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Should I get out of my Florida comfort zone?

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Should I get out of my Florida comfort zone?

Orlando and Florida is the family holiday destination that floats my boat big time. But next summer, in August, we're thinking that perhaps we should change the habit that we love so much and go somewhere else. I love America and Americans so outside of the USA is a non starter! But LA and Califonia's attractions seem a little scary to the completely ignorant.

We're a typical family 9, 14 and fortysomethings who like doing things - cities, eating good food, exploring new places, theme parks, nature - all the good things on this earth. But looking at the western seaboard is very daunting. So could anyone kindly suggest the framework of a two week itinerary? We're happy to move around but I guess would prefer to stay 3-4 nights at a time at any one place. Where should we start? Then where? Where is too far? And what should we definately see? My wish list would include Universal, Disney, some nature and possibly San Francisco. And watching the sunset with a big, fat, juicy cocktail in hand. Thank you so much for you help. S

Santa Monica, CA
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1. Re: Should I get out of my Florida comfort zone?

Everything you enjoy can be found here. The bonus is, no humidity and rolling hills, too!

For two weeks, you would probably enjoy:

2-3 nights in San Diego for Sea World, Wild Animal Park, and explore small San Diego beach towns (like LaJolla). I would try to fly into SD and rent a car there.

2-3 nights in Anaheim for Disneyland and to explore the Orange County beaches.

3 nights in LA. Try Santa Monica in August. Tons to do for the kids and you will love it, too. That big, juicy cocktail can be enjoyed at the restaurant at the end of Santa Monica's pier.

Then, either drive up the coast (highly recommended) stopping at some really unique towns (Santa Barbara, Solvang, San Luis Obispo, etc.) Monterey is a great place to stop for a night. Then on to San Francisco for a couple of days. You could fly to SF if you'd like, but the coast highway is pretty unique and beautiful.

You might swing a visit to Yosemite from SF, too.

Return home from San Francisco.

If this sounds do-able to you, ask questions on each city's forum to get specific questions answered.

If you don't want the whirlwind of a road trip, it is perfectly reasonable to stay several days in two different places, like San Diego and Los Angeles, and enjoy day trips from those bases.

Happy planning. I think you will really like the west coast vibe - join us!

Los Angeles...
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2. Re: Should I get out of my Florida comfort zone?

I would suggest spending a week in LA (You can do the whole disneyland/universal, you could even drive down to San Diego and go to their major zoo, sea world) and a week in SF (Lots of things to do in the city and you could even go south to the Monterey Bay Aquarium which is amazing for kids). Each area has SO many things going on, great food, great people. Lots of things for the kids AND adults to do.

Personally, I wouldn't do much with kids outside of those two city areas (unless you want to camp). Santa Barbara, Solvang, etc. are great places but probably a little less interesting for children of those ages.

I grew up in the Bay Area and have lived in LA for 5 years. If you need any help at all, don't hesitate to ask more questions :) California doesn't have to be a daunting idea for a trip.

West Hollywood...
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3. Re: Should I get out of my Florida comfort zone?

I couldn't have said it better than ddffpp. I'll point out some distinctions between Orlando/Kissimmee and L.A.

1. Orlando/Kissimmee (and most of the eastern seaboard of Florida) is a resort area. It's a place to relax, enjoy the sunshine, fish, go to theme parks, eat out, etc. The Disneyland Resort, in particular is very encapsulated: as you're aware, with little effort you can stay within the Resort during your entire holiday, making your way from attraction to attraction, to dining, etc

2. L.A. and Southern California and, in fact, the entire state of California is not a 'resort area'. L.A. is a major metropolitan center with some resort-type elements but, for the most part, there's more happening here than in eastern Florida. L.A.., for example, is the second-largest city in the U.S. and San Diego is not too far behind L.A. in population status. L.A. is home to the Music Industry, the Movie Industry and is a 'melting pot' of dozens of cultures. Our voting materials are printed in 8 languages including Tagalog (Filipino) and Farsi (Persian).

We have a variety of topography in California -- from deserts to mountains to beaches, etc, etc.

