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Old 03-14-2011, 09:49 AM   #1
IUTBAM
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Need opinions of my itinerary...

We are doing a two-week trip to California this summer. The "we" is my DH and I, and our two teens. We are flying into Santa Ana, driving up to Yosemite, over to San Francisco, and then down the coast, where we will end up back in Santa Ana. I'm very familiar with Southern California, but this will be the first time we've gone so far north. I'd appreciate any advice regarding my itinerary for the northern/coastal portion...thanks! Everything is booked (flights, hotels-want to stay in Marriott, Hilton and HI properties as much as possible to get our points, rental car).

Day 1 - Fly into SNA, drive up north to Madera and check in to the Hampton Inn in Madera (near Yosemite).

Days 2 and 3 - Yosemite

Day 4 - Depart Madera and drive to San Francisco. We'd like to drive over the Golden Gate bridge, and possibly see Muir Woods before we check into the Residence Inn in Fremont.

Day 5 - Tour Chinatown, Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf, and take a Bay Cruise around Alcatraz. I know we will pay dearly to park at a public garage near the Wharf, but I'm not sure where Chinatown is in relation to that...or if we'll have to park in two places to see Chinatown and the Wharf. We are not concerned about the cost of parking...convenience is what I'm after. We have a son who uses a wheelchair.

Day 6 - Depart Fremont/San Francisco, and drive to Monterey to tour the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Then we plan to stay at the Holiday Inn Express, in Marina, CA.

Day 7 - Depart Monterey. We plan to get a very early start, and definitely want to do the 17 mile drive, drive through Carmel (we are big Clint Eastwood fans, haha), and see Big Sur. I know this will be a LONG day, as we plan to end up in Lompoc that night, staying at the Holiday Inn Express. We love scenic drives though, so it should be fun.

Day 8 - Depart Lompac, drive through Solvang (take a few pictures), and then go to the Santa Barbara Zoo for the rest of the day. We're planning on spending the night at the Homewood Suites in Agoura Hills, CA. I'd love to find a fun "family" place for dinner in/near SB that evening.

Day 9 - Depart Agoura Hills, and spend the day at the Ronald Reagan Museum, before driving down to Santa Ana to check into the Embassy Suites there. This will be our base for the remainder of the trip.

Days 10, 11, 12 - DISNEYLAND!!! (we've been many times, and know what to expect).

Day 13 - Day trip to the San Diego Zoo (we've been there several times before so we know what to expect)

Day 14 - Our last day. Have to do Disneyland again!

Day 15 - Fly home. Sadness
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Old 03-14-2011, 10:57 AM   #2
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Are you planning on staying in Madera for your entire visit to Yosemite? Madera is close to 2 hours away from Yosemite and will make for some very long driving days for 2 days of visiting. I would recomend that you look into staying outside the West gate or in Oakhurst/Fish Camp outside the South Gate. It will decrease your driving time to the park so you have more time in the park. Yosemite is beautiful and you will enjoy it very much.
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Old 03-14-2011, 03:42 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by disneyfaninaz View Post
Are you planning on staying in Madera for your entire visit to Yosemite? Madera is close to 2 hours away from Yosemite and will make for some very long driving days for 2 days of visiting. I would recomend that you look into staying outside the West gate or in Oakhurst/Fish Camp outside the South Gate. It will decrease your driving time to the park so you have more time in the park. Yosemite is beautiful and you will enjoy it very much.
Agreed! I've heard of people planning to stay in Mariposa and visit Yosemite, because they believed advertisements that it's the "gateway to Yosemite" or some such. I always discourage it -- the drive is a killer. But Madera? Really?? You'll hate that portion of your trip, and probably hate Yosemite if you try to do that.

If you can't get into in-park lodging (it's probably too late now), the next best place to stay is the town of El Portal, which is right at the western entrance to Yosemite. You can get to the valley in about 20 minutes from there. Oakhurst and Fish Camp are OK -- actually the lodging tends to be nicer there. But while you can enjoy some of the facilities at the south entrance to the park, be aware that it's a good hour from Yosemite Valley and the rest of the park, which is what most people want to see. I'd say that Oakhurst/Fish Camp are OK in a pinch, but you really want to be closer. And if you can't get in-park lodging, "closer" means El Portal.

-Bob
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Old 03-14-2011, 04:01 PM   #4
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Hmmm, I've now looked at the rest of your plan. Comments:

1. Stay in Fremont to visit SF? Same comments -- it's an hour away! Why not stay in SF? If you can't afford that, try some of the hotels or motels near the airport (SFO), or in Burlingame or San Mateo. Don't spend all your vacation time commuting!

2. Parking in SF - the most convenient for you will probably be the Pier 39 garage. That gets you close to Pier 39, Fisherman's Wharf, and the Bay tours. Chinatown is walkable from there, but it's a long walk, and probably not convenient for a wheelchair. You could take a cable car, but that's an old type of transportation, and I'm not aware that they're wheelchair accessible. Possibly a cab. Or, if you want to drive, the most convenient parking lot would probably be the Sutter-Stockton garage, at the intersection of those two streets. From there, walk one block east on Sutter and then one block north on Grant, and you'll be at the Chinatown gate. Grant St is probably the best one to walk up to get a feel for Chinatown.

