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Suggestions please - 2 weeks on the west coast, 1 week NY

Sydney
posts: 281
reviews: 16
Suggestions please - 2 weeks on the west coast, 1 week NY

We are planning a trip to the US in September, with a wedding to attend in San Francisco, a cousin to visit in NYC and more family in Minneapolis. We'll be travelling with a 6yo and a 2yo, and thought we would take them to Disneyland - if we time it right, the 6yo could celebrate her birthday there! I'm thinking we'll be there for about a month all up - I had thought 2 weeks on the west coast, starting in SF for 3 or 4 days (we've been there twice before, so probably won't spend too long there), then driving to LA and from there to the Grand Canyon, then flying from Vegas to NYC for a week before heading to Minneapolis for a week.

Planning for the trip is very much in its infancy, so advice on how long to spend in places and where we should go would be appreciated. I had thought just 1 or 2 days in Disneyland - while our 6yo might be enthralled, the 2yo might not be as thrilled with the crowds and queues, and my own preference is to get to the national parks rather than theme parks!

Some specific questions - what's the best route from LA to the Grand Canyon? Our kids aren't particularly fond of long drives, so we would plan lots of stops along the way. With this in mind, how long should we allow for driving from SF to LA, then LA to the Grand Canyon and from there to Vegas? Any must-sees en route?

What other parks should we see along the way?

Am I mad for considering doing all this driving with kids who hate car trips and aren't particularly fond of national parks?!!?? The alternative is to spend longer on the east coast, but I'd love to see the Grand Canyon.

London, United...
posts: 10,812
reviews: 118
1. Re: Suggestions please - 2 weeks on the west coast, 1 week NY

It's a lot of driving with kids that hate driving, yes.

Your route is sound. I would spend a few days getting from San Francisco to Los Angeles taking in as much of the wonderful Central Coast as possible.

Disneyland isn't in Los Angeles but rather Anaheim, which is 45 minutes drive south. Beware of this if you are planning to use somewhere in L.A. as a base.

I think a day or two in Disney is right. The six year old will love it, of course, and the two year old will enjoy elements, certainly the characters. You know your own kids but my experience is that, at this age, they can turn on a sixpence and suddenly lose interest and be a handful. So a day or two is right for my money.

L.A. to the Grand Canyon is a tough journey to find too many stops along. It's a lot of desert. Maybe Laughlin for a bit of an overnight. And Oatman, Kingman and Flagstaff (maybe even Sedona) as pit stops. Not much for the kids, though.

Other parks I'll leave to other people as I'm not a massive fan but you will be driving past Mojave National Preserve and Lake Mead on the most direct L.A.-Grand Canyon-Las Vegas route.

Washington State
Destination Expert
for Yosemite National Park
posts: 37,929
reviews: 59
2. Re: Suggestions please - 2 weeks on the west coast, 1 week NY

Hi ozannie

The 'usual' route is SFO - SF - {4 hr drive to} Yosemite Valley - {4 hr drive to} Monterey - {all day scenic drive with tons of stops, but perhaps too much for little ones to} Pismo Beach - Los Angeles - Anaheim - Kingman - Grand Canyon NP - Las Vegas - LAS

Of course I love Yosemite and think it's a perfect fit for a family vacation. Read more on the Yosemite forum page, Top Questions (What to do with kids, Trip Reports, Lodging) to see if it fits your travel style.

Hwy 1 between Monterey & Pismo Beach is the most scenic part, but I don't know if this is a good plan with young kids. You can stop often to see & experience things. Read the Top Questions on this page.

Lodging reservations for Yosemite (if you include it) and for the South Rim of the Grand Canyon are absolutely essential. Read those forum pages before you book something that sounds good and claims to be 'near the National Park' as it may really be over an hour to get to the part of the Park you want to visit!

Uden, The...
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
posts: 49,195
reviews: 42
3. Re: Suggestions please - 2 weeks on the west coast, 1 week NY

It's app 8-9 hours of driving between LA and GC so prob too long with small kids. You can spend the night in Kingman. That's most direct. Also make a stop in Seligman for R66 and have something to drink and eat at Delgadillos Snow Cap. Between Williams and GC in Valle there's the Big Fred Flintsone along the roadside. Flagstaff is not on your way. The drive to Las Vegas brings you along Hoover Dam and the new Colorado River bridge.

