My partner and I and our little boy who will be 22 months by the time we travel are planning to visit California from the UK. Thinking of flying in to San Fransisco and spending 4 or 5 nights and then making our way down the coast to LA so we can finish up at Disney? Thoughts or suggestions would really help us on what to do and where to stay. We really want to have an amazing family trip but not over load our little boy with too many destinations.
Stop in Carmel and stay at the Hofsas House, a family-run hotel. It's a 5-minute walk to the village (and for you adults there are several wine-tasting rooms).
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From there you can drive down PCH thru Big Sur and past the Hearst Castle and stay overnight in Paso Robles (where you'll find more wine tasting rooms!). I like traveling Highway 101, too, and you can take that into Los Angeles. It goes through Santa Barbara.
Another place to stop for the night along the way is the quiet coastal town of Morrow Bay, famous for the big rock.
First of all, 22 month old will be completely overwhelmed by Disneyland - to the point of sensory overload. Go to Disneyland - for yourselves - but understand that your 22 month old probably will prefer something less intense.
Making the drive from the Bay Area down to Los Angeles is something that happens quite a bit– it seems like a right of passage of sorts for Californians. Whether it’s making the pilgrimage to Disneyland, visiting relatives, or just an excuse for a road trip, many of us will find ourselves making the trek at some point in the near future, especially with summer vacation in just a few short months. The 6-hour (or more) drive isn’t as intimidating as you might think. I have broken down the trip by route, so whether you take 101 or I-5 we’ve got you covered, as well as stops and sights along the way to keep your back seat riders entertained for the duration of the drive.
If You’re Taking 101:
When to Leave: One tried and true method for making the trip down 101 is to get on the road early—4:00am, 5:00am at the latest. That way, if you’re leaving on a weekday, you get out ahead of rush hour traffic. Toss the kids in the car, still asleep, in their jammies, and hit the road. The non-driver can catch a few Zs on the way down, or, fuel up on coffee and take advantage of the rare opportunity to have an adult conversation and enjoy the early morning scenery.After about 4 hours, the sun starts to come up, and the kids may or may not start to stir. If you’re lucky, you might be able to make it almost all the way to Pismo Beach before that starts to happen.
Where to eat: Old West Cinnamon Rolls, Dolliver Street, Pismo Beach, CA
Activities along the way: Pismo Beach is a nice place to experience the Pacific Ocean. Solvang is a nice tourist destination - a danish community. Santa Barbara is definitely a stroller down State Street kind of place.
If you are taking I-5
If you’re taking I-5, either on the way down or back, there’s not much to do or see, other than trucks and cows. About those cows, by the way…you may want to roll up the windows when you see signs for Harris Ranch Inn & Restaurant, the smell can get pretty strong when you cruise past the cattle lot
When to Leave: If you are driving on a weekend, the best time to take I-5 is before 11:00am. On weekends the traffic gets progressively worse through the day. During the weekdays, the best time is actually the middle of the day (11:00am – 4:00pm).
Suggested Bathroom Break Stops: For the family with a toddler, pack a cooler full of snacks and and therefor you just need a place to potty. There are about a half dozen rest areas on I-5 between the Bay Area and L.A., Harris Ranch is the shining star but you can venture on, including a decent one by the Grapevine with vending machines, etc.
Where to Eat: Harris Ranch Inn & Restaurant. There are serviceable restaurant clusters in Los Banos, Kettleman City, and Fort Tejon. If you feel like stopping for a special fast-food excursion, don’t miss the burgers and shakes at in Santa Nella or Kettleman Station. If the weather’s too rainy for kids to run around outside, you could hit up the McDonald’s with a PlayPlace in Santa Nella.
Activities along the Way - After you go up the grapevine, check out Fort Tejon State Historic Park. It is a fun diversion. Also, Magic Mountain Parkway, in Santa Clarita, is a roller coaster dream park,
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