View Full Version : Touring in California

C130 Techie
22nd Apr 2006, 14:00
We're off on a tour of California to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary at the beginning of August.

We would like some ideas of the less well known places to visit, places to eat and any events around that time.

The main stopovers are

Las Vegas (Yes I know thats not California)
San Diego
Los Angeles
San Jose (Yes we do know the way thankyou)
San Francisco

The planned route will take us along the Pacific highway

Over to you

22nd Apr 2006, 15:05
If you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair. :E

22nd Apr 2006, 15:08
And if you see my heart, please let me know.

It's high on a hill, somewhere.

22nd Apr 2006, 15:23
Solvang is on the road just north of LA, interesting Danish community.

Don't mist Madonna Inn for lunch in San Luis Obisbo on Hwy 101. Over the top art Deco. If you spend the night they have a Tarzan room, Love Cave, etc.

Oceanside or in the woods picnics in the Big Sur area are mystically beautiful. Check out Pfeiffer State Part there.

In San Francisco take the walk up Columbus Avenue from Fishermans Wharf to Chinatown, maybe two miles. Lots of restaurants and people watching.

22nd Apr 2006, 15:29
In San Francisco i would recommend a Gray Line tour to Muir Woods. You get a trip over the Golden Gate bridge, a walk in the the woods (giant Redwoods) and a stop in Sausalito on the way back. If it is a nice day get off the bus at Sausalito, have a look around and maybe have lunch and then catch the ferry back to Frisco. The ferry passes quite close to Alcatraz.
Carmel is worth a visit..
If it still there Anthony's Star of the Sea restaurant, in downtown San Diego on the wharf, will serve you a nice seafood meal at a high price..

Happy anniversary, we did almost the same thing on our 25th., but added a week in Hawaii as well..

22nd Apr 2006, 15:52
If you have time, drive east from San Fran up to Lake Tahoe (don't bother going further over the border into Reno. Reno sucks).

Maybe a wine tour of the Napa Valley as well. Really nice part of the world.

22nd Apr 2006, 16:01
Definitely go to Muir Woods north of SF.

The Pelican Inn is quite nice, but it's more like a British pub than most places you'd find in the states, so maybe that's not what you are looking for. :)


Are you driving? If you are driving up Route 1, you might want to trade off on driving. The views are spectacular, but the driver ought to keep their eyes glued to the road and occasional sharp curves, not the steep drop off to the ocean.

Half Moon Bay on the coast near San Francisco is nice. (They have an airport too!)

The Monterey Aquarium is great.

Nepenthe in Big Sur is a nice restaurant.

The Exploritorium in SF is fun if you like science.

The parking lot on the North side of the Golden Gate Bridge is a good place to get a view of SF.

Go to Chinatown in SF for Dim Sum.

Most of the restaurants in Sausalito with great views are over priced and have mediocre food.

And there is always wine country!

Also, depending on when you go, it could be whale watching season. The grey whales migrate up and down the coast twice a year. There are whale watching boat trips, but you can see them from Point Reyes north of SF. I flew over there one time to whale watch, and it was great. (But check when they are likely to be around.)

22nd Apr 2006, 16:41
Point Lobos in Monterey is also a very nice place to visit, as you can see seals and sea lions.


However, you should learn to recognize what the plant "poison oak" looks like. Leaves of three, let it be. (Hint, it causes skin rashes a few days after the fact that you will remember for a week or so. So stay on the paths...)


22nd Apr 2006, 17:38
I'd say the most interesting part of California is around San Francisco. This if where life is! There are virtually infinite opportunities to explore, so I won't even mention anything in particular in SF.
If you are into book or record shops, have a walk on Telegraph Ave. in Berkeley. By the way, one more famous place to eat, Chez Panisse (http://www.chezpanisse.com/), is in Berkeley, too.
It's definitely worth your while to go north of San Francisco. Marin County is generally a nice place; I'd recommend visiting Mill Valley (check out Piazza d'Angelo restaurant (http://www.piazzadangelo.com/) or one of the coffee shops while you are there), one of the beaches (Stinson Beach, Muir Beach, Francis Drake Beach or, if you are into clothing-optional beaches, Red Rock Beach), browse art galleries in Sausalito. If you are into wine tasting, go to Napa and/or Sonoma counties (I personally liked Alexander Valley).
When you drive south, it may be interesting to stop at the beach near Sand City exit (a bit north of Monterey, a completely deserted place with HUGE dunes). While in Monterey, you may want to try a quick course in diving if you are adventurous enough.
I would also second BenThere's mention of Solvang and recommend having dinner at the Danish restaurant there, don't remember the name but you won't miss it.

