Cali Itinerary

Rylie Grite

Mouseketeer
Joined
Apr 8, 2015
Looking for feedback for an Aug 22 - Sept 5 2020 itinerary. 2 adults and an 8 year old.

Plan to pick up a car @ SFO and return LAX

Day 1 Sat Aug 22 Arrive SFO - Pickup Car - Hotel check in
Day 2 San Fran - Warf, Chinatown, Cable Cars
Day 3 San Fran - Presidio, Walt Disney Family Museum & Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz?
Day 4 depart San Fran early drive to Yosemite - Afternoon in Yosemite Valley
Day 5 Yosemite
Day 6 Depart Yosemite for Monterey - Morning in Yosemite?
Day 7 Monterey - Aquarium, Point Lobos Park, 17 mile drive, cannery row
Day 8 Depart Monterey drive the coast and stop for the night in Cambria or San Luis Opisbo or Morro Bay - See Bixby Bridge, Point Sur lighthouse, McWay Falls, Ragged Point and Elephant seals, Hearst Castle?
Day 9 Drive to LA, Griffith Observatory
Day 10 LA - Warner Bros Studio Tour? Santa Monica Pier?
Day 11 LA - Walk of Fame, Chinese Theater? Depart late drive to Anaheim Check in Disneyland
Day 12 - Disneyland
Day 13 - Disneyland
Day 14 - Disneyland
Day 15 Sat Sept 5- Depart & return home
 
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ErinBoBerin

Never grow up
Joined
Aug 13, 2018
Can't really comment on the whole thing but just some FYIs - we went to SanFran a few months ago and we waited about an hour and a half to get on a cable car (100% worth it, especially if you hang off the side) but just so you know. This was about 3pm and if we did it again we'd go earlier. And I would recommend booking your Alcatraz ferry ahead of time as it seems like they often sell out of tickets. The Walt Disney Family Museum is phenomenal.

Looks like a fun trip! Glad you're leaving three full days for Disney.
 

ktlm

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jun 20, 2008
We did Disneyland/Universal/Hollywood area in July. Normally we do Disneyland/San Diego area, so it was our first time to go north after Disneyland. We loved the Warner Bros. Studio Tour and the Griffith Observatory. Having been to the beaches all around the San Diego Area and Newport Beach for the past several years, we were not fans of the Santa Monica Pier. It was rougher and dirtier than we were used to. We did Warner Brothers in the morning, and then from there we went to Hollywood and walked around the Walk of Fame, Chinese Theater, Madame Tussards, and the Disney Soda Fountain. We had no trouble fitting all of that in within one day. We weren't even the first time slot at Warner Brothers- we booked the day before, so our time slot was 10:30. (Tours start at 8:30 and book every 30 minutes). The standard Warner Bros. studio tour is 2 hours, and then another "self-guided" one hour. We wound up spending well two "self guided' hours because DD was obsessed, and we ate lunch there, and did the paid photo/video experiences, and we still had plenty of time for the Hollywood area. If you pay for the deluxe Warner Bros. tour (which I think is $300 per person), then it is about 6 hours total I think, but if you just do the standard tour and do a morning tour you would easily have time for both Warner and the touristy Hollywood area. I don't know if you have ever been to NYC, but to us that Hollywood area is like a smaller, dirtier, Times Square. We had a lot of fun there, especially taking photos at Madame Tussards, but we didn't need more than a few hours. If you haven't been to Disneyland before, you might even think about doubling up day 10 and 11, and adding another Disneyland day.
 
  • Jimsig

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Nov 23, 2012
    We did the WB standard tour a few weeks ago and if you get an early tour I would also say to double up on Day 10 and 11 as well and add another day at DL. Not sure if when having Disneyland listed for 3 days you also mean time at DCA but adding a 4th day would give you plenty of time for that park as well and you might not feel rushed at Disney. .

