We're three guys (aged 24) travelling for a period of 4 weeks to the places listed below.
We're into mountain biking, going out/drinking, sights.. So we're basically the typical tourists.
SF - > Yosemite > Bakersfield/Fresno (?) > Las Vegas
Question 1: What would be more interesting when going from Yosemite to Vegas? Fresno/Bakersfield or Death Valley? Some say Death Valley is a must see, others say it's not worth it...
Las Vegas > Grand Canyon -> Arizona or Cali (San Diego)?
Question 2: Should ve go straight back to Cali or does Arizona have some interesting sights?
Arizona / San Diego -> Long beach > LA > Santa Barbara > SF/Oakland > Back to Denmark.
Question 3: We've heard that so-called 'College towns' should be quite an experience. Is that so? Or have the Western European people watched American Pie too many times?
Any recommendations/suggestions are heavily appreciated.
[ Edit: Edited on 29-Jul-2009, at 02:01 by frimann85 ]
Fresno/Bakersfield vs Death Valley:
Not sure if Death Valley is really a must see, but in my opinion I don't think Fresno/Bakers even registers on the "interesting to see" list. Based on your interests you might just want to choose the route that gets you to Las Vegas more quickly.
On Cali vs Arizona:
While I am biased to CA on this question (grew up and live there today), there is fun to be had for sure in AZ - Tempe, Scottsdale would be two suggestions (part of greater Phoenix). If you're headed to the Grand Canyon, you might just want to take stock of how much time you'll have left - might be easier to stay in AZ than go back to CA. That said, you'll see more diversity and have more varied experiences if you go through CA - San Diego and LA are much different cities (and nightlife scenes) than San Francisco, whereas in my experience most of AZ feels pretty similar.
On college towns:
College towns in America are great, but in my opinion they are hard to find these days. Tempe is essentially a college town (Arizona State University) - it's probably your best chance at living an American Pie moment on this trip. However, Santa Barbara (more accurately Goleta, the city just north of Santa Barbara where the University is located) is a very close second. Friday nights in Santa Barbara you can walk down the streets (in the Isla Vista neighborhood), into somebody's front yard, be welcomed into random parties. My brother and best friends went there for university and it is a great party school/town. For both Tempe and SB, if you get tired of playing beer pong you can hit up Scottsdale and downtown Santa Barbara for a change of pace - majorly drunken nightlife for the post-college age folks (24-30). San Diego, while not so much a college town, also has the grungy, sandals-wearing beach bar scene and a more sophisticated scene downtown. I hope you don't think Long Beach is a college town.
Happy to help more as you need it. Keep in mind these are just the opinions of a 32 year old guy who still tries to party like he's 25, and succeeds about half the time.
Thanks for the advice so far!
I think we'll be heading to Vegas fastest possible then. Sounds like Fresno/Bakersfield haven't got anything to offer so there's no reason spending time going that way.
We're kinda forced to go back to SF as our airline tickets is a roundtrip to there... So we're moving up the west coast anyway.
Hehe we're aware of the fact that Long beach isn't a college town - we're just looking to visit one of these towns on our way up the westcoast.
We're definitely going to see Goleta (thanks! ) - as for AZ - that must be taking into consideration. Maybe it's better to just spend as much time in California as possible.
Btw - how many days would you recommend to stay in LA and SF?
Advice on San Diego and California
I grew up in San Diego, it truly is an amazing place and I would live there again in a heart beat. How long will you be there? I would suggest Mission Beach and a tiny restaurant called Saska's on Just down the street from the Park at the beach. It is a quaint restaurant, maybe 12 tables, but has an awesome ambiance - many people don't even know its there. As far as touristy stuff to do: Seaport Village, Old Town, and Balboa Park are awesome attractions. The San Diego Zoo is ranked second in the country (behind the Omaha zoo, which is the city I live in now).
