I found this site when looking to plan a holiday in the USA, I read many posts and got lots of very useful info, so here is a little of what we found in the hope it may help others.
Flying from Manchester UK just a week after the latest terror alert, but we needn't have worried, we were only delayed 60 mins, the 11 hour flight got us to Vegas mid afternoon, it was over 100 degrees, we were going to get the bus to the terminus and get the deuce back up the strip, but we just hailed a cab and it was $15 to the Hotel, reasonable. We stayed at the New York New York for 2 nights, the hotel was great, places to eat inside, bars and live music and of course 100's of gambling choices, the rooms were spacious and the buffet breakfast at Chin Chin for $12 per person was brilliant, so much choice fresh produce and fruit.
We hired a Jeep Laredo from the hotel and with plenty of directions printed from mapquest and maps we headed out onto I15 toward our first destination Ventura,situated between LA and Santa Barbara. We stayed at the Hotel Crowne Plaza, the hotel was right on the beach and next to the Amtrak main line, at least 3 trains passed each night, ringing bells and loud horns accompanied each train so not very relaxing, the hotel was also undergoing an update, so lots of building work, breakfast wasn't included in the price and to be honest not very good, we had breaky in a diner for about $7 each. Ventura beach was great and the town is sprawled out and not the most picturesqe. I am a biker and I met Brad at 101 motorcycles, what a nice guy, gave me more tourist info than the tourism lady, thanks Brad.
We then headed out to Santa Barbra, probably one of the most beautiful places I have been to, I highly recommend a stay here, tree lined streets, wonderful restaurants and beach infact I have nothing but good thoughts about this place my only regret was I couldn't stay longer.
We headed out again on highway 101 to Monterey, we stayed at a Holiday Inn express about 2 miles from Cannery row it was clean but basic and buffet breaky was included, we ate and spent a very enjoyable day and night in and around Cannery row, its much more a tourist trap than historical place, but still a place to visit as the views are great. The clam chowder in the sea food restaurant was excellent.
Now the bit I looked forward to highway 1( pacific coast highway) it didn't disappoint the views are magnificent, there are many vista points along the way and if you see the one for the Elephant seals, stop, they don't do much but it's another great photo op. Wished i'd hired a covertible, at certain points your speed is down to 15mph as the road is so narrow. But perfectly safe and a real joy to drive, even in a big gas guzzler. We were now well on the way to San Francisco, the drive was made easy with the mapquest printouts, I also had a good navigator. We arrived in San Francisco at about 11.30am and we got slightly lost for the first time due to SF's one way system, we dropped off the car on O'Farrel street and headed around the corner to the Handlery Hotel on Geary street, this Hotel was Brilliant, 100yds from Union Sq, 50yds from Powell street where you access the famous street cars.
You are spoilt for choice where to eat and drink, Lefty O'Douls is near the hotel and its full of baseball history plus lively atmosphere and great food morning and night, if you like steak and flame gilled burgers, visit Tads on Powell. There are so many shops for the shopaholics. We took the street car($11 each for a day pass) buy tickets from the kiosk at the bottom of powell and then settle down for at least a 30 mins wait, well worth it, we even managed to hang on the outside, we went to Fishermans wharf, worth a visit, but too touristy for my liking, we had Clam Chowder in a large bread bun from Boudins, bread baked fresh on the premises, very tasty, we walked around to pier 39 to be confronted by about 100 sea lions basking on wooden platforms, very noisy, you get a great view of Alcatraz, we chose not to visit as the queue was very long( better to book in advance) there is shopping aplenty, you can also look round a WW2 US Sub and warship.
It was very cool and breezy on the day we were there, so take a jumper. China Town is also accessible from the Street car but also from the rear of Union Sq, very quaint with a million little shops and pagoda style buildings and a lovely smell of the orient. We took a bus from Geary to Golden gate Bridge, it was $1.50 and if you tell the driver you are going to GG, he tells you when to change buses (inc in price) and where to pick up the return bus. Golden Gate was great, we walked across, you have a fantastic view of SF and the whole of the Bay area, its a long way down, so don't look over the edge if you are a bit queasy. We walked to Lombard street the most windy road in the US ( so I was told), it is very steep and very quaint, well worth a look and a drive down, watch out for OTT photographers jumping out infront of the car to take photos, Its a good 30 min walk from union Sq.
Loris diner is a good cuppa and a burger.
The only minus point about my time in SF, was all the beggars, you stop to look around and they are on you, they are on street corners, they are not threatening, but its just a shame that a great city has so many, but suppose its not alone.
We set of back to Vegas again for the last 2 days of our Holday, we didn't take the Pacific Coast highway this time, as we wanted to make quicker progress, highway 99 through Bakersfield, we stopped of in Barstow, and I can't really say anything more than lots of diners, motels and gas stations and a little bit of Route 66, we stopped off at Peggy Sues diner a few miles down the highway, great coffee and Pecan pie.
We then took I40 (actually this would be I-15) back to Vegas and 2 night at the Luxor, fantastic hotel, great rooms, but we only had a view of the Excalibur, plenty for the kids to do and adults alike. Vegas is a wild place, lots of Neon and ways to part with your cash, great shows (KA) great floor shows at most of the hotels, Bellagio dancing water, Treasure Islands Pirate battle, Paris the Venetion Gondola etc etc etc, good food at the Harley Davidson bar, fantastic shopping in Caesars Palace ( very upmarket, Jimmy Choo, Cartier, Armani) we favoured Abercrombie and Fitch, there is also another Mall under Aladdin, there are 2 premium oulets for very cheap branded shopping, one about 2 miles from the Luxor and another approx 1/2 mile from the Stratosphere. there are bars situated in evey hotel and even if you are not a gambler ( which we werent) its great.
I could have typed all night about this trip, the USA is so vast and there was so many places we planned to visit,but despite driving 1400 miles we didnt have the time, we are returning next year, but dont think it will be in August as 113 degrees in vegas was toooooo hot. Dont take my garbled account, see for yourself, you wont be dissappointed.
atb Keith and Julie