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  1. Default California Road Trip - April 2008 - Please HELP!

    Hi everyone,

    Me and hubby are headed on our first ever road trip next spring. We are flying from Toronto to San Francisco and then plan to drive throughout California. So far, our trip is looking like this:

    - 3 nights in San Fran
    - Drive to LA, stop somewhere along the way for one night
    - LA
    - San Diego

    I would like advice/suggestions on:
    - route from SF to LA and where to stop/stay along the way?
    - how far is the drive from LA to San Diego?
    - how many nights do you recommend in LA and SD?
    - unique attractions and must-see destinations along those routes and/or in these cities

    We are both 30 years old and are into:
    - shopping
    - real city experiences -- not just the touristy stuff
    - architecture
    - wine
    - good food
    - trendy/hip places
    - music

    I really appreciate your advice! Thanks!

  2. Default Some random commments..

    Hello proud2becdn,

    You have a couple of options for your road trip from SF to LA and on to San Diego. In the minimum, it's very doable to drive from SF to LA in a day via the fastest route (I-5), but that's not the most interesting.

    The usual recommended route would be SF down via Monterey/ Carmel down through Big Sur on Coast Highway to Morro Bay, and then down to LA on 101. This is a more scenic route, and possible to drive through in one day, but usually done in 2-3 days. For places to stop, the usual place to recommend for a stop is from San Luis Obispo to Santa Barbara, depending upon where you want to stop or visit. First Day stops can include Monterey (Cannery Row, the large Monterey Bay Aquarium) or the beaches there, the 17 mile drive near Carmel, numerous scenic sights starting near Monterey and down through Big Sur, Hearst Castle, the elephant seal colony at Pedro Blancos, wine countries near Monterey or Paso Robles, or Morro Bay. The second day stops (depending upon where you spend the night) can include Guadalupe Dunes, Pismo Beach (and dunes), Jalama Beach, Solvang/ San Ynez wineries (the movie Sideways was set here), the danish town of Solvang, Vandenberg Air Force Base (the most active space launch facility outside of Russia), Santa Barbara, Ventura Beach, Ojai, and Malibu.

    If you're interested in architecture, Hearst Castle should be in your list -- although the tour will take at least 3 hours. Similarly, you should stop at at least one of the old Spanish Missions to understand where the "mission style" or architecture is derived from -- there are several along the route that are options (Santa Barbara is considered one of the most beautiful, but there are proponents of several others). For food and wine, there are excellent restaurants in Cambria, and Solvang and Santa Barbara areas of note, serving regional cusine.

    From LA to San Diego is typically 2-3 hours, depending upon where in the LA area you start from, and traffic.

    How long you stay in each city depends upon what you want to see, and your personal tastes I would guess. If you're into real city experiences, and trendy/ hip places you'll probably want to explore the Melrose and West Hollywood areas of LA. That could take several days, depending upon what and how much you want to see. Some VERY good (and VERY pricy) restaurants and stores in the area, ranging from funky/ cool to Rodeo Drive $$$. Lodging will probably not be inexpensive, and you will be in the middle of a highly urban environment. Similarly, depending upon what's showing, there can be some very good music scenes in the Sunset Blvd or Wilshire District areas -- that area is the center of the music and entertainment business. But sometimes its hard to find, since everyone wants to see the really cool/hip/ good stuff, and in a highly urban environment it gets swamped with people.

    San Diego will be much more mellow. Gas Lamp quarter has reasonably good walking and shops, plus you should pass a couple of major outlet malls on the way.

    For shopping there are several major shopping meccas on this route -- Melrose/ West Hollywood, but also Torrance Fashion Mall, Newport Beach Fashion Island, South Coast Plaza (not far from Fashion Island), and La Jolla. For an enjoyable walking tour area with very good shopping I'd recommend La Jolla shores area. For more funky art type shoping, there's Venice/ West LA, and also Laguna Beach (on Coast Highway south of LA and the OC).

  3. Default

    Larrison - thank you so much for this detailed description.

