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  1. Default West Coast Cruise

    Greetings all and congratulations on the site!

    Apologies if this road trip has been done to death, but we're coming from England and want to make sure we don't get lost (or is that more fun that way?).

    The plan is.... oh man I'm soooo excited... collect a hire car from San Francisco on 7th August and drop it off in Las Vegas on 27th August. It's the bit in-between that I need to work on... here's what I was thinking....

    1. Four nights in San Francisco
    2. Two nights in Santa Cruz
    3. One night in Monterey
    4. One night in Pismo Beach
    5. One night in Santa Barbara
    6. Three nights in Santa Monica (Use a base to explore Los Angeles)
    7. Two nights in Las Vegas
    8. Two nights in Grand Canyon
    9. Four nights in Las Vegas

    I've a good idea about which highways/roads (???) to take, but welcome all suggestions with open arms (we'd like to take the scenic route).

    My other query is; do we need to make all these stops? I mean, are they places worth exploring or would it be better to skip a few stops and have more time at others? Or are there better stops altogether that I haven't considered?

    Thank you.

    Rob

  2. Default

    San Francisco is certainly worth your while. Monterey is worth it for no other reason than the aquarium. It's world class. Santa Cruz is nice, but it's mainly a college town. If you run short of time, you could skip it. Ditto for Pismo Beach. Not much there as far as I'm concerned. Santa Barbara is a pretty town. Nice shops, nice restaurants, etc. The architecture is Spanish, and some of the buildings are pretty. It gets crowded during the summer, though. Santa Monica- Well, it's not a bad town. Where do you want to go from there? Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm, Universal Studios? Santa Monica is not all that close to them. From Disneyland, it's at least 30 miles.
    Las Vegas speaks for itself. Quite a city. The Grand Canyon is beautiful. Be aware it will be crowded with tourists, especially on the south side of the canyon. If you can, see the north side of the canyon. It's not as crowded, and also quite spectacular.
    I hope this gives you some ideas. I hope you enjoy your visit to our country.

  3. Default Ideas

    Hi,
    Glad you are so excited to visit our wonderful country!! I was looking at your plans and it looks like you will be in Vegas twice. Maybe just an oversite, but I would just make that my endpoint since that is where you will be leaving from. A few ideas I would add are more National Parks/Sites. There are many located in CA and AZ. Death Valley, Sequoia, Muir Woods and Lake Mead are just a few in the general area of your plans. The National Park website has a wealth of info and you can research by state as well as actual name. Our National Parks are very well worth their entrance fee. If you decide to visit even one or two in addition to the Grand Canyon, you can purchase an annual pass for $50.00 and all sites are included. The Hoover Dam is on the path between Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. The London Bridge is on the CA AZ border in Lake Havasu City. It just crosses the Colorado River now!! You may find the North rim of the Grand Canyon less crowded than the more heavily visited South Rim. There has been much talked about on this subject in the forum.

    Hope I have helped. Any questions, feel free to ask.

    Have a great time planning and taking your roadtrip.

    Diana

  4. Default

    Thanks for the quick replies! I'm looking to book the hotels within the next few days.

    We stay in Las Vegas as a stop over before travelling to the Grand Canyon then return for a crazy weekend. We'll definately check out the North rim too, thanks for the tip. I think we're going to Monument Valley for the day... not sure how far we go before admiring the view then turning back round though...

    I thought there was quite a bit to see at Santa Cruz, that's why we planned on staying two nights but I might have to alter that now. It's actually the most expensive stop during our trip.

    If we miss out Pismo Beach, how long will the drive from Monterey to Santa Barbara be? The extra day could allow us to check out Death Valley, or one of the other parks mentioned.

    Regarding Santa Monica, that's really for my better half. She's got the celebrity bug and wants to visit Beverely Hills, Hollywood and Newport Beach. Do we need to be situated somewhere else for this?

    Really appreciate the help guys. Two weeks today! (we visit family in Toronto before flying to San Francisco)

  5. Default

    Hello rob k

    Hmm.. I live in Socal, near Long Beach area, and I've driven a fair amount around where you're interested in going. A few comments if I may?

