Hey all! I properly start my travels shortly but I am going to California for only 9 days. My flight leaves LAX on 9th Sept so i need to end up there, but where would be best for me to start when i fly out of Chicago? Any suggested routes/intineraries would be a great help. Thanks fellow travellers! xx
Well I live in northern California, so I suggest you check that area out as well. There is so much to do from San Fransisco to the wine country to places like Monterey and Carmel which can be a bit touristy, but have amazing views. If you want more info send me a message and let me know what exactly you are interested in, beaches, theme parks, art, culture, etc. A favorite summer trip of mine has always been driving down to the LA area, so that is something you can consider, there are a lot of great views and places to stop along the way. Also I have really enjoyed visitng the Misions, so if that something you might like I can give you more info. I also know bit about souther calfornia, so feel free to ask. There is so much to do in California that You'll be able to fill up your time no problem.
I would suggest you fly from Chicago, to Sacramento (there is a non-stop flight). There's not much in Sacramento (trust me I live there), but there is place called "old" Sacramento, it's got an old west feel, and some good restaurants, but if pressed for time, it can be skipped. Sacramento makes a good hub, you can go to Lake Tahoe, beautiful, and there's gambling. Napa valley, is great, and then off to S.F. But don't forget Yosemite. There are some excellent wineries in the El Dorado Hills outside of Sacramento, so this is also a plus. There's not much in the central valley, that is Sacramento to LA. But if you travel along the coast SF - LA, it is a VERY nice drive, and you'll hit places like Santa Barbara along the way. Here's how I would go:
Fly into Sacramento.
1. Head to Lake Tahoe via hwy 50 (i'm assuming you're renting a car) this will take about two hours. Enjoy much drink and gambling.. Cabo Wabo is a nice restuarant.
2. Drive from Lake Tahoe to Yosemite - this is probably about a 6 hour drive, give or take. Hike around, enjoy nature. feed squirrels.
3. Yosemite to Napa, about 6 hours. Drink wine, and sparkling wine, quite yummy.
4. Napa to SF. A bit of a freakshow but fun none-the-less
5. SF to LA down the coast ( this is an all day event, beautiful) Lots of interesting things along the way.
6. LA - So much to do..
If you have any questions, please feel free to send me a reply directly, I'm happy to answer any questions.
Excellent suggestions from Chad.
When travelling down the coast, consider stops at Monterey/Carmel, then either at Cambria (if you take the coast route, which is long but very scenic), or Paso Robles (center square of the town or at the wineries).
Once you get down to San Luis Obispo, the interesting spots heading south are Solvang (done up like an old Danish town), Santa Barbara, and Malibu.
Leave some time to head down to San Diego and back up to LA if you can.
In San Diego, there is an "Old San Diego" that is even nicer than Sacramento's an also Mission Bay, La Jolla, and the Gaslight District. They have the best zoo in the world in my view, an amusement park called Sea World, and also the San Diego Wild Animal Park way north of town (just okay compared to the other two attractions).
In LA there is Disneyland, Seven Flags Magic Mountain, Universal Studios, the Getty Museum, the Huntington Library, and the beaches at Santa Monica, Venice Beach, Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, and Laguna Beach. (Pick one or two for a nice day out--especially in September).
In the short time I lived in northern California (Eureka) I can honestly say there are some great places to visit. San Francisco is a fun place. A little pricey but the Salmon was fantastic!!! I had some crab and shrimp stuff Salmon out on the pier for a very reasonable price that was simply outstanding. There are a lot of sea lions that congregate by the pier. There are great views of the city in almost any location. They make some excellent beers out there so be sure to stop and have one! Sierra Nevada, Anchor Brewing and Trumer Breweri are three of my favorites. We are also getting closer to fall, so it is a great time to visit Wine Country just North of San Francisco. Northern California has excellent Red Woods and is a sight you should probably see at some point in your life. Camping amongst them is usually pretty cheap and a great experience. I hope your trip goes well!
