Disneyland to San Francisco itinerary help!


AKA Miss lady who isn't my mommy
Apr 26, 2005
DH and I were just looking over your itinerary and here's our thoughts:

1. Be alert to weather and possible road closures on PCH. There are sections that they are planning on closing during heavy rains due to past issues with rock/mud slides, and if a slide does happen, then there's all kinds of headaches with detours for months. January is usually wet.

2. Your trek from LA to Morro Bay will have the most traffic and actual travel time will depend on that. DH says to have the Beach Boys on and be prepared for long delays.

3. Services are really few and far between on PCH, so make use of gas stations and bathroom breaks when you see them, and pack a lunch (as a PP mentioned) or bring substantial snacks.

4. We love Monterey Bay Aquarium! We've visited both MBA and Aquarium of the Pacific, and prefer MBA. It's true that they're far more conservation/education focused vs entertainment, so there won't be big fun shows and things, but we love their commitment to research and education. They do have an app with the daily schedule of feedings, and if you're there on a weekday without field trips, you should be able to get a good view at those. If you are there on a field trip day, the afternoon is much less crowded than the mornings and can be practically empty mid-week.

5. Kayaking in Moss Landing is AMAZING! Hope that works out for you!

6. If you're interested in a whale watching tour, there are quite a few that leave from Monterey and at least one from Moss Landing that I remember. January is good for gray whales and dolphins.

7. We second the recommendation for Cowell Redwoods, based on ease of getting in and out. Muir Woods is overcrowded and they are really working on limiting access (reservations, shuttle buses, etc.) so be sure to carefully read their website to get all the details before planning a trip there. Big Basin is very nice, but is more out of the way. It's a lovely drive, but harder to get to vs Cowell. We've done all 3, and Cowell is our default for taking out-of-state guests simply because it's so much easier to get to and is less crowded.

8. If you decide to keep your car in San Francisco, double check the parking information at your hotel. They usually charge an arm and a leg per night - in one case, it cost my parents $50/night to park their car, and it wasn't guaranteed to be on-site parking! Our advice is to trust your daughter and lean into the transit lessons she's learned. Worst case is you'd have to call for Lyft or Uber or a taxi, but those are often half the cost of a day of parking. And sometimes hotels will have shuttles to the main tourist spots, so you can ask about that, too.

Hope that helps! Sounds like a fun trip, and your plan is one of the more reasonable ones we've seen! I think you've got a sensible, relaxed trip.


Wishing I was taking a nap on a ship.
Oct 25, 2015
Update on Muir Woods Parking - I was looking at transportation getting in and out of there and saw that they now only offer reserved parking. You would buy your parking ahead of time, print it out or download because no cell service there, and it gives you a 30 minute window (I believe) that you are supposed to arrive. While you won't have a specific space, you are guaranteed parking when you get there and there's no time limit.

There are also 3 areas away from Muir woods that you can leave your car and take the shuttle bus in. Those are reserved times to ride in, but the website said the return trips are frequent and you can just catch a shuttle going back whenever you want. https://gomuirwoods.com/

They no longer allow people to just drive in to park. This is really good news for me. I had Muir Woods off the table, but now I am thinking about going there next summer. We're currently jostling Muir Woods vs. Henry Cowell vs. Sequoia. I've already been to all of them, so just trying to figure out all the logistics. Reserved parking and a shuttle bus have put Muir Woods at the top of the list now.


DIS Veteran
Feb 3, 2008
We're heading back to California in mid-January, ...
Day 7: Kayaking at Moss Landing, weather permitting, as part of DD11's ongoing quest to see baby sea otters. Our guide on this paddle in August said there are a lot of them in the relatively sheltered waters of the slough early in the year, so this is the most likely opportunity. Plan B is a pontoon boat tour in the same area, if the weather isn't looking suitable for kayaking. Either way, we'll be done in the area around lunchtime, giving us the whole afternoon for the PCH drive the rest of the way up to San Francisco.
You should see otters at Elkhorn Slough. Fun fact - over half of the otters currently in the Slough are either MBA SORAC rescue/releases or their descendants. https://baynature.org/article/sea-otter-adoptees-born-elkhorn-slough/
A January visit falls into the time frame that female otters in CA are pupping, so that ups your chances of seeing a mom and pup.
Consider scheduling an Ano Nuevo walking tour to see the elephant seals during your day 7 afternoon? https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=27613 Ano Nuevo is on Hwy. 1 about 1 hr. north of Moss Landing depending on traffic through Santa Cruz and you’ll definitely see elephant seal pups in Jan..
Temper your expectations of seeing the otters at the Monterrey Bay aquarium. The sea otter exhibit is not very good there. The one at the Long Beach Aquarium is MUCH better. Monterrey has a great, multi-level kelp forest tank and another giant tank where they had a whale at one point - not sure if the whale is still there - those are the highlights. The setting along cannery row is amazing. They try and sell it like it's a multi-day experience but I don't think so. If you are giving it 4-5 hours that's about right.
MBA has 3 very large multi species exhibit tanks, 2 in the original building which opened in 1984, and the open sea exhibit in the newer building which opened in 1996. But MBA has never had a captive whale or any captive cetaceans https://www.vancourier.com/news/monterey-bay-makes-splash-as-captive-free-model-1.974620
I’m not sure where that urban legend came from, but I blame Star Trek, the movie, which through the magic of film making filmed at the MBA and ‘put’ a whale in the tank in the movie and a lot of visitors seem to have confused film making fantasy with facts. But there’s never been any marine mammals other than otters on display at MBA.
If it were entirely up to me, I'd do Aquarium of the Pacific rather than a second visit to Monterey, but DH really wants to see the Monterey Aquarium because with his aunt living in the area he's heard a lot about it but never been out there himself. The Long Beach Aquarium has a behind-the-scenes otter experience that I tried to convince DH would make the perfect Christmas gift for DD11, but between the scheduling (weekends only) and DH's desire to go to MB Aquarium, I don't think I can manage to shoehorn it in.
There is a nice relatively short walking trail along the ocean starting at the aquarium and heading to Lovers point in Pacific Grove, you’ll almost always see Harbor seals hauled out on Hopkins Beach and I sometimes see otters and sea lions in the water along that walk. Or you can walk down Cannery Row and continue along the ocean in the other direction for the short stroll to Fisherman’s wharf - I’ve often seen otters along that walk as well and I also hear and usually see the sea lions that hang out around the wharf. There’s usually otters to be seen from the aquarium’s deck, the volunteers and staff stationed there will be happy to loan you binoculars and point out where the otters are.
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