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adventurer1

California Road Trip

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Hi All

 

Those off you living in CA, or has done a road trip there

Friends from SA plan to visit next year early summer. We are planning a road trip with them from SF down to San Diego, (with a detour via Vegas and Red Rock State Park / Grand Canyon)

I need tips on the following:

Where to stay in San Francisco (Union Square or Fisherman's Warf or any better place? )- 5* places on 3* budget;) (though I see in SF everything is on 5* budgets;(

What NOT to miss on the trip down (pit stops; must-see- off the beaten track- places)

Accommodation and tours around Grand Canyon? What is worth and what not

We will be travelling with 3 teenage boys, I need them off their screens and into the scenery;) and adventure

Been to LA and Vegas before- so I think we will be ''sorted'' there- have an idea on what and what not (but if you have great finds, please advise)

 

Thanks in advance

 

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I used to live in the Bay Area, so a couple of ideas:

You can't go wrong with Union Square - there is a lot going on, basically right in the heart of everything going on in San Francisco.  Fisherman's wharf, I found to be a little 'tatty' actually.  there are lots of 'grab and go' places to eat.  A little bit further down is Pier 39, which is much nicer - lots of restaurants etc - but expect to pay the prices!  If you stay at Union Square, you can do the traditional SF Cablecar ride down to Fisherman's wharf (sometimes it is so crowded, you will wait for several to go by before you can get on).  While down that way, check our Ghirardelli Square - home of the chocolate.

If you have a car, do take a drive over the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin County and stop in Sausalito.  You can also drive through the Baker Bunker road down to Rodeo Beach, and then come back over the top - you get amazing views of the GG bridge and the whole of San Francisco while you are there.  If you can, spend a whole day up in the North Bay - and go to Muir Woods (you must book parking in advance these days), and if you have time, up to the top of Mt Tam for more amazing views of the entire Bay area.  Love the North Bay area.  If you don't have a car, try taking the ferry from the Ferry Building (a 'must see' too - lots of gourmet stores and some nice restaurants) across to Sausalito for lunch - or even the ferry up to Larkspur - the 30 minute trip is very scenic.

 

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1 hour ago, Malamute said:

I used to live in the Bay Area, so a couple of ideas:

You can't go wrong with Union Square - there is a lot going on, basically right in the heart of everything going on in San Francisco.  Fisherman's wharf, I found to be a little 'tatty' actually.  there are lots of 'grab and go' places to eat.  A little bit further down is Pier 39, which is much nicer - lots of restaurants etc - but expect to pay the prices!  If you stay at Union Square, you can do the traditional SF Cablecar ride down to Fisherman's wharf (sometimes it is so crowded, you will wait for several to go by before you can get on).  While down that way, check our Ghirardelli Square - home of the chocolate.

If you have a car, do take a drive over the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin County and stop in Sausalito.  You can also drive through the Baker Bunker road down to Rodeo Beach, and then come back over the top - you get amazing views of the GG bridge and the whole of San Francisco while you are there.  If you can, spend a whole day up in the North Bay - and go to Muir Woods (you must book parking in advance these days), and if you have time, up to the top of Mt Tam for more amazing views of the entire Bay area.  Love the North Bay area.  If you don't have a car, try taking the ferry from the Ferry Building (a 'must see' too - lots of gourmet stores and some nice restaurants) across to Sausalito for lunch - or even the ferry up to Larkspur - the 30 minute trip is very scenic.

 

Thank you!

 

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In a rush so I’ll post a bit more about the drive to SoCal later but just to echo stay away from fisherman’s wharf! I’d actually suggest looking for somewhere like north beach rather than union square too, less touristy, nice restaurants etc but still very central. 

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Ok so back to the road trip

first question, how long are you planning to do? Because detouring via Vegas and the Grand Canyon is quite out of the way - and most of the accommodation, tours etc are on the south rim (from Vegas you’d be at north rim - I think Vegas tourism will have info on stuff from Vegas to the canyon though). 

are you doing the coastal road down from SF? Big Sur has reopened so can do all the way. Depends if everyone is into hiking etc (lots of options) beach (weather/season dependent) etc. obviously around LA there are the theme parks. Lots of lovely towns pretty much along the way from just south of big sur (we think Morro Bay is quite cute but pismo Beach is much better known... iirc poster Oscar lives or lived in SLO and probably knows that area much better) all the way to SD. Newport Beach is a bit fancier, Huntington Beach is a big surf spot and a bit funkier, etc. but there are beach towns all the way down. north of big sur there is Santa Cruz, and Monterey/Carmel. For fun near that area you can go off the beaten track to Gilroy and go garlic-mad. There’s probably lots more but I’m not clear on how the trip is being planned re routes in terms of coastal road/i5/detouring to NV, or how much time overall you have?

