I am new to this fantastic forum, so please be gentle :-)
I also know that a West Coast trip is one of the most popular trips on here, and I have already picked up lots of ideas for my trip from other threads, but as you guys appear to be fountains of all knowledge, I thought it couldn't harm if I asked for some advice!
My fiancee and I will be coming over to the States from Sydney Australia in August 2013. We arrive into LAX around noon on Saturday 3rd August and fly out again on the evening of Friday 23rd. The main reason for the trip is a friend's 40th birthday in Las Vegas, where we plan to be from Saturday 17th to Thursday 22rd August. So we have two full weeks between landing in LA and when we need to be in Vegas.
Rather than stick around in LA or do southern California, we're planning on flying up on our first day to either Seattle or Portland, Oregon, and then find our way back down from there to Vegas. I have a rough idea of where we'd like to go, but I need some help in picking a few stopovers, and ideas for places to visit along the way that might fit in with our interests and what we like to do.
First up, being from Australia, I'm comfortable driving long distances (albeit on the "wrong" side of the road!) and have previously done a 10,000 mile trip around half of Australia over a two month period. However, ideally I'd like to limit my driving on this trip to around 4 or maybe 5 hours a day, and rather than spend just one night at each place on a whistle-stop tour, take the time to spend two (or even three) nights relaxing at a few of our destinations. I have driven in the US before, albeit ten years ago when I drove with a friend from LA to San Francisco. This time, I will be doing all the driving, as my fiancee can't drive.
Apart from the cities at either end, we're more interested in seeing some small town America and scenery along the way, rather than a big nightlife (we figure we'll get enough of that in Seattle, Portland and especially Vegas!). Interests-wise, apart from the scenery, we both like micro-brewery beers, wines (whites rather than reds!) cheese, wildlife (especially marine wildlife). We were also thinking about maybe fitting in a spa retreat somewhere along the way for a couple of days.
So with all that in mind, I was planning something along these lines, which I'd love your opinions on:
Sat 3rd August -fly from LAX to Seattle, for maybe 2 nights?
Monday 5th - pick up hire car in Seattle and drive to Portland (or get the train?) - spend 3 nights in Portland. (food carts, microbreweries etc)
Thursday 8th - somewhere along the Oregon Coast about 4 hours drive from Portland. I was initially thinking Newport for the aquarium there, but wondering whether there may be better places to stay nearby? Maybe Yachats? Not sure whether we'd need one or two nights here...is there much to see / do?
From here was thinking of heading inland onto I-5 and putting some miles on the clock heading south towards California. I'm guessing this is more than a 5 hour drive to reach California, so maybe one more stop in Oregon around the Grants Pass area? It looks like Ashland might be an option for a couple of nights? Does anyone know if the Shakespeare festival is on at that time of year, as that could be fun, and would take us to around the 11th/12th.
After this my planning gets a little vague. It looks like we would have around 5 or 6 days to get from the Oregon /Cali border to Vegas, which should be plenty of time. Looking at the map, we could either go all the way down down I-5 through Sacramento and then through Fresno / Bakersfield, or alternatively through the Lake Tahoe area. I'm leaning towards the latter, but wondering where to stop along the way? How long would it take to get from Ashland to say Truckee? And are the parks along the way worth seeing - Lassen National forest / volcanic park etc? Or is better to go through Chico? Given we're going to Vegas, am not particularly interested in going to South Tahoe or Reno, but is there any other places near here that may be worth a stop?
From the Tahoe area, was thinking we could maybe spend a night or two in Yosemite? And from there to Vegas. Is is possible to drive from Yosemite to Vegas via Death Valley, or would that require an extra stop?
One we get to Vegas, the idea would be to keep the car in case we want to maybe do a day trip (to Hoover Dam?) and then drive back to LAX to drop it off, and fly back.
That was my rough idea at this stage in any case...none of which is set in stone so I'd welcome any suggestions about alternative places to stop over, routes, and comments as to whether this all looks feasible?
Thanks in advance :-)