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  1. Default West coast road trip with kids, October

    Hi,
    I am from Australia and am currently planning our first family trip to the States with my partner and two boys (10 & 7yrs). I have spent days looking through your fantastic site and getting ideas. There really is so much that I would like to see, but we don't want to spend all our time driving and the kids certainly wouldn't cope. We are staying in Orlando Fl for around a week, but then on the 12 October we are flying to San Francisco where we will rent a car. Definite places we want to see are Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Vegas, Legoland (promised my boys) and I would have loved to see Carmel/Big Sur though I think this may be too much.
    Our current plan is: San Fran (2 nights) - Yosemite (2 nights) - Vegas (1 night) - Grand Canyon (2 nights) - Vegas (1 nights) - Carlsbad (Legoland) 2 nights - LA (fly home late evening 23 Oct).

    Do you think this is Ok? I left out the coast leg as I thought it may be too much, unless you can see a way to add it in without too many more hours on the road.

    Also, we are booking our trip through a travel agent and he recommends driving from Yosemite to Vegas via Bakersfield, but I have noticed that most of the posts talk about driving over the Tioga Pass. Is this the better way to go? Are there good places to stop half way? We want to take a leisurely drive, so would need a decent place to stay. Any advice on where to stay, important places to see etc. would be appreciated.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
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    9,358

    Default Not Too Bad

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Keep in mind that during your 10 days or so on the west coast, you only have to do a total of 3 days or so of driving. That's not too bad a mix, particularly if you break up some of the longer drives with other stops along the way. San Francisco to Yosemite is only a couple of hundred miles, so that shouldn't be a problem, and staying 2 nights in/near the park should leave you almost 2 full days to explore its wonders. The drive from Yosemite to Las Vegas would be a long one, however, but on the way you will be crossing Tioga Pass (probably - it might close early due to snows) and down the back side of the Sierra Nevada to Lone Pine and through Death Valley National Park on CA-136/CA-190, offering plenty of spots for the kids to get out of the car for a bit, stretch their legs and see a few things they wouldn't anywhere else. Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon is a modest day, which can be broken up with stops to tour Hoover Dam and/or drive the largest remaining stretch of old Route 66 through Preach Springs. Grand Canyon to Carlsbad (Legoland) is your longest day, and you might want to think about breaking it up and stopping en route while adding visits to Oatman (wild burros roaming the streets), Lake Havasu City (London Bridge and ersatz English village), Mojave National Preserve. Joshua Tree National Park, or Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Unfortunately, you can't do all. The trick, you see, is to simply make long drives a series of shorter drives to more locations, and use your time 'on the road' to be out of the car.

    AZBuck

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,749

    Default

    Our current plan is: San Fran (2 nights) - Yosemite (2 nights) - Vegas (1 night) - Grand Canyon (2 nights) - Vegas (1 nights) - Carlsbad (Legoland) 2 nights - LA (fly home late evening 23 Oct).
    I'm not sure why you would want to detour and back track to Vegas from GC and add extra miles. Why not break that leg of the journey from GC to Legoland with a stop around Joshua tree NP ?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,271

    Default

    You could certainly drive down the coast to Cambria, then go inland to Yosemite.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    South Central Orange County
    Posts
    249

    Default

    If the road is open, I also recommend driving through Yosemite and exiting via Tioga Pass. If you go this route, there is a nice place to stop for lunch (or breakfast or dinner) at a gas station in Lee Vining on the right-hand side before you reach US-395. I believe the official name of the place is the Tioga Gas Mart & Whoa Nellie Deli.

    The Owens Valley as you drive down US-395 south toward your Las Vegas destination has many interesting places to stop. If you need a place to let the kids get out and play for a bit, stop at Dehy Park in Independence. There is a playground, a small stream, and an old steam engine from the Carson and Colorado Railroad.

    A short drive (about 15 minutes) northwest of Carlsbad you will find the Oceanside Pier. There's a Ruby's Diner (a popular 1940's themed burger place)at the end, and my kids (4 and 11) love Ruby's.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
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    10,749

    Default Yep.

    I believe the official name of the place is the Tioga Gas Mart & Whoa Nellie Deli.
    Great grub in 'Woah Nellies Deli' ! If you drive a few hundred yards further up the hill past the gas station there is a parking lot with nice views of Mono lake.

  7. Default

    Thank you so much for all this information! It is proving to be so useful and I really appreciate your help. I have adjusted our itinerary to take in your suggestions but I have a couple more questions.
    I need to make a decision whether to stay in San Fran for 2 nights or stay 1 night SF then drive down the coast and stay somewhere around Cambria/Morro Bay the other night before heading to Yosemite. I did a bus trip down the coast 15 yrs ago and always regretted not driving it. (I think we were too scared of the driving on the 'wrong' side of the road).

    My other question is whether you think we could comfortably do the drive from Yosemite to Vegas (via Tioga hopefully) in one long day driving. It would be a long drive, but then we could stay 2 nights in Vegas before our next leg.

    Also, if you have any suggestions as to good places to stay/eat around Joshua tree that would be great.

    Thanks again for all your help!.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Yes on Both Counts

    Yes, I think it would be a fine idea to drive down the coast to say Monterey/Carmel, but not much farther, and then continue on to Yosemite. The advantage of seeing the west coast while driving south is that, because you'll be on the 'wrong' side of the road, you'll be on the ocean side making pull-offs easier. I'd plan on taking the main roads (US-101/CA-82/CA-85/CA-17) down to Santa Cruz and then the coast road (CA-1) to Monterey. In the Monterey/Carmel area, you may want to look into the Aquarium, 17 Mile Drive, and Mission San Carlos Borromeo. You won't have time for all three, so see where your time can best be spent.

    And yes, I think you can make the drive from Yosemite, over Tioga Pass, and through Death Valley to Las Vegas in a day. You'd have some, but minimal, time for stops in both the Pass and Valley, and it would be a long day, but I think your boys are old enough to handle it. If they (or you) do wear out, you can always pull up for the night in Parhump and go into Las Vegas in the morning.

    AZBuck

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,749

    Default Tioga pass.

    If you want to get from Yosemite to Vegas the same day, I would recommend leaving the Yosemite valley area after lunch on day 2, crossing the mountains and spending your Yosemite 'night 2' in Lee Vining. It will give you a little time to make some brief stops and enjoy the pass, rather than having the worry of the long drive ahead.

    Not only will it give you a little more time in Death valley, your odds of getting over the pass will increase. Temporary closures can occur during the night/early morning if the temps have plummeted overnight on the high ground and ice has formed and you would need an early start to get to Vegas. By lunchtime the morning sun would have gone to work on it and hopefully burnt it of, so going the day before [if open] will guarantee your passage.

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