    Monterey to SB can be as short as around 4 hours drive time. That's going a bit inland, down the 101 freeway. If you do down via Coast 1 (PCH), that's a longer day, but a much prettier trip. If you take the coast route through Big Sur to San Simeon, a couple of interesting places to stop (other than in Big Sur) are at the Elephant Seal Colony about 10 miles north of San Simeon at Pedros Blancos, and Hearst Castle in San Simeon. There are also substantial wineries and wine growing areas at Paso Robles (inland from San Simeon) and in the San Ynez/ Solvang areas on 101. The movie Sideways, for example, was set in San Ynez & Solvang.

    August is the hottest month of the year in SoCal, so be prepared for heat. It'll be 15 F cooler along the coast, but inland where Universal Studios, Hollywood, and etc are -- it may be in the 90's during the day. A week or so a year the temps can go over 100F, and that's a possiblity.

    Santa Monica isn't bad to visit Hollywood, Sunset Blvd and Beverly Hills -- but you'll be fighting street-level LA traffic. Take your time and be prepared, as that's probably the densest urban area in LA. Depending upon where you're at in SM, it can take you 45 minute or so to get to places like Grumann's Chinese on Hollywood Blvd. And if you're in the area, the Getty Musuem is very nice as well...

    If you want to go to Newport Beach and the OC, it can be an hour drive or more at rush hour. Depending upon your schedule flexibility and what you'd like to do, you might consider relocating to a hotel in Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, or Laguna Beach. These are all beach cities along the coast about 30-60 minutes south of Santa Monica. HB is known as "Surf city" with long sandy beaches, and is fairly close to Disneyland, Knotts and the like. Newport Beach is next door to HB, and (with its neighbor Corona Del Mar and Emerald Bay) is the center of the "OC", as seen on TV. Laguna is an artists community, also on the beach and is more of a funky beach town with lots of stores, restaurants and artists galleries.

    If you're heading through the desert, just be prepared. It'll be HOT. Temperature in Death Valley may be 120F (its predicted to be that high today). Drink lots of water, don't get overheated, have a working cell phone just in case, etc. LA to Vegas is around 5 hours drive time, once you get out of LA traffic, plus time for a Death Valley side trip.

    Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley and back is probably a least a 2 night trip. Check a map and your schedule and you might look at some options --

    - LA to (for example) Williams, Arizona (on old route 66) including a side trip into the Mojave National Preserve.

    - Williams to South Rim of the Grand Canyon, then along the south rim and out the east entrance of the GC, and then north to Monument Valley/ 4 corners area.

    - Return via Page Arizona (Glen Canyon/ Vermillion Cliffs) and St George Utah, with potentially a side trip to north rim of the Grand Canyon, eventually getting to Las Vegas.

    Check out one of the internet map sites such as www.maps.msn.com or www.mapquest.com and see if the drive times and distances work for you or your agenda . There are lots of similar alternatives available, including going south from the Grand Canyon area through Flagstaff and Sedona to Phoenix or east to the Petrified Forest, for example.

    Similarly, you could pick up more California areas -- Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park, Napa Valley, Sacramento/ Gold Rush area, etc... Depends upon what you're interested in.

  6. Default Death Valley and other tips

    To answer your question- How far is it from Monterey to Santa Barbara?- It's 246 miles. Sorry, I can't do the metric thing. On highway 101, probably about 5 hours.

    I hope this helps.

    Rob- Please be aware- Please- Death Valley can be extremely hot during the summer. There are a lot of tourists go there because they're fascinated with the names at that park. Like Furnace Creek, Bad Water, etc. As one of the forum members pointed out, it can reach 120 degrees during the summer. There's very little police patrol there. There's one California highway patrolman who works the whole park during the summer. Almost every year, he goes through 2 sets of tires, and sometimes burns up an engine out there.
    Also, Death Valley is not close to the California coast. If you have the chance to visit California again, visit Death Valley during the fall or winter. We did that one year, and it was a pleasant 70 degrees.
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 07-12-2006 at 10:33 AM. Reason: Continuation of similar posts

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default A Grand RoadTrip Adventure!

