BEACHm which is outlawed in most Cali beach communioties these days. It's changed hands since we stayed there, and it's now called the Monterey Tides Hotel:

http://montereytides.com/

3) Yes to Alcatraz - a boat ride, and a great historic tour. Make sure to get the audio tour assist, as the interviews and narration are top-notch.

4) Tech Museum of San Jose

5) Rosicrucian Museum, also in San Jose. They have a full-size replica of King Tut's tomb, very cool.

6) Rent bikes in Sausalito, and ride them across the Golden Gate Bridge. Your kids will remember it always.

7) Also in Sausalito, the scale model of the SF Bay and its inland waterways, including the California Delta. Made by the Army Corps of Engineers, and an awesome oddity.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_ ... ornia.html

JackoC
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Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco Roadtrip

Post by JackoC » Wed Nov 13, 2019 10:13 am

aude wrote:
Mon Nov 11, 2019 11:29 pm
All,

I have some business meetings in San Francisco early the week following Thanksgiving and see an opening to take the family (spouse plus kids 13, 10 and 7) on a vacation the week before. We are flying into L.A. around 11/22 and they will fly out of S.F. around 12/1. This is somewhat last minute, but we are nailing down the itinerary ASAP. We will likely largely stick to the Pacific Coast Highway, but happy to deviate for good stuff.
I'd just note that a number of the suggestions which might be great ones aren't on the PCH (as most people in the US know it, though people from CA seem to prefer to call it Hwy 1) and once you use that road past Hwy 46 (not far north of Morro Bay) you're pretty much stuck on it to Monterrey area except for a few very small mountain roads that go east.

I found on a 'family' vacation a few years back (several sisters-in-law plus myself and wife, none of anyone's grown kids) going south (so you're on the outside cliff edge) all the way from Monterrey to Morro Bay was spectacular scenery, but a trying drive eventually in a big SUV. A bit nerve racking actually in a vehicle like that with so-so handling and grip, high c of g etc. After awhile I have to say, as driver, I was quietly hoping for it to be over. This year just my wife and I went north, same whole distance, in our BMW M2. Besides the greater comfort being on the inside lane, the actual driving is a lot of fun in a car with that kind of precision in handling plus tons of grip and braking ability. I was sorry the drive ended so fast.

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Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco Roadtrip

Post by boomer_techie » Thu Nov 14, 2019 2:58 am

JackoC wrote:
Wed Nov 13, 2019 10:13 am
I'd just note that a number of the suggestions which might be great ones aren't on the PCH (as most people in the US know it, though people from CA seem to prefer to call it Hwy 1)
Southern Californians call it PCH ("pea-sea-eitch"), while Northern Californians call it Highway 1. Keep this in mind when reading guidebooks - both names refer to the same thing. This may be because down south, the PCH is a major thoroughfare through many towns, while up north, 1 is thought of more as a rural highway connecting places.

JBTX
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Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco Roadtrip

Post by JBTX » Thu Nov 14, 2019 4:42 am

I decided to do the same think decades ago. Was in LA area and just started driving up route one. Before long I realized route one in LA area goes through some very industrial areas and other urban areas that aren't at all scenic. At that point I think I diverted to the freeway and went up to somewhere around Santa Barbara before I took route one again.

It is very slow, but it is gorgeous. I didn't do a lot of stopping but just enjoyed the drive.

kiwi123
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Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco Roadtrip

Post by kiwi123 » Thu Nov 14, 2019 6:08 am

Our favorite restaurant (and best value for what you're getting). Flatbread Full of Life Pizza in Los Alamos (about 15 min drive north of Los Olivos in SB Wine Country area). Awesome wood fired pizza and all local produce/slow food movement and local wine and beer. Great for kids too. Check their site first for opening days and times (i think Thur-Sunday). It can get really busy after 6pm.

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celia
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Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco Roadtrip

Post by celia » Thu Nov 14, 2019 6:35 am

I second the idea of going in and out of San Francisco if your dates are firm. I’m not sure about the traffic on Hwy 1 (Pacific Coast Hwy) but the 5 and 99 through the middle of the state will be a parking lot on Wed before Thanksgiving and Sunday Dec 1. It will seem like half the people from SF go to LA for the short holiday as well as half of LA will go to SF. Your drive time on those days can be doubled and the Restroom stops will be crowded.

