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California vacation -- can't decide where to go

zoebartlett

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Is there a limit to how many threads you can start in a 2 day span? :bigsmile:

So my husband and I are thinking of taking a vacation this summer. It's not definite yet but we're considering going to CA. There are so many places I'd like to go but I can't decide (and each region seems so different). My husband's open to anything. He just wants to get away for a week. If you could spend one week-10 days in CA (minus 2 days for travel), where would you go? We like to do typical things one does on a relaxing vacation -- eat, check out local events/culture, shop, swim, wander around, etc. I think the only thing I know we wouldn't like are spas. Wine country appeals to my husband but neither one of us drink much. Carmel and the surrounding areas appeal to me but I know nothing about it really. It just sounds beautiful. Like I said though, we're open to any/all suggestions. TIA!
 

JewelFreak

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Carmel is a great place to spend a few days, then you can wander up US1 to San Francisco, where you can find anything you can think of to do. It's a nice drive along the magnificent coast too, with places you may want to stop & peek at as you go by. Summer along there is super -- not too hot, cool in the mornings (even cold till fog burns off). Some of the Marin towns just over the Golden Gate (Tiburon, Sausalito, Mill Valley, etc.) make for good wandering around -- neat shops, you can eat in restaurants on the water, all that good stuff. We lived in SF for 9 years & did a lot of that sort of thing. Sounds like a relaxing week.

--- Laurie
 

zoebartlett

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Thanks for the suggestion Laurie! I also thought of the San Diego area too. I forgot to mention that earlier.
 

MichelleCarmen

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I wish I could suggests resturants, etc., but we took the kids so, it was a family vaca.

One cool thing we did was we flew into LA and rented a car and drove all around and then down to San Diego and flew out from there! We spent 8 days there and visited a lot of places - but like I said, mostly family destinations.

In Carlsbad, there is the GIA so you may be able to go on a tour (I think they offer those). We didn't go in there, but drove back and forth in front of the complex a bunch of times so I could take photos and finally a security guard came out of the box thingy and tried to get a better look at us! lol

ETA - we really LOVE San Diego...we even took real estate brochures with us back thinking we should move down there.
 

kenny

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San Luis Obispo is right between LA and SF and is lovely.
There are wineries nor of it around Paso Robles and south of SLO around Santa Maria.

The hills inland from Santa Maria are charming and new well known.
It is also a very scenic wine country.

Napa and Sonoma are the most famous wine areas and you will know it when it comes time to pay the hotel and restaurant bills.
The Santa Maria winery area is much more affordable.
 

zoebartlett

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Thanks MC!

I've been looking at different sites and I just can't decide which part of CA to focus on. We like a combo of lounging around and getting out to see the sights. We'd be fine basing ourselves in one area and then doing day trips from there. I don't know if this matters, but we'll be coming from the northeast. Getting to CA will be a bit draining because it's so far away, so I don't think I want to be on the go constantly once we land. I may decide differently once we're actually there, but that's my thought right now.

A question about wine country (for my husband): What else does this area have to offer besides tours of wineries? It would be fun to visit one but since we rarely drink, I'd be afraid that a whole vacation focusing on wine country would be wasted on us.
 

Selkie

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That would actually give you plenty of time to at least see SF, the Central Coast, and LA. And possibly San Diego too, if you pushed it a little. A week or ten days is kind of a long time to just spend in one city, so I think breaking it up like that usually works really well. And of course, if you come to LA, we'd be happy to show you some of the sights! I'd highly recommend flying into Los Angeles (or Long Beach, which is usually much easier to deal with), spending 2-3 days there, then driving up the coast (take 2 days to do that, and you'll have time to see Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo). Spend a day and night in Carmel or Monterey, and then hang out in SF for another 2-3 days before flying out of SFO or Oakland. Or you could reverse the route. My brother and his wife did exactly that trip in a week last year (going from North to South) including 2 days spent in wine country, with us joining them, and had a great time! Let me know if you want more details and suggestions on places to stay.
 

