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Spring Break Family Trip

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Leesburg, Virginia
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Spring Break Family Trip

Hello, I'm beginning to plan our family trip to California and I would love to have your thoughts on our itinerary. We are a family of six with 4 kids, ages 11 to 17, and we will be in California the week before Easter, April 16-24.

This is what I have been thinking so far:

Saturday-Monday: Arrive at SFO, drive to Carmel, stay at Carmel Valley Ranch. Visit Point Lobos State Park, drive to Big Sur, visit Carmel, go the 17 mile drive.

Monday-Thursday: drive to Yosemite, stay at Yosemite Lodge. Hike in Yosemite Valley, visit Mariposa Grove.

Thursday-Sunday: drive to San Francisco, stay at Argonaut Hotel. Visit Fisherman's Wharf, Alcatraz tour, maybe rent bikes/cross Golden Gate bridge. If we go to Mariposa Grove near Yosemite, should we go to Muir Woods?

What do you think of my ideas for our trip? Anything that I should add to our plan? Thanks for your help.

San Francisco
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1. Re: Spring Break Family Trip

1. I find the 17 mile drive to be overrated. The Monterey Aquarium isn't on your list but should be.

2. Do you have reservations at Yosemite already? It books up a year in advance although cancellations occur. The Yosemite forum is very helpful on how to snag a room in the Valley.

3. I like Muir but perhaps you'll be "woods-out" by then. If this is the only out of SF place you're thinking of going, turn in the rental car when you arrive in the city. Definitely book Alcatraz in advance. At spring break it will book up at least 3 weeks ahead and more if you want the night tour. www.alcatrazcruises.com

4. Add the Exploratorium or the Academy of Sciences to your SF itinerary -- maybe both.

I'd recommend you add a post on the Yosemite and Monterey forums for feedback on that part of your itinerary.

san francisco
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2. Re: Spring Break Family Trip

RamblinSal is right: if you're going to be down south, the Monterray Bay aquarium is a must. If you're biking to the Golden Gate bridge a side trip to the Exploratorium will be easy and great for the kids.

You can give your kids an interesting does of SF culture by going out to lunch in the Mission, Castro, or Haight-Ashbury neighborhoods. Everything around Fisherman's Wharf is purely tourist and doesn't have the same flavor as the rest of the city.

Also, as Sal recommends, the Academy of Sciences will make for a great day -- you can spend the rest of the day exploring Golden Gate park.

Muir Woods is great, but no match for the wonders of Yosemite, so maybe when you're in SF you should focus on city stuff.

Have a great trip!

San Francisco Bay...
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3. Re: Spring Break Family Trip

As always RamblinSal and tdubbs are right about your visit, but I disagree about the 17 mile drive. If the weather is beautiful that day you should go. If you have ever watched a golf tournament on TV from Pebble Beach you must take the drive. 17 mile drive ends at Pebble Beach and if you have time park at the golf course and take a walk out to the 18th hole. Your drive to Big Sur is spectacular (weather permittig). Staying out at Carmel Valley Ranch gives you much warmer weather than Carmel. If you have teenagers they will enjoy shopping in all of the Carmel shops on Ocean Avenue, and there are great restaurants everywhere. Ocean Avenue dead-ends at the Ocean so make it a point to take a walk.

Yosemite is great.

In San Francisco there are so many things to see and do, I hope you have the time.

Santa Cruz...
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4. Re: Spring Break Family Trip

I agree about missing the 17-mile drive and leaving more time for other things.

Since you are driving down to Big Sur, you will have all the coast you can imagine, and parts of 17 mile drive, besides golf, are just expensive houses.

Leesburg, Virginia
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5. Re: Spring Break Family Trip

Thank you very much for all of your help! We may drop Muir Woods from our San Francisco plan - I agree that Yosemite will be enough of the "woods" experience. I'll also look into adding Monterey Aquarium and the Exploratorium or AOS to our plan - even though the kids may be suspicious of any "educational" type activity during their "break" ;) I love the idea of going to some of the other neighborhoods, perhaps for lunch, to experience more of the authentic San Francisco. Thanks for helping me plan :)

San Francisco
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6. Re: Spring Break Family Trip

I took my niece to the Exploratorium when she was about 12-13 and I could not fork her out of the place! It was the only time I got a flicker of interest out of her. And "big kids" like it too! I've not been to the Academy but the place is always swarming with kids.

The location of both gives you excellent access to a couple of SF neighborhoods that have many options for local dining.

The Exploratorium is about 5-6 (flat) blocks from the commercial section of Chestnut St where there a dozen or more eateries.

I've heard the restaurants at the Academy are very good, but you can also walk just a couple of blocks to 9th Ave and Irving Street and find lots of restaurants there as well.

Either (or both) of these outings are head and shoulders better than wandering about the Wharf or Pier 39 and getting ripped off by bad food/high prices in the tourist dens down there.

Washington State
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7. Re: Spring Break Family Trip

The Big Trees in Yosemite are Giant Sequoias. The ones along the coast are Coastal Redwoods. They're both impressive, but they're different so you might want to see both kinds of Big Trees. (And the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias isn't near Yosemite, it's IN Yosemite.)

I see you already have lodging for Yosemite, but you're watching for a Family Room. Good luck!

I was surprised at how unimpressed I was with the Monterey Aquarium on our visit last June. For $30 pp, I expected more. Maybe I've just visited too many other good aquariums.

Leesburg, Virginia
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8. Re: Spring Break Family Trip

Thank you RamblinSal - I will check out the websites for the Exploratorium and AOS. My kids are 11, 13, 15 and 17 so I'll have to see if that would appeal to them, however, I completely agree that a trip out to either one would be better than wandering around the Wharf for more than one outing, especially if it's close to better dining.

Thanks PacificNWFamily - I actually thought that Redwood was another name for Sequoia! I am unsure about the Monterey Aquarium - being in the DC area, we've been to the Baltimore Aquarium many times, which is also very nice, so I'll see if the family is up for that. We love to hike, so if the weather isn't too good, that would be a great option.

San Francisco...
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9. Re: Spring Break Family Trip

Monterey Aquarium: If you're iffy on the aquarium, I would suggest renting sit on top 'kayaks' from Monterey Bay Kayaks instead - you can paddle around in the kelp where you can see sea otters up close. http://www.montereybaykayaks.com/

If you want to catch some beach time Pfeiffer Beach at Big Sur is beautiful. For a fun, (relatively) inexpensive lunch at Big Sur you can eat at the cafe at Nepenthe - NOT the restaurant which is overpriced. You will get a lovely view from the cafe patio. The gift shop there is like a treasure trove - one that all of you will enjoy browsing. http://www.nepenthebigsur.com/

Make sure you check out the drive time between locations - you have a lot of driving - so you can make the best plans for your time.

Academy of Science - gets very very crowded during school breaks. If you get there and the lines are too long, the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park is kind of fun (for a short while) and a fun place for a snack. Also, as pointed out above, this part of the park is very close to the Haight Ashbury Area if you feel the need to check that out.

A ride on a cable car is also a good tourist-y thing to do and I agree that a tour of the murals in the SF Missionn + food at one of the taquireas and/or a quick visit to the mission might be worthwhile (there are also a lot of fun, trendy, family type restaurants along 18th Street close to the SF Mission).

10. Re: Spring Break Family Trip

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