Heading for a 3 month trip Seattle - San Diego on Tuesday 15th & have a few last min queries..
Portland - San Francisco. How much is there to do inbetween here (Sacremento etc) is it worth stopping off somewhere or easier to just go straight to San Fran? I am taking public transport (amtrak) & gave myself about 4 days to stop somewhere between.
Same again for San Francisco - Santa Barbara. What places are good/bad/worth a few days (i was aiming for about 4 days or more to visit somewhere (San Jose?) before Santa Barbara.
Other than the main touristy stuff what other hidden treasures does LA hold? I have heard v mixed reviews of the city.
And finally - what things should i make sure i do / pack / get ready before I leave - as im sure i will forget something!!! Have all the main stuff but anything I may have forgot?
Main things to see between Portland and San Francisco are Crater Lake, the redwoods, and Napa Valley. Unfortunately, all of these require getting off the train and taking a car on this route.
The things to see between San Francisco and Santa Barbara are numerous. I've written a bunch on this (pages and pages)--so just search some of my old posts on the subject. To summarize the key spots--Capitola near Santa Cruz is a cute little town, Monterey and its wharf and Cannery Row is worth stopping at, Carmel and Pebble Beach and taking the 17-mile drive is great, Highway 1 south of Carmel down to Paso Robles--with a stop at Hearst Castle--is a breathtaking drive and the prettiest highway in the US.
Cambria is a nice small town--be sure to take the road by the water when there. Paso Robles is the new wine country for California. South of there is San Luis Obispo, a college town, then Pismo Beach, then you get to Solvang/Los Olivos area (made famous by the movie Sideways)--a dutch town that also is a wine country area. Lastly you arrive at Santa Barbara on the coast. Visit its mission and the downtown area and the wharf area. Oprah Winfrey lives in one of the thousand of multi-million dollar homes in Montecito--just 5 miles southeast (up in the hills).
In LA, make a quick visit to Hollywood (everyone is disappointed when they go here, but you have to go), then spend all your time in places like the Huntington Library and Gardens in San Marino, or on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills or at the beaches way south of town (Huntington Beach and Newport Beach and Laguna Beach are the best ones). Lastly, leave time for Disneyland in the LA area--and make time for San Diego. In San Diego, visit Mission Bay, the Gaslight District downtown, and Old San Diego (have a "Mexican" dinner here with the mariachi's in one of the restaurants out in a garden setting).
I'd agree with Calcruzer - skip the Portland to SF sightseeing. There are lots of things to see, but you'd really need to drive. I don't know if Amtrak stops in Ashland, OR, but if it does that might be worth a stop. Lovely little town and home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, if you're into those sorts of things. The Rogue River is fairly famous for rafting.
I'd skip Sacramento, but if you go it is the state capital. Sutters Fort is also there, where gold was discovered - I've never been to it however so can't vouch for it one way or another. The California Central Valley (including Sacramento) is largely farmland and is very hot compared to the more coastal areas, may not be too bad this time of year however.
Personally, I'd spend the time in the San Francisco Bay Area - quite a lot to do just around the general area as well as SF. Monterrey & Carmel are a relatively short drive over on the coast. Drive down the coast highway, do some wine tasting, further south are surfing and sand dunes (maybe you can take a ride in a dune buggy?). Personally, I prefer Seattle and SF to LA, so would budget more time there. San Jose has an Egyptian Museum that used to be quite good. There are quite a few old, Spanish missions from SF south, you should try to visit at least one.
Do you have time to visit Yellowstone? Of course that's east again, but might be worth it. Lake Tahoe is also nice, or used to be - I haven't been there for a long time.