My family and I are going West this summer. It is me, my wife and our kids aged 4 and 1 1/2. We have about 17 days in July and want both to see some of the West and do some relaxation at the beach. Because of the age of the kids this is not primarily a "road trip". We intend to fly to San Diego, rent a car, pretty much stay put for a while (summer holiday plus Sea World, maybe Disneyland, etc), and then spend some days driving to San Fransisco along the coast, and fly back from San Fransisco. Our start/endpoint is New York City.
However, I can't shake off Arizona. This might be my one roadtrip in US (we're from Europe, living in NY now but am soon moving back). Grand Canyon might be a bit much of a detour with the kids who might not be too interested in the view, but are there other sights attractive to children?
I'm not sure what I'm looking for, but I think it's some of that "wild west" landscape that I know from Western movies and Disney cartoons, so perhaps Nevada or the mountains of California would be just as good? (I've also had Utah recommended, but that seems to make too long a drive)
What other places are good to fly into from New York? I've thought about Phoenix, which seems to be a two-hour drive from Flagstaff where we could take Route 66 westward towards the coast. Flagstaff airport would mean a flight via LA and a more expensive rental car. Salt Lake City seems too far away.
So what is my question? I'll try with this: do anyone have any tips for vacation with small children, seeing some of the interior West, ending up in either San Diego/LA or San Fransisco (I could tack it onto the end of our SD-SF route instead), with a startpoint that is easily reachable from the East Coast by reasonably priced flights and good car rental options? Ideally, it should involve less than 10 hours driving time (and I suspect Google maps' driving time calculations to be a bit on the optimistic side) from either San Diego or San Fransisco, spread over something between three and six days.
Also, how is the climate? I'd think that a lot of this area is at high altitude which might make it not too hot, but I haven't really checked that very thoroughly.
Thank you all very much! I've looked a bit at discussions on this forum and it seems to be a lot of helpful and eager people out there :-)