[ Edit: Edited on Aug 16, 2007, at 6:59 AM by lagered ]
Let me start by saying that 9 days simply isn't enough time to really "see" california. It really should be its own country. But anyway. There are a few "musts" when visiting my home state.
1. Yosemite National Park - The jaw dropping vista as you begin your final descent into the valley is possibly one of the most photographed and beloved scenes in the whole park. If you have the time and are adventurous there are many different hiking trips that can be taken throughout the park, the most intense being that to Half Dome which sits atop the Valley Floor at just over 8,800 feet. This trip normally begins at 6am ish and should last you most of the day. The average hiker will take anywhere from 5-6 hrs to hike to the top, spend a few hours staring at nature's beauty, and then trek back down for roughly 2.5-3 hours.
2. San Francisco - If you are a sports fan, ATT park is where you want to be. There isn't a bad seat in the house and with the Giants stuggling this year, seats should be readily available. Go the giants website and try the "double play window" for unused season tickets that are being sold to the public. Public transportation, unlike most American cities, is wonderful here. you can take the BART (bay area rapid transit) into the city, from Daly City, Dublin/Pleasanton and Oakland to name a few. visit the BART website for actual maps and locations of stations. Trains leave very regulary and are a great way to get into the city, however, once you are there, its cheaper to ride the MUNI trams and buses. Coit Tower, Alcatraz Prision, Golden Gate Bridge, and the Bay Bridge do alot for tourism. But if you want to travel off the beaten path, make your way through Little Italy, and Chinatown known for the eats and shopping respectively. One of the best views of the bay is from Tiburon (shark is spanish) a little city, and you can buy fairy tickets to at the Warf. Pier 39 is perhaps the most "happening" spot in SF as far as people go. Loads of tourists flock here for the Clam Chowder, Shopping, Live music, and view of Alcatraz on a side note: if you got around x-mas time there is a huge tree at the entrance to the pier that is lit up and is quite a site to behold.
3. Sonoma Wine Country - Wine tasting and film festivals galore. Check your times and dates for the film festivals, but wine tasting never ends.
4. PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) - Possibly the most beautiful drive you will ever take. If you have the chance try it from San Francisco to Santa Barabara, you will be driving with the ocean over your right shoulder, instead of cliffs. Monterey, Carmel by the Sea, Big Sur, and Cambria are a few good places to stop along the way. Monterey is the largest of the cities, with its major highlight being the Monterey Bay Aquarium which is a spectatular destination. the other three cities are all small ocean towns with personalities all their own. While in the Cambria area you can drive the 1/4 mile long strip of road that makes up the entire town of Harmony, population less than 20.
5. Los Angeles - Hollywood at night is a sight all its own. If you can, take a stop by Venice beach to check out the muscle men and crazy street vendors. Staples Center, Dodger Stadium and the Collesium are the major sporting areas, depending on what time of year you plan on going. If you are driving south on I-5 Six Flags Magic Mountain could be a fun stop, it is located in the city of Valencia, CA. You can also check time and dates for musical performances as LA tends to attrack the best and brightest. A vist to Bevery Hills will open up the lives of the rich and famous, and the massive mansions that line the streets will leave you dissapointed with the house in which you call home.
6. Santa Catalina Island - Located about 20 mins off the coast of Long Beach, Catalina as most people call it is home to a lax way of life rarely seen in california. Mini-Golf, Shopping, Ocean-going and Leisuely walks are the 4 main reasons to visit this amazing island. A bus ride to the highest point on the island, also home to its airport, is both breath taking and somewhat frieghtening, as you peer out the window of the 1950's bus used to move passengers up and down the narrown road.
Like i said 9 days isnt really that much time, but its enough to get a taste of what we have to offer. The only good things, for us anyway, you'll come back...no doubt.
Speaking subjectively, I would say you absolutely must give yourself at least two days in San Francisco. Even that would be a travesty, but given the other things in California that must be seen, it's a bare minimum.