    Santa Monica Pier is just OK in my book so if you do combine days I would plan it for last and only do it if you have time.
     

    theluckyrabbit

    Moderator
    Moderator
    Joined
    Jul 23, 2012
    At that time frame for DLR, be aware that it is likely HM will be down for the installation of the NBC overlay. It goes down around the third week of August and reopens on the first day of Halloween Time (9/06 this year -- date unknown for next year). Space Mt. may also be down for its Halloween overlay (Ghost Galaxy). It didn't receive the overlay this year, so next year is up in the air. That overlay only takes a day or two to install. At the end of August, DLR historically goes to the non-peak/low season schedule, i.e. shorter hours, less staffing, more refurbs/rides running at lower capacity, less entertainment, nighttime entertainment on weekends only, etc. Be aware of this and plan accordingly if you'll be wanting to see nighttime shows.
     

    Lumpy1106

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jul 2, 2010
    Looking for feedback for an Aug 22 - Sept 5 2020 itinerary. 2 adults and an 8 year old.

    Plan to pick up a car @ SFO and return LAX

    Day 1 Sat Aug 22 Arrive SFO - Pickup Car - Hotel check in
    Day 2 San Fran - Warf, Chinatown, Cable Cars
    Day 3 San Fran - Presidio, Walt Disney Family Museum & Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz?
    Day 4 depart San Fran early drive to Yosemite - Afternoon in Yosemite Valley
    Day 5 Yosemite
    Day 6 Depart Yosemite for Monterey - Morning in Yosemite?
    Day 7 Monterey - Aquarium, Point Lobos Park, 17 mile drive, cannery row
    Day 8 Depart Monterey drive the coast and stop for the night in Cambria or San Luis Opisbo or Morro Bay - See Bixby Bridge, Point Sur lighthouse, McWay Falls, Ragged Point and Elephant seals, Hearst Castle?
    Day 9 Drive to LA, Griffith Observatory
    Day 10 LA - Warner Bros Studio Tour? Santa Monica Pier?
    Day 11 LA - Walk of Fame, Chinese Theater? Depart late drive to Anaheim Check in Disneyland
    Day 12 - Disneyland
    Day 13 - Disneyland
    Day 14 - Disneyland
    Day 15 Sat Sept 5- Depart & return home
    My notes:
    Days 1-3 - a car is a bit of a liability in San Francisco and getting around is easy without it.
    Day 3 - you need reservations far in advance for Alcatraz, but it's worth it
    Day 4, 5 and 6 - San Fran to Yosemite and Yosemite back to Monterey are both LONG drives! I love Yosemite but I don't think I'd do it for 1 day.
    Day 8 - the best elephant seal viewing is at Ano Nuevo between Monterrey and Santa Cruz. The drive between Santa Cruz and Cambria is long, windy and gorgeous. You don't want to do it at night. I'd split this in two days;
    day 1 - Monterrey to Santa Cruz, with a hike to see the elephant seals on the way. There is a historic train you can ride in Santa Cruz as well as the boardwalk - you won't be bored.
    day 2 - Have breakfast the next day and take your time getting to Cambria. Hearst Castle is good too but time consuming, because you have to get on a bus at the bottom of the hill and ride up, then walking tour, then ride back. It's worth it if you have the time, but remember you are driving down from at least Santa Cruz even if you split this into 2 days. Cambria is a sleepy little artisan town with the hotels on the beach - gorgeous! Morro Bay is foggy and laid back. San Luis Obispo is a college town so more to do there but still very nice and relatively quiet. I'm a CPSLO alum if you want more detailed recommendations on the Central Coast
    Day 9, 10 and 11 - Drive is 4 hours from SLO to LA, but you'll want to stop in Santa Barbara and at least have lunch there. As for the other stops;
    Griffith Observatory - yes
    WB Studio tour - yes
    Walk of Fame, Chinese Theater - no - touristy, dirty, disappointing - don't do it...unless you get tickets to see a taping of the Jimmy Kimmel show and you are there anyway (no kids allowed)
    Santa Monica Pier - no, same problems as the Walk of Fame - go to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk on day 8 instead
     

    Douglas Dubh

    True Fiscal Conservative
    Joined
    Nov 13, 1999
    I agree with skipping Yosemite. If you had a few more days then I’d include it. Santa Cruz would be a good alternative. Ride the skunk train and walk the boardwalk.
     
