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First time to USA 2 weeks coming from Disneyland-what to do?

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Victoria, Australia
posts: 755
reviews: 15
First time to USA 2 weeks coming from Disneyland-what to do?

Hi all!

We are planning our first trip to the USA next April - family with 3 kids ages 8-12, 2 Mums & 1 Grandmother (reasonably fit!).

We have 2 weeks & the only thing we know for sure is that we are flying in & out of LA and going to Disneyland for about 4 days at the start of the trip.

From there we are open to suggestions on how we can see more of California and wondering how many days we should spend in San Francisco, what we could do & see with the kids please?

Trying to utilise the remaining time keeping kids and adults happy.

Wanting to see/do beautiful scenery, beaches, kids activities, eat nice food, do & see some adult based activities (we have 3 adults so we can share the child minding while 2 adults get some "grown up" time!!)

As this is our first time we are very open to your advice and suggestions please.

Thanks :)

San Francisco
Destination Expert
for Borrego Springs, San Francisco, Solana Beach
posts: 31,506
reviews: 26
1. Re: First time to USA 2 weeks coming from Disneyland-what to do?

I would recommend at least 3 full days in San Francisco. Especially with such a diverse group in which some people might want to go one way and another head off with the kids.

With six people you might also think about finding a holiday rental as there won't be much in the way of hotels that will accomodate six. www.vrbo.com and www.airbnb.com are good options for searching for them but when you find some you like, come back here with the locations so we can advise.

As to an itinerary, I'd suggest you move up a level to the California forum and read through the Top Questions, there are a number there that talk about what to see and do between LA and SF -- both on the coast as well as heading inland to Yosemite, Sequoia or Death Valley.

The SF Top Questions have a "Things to Do" item as well which will be a helpful resource.

Fun things with kids:


Maritime Musuem and Pier

Fire Truck Tour

Cable Car Museum

California Academy of Sciences

Marine Mammal Center (if you have a car)

Alcatraz (needs to be booked ahead)

Cycle along Crissy Field or in Golden Gate Park

Anaheim, California
Destination Expert
for Anaheim
posts: 24,229
reviews: 13
2. Re: First time to USA 2 weeks coming from Disneyland-what to do?

Also in the Bay area you have some popular tourist attractions that focuses on families.

Theme/Amusement Parks include California's Great America, a combination Ride and Water park.

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, a three in one park, a Ride section, a Marine Animal section, and a Zoo section.

Gilroy Gardens, a family park with rides and a focus on Horticulture

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is a nice traditional Amusement Park.

The Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz is a cheezy, fun, classic Roadside attraction.

Winchester Mystery House is another good choice, a recent review talked about it...


>>After lunch we were off to San Jose to the Winchester Mystery House. We didn't hit any traffic and got there early. Our original plan was to get the significant discount tickets from the Santa Clara Convention Center on Tuesday and do this the same day but that would have made that day extremely hectic so we changed it to Sunday and paid the high cost of the normally priced tickets. We enjoyed the tour and it had to do with our charismatic and energetic guide Mariah. She also projected her voice so that even standing in the very back I could hear her clearly.<<

Also in the area are a couple of Factory Tours, Jelly Belly is fun and popular. Budweiser also offers a tour nearby, kids are welcome to watch, and they offer free sodas at the end (adults can opt for free beer samples).

San Francisco...
Destination Expert
for San Francisco
posts: 1,894
reviews: 27
3. Re: First time to USA 2 weeks coming from Disneyland-what to do?

See the advice above to choose from the things that interest you.

A couple of comments regarding your San Francisco part of the trip. A car is not really necessary while visiting things in San Francisco itself and you'll pay $30 to $50 a night to park one at most hotels. It may be difficult to get street parking if staying in a vacation rental because most central areas of town have 2-hour parking limits during daytime hours unless you have an area parking permit (which you can only get if you live in the neighborhood). There are some further out neighborhoods that don't require permits, but I wouldn't really recommend those as prime places to stay while visiting San Francisco.

Many of the factory tour and amusement park kinds of activities are in the suburbs and may not be so fast or easy to get to without a car. Personally, I find the amusement parks in the greater Los Angeles area to be bigger and of better quality, so I wouldn't necessarily put the ones here as top priority while visiting unless you're the kind of person who never met an amusement park you didn't like and can't get enough of them.

San Diego is also a popular California city to visit with children since it has probably the best zoo on the West Coast of the US as well as Seaworld. Just throwing that out there if you're looking for more kid-like activities overall during your trip to the US. The beaches in Southern California also tend to be warmer than the ones up here which can be foggy, windy and cool (but often beautiful to look at).

San Francisco has a strong and very competitive food and drink culture with lots of choices. It has varied, beautiful neighborhoods, nice scenery, decent museums and is very compact and easy to get around by public transit and walking for a US city. I think 3 to 5 days is a good sweet spot for visiting San Francisco. You'll probably want to spend some of your time just seeing different neighborhoods since the compactness and variety of neighborhoods is one of the most interesting thing about San Francisco.