    We are now tempted to forego San Diego and spend more time driving the coast. We are limited to 9 nights/10 days for the trip and are thinking of 3 nights in SF, 1 night in San Luis Obispo and 5 nights in LA area. Does that sound like reasonable timeframe given our interests?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Central California

    Default Sounds good


    The time frame sounds pretty good.

    I might add a day in the Paso Robles area to do a wine tour. The area has some very good wineries, and since it is a bit off the beaten track you'll find the area to be uncrowded and very enjoyable. Do me a favor, visit Adelaida Cellars and report back on what you think of their wines. We visited there a decade or so ago and were blown away by their intensely flavored varietals. Theirs was the first case we ever bought, and I still think it was the best.

    For architecture and art you must visit the Getty Museum on I-405. The setting and the design are amazing, even if you don't see the art. All you pay for is the $8 parking fee, and you can tour the grounds (just beautiful) see the museum and have a wonderful lunch.

    For shopping you have to go to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills - you probably knew this already - but as much as I don't care for shopping, it is a lot of fun. For contrast, the ethnic shopping areas in or near downtown LA (Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Mexican, etc.) are fascinating, too.

    Craig Sheumaker
    co-author of the travel guide: America's Living History-The Early Years

  5. #5

    Default Some ideas

    My trendy years are long over so I can't give any hip suggestions,
    but I have some ideas you may want to research.

    California is wine country. From Anderson Valley in the north,
    to Temecula in the south. The Sierra foothills to the coastal
    mountains, you're never far from grape vines.

    The central coast is a prime wine region (San Luis Obispo,
    Paso Robles, Santa Maria, Santa Ynez).

    In the Bay Area, Napa and Sonoma are the main wine regions, but
    there are wineries in the Santa Cruz Mountains as well as
    west towards Livermore.

    Shopping areas in the Bay Area include, Westfield Mall, Union Square, and
    Embarcadero Shopping Center in SF, and Stanford Shopping Center,
    down the Peninsula in Palo Alto.

    Every neighborhood in SF and towns down the Peninsula (roughly, the region
    between Mountain View and San Francisco) has a retail district.
    The SF Chronicle has a visitor's
    to SF.

    If you have an interest in cabaret theater, Beach Blanket Babylon is
    a popular ticket. Yelp reviews here.
    You'll probably need to reserve tickets ahead of time.

    Warning about SF. Parking is always a headache, I gave up driving
    to the City and now use public transportation combined with walking.
    Also, you'll probably encounter pan handlers at sometime during your visit.

    If you enjoy history, you can take the Sin, Fire and Gold walking tour.
    You can do it on your own. There's also a book.

    I live in the East Bay, but still enjoy visiting SF's tourist sights, like Coit
    Tower, Fisherman's Wharf, Alcatraz, Angel Island, Golden Gate Bridge,
    Fort Point, Presidio, and the Ferry Building.

    Fort Point Photo:

    If you head to the North Bay (north of the Golden Gate Bridge) there are
    some great parks. Much of the land immediately north of the
    Golden Gate Bridge is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
    Mount Tamalpais State Park.

    Also in the North Bay is Muir Woods National Monument and a bit further north
    is Point Reyes National Seashore.

    Photo from Point Reyes:

    Mt Tam sunset:

    Downtown Los Angeles has some really interesting architecture along
    Broadway. It's a changing neighborhood right now. It's seen it's hey
    days back in the 30's then fell into neglect, evolving into a vibrant
    shopping area predominantly catering to a Latino population. It's
    currently being redeveloped right and becoming more gentrified. Check the LA Conservancy and join them
    for a walking tour.

    Also in the downtown area is the Frank Gehry designed Disney Hall.

    In Pasadena there's the Gamble House designed in the craftsman style by Greene and Greene.

    It's been a long time since I've been to the Groundlings Theater on
    Melrose Ave in Los Angeles, but they used to put on the best sketch
    and improv shows. The likes of Phil Hartman, Will Ferrell, and Kathy Griffin
    were all Groundling alums.

    Have a great trip!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default Roadie seems pretty hip to me!

    Love the Gehry and Greene & Greene suggestions. I don't think beauties like these every go out of style.

    I didn't know the Gamble House was open for tours. I will have to remember that if I ever get that way again.

    Thanks for that info.

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