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a VirtualTourist member from Carnoustie


Road Trip - California

Wonder if any of you kind people can help
Coming over from Scotland and I am planning a road trip around California etc lasting a few weeks during June / July 2013.
I will have with me my wife, my daugter , my son in lawand my granddaughter (aged 13 years) We have a wide range of interests which include but are not limited to – horse activities (the bigger the horse the better especially welcome Heavy horses) – wildlife watching such as whales , seals, deer , bison etc: motor sports especially monster trucks : water sports such as jetskis, paddle boarding etc; old historic areas relating to the ‘wild west era’; shopping ( both big malls and small designer areas) and touring around checking out the scenery and other interesting things.
Our rough route is :- Arrive in Los Angeles – drive via Barstow to Las Vegas then on via Death Valley Giant Sequoia area and Yosemite to Lake Tahoe, then onto San Francisco via Sacremento and Monterey. This is merely a rough idea and the only hotels we have booked are in Los Anegeles, Las Vegas and San Francisco , and even these are only booked for a maximum of 2 days per place, this means that we are totally flexible about where we go and where we stay
I have checked out the various official sites around these areas but there is no substitution for the thoughts of people who live there or have travelled these paths before. Any ideas along this route for things for us to do and/or see would be greatly appreciated. As I said the route is not set in tablets of stone so any side trips which are worth it would be considered. My hope is to give my family and in particular my granddaughter a vacation to remember as this may well be the last time we can all get away together.
Thanks in anticipation
Jim Edmonds

11 Answers

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from New Jersey

Hi Jim. Sounds like a great trip. That is a lot of distance to cover in just few weeks. Last summer I did a similar road trip but focus more on central/northern California. If you are flying back out of LA, you should include a drive down California Route 1. You will definitely see wildlife, especially seals. Monterey [original VT link] is good but a little touristy. Continue down the coast and check out the elephant seals just before arriving in Cambria [original VT link] which is a great place to stay. It is half way between San Fransisco and LA, on Route 1. You should also spend a little time in South Lake Tahoe. You sound like an active group and a little hiking near the lake is beautiful. Here is my travel log from that trip [original VT link]. The California Travel Guide here on VT has some great information, much more than I have done. As for Las Vegas, that is out of the way and to be honest, probably wasting a day to get out there and another day to get back on route. My trip was two weeks and less ambitious than yours and I wish I had more time to spend where I was each time. Have a great trip!

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from United States of America

You may wish to check out Solvang, California, in the Santa Ynez Valley north of Santa Barbara. It's a little Danish village with European-style architecture. If I remember correctly, it also seems to have a deep connection to all types of horses from miniature to draft horses, horse ranches, etc. I believe there are lots of places where you can book rides into the countryside, etc. Maybe you could check that out online. Also, if you've never been to a "Sea World" or the Scripps Aquarium in San Diego, your family might enjoy that though San Diego may be too far south for you to deviate from your itinerary. Seeing the seals which sun themselves on the docks near Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco Bay is popular. As you know, California is chock full of wonderful places to visit. It sounds like you will have a fantastic trip if you are able to do all that you wish to!!

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Naperville

First let's look at the dates of your trip June/July 2013. Several comments on that. First, this is also major vacation time for families within the United States. Many of the major attractions will be more crowded then normal. Also July 4th is the United States Independence Day so around that time from July 1st to July 5th you should be able to find some very nice fireworks displays and all different types of festivals. For example in my hometown near Chicago (I know you won't be close to here on your trip) we have a 4 or 5 day BBQ rib festival with musical entertainment and a fireworks show on July 3rd. Also in the time period it will be quite warm in Death Valley and Las Vegas. I've never been to Scotland (London, UK is the closest I've been), but I'm guessing you haven't experienced extreme heat that you will find in Death Valley and Las Vegas.

Second, let's look at your activities. Wow, you have a lot of interest and won't be able to do everything. I've never ridden a horse so I'm no help there. Wildlife Watching - Whales (I've only seen some in the wild off the shores in Canada. You can see some Whales in captivity if you venture down to San Diego to Sea World. I don't know what the Whale migration pattern is, but you might want to research that a bit to see if their might be any activity off Los Angeles or San Francisco when you are there. Seals you can see being lazy on the piers of San Francisco. Deer and especially Bison are in the parks farther north in the United States from where you are going to be. Water Sports - Haven't done in the spots you are going, but I'm sure you will find some near Los Angeles. The water around San Francisco is quite cool so I'm not sure I would recommend looking there. Old Historic Areas relating to the Wild West you should probably add Yuma, Arizona to your itinerary. I've never been there, but I believe this would be closest to where you are going to be. Shopping - I'm not a shopper (my wife would have to answer that).

Third, your route. Los Angeles is very car oriented. It may take you quite a time to get from one spot to another and you don't want to get caught in traffic when commuters are going to work or going back home. I've only been to Los Angeles on business and have been to Disneyland on one of those business trips, but that was about 15 years ago now, so I don't have any more current info to give you there. Las Vegas - Been there twice in the past 10 years. Once as the terminus of a driving vacation with my family from Chicago and once for a wedding. Interesting place, but not a major destination of mine. But while you are near Las Vegas be sure to head over and see Hoover Dam. You might also want to swing up to Zion National Park (about 3 hours away) and consider seeing the Grand Canyon. Beware that will be a lot of driving if you do see those.