22nd Apr 2006, 18:17
And, if you are driving from SF up the Napa Valley (BTW I wouldn't drive - all the wineries are generous with tastings!) at the end, near the town of Calistoga, is a geyser, known as "Old Faithful". This erupts every 45 minutes and is quite impressive, though not very well known. When I went, a good few years ago, ISTR it was free, but I see it's $8 now, though you can print a coupon off their website for $1 off.


C130 Techie
22nd Apr 2006, 18:55
Thanks for the great ideas so far folks. Time to start planning. We have 5 days around San Francisco and it looks like it won't benearly enough.

Unfortunately we are driving but there will be plenty of stops.

Acbus1 - If I find your heart I'll be sure to bring it back:ok:

22nd Apr 2006, 19:03
IN SF, Fisherman's Wharf. Tons of good eats, the maritime museum has some amazing ships open - Liberty ship, a pre-WWI cruiser, a square-rigger, etc.


22nd Apr 2006, 19:46
In San Francisco you absolutley MUST go and visit Alcatraz, but book your tickets well in advance, like right about now, because it is so popular. The audio tour is worth every penny.

Last time we went we stayed in the red light disrict and the vietnamese restaurants are amazing.

Cable cars - great fun if you can get one, but hte queues can be stupid length.

On highway 1 - Stop off at Cambria, it's where arachnaphobia was filmed and the beach there is really stunning.

Stop off in Santa Barbara, we would love to live there is we ever won the lottery. If you are dog owners visit the Big Dogs shop (http://www.bigdogs.com/). There is a great mexican restaurant just up the street too.

Hire a convertiable, trust me it'll make such an amazing difference to your trip.

Los Angeles - Do visit Disneyland it's great fun, do drive to Santa Monica, do visit Rodeo Drive (if this is your first visit then you HAVE to do all the touristy bits.) do go and have a cocktail on the Queen Mary out at Long Beach. Do not get lost there are some very bad areas of LA. Buy a very good map. Huntington Beach is also nice for beautiful people watching.

San Diego - If you are a Top Gun fan then drive past Mirimar, but "Top Gun" has moved to Fallon in the Nevada Desert. The Aviation museum is well worth a visit they have some very good examples there, the Zoo is spectacular but will be very hot and busy in August, it is still worth a visit though. If you can afford it a night at Del Coronado (http://www.hoteldel.com/) would be great. One day, one day! If you do go to the zoo, buy the ticket to the animal park too which is on your journey north near Escondido and is another really intresting place and worth a stop.

Then, book a holiday to relax.:p :p

Have a great time.

22nd Apr 2006, 20:11
Ditto hiring a convertible but,from experience, take a mag lite for map reading if driving at night :\ Drove from San Diego through the Joshua national park to Las Vegas. Stopped off in Salton Sea, off season when I was there in October being so hot, but beautifully peaceful. Breathtaking scenery :ok:

Strictly Jungly
22nd Apr 2006, 20:56
I second the Del Coranado, indeed Coranado itself is worth visit. The PX at NAS North Island is well worth a visit too. You can even pop over the border into Mexico.............

22nd Apr 2006, 21:50
TIP - Don't drive at night. The road lighting is laughably rubbish in most places.

22nd Apr 2006, 21:58
It's a loooong time ago when I managed to skank an all expenses paid week in LA through work. - Funnily enough Solvang was one place I remembered vividly. Really just like a Danish village, seem to recall it's up on the hills somewhere near Santa Barbara.