  • sndral

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 3, 2008
    Looking for feedback for an Aug 22 - Sept 5 2020 itinerary. 2 adults and an 8 year old.
    ....
    Day 6 Depart Yosemite for Monterey - Morning in Yosemite?
    Day 7 Monterey - Aquarium, Point Lobos Park, 17 mile drive, cannery row
    Day 8 Depart Monterey drive the coast and stop for the night in Cambria or San Luis Opisbo or Morro Bay - See Bixby Bridge, Point Sur lighthouse, McWay Falls, Ragged Point and Elephant seals, Hearst Castle?
    ...
    ...Day 8 - the best elephant seal viewing is at Ano Nuevo between Monterrey and Santa Cruz. The drive between Santa Cruz and Cambria is long, windy and gorgeous. You don't want to do it at night. I'd split this in two days;
    day 1 - Monterrey to Santa Cruz, with a hike to see the elephant seals on the way. There is a historic train you can ride in Santa Cruz as well as the boardwalk - you won't be bored.
    ...
    A quick geographic correction - Ano Nuevo is not between Monterey and Santa Cruz. Ano is N. of Santa Cruz and Santa Cruz is N. of Monterey. If OP decides to skip Yosemite for Santa Cruz, the easiest route is to head south from SF on Hwy 1 which goes through Half Moon Bay, by Ano Nuevo state park and through Santa Cruz before reaching Monterey.
    Regarding the elephant seals, I wouldn’t bother with the 3 mile hike to the point & back to see them at Ano Nuevo in late August when you most likely will only see some molting males. Winter when the tours are happening and there’s males fighting, females giving birth, new pups, and all of the seals are hauled out - yes, but late summer not so much. Do stop at the Piedras Blancas rookery just north of San Simeon on your way south on Hwy 1 on day 8 to check if any males are there molting, or perhaps some early female or sub adult haul outs.
    Personally, if you don’t plan to return to Northern California and have not ever been, then IMO Yosemite is far preferable to Ano Nuevo & Santa Cruz. I say that as a native Northern Californian who worked in SF, volunteered at Ano, backpacked in Yosemite, vacationed every summer growing up in Aptos/Capitola which are adjacent to Santa Cruz, and still volunteer in Monterey. I love Ano, enjoy Santa Cruz, etc., but Yosemite and it’s majestic beauty is iconic.
    Your drive from SF to Yosemite will be around 3 - 4 hours, longer if traffic is bad, head out in the morning as you’ll be going east and thus against the commute which really gridlocks westbound over the Altamont Pass in the a.m. and eastbound in the p.m.. Once you arrive at the park gate for Yosemite it’s another 30 - 45 minute drive to get to the valley. Ideally you’d have 2 full days, but one evening, a full day, and then a morning should enable you to at least see some of the grandeur of Yosemite. The falls will not be as large in late summer as they are in spring after a year with a good snow pack, but they are still amazing and the granite monoliths surrounding the valley are awe inspiring.
    To maximize your time in Yosemite stay in the valley in the park - which means your choices are the awesome but pricey Ahwahnee (worth a visit and perhaps a meal even if you don’t stay there,) the more reasonably priced Yosemite Lodge, or the very rustic Curry Village. Reserve early! I use the shuttle when I stay in Yosemite Valley, it’s easy, free, hop on hop off, stops most places you’d want to get off at for such a short visit & saves searching for parking. I would make the drive up to Glacier point as the view is stunning.
    On day 6 as you are leaving Yosemite you will most likely exit via the South Gate on Hwy 41 which is probably the quickest route to head to Monterey & will take you past the Mariposa Grove of redwoods on your way out, so stop there to hike amongst them. You’ll be seeing the coastal redwoods/sequoias on day 8 as you head south through Big Sur.
    Your drive on day 6 from Yosemite to Monterey will be longish - probably 5-6 hours, but unlike the Bay Area and Southern California, there normally isn’t much traffic and there are places to stop for a break (I usually stop when I head over Pacheco Pass on my way to Monterey at Casa de Fruta to grab some snacks & stretch my legs.)
    Regarding your Monterey day - the Aquarium is at the end of Cannery row, so lump those together. The 17 mile drive through Pebble Beach is between Cannery Row and Pt. Lobos. I’d probably do the Aquarium & Cannery row in the morning, drive to Pt. Lobos and hike there, then combine my 17 mile drive w/ a stop at Spanish Bay for a drink at one of the outdoor fire pits while watching the bag piper who plays at sunset. If you tell them at the gate into Pebble Beach that you’re visiting the Inn/Roy’s, they’ll either not charge you entry to Pebble or they’ll reimburse your entry fee as you exit if you bring your receipt.
     