Selkie

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Just saw your most recent post about not wanting to be on the go too much, which I totally understand. Honestly, if I were to pick one area to stay in and do short trips from, it would be the San Francisco area. From there, you can hit wine country, Marin County (Point Reyes is beautiful), Monterey/Carmel, maybe even Yosemite. Not to mention SF itself, which is worth at least three solid days of exploring.

Wine country is definitely focused on WINE...after two days of tasting, I was pretty burnt out. But there are plenty of cute towns, good food, shopping, beautiful scenery. It's nice to just drive through (as long as it isn't prime time, with packed roads.)
 

zoebartlett

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Selkie|1303594261|2903615 said:
Just saw your most recent post about not wanting to be on the go too much, which I totally understand. Honestly, if I were to pick one area to stay in and do short trips from, it would be the San Francisco area. From there, you can hit wine country, Marin County (Point Reyes is beautiful), Monterey/Carmel, maybe even Yosemite. Not to mention SF itself, which is worth at least three solid days of exploring.

Wine country is definitely focused on WINE...after two days of tasting, I was pretty burnt out. But there are plenty of cute towns, good food, shopping, beautiful scenery. It's nice to just drive through (as long as it isn't prime time, with packed roads.)
That sounds like the perfect plan. Thanks Selkie! The first route you mentioned sounds fun but I think it would be too much. I'm thinking we'd need to do it in two trips: SF are and then San Diego/LA, etc. another time.
 

Selkie

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Cool! Have fun planning, and let me know if you want recommendations!
 

luv2sparkle

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We spend about 15 days every year in Pismo Beach. It is right between San Luis Obispo and Santa Maria. We usually camp
on the beach in a 5th wheel (in a rv. resort, not right on the beach although you can do that too!). We love it. There is a big
market night in SLO on thursdays and great beaches and farmers market on Avila near by. There is also a hot springs resort
near Avila that is really nice. There are some nice hotels in Pismo. Our favorite is The Cottages. We have spent quite a few
weekends there. We love the whole area. It is a really laid back kinda vacation.

There is a really well known cafe called Splash Cafe that has great clam chowder in a sourdough bowl if you like it. It is kinda
cool in the summer there but gets warmer just a few miles inland at San Luis.

You can rent segways and take them on the beach or any type of motorcycle or sand toy.


My second choice would be Carmel, but it is much busier there and crowded.

San Diego is ok if you like a more big city feel. Lots to do but lots more people. Pismo is a place you can just relax and unwind in.

We well be there this year from the end of July until the middle of August.
 

zoebartlett

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Selkie|1303596917|2903650 said:
Cool! Have fun planning, and let me know if you want recommendations!
Thanks! I'll take any recommendations you'd like to pass along.
 

zoebartlett

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Thanks so much luv2sparkle! I'll definitely keep those suggestions in mind.
 

jstarfireb

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Selkie|1303594261|2903615 said:
Just saw your most recent post about not wanting to be on the go too much, which I totally understand. Honestly, if I were to pick one area to stay in and do short trips from, it would be the San Francisco area. From there, you can hit wine country, Marin County (Point Reyes is beautiful), Monterey/Carmel, maybe even Yosemite. Not to mention SF itself, which is worth at least three solid days of exploring.
Ditto this. I live in the Bay Area, and all of these places are within reasonable driving distance. Wine Country probably isn't worth a full 10-day trip if you're not really big drinkers. BUT if you want warm weather and avoidance of rain, you should go between April and October or so. The winter months get cold (it's gone as low as 30 degrees) and rainy (low-grade drizzles for days to weeks at a time).

San Diego would also be a great place to visit (gorgeous weather!!!), but I don't know the area as well. There are the beaches, the zoo, Sea World, and the harbor, but beyond that I'm not sure what else is there.
 