Have a look at some of the trip reports and top questions to get ideas of popular things people do while visiting.

Have a good trip.

San Francisco...
Destination Expert
for San Francisco
posts: 26,851
reviews: 132
4. Re: First time to USA 2 weeks coming from Disneyland-what to do?

Agree with Holodan and Sal with respect to the things to see and do in San Francisco. There are plenty of trip reports one can read on the first post of this San Francisco forum. Please glance through a few of them. With 2 weeks you will have to be very selective in what you do. April may get a few days you could spend at the Beach but it is by no means Summer here. With 4 days in Anaheim, you have about 10 days to spend in Ca including I guess travel from your country to here. So you will have to do some research and chose what you want to see and do.

I certainly would not recommend more theme parks after those 4 days. Beaches, National park, the central coast. So perhaps a few days in Santa Monica, 2 up the coast in Pismo and Monterey and 2 in Yosemite and the rest in SF would be a short hurried but fun vacation.

Concord, California
Destination Expert
for Sacramento, Puerto Vallarta
posts: 10,295
reviews: 112
5. Re: First time to USA 2 weeks coming from Disneyland-what to do?

Don't do theme parks in or around San Francisco. It holds its own charm. Also, don't drive or use a car in town. BART and Muni will get you everywhere. Parking is a nightmare and expensive.

Enjoy San Francisco as itself ---- an incredible city. Get out and walk and take the cable cars and take a Dylan's tour (or some other tour that suits you). SF is a great walking city, if you can handle hills.

Research all the options Sal mentions. She knows her stuff.

Uden, The...
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
posts: 56,034
reviews: 42
6. Re: First time to USA 2 weeks coming from Disneyland-what to do?

Are you renting a car from Anaheim to SF and back to LA? Have you thought about what car to rent with 6 people in your party?

posts: 1,605
reviews: 59
7. Re: First time to USA 2 weeks coming from Disneyland-what to do?


We are a family from Melbourne and have travelled the USA annually for the past five years

The first time we went with out two children 12 & 14 . We did east and west coast and on the west coast the places they/we all love the most where San Diego and San Francisco . Anaheim for Disney was good but I could do without it !!

My husband and I travel to the USA each year for some business and we always return to San Francisco if we have 3-4 days to spare its probably our favourite city

This April ( 9 days actually but who's counting ?!) we are returning and my now 17 year old daughter is comng for the first 10 days . She has been unwell for some time and this is a recovery trip . She had 11 days to choose the places she wanted to spend at ( she needs to return for vce studies ) and she chose

2 nights Anaheim ( obviously been before we feel this is sufficient for us but I think you could do it in 3 tops)

Drive to San Diego spend 3 nights ( lots to do with good culture beaches scenery and sea world and zoo )

Fly to San Francisco for 4 nights ( so much to do we coul spend a week )

Drive back to LA ( we are driving as wew have some stops to make and people to meet half way between LA and SF) spend 1 night two days

I think this is a great itinerary for a short trip . You don't want to be spending time sitting in airports and you need to stick to the west coast

If you are comfortable drivng and plan to drive any a great trip for you would be this BUT with the Big Sur road trip from SF to LA taking two nights with a stop in Monterey and then Cambria where you could do Hearst Castle ( amazing you would all love this ) and all the other wonderful places to stop at

Good luck planning . Have you already purchased your flights ? If not do your research and decide where you want to visit as it may prove to be better for you to arrive in LA but depart from SF . If you don't want to do the coastal drive down the big sur I would consider doing the LA/Anaheim/San Diego first , fly to SF spend your last remaining nights there and fly home from SF ? With 2 weeks there is no point back tracking just to get to an airport to fly home when it could be done from either airport . Just something to consider

Los Angeles
Destination Expert
for Los Angeles
posts: 15,157
reviews: 58
8. Re: First time to USA 2 weeks coming from Disneyland-what to do?

Be sure to drive up from Anaheim to SF via Highway 1. Take a few days to do this - do overnight stops in Cambria and Monterey or Carmel. The scenery between Cambria and Monterey (area known as Big Sur) will blow your mind.

Victoria, Australia
posts: 755
reviews: 15
9. Re: First time to USA 2 weeks coming from Disneyland-what to do?

Thanks so much everyone for your input!

No we havent booked flights yet, so we are open to suggestion of flying in to LA & out of San Fran - this does make more sense!

We are still tossing around all sorts of ideas and different itineraries........

There are so many places we would like to see but not enough time!!

Thanks again :)

Uden, The...
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
posts: 56,034
reviews: 42
10. Re: First time to USA 2 weeks coming from Disneyland-what to do?

Rent a car from Australia already and pay no drop off fees between SF and LA. For a 14 days trip you can do something like this:

1. Arr SF

2,3,4: SF

5. Drive to Yosemite NP (reservations needed)

6. Yosemite

7. Yosemite-Monterey

8. Monterey-Cambria

9. Cambria-Santa Barbara

10,11,12,13, 14: Anaheim/LA