If you want a real culture shock, drive out into the desert to Calexico and cross the border into Mexicali. Like driving onto a film set.

22nd Apr 2006, 22:35
C130 T - sounds like a brilliant plan !

Just south of Monterey:

17 Mile Drive - beautiful run around Pacific Grove with breathtaking views and stops along the way of Pacific rocky beaches - Monarch butterflies are here too.

Monterey Bay Aquarium - I second that.

Blast from the past at Big Sur and Big Sur National Park

In San Fran there was an outstanding pub on the Embarcadero with views outside of the Oakland bridge - here you will find a great selection of beers and very nice clientele - now if I can only remember the name........

The ferry building (also by the Oakland bridge approach) is a great spot for lunch and shopping for Mrs C

Don't forget to forget the car once in the city - it is very pedestrian friendly and along with the trolleys, the BART system is excellent and reasonably clean

I think you will find as you travel outside of LA, both the people and traffic become nicer and the feeling is free-er
do go and have a cocktail on the Queen Mary out at Long Beach.

~ Must do !!! ~

Lady L also offers best advice of all here: Convertible :cool:

Bon Voyage !


Might I also suggest for a quirky comfy top rated and happy hotel in No Cal: www.kimpton.com

23rd Apr 2006, 00:35
I'd echo the bits about LA - do the tourist bit if you've never been there before, but stay in the better known areas!:uhoh: Santa Monica is very nice, as is Venice beach on a Sunday morning, when there seems to be a big open air market along the beach-front (I've only ever been there on a couple of Sunday mornings, so apologies if this is a normal thing every day!!)

The drive between LA and Vegas is through some very desolate but beautiful scenery as you make your way across the Mojave desert. It's a bit incongruous to see the Interstate stretching away across the desert for 15-20 miles at a time, but the terrain around you is quite impressive.

If you're staying in Vegas, I'd recommend the Venetian for a totally OTT hotel with some awesome decor and one of the biggest hotel rooms I've ever stayed in! If you're there on a Mon, Tues or Weds night, you can normally get a good deal ($149/night ish) if you book online and wait until a week or two before you're due to go. Unfortunately, this can backfire if they've got a conference on and are almost full, but the these nights are definitely the cheapest of the week. As far as things to do in Vegas is concerned, pretty much anything you might want to do is available! Personally, I can thoroughly recommend 'O' at the Bellagio (a Cirque du Soleil show) or the Blue Man Group at the Luxor. Great shows, if totally different to each other, and worth the admission. You may need to book in advance for 'O' to be guaranteed some seats though. I may also have parked myself at the occasional poker table...but that's just my preference!:ok:

Enjoy the trip!

West Coast
23rd Apr 2006, 03:27
As mentioned, visit TJ if time permits. I reccomend parking on the US side and walking across however.

23rd Apr 2006, 08:27
Just a few suggestions...

First of all, I agree with Westie: park on the US side and walk across to TJ. Much safer and easier.

Second, here's a short photo tour of some spots I like, north to south (and there's LOTS more, but it's probably a bit OTT to be doing even this much):


Red star 50 miles NW of San Francisco is Bodega Bay, which, along with Bodega, was the location for much of Hitchcock's "The Birds." Here's a British friend of ours enjoying the ocean just north of Bodega Bay...


Purple star just to the east of the red one is Bodega. Here's Missus AV8BOY doing her Suzanne Pleshette impression at the school shown in the movie.


Blue star farther east is in wine country. It's Domaine Carneros (Taittinger). Here's a photo from the terrace with the same British friend in the foreground (we like to show visitors a good time), and a second photo with the Missus having breakfast.



Moving on...

That's San Francisco above. The red star is in the Presidio, which is huge. Used to be an Army base (since 1776 when the Spanish founded it) but is now part of a National Park. You can climb all over old gun emplacements, explore the fort at Fort Point, play golf, get lost in the woods, learn about the marine sanctuary, and a million other things, all for free. Here's one shot from near the top of the hill near where the star is... Oh, and on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge you'll find a restored Nike missile site run by the Park Service. The guy in charge is very knowledgeable and very nice. Be sure to research the location before you go though... it's not far, but can be hard to find without a map. Also, on the Oakland side of the Bay (not this bridge, but rather, the Bay Bridge) is the old Alameda Naval Air Station. If you want to explore a decommissioned US Navy base and perhaps tour a retired aircraft carrier, that is the place.


