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Nearly there!!!

Werribee, Australia
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Nearly there!!!

Hi Everyone

We are planning a family trip (2 adults, 2 kids, 11 & 9) to California next year. Our plan is to arrive around the 6th of April and travel to a few destinations before returning home at the end of April.

After much discussion and help from the helpful people here (Thanks Darkbeer, Kibblesmom, Redlands Redhead, Belomiser, PacificNWFamily I really appreciate your input) I think we are getting very close to our 'perfect' itinerary. I am hoping we can get some more general feedback on our our trip but have posted in other forums to get specific help for each place we plan to visit.

We'd appreciate any advice at all.

Fly Melbourne to LAX (arrive early morning 7 am)

Stay in Santa Monica (Oceanview Hotel) for 3 nights (plan to do the 'Hop on Hop off' bus tour in LA, ,Hollywood homes tour and Universal Studios - at this point we'd be there on Easter Sunday will it be crazy there or should we be ok? We could add an extra day in Santa Monica and then go there on the Monday if that would be better or go a day earlier on the Saturday??)

Drive the coast road staying at Cambria for 1 night (not sure where to stay yet, suggestions welcome) visiting whatever takes our fancy along the way. is there anything we shouldn't miss? Looked at Hearst castle but was put off by a few reviews saying it wasnt really worth the cost happy to hear other viewpoints.)

Drive the coast road staying at Monteray for 2 nights (not sure where to stay yet,suggestions welcome) visiting whatever takes our fancy along the way, any places we shouldn't miss? Not sure if we should stay 2 nights here or get heading to Yosemite?

Drive to Yosemite staying for 2 nights (not sure where to stay yet, suggestions welcome) We think we will spend some time in the park the morning before our drive to San Francisco. At this point we will have Thursday afternoon, Friday, Saturday morning)

Drive to San Francisco (Holiday Inn Suites at Fishermans Wharf or Club Donatello or Suites at Fishermans Wharf ?) for 3 nights (plan to do Alcatraz tour, Golden Gate bridge, evening Chinatown dinner tour, ride the cable cars, Walt Disney museum, a bay cruise perhaps?) We have been told car parking can be expensive in the hotels here do you have any suggestions for those with cheap or free parking or could we survive here without a car?

Fly from San Fran to Las Vegas (Mandalay Bay - is it too far out? Is Circus Circus better for kids??) for 3 nights. (maybe see a show - I was sad to see The Lion King will be over, is the shopping good there? Neon Lights Tour? other sufggestions welcome, as the kids won't be old enough for us to be in casinos what shouldn't we miss?)

Drive to Grand Canyon - south rim for 1 night (not sure where to stay yet, suggestions welcome) We plan to do a sunset tour the day we arrive and then a sunrise tour the next morning. We will probably spend quite a bit of time there before heading to Phoenix.

Drive to Phoenix and fly to San Diego (Hotel Indigo Gaslamp quarter) for 3 nights (San Diego Zoo & ? probably not Seaworld as we went recently in Australia and there is quite a bit that looks similar)

The alternative is return to Las Vegas and fly to San Diego from there. Thinking a flight rather than driving to give the kids a break from being in the car???

Drive to Legoland for the day then on to Anaheim (Would the kids prefer Knotts Berry do you think??)

Anaheim (HoJo or Park Vue Inn - will it be warm enough for the kids to swim at HoJo's in late April?) for 5 nights (Disneyland (2 or 3 days) and California Adventureland, Medievel Times??, we think we can also have a recovery day in there somewhere between theme parks). Will 3 full days at Disneyland and California Adventure be enough? We could spend some more time there on the day we head to LA as our flight isn't until 11.30pm. Should we keep the car whilst in Anaheim? I think we'll be close enough to walk to the Disney parks so is it a waste?

We have considered staying in a Disney hotel but so far when I have tried to look at availability they are all showing as full, am I perhaps too early and need a travel agent to check it out or would they be booked? I think we'll probably be there (April 24th - 28th.

Our flight out from LAX is at 11.30pm

Fly home with smiles on our faces!!

I look forward to receiving your advice, thanks :) Sue

Cuenca, Ecuador
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for California Desert
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1. Re: Nearly there!!!

Hello, Sue, and welcome to the California forum.