    Last edited:

    Rylie Grite

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Apr 8, 2015
    I appreciate feedback from everyone. Thanks.
    Lots of great points.

    San Fran - I know I don't need a car and it IS a liability but at this point it is cheaper and there is a better selection if I rent from the airport -even with Parking and not using it for $50/day. I'll keep an eye out as the time gets closer to see if the numbers work out better and I'll look into getting back to the airport to rent. Thanks

    Yosemite - This is a must do for us. We are from NYC, my wife and daughter have never been there, I was there 30 years ago and who knows if I will be back. We are thinking of adding a night but it probably wont happen. We do plan to leave around 9am from SF to head there so we will have one afternoon, a full day and one morning there. We are staying in the valley and I am going to exit the park at the south the last morning on the way to Monterrey to see the Sequoias. Thanks.

    Monterey - great tips thanks.

    I think we are going to stop for the night in Cambria - Thanks.

    LA- I think we are going to do less here, I've been to LA multiple times and my wife has been there. Someone said the walk of fame was dirty, and I totally agree but its something my daughter would at least like to see. So observatory the evening we arrive, WB tour the next day with the obligatory LA things my daughter wants in the afternoon and evening is all we'll do, we will leave early the next day for Disneyland and spend another half to 3/4 day there. Thanks.

    Santa Monica/ Pier /Santa Cruz Boardwalk - Thanks for all the feedback. I think we are going to skip this all together.

    Disneyland- I hope the night time spectaculars will be in operation right before the holiday weekend, if not we will deal with it. - Thanks.

    Santa Barbara - Looking into this - Thanks.
     

    RemainSeatedPlease

    Part of Your World
    Joined
    Nov 22, 2014
    This sounds like such an awesome trip!! You are going to have a great time.

    I agree that you absolutely must do Yosemite - I'd put that as the number one priority myself, even above Disneyland. I truly believe it's the most beautiful place on earth. Definitely worth the hours long drive there and back. If you can fit it in, try to do the drive up to Glacier Point. It's a stunning view.

    I also agree that you may want to skip Santa Cruz. I've been to Santa Cruz (as well as Yosemite) many times, and to me Santa Cruz is not that exciting. The boardwalk is iconic and if you were moving to California then I would surely suggest visiting at some point, but for a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, it's just not that important when there is so much else to see.

    As for Monterey, my husband and I have been there for the day and often intend to do the 17-mile drive, but end up spending the entire day at the Aquarium instead. It's a lot of fun. They also have good food at the cafeteria, not your standard theme park/aquarium fare but rather food made fresh in front of you from menus designed by a chef. I would say, if your daughter or the adults are really enjoying the aquarium, stick around. Don't force leaving early to see the other sights around Monterey, because the aquarium really is the highlight.

