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Old 10-12-2010, 01:49 PM   #1
cinderjenna
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First time to California/ Vegas, lots of help needed!

Hi all,

Been reading and reading this board for the last few days since i returned from a wonderful trip to nyc and orlando and made the big decision that next year i'm going West Coast!

Very very excited about planning this trip! Rough itinerary so far is;

4 nights San Francisco
(then hire and car and drive...)
1 night yosemite area
4 nights vegas
2 nights san diego
2 nights L.A./beach area (santa monica?)
4 nights Anaheim / Disneyland area

Need a bit of help though...

1. First off, best time to go, i know this is always asked sorry.. i am looking to go anytime between mid september to end of october. Which 2 weeks from this period would you chose? Im guessing try to avoid columbus day week whilst at disney/universal but would this holiday have much affect to crowds in vegas/san fran? Does it affect hotel prices?

2. Any recommendations for hotels in san fran, san diego, santa monica, anaheim? Around $100-$150 per night max. Would like free parking and free wi fi ideally! (excluding san fran for the parking)

3. Driving distances - trying to get a rough idea.. how do these sound?
*san fran to yosemite - about 4/5 hours?
*yosemite to vegas - about 8 hours? (eek. maybe a stopover somewhere here?any recommendations of where?)
* vegas to san diego - 3/4 hours?
* san diego to santa monica - 1.5/2 hours?
* santa monica - anaheim - an hour?

These are all just googled, are they pretty accurate? We want to drive down the pacific coast highway at some point - the big sur?? i keep reading about this but not too sure where it fits..

Any help/ tips would be greatly appreciated, cant wait to start booking things!! Unsure whether my itinerary makes sense or whether it would make more sense to vegas last and fly home from there? Would we then get charged more though with the hire car due to it being a different state?

Is there any must do's i have missed out?

I can see myself doing a lot of this in the next few months!

Thanks in advance
Jenna x
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Old 10-12-2010, 02:50 PM   #2
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Do you like the outdoors? If you do, then you might want to spend more time in Yosemite. The drive from SF to Yosemite can take quite a while; more so if you decide to stop along the way for some sight-seeing. I would definitely allot closer to 5 hours. If you can, bring food so you can have a picnic lunch somewhere along the route.

You planned itinerary doesn't really lend itself to driving down the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1).

On a side note, I wonder if this is one this is still true. When I was growing up, no one who lived in SF or the Bay Area that I knew called SF "San Fran" or "Frisco" - only the tourists used those names!
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Old 10-12-2010, 03:17 PM   #3
cinderjenna
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Originally Posted by figment_jii View Post
Do you like the outdoors? If you do, then you might want to spend more time in Yosemite. The drive from SF to Yosemite can take quite a while; more so if you decide to stop along the way for some sight-seeing. I would definitely allot closer to 5 hours. If you can, bring food so you can have a picnic lunch somewhere along the route.

You planned itinerary doesn't really lend itself to driving down the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1).

On a side note, I wonder if this is one this is still true. When I was growing up, no one who lived in SF or the Bay Area that I knew called SF "San Fran" or "Frisco" - only the tourists used those names!
Thanks for the reply! I'm not really a great outdoorsy person, am more looking for somewhere to stop on the way from san francisco to vegas and read that there's a drive along the tioga pass that is beautiful
But i am open to ideas.. can you suggest anywhere else that would enable us to take some of the pacific coast highway route?

hmm, maybe san fran is an english abbreviation! Or maybe i'm just lazy and couldn't be bothered typing the whole thing! LOL
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Old 10-12-2010, 03:37 PM   #4
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With a note about Tioga Pass...it's very beautiful, but it's not directly along the way to Yosemite Village (where the main lodge is located). I don't remember the drive time, but according to Google its about 1 hour 40 minutes. When driving in from SF, you'll take 120 and come to split in the road where you can either continue on 120 or go towards 140. 140 leads to Yosemite Valley, while 120 will lead up to Tioga Pass.

If you do opt to go over Tioga Pass, you might want to visit Mono Lake. It has tufa towers and is very saline. You can see the fresh water bubbling up and out of the tuffa towers.

(I'll look for some of my pictures of the area and if I find them I'll post them for you.)

As for the Pacific Coast Highway, the main problem is that it and Vegas are in two different directions from SF.

If you haven't made any concrete plans, you could opt to start in Vegas, then go to LA area, then up the Pacific Coast highway and end in SF. Essentially you'll need a leg in your trip where you need to get from one end of CA to the other.