You've already recieved much good advice from the folks you've mentioned above. . . most if not all of them are Destination Experts as I also am. We're not perfect, but we are willing to extend ourselves so that you may have the best vacation that suits your needs and wants while with us. 'Tis my pleasure to put in my proverbial two cents. . . .

I don't know specifically what Easter is like "down below" in LA anymore, but where I live the retail stores and even some restaurants shut down for the day. It would be my guess to take the day off from the usual tourist stuff just in case that impacts any of your plans.

Cambria/San Simeon: the Motel 6 in San Simeon has large rooms, and is very adequate accommodations for most. We were happy to stay here. Great pricing. The Best Western Plus Cavalier in San Simeon is a very nice hotel where I've stayed with tour groups while in the tour driving business. Good convenient restaurant onsite. In Cambria, the Blue Dolphin Inn would be a great choice for lodging - Kibblesmom has high regard for it of late.

I don't know where you got the idea that Hearst San Simeon State Historic Park - "Hearst Castle" in the vernacular - is not a good place to stop and visit. This is simply the most exquisite residence in the entire State of California. . . and was bequeathed by newspaperman William Randolph Hearst himself to the state parks system in order to preserve it. The European Middle Ages artwork inside and the paintings in the rooms, much less the overall architectural style and appointments built into the property such as the Roman Pool make this an unforgettable experience. At $12 a person for a tour ticket, I wouldn't pass this one by. You'll regret it.

What to see while driving California State Route 1/Pacific Coast Highway: the elephant seals, Ragged Point, McWay Falls (viewable roadside or take the half mile hike one way), Nepenthe (for the views as well as a general rest stop and to get food and drink) and the iconic Bixby Bridge. The rest imho is negotiable. The ones I've listed I would not miss.

Two days in the Monterey area is a good idea. I like to visit Carmel for the lowkey downtown shopping, as well as tour the Carmel Mission. 17 Mile Drive is worth the trip imho for the Lone Cypress and to see Pebble Beach golf course, and the mansions adjacent to it and the roadways. Others on the forums disagree. They favor Point Lobos, which I have no experience with. Maybe do both. Cannery Row imho is more touristy than it needs to be, and I don't care for it as much as Carmel, though it is home to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which I keep hearing is a great place to visit, especially for kids.

Yosemite National Park reservations in the park itself needs to be taken care of ASAP. . . and ideally, NOW. PacificNWFamily and other TA members can help you with the details. I understand from her that reservations in the park go quite quickly, even within minutes. Flexibility may well be needed. Check out the Yosemite National Park forum for help from her and the rest of the members there.

I love the Holiday Inn Fisherman's Wharf. I miss the place! Recommend. The Denny's onsite has the best Eggs Benedict. Yum! Your SF itinerary looks very nice. Parking fees are sky high at FW. I'd recommend not having a car while in SF. Recommend the In-N-Out Burger close by for the quintessential American hamburger fast food meal. Restrooms are downstairs in the back.

Las Vegas: Mandalay Bay beats Circus Circus hands down. CC is past its prime, and is not in the center of what's going on in the Strip anymore, and you would have to walk quite a bit or drive to get to where you want to go. Where I would go to stay in Las Vegas, though, is off the Strip. Read my "Terrible" review here: tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g45963-d2248… This is especially due to you having children with you. . . Las Vegas is no place to have children imho. Not in the least family friendly of a destination, and doesn't try to be anymore.

Tons of shopping there. . . on Strip and off. There are two factory outlet malls in town, and the one south of Tropicana on the Strip - Las Vegas Factory Outlets - is the one I recommend. The Fremont Street Experience downtown is very good and do take the kids to see it. . . nighttime gives it the best illuminative effect. Take the kids to Hoover Dam - tours available - don't miss it - as well as Valley of Fire and Red Rock Canyon. Boulder City next to Hoover Dam is a nongambling zone, and consequently is kid friendly that way.

Grand Canyon National Park - South Rim: stay in the park if at all possible. Maswick Lodge is a great GC village place to stay, and has a cafeteria onsite. Casual dress. El Tovar is more expensive, and would be wonderful to stay at if you can as it is right by the rim. Restaurant/fine dining onsite. My review of the Grand Canyon/South Rim is here: tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g143028-d103… I would use my review as a template to base your visit upon. Do try to book your lodging reservations now, as these places in the park book up earlier than places outside the park, like Tusayan and Williams.