Last, and I'm saving a whole paragraph for this, is San Francisco and Yosemite. San Francisco is my second favorite United States city after my hometown of Chicago. I've been there multiple times on business and pleasure with the last trip a little over 2 years ago. On that trip we also saw Yosemite for the first time. For Yosemite you want to leave at least 2 days. It will be crowded when you go, but the views are spectacular. We stayed at a little town of Mariposa about 45 minutes outside of the park. You will need to determine where you are going to stay quickly as rooms will be hard to find that time of year if you wait much longer. You can take a harrowing drive up the old Gold Rush trail of Route 49. Lots of winding twisting roads through some interesting small towns. In San Francisco you do not need a car. The city is very easy to get around and parking costs are very high. Visit Sausalito across the bay, taking a ferry ride from San Francisco. Take in an American Baseball game (if the San Francisco Giants are in town while you are there). Ride the Cable Cars. Take a walk through Muir Woods. Enjoy the city at night in Chinatown and the North Beach Italian area. So much more, so I'll let you ponder what I and others have written. If you have other specific questions let us know.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from London

Don't miss the Aquarium at Monterey - it's one of, it not the world's finest and I have made a point of visiting each time I'm in the area - three times now. Leave plenty of time for it, there's enough there to fill an whole afternoon.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member

Not many big horses to ride and find in california, near L.A. there is a place called Norco that caters to the horse community but mostly Quarter horse's and the American Cowboy type. Also, I would not recommend going to Norco. Wildlife watching such as whales and seals can be done leaving out of Long beach, which is 25 minutes south of L.A. You can take a boat trip to the San Clemente Islands. In route you can see whales seals and sea lions. But keep in mind this will take a good solid day or stay on the island and return the next day. To see nature and wildlife, including 2700 yr old sequoia trees, trees so big you drive thru, deers and possilby black bears...Yosemite is great and beautiful for that!! Motor sports especially monster trucks, you will only find on special occasions and events...look at ticket master to see if there are any during the duration of your trip (just might be). Water sports such as jetskis, paddle boarding etc; can be done at Long Beach and any beach south of that in Orange county. I recommend Laguna Niguel/Dana Point area, there you will find the beautiful people and be next to the big shopping malls like Irvine Spectrum, South Coast Plaza and and The Shops at Mission Viejo. Sorry, in Socal you will not find much historic areas relating to the ‘wild west era’; thats more in Texas. However, you will find an old mission in St. Juan Capistrano thats pretty cool. Driving to Vegas is good and I would not do Death Valley, you will see plenty of sand on the way to Vegas. Yosemite is good and way better than Lake Tahoe. I would then go to San Franciso, drive past Oakland to Sacramento and then to Monterrey. Have a blast!!

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Carnoustie

thanks Looks like some great ideas and certainly will check them out. Over for about 4 weeks so hopefully will manage to squeeze most of what we want to do in

Thanks again

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Stockton

I like it, don't forget to visit Bodie a state of CA park. Check out the other California state parks as you will find them of much interest.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Westlake Village

June/July great travel time in California. Most, if not all roads are open without snow chains in the major mountain passes and roads. Leaving from Los Angeles and winding up in San Francisco leaves you with a rental car on a one-way drop off charge. Check with the rental area to see what the drop off charge, if any apply. If there is a hefty drop off charge you may want to do San Francisco before Monterey Bay area and then spend a couple of days heading south from Monterey Bay and use that drop off car rental fee instead on a couple of nights going south on Hwy 1 PCH from the Monterey Bay area south to San Luis Obispo and then return to Los Angeles via US-101 through San Luis Obispo [original VT link] ,
Pismo Beach [original VT link] ,
Solvang [original VT link] , Santa Barbara [original VT link] , to LAX and have a round trip rental with no fee.. As others have said; seals in San Francisco on Pier 39 and off Hwy 1 going south from Monterey to Piedras Blancas are the Elephant Seals, near San Simeon.. [original VT link]
Check out all the cities you might be interested in seeing on the Virtual Tourist Travel Guides For California with tips and reviews by fellow VTers. [original VT link]

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Stockton

Re-read your posting and I can't believe nobody mentioned going out to Catalina Island. You can ride horses and see bison. I would stay on the Queen Mary the night prior and upon return so you can go out early and come back late without worry of driving/packing. The Queen is an adventure in itself so plan on spending time aboard looking around in addition to staying. Bodie state park is called the best example of a true ghost town any where. Also, near Yosemite is Columbia state park which is pretty cool example of the gold rush era. If near Sacramento I have friend who has a bison/buffalo and a Texas long horn if you want to get up close and personal.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Westlake Village

Yes, Jim (Jamesr3939) is right on with Catalina Island. This is one unique place in California that everyone should visit and not only to see the Bison or ride horses, but to see the giant kelp through a glass bottom boat ride or visit the Botanical Gardens to see all the different Cacti growing in the gardens. Many different trolley or bus tours into the middle of the Island to see the Bison. Wow! Good one, Jim. Thanks again for letting carniejim know of this tiny Island of fun and pleasure. To the other Jim (carniejim), this could be a highlight not only for you, but your grand daughter would be thrilled with the glass bottom submarine ride (doesn't go under water, but the windows are in full view of the colorful fish and the giant kelp.) See my review at: [original VT link]

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from California

You might want to amend this part of your itinerary. Take a look at this California map:  Lake Tahoe is in the "ankle" of the sock. Sacramento (marked with a red star) and San Francisco are pretty much in a straight SW line from Tahoe. But Monterey is on the Pacific coast, south of San Francisco. You would have to make a very large loop to hit Monterey before SF.

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