Traveling from Las Vegas up the West Coast - first road trip
My wife and I have never been to the west coast. To celebrate my graduation from law school, we decided to fly to Las Vegas and then spend three weeks driving the west coast. However, I have no idea how to plan this trip (where to go, what to see, what highways to drive). We know that we want to see the Grand Canyon, San Diego and San Francisco, but beyond that, we are completely open to suggestions. We are pretty diverse people, so we enjoy the city as well as everything nature has to offer (my wife especially loves the beach). If anyone has any suggestions or has taken a similar trip, we would love to hear from you. Thanks, Jeff
I live in Vegas myself. The best way about seeing the Grand Canyon and San Fran in a logical order is to drive out to the Grand Canyon first. From the Grand Canyon, I would take a drive to Sedona Arizona. It is a great city. Relaxing as well. From there I would make my way twards San Diego. Since your wife is a beach lover, the best thing to do is take the 1 all the way up the California coast. You will have some of the best scenery. You will also be driving through some nice spots i.e(LA, Santa Monica, Santa Barbra). While traveling up the 1, make a stop in Solvang California. It is a little Danish town. Pretty relaxing as well. From there you can drive up to San Fran. But I would not stop there. I would keep going North to see the Red Woods forest. That is also nice. But I would concentrate on Scenic route 1.
Three weeks? That's a tough call. I could spend three weeks in SF alone and not get bored. If your'e starting in Vegas, you could go to the grand canyon or arizona (a little out of the way), death valley (might be kinda hot right now), Hoover Dam, or head straight to the coast.
San Diego's really nice right now, lots of beaches, sea kayaking off the beaches is always fun once the weather warms up. might also make a detour to TJ just to check it out. Expect the typical tourist trap unless you wanna go farther in to mexico.
From San Diego to LA, there's not a whole lot in between, you can stop by San Juan Capistrano, I don't know if this is the right seasons for the swallows, but check it out.
Since you didn't mention LA, I don't know if you want to stay a bit around here, but there's always something to do. Hollywood, Santa Monica, Venice Boardwalk, Theme parks, etc, they're all in the LA area. If you wanna skip LA entirely, just keep going up the until you pass it.
As far as driving up the coast, Solvang is a nice little town to stop for lunch or dinner, but it's not a whole day activity. You can continue up further along the coast and go see Hearst Castle (it'll probably take 2 days to see the whole thing).
Route 1 is nice, but unless you and your wife really, really, like to drive on windy highways right on the coast for 9 hours, I'd suggest taking the 101 at least part of the way. Probably the most scenic stretch of the 1 is around Big Sur, so maybe cut inland on the 101 after Solvang, by pass about 6 hours of tortuous roads, an cut back to the 1 during the day. At night, you won't get to see much anyway, and after about 2-3 hours of driving, it starts to look the same. But near Big Sur, stop by Julia Pfifer state park, and check out the one of the rare waterfalls that empty directly onto a beach, and hike along some of the nice coastal trails. Then there's Monterey, Carmel, Santa Cruz, Half Moon Bay, before you reach San Francisco.
You could spend a while in SF, depending on what you want to do. Lot of sights to see, lots of nature, lots of everything up there. There's alcatraz (From the movie "The Rock"), muir woods (Huge, HUGE! trees), mount tam (the birthplace of the mountain bike), Palace of Fine Arts, Golden Gate Brigde, Marin, too many to think of right now.
Haven't been too far north of SF, but there's the redwood coast, petluma, bodega bay, a lot of smaller towns if you get sick of the big cities. If you're a hitchcock fan, I believe he filmed a lot of his movies up in that area.
The only thing i would recommend is avoid the 5 fwy, unless you just need to get back and forth as quickly as possible. Nothing much to see, but very convienent for quick travel. What kind of stuff are you interested in seeing? And Where are you coming from?
All great suggestions
If you head to Grand Canyon, you might also consider Zion and a sidetrip to Monument Valley.
The north coast of California has always been my favorite section of Route 1. The Ravens Restaurant should not be missed for the finest in vegetarian fare. http://www.roadtripamerica.com/eats/ravens.htm Plus, if you want a luxury hide-away -- Stanford Inn is a favorite.