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My Ambitious 3-Week California Vacation Plan

Discussion in 'California & the West' started by jhaig, Jan 14, 2013.

  1. jhaig

    jhaig Ooooh, stuffed crust

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    This is a tentative plan for a California vacation. My family and I have never been out west so we want to hit as many highlights as we can without being rushed. The only real research I have done is for driving times and distances. So here goes:

    - start with 5 nights at Disneyland. We are Disney freaks so this seemed like a good place to start.
    - go to Sequoia/Kings Canyon for a day or two, then drive up to Redwood National Forest, stopping for a night stay somewhere along the way.
    - take a day or two to explore the coast, ending up at Point Reyes
    - explore San Fran for a day or two, then work our way down the coast. What would give us northerners the best southern Cal. Beach experience?
    - we would eventually want to drive thru Malibu, etc. then stay somewhere near LA. Lots to do there right?
    - need a day at the SD Zoo. That's a no-brainier for us.
    - drive back up north and tour Hollywood for a day, then head home.

    Does this seem remotely possible to do in three weeks?
     
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  3. bcla

    bcla DIS Veteran

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    Just curious as to what you mean by "Redwood National Forest". Redwood National Park is jointly run with California State Parks. Technically three units of the state parks (Prairie Redwoods SP, Del Norte Coast Redwoods SP, Jedidiah Smith Redwoods SP) are considered part of "Redwood National and State Parks". The closest USDA Forest Service land is Six Rivers National Forest.

    I would point out that the drive from SEKI to the North Coast is quite a drive and should take 12 hours. Since you intend on breaking it up, maybe stay in Santa Rosa, where you might be able to take in the Charles Schultz Museum and/or the Luther Burbank Home in Petaluma. You might also consider the wine country, although that can get pricey depending on the location. The drive past vineyards is pretty dramatic.
     
  4. jhaig

    jhaig Ooooh, stuffed crust

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    As far as seeing the redwoods, which park would you recommend fork a first time visitor?
     
  5. bcla

    bcla DIS Veteran

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    Never been there. It's on my bucket list. I've actually visited several sequoia groves in the Sierra Nevada. I could recommend a good one in SEKI, although I suspect you're probably going to Giant Forest. I personally think Redwood Mountain Grove is a great place, but you'd have to be willing to hike a little. It's not too hard, but the loop I'd recommend is about 6-7 miles round trip with some mild uphill climbs.

    Here's a list of the trails in RNSP. I understand that the Lady Bird Johnson Grove is pretty close to 101, and it's on NPS land.

    http://www.nps.gov/redw/planyourvisit/hiking-trails-south.htm

    Tall Trees Grove is the one that a lot of people really want to visit. They used to have what was the tallest known tree in the world, but there have since been taller trees found. That one requires a free vehicle permit and a drive along a well maintained dirt road. You probably won't be able to visit the tallest tree in the world (Hyperion) because its location isn't publicly known for fear that visitation might damage it. Honestly - you probably wouldn't be able to tell anyways - they all look pretty majestic after reaching a certain size.

    Are you looking for easy, strenuous, maybe something in between?
     
  6. Judy from Boise

    Judy from Boise <font color=teal>Watch out – might take away your Moderator

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    On your way back down you could do an overnight or two in Santa Barbara, they have a great Mission, zoo, wineries and beach. Then leave early and drive highway 1 through Oxnard, Point Mugu, Malibu to Santa Monica area, and onto your next beach town.
     
  7. PHXscuba

    PHXscuba <font color=darkorchid>Mouseketeer since birth!<br

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    Since San Diego is more than two hours south of LA, the zoo is either a really long day trip, or you'll be staying overnight. As long as you're down there, you might want to do something else.

    What time of year is this planned for?

    Are you traveling with kids? If so, what are their ages and interests?

    PHXscuba
     
  8. jhaig

    jhaig Ooooh, stuffed crust

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    Our plan is to stay for a night or two in a central location near where we want to do things and use that place as our home base then take day trips. I want to start at Disneyland and we plan on getting there by the middle of June as soon as school gets out to avoid summer crowds. It will be myself, my wife and 14yr old daughter.

