Hi all, has taken me a while but here is my trip report.
Monday 16 Sept We arrived LAX from Sydney Australia, 3 hours late due to on board medical emergency and we had to land and offload patient in Honolulu. Flight was with Delta and I would not specifically choose them in the future, staff seemed cranky and impatient, even before the problem. On arrival at LAX our pre booked private shuttle was no longer able to convey us to our accommodation due to the delay, (still hoping for travel insurance to pay up for this) so we jumped on a super shuttle and got there in quick time anyway. We were very tired 17 hours on the plane, hungry and it was HOT the day we arrived, so straight to bed for the afternoon. The reason we had booked the private shuttle was we were traveling with our autistic son and wanted least amount of hassle but ended up with plenty of hassle. We were booked at the Anaheim courtyard by Marriott and we were well pleased with the location, cleanliness and quiteness of this lodging. Room was great and it had a bath!!! A level 15-20 minute walk to Disney and it was set well back from the busy road so no traffic noise, because it was a little further away, there were few families/children which suited us. Plenty of dining options nearby, we ate at the Pizza press opposite Disney entrance a few nights.
Tues 17 Sept started the day at California Adventure Park, first stop was guest services and we received a special guest access card for our son. Had a wonderful day, our son was extremely happy and enjoyed himself. We had a 2 day hopper pass so hopped to Disney later in the day and stayed to watch the parade then back to CAP to watch world of colour. A very kind guide advised us 5 mins before the display was to finish so we could make an easy crowd free getaway with our son. Apart from the parade and WOC, the crowds were not a problem for him, it was not a busy time which suited us. One of our worries was the presence of balloons as our son is terrified of them and of characters approaching him, but neither posed a major problem and we were able to avoid most encounters.
Wed 18 Sept more Disney and CAP, watched the afternoon parade at CAP. Our fav rides were: for our son Jim, radiator springs cars ride: for my hubby, California screaming: for me, space mountain ghost galaxy! and we all enjoyed soaring over California. Jim actually loves all the sensory experiences of various rides, his only concern is loud bangs/explosions/gunshots and the only ride we had a problem with was the Jungle boat as there is a gunshot and elephants making a lot of noise! He didn't enjoy that one. Both days at the parks we had perfect weather, and even ran into a work mate unexpectedly, small world. We are not into Disney at all but that certainly did not detract from the enjoyment, we were so impressed, all the hype is true!
Thurs 19 Sept today we picked up our rental car from Hertz, and were upgraded to a Cadillac SUV with all the bells and whistles. Took to the road for the first time driving on the right, luckily hubby drives for a living and drives modified vehicles in Aus where he drives a truck with right hand drive. so not too much trouble, however we decided to head for the beach and thought we would be on local type roads for our first time driving, but GPS sent us straight to a 7 lane freeway, oh well, nothing like a baptism of fire. We ended up randomly at Balboa Island and pier. Love stumbling upon gems like this, beautiful homes, beautiful weather, took the car ferry (as pedestrians) over to the pier and had lunch at Ruby's. Note to others, when parking the car in completely unfamiliar areas take a photo of the nearest crossroad in case you forget where the car is, then google map the street. Headed back off in the car and checked out Huntington Beach and Long Beach areas. Back to Anaheim for dinner, just simple Chinese.
Fri 20 Sept Today we head out on the road to Palm Springs. Excellent drive, thank goodness for the GPS. unfortunately floods had damaged the canyons so we could not visit. But we did go on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway up to san Jacinto State Park for some hiking and views. The gondola's have revolving floor so you get a great view all the way up and down. We spent a few hours up in the cool of the mountains before heading back down to the heat of Palm Springs, had a late lunch and headed back to stop in at Cabazon outlets to buy some Nikes for the family back home (we pay $$$$$$$$ for Nikes in Aus, so cheap in US) Had a cheats dinner at Macca's and arrived back in Anaheim after dark.
Sat 21 Sept Today we left Anaheim and drove up the I5 to Santa Clarita and straight to hurricane harbor. Arrived about 11am, couldn't believe the fee to park the car, an additional $18 on top of admission, ouch! The park was OK value at $30 online ticket, but really disappointed with the standard of this park, very dirty and untidy, including the water. Our water parks in Aus are way ahead of this one, I thought the standard would be much higher in the US, especially with the example Disney sets. Would not recommend to others at all. We left early and spent the afternoon at the hotel pool area, we only had to share it with one other group and it was a lovely setting, with bar available and deck loungers. The lodging was again a courtyard marriott! can't complain, our room was on the ground floor and opened to a very green small,lawn and then straight to the pool deck. Had dinner at a steakhouse in Stevenson ranch (can't think of the name) but definitely enjoyed some ribs, burgers etc. After dinner we spent an hour admiring the amazingly CHEAP prices in Walmart and checking out the local shoppes, there were Halloween decorations everywhere which was a treat as we don't do the big Halloween celebration in Aus.
Sun 22 Sept after seeing and hearing the roller coasters next door at 6 flags we decided to go! we were in 2 minds whether to include this in our itinerary but we were right there so why not. The park was busy, it was close to the last weekend opening of the season, got busier later in the day. Even with a special guest card (they use a fast pass system for special needs guests, not front of queue) we only managed 4 of the big rides, but that was enough as far as I was concerned. We left around 4pm and headed to our next overnight stop at Santa Barbara, quite a short drive. We checked in to the Sandman Inn and then went in search of Mexican for dinner, walked around the town, lots of people out and about for a Sunday night, the evening was very mild and perfect for a walk around the town.