Miss Sparkly

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Palmdale because I have family there. I would also go back to Colfax CA. We ran across this little town while driving through the pass and I would love to explore it further. Really though, I'm no help as I'd rather go back to Alaska or Canada :cheeky:
 

Mara

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I'm a little late here but live in the Bay Area, I would either do the Southern OR Northern rather than both, and then go on day trips here and here. I wouldn't stay in SF--it's too cold for me. If you want warmth I'd stay in a warmer area like Napa (only an hour from SF or so but so much diff in weather) or even Sausalito or Tiburon is often sunnier than SF (or Marin) or Sonoma. I am not a huge fan of wine but I love visiting Napa anyway, there's great food and it's a beautiful landscape.

Or if you stayed in Carmel/Monterey area, you could get to San Luis/Pismo in 3 hours. On the opposite side you could visit Half Moon Bay in 1.5 hours from Carmel/Monterey and SF in 2+ hours. Sausalito/Tiburon/Marin just outside of SF. Sonoma just outside of that (45min to 1 hour). Napa. There's Mendocino which we love to visit.

Tahoe is about 3-4 hours from SF. Sacramento, the state capital about 2 hours from SF.

I don't love 'traveling' a whole lot while on vacation but it's super easy to do lots of day trips in N. CA or even go to one area (like Napa) and stay there for 3 days and see a lot then go to Carmel for 3 days and see a whole lot more within a one hour drive. We used to love taking day trips or even overnight trips and just heading out to see what we found in diff towns, every town is different.

Alternatively, you can do the same thing in S. CA, just diff areas than in N.CA. California is so big. Have fun! And if you come to N.CA, we should try and meet up!
 

Dancing Fire

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don't waste your time coming to Sacramento cuz there ain't nothing here for you to see.
 

Brown.Eyed.Girl

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How exciting! I can't offer any suggestions but since I'm moving to the Bay Area in June, I vote for Norcal/wine country, with plans to meet up for a PS or mini-PS GTG :)

(I'm writing people's suggestions down though - I want to visit some of these places myself!)
 

zoebartlett

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Kenny -- thanks so much for your recommendations!

Allison -- you have my e-mail and phone number, right? Feel free to get in touch anytime!

Jstarfireb -- We'd plan this kind of trip for the summer, when I have more time off. We definitely want warm weather. Does it get humid in the Bay area like it does here in the northeast during the summer?

SB -- I've heard of Colfax but I have no idea where. Is it known for anything specific?

Mara -- thanks for the recommendations! My husband is really interested in wine country because of the landscape (not so much the wine). I'd love to see it too, but I'm glad I talked him out of having our whole vacation revolve around it. Yes, we definitely prefer warmer weather. We've gone on vacations before that were so jam packed with traveling that we didn't enjoy things as much as we could have if we slowed the pace down a bit. I think we need to narrow down where we want our base camp(s) to be and then go from there. I also like your idea of dividing our time between a few places and spending a few days in each. I think Carmel/Monterey will be one of them. It's funny, I know SF is probably the big draw in northern CA as far as big cities go, but for some reason, that's not where I'm focusing my research. I'd like to go and see what the city is like, but I'm picturing a quieter time in quaint towns with things to do and see, great food, shopping, great B&Bs or hotels for the majority of our stay. I probably should run this by my husband though and make sure we're on the same page. Oh, I'd love to meet up if we could make it work!

We're still firming up our budget, but just out of curiosity, what could/should we expect to pay for a week's (or up to 10 days) trip? We'll definitely treat ourselves but we don't want to spend a fortune either. ETA:I know this really depends on what we see and do and where we stay but I'm just looking for a ballpark here...
 

zoebartlett

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Uh, thanks for the tip, DF. Okay, we won't go to Sacramento. :bigsmile:

BEG -- I know you're moving soon. You must be excited! I'd love to meet you!
 

luv2sparkle

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If you go to the central coast Zoe, the cost can vary widely. You can find a Best Western that is a bit away from the beach for
$99 dollars a night, but the beautiful spots on the cliffs will run between 250.0 and 400. per night, but there are exceptions for
that as well. If you have AAA, you can get a discount. You just have to do a little research. All the small towns surrounding
are still close to the beach. There are a lot of great restaurants in the area as well, lots of great BBQ that Santa Maria is known
for.