Coronado is a great place to visit, very upscale with some great restaurants as well - Miguel's Cocina is an awesome hidden Mexican Restaurant. I would suggest a visit to La Jolla Coves - several hidden beach Coves and Cliffs, plus the Sea Lions that live right on the shore - beautiful. If you get a chance, visit a hole in the wall taco shop - best mexican food you will ever have, it is very cheap and tastes amazing. Also, do yourself a favor and have an In 'n Out burger while you are in San Diego...you won't regret it.
There are great places to shop: Horton Plaza, Fashion Valley etc. You will also be very close to Tijuana (known as T.J. for the locals). If you are looking for a grimey night of drinking and debauchery, this is a great place to visit...just stay away from the Mexican police. When I was in San Diego, I spent a lot of time at the bars in the Gas Lamp Quarter (try and catch a show at the House of Blues) and at the bars in Pacific Beach - you can't go wrong.
Mission Beach is awesome. You are also very close to Sea World if you are down by mission beach. They bars in PB are typically frequented by younger people (21-30), there are a lot of clubs there as well. The majority of really packed bars are in the Gaslamp Quarter of Downtown San Diego. Here is a link for the PB and Mission Beach clubs/bars: http://www.pubclub.com/sandiego/pacificbeach.htm
Do be sure to go to La Jolla. There is an awesome seafood restaurant there called The Marina. It is kind of pricey, but it is right on the water. In 'N Out is a fast food chain that used to be only in Southern, CA. It has since spread to Nevada and Arizona. It is a local classic and typically has an hour wait at noon (even though it is fast food). They serve burgers, fried and shakes...and that is it. Everything is fresh and made to go. GREAT hangover food. If you get into the actual suburbs and surrounding cities of San Diego (El Cajon, La Mesa, Hillcrest), while not as glamorous, you will find a lot of great ethnic food, especially Mexican and Middle Eastern.
I used to go to TJ a lot...sad enough. It used to be a lot "safer", but it is still a great place to go. You can take the trolley over to the boarder and just walk across, that way you don't have to worry about driving. Just make sure you hold on to your passport tight...you will need it to get across now.
As you head North, I would suggest you take a ferry over to Catalina Island, it is beautiful. You can spend a whole day on the island. ALSO, as you head North, check out some of the Missions, there is some amazing history there and the chance for several breathtaking pictures.
Southern, CA has a very rich Spanish culture, this started with the Spanish missions, my favorite is San Juan Capistrano, but here is a link: http://www.americansouthwest.net/california/missions/
There are also several amusement parks as you head towards Los Angeles. Namely, Disneyland and Six Flags...by far one of the best things to do in Southern California!
The most amazing trip for me was down the west coast. Driving down the coast from Washington state to San Diego, California you can see the extreme changes in landscape, oceans, and climate. There are some amazing cities on the way: Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and San Diego. You might look into using Triple A (www.aaa.com). My parents planned a cross country trip and AAA mapped it out and set hotel reservations and everything. You could also arrange your trip around seeing all the national parks (Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon etc) - that would give you an actual agenda and set a course for you.
Please let me know if I can answer any more questions!
A visit to Grand Canyon is a must see. Fresno and Bakersfield has nothing to offer. Death Valley is hot and limited for things to do. just my two cents
Agree with most of what's been written here already, although I need to add a comment on "college towns".
There are very few "college towns" in California--simply because most of the colleges are in large towns already.
A couple of places, however, that do offer that "college town" atmosphere are:
(1) Goleta, California--already mentioned
(2) Davis, California--located about halfway between San Francisco and Sacramento; and
(3) Westwood, California--not really a separate town, but the area west of Beverly Hills and south of UCLA (University of California at Los Angeles). This is where everyone parties if you go to either UCLA or USC (University of Southern California.)
P.S. San Luis Obispo is also a college town, but it is all engineering majors--and Santa Cruz is a college town, but also a big beach resort--and the college is on the hill above the town, so they only party in town on the weekends--and really, not so much compared to the other places mentioned.
@Slakin > Thank you very much for the great information on San Diego!
We're not sure how long we're staying, but we're planning to see some of the sights and stuff you mention.
We haven't got any reservations anywhere - so it's pretty much ad-hoc all the way.
I'll let you know of our experience in SD