Make your reservations for GC way in advance www.grandcanyonlodges.com

Sydney
posts: 281
reviews: 16
4. Re: Suggestions please - 2 weeks on the west coast, 1 week NY

Thanks everyone. I had thought I would give Yosemite a miss this time, would like to go when the kids are older (or without them!) and do some walking, but I'll check out the Yosemite forum to see what's on offer.

Is Phoenix worth a stop? So driving to the GC via Phoenix then Flagstaff?

Uden, The...
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
posts: 49,195
reviews: 42
5. Re: Suggestions please - 2 weeks on the west coast, 1 week NY

Driving via Phx to GC will be a detour but you can drive in one day to lovely Sedona www.visitsedona.com and drive next day to GCNP via Flagstaff

Sydney
posts: 281
reviews: 16
6. Re: Suggestions please - 2 weeks on the west coast, 1 week NY

Will check out Sedona, we've had a friend recommend it too.

I'm meandering - back to the drive between SF and LA/Anaheim. Would 3 days be a good amount of time to allow to drive the coastal route? We might stop at Monterey for a day so wouldn't get too far on the road that day.

Grover Beach, Ca
Destination Expert
for Pismo Beach, Cambria, Big Sur
posts: 14,276
reviews: 3
7. Re: Suggestions please - 2 weeks on the west coast, 1 week NY

Hi ozannie

3 days/2 nights for the drive between SF and LA/Anaheim is the usual recommendation, with Monterey being the best first stop and Pismo Beach being the second.

There's a lot of family friendly activities in both of those towns, so both are good choices.

While Monterey seems like you won't get far on Day 1, there is the VERY family friendly Santa Cruz on the drive down. You could spend a few hours enjoying the beach and/or the fun boardwalk with all the rides.

When you get to Monterey, you'll want to take the kids to Dennis the Menace Park, which is designed for young kids. There are also paddle boat rentals at El Estero Lake next to the park.

You can finish the day at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Day 2 could be a long day of driving if you continue down Highway 1. Lots of beautiful scenery on this elevated route overlooking the ocean with several great stops even for the kids. The downside to Highway 1 on this stretch is the high elevation of the highway with several tight hairpin turns. If your kids get car sick, it could be a problem. There are a few really great stops for families along this route: McWay Falls @ Julia Pfeiifer Burns State Park is a short, easy walk to an overlook trail for this pretty waterfall that drops on to an inaccessible beach. And there's an elephant seal rookery a few miles after you descend from the elevated roadway.

The drive between Monterey and Pismo Beach is about a 4 hour drive with a few brief stops. IF you go this route, you may want to pack a picnic lunch and find a great place to park overlooking the Pacific Ocean to eat.

When you roll into Pismo Beach and you get there early enough, you might want to take a slight detour to the Avila Valley Barn for fresh produce, baked goods and home made ice cream. The "Barn" also has a small pen with farm animals that you and the kids can hand feed.

Next morning, take a walk on the beach and browse the funky shops by the pier or get an early start for the drive to Anaheim and stop for a few hours in Santa Barbara. There's a pretty cool zoo there the kids might like.

Pismo to Anaheim is another 4 hour drive without stops.

You'll likely run into heavy commute traffic between Santa Barbara and through LA between the hours of 3-7 pm, so you may want to make a day of it in Santa Barbara and leave well into the evening to avoid it.

Uden, The...
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
posts: 49,195
reviews: 42
8. Re: Suggestions please - 2 weeks on the west coast, 1 week NY

You may consider to fly out of Phoenix to NY instead Las Vegas.

Sydney
posts: 281
reviews: 16
9. Re: Suggestions please - 2 weeks on the west coast, 1 week NY

Thanks for that very thorough itinerary Kibblesmom, it's exactly the advice I need! Highway 1 sounds like a beautiful route so I'm keen to take that rather than the more direct route.

Tet14, we may well skip Vegas and fly out of Phoenix, but it sounds like the kids might enjoy a day in Vegas and I'd quite like to see the Hoover Dam along the way. I'd love to get to some of the other national parks, Zion etc, but I think not this trip.

Uden, The...
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
posts: 49,195
reviews: 42
10. Re: Suggestions please - 2 weeks on the west coast, 1 week NY

Well, you can drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and then drive via Hoover Dam to Grand Canyon, Sedona and fly out of Phx. Just a thought. Avoids backtracking.