San Francisco is a popular place to visit for Americans, but it seems to be even more beloved by travelers from Europe and Asia, who already have an amazing collection of cities on their own continents to visit. As a US citizen, I do believe it is my favorite city here, and one of very few US cities that has a place among some of the great international cities. Similar to Boston, it's a city that benefits from its small geographic size, and extremely dense population (SF is second only to New York for population density in the US). That's nearly 800,000 people in a city that is seven miles by seven miles. A third of those people were born overseas, and plenty more come from all over the US. It's a great place to see the US at its most diverse, accepting, innovative, and, of course, romantic.
If you do go, of course you have to see the Market St., ride the cable cars, check out Fisherman's Wharf/Pier 39, see the Ferry Building, which predates the 1906 earthquake that devastated most of the city, check out Chinatown, see Little Italy (in the North Beach neighborhood, also home to the Beat movement in the 1950s), head to the intersection of Haight and Ashbury Streets, where the hippie movement was centered in the summer of 1967, marvel at the Golden Gate Bridge, climb to the top of Coit Tower, and, hopefully, catch a ferry to Alcatraz. These are the classic touristy things to do in the city, and more than in most places, they are extremely worth doing. (Fisherman's Wharf is a good time, though it bears little resemblance to anything most people living in this city would associate with SF). If you enjoy art museums, SF's Museum of Modern Art at Yerba Buena Gardens (just two blocks off Market) is stellar.
In addition, however, you should seriously consider getting to what might be called the "real" San Francisco. Most importantly would be the Mission district, along Valencia St., and Mission St., where you'll see hipsters and Latinos (and hipster Latinos) coexisting. The Castro is also great, both as a wonderful place to get food, coffee, or a beer, but also as a place where gay culture simply is not an "alternative" lifestyle -- it's simply normal (as is being straight). These neighborhoods (Mission, Castro, and several other diverse neighborhoods) congregate in Mission Dolores Park, at their nexus. It has stunning views of the city (it's high up there), and has the city's most important historical structure, the 18th century Mission Dolores, an integral part of SF's (and California's) founding. There is so much to do in these very-urban-yet-communal neighborhoods that you could easily spend a week.
If you miraculously have time for more, I'd recommend simply exploring neighborhoods, even the more residential ones like Richmond and Sunset, where you'll find a mixture of great wealth and immigrant communities that all seem to have amazing food to offer you.
Finally, consider visiting SF's Golden Gate Park, a great expanse of amusement and wilderness stretching from the ocean to the middle of the city, which dwarfs NYC's Central Park in size and things to do. The Japanese tea gardens are charming, the De Young museum is striking, and everything else is well, well worth wandering through. It's also a great opportunity to see San Francisco residents at play (including, often, free concerts and performances, sometimes impromptu).
I (obviously) enjoy SF a lot, and think it's among the world's finest (and certainly prettiest) cities. It's great that so many other people love it too, but I think that people often miss out on its greatest assets. Considering housing prices here, however, it's probably good to avoid tempting people even more to live here permanently.
So, enjoy the trip -- and most of all, be sure to eat fabulously well.
[ Edit: Edited on Aug 19, 2007, at 3:06 PM by lawrence11 ]
If you are near Los Angeles then I would suggest that you head north thru Ventura County and visit Santa Barbara and Solvang which is a Dutch town made famous of late in the movie Sideways about 2 guys on a trip to the wine country.
From Los Angeles you are only about 2 hrs to Santa Barbara and about another 30 min to Solvang. Continue north up the 101 toward Hearst Castle at San Simeon...this is one of the state's premier tourist attractions. I have toured worldwide and was wowed by the sheer grandeur of Wm Randolph Hearst's estate.
While there be sure to see the elephant seals on the beach. These enormous creatures stay ashore for several months starting close to the time that you will be visiting ...you will see hundreds of them sleeping, fighting, meandering...it's a true wonder.
No trip to the area would be complete without spending a day and night in Cambria about 10 minutes south of San Simeon. This charming town has beautiful shops, wineries and dining and is just as friendly as can be. My wife and I spent our honeymoon there and will go back as often as we can get away...
[ Edit: Sorry, no promos please. ]