 

Edited by SJ272

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16 hours ago, SJ272 said:

Ok so back to the road trip

first question, how long are you planning to do? Because detouring via Vegas and the Grand Canyon is quite out of the way - and most of the accommodation, tours etc are on the south rim (from Vegas you’d be at north rim - I think Vegas tourism will have info on stuff from Vegas to the canyon though). 

are you doing the coastal road down from SF? Big Sur has reopened so can do all the way. Depends if everyone is into hiking etc (lots of options) beach (weather/season dependent) etc. obviously around LA there are the theme parks. Lots of lovely towns pretty much along the way from just south of big sur (we think Morro Bay is quite cute but pismo Beach is much better known... iirc poster Oscar lives or lived in SLO and probably knows that area much better) all the way to SD. Newport Beach is a bit fancier, Huntington Beach is a big surf spot and a bit funkier, etc. but there are beach towns all the way down. north of big sur there is Santa Cruz, and Monterey/Carmel. For fun near that area you can go off the beaten track to Gilroy and go garlic-mad. There’s probably lots more but I’m not clear on how the trip is being planned re routes in terms of coastal road/i5/detouring to NV, or how much time overall you have?

 

Hi

thanks. Yes thinking of a 10-14 day trip (14 if we have to detour to Vegas- Have just suggested to roadies that we skip Vegas: in my opinion not the best place for teenage boys with their parents;))

This will most likely then exclude Grand Canyon and Red Rock state park (or we will do this as a separate break/ weekend)

Plan to do coastal drive from San F down to San D. 

(some 'Harry Pottering' and Studio Lot exploring will be done in LA, and the usual touristy places.)- Anyone been to both Disney World Orlando and Disney Land California? (worth going to Disney Cal instead?)- our guests are also opting to do less off the West Coast road trip and spend some time and $$$ in Orlando. (PS. I'm bias as I can't stand the magnitude of hysteric masses and chaos in the Parks (Orlando)- so its a easy choice for me)

The trip will take place probably last week of June into first week of July. (keeping in mind that we would like to celebrate the 4th somewhere maybe on a beach and fireworks)

How is the weather that time off the year down there? Dry or Rainy?  I know her up North East, its touch and go for summer (we still had horrible cold days late June)

Every tip is greatly appreciated and I'm plotting it down

Thanks

 

 

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Summer in San Francisco (i.e. actually in the city) can be COLD - misty, foggy, definitely not shorts and T-shirts, as you would think for summer in California.  More like jeans and hoodies. Immediately add about 15-20F once you go north of the Golden Gate Bridge, or to the South Bay (San Jose etc), and 20-30F if you go to the East Bay (Oakland).  Very much about micro-climate in the Bay Area, especially in June and July.  Summer really comes to downtown San Francisco in September.  The further south you go, the warmer it will get, but if you are hugging the coast, it is always a bit cooler with the ocean breeze.

 

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It gets hotter the further south you go. LA/SD will probably be hot, though they sometimes have what they call “June gloom”. It will be too hot for a detour to Joshua tree I think too. Yosemite or Tahoe might be an option for some natural beauty “instead of” red rocks/Grand Canyon, but bear in mind you need to book well in advance for Yosemite accommodation in summer.  Driving to Tahoe from SF goes through the old gold rush country so some of the towns enroute are worth a quick stop too.

We’ve done both Disneys. I much prefer California because it’s smaller, the parks are next to each other, and the clientele just seems...better, I can’t explain how. Orlando is big so there is a lot more to do (I think there are 5 parks there?) but you have to drive from park to park, it definitely requires more time but if people are theme park junkies it may be better. Obviously there is a universal there too, and they might take a drive down to the Kennedy space center. But Florida in summer is going to be seriously humid, even by April I personally found it unpleasant (and I grew up in Durban so I am not unfamiliar with humidity!)

i imagine there will be spectacular fireworks at Disney on 4 of July, but I’d do that from a hotel with a view, it will be totally crazy inside the parks then. But many places have public fireworks (including San Francisco) so I don’t think finding something will be a problem at all.

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Thanks Ladies

 

I knew I could count on you;)

Much much appreciated

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Walking across the Golden Gate Bridge is a fun activity, done it t four times. Suggest driving across the bridge and parking on the other side.  There is a fairly large parking area and toilets. There is a few toll to be paid around that area cost around $30.00 car hire companies rub the charges in and there is no option of paying the toll in cash at the bridge.

Hotels around Union Square can be expensive. Stayed at the Hilton using points had vey nice views of the City on the 39th floor some of rooms have balconies. We had marijuana aroma from a room below, so you  cannot escape the marijuana fumes weather you are on fisherman's wharf or in your hotel room up in the clouds.

Napa Valley ( wine route) is about 2.5 hours north of San Francisco is also an option, if you want to be adventurous. I have been to San Ramon for work a couple of times. The Hilton in San Ramon is often fully booked as people stay there and commute to San Francisco by car or Bart Metro. The metro is quicker as the 1.5 hour drive to SF can be very congested on weekends. In the summer the roads are very congested in and around the city and the roads to the beaches are a slow crawl on Sunday afternoons.

  Take a windbreaker it can suddenly get foggy and cold on the beach.

