View Full Version : Holiday advise/help, Family holiday to California

Brian Deakin
01-26-2013, 12:03 PM
I will be visiting California travelling from the United Kingdom for a 17 day holiday commencing mid July with my family (wife, daughter age 17 son age 13)

The route we intend to take is as follows

Hotel Hilton LAX Airport
Hotel Hilton Garden Inn Pismo Beach
Hotel Hyatt Regency Monterrey
Hotel Holiday Inn Fisherman's Wharf (San Francisco 3 nights)
Yosemite View Lodge
Wucsachi lodge Sequoia Nation Park
Hotel Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino( 3 nights)
Hotel Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino(Las Vagas)
Hotel Heat Hotel Sun(Grand Canyon)
Hotel Hilton San Diego Resort (3 nights)

Can anyone please help with advise and tips

regards Brian

Ruperto Mendiones
01-26-2013, 1:01 PM
Why LA Hilton airport ? There is NOTHING touristic about this area; it's good for connecting with flights or conventions but that's about all.


Jim Koepke
01-26-2013, 2:40 PM
My suggestions are based on having lived in the San Francisco area most of my life.

Near Fisherman's Wharf is Ghirardelli Square, old ships to tour and many other sites to see. There are many attractions in San Francisco depending on what you would like to do or see. The Cannery is also in the area. Not sure if it still has the Friday & Saturday evening performers that used to put on street shows, but that was always a treat.

Be careful if you wander into the candy store. The $tuff can add up fa$t.

Take a cable car from the area to down town.

Looks like some things may have changed since my last visit to Macy's cellar:


There still seem to be a few of my favorite food attractions there.

There are a few other great places nearby in the Union Square vicinity. Union Square is just a few blocks from the end of the cable car line on Powell St. if you do take the cable car. Lefty O'Doul's and Tad's Steak House are a few of my favorite eating places that are not too hard on the wallet.

Market St. has also some great things.

One of my favorites is:

Fog City News
455 Market Street (near First & Market)
San Francisco

Not only do they have a very large selection of chocolates from around the world but people who know about what they sell. The also have many soft drinks made with sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup along with all the news papers and magazines.

At the foot of market is the Ferry Building. This is where the Ferries would dock back in the days before and for a few years after the bridge was built. It is now a kind of open market place. There used to be a large Farmers market across the way. Likely still there on weekends.

If you like art, the De Young museum is enjoyable. It is in Golden Gate Park, which could take more than three days to explore. If you do take on the park, don't leave without seeing the buffalos.

Fisherman's Wharf is also one of those parts of town that could enthrall a family for a few days.

Here is a tip for one of the transit systems in the San Francisco area. BART goes from SFO to other points of the area. If you want to go on a site seeing ride, the ticket costs $5.25. This allows you to ride around as long as you do not leave a station and come back to the station where the trip originated. If you buy a minimum fare ticket at $1.75 you can ride around for about 3 hrs. (more if you are kind to the station agent) and exit one station, or any one that is considered a local ride, from where you started which in San Francisco is just a few blocks.

BTW, if you have the time in Monterey, visit Cannery Row and the Aquarium. The Aquarium can take the better part of a day.

I would suggest a few old favorite watering holes, but it looks like you will have some young ones along.


Art Mulder
01-26-2013, 3:07 PM
It's been over 20 years since I visited San Francisco area on vacation, and I still have clear and fond memories

1- many, MANY, great chinese restaurants in that area. Try Dim Sum for lunch on a weekend, especially if you can find someone local to take you and explain things. Or just pop into some hole-in-the-wall where they automatically serve you tea and you have to ask for forks (there are only chopsticks on the table) or just explore the many curio shops in chinatown. I think some of them had 2-3 basement levels of stuff. Wild.

2- the Exploratorium. A sort of hands-on science museum. Aimed at kids, but I enjoyed as a young adult.

3- go north of the city and tour Cathedral grove to see some giant redwoods. There are other locations in CA where you can do so as well.

4- If it is still there, you can tour an authentic WWII submarine in San Francisco harbour.

5- Monterey has already been mentioned. The aquarium there is stunning. Very very well done. I stayed at the DoubleTree in Monterey ~10 years ago on a conference trip. You basically walk out the back of the hotel, across a plaza, and right out onto the municipal wharf which is covered in seafood restaurants. Quite fun.