And the black star is Pier 39. The sea lions are not always there, but if it's a sunny day, you'll probably find them sunning themselves and arguing...


Here's a spot I like much farther south. It's Point Loma in San Diego. The black line points in the general direction of the shot.


That's North Island in the background. In the foreground you'll see that my son didn't know which way you're supposed to wear a baseball cap.


Finally, just because I like this photo... It's five photos I took from the terrace of the Bellagio in Las Vegas and then stitched together.


I've made this offer to others and I'll make it here. I'm available to buy PPRuNers a beer from time to time in Northern California. Especially if you take Jerricho's advice and take a road trip to Tahoe. I'm sort of on the way...


Edited to say, if you're planning on taking Highway 1, it will take you longer than you think. It's a good choice if you don't have a tight schedule. Even 101 takes longer than you'd think... Both are beautiful and I encourage you to take one or the other. Just know it won't be fast...

Solid Rust Twotter
23rd Apr 2006, 08:46
Spearfishing still worthwhile at La Jolla?

23rd Apr 2006, 09:37
Hearst castle of Wiliam Randolph Hearst fame, about 2 hrs south of Monterey - google it, an amazing place and not to be missed

23rd Apr 2006, 11:07
In no particular order...

You won't need a car in Vegas so consider (to save time) flying from San Fran / LAX / SAN into Vegas. Can be as cheap as chips if the flights are not busy. Once in Vegas don't miss the Hoover Dam. Hotel recommendation from me is the Mandalay Bay - but the deals on others can be fantastic. Go onto each Hotels web site and register. The email offers can be great. We stayed at the Venetian once for $49 / night... If you like shooting there are a couple of gun ranges just off the strip where you can fire off some pretty impressive hardware (Oozie 9mm etc) No RPG though, unfortunately!

San Fran. An amazing City. Hotel Recommendaiton is the Marriott at Fishermans Wharf. Secure Underground / Valet parking (important in SF) and you can leave the car there for the duration - most things are walking distance / public transportable. Alcatraz well worth it, as is a walk over the bridge if it's not to windy. Top Tip - it's cold in SF even in the summer because of the wind - make sure you pack a good jumper / wind proof coat. Eating in China Town is a good idea. The rest of the stuff to do there is well advertised and you'll find your way. A trip up Coit Tower to get a vista of the City is fun (if you can still do this?).

Driving down the Pac Coastal Highway is great fun. Monterey is a must stop and see. Probably my favourite place on the coast. The Aquarium is fantastic, and if you are a fan of Stienbeck books then take his tour as well. You may want to read some of his books before you go to give you a flavour of the place! Hotel Tip - Holiday Inn Express - Wave Street, Monterey. Book on their own web site - Canery Wharf location for out of town prices. Depends on how booked up it gets, but Mrs CD and I liked the place, because we could sleep with the Windows open listening to the sea and the seals playing. It also has an outdoor Hot Tub. If you use TripAdvisor you can see the 5* hotels on the Row. They are all lovely, but cost $$$$$. Day trips to the Vin Yards and also 19 mile drive / pebble beach are a must from here.

Heading down towards LA there is Hurst Castle - worth a view. There is also a wierd hotel with all the rooms modelled in different themes. You may want to stop there - can't remember the name.

LA is a bit of a dead loss IMHO. Quenn Mary / Spruce Goose is OK. I am guessing if it's your 25th Anniv then Disney World won't be high on your agenda. Best keep travelling South to San Diego. A beautiful City. If you are into flying there's a British owned school at Gillespie Field and I dare say a friendly instructor will give you the VFR Corridor tour of San Diego (over the military bases / sea) if you want to see the real beauty of this place. The metro line (trolley) has been extended up to Gillespie Field, and down as far the Mexican Border so driving isn't essenial. As Lexxity already said the Hotel Del Mar at Corrundo is worth a look - as is the "Top Gun" dive bar in waterside SD. Enjoy your trip - Mrs CD and I love the place, and we are looking forward to CD Junior being older so we can go to Disney World and then revisit all of our favourite haunts.