    The main things we want to do are: Disneyland, Sequoia/Kings Canyon, see the redwoods, drive the coastline and drive thru the wineries (non-drinkers, but just looks spectacular), hit the beaches in So Cal for a day or two, SD Zoo, and end up in Hollywood. I didn't want to just blow through and say we did it. I want to relax and enjoy places like Sequoia and the beaches, but I also don't want to rush around from place to place. Still working on an actual plan....
     
  9. jhaig

    jhaig Ooooh, stuffed crust

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    We would want something moderately easy in terms of hiking. Is Great Forest the place to go at SEKI?
     
  10. bcla

    bcla DIS Veteran

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    Giant Forest has the General Sherman Tree. It looks like these days you would need to park about a good half mile away unless your vehicle has a disabled placard, or take the optional shuttle bus. You could just walk to the General Sherman Tree and back, or you could take a longer loop. I can't really find a good map that describes it, but a visitor center there could give you a map of the grove. The longer loops vary depending on how far you want to go. It could be anywhere from 2 to maybe 8 miles round trip.
     
  11. jhaig

    jhaig Ooooh, stuffed crust

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    So, if you were going to do a long trip like this, would you save 4 days at DL for the end of the trip or would you do DL first?
     
  12. larina

    larina DIS Veteran

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    I'd do DL last. Save the best for last!
     
  13. hsmamato2

    hsmamato2 <font color=magenta>Tink in Training-Good Girl,Bad

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    me too,we flew out,and spent 2 weeks in Arizona/California(drove 1700+ miles in 2 weeks) did disney last,since we 'roughed' it to save money the rest of the time,and a nice hotel and theme park was wonderful after our 'outdoor' adventures...
     
  14. iHEARTflorida

    iHEARTflorida DIS Veteran

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    Disneyland 5 nights IMO 3 nights would do
    Sequoia/Kings Canyon - never been before unsure how long needed
    San Francisco - day trip to Muir Woods or head furthur north to Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, Guerneville, CA. Can do daytrips to Napa, Sonoma, Glen Ellen for wine. 4-5nights

    >>I'm not sure what Redwoods you mean, if you were talking about the ones in Northern California in Cresent City, which is over a 10hr drive from Kings Canyon<<

    Coastal Drive 2-3nights. At least 1-2nights in Monterey, and the other in Cambria.
    Los Angeles 3-4 nights
    San Diego 3-4 nights
    Home Airport
     
  15. clutter

    clutter <font color=FF66FF>Princess's Mom<br><font color=b

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    We did 2 weeks last summer, and lopped of northern california because of it.

    Originally, I'd planned to fly into LAX and out of Oakland or San Jose. I managed to find a rental that wasn't too bad for a one way, but the different airports made a big difference in rental cost. Anything other than LAX was expensive, and flying home from SFO was expensive for the car rentals. I tried, like you, to do both the mountains and the coast, but it wasn't working for me, with only two weeks.

    We ended up doing: DLR for 4 nights. We did go into LA for a couple of the days from DLR. Then we went up to Sequoia NP. Spent the night outside of the park, spent one night in the park, spent the next day driving around, then driving back to LA. Then we drove down to SD. Stopped mid-way to go to the SD Zoo's Animal Safari Park. Went to the SD Zoo. Drove back to LAX to fly home. With 3 weeks, I'd go north from Sequoia and go to Yosemite. Then head to Monterey, then SF. Or do Sequoia, head west to the coast, then drive up to Monterey and SF, then Yosemite and fly home from maybe Reno or Fresno.

    While the Animal Safari Park was expensive, it was wonderful. As was teh Zoo. At both places we did an up-close type tour. Because the Safari Park is so spread out, I'd invest in doing that. At the zoo, you don't really need it, but it was great. Don't know how old your kids are, but we really loved the Warner Bros studio tour. If you have a teen that watches Pretty Little Liars, or a Friends fan, it's awesome!
     

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