You're almost there!
Universal Studios is pretty cool. It's been a few years since I was there.
But you will need a rental car in LA, for sure.
Santa Monica is about a half an hour drive outside of LA and has it's own feel - quaint shops, a pier with an amusement park, etc. Hollywood Blvd is a little cliche, but if you're there, may as well check it out! I'm not typically a fan of fast food, but there's a chain out West called In-N-Out Burger. Check 'em out too.
And San Francisco-
I don't know if you already have your hotel booked, but the Parc 55 in San Francisco is a good choice. Pretty reasonable prices, as I recall - $99 a night? And it puts you a couple of blocks away from Union Square. You MUST east sushi while in San Francisco! They have some of the best...Sushi Groove is terrific. Reservations are probably necessary, as there aren't many tables. Check out Pier 39/Fisherman's Wharf- you can see Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge at a distance. If you want to get close to the bridge, you can take the bus right to it and walk across (or halfway across, it's quite a haul.)
And then there's Ghirardelli square (chocolate factory), Lombard Street (windiest street in the US). It's pretty feasible to hit most of these places in just a few days.
If you're interested in the 1960's/hippie movement, check out Haight-Ashbury.
I think someone else has already said this, but the best way to get around San Francisco is via bus or the street cars.
Have a great trip!!
[ Edit: Edited on Nov 20, 2008, at 10:01 PM by rys ]
If you're into the Cities then San Francisco and San Diego are the way to go in my humble opinion. Some of the smaller towns are pretty cool to.
I’ve lived in San Francisco for the last 9 years…feel free to pm me if you have any other questions!
Go here to get all the necessary info on visiting Alcatraz Island:
Definitely take a jacket/layers as it can be very cold on the ferry to the island.
This is a fabulous way to see Napa Valley:
You do have to arrange transport to Napa from San Francisco, which can be done fairly easily through www.511.org
I’ve only really been to Chinatown when I have visitors in town, and it’s quite fun to walk around the shops, but once you’ve seen a few, it seems as if you’ve seen them all. Like most tourist-drawing areas, you’ll start to see similar items for sale in most of the shops. When in Chinatown, visit the House of Nan King for lunch or dinner…it’s a quirky little joint, but fabulous food! It’s quite popular, and not uncommon to see a line out the door and around the block. Go here for the address:
Other places I love to eat:
OSHA Thai (Union Street location)
Home (great meatloaf & comfort food)
Nick’s Crispy Tacos
Betelnut (you must have the chocolate lava cake)
Pacific Catch (the rice bowls are truly fantastic, and you can substitute different types of fish if you like)
Harris’ (lovely steak house, a bit upscale, but worth it…get a martini or cosmo w/ your meal)
House of Prime Rib
Some lovely places to see in San Francisco:
The Palace of Fine Arts (even just walking around the structures is lovely, though you can attend many of the events held here…great for a little picnic, if it’s not too cold!)
Golden Gate Park
Enjoy your trip!
I just had another thought...if you want to maximize your time in LA, San Francisco, and the wine country, it may be best, and faster, to fly. You can find cheap flights on Virgin usually...pretty posh planes as well! Or if you're really into seeing the lovely countryside between LA and San Francisco, rent a car and drive. That way you can stop whenever/wherever you want...Big Sur, Monterey, Santa Cruz, San Luis Obispo (check out the Madonna Inn and Hearst Castle there).
Have a wonderful trip!