Why are you thinking of driving to Phoenix? If you desire to visit Oak Creek Canyon and Sedona (and I'd add Jerome to these places), I'd understand. If not. . . why not go back to Las Vegas, but on the way back, get off I-40 at exit 123 and stop in Seligman. Roadkill Cafe is a fun place where the food is healthy, but the menu names are, shall we say, humorous. Take a look around to see a "never say die" Historic US Route 66 town that still survives. Then continue on Route 66 west to Kingman and see the sights (but not the Grand Canyon Caverns, which are not as good an attraction as the billboard signs let on) on the way. This is the same stretch of road made famous in the film "Cars." Radiator Springs in the movie is Peach Springs, Arizona. From Kingman, you could take Sitgreaves Pass (my review is here: http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g31259-d1449308-r104536646-Sitgreaves_Pass-Kingman_Arizona.html) to Oatman and see wild burros and a real (staged) western street gunfight. . . or just backtrack to Las Vegas via Hoover Dam on US 93. Fly to San Diego from McCarran Airport in LV, unless you really want to see the Mojave Desert, which is my home and travel specialty I'm recognized as an expert on around here. Let me know if that's the case. I could take you to some dry lake beds and ghost towns for starters. . . (smile)

In San Diego, get a hire car (rent a car) and keep it until you fly home. California is a car culture kind of place, especially Southern California. It will help you get to Legoland, and will make it easier to get to Knott's Berry Farm and Medieval Times, both in Buena Park. Two days in Disneyland, one in California Adventure sounds good. One in Knotts, one for Medieval Times/downtime. While at Knott's, make sure you go eat the chicken dinner at Mrs. Knott's restaurant. Home cooking and freshly made food. Save some room for dessert!

Have a wonderful vacation and stay with us.

Cuenca, Ecuador
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for California Desert
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2. Re: Nearly there!!!

Whoops! Somehow my Sitgreaves Pass link didn't take. Here it is again:

tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g31259-d1449…

San Diego...
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3. Re: Nearly there!!!

I replied to your thread in the San Diego forum with specific details about San Diego, but I'll post this itinerary in this thread as a suggestion for your route. You'll need to compile all the replies to all your threads and digest them all, then decide what is best for you and your family.

You are smart to fly from San Francisco to Las Vegas because in April the mountain passes will still be closed and the drive from SF to LV would be a long boring one. But I wouldn't bother flying to San Diego because you can just drive there in one or 2 days and see things along the way, and if you did fly that would mean renting a car 3 times during your trip.

My suggestion would be:

1. Arrive LAX. Spend the rest of that day relaxing, maybe hang out on a beach.

2-3. Stay in LA area 2 days, visit Universal Studios one day, Six Flags Magic Mountain one day (if your kids are thrillseekers). If you are all into gardens, spend an afternoon at the Huntington Library in San Marino, near Pasadena.

4. If your kids are interested in horseback riding on the beach, drive to Pismo Beach and stay there that night, do the horseback riding that day. Otherwise drive to Cambria instead. Cambria is a 4-hour drive from LA, plus time spent at stops. Take a late afternoon tour of Hearst Castle that day.

5. See the elephant seals at Piedras Blancas or San Simeon State Beach, continue the drive on Highway 1. Stop at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park to view the waterfall that lands on the beach. Stop at Pfeiffer-Big Sur State Park for a quick stroll through the redwoods or next to the Big Sur River. Lunch at Nepenthe. Continue the drive on Highway 1. End the day at Point Lobos State Reserve, just before Carmel. Spend at least 2 hours there, or from whatever time you get there until sunset. Walk the Cypress Grove Trail, see China Cove, return to Sea Lion Point for the sunset. Your day use parking fee at one California state park is good for day use parking at all others on the same day, as long as it is less than or equal to what you paid already that day. I will be one of the ones that will urge you to make Point Lobos a much higher priority than the 17-mile drive. Stay in Monterey or Carmel that night.

6. See Monterey/Carmel area. Possibly the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the oceanfront along Ocean View Boulevard, possibly kayak at Elkhorn Slough. Stay again in Monterey that night.

