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California: Central, Northern, & Pacific Coast Highway

Memphis, TN
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California: Central, Northern, & Pacific Coast Highway

My husband and I are planning an 8-night anniversary stay in California, flying into San Francisco.

PLEASE help us with our itenerary and give me your suggestions. We like to slow down and enjoy nature, in serene and quaint spots. This is our rough draft of things we are looking at so far. Is this reasonable without being exhausted at the end?

Nights 1 & 2: Santa Cruz / Monterey / Carmel / Big Sur

Upon arrival in SF, rent a car and drive the PCH south and lodging anywhere between Santa Cruz and Big Sur (See West Cliff Drive, Point Lobos, Pfeiffer, 17-mile drive, Winery visit / tour). What city & hotel should we to lodge?

Night 3: Yosemite 3

What are must sees here? Lodging?

Night 4: Lake Tahoe, CA

Is this a must? Where for lodging? If not, then what's a must see to visit and lodge between Yosemite and Crescent City?

Night 5: Crescent City

Redwood National Park, Ave of Giants, Fernwood, Jedediah (is this too much for one night's stay)? Lodging?

Night 6: Mendocino

Suggestions? Lodging?

Nights 7 & 8: Napa / San Francisco

Napa Valley, Wine Tours / Visit, Alcatraz

Should stay 2 nights in SF or 1 each in SF & Napa?

Also, iIs there a city tour we can take of SF?

We are pretty much wine novices and would really like to take either a tour with a company or visit a couple of wineries.

It is my understanding that driving in SF is not visitor-friendly, so we were thinking of turning in our rental car upon our return to SF and using public transportion; however, we don't know how we would be able to tour Napa Valley. Also don't want to drive under the influence if we kept our rental car and drove to wineries. Should we keep car or turn in? If we turn in, we would have to get other transportation to and from airport.

As for lodging, we are not looking for a spa-like or extravigant experience, but at least slightly on the romantic side, that is clean and reasonably priced. We've never stayed at a B&B and not sure if this is something we'd enjoy doing.

Also, would you recommend redistributing our nights and staying more or less nights anywhere?

Washington State
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1. Re: California: Central, Northern, & Pacific Coast Highway

>>We like to slow down and enjoy nature<<

You only have 8 days. Your current itinerary needs at least 3 weeks if you want to slow down & enjoy nature.

I suggest picking just one or two destinations in addition to San Francisco. You do not have time for 8.

A somewhat rushed itinerary ...

SFO - Carmel - Yosemite Valley - SF (take a tour to Napa ~ someone else drives) - SFO

I don't see WHEN you're traveling. Did I miss that info?

Lodging suggestions are best on the specific city/destination forum. Read their Top Questions first (upper right), then ask for help.

San Francisco...
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2. Re: California: Central, Northern, & Pacific Coast Highway

You have come up with a great plan to see a lot of Northern California. I would suggest you finalize the itinerary here as you are doing and then go to the respective sites on TA, read the top questions and a few forum pages and you should have your answers .

It helps to give more info about budgets etc so the local forum can help you with your lodging (but the link to lodging on the left give you a price range and traveller reviews which are very helpful)

So your Highway 1 trip sounds good. PCH is the highway in Southern CA so Highway 1 would be the best name. You could stay in Carmel at a B&B -- nice romantic place for an anniversary or in a Pacific Grove B&B. Other lovely places are Highlands Inn and Tickle Pink Inn.

You have missed a very important detail -- when are you coming ? Lake Tahoe is fun in Winter to ski and in Summer to hike and enjoy the lake

I think trying to do both Yosemite and Redwood Parks is too much in this short a time. I would perhaps add a day in Yosemite and skip the Redwood National Park this time.

Also adding Mendocino would be a long drive from Tahoe -- It feels like a very rushed vacation.

Perhaps this trip could be Monterey Carmel Area. to Yosemite to SF and then a day tour to Napa or Sonoma with Platypus or Extranomical tours

You can then ditch the car in SF and spend 2-3 days in SF.

Edited: 1:06 pm, March 09, 2012
Memphis, TN
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3. Re: California: Central, Northern, & Pacific Coast Highway

Okay, I asked for it :-) Maybe it won't be so slow. We should be arriving late May / early June. I'm somewhat new at this.

Lassen National...
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4. Re: California: Central, Northern, & Pacific Coast Highway

The Jed Smith & Ave are too much for one day imo. They are only 2 or so hours apart, but there is a lot to see between the two.

From Tahoe there are mountain routes and mountain/I-5 routes, Different thing to see along each.

Which road where you planning to take to the coast?

Washington State
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5. Re: California: Central, Northern, & Pacific Coast Highway

Late May / early June includes Memorial Day weekend. Definitely arrange your itinerary to avoid Yosemite during this incredibly busy time.

Have you decided