    Quote Originally Posted by rob k
    Apologies if this road trip has been done to death, but we're coming from England and want to make sure we don't get lost (or is that more fun that way?).
    The very best roadtrip experiences I have ever had were the result of taking the wrong turn, getting lost and disovering little-kown pockets of eden along the way. Welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum. Several of our members have already contributed lots of roadtrip lore and info, so here are just a little more to see and do.

    First, it is impossible to do a "road tip to death" -- you could drive the same road, a thousand times and each time it would be different -- because of different conditions, weather and the interior spaces of your mind.

    A couple of observations that differ a little afrom my fellow roadtrip brethren ---

    I could spend a week in Santa Cruz and never even see the University --
    and this one:

    I have never seen the variety of starfish that hang out at the tide pools at Natural Bridges State Park. Likewise, if you like beach-combing, Seacliff is world-class. My favorite beach for sunsets is just down the coast -- near the sunken concrete boat and if you are really lucky, you might get to see one of the massive great whites that patrol the surf-break right there. Lighthouse point affords easy viewing of world-class surfing and one of our RoadTrip Advisors lives and works in Santa Cruz and knows all of the hot spots for dining.

    Pismo Beach is a fun town and a mecca for lovers of sand and sand-rails.

    One of the best sources for finding those insider-only spots can be read in Penland's book on the Big Sur.
    As one of the forum members pointed out, it can reach 120 degrees during the summer. There's very little police patrol there. There's one California highway patrolman who works the whole park during the summer. Almost every year, he goes through 2 sets of tires, and sometimes burns up an engine out there.
    This is a little far-fetched -- there are three CHP officers and their families who live year-round near Furnace Creek and approximately a dozen park rangers who patrol this park. It is possible to find a dirt road, get into trouble and not be found right away, but all paved roads are patrolled many times each day. Yes, it is warm in Death Valley during the summer months, but that very heat is what is so appealing to many first-time visitors. Read these tips and be smart -- you will be fine.
    We stay in Las Vegas as a stop over before travelling to the Grand Canyon then return for a crazy weekend. We'll definately check out the North rim too, thanks for the tip. I think we're going to Monument Valley for the day... not sure how far we go before admiring the view then turning back round though...
    If you dropped the first stop-over in Las Vegas from the schedule, you could see more of the national parks in Utah and Arizona and then return for a fun and wild time in Las Vegas!

    Happy Planning!

    Mark
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 07-12-2006 at 04:46 PM.

  8. Default Nearly ready to go...

    Thank you all for your time and advice. I've spent the last few weeks researching and tweaking every little detail of our road trip... boring our friends and family silly!

    I've found this site to be extremely helpful and will recommend it to others. I actually had quite a few e-mails from people that read this thread and were doing similar trips.

    ok. Route finalised. Accommodation confirmed. Based on the feedback given in this thread and after reading other West Coast threads, we've decided to stay at Newport Beach rather than Santa Monica and will replace the first stop over at Las Vegas with a tour of Death Valley. We’ll pretty much stick to the coast all the way down to Newport.

    I saw the amazing pictures of Big Sur taken by one of the members and went dizzy with excitement! My wife is really into photography so I'll hopefully post a few on my return.

    One thing I picked up on when researching accommodation; it sounds like a nightmare to park anywhere in the big cities. San Francisco for example. So we booked hotels that have free parking. This way we'll just explore on foot or tram.

    Well, I'm sat at my desk in work with two hours on the clock left. It's been a very productive day. Just wanted to again, thank everyone for their time and efforts. Keep up the great work!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default Looking forward to your own field report!

    Quote Originally Posted by rob k
    Well, I'm sat at my desk in work with two hours on the clock left. It's been a very productive day. Just wanted to again, thank everyone for their time and efforts. Keep up the great work!
    Thanks and we look forward to reading your own field report when you get back.

    Mark

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