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dm200
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Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco Roadtrip

Post by dm200 » Thu Nov 14, 2019 10:01 am

celia wrote:
Thu Nov 14, 2019 6:35 am
I second the idea of going in and out of San Francisco if your dates are firm. I’m not sure about the traffic on Hwy 1 (Pacific Coast Hwy) but the 5 and 99 through the middle of the state will be a parking lot on Wed before Thanksgiving and Sunday Dec 1. It will seem like half the people from SF go to LA for the short holiday as well as half of LA will go to SF. Your drive time on those days can be doubled and the Restroom stops will be crowded.
Note that (we did when we made a car trip) if you drive south from San Francisco along the Pacific coast, you are driving closer to the edge of the highway - . My wife an I both have trouble with heights - so we chose to drive north along the coast so we were driving further from the edge.

WildBill
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Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco Roadtrip

Post by WildBill » Thu Nov 14, 2019 11:39 am

Howdy

Museum of Computer Science in Mountain View

Visit Stanford and hike the Dish Hill

Big second to earlier recommendation for Big Basin State Park and the redwoods

Masses of stuff to do in San Francisco - it is not what it used to be but it is still a cool place

Visit UCB campus in Berkeley
"Through chances various, through all vicissitudes, we make our way." Virgil, The Aeneid

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dm200
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Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco Roadtrip

Post by dm200 » Thu Nov 14, 2019 11:44 am

Our family liked Knott's Berry Farm.

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PalmQueen
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Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco Roadtrip

Post by PalmQueen » Thu Nov 14, 2019 1:44 pm

Watty wrote:
Tue Nov 12, 2019 10:06 am
One thing to keep in mind is that if you drive up Highway 1 along the California coast that is a long slow drive that will eat up a lot of time.

Depending on how much time you need to spend in San Francisco and Los Angeles that might not leave you with a lot of time to enjoy the coast.

If you don't have any business meeting in LA it might make more sense to Fly into San Francisco the just drive down the coast as far as Monterey then loop back up to San Francisco. You could also drive along the coast part of the way and then go inland to catch an interstate to drive the rest of the way.

Remember that many of the attractions and restaurants will be closed on Thanksgiving day. You may want a condo for that Wednesday and Thursday so you can make your own meals that day.

I have not seen any mention of Disneyland or the other amusement parks in LA. If that comes up I would skip those since they can be even more crowded than usual over holidays and will even sometimes get to the point where they turn people away.
+1
Or fly into San Jose (much more manageable airport) and explore Monterey/Carmel/Big Sur area.
+1 on the condo over the holiday also

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celia
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Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco Roadtrip

Post by celia » Thu Nov 14, 2019 3:54 pm

dm200 wrote:
Thu Nov 14, 2019 10:01 am
Note that (we did when we made a car trip) if you drive south from San Francisco along the Pacific coast, you are driving closer to the edge of the highway - . My wife an I both have trouble with heights - so we chose to drive north along the coast so we were driving further from the edge.
A lot of people dislike the cliff area but I think most of it is south of Monterey.

Note Hwy 1 is also called Cabrillo Hwy in the middle of the CA coast.

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dm200
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Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco Roadtrip

Post by dm200 » Thu Nov 14, 2019 5:32 pm

celia wrote:
Thu Nov 14, 2019 3:54 pm
dm200 wrote:
Thu Nov 14, 2019 10:01 am
Note that (we did when we made a car trip) if you drive south from San Francisco along the Pacific coast, you are driving closer to the edge of the highway - . My wife an I both have trouble with heights - so we chose to drive north along the coast so we were driving further from the edge.
A lot of people dislike the cliff area but I think most of it is south of Monterey.

Note Hwy 1 is also called Cabrillo Hwy in the middle of the CA coast.
I cannot recall exactly where the high cliffs were as we drove north along the coast -- BUT I recall that we were very, very, very happy that we were traveling in the lane away from the cliff.

From our travels by car in various parts of California - it seems to me that a lot of areas do not seem to have a lot of guardrails.

From time to time, on some of these TV "true stories" of murders, etc. -- there are ones where cars are pushed off the cliffs killing the occupants), or folks being pushed off the cliffs - when stopping at a highway turn off.

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