    I think it's great that you've planned for travel days in between destinations. Too many people plan California road trips where everything is back to back, not taking into account the long drive times. Especially when you're driving in a new place, where you want to be able to stop and look at the scenery without feeling rushed.

    I hope you will report back on how the trip went!
     

    minnie1012

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Nov 25, 2008
    We were in California in August with my 15 year old and 10 year old daughters. We didn't do the San Fran part. We did Disneyland and then Los Angeles. We did the Warner Bros tour and Santa Monica in the same day. We had a 9:00 tour and afterwards went to Chipotle for lunch. Then we headed to the pier maybe around 1:30 or so. You do have to be flexible with your times as a 7 mile drive could easily take 45 minutes (bring snacks in the car). The views from the pier were beautiful. Coming from the East Coast I was surprised at how cool it was at the beach in August. It was only in the 70's and I was a bit chilly on the pier. They were filming something there so it was pretty cool watching. We did the Walk of Fame, Hollywood and Highland mall, Dolby Theatre tour, Madam Tussaunds and it didn't take us all day. By around 2:00 we were pretty much done and headed to Duff's Cake mix to decorate cupcakes. I know a lot of people have mentioned the dirtiness etc. I live near NYC so it didn't really phase me. There are a lot of homeless people there and it is dirty but again being in NY a lot it was expected, it's a city. I found it not as crowded as NYC, as far as walking around. Everyone looks down though (at the stars) lol which would no go over well in NY. :D I did Hearst castle when I was little and I was a bit bored but back then parents did what they wanted. lol The road getting there is rough though, made me car sick. We only did 2 days in Disneyland, wished we did 3. We loved it so much and can't wait to go back! Enjoy your trip.
     
  • cruisehopeful

    Wishing I was taking a nap on a ship.
    Joined
    Oct 25, 2015
    I agree that you absolutely must do Yosemite - I'd put that as the number one priority myself, even above Disneyland.
    I also agree that you may want to skip Santa Cruz. I've been to Santa Cruz (as well as Yosemite) many times, and to me Santa Cruz is not that exciting. The boardwalk is iconic and if you were moving to California then I would surely suggest visiting at some point, but for a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, it's just not that important when there is so much else to see.
    I agree with those points. Yosemite Valley is much more exciting than Disneyland and worth the effort to go there, even if you have to cut out other stuff in your plans.
    As for Monterey, my husband and I have been there for the day and often intend to do the 17-mile drive, but end up spending the entire day at the Aquarium instead.
    I agree that the Aquarium is the highlight of Monterey, however, I don't think the Aquarium is worth the admission cost. I think for those who haven't been to a lot of large aquariums, it can be an exciting visit. Both times I've gone, I have been disappointed. I just like Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach better.

    Cannery row is nothing to see, really. It's lots of gift shops, tourist type stuff. Easy to just walk through it all in a few minutes or if you enjoy shopping, I guess you could spend more time there. I just don't get the appeal, but I am more into nature type stuff and not stuff made in China that says, "Monterey" on it.

    17 mile drive is great. You'll want to stop and get out to look at stuff and binoculars are important if you want an up close look at sea otters in the wild. While I enjoyed the drive and will do it again, I wouldn't make it a priority of you are going to be in a time crunch and need to cut out something else.

    Point Lobos Park - my biggest regret of my Monterey area visit is that I didn't allow more time for this place. To me, it's the most beautiful state park that I have seen. I'd love to spend days there.

    If you want to stay overnight in San Luis Obispo, you might want to look at the themed rooms at the Madonna Inn. You can stay inside a room carved out of rock. Even if you don't stay overnight at that place, you can stop and get a meal. All the restrooms, etc, are very ornate. It's quite the throw back to what I've pictured the fancy places to look like back in the 50's.
     

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