6- I have no interest at all in gambling, so if I visited Las Vegas I would make sure to take 2-4 hours to go visit the Pinball Museum (http://www.pinballmuseum.org/). I'd also see what Cirque du Soleil (http://www.cirquedusoleil.com/en/destinations/las-vegas/home.aspx) show is on and see if I could get tickets for that. Your family will love Cirque, trust me.

Larry Whitlow
01-26-2013, 10:11 PM
Art & Jim have good advice. I would not use BART for sight-seeing. A lot of it is underground. You can take the cable car from your Fisherman's wharf area to Union square or to Powell & Market. There is another that goes up/down California street, which is a great ride at night. Either will get you close to SF China Town. I believe that the WWII sub is still at fisherman's wharf area. From there you can also take a ferry out to Alcatraz for a really interesting tour. If you want to do this, suggest you book your tickets early as possible. As Art mentions you may want to considering going north across the golden gate bridge to Muir Woods (giant redwoods) or to the wine country (Napa Valley). The Monterey/Carmel area is beautiful and the Aquariam is fantastic. Assuming you will have wheels, make sure to take the "17 mile drive". Also, I see you are traveling with teens. The town of Santa Cruz, just north of Monterey, has a boardwalk that should appeal to the teens. Unless something has changed in the last few year, it has one of the old wood roller coasters among other things. San Diego is a fantastic place. When I was there with my kids (when they were kids), we spent time at the beach, and the zoo (best zoo I have ever been to). There is also an amazing wild animal park outside of San Diego. Las Vegas has an amazing amount of stuff going going on. Just wander from casino to casino. I second the recommendation for Cirque du Soleil.

Google will provide details on this and a lot of other things to do in the places you are going. Sounds like a fantastic trip.

PS: I'll be going through Heathrow and to Southampton in May. On my way to Iceland/Norway by cruise ship.

Erik Loza
01-27-2013, 12:43 PM
Brian, I lived in Northern California for 30+ years. Your trip sounds like fun and I'm sure you and your family will have a good time. Here are some thoughts.

-Monterey Bay Aquarium is a must.
-Yosemite is beautiful but will be jammed with traffic. Just be ready for that.
-San Diego Zoo is also a must.
-La Jolla (San Diego) beach area.
-Gaslamp district of San Diego.
-The middle areas of the Pacific Coast Highway are a great drive.
-if you are in Las Vegas between July 24-27, the AWFS Expo, which is the largest woodoworking show of the year, is happening.

Just some thoughts and safe travels.

Erik Loza
Minimax USA

Damon Stathatos
01-27-2013, 1:19 PM
If you're a 'punter,' Del Mar Thoroughbred Club (http://www.dmtc.com), just north of San Diego and La Jolla should be in full swing by then.

A bit further north is Tropical Exotic Hardwoods (http://anexotichardwood.com) which may or may not be of interest but it's a bit of a mecca around here.

Dave Ogren
01-27-2013, 1:33 PM
We went there mainly to go to Fisherman's Wharf. Big disappointment, some of the "restaurants" are push carts. The whole area is only a block or two. with a total of about 30 vendors. There are no boats that come in, There are no fisherman. There is no fresh fish to buy. They told me that the closest real fisherman's wharf was in Portland, Oregon. But this was about 9 years ago, maybe it has improver. Good Luck.

Ruperto Mendiones
01-27-2013, 2:05 PM
The Hilton, LAX is simply not a good touristic destination. It is in a neighborhood of enormous convention hotels. The neighborhood offers ~ no points of interest to a touring family. Furthermore you will waste precious vacation time driving; count on 30-60 minutes to any destination.

Alternative Hilton venues with some touristic destinations within a short walk:
Hilton Universal city [that should appeal to your teenagers]
Hilton Checkers, downtown LA [Disney Concert Hall, LA Live, Grammy museum, museum of contemporary art
Hilton Beverly Hills [celebrity sightings, Beverly hills shopping]
Hilton Seal Beach [ a beachside community]
Doubletree Anaheim--[Disneyland & Knotts Berry Farm]
Hilton Costa Mesa [very huge affluent shopping plaza across the street, Performing arts complex next door, Scott's, an excellent fish restaurant adjacent.