Visit a marijuana shop just for the fun of it, you don't have to buy anything. All you need is a positive form of ID before they let you in the shop. There are all kinds of marijuana extract candy and balms / creams for arthritis and sleep, not to mention getting any type of Marijuana, Bubba Kush or any other variety is available from about $20.00 the candies are around $35.00. Just a word of caution don't take out of the state you are visiting. MJ is available in California, Washington and Oregon. Canada is going to legalize recreational MJ in the next few months. They only take cash an do not accept credit cards. I was amazed how busy these shops are and you may find yourself in a line of 15 people to get to the cash register.

 

     

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On 8/30/2018 at 4:57 PM, SJ272 said:
7 minutes ago, oscar said:

Walking across the Golden Gate Bridge is a fun activity, done it t four times. Suggest driving across the bridge and parking on the other side.  There is a fairly large parking area and toilets. There is a few toll to be paid around that area cost around $30.00 car hire companies rub the charges in and there is no option of paying the toll in cash at the bridge.

Hotels around Union Square can be expensive. Stayed at the Hilton using points had vey nice views of the City on the 39th floor some of rooms have balconies. We had marijuana aroma from a room below, so you  cannot escape the marijuana fumes weather you are on fisherman's wharf or in your hotel room up in the clouds.

Napa Valley ( wine route) is about 2.5 hours north of San Francisco is also an option, if you want to be adventurous. I have been to San Ramon for work a couple of times. The Hilton in San Ramon is often fully booked as people stay there and commute to San Francisco by car or Bart Metro. The metro is quicker as the 1.5 hour drive to SF can be very congested on weekends. In the summer the roads are very congested in and around the city and the roads to the beaches are a slow crawl on Sunday afternoons.

  Take a windbreaker it can suddenly get foggy and cold on the beach.

Visit a marijuana shop just for the fun of it, you don't have to buy anything. All you need is a positive form of ID before they let you in the shop. There are all kinds of marijuana extract candy and balms / creams for arthritis and sleep, not to mention getting any type of Marijuana, Bubba Kush or any other variety is available from about $20.00 the candies are around $35.00. Just a word of caution don't take out of the state you are visiting. MJ is available in California, Washington and Oregon. Canada is going to legalize recreational MJ in the next few months. They only take cash an do not accept credit cards. I was amazed how busy these shops are and you may find yourself in a line of 15 people to get to the cash register.

 

     

 

Something funky went on with my quoting extractions now

Thanks Oscar, Will definitely look into the Hilton in San Ramon- don't mind using public transport in cities and hate traffic

Did not realize the whole Fisherman's Wharf / Union Square issue is related to MJ;) - nice heads up thnx. 

 

 

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Correction the Hotel is Hyatt House San Ramon , you get a room with double bed and a pull out sleeper couch. The room comes with a kitchen area, stove, fridge, microwave, cutlery pots and pans for a family of four. Also has a dishwasher.

 

HYATT house San Ramon

2323 San Ramon Valley Blvd, San Ramon, CA 94583 US ReservationCounter.com: 844-372-5802

 

Edited by oscar
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Traffic from San Ramon into the city is horrendous in rush hour and San Ramon doesn’t have a BART station.. so you’d have to drive to the Dublin/Pleasanton BART and not assured of parking.  it’s a kind of nice but kind of sterile town. Tbh I wouldn’t suggest staying there even if it’s a decent discount. Quite far from the city and not that easy to get in. Hyatt House in pleasant hill would be a better option if you want to stay suburban, the drive would still be horrible in rush hour (not as bad as from San Ramon though) but pleasant hill does have a BART station, it’s probably hmmm 40-45 minutes from there into the city on BART. We stayed at the pleasant hill Hyatt house (all same amenities as the others including breakfast) when we first moved over while we looked for a town and house to move into :) not nearly as much fun as staying in city but it’s right next to downtown pleasant hill which has a lot of restaurants and a cinema, etc. I’d personally still prefer to stay in the city if I was touring but if saving $$ is important it’s an option.

Edited by SJ272
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The hotel is close to a metro station it may not  be the Bart train  but there is train service to the city. Traffic to SF appears to always be congested especially peak hours. 

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44 minutes ago, oscar said:

The hotel is close to a metro station it may not  be the Bart train  but there is train service to the city. Traffic to SF appears to always be congested especially peak hours. 

Ok maybe there’s an ACE train. tbh still not somewhere I’d choose for staying for leisure especially with teenagers, though it’s a good spot if you are trying to check out typical suburban towns to live around here :)  It’s far from the city - that’s why both real estate and hotel prices are relatively cheap for the Bay Area. I’d rather go with an Airbnb in north beach or something to save some $$.  I mean, part of the fun of the city is the lights at night etc, you miss that staying in the suburbs and I don’t know, taking a hour to get back to the hotel after a long day sightseeing is not my personal preference, guess it depends on how much $$ you want to save. Differs from work traveling.

 

as for marijuana , yes it’s legal here (for over 21] and do you smell it often. Seems no one smokes cigarettes but you will always get a whiff of marijuana smoke around the city.

Edited by SJ272
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