Hey mate. Me and my girlfriend doing more or less the same, starting in San Fran on July 1st. We've bought Amtrak 30 day rail passes. Whilst they're convenient, we're kind of questioning the value of them at about £220 each. Anyway, Things i've found out or been told so far that may help you....
Agree with people saying about the Banana Bungalow. We're looking to stay there.
In San Fran if you fancy visiting Alcatraz then make sure you book before hand.
Sure you've thought of it, but July 4th is going to be mega busy, so factor that into your plans. Not sure what travelling etc is going to be like on that day so you may want to be settled somewhere.
Apparently, LA's public transport is a pain in the arse, so bare that in mind when deciding how long to spend there. We've been told to only spend 3-4 days there and longer elsewhere.
For Vegas, look for online coupons to book your hotel. We booked 5 days at the MGM Grand for £35 a night.
Anyway, hope you have a good trip!!
P.S. Also, if anybody knows, is there a good way to get to Yosemite by public transport from San fran? We'd prefer to go for a few nights, but if worst comes to the worst we'll go on a day tour.
Probably your best bet to get to Yosemite on the cheap is to use your already purchased Amtrak passes to go from San Francisco, Oakland, or Los Angeles to Fresno, and then rent a car there for a day or two and drive north to Yosemite (it's about 92 miles, which is about 150 kilometres, one-way from Fresno to Yosemite--and it's all done by taking State Highway 41).
Hey, Johnny, if you can get hotel nights at the MGM in Las Vegas for $70 (35 GBP), then maybe you should be the one giving the advice on here, because that's a really great rate there--even for midweek or Sunday night.
As far as Los Angeles and it's public transportation (or should I say lack thereof), I'm convinced that if you had a choice between living in a house/apartment in LA and not having a car, or having a car in LA and living in that and not having a house/apartment there, most smart people would choose having only the car--since you really can't live in LA (and can barely visit) without renting or owning a car.
Lastly, let me thank LadyMacwil for her comments. She's just trying to flatter me until the two of us meet up in London at a travellerspoint conference, so the drinks will be on me (which is okay as long as she gets the second round). Speaking of London, I was there 4 weeks ago, and missed the underground trains twice by mere seconds--and the longest I had to wait for the next one was 6 minutes--as LadyMacwil indicated-- which is not how things are in the US (unfortunately). Even the British cross-country trains run about every 1/2 hour. I usually take the one from London to Chepstow (and stay at the Marriott) when working in nearby Newport, Wales. (Great, uncrowded golf courses and dining there.--too bad the work gets in the way)
[ Edit: Edited on Jun 6, 2008, at 2:56 AM by Calcruzer ]
Hi, im currentley on a tour of california. I went to yosemite yeasterday and i highley recommend it the views are some of the best ive ever seen!
i traveled there using amtrak from san francisco, it does take about 6 hours each way though!
entering the park via car has a $20 fee + $10 for every extra person, if you enter via bus there is no extra cost just the bus fare whicch is $13 from merced and $4 from yosemite view lodge.
in san fran make sure you go to the twin peaks for a panoramic view of the city.
[ Edit: Edited on Jun 6, 2008, at 9:39 AM by HyperLemon ]
Wow, can't believe my eyes. I've just read praise for Londons public transport haha
I'm actually really worried about LA now, where would be the best place to stay be that requires as little travel as possible, as we wont be able to rent a car.
As for Vegas and the MGM, I couldn't believe my eyes either, though we are staying Sunday till Friday! Searching google for discount voucers brings up most of the hotels that do it, some good bargains to be had!
Any advice on places to visit on the San Fran to San Diego train route?
They key stops to make along the train route would be:
(This presumes you are taking the coastal route south from SF all the way to San Diego, and the inland route north. If you do it the other way around, then just pick your stops in the opposite order.)
Taking the Coast Starlight Route (south) from San Francisco to Paso Robles (small town with lots of wineries, a nice central square (be sure to go to the olive oil place and some of the restaurants) and that has a county fair (that for some reason attracts real top-notch talent from across the country every year). The fair runs from July 23rd to August 3rd this year--and here's a link to some of the acts to be presented this year:
This is also where you would get a bus over to Hearst Castle if you wanted to go there.
Continuing south, the next possible stop is San Luis Obispo ( a college town about 1/2 hour south of Paso Robles).
Next stop--and the one you should absolutely go to is Santa Barbara. Visit the beach and walk up and down State Street. If you get there on a weekend, be sure to book a hotel ahead, because it will be crowded.
Once you get to LA, you'll have to switch to the Pacific Sunliner (which you could actually switch to as far back as San Luis Obispo, except that it makes more stops than the Coast Starlight train).
Stop in Anaheim and visit Disneyland, then head on south to San Diego, stopping at Old Town San Diego (and going over to Mission Bay and Sea World for a day) before going the last six miles or so to Balboa Park (where the zoo is) and downtown (visiting the Gaslight district). There are red line trolleys that run from downtown San Diego all the way to the Mexican border--although you should be aware it is about a 2 hour journey each way.
Heading back north on the Pacific Sunliner, get off at Los Angeles and connect to the California Thruways Bus, which will take you to Bakersfield. Here's the website that explains this: (the cost should be included as part of your amtrak tickets).
Note that the second link above actually shows a map that I believe is out of date since there is a separate train that runs during the summer all the way from San Francisco through Paso Robles to Los Angeles (the Coast Starlight). I do not believe this is a bus for most of the route (as the map shows--although I could be wrong--so ask Amtrak when you get here).
Getting off the train (or bus) at Salinas, you could take a bus to/from Monterey and Carmel if you wanted.
Note, also though, that if you want to, you could switch to the Pacific Sunliner at Paso Robles, take it down to Surf, and take a bus through Solvang (a beautiful Danish town) in the valley north of Santa Barbara. Right next to Solvang is where both Ronald Reagan had his California ranch and where Michael Jackson had his "Neverland Ranch"--although neither can be visited.
Once you get to Bakersfield on the bus, connect back to the train (the San Joaquins route--pronounced San Wah-keens) and go to Merced. From there you can get the Amtrak bus to/from Yosemite. Then take this train back to San Francisco.
[ Edit: Edited on Jun 10, 2008, at 10:52 AM by Calcruzer ]