The central coast is pretty central to the other things you want to see as well. Napa is not far and there are wineries just outside of
Pismo. San Fran is about 4 hours away, but every couple of years we make a day trip and go to Monterey to the Aquarium which is
really cool.

We RV but usually spend about 1500-2000 for 10-15 days with our whole family and sometimes a few extra people-so at least
7. We usually have one day that we take everyone to either Segway or dune buggy on the beach and that is about 400. We go
out do dinner most days and sometimes to lunch. We seem to make a lot of trips to Walmart while we are there for stuff we
forgot or want to add to the trailor. I like the Arroyo Grande Walmart better than any other I have been in! :cheeky:

It can be done for less, but gas will, of course be your biggest expense. If you can get a view room at the Cottages, the ocean
breeze is divine and some rooms have a gas fireplace. I love to throw open the windows and turn on the fireplace. We have gone
out and got take out (just DH and I) and brought it back and sat in front of the window, or on the balcony on the lower floor
and had dinner at sunset. Couldn't have a better view.

We have often wanted to go other places but every time we suggested it to our kids, if another vacation meant that Pismo was out,
they didn't want to go. I could tell you about all the places that are great to stop, so if you decide to hit that spot, let me know!
 

luv2sparkle

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On more thing, while San Fran is 4 hours in one direction, about an hour in the other is a little town called Solvang, which is a fun
day, and one hour past that is Santa Barbara. You could easily spend a lovely day wandering around there, and the beach is great as
well. There is great shopping all along the coast as well.
 

zoebartlett

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luv2sparkle -- Thank you so much for those tips! I really appreciate it. I've actually been to Santa Barbara and Solvang. Years ago (maybe 10?) my mom was doing a summer program at USD. My dad and I flew out to see her, and we went to SB and Solvang one day, maybe two. I loved it and I'd love to go back.

I feel like we may be cutting it a little close in terms of booking our trip for this summer, but I'll see what I can do. I'm really psyched about going away. It's been a while.
 

movie zombie

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Carmel/Monterey are NOT swim hang out at the beach places due to cold weather and fog, especially in the summer. however, the other end of the bay is Santa Cruz and it is a one stop shop for all that you mentioned. if you were to stay in SCruz you could drive down to Carmel for the day and/or up to SF for a day. highway one to SF is gorgeous. also, lots of beaches to stop and explore.

if you head south to Carmel/Monterey, stop at Phil's Fish House in Moss Landing. and don't forget the great aquarium in Monterey.

in SCruz you can wine taste at Bonny Doon Winery and about 10 other winetasting rooms at the same location.

if you come the end of June, there will be free concerts at the beach boardwalk on fridays at 630p and 830p.

gas has gotten expensive in California [where isn't it?!] but i'm paying over $4.00 at Costco now.

San Luis Obispo area is nice. Avila Beach and Pismo have changed a lot. puts you very near the Diablo Canyon nuclear reactor, though.

a bit south is Cambria....and Hearst Castle. also, Morro Bay.

for my $ the best bang for the buck is Santa Cruz due to having kids along. if it was just adult time, it would be SF all the way as my suggestion.

MoZo
 

zoebartlett

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I'm surprised that certain areas in CA are too cold to swim, even in the summer. Huh.

Thanks for your suggestions and recommendations, MZ! Santa Cruz sounds really nice, and it's on my list now of places to check out. We'll be coming in July but the free concerts sound like fun.
 

lulu66

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we did a long weekend in cambria for my birthday last year & loved it. it's def relaxed, walk around, go to shops, walk on the beach kinda place. we did hearst castle & really enjoyed it. went to see the elephant seals on the beach. and we went on a tour of piedras blancas lighthouse. we are seriously thinking about going back to this area for my birthday (in june) again this year (but maybe monterey to do the aquarium & other stuff).

we recently did another long weekend in san fran & also LOVED it! really you need more than a long weekend there; there's so much to do & see!! but it would be a much busier, go-go-go type vacation.
 