This is a picture from Tuolumne Meadows:


This is a picture of a sign describing Tioga Pass (there really were many pictures of from the pass itself because the road is very winding):


Finally, this is a picture of the tufa towers at Mono Lake:

Last edited by figment_jii; 10-12-2010 at 11:12 PM.
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Old 10-13-2010, 10:24 AM   #5
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As Figment has pointed out, Yosemite Valley is not on CA120, the road over Tioga pass. Still, if you want to see Yosemite, I'd go ahead and stay in Yosemite Valley. See the sights in the evening/morning, then drive back to 120 and over Tioga Pass. I highly recommend that you stop at Olmsted Point, which is just before Tenaya Lake. Olmsted Point has tremendous views down Tenaya Valley, past Cloud's Rest and Half Dome, to Yosemite Valley.

If Vegas is your destination, it appears that you'll need to decide between your detour to Yosemite or a detour down CA Highway 1 through Big Sur. Tough choice -- they're both breathtaking, world-class views.

If you choose Highway 1, here's your route. First, get to Monterey. You can take Highway 1 down here, which is more scenic but a little slower. Or you can take US 101 to CA 156 to CA 1. It's about 2 hours from San Francisco.

From Monterey, take CA 1 south to Cambria. This is the highly scenic Big Sur route. Although Google maps shows this as just over 2 hours, plan on at least 4. You'll want to stop to watch scenery a lot. I always recommend stopping to eat at Nepenthe's. Very expensive, but views you'll remember forever.

From Cambria (near Hearst Castle - book a tour in advance if you want to see it), it's about 8 hours to Las Vegas. Take CA 46 east until it ends at CA 99, just north of Bakersfield. Take 99 a short distance down to Bakersfield, then take CA 58 east. Take CA 58 east, over Tehachapi pass and through the Mojave desert, to Barstow. Then take I-15 north/east to Las Vegas.

HTH,
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Old 10-13-2010, 11:20 AM   #6
cinderjenna
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Wow thanks to you both for all the info!!
I *think* i've decided that we're going to to the pacific coast highway route and not do yosemite.. (there's always another trip!)
And looking at the maps i think it probably looks best to go from san francisco right down to L.A/Santa Monica area, after a few days there head to disneyland, then got to san diego and finish up in Vegas. Does this order make more sense? I suppose I could get rid of the hire car in san diego and get a cheap (hopefully) flight to vegas from there as can't see us needing a car in vegas?

Will definitely look at stopping and eating at Nepenthe's, looks good, not too expensive for lunch!

Am thinking, leave san fran early, drive couple hours to Monterey, have a late breakfast here and a look around. Another say 4 hours until big sur, stop for late lunch, poss at nepenthe's. Will then be looking at driving another 2-3 hours before stopping for the night...
So where shall i stay the night? Any ideas??

Thanks in advance x

p.s. figment, they are beautiful pictures! Not helping in my decision to leave out yosemite though! lol
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Old 10-13-2010, 11:25 AM   #7
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One more question.. are there toll's on the pacific coast highway??
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Old 10-13-2010, 02:53 PM   #8
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One more question.. are there toll's on the pacific coast highway??
No, Tolls are very uncommon in the western US. There are some on bridges such as over San Fransisco bay. On roads there are a few in the LA area. But nothing you have to use. On the PCH not at all.
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Old 10-13-2010, 03:02 PM   #9
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And looking at the maps i think it probably looks best to go from san francisco right down to L.A/Santa Monica area, after a few days there head to disneyland, then got to san diego and finish up in Vegas. Does this order make more sense? I suppose I could get rid of the hire car in san diego and get a cheap (hopefully) flight to vegas from there as can't see us needing a car in vegas?

Look into South West for a flight to Vegas. You won't need a car in LV unless you want to go to a grocery store or drive out to hoover dam.

Am thinking, leave san fran early, drive couple hours to Monterey, have a late breakfast here and a look around. Another say 4 hours until big sur, stop for late lunch, poss at nepenthe's. Will then be looking at driving another 2-3 hours before stopping for the night...
So where shall i stay the night? Any ideas??
The drive is probably going to be slower. It will largely depends if it is a weekend or weekday as you leave the urban area of SF, as well as in LA and SD.

Unless you leave early that breakfast in Monterey might be your lunch. You may want to stop for pictures often and that will slow down the progress quite a bit.

I would look into hotels in Morrow Bay or San Simeon, they are on the south end of Big Sur and a decent half way point.

