We are 4 adults from England, planning a 12 day trip in October 2013, visiting San Francisco, LA and Vegas (not necessarily in that order). We're hiring a car, but don't know where to go to start off, or which places to visit between the main ones. We're not planning to visit Yosemite though, and my husband does love a good wine. I believe there are some good vineyards around?
My son and daughter- in- law want Outlet shopping - and we all definitely want to stay on "The Strip" in Vegas. Also, we want to see Pink's show in LA on the 12th October. Beyond that, we have no idea where we want to go, or what to visit!
Can anyone give me some advice as to how I organise our trip? I'd be grateful for any help and advice, as I've been left to sort it all out!!
Okay, first thing you need to know is that the tickets for Pink's show go on sale today in about one hour from when I'm writing this message.
Go to the following site to order your tickets (October 12th or 13th in Los Angeles), or if you are unable to get those, try for Oakland (near San Francisco--just across the Bay bridge) for the October 10th show, or for San Jose (one hour south of San Francisco) on October 15th.
I'll write more later on what to see after you have a chance to get these Pink tickets.
The website to buy the tickets is here:
California has wine from bottom to top. It's hard to say where to begin, and I live here. Are you driving the whole trip? Do you enjoy the drive or want to drive quickly between cities? Paso Robles, in Central California, has so many wine tasting rooms you cannot easily count them and if you drive west on Hwy 46 you end up at the Hearst Castle and the Pacific Ocean. From Los Angeles I like to drive along Hwy 1 which goes through Malibu and, again, right along the Pacific Ocean. It is a peaceful drive with little traffic, a rare thing in SoCal.
Make google maps your new bff.
I'm not an outlet shopper so I'll let someone else address that.
What else do you all enjoy? Beaches, amusement parks, mountains, aquariums, hiking. We have it all in California
Actually, if you go to Paso Robles--which I highly recommend as there are now 170 wineries in the area--you can choose to go either to the Outlets in Arroyo Grande--near Pismo Beach, just south of there, or to the ones in Gilroy (farther north on US 101 when going from Paso Robles to San Francisco). The Gilroy ones are larger by far, but not on the way if you plan to go the coast route through Carmel and Santa Cruz--which is also a route I recommend. Therefore, I suggest Arroyo Seco--which is convenient if you plan to drive US 101 from LA to Santa Barbara to Paso Robles.
Among some of my favorite wineries in Paso Robles are Opolo (best zinfandels), Sculpterra (beautiful sculpture garden), Tobin James (the wine is just okay, but the wild-west look is great, including a gigantic western bar they moved all the way from St. Louis--and they throw fun barbeques here often), Still Waters (best place to relax with great views and wines), Veris (fantastic champagnes), and Midnight Cellars (reasonably priced wines that really excel--and they allow you to taste about 14 choices--so limit yourself if you are driving).
[ Edit: grammar correction ]
Oh, a few recommendations. Book your tickets for Hearst Castle early. Wait to book Vegas shows unless you are planning to attend a high-end show--you'll have to book that early.
Book your hotel/motel in Paso Robles early--as some weekends they will sell out months in advance (when special events are going on). Same for Las Vegas. Otherwise, wait to book your hotels--for example in SF and LA, as you can then make your trip more flexible and decide how long you want to be in each place--and if you want to be in town or near a beach/resort area.
Plan to spend at least one full day near Carmel/Monterey--it's the single most beautiful place on your trip. Spend at least one day in Paso Robles--as after drinking, long drives are not recommended. Allow at least half a day to visit Hearst Castle (it is huge). Then spend the rest of the day going from there on up the coastline (preferably while the sun is still out so you can see it all) up to Carmel to spend the night. Take the next day to see Pebble Beach, the 17 mile drive, the Monterey coastline and the Monterey Aquarium or Cannery Row. (made famous by the John Steinbeck book, "Cannery Row").
In Las Vegas, consider allowing two days to take the time to go to see the Grand Canyon. Simply put, seeing this in person (north or south rim--but not where they have the "walkway"--which is not even close to the main part of the canyon) is the single most awe-inspiring thing you will see in your life--pictures do not give you the spine-tingling experience you will get doing this in person any justice. You might want to include this to a trip to Sedona--but that is your choice.
Other possible side trips could include parts of Death Valley, the Calico Ghost Town (near Barstow), Lake Tahoe, or parts of California's Gold Country. Try to combine this with your travel itinerary. For example, start in Los Angeles, go north through Paso Robles to Hearst Castle and then to San Francisco, then go east to Lake Tahoe, (make a visit through Virginia City (Nevada)--the largest silving mining town that ever existed in the US--then south to Las Vegas, Vegas to the Grand Canyon, then to Sedona, then back west through either the Death Valley, or Barstow, or directly back by going through Palm Springs/Palm Desert (another resort area) and then returning to LA.
Enjoy--and write if you have specific questions or want specific recommendations---I've only lived in California for about 40 years.
[ Edit: clarification on vegas booking ]
P.S. After reflection, I realize that your best route would go to Virgina city, then through Death valley on the way to Las Vegas (if you wanted to see the Death Valley)--not going to the Death Valley after the Grand Canyon.
This route would save you about 100 miles of driving over my originally suggested route.
One other place I should mention since it has now become a major wine destination--and is almost right on the main road from San Francisco to Yosemite. The town of Murphys is a very quaint town that was a major gold mining town back in the 1850-1880 time period. They have 24 wine tasting rooms in town (all on the main street--so very easy to find)--and they have three hotels there with the major one being the Murphys Historic Hotel built in 1856. This hotel has hosted US Presidents (US Grant), major industrialists (John Astor and JP Morgan), literary figures (Mark Twain and Horatio Alger), celebrities (John Wayne), and old gunsligers/gamblers (Black Bart and Bat Masterson).--and is about 1 1/2 hour from Yosemite's western entrance.
I was just there this past weekend, and can tell you it is a wonderful tourist destination. Some of the best known wineries are within 1 block of the main hotel and they also hold a concert series with extremely well-known acts at the local Ironwood Winery every year. This year's list of concert acts will be announced in about a week on May 14th. Make sure to book your tickets and hotel early if you go, since they sell out in about 2 days after the acts are announced.
The rest of the main street is filled with historic spots, small shops, restaurants, bakeries, and some humorous items (like the old jail and former miners-run saloon). There are also three major caves within 10 miles and the largest caves in California are about 15 miles north. The original gold discovery spot for Murphys is right in town--and for California (Sutter's Mill) it is about 30 miles north.
P.S. It is located just 10 miles from Angels Camp--home of the jumping frog contest held every May
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