Road Trip to California from St. Louis in July 2013

Discussion in 'California & the West' started by MarbleBob, Mar 25, 2013.

  1. MarbleBob

    MarbleBob DIS Veteran

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    I just finished making hotel reservations for a 16 day road trip from St. Louis, MO to California in July. We plan to drive to San Francisco via I-80 and spend three full days in the Bay area. Then head over to Yosemite for 2 nights. Then down to Anaheim for 5 nights. Then back home via I-40 with a one night pit stop at Grand Canyon south rim.

    We've (me, DW, DD13, DS10, DD6) never been on such a huge road trip before, and we are super excited!! We'll be in a mini van with a DVD player, and the kids have iPads. Otherwise, lots of staring out the window and "are we there yets?" Can't wait!!!


    Part 1: Drive to California
    Leaving on a Saturday morning, drive from St. Louis to Cheyenne, WY for the first day. Drive to Elko, NV on second day. Drive to Hayward, CA on third day. I'm guessing we'll pass through Sacramento area around 2 or 3 PM on the third day. We might stop at the train museum in Sacramento for a pit stop (DS10 loves trains), or possibly visit something gold rush related in Coloma. If neither of those pan out (pun intended), then maybe stop for a tour of the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield.

    Part 2: Explore Bay area
    We'll be staying with my aunt and uncle in Hayward for 4 nights. Arriving on a Monday evening. Some of the things we are considering include: Golden Gate Bridge, Lucasfilm Campus in Presidio, Disney Family Museum, Japan Town (DD is obsessed with all things Japanese), Fisherman's Wharf/Pier 39/Cable Cars, Muir Beach/Woods, Chinatown, Computer History museum in Silicon Valley, drive by Apple headquarters (even if you can only visit the corporate gift shop), Train Town in Sonoma (my kids have a train DVD that highlights that place and they've always wanted to visit it). Who knows what else, lots of museums and parks and stuffÂ… Too bad we won't have time to do it all. Tough decisions here!!

    Part 3: Yosemite
    Leaving SF on Friday morning. Apparently, it will take 4 or 5 hours to get to Yosemite. We've got reservations for 2 nights in the valley at Curry Village (one of those tents with wood floors). Never been to Yosemite, but after doing a little research, it looks like we want to stay in the valley to maximize our 1.5 days at the park. Not sure exactly how this will play out, but apparently we should hit the Mariposa grove, typical waterfalls and sights in the Valley (understanding that the falls may be dry-ish by then), and also drive up to Glacier Point.

    Part 4: Anaheim
    Leave Yosemite early on Sunday morning and drive to HOJO across the street from Disneyland. (Stayed there once before and it was fun.) Has anyone ever made this drive from Yosemite? I'm guessing if we leave early around 8 AM, we might get into Anaheim around 4 or 5 pm? (Google says 6 hours. I'll add an hour for lunch and gas. Then, maybe an extra hour or two for traffic? I have no idea what to expect traffic wise.)

    Assuming we get checked in to HOJO before dinner, we'd spend the evening in Downtown Disney. Maybe eat dinner and relax at the DLH Tiki Bar (a long walk, I know) and then shop and see the sights as we walk back. Maybe watch fireworks from HOJO balcony (I booked at superior room in Bldg 1)

    Spend 2 days at DL and 1 day at CA (probably not buy hopper tickets). We'll see WOC one night. Probably skip Fantasmic on the DL days. Otherwise, we'll just try and maximize the time in the parks. (We've been to DW about 12 times as a family, and DL with just my DW)

    On Thursday, have a beach day. Probably Newport Beach, ride the ferry to Balboa, play in sand, etc. Also, hoping the new Vans Skatepark in Huntington Beach is open by then. Otherwise, we might visit the Vans skatepark at the Block at Orange (or just scrap Newport Beach and go up to Venice Beach since their skatepark is right by the sand/water. Yes, I'm 38 and I still enjoy skateboarding :)

    Part 5: Grand Canyon and heading home
    We've never seen the Grand Canyon before. We don't have time for a real visit, but you can't drive within 60 miles and not at least stop for a photo-op right? We'll head that way on Friday morning. Should arrive at Grand Canyon Village around 5 or 6. We have reservations for Yavapai Lodge. We should at least have some time to walk around and explore for a couple hours and then see the sunset. Probably get up early to see the sunrise before heading out. Saturday morning, drive to Amarillo for the night. And then drive on back to Missouri for a late arrival in STL.


    Lots of long days in the car. I'm sure it'll take a few days to recover when we get back, but it'll be worth it. I'm still having fun searching forums like the Dis and TripAdvisor and there are lots of details to sort out, like fun places to eat, and minor sites/pitstops to see. Any suggestions or constructive criticisms would be greatly appreciated!!
     
  2. PrincessInOz

    PrincessInOz Thanks for my avatar, Mary Jo!

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    What a great roadtrip! There will be lots of driving for sure...and lots of "Are we there yet?"...but I wish I were in the car with you.

    You're hitting a lot of my favourite places in the Bay area and NorCal. We've driven Yosemite to San Diego once before. We did do it in the one day; and traffic around Los Angeles is in the laps of the gods.

    I have one suggestion. Muir Woods is really nice and all that. But you seem keen to go to the Apple campus. If you're down that way, may I suggest you look up Big Basin or even Henry Cowell State Parks? You could drive the Skyline (route 35) back to Hayward from Apple, which may be a detour but you will hit a few more smaller Redwood groves along this way. You might cut across at the 92 to the San Mateo bridge to get back to Hayward. There is Roaring Canyon Railroad near Henry Cowell SP; which might be the alternative to Sonoma Traintown (although the Sonoma Traintown is great!).

    There is also a lovely Japanese garden near Saratoga (Hakone Gardens); depending on how time works out for you. Alternatively, the Japanese garden in Golden Gate park might also be somewhere that your DD might enjoy.
     
  3. MarbleBob

    MarbleBob DIS Veteran

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    PrincessInOz,

    Thanks for the tips!!! We'll have to strongly consider Big Basin and/or Henry Cowell State Parks. I've added them to my trip planning notebook (I've been using Evernote for this, and it's working really well).

    My two younger kids have their hearts set on Sonoma Train Town, so that one is on the must do list. SF Japan town is also on the must do list. My older DD wants to see the shops, restaurants, and experience the culture. Everything else is open. I'm thinking we'll take one day to explore more north Sonoma, Muir Woods, and some SF city stuff. Then a day focus on more central SF stuff. And the third day, would be more south San Jose, Mountain View, Cupertino, etc area.

    This is going to be so much fun. I'll add those Japanese gardens that you mentioned to the research list too!! :)
     
  4. PrincessInOz

    PrincessInOz Thanks for my avatar, Mary Jo!

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