C130 Techie
23rd Apr 2006, 13:53
Thanks to everyone for the great suggestions. Its going to take a little time to research them all and a much longer holiday than we've got to visit them all. We may have to make a return trip. Thanks again:ok:

23rd Apr 2006, 16:05
For pretty vineyards, try Atresa

For champagne, try Chandon or Korbel. (Champagne bottling more technical.)

For California history, try Beringer.

And see the movie "Citizen Kane" by Orson Welles before you vist the Hearst Castle, if you do.

White Bear
28th Apr 2006, 21:12
San Francisco. My favourite city in the US. I will not add to the list above, I’m just delighted to see so many comments on how beautiful northern Cal is, without one America bashing comment. Very gratifying.

My only suggestion: rent and watch the film ‘Bullitt’. Great for San Francisco background scenery and featuring a very young and achingly beautiful Jacqueline Bisset, as Steve McQueen’s live in girlfriend.
Then reserve a convertible Mustang rental!

29th Apr 2006, 04:37
Cusco and I are touring the Western USA at the moment - we rented an Archer from Santa Monica and have been to Lake Havasu City, Grand Canyon, Page, and Sedona. We're off to Tucson and Davis-Monthan AFB tomorrow.

Highly recommend getting out of LA as soon as possible. The recommendations above are all excellent. Sedona is stunning but a fair way to drive. An aeroplane makes it a lot easier.

29th Apr 2006, 06:06
I'm right there with Cherokee, forget the southern half of the state unless you have a compulsion to see Disneyland. Lots of good stuff there, but more bang for your buck in the upper parts.

Hearst Castle is a little below the middle but unforgettable. 1/2 day if it is en route.

You can do 5 days in SF area alone, south to Monterey for the Aquarium and north to Napa/Sonoma for the wine country. With an SF base, hired tours in those directions would take the driving load off you. Bodega Bay, yes. Jack London's Wolf House in Glen Ellen (Sonoma County), yes. Half Moon Bay, yes. Calistoga, cool, mud bath and massage. In SF: Everything, yes. NorthBeach ChinatownGoldenGateParkExploratoriumGoldenGateBridgeCableCar sFishermansWharfDon'tGetMe Started. Into driving? Up the coast on Hwy 1/US101 4-6 hours gets you to redwood country, Redwood Natl Park, Eureka, Arcata, Crescent City. Jet boat tour up the Klamath River from the coast to Hoopa and beyond will not be forgotten.
Rafting further upstream on the Klamath, out of Happy Camp, if you fancy getting wet. Been there, done that, email me if you want more,

enthusiastic native Californian, Kansas.

29th Apr 2006, 06:16
Rent yourself a '58 Buick convertible and cruise.

Hate New York City
It's cold and it's damp
And all the people dressed like monkeys
Let's leave Chicago to the Eskimos
That town's a little bit too rugged
For you and me you bad girl

Rollin' down the Imperial Highway
With a big nasty redhead at my side
Santa Ana winds blowin' hot from the north
And we were born to ride

Roll down the window put down the top
Crank up the Beach Boys baby
Don't let the music stop
We're gonna ride it till we just can't ride it no more

From the South Bay to the Valley
From the West Side to the East Side
Everybody's very happy
'Cause the sun is shining all the time
Looks like another perfect day

I love L.A. (We love it)
I love L.A. (We love it)

Look at that mountain
Look at those trees
Look at that bum over there, man
He's down on his knees
Look at these women
There ain't nothin' like 'em nowhere

Century Boulevard (We love it)
Victory Boulevard (We love it)
Santa Monica Boulevard (We love it)
Sixth Street (We love it, we love it)

I love L.A.
I love L.A.
(We love it)

Sing with feeling