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Thread: LA to SF 8 days

  1. Default LA to SF 8 days

    Hi everybody. My wife and I are planning a road trip between May 22 Friday - May 30th Saturday mainly between LA and SF. Our return flight is on 630am on 30th from LAX. So it looks like we'll have several road options, of course it all depends on your valuable input.

    I've only been to CA once which was 15 years ago. At that time I spent couple of months mainly in SF and Berkeley and only visited Yosemite and Palo Alto. Then I moved to US from Europe 8 years ago but never had any chance to road trip California. So although I still remember where to go in Bay Area, I need your advice on what to do, where to eat, which roads to take from LA tp SF.

    Referring to threads on the same route, I'm taking LA-SF instead of SF-LA because our schedule will depend on Lakers Western Conference Finals schedule which I probably won't know until mid May. Seeing Lakers at Staples is a priority in this trip (that way I'll erase an item on my bucket list).

    We only have 8 nights. Based on other threads it looks like we'll take Highway 1 and make spontaneous stops for sighseeing lodging etc..We'll probably book hotels (max $100/night) 1-2 days in advance or maybe not. That part is easy as long as we know which places we want to visit.

    We don't want to spend more than 2 nights in LA. Though I'm a big movie buff, I'm not interested in Hollywood tours etc. We'll probably spend 6-7 hrs shopping to entertain my wife (premium outlets looks like a must). Other than that, we just want to hit the road. Driving south to San Diego is an option, that way we can drive back to LA to watch Lakers before driving towards SF. But I don't know if it makes sense. I need your input whether it's worth it.

    Other main questions are:
    1-Dining: We'd mainly like to spend minimum for breakfast and lunch to dine at decent places and check out the night scenes on wherever we stay.Also, if you know small but authentic restaurants on Highway 1, that would be great. (I mean places like Czech Stop driving from Austin to Dallas)

    2-Which cities close to Highway 1 should we consider? I've heard about San Luis Obispo, Santa Monica, Santa Barbara, Monterey. I haven't done too much research so far about the mapping. So does it make sense if we stay 1 night in each. All I know is we want to stay in SF 2 nights before
    a- leaving the rental to the airport on Friday night and fly back to LAX.
    or b- taking 101 to drive back to LA (if there are other things to see on that road that we'll miss on our way to SF)

    3-I know there are tons of state parks but we may not have too much time for trekking. But we would like to spontaneously visit 1-2 for couple of hours. So which ones on the way serve that purpose?

    4-I love amusement parks and been to Six Flags, DisneyWorld, Universal, SeaWorld etc a lot of times but I'm not sure if I want to spend 1 day in Disney in this trip unless it's really different from DisneyWorld. So you tell me if it's a must. I'm not craving at this point due to time constraint.

    5-If we add Lake Tahoe for 1 night, is it doable or too ambitious? I know we won't add Vegas because we've been there before.

    Other questions will follow...

    Thanks so much in advance.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default up in the air

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I think you're going to end up having a lot less time than you might think for this trip, once you factor in all of the things you've mentioned.

    The friday you arrive will pretty much shot as you travel and recover from jetlag. And it sounds like the following friday will mostly be a travel day, and presumably you'll want to go to bed early, since you'll have to be at the airport around 4am on Saturday morning.

    The Lakers game could really be an interesting thing to plan around. Depending upon how the games get scheduled, you could very well be looking at the game falling right in the middle of the week, on a tuesday or wednesday. That's would mean you'd have to back track to LA about halfway through your trip.

    Because of that, I think I would come up with a big list of possibilities, which you'd pick from depending upon how much time you actually have/when you have to be in LA. Pretty much all of the places/towns you've listed could be nice stopping points depending upon your schedule. There are also dozens of parks that would be worth stopping at, but the one that really stands out to me is Julia Pfeiffer Burns SP near Big Sur.

    Disneyland is certainly a place worth considering, but no single place is ever a must for every trip. I don't know which Six Flags you've been to (There are several, and they all are different), but Magic Mountain north of LA is one of the best if you are a roller coaster fan.

  3. Default

    Michael thanks a lot for your advice. That's really helpful.

    I've been living in US for 8 years (we live in Memphis now). I guess I've been to 6-7 Six Flags, all Orlando roller coasters several times and I am a big roller coaster fan. I know I want to go to Magic Mountain but I can live without riding it since there are a whole lot to do and see in this road trip.

    Looks like this trip is too popular in RTA. Before opening this thread I checked 5-6 topics. By now, I've found 20 other similar topics. I think I'll have more questions towards mid-May.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default just 20!

    There are actually thousands of posts on this forum about trips up the California coast, so its no surprise you're finding lots of things to read. If you haven't checked out all of these posts, you should add them to your list.

    If you have any more questions, please feel free to ask!

  5. #5

    Default My one trip to CA

    Hello eniso,

    As noted, I've only visited the Golden State once in my 53 years on the planet, that being in late 2007. I do have some thoughts for your consideration, however:

    The PCH (Route 1) is very slow going. It opens up a bit above Monterey for much of the remainder of the distance to SF, but from Monterey down to about Morro Bay you will be traveling slowly (and that's a good thing--it's the most scenic part of the trip). My one trip was north to south and we didn't overnight, but we got onto the PCH at Monterey and got off at San Luis Obispo. We traveled at a very liesurely pace and stopped often and we also had a long and very enjoyable lunch overlooking the ocean at a cafe in Cambria, CA, just below San Simeon. Oh, and the tour of San Simeon is rather long (2-3 hours?) so keep that in mind. Our segment of the PCH took us some 5 hours to traverse. There are few accomodations between Monterey and Morro Bay, and I would be surprised if many were in the budget range you specify. We thought Cambria, however, would be a great place to overnight. It's right on the water and there are walkways along the low bluff, stairways down to the "moonstone" studded beach, and a plethora of restaurants and bars having water front views. There is an advantage in traveling north to south, and that is that the many, many turnouts are on the southbound side of the highway, allowing for a much simpler quick decision to stop and take in a view.

    In the days before extensive highway and railroad networks were built in CA, principal coastal towns had large piers, called wharves, built out into the ocean. These are very substantial structures and several are now used as platforms for extensive restaurants and shops. The wharves at Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, and Ventura come to mind in that respect.

    Just inland, along US 101, is Paso Robles, a delightful wine district in a beautiful inland valley. A bit inland of Paso Robles is the Carrizo Plain National Monument, an isolated inland patch of desert complete with a dry lakebed, Soda Lake. It represents a bit of a different patch of scenery from the coastal forests and mountains, and one can take CA 33 south from CPMN through the mountains, with elevations above 5,000', back to the PCH or US 101 at Ventura. That is a very nice drive of just an hour to two hour's duration and it avoids the congestion often found on US 101 from Santa Barbara on down.

    We were in the are visiting our son, then stationed at a Navy base near Ventura, so we enjoyed a segment of the PCH from Port Hueneme on down through Malibu to Santa Monica, as well. Much of CA "ain't for me" but that segment of the PCH is very nice and rather isolated above Malibu.

    Enjoy the planning and the trip!


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    There are actually fairly reasonable places to stay on the PCH - there's a halfway decent Motel 6 in San Simeon, rates were in the $60's last I looked.

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