My point is: If you're going to visit the west coast, you'l need to spend an additional 5 or 6 hours on a plane crossing 3 additional time zones. Once you do, be aware that you'll have to put more effort into planning your holiday in L.A./California because there is SO MUCH MORE happening here.

That's not to say that planning your visit will be an arduous task; our Forum is packed with wonderful contributors and we have a TOP QUESTIONS BOX at the right side of this page which is a MUST READ which will get you started. Also pick up a copy of the DK Eyewitness Guide to L.A. (a British publication) -- google it. You might find a copy at your local library; if not, buy one online or at your local bookshop. This guide fits into your pocket and has great maps and photos.

Happy planning!

Rancho Santa...
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4. Re: Should I get out of my Florida comfort zone?

To answer your original question, absolutely. While Florida has it's charms, I daresay California's are so much more varied.

I like ddf's plan, too. Basically, it is a sampler. But, it will get you started. You could spend the whole time in L.A. However, I wouldn't discourage your California adventure.


Fortaleza, CE
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5. Re: Should I get out of my Florida comfort zone?

You're going to lay out a lot of money, so spending a few dollars on a guide book, in addiition to following the suggestions above (e.g., the Top Questins), would be a wise investment. California is the size of some countries in Europe. Literally hundreds of possiblities for your trip. Not enough space here to suggest a full two-week itinerary, especially not knowing you (even if you're "typical"). You could spend a couple of weeks just at theme parks and other attractions,such as the San Diego Zoo (and the zoo's separate wild animal park, outside of town), Disneyland, Disney Caifornia Adventure, Knott's Berry Farm, Univeral Studios, Magic Mountain and the comprhensive studio tours at Warner Brothers or Paramont of Sony, plus lots of museums. And that doesn't include the natural attracitons, ranging from Channel Island National Park to Yosemite. And many beaches. And how can you not visit San Francisco . . .

August will be busy and, in some areas, hot. But you'll have a great time.

Edited: 19 September 2012, 20:13
Dallas, Texas
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6. Re: Should I get out of my Florida comfort zone?

You will love California my first visit in March 1987 was great and have been there 13 more times since plenty to do and see and great suggestions by the previous post.

San Francisco...
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7. Re: Should I get out of my Florida comfort zone?

Some great advise above. The only thing I would add is -- given that you have a teen and a pre-teen, please get them involved with your research and planning so that they can help you put together a great Holiday in California.

I am sure they can use Google Earth and Google maps and give you all an idea of the various cities and the distances and the sights in those cities.

Manhattan Beach...
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8. Re: Should I get out of my Florida comfort zone?

There is so much more to do in CA for an summer vacation. All good suggestions here. In two hours drive from LA you can visit San Diego to the South, Santa Barbara to the north and Palm Springs Desert to the east.

You should plan a driving trip up to San Francisco, stopping for a night or two along the way along charming coastal towns.

Our scenery is diverse. On a clear day you can stand in a spot, and see the Pacific Ocean to one side, and the snow on the mountains to the other side. Often in season, my son will leave at 6 am to drive a couple hours to the local mountains, go snowboarding, for 4-5 hours, drive home, and go surfing at our beach until dark.

Fly into LAX and fly home out of San Francisco SFO.

Los Angeles...
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9. Re: Should I get out of my Florida comfort zone?

California has the most diverse natural scenery in the US. We have over 800 miles of coastline - some of it flat beaches, some of it dramatic cliffs. We have active volcanoes in the north (Lassen National Park), we have the giant sequoia trees - the larges living things on earth (Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks), we have Yosemite National Park - truly one of the most beautiful valleys in the world. We have the Sierra Nevada Mountains with Mt. Whitney, at 14,495 feet - the highest mountain in the lower 48 states - and, about 125 miles away as the crow flies, Badwater, in Death Valley, the lowest point in the US. So we have it all - but it's spread out. California is huge - bigger than a lot of countries. We have something for everyone. Do some research and come one over. You'll love it.

Los Angeles, CA
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10. Re: Should I get out of my Florida comfort zone?

If you plan on swimming in the ocean, our water temperatures are colder than Florida. We have a cold ocean current that flows from north to south whereas the east coast has a warm current that flows from south to north. It's still swimmable, especially in Southern California (Santa Barbara southward). It's just colder than Florida.