Also near San Simeon is Hearst Castle, if you want to see what a modern castle looks like.
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Old 10-13-2010, 05:28 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by cinderjenna View Post
Wow thanks to you both for all the info!!
I *think* i've decided that we're going to to the pacific coast highway route and not do yosemite.. (there's always another trip!)
And looking at the maps i think it probably looks best to go from san francisco right down to L.A/Santa Monica area, after a few days there head to disneyland, then got to san diego and finish up in Vegas. Does this order make more sense? I suppose I could get rid of the hire car in san diego and get a cheap (hopefully) flight to vegas from there as can't see us needing a car in vegas?

Will definitely look at stopping and eating at Nepenthe's, looks good, not too expensive for lunch!

Am thinking, leave san fran early, drive couple hours to Monterey, have a late breakfast here and a look around. Another say 4 hours until big sur, stop for late lunch, poss at nepenthe's. Will then be looking at driving another 2-3 hours before stopping for the night...
So where shall i stay the night? Any ideas??

Thanks in advance x

p.s. figment, they are beautiful pictures! Not helping in my decision to leave out yosemite though! lol
You can use the buses in vegas, it is 7.00 dollars pp for 24 hours and you can ride as much as you want it will even take you all the way to the old portion of vegas as well. Jo
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Old 10-13-2010, 07:23 PM   #11
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I think the plan of finishing up in Vegas is the best idea. You definitely won't need a car in Vegas-- we honestly didn't set foot on a bus either. We used the tram from the Bellagio to get down to South Strip. I'd suggest staying mid-strip (Harrah's, Mirage, Caesar's) so you'll be in the middle of the action and close to everything.
You shouldn't have much trouble finding a cheap flight into Vegas. To answer your question about Colombus Day-- Vegas is affected by ALL long weekends. We left Vegas the Thursday before Labor Day and the difference between that and our arrival day (Sunday, non-holiday weekend) was boggling. Our hotel (Caesars) was twice as crowded. I checked the rates online and they were much higher over the holiday weekend, too.
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Old 10-15-2010, 05:49 PM   #12
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Old 10-15-2010, 07:12 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by figment_jii View Post
Do you like the outdoors? If you do, then you might want to spend more time in Yosemite. The drive from SF to Yosemite can take quite a while; more so if you decide to stop along the way for some sight-seeing. I would definitely allot closer to 5 hours. If you can, bring food so you can have a picnic lunch somewhere along the route.

You planned itinerary doesn't really lend itself to driving down the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1).

On a side note, I wonder if this is one this is still true. When I was growing up, no one who lived in SF or the Bay Area that I knew called SF "San Fran" or "Frisco" - only the tourists used those names!
Please call it San Francisco (never Frisco). Thanks!
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Old 10-17-2010, 01:00 PM   #14
cinderjenna
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To OP,

Was there something you especially wanted to see in San Diego?

If not, you may want to consider spending time in the Monterey/Pacific Grove/Carmel area instead. San Diego is great, and I only suggest Monterey instead, to cut down on some of the driving you're looking at on this trip.

I think some of your drive times may be optimistic. The Pacific Coast Highway has segments with lots of curves and segments that are 2-lanes. And when you get to Southern California, everything will take longer to get to than you plan on.

The Monterey area has spectacular scenery and the weather is nice in the fall. There's the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and lots of art galleries, shops and restaurants.

Also, if you want to see some Coastal Redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) you may want to go to Big Basin Redwoods State Park (between San Jose and Santa Cruz) or when you're in San Francisco you might go up to Muir Woods, just north of San Francisco.

SF to Monterey to LA to Anaheim to Las Vegas is a route you may want to consider. Have a wonderful vacation.

Thanks for all the replies! Been stuck in work all weekend so haven't had the chance to reply. Re: San Diego, erm, i guess theres not a must see for us there, however it has been recommended by quite a few people. And i left out Seaworld on my last two trips to Orlando so would probably go there! My OH absolutely loves to drive so not too worried about the long drives, its only the 2 of us, so no kids in tow so dont think it would bother us too much being in the car for long stretches. I've not really heard of Monterey/ Carmel so off to read up about whats there now!

Another thought;
is there much difference in weather/busy-ness/prices between end of may- june, and end of september- october? If you could pick which of these times of years would you do a big west coast trip? T.I.A.
REALLY appreciate all the help
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Old 10-17-2010, 01:03 PM   #15
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I think the plan of finishing up in Vegas is the best idea. You definitely won't need a car in Vegas-- we honestly didn't set foot on a bus either. .
Will i be able to get to the outlet malls without a car does anyone know? Are they far in a taxi? Gotta get my shopping in! Thanks
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