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Northern California Trip report (7/29-8/6)

West Lawn...
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Northern California Trip report (7/29-8/6)

My wife and I had spent a long weekend in Napa in January without the kids and really enjoyed our short trip to Northern California. We even managed to spend one day in SF and do the alcatraz tour. So when we got home we decided to spend our summer vacation in Northern California.

We booked our airline tickets back in February and were able to get great deals flying from Philly to Sacramento ($206/person rt). We booked the 6am flight from philly which got us to Sacramento by about 10:45 am.

After picking up our rental car. We took I80 west and made our first stop at the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield. This put the kids in a great mood after a long flight. The free tour was cool and we all looked goofy wearing our Jelly Belly food hats. We had to wait about fifteen minutes for the tour but it all worked out since that gave both of us time to answer our cell phones since both of our familiers were wondering if we felt the earthquakes. Once we explained to them that we were far far away from Southern California things returned to normal.

After the Jelly Belly factory we continued on our way to San Francisco. We booked two nights at the Columbus Motor Inn based on the TA reviews. My review should be posted soon. My son and I are huge baseball fans so we were disappointed the Giants werent in town. However, we knew the A's were playing so we had made tenative plans to catch an A's game. We didnt know if we could do it because of our early flight and the 3 hour jet lag. But once we realized we all felt well enough to go we took the #30 bus to Bart and then over to the game. Not a big crowd so it was a breeze getting tix. We all made it until the 8th inning before we decided to finally call it a day after nearly 23 hours awake!

In the morning the front desk clerk gave us breakfast recommendations and we walked down the street to Joanies for a great breakfast. We had booked the Fire Engine tour for 11am that morning and that was a short walk from Joanies. The kids and even my wife and I enjoyed the Fire Engine tour. The songs were hokey and it felt a little odd putting on all the fireman gear but it really was a great time. It was very entertaining.

After the fire engine tour we had some Ice Cream at Norman's (I think) and then took the cable car to Chinatown. We took in the Fortune cookie factory where we bought some cookies and took in the sites and sounds of Chinatown. We gradually started walking back towards the hotel and took a few detours. We persuaded the kids to walk up to the Coit Tower and then bribed them to walk up to Lombard street. We took lots of pictures along the way and downed most of the cookies before getting back to the Columbus Motor Inn. After an hour or so we walked down to Fisherman's wharf and had dinner at the Rainforest Cafe which we had used to bribe the kids to walk up to Lombard Street. After dinner we strolled Pier 39 and watched the sea lions.

We checked out the next morning and took 101 south to Moutainview where we made a brief stop at the Nasa Ames Reserch Center. They have a small exhibit in the parking lot which really wasnt that great but it was still cool to be at a real NASA site. Plus, the kids enjoyed eating the freezed dried ice cream at the gift shop. Frome there we hopped back on 101 and hit the Intel Museum in Santa Clara. This was a pretty cool museum with lots of gadgets for the kids to check out. Also, at the exact time we were there the employee from Intel who carried the Olympic torch was in the lobby and the kids go to have their picture taken with him and the torch! Very cool! We hit a local Subway for lunch before continuing down the coast to Pacific Grove.

We booked one night at the Deer Haven Inn and Suites in Pacific Grove. Review should be posted soon. The Inn is very close to the Asilomar State Beach which the kids made a B line for as soon as we checked in. After an hour or so on the beach we hopped in the car and did the 17 mile drive. That was really something special! The views were spectacular and the Pebble Beach resort was really out of this world. After finishing the drive we hit a Mexican place in Pacific Grove that I cant remember the name of right now. The food was great but we had to wait forever for the check. Not a big deal since we're on vacation.

We checked out of the Inn the next day after the continental breakfast and drove in to Monterey to hit the Aquarium at the 930 opening. We parked in a lot which was a few blocks from the Aquarium immediately behind the Sardine Factory. There was no gate on the lot and no attendent in the booth and the signs were a little confusing so we decided to give it a try. We walked around for a half an hour and then visited the aquarium which the kids really enjoyed. We have been to the aquarium in Baltimore but this was much more special. After finishing up at the aquarium we walked back to the car to find a $20 parking ticket on the car which we had to pay in cash to the attendent who must have arrived at exactly 930am. Oh well. From there we drove back into Pacific Grove to grab a quick bite to eat. We stopped at a place called the 17th St Grill or Pub or something along the main drag in PG. The food was great but the bill was absurd. Two kids meals and two Hamburgers with FF and two $3 dollar sodas for nearly $50! Again, oh well. But that whole day just left all of us with a bitter taste for Monterey and Pacific Grove.

From there we drove to Yosemite where we had reservations at the Wawona Hotel for two nights. After the long drive the kids were anxious to get out of the car so we spent the late afternoon and early evening walking around the historical center and hanging out at the pool. The next day we got up early and had a great breakfast at the hotel before hopping on the shuttle to the Mariposa Grove of big trees. My wife loved the short hike we took although by this time the kids were tired of hiking and going through technology withdrawal since the hotel had no TV. After taking the shuttle back to the hotel we gave the kids a couple of hours to run around before driving up to Glacier Point. The kids got their DS fix in the car and by the time we got to Glacier Point we were all ready for the spectacular view. This was my favorite part of Yosemite. The view was almost comparable to the Grand Canyon. Almost. We took more pictures before buying the kids some ice cream at the gift shop. We drove back to the hotel just in time for the Saturday night Barbeque and the Barn Dance at the historical center. The barbeque was great and the barn dance was a little corny but the kids danced to the hokey pokey and enjoyed themselves. We also had a nice conversation with the people in the room next to ours while our children played DS and Uno with their grandchild.

The next day after breakfast we checked out and began our journey to our final stop of Lake Tahoe. The drive through the valley and then Tioga Pass was amazing with a post card view around every bend. We stopped numerous times to snap a few pics! We then stopped at Bodie and showed the kids a real ghost town. After that it was on to Lake Tahoe.

We checked in at the Holiday Inn Express in South Lake Tahoe where the kids immediately hit the pool and hot tub. We took a short walk to the Heavenly shops where we had a good dinner at Cecils while my son and I watched the Phillies game on ESPN on the flat screen that we sat in front of. The next day we rode the Gondola ride to the top of Heavenly in the morning before taking a short drive to Pope beach where the kids got to swim in the lake. In the evening we walked down to the Heavenly shops again and had dinner at Fire and Ice which was a really cool treat for all of us.

The next day we drove back to Sacramento for our return flight home. We had a few hours so we stopped off at the State Capitol for a quick tour. We didnt see Arnold! Then it was on to SMF for our flight home. We all had a fabulous time!!

San Jose, CA
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1. Re: Northern California Trip report (7/29-8/6)

Sounds like you had quite a trip. Sorry to hear that you were a bit soured on Monterey area. It is such a beautiful place.

Grover Beach...
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for Pismo Beach, Cambria, Big Sur
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2. Re: Northern California Trip report (7/29-8/6)

Sounds like a fun trip!

If you ever visit Monterey again, park along Ocean View Blvd in Pacific Grove past the American Tin Cannery Outlet. It's just a short walk back to the aquarium & Cannery Row and it's free.

I've eaten at the 17th St Grill and won't go back. I think Archie's just around the corner from the aquarium has far better food and it has a view of the bay. The prices are still high compared to chain fast food, but the quality of the food and the view make it worth the price of the meal.

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3. Re: Northern California Trip report (7/29-8/6)

Sounds like a great time, thanks for reporting back! :)

4. Re: Northern California Trip report (7/29-8/6)

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