Looking for some more help and advice please!
Have booked our flights, flying into LA on 28th August and picking up a car there.
Want to spend one maybe two nights in LA, what do you recommend are must sees/do's as time is limited. Then planning to drive the Pacific Highway to San Francisco and any recommendations for places to over and things to see much appreciated! Do you think it would be worth driving from LA to San Diego and spending a night there and then heading north, I know it means back tracking a bit but is it something we should consider doing? Heard good reports about San Diego! But also would like to spend a couple of nights in San Francisco and fly out to Las Vegas from there on 4th September so need to be there by 2nd September? Have we given ourselves enough time?
When we get to Las Vegas we pick up a car for 5 days and plan to do a trip to Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Mounument Valley, etc - how much time will we need for this? And we end the trip with 3 nights in Las Vegas. Any comments/suggestions would be greatly appreciated as we are at the early stages of planning!!
Okay, let's start with some of the basics:
Things to see and do in Los Angeles:
(1) the beach--particularly either Santa Monica area (my suggestion) or else Huntington Beach or Newport Beach
(2) amusement parks--most well-known are Disneyland and Universal Studios. Disneyland is in Anaheim near the Huntington Beach/Newport Beach area and the other is in north Hollywood, not too terribly far from Santa Monica as long as you have a car.
(3) Hollywood Boulevard--kind of quirky--but overrated in my view
(4) Beverly Hills and the stars' homes (and the TV studios are nearby--so you can go see a show being filmed for free)
(5) Huntington Library and Gardens in San Marino (the place I would go)
and (6) Getty Museum (just east of Santa Monica)
Try to stay out of downtown (a waste with the exception of Olvera Street just across from the train station--which is interesting).
Then, there is the question of going to San Diego. This would be good if you have the time--but it will take you about a 3-hour drive each way from LA--and that is if there is no traffic. Just double this time if there is traffic.
Along the coast:
I'd pick two stops on the way to LA from SF if I were you. Two towns that are a ways apart (Monterey and Santa Barbara) are wonderful places to stop, especially if you also swing by Carmel and drive the 17 mile drive while in Monterey. If you take the single stop instead, you should stop at either Cambria if you take the long drive down the coast route (Highway 1), or else go to either Pismo Beach or San Luis Obispo (a nice college town) if you go directly down Highway 101. Another option many people like is Paso Robles since it has lots of wonderful wineries in the area and is reasonably priced (unlike the overpriced Napa Valley/Sonoma area wineries).
Also, make sure you stop by in Solvang--an old Danish town (just north of Santa Barbara on the inland side) before going on to spend the night in Santa Barbara. Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch is near here, as is Ronald Reagan's old ranch.
In Monterey, the things to see are the Monterey Aquarium, Cannery Row (right next to the aquarium), the coastline just south of here (which leads to the 17 mile drive), the Pebble Beach area and the city of Carmel itself. Near the downtown area is the Fisherman's Wharf--although there's not much to see downtown, so I wouldn't spend much time there.
In Santa Barbara, the things to see are the Mission (the largest one in the state--and the most well preserved)--(P.S. there is also a mission in Carmel, near Monterey, as well as 20+ other ones up and down the coast)--but I digress, so let me get back to discussing Santa Barbara. You should go see the beach and if it's a weekend it, they will have arts and crafts festivals down there. Go up and down State Street for a lot of fun and good shopping.
For Las Vegas, I'll let others answer--like vegasmike6 or Ham Radio. I was just in Las Vegas two weeks ago--but the town is changing so much and I was there for such a short time that it is hard to comment on the best places to see or stay. I personally like Mandalay Bay, but since 15 of the 20 largest hotels in the world are in Las Vegas--the choices are pretty much endless--and where you go depends upon your budget and whether you are there in the middle of the week or the weekend--and whether you are going in the summer or winter.
Let me list a few of the larger hotels (and cheaper hotels) in Las Vegas:
New York, New York
Paris Las Vegas
Las Vegas Hilton
Hard Rock Cafe
Rio (home of the World Series of Poker tournament)
Hooters Hotel and Casino
Bit cheaper, still nice
All of these are on or near the strip--which is where I suggest you stay. There are places downtown or on the SE side of town--and there's even a new "M" resort--but all of these are at least 6 miles from where the action is--and therefore where I don't think you'll want to be.
I suggest you hit Zion, Bryce, Arches, Monument Valley and then hit the North Rim of the GC. You will need all 5 days to do this loop. Send me a PM if you want any help on Vegas.