Uh oh. It sounds like you'll be here during the very busy Memorial Day weekend. Yes?
L.A. 2 nights
Anaheim 2 nights
huge long drive to GCNP 1 night
Las Vegas 1 night
Oakhurst 1 night (long drive from LV around the southern end of the Sierra if Tioga Pass is still closed) OR Lee Vining/Mammoth Lakes 1 night (nicer drive thru Death Valley and north on Hwy 395 if Tioga Pass is open)
Yosemite Valley 1 night (please, please, please NOT on a weekend)
San Francisco 2 nights (drop car when you arrive)
That's a bare bones visit with no time for relaxation. Some of the long drives may make you crazy, or you may want longer ones. You've missed the beautiful Hwy 1 / Big Sur coast entirely. If you have two more days, I'd suggest driving from Yosemite to Monterey for 2 nights and driving south along the coast for your "layover" day. Then head on to SF.
If you don't really want to see the 'middle bits' of California, then just fly from Las Vegas to San Francisco on an internal flight.
Just to clarify, the Memorial Day Weekends is May 25-28 in 2012. It is a very popular US Holiday, basically what the US thinks of as the unofficial start of Summer. Lots of folks getting out and enjoying outside activities.
To avoid too much checking-in, checking-out, I would pick the Anaheim area for the first part of the trip, Disneyland and other related activities in the Orange County area, and day trips to San Diego and/or Los Angeles, maybe 5 nights, then head to Las Vegas for a couple of nights including a day trip to the Grand Canyon, then head north to San Francisco. As mentioned above, either a day or two drive, or you could opt to drop off your rental car in Las Vegas and fly into the Bay area (either San Francisco (SF) or Oakland (OAK) using a domestic discounted airline). San Francisco has very good public transit, so you could spend the last few nights in the city without a car.
Hello, Nick C, and welcome to TripAdvisor and the California forum. A Kiwi on their first California and Western USA tour, yes? (smile)
Some tweaks from this desert 'dog: Pacific NW has given you the major overview and frame for your suggested itinerary, and it's a good one. Consider adding these as you travel from place to place. . .
Coming back from Grand Canyon National Park, get off of Interstate 40 at exit 123 and check out Seligman. There's a few restaurants and tourist businesses there worth checking out - I like the Roadkill Cafe - and it's the start of a Historic US Route 66 minidetour that doesn't take more than a half hour extra straight driving time. Take Route 66 west to Kingman, and enjoy the relaxed pace of the road, and the less amount of traffic. This is the stretch of The Mother Road made famous in the movie "Cars." Peach Springs is Radiator Springs in the film. Kingman has all services, and is a good place to get fuel.
Do stop by Hoover Dam on your way to Las Vegas. There's a new bridge over the Colorado River there as part of US Route 93 which is designed to not let you see over the bridge as you drive. . . a good thing once you come to the dam and see the bridge from that vantage point. Hoover Dam is both very historic and very impressive. Dam tours available.
You'll want to make reservations for Yosemite Valley ASAP. The lodgings there fill up quickly. Don't wait on this detail. . . get 'er done now.
Awesome! Thanks for the tips. Travel dates are flexible so might give memorial day a miss and leave earlier! May also stretch it out to 12 days if it means a less hectic schedule....what's another $500 right?
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