7-8. Drive to Yosemite National Park, if the roads are clear and there is no chain requirement for the tires. If there is a chain requirement, drive to Mariposa, California instead, leave your car at the Park and Ride and take a YARTS bus up into Yosemite. Stay at least one night in Yosemite, preferably 2 nights. Not all park roads will be open in April; Glacier Point Road and Tioga Road will still be closed.

9-11. Drive to San Francisco. Spend your days there seeing and doing what you want to there. All kinds of possibilities there... Exploratorium, Ghirardelli Square, Muir Woods, Alcatraz, Golden Gate Park, and on and on. Fisherman's Wharf is generally considered a tourist trap by most on this forum.

12. Fly to Las Vegas. Spend your days there seeing and doing what you want. I think Las Vegas is a poor choice of destination for families with kids. Possible side trips include Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Mt. Charleston for skiing, Valley of Fire State Park. Not sure how many days you will stay in Las Vegas, so that could change these numbers.

13-14. Drive to Grand Canyon National Park, south rim. To get there, go through Henderson, Nevada and then to Hoover Dam via AZ Highway 93. You can drive over the dam itself or over a new bridge in front of the dam. About a 5-hour drive from Las Vegas to GCNP. Stay 2 nights at GCNP. It will be cold there in April, so be prepared for cold.

15. I wouldn't go to Phoenix at all, and I wouldn't fly to San Diego. Drive from GCNP west to Seligman, take Route 66 from Seligman to Kingman, take I-40 and Oatman-Topock Road to Oatman, see Oatman, drive south on Oatman-Topock Road to Interstate 40, take Interstate 40 east and then AZ Highway 95 south to Lake Havasu City. Stay in Lake Havasu City that night.

16. Drive south from Lake Havasu City to Parker Dam, drive across Parker Dam, the world's deepest dam, then you will be in California again. Continue on Parker Dam Road to Vidal Junction, pass the Cal. Agricutural Inspection station, drive west on 62 to Joshua Tree, drive through Joshua Tree National Park, see the wildflowers, exit Joshua Tree on the south side, take Interstate 10 west to Palm Springs. Stay in Palm Springs that night.

17. Ride the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to the top of Mt. San Jacinto, take a hike around Mt. San Jacinto State Park. It will be about 30 F colder at the top than it was at the bottom, and there may be snow on the ground at the top. Play in the snow, take pictures, etc. Take the tramway back down. You can then make a quick drive to San Diego (about 2.5 hours from Palm Springs) on Interstates 10 and 15, and stay in San Diego that night.

18-20. San Diego. See La Jolla, at least to view the sea lions at the cove, maybe visit Windansea Beach, or do sea kayaking at La Jolla Shores, go up to Torrey Pines Glider Port for the views and even possibly take a ride on a hang glider with a pilot. Visit the San Diego Zoo and the musuems/gardens area nearby the zoo. Visit Cabrillo National Monument for the views, history, and tide pools. Maybe take a harbor cruise or even a deep-sea fishing trip, or visit the USS Midway Museum or Maritime Museum. Belmont Park, a small oceanfront amusement park, has a wave house where you can try surfing a generated wave for a fee.

Your kids might be a little to old for Legoland. It was designed for young kids and the rides are very tame. If your kids are Lego fanatics, though, it would be a must-stop.

21-23. Drive to Anaheim. 2 full days at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. If your kids still want more theme parks, do Knott's separately. I would give priority to the Disney parks though. Maybe have one "relax" day at a beach such as Crystal Cove State Park.

24. For your last night, stay at a hotel very close to LAX, so that you don't have to deal with LA traffic on the day of your flight.

Be sure to browse this site: travelforkids.com/Funtodo/…california.htm

Edited: 13 November 2011, 05:37
Oregon Coast
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4. Re: Nearly there!!!

Some family-friendly ideas for Las Vegas attractions. Click on the blue links:

tripadvisor.com/Travel-g45963-s410/Las-Vegas…

tripadvisor.com/Travel-g45963-s401/Las-Vegas…

For LV lodging, take a look at Desert Rose... www.shellhospitality.com/Desert-Rose-Resort

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5. Re: Nearly there!!!

There are some nice properties in Cambria on Moonstone Beach Drive. The Fireside Inn, Pelican Cove Inn and Blue Whale Inn are a few of our favorites.

In Monterey (we are there now!) check out The Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa, The Spindrift Inn or The Best Western Plus Beach Resort. Have a great time! :)

6. Re: Nearly there!!!

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