Mon 23 Sept After an included breakfast at the sandman, We spent the morning seeing Santa Barbara by daylight, spent time at the pier, Alvarado street, shopping, and had a nice Italian lunch before leaving for our next stop on the coast, Cayucos. Arrived in Cayucos just in time to watch a beautiful sunset over the ocean, had dinner I think at Sea shanty, lodging was a cute little ma and pa place called Seaside Motel.
Tues 24 Sept left Cayucos and headed up the coast toward our next stopover, Monterey, after backtracking a little to Morrow Bay. While driving highway 1 we saw a sign reading "HIGH surf area" next minute a large wave hit the sea wall to our left and sprayed all over the car in front, pretty strange, but obviously happens as signs are required to warn drivers, still wasn't expecting that!!! Drove to Big sur with numerous view point stops, spectacular! but not as scary as I though it might have been which was good as I was the passenger on the cliff side. We continued on to Monterey via Carmel by the Sea and checked into our budget accommodation Super 8 Monterey, on Munras Ave. Clean and pleasant with a very basic breakfast included.
Wed 25 Sept Unfortunately while out having dinner in Monterey, I broke my tooth and I spent Wed morning in the dentist chair having a temporary crown inserted, consequently I did not see much of Monterey as we had to push on for the drive to Yosemite! We were on our way by 11am, took a few wrong turns however and got stuck on a divided road and could not turn for miles :/ finally heading in the right direction stopped off in Merced for groceries as were staying in a private cabin lodging for the next 3 nights. It was a pretty drive, lots of fruit stands, juicy strawberries. We arrived at Foresta Ridge Cabins around 5pm thanks to the excellent instructions provided, don't think we would have found it without them, even with GPS as it was quite isolated, but a perfect log cabin, just what I wished for for our Yosemite stay!! Time to relax with a few wines and watch the stars in the dark, dark night sky on a perfectly clear night.
Thurs 26 Sept Today we drove out to Glacier Point, and it was breathtaking. This is a view that you cannot imagine, and pictures do not do it justice. We admired the view for quite a while and then headed out on a hike to Illilouette falls - 4 miles down then as we kept going down we were reminded ourselves we had to climb back up. but is was great to get out and see the wonderful landscape, our son is non stop when it comes to walking, he would go all day, we saw a few deer on the trail and bird life also. When we reached the falls a group riding horses came along, what a wonderful experience that would be. we had our lunch down by the water and then It was time to head back up. The views of sentinel dome, half dome, the valley floor, vernal and Nevada falls were amazing and constant.
Fri 27/9 Today we headed down into the valley and took the shuttle around to get our bearings, walked around for a bit, lots of deer on the tracks. Decided to take the Mist Trail up to vernal Fall, with our son so keen to go onwards and upwards, we continued on all the way up to Nevada fall. This was steep, rocky, windy, and a little bit frightening, and very physically challenging. I wasn't prepared to go back down the way we had come as it was treacherous, so we descended via john Muir trail. this was a very challenging hike but also we were very proud to make it and experience so much of the park, our son was unstoppable so we had no choice really! Back to the cabin for a well earned soak in the bath. And that was our 3 nights/ 3 days in Yosemite and my favourite part of the trip.
Sat 28 Sept Left Yosemite and drove via Highway 120 across the Sierra Nevada toward lee vining! our final destination today is Sth Lake Tahoe for 2 nights. It was too windy to take the paddle boat cruise as planned, but we used the free bicycles from our lodging at Alder Inn to explore the lake and town. bike tracks were a little disjointed and you did have to ride on the road in places, not great for my son but we managed.
Sun 29 Sept drove around the lake and also over to Carson City to explore. Relaxing rest day for the most part.
Mon 30 Sept We left Sth Lake Tahoe around 9am and arrived San Francisco lunch time. Our room at Orchard Garden hotel was not ready and being right next door to China Town we went for a walk, our son was spooked by firecrackers or throw downs being set off in the street, he is not a fan of loud noise and he was frightened. I thought that the whole stay might be difficult in the noisy city, but we had no further problems after that. Checked in and then left for dinner in China Town, and a walk down to the waterfront, visited the sea lions etc, and caught the cable car back towards Bush Street. We prefer to walk most places, and the hills did not bother us in SF.
Tues 1 Oct Started the day by visiting the Cable Car Museum, which as free and fantastic, hubby being an ex mechanic loved to see all the open areas and the view of the working cables. Next we walked to Lombard street and up the hill, onto Hyde Street and down towards the bay. we decided to continue walking to the Golden Gate Bridge, stopping at Safeway to buy some lunch and snack provisions for the epic walk ahead. It's a long walk from Union Square via crissy Field over the length of the bridge and down into Sausalito but as I said our son is keen to walk and so we did! it was a relief to get on the ferry at the end. This was a full day of walking but we saw so much it was well worth the effort.
Wed Oct 2 Today we visited Union Square shops and then set out for Haas Lilenthal house. a Queen Anne period house which survived the earth quake and fire. Very cute older lady took the tour and she did have a few issues with her memory for the facts of the house which was humorous, also our son decided to seat himself on a century old seat. Not the done thing, but she didn't catch him out thank goodness. Had a late lunch in an old cafe on Polk Street and then back to the hotel to their roof top terrace for wine and cheese and a relax.
Thursday Oct 3 today we explored Little Italy, pizza for lunch! headed down Stockton to the waterfront for a nice cream at Ghiridellis, explore Fishermans Wharf and had the usual tourist feast of chowder in sour dough bowls. Spent some time shopping and soaking up our last night in SF before boarding the grand princess in the morning.
Thanks to all on TA who answered my questions and gave their opinions while I was planning, it turned out better than I hoped and our son had a great time and is now asking to go back!