Mara

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I would not swim in any of the ocean here in N. CA lol. It's all wayyyy too cold! When you're a kid, sure, but as an adult, no way for me. But if you are used to a cold ocean then by all means.

If you want to stay in the S.Cruz area, stay in Capitola, unless S.Cruz has a cute boutique hotel/inn you can find--but most of the hotels we tend to drive by when we go to the wharf for dinner look fairly run down--I went to school here also and it was never all that great. Or you could do a house/condo rental to get around that. Capitola is 10min from S.Cruz and much cuter than S.Cruz. Capitola beach is also nicer than S.Cruz.

I love Carmel...it's so cute and a fabulous antique jewelry store is there--Monterey is about 20min from it and that can be an easy day trip. Capitola and Santa Cruz are about 45 min-1 hour from Carmel. And Carmel has fabulous hotels/inns!

Cost-wise, we can usually find something that is $150-200 a night that is 4 stars, you could find cheaper for sure like around $100 for 3 stars, just depends on what you are looking for--how much time you will spend in the room/what kind of atmosphere you want. Dinners, depends on what you do, but a fancy-ish dinner could run you something like $150-200 for two, and you can also do casual dinners like a great Mexican dinner in a down-home restaurant would be like $50 total. Depending on alcohol of course. :lickout:

I would prob stay somewhere like Capitola or Carmel for 3-4 days, and do Monterey, Santa Cruz, you could even drive one hour up 101 to San Juan Batista which is one of our fave places to visit--they have an old mission and church there and a WONDERFUL mexican restaurant...it's about 45 min from us and we used to drive up every 2months for dinner or lunch and we always take out of town guests there.

Then I'd go up to Sonoma or Marin area and stay there for 3-4 days and do SF, Half Moon Bay, Sausalito/Tiburon, Napa/Sonoma, Mendocino/Ft Bragg (maybe one night there). Then again my favorite things to do are eat and sleep/relax hehe. Oh and there's the huge redwood forest outside of SF--I forget the name but people really like it.

Wherever you go, for food and hotel reviews, check out Yelp...it's SF based so there are always TONS of recommendations from locals.
 

zoebartlett

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Thanks so much Lulu! I'm so excited about this trip, and it's fun researching all the different places to go.
 

luv2sparkle

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movie zombie|1303665476|2904069 said:
Carmel/Monterey are NOT swim hang out at the beach places due to cold weather and fog, especially in the summer. however, the other end of the bay is Santa Cruz and it is a one stop shop for all that you mentioned. if you were to stay in SCruz you could drive down to Carmel for the day and/or up to SF for a day. highway one to SF is gorgeous. also, lots of beaches to stop and explore.

if you head south to Carmel/Monterey, stop at Phil's Fish House in Moss Landing. and don't forget the great aquarium in Monterey.

in SCruz you can wine taste at Bonny Doon Winery and about 10 other winetasting rooms at the same location.

if you come the end of June, there will be free concerts at the beach boardwalk on fridays at 630p and 830p.

gas has gotten expensive in California [where isn't it?!] but i'm paying over $4.00 at Costco now.

San Luis Obispo area is nice. Avila Beach and Pismo have changed a lot. puts you very near the Diablo Canyon nuclear reactor, though.
a bit south is Cambria....and Hearst Castle. also, Morro Bay.

for my $ the best bang for the buck is Santa Cruz due to having kids along. if it was just adult time, it would be SF all the way as my suggestion.

MoZo

If you go to San Diego you are really close to San Onofre as well. I don't think there are too many places that you are not
within a 100 miles of a power plant. I wouldn't worry about it.
 
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