3. You don't go over the Golden Gate bridge when driving from Yosemite or Madera to SF. But not to worry. Once you're in SF, just head north on US 101 to go over the bridge. As soon as you get over the bridge, take the first exit to the scenic overlook. Great views of GG Bridge, SF, Alcatraz, and Angel Island. When you're done, get back in the car, get on the entrance ramp to 101, but don't merge onto the freeway. Immediately take the next exit, Alexander Ave. At the end of the ramp, turn left, go under the freeway, turn left again, and then bear right to go up the hill that overlooks the bridge. Near the top, you'll see a small parking area that accomodates a dozen cars or so. Get out and follow the path. It goes past a historic WWII artillery bunker. If you go through that, you'll come to the best bridge overlook in the Bay Area.

4. You're leaving way, way too little time for Monterey. You want to just visit the Aquarium, do a drive-by of Carmel and 17 Mile Drive, and leave? There's so much more? I don't understand spending time in Lompoc rather than Monterey

HTH,
Bob

Last edited by GrandBob; 03-15-2011 at 02:20 PM. Reason: Fixed GG directions
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Old 03-15-2011, 10:08 AM   #5
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I've got to agree - don't stay in Fremont to visit SF!! In rush hour traffic you're looking at well over an hour to get there and back.

...and don't stay in Medera to visit Yosemite - you really will end up spending the entire day driving and not seeing much of the park.

Lompoc/Solvang area is lovely, but Monterey/Carmel/Big Sur are nicer, I think. I've spent time in both areas for anniversary trips, and we always end up taking more time in the Monterey/Carmel/Big Sur areas. It's nice to make that drive more leisurely. Oh, but don't forget to make sure you have a full tank of gas before you start! There's not many gas stations along the coast highway, and what you find is way expensive.

La Purisma mission in Lompoc and Santa Inez mission in Solvang are both lovely to visit, but the mission in Carmel is exceptional. I really recommend taking time to stop off to see it.

Enjoy your trip!
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Old 03-17-2011, 12:53 PM   #6
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Old 03-29-2011, 01:12 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IUTBAM View Post
We are doing a two-week trip to California this summer. The "we" is my DH and I, and our two teens. We are flying into Santa Ana, driving up to Yosemite, over to San Francisco, and then down the coast, where we will end up back in Santa Ana. I'm very familiar with Southern California, but this will be the first time we've gone so far north. I'd appreciate any advice regarding my itinerary for the northern/coastal portion...thanks! Everything is booked (flights, hotels-want to stay in Marriott, Hilton and HI properties as much as possible to get our points, rental car).

Day 1 - Fly into SNA, drive up north to Madera and check in to the Hampton Inn in Madera (near Yosemite).

Days 2 and 3 - Yosemite
You say you're familiar with SoCal? Madera is near Yosemite the way San Diego or Palm Springs is near Anaheim. While technically yeah it may not be that far away, as other people have said, it's quite a drive. Most people who live that far away go on day trips. If they want more than one day, they stay overnight in the park or just outside one of the gates. Even though I live about 1.5 hours from the HWY 120 entrance, I wouldn't go there one day, drive home. Then turn around and do it again the next.

Quote:
Originally Posted by IUTBAM View Post
Day 4 - Depart Madera and drive to San Francisco. We'd like to drive over the Golden Gate bridge, and possibly see Muir Woods before we check into the Residence Inn in Fremont.

Day 5 - Tour Chinatown, Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf, and take a Bay Cruise around Alcatraz. I know we will pay dearly to park at a public garage near the Wharf, but I'm not sure where Chinatown is in relation to that...or if we'll have to park in two places to see Chinatown and the Wharf. We are not concerned about the cost of parking...convenience is what I'm after. We have a son who uses a wheelchair.

Day 6 - Depart Fremont/San Francisco, and drive to Monterey to tour the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Then we plan to stay at the Holiday Inn Express, in Marina, CA.
Now, this is just me. And I know that you say everything is already paid for. I would consider canceling in Madera and Fremont. I would rebook in Livermore/Pleasanton.

You fly into Southern California - probably because a one-way rental on the car would cost too much more. Instead of driving up HWY 99 and stopping just north of California's armpit in Madera, go up 5 to 580 and stay in Livermore. Costco membership? The residence inn is right next to it. Get gas there before you leave. Or stop at one of the other two on your way (Tracy and Manteca)
The next morning, get up early take 580 -> 205 -> 120 all the way into Yosemite. If this is a weekday - you will be going against traffic. Either way, getting to 120 from this point is 45 minutes at most if you drive the speed limit the whole way and stay in the right lane. It takes me 45 minutes to do this in evening traffic. From 120 to the gate can be about 2 hours.

Give up on the idea of doing two days in Yosemite and just stay all darn day. Get back to Livermore really late or early the next day depending on your viewpoint. Relax the next day and take the family to the lake. If you go to Shadow Cliffs in Pleasanton they have some water slides there. I know you said you have a son in a wheelchair, but perhaps he could still enjoy. Otherwise, take advantage of getting to SF.

I know that someone else pointed out how getting from Fremont to SF can be lengthy. Again, this depends on the time of day. Not knowing the dates and days who's to say? Fremont and Livermore aren't that far apart. Look them up on a map. This way, you would stay in one place, not several. Getting into SF from Livermore is just as easy as Fremont. You still have all the same options. I do recommend studying the map though. You can easily get turned around in SF.

The last thing I would advise - bring lots of ones. I don't know what bridge toll is anymore - $5?? but they charge you for crossing all the big bridges. And the Golden Gate has a different fee, or at least it used to. We never drive into the city anymore. We get on BART in Pleasanton.
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