Other cultural destinations: Getty museum, Norton Simon museum, Huntington Library, Los Angeles Museum of Art, Hollywood walk of fame, Hollywood bowl [don't drive there due to "stacked" parking it takes forever to get out]--take public transit and a free shuttle bus the last half mile.

And, not least of all, Cerritos College woodworking shop.

In San Francisco, skip the cheap eating places around "fisherman's" wharf and dine at the Tadich Grill where the freshest fish is served.

Best wishes for the trip--both the planning and the voyage itself. [after all, Didn't Cunard say "getting there is half the fun?"]


Larry Whitlow
01-27-2013, 11:00 PM
We went there mainly to go to Fisherman's Wharf. Big disappointment, some of the "restaurants" are push carts. The whole area is only a block or two. with a total of about 30 vendors. There are no boats that come in, There are no fisherman. There is no fresh fish to buy. They told me that the closest real fisherman's wharf was in Portland, Oregon. But this was about 9 years ago, maybe it has improver. Good Luck.

Fisherman's wharf is definately a tourist area (trap?). There are many restaurants, but they definately cater to tourists. There are quite a few places within walking distance. It is easy to venture out. In my opinion, the best dungeness crab (roasted & dripping in garlic sauce) can be had at Thanh Long on Judah or Crustacean's at Polk & Sacramento. Both owned by the same outfit. Thanh Long is further out in the Avenues whereas Crustacean's is closer to your area. However, be warned the cost at either of these places is steep ($$$$$). Tadishes is downtown and a local landmark. It is a very good seafood restnt.

Brian Deakin
01-29-2013, 3:42 PM
Thank you to everyone who has responded to my post. The information and suggestions provided will be an immense help in planning our holiday

Recently I read that the most uplifting thing a human being could do is help another human being and the kindness shown by members taking the time to make suggestions and provide detailed advise

.... makes my world a happier place

kind regards Brian

Michael Koga
02-07-2013, 11:51 PM
Here in SD we are known for the Zoo, Wild Animal Park, and Sea World. Stay away from Tijuana (Mexico), and the beaches south of SD city (TJ again). Old Town has some great Mexican restaurants, other great restaurants in Gaslamp Quarter downtown. Take a Harbor cruise, there's a water taxi to Coronado Island where the famous Hotel Del Coronado is located. Visiting the lighthouse on Point Loma gives you a great view of the city.

LV: Be prepared for high temps in July. Any Cirque show, Blue Man Group, Penn & Teller are great shows. Freebies, the Bellagio water fountains, Pirate show in front of Treasure Island (TI), volcano in front of the Mirage. Fremont St. downtown has the Fremont Experience, an overhead light show.

If you are really fit, in Yosemite hike up to the top of Half Dome. IIRC took me 12 hours roundtrip, and the final part is hanging on for dear life on some steel cables. I think you need a permit to climb it now though. Google it. At one end of the park they have some giant redwoods that are cool to walk around.

Venetian is worth going into and seeing the canal/shops area.

Brian Deakin
02-08-2013, 3:14 PM
Thank you Michael for the additional advice

regards Brian

glenn bradley
02-08-2013, 5:33 PM
Think about dressing in layers when you are packing. SoCal can be quite hot in summer. San Diego is more moderate but hitting the 90's can happen. If your heading to Monterey, fthink about taking the 4 mile trip south to Carmel by the Sea. Great artsy community if you're into that. Both Monterey and Carmel require layered dress as the mornings are quite cool slipping into typical California sun through mid day and back to cool in the evening. As mentioned the Monterey Bay Aquarium (http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/) is great. Clint Eastwood's old restaurant, the Hog's Breath Inn (http://www.hogsbreathinn.net/) is a cool little get away that is suitable for the whole family.

I used to take my daughter to the San Diego Zoo all the time and never thought anything about it till I went to other zoos. I just thought they were all supposed to be 100 acres of amazing habitat (http://www.sandiegozoo.org/zoo/zoo_map) ;-) Others have covered many of the great things to see. I see you are being wise and avoiding most of L.A. and Hollywood. There was a time when Groman's Chinese and the walk of fame were a treat. They now look great on the awards shows but, are really just another big sprawling California mass. The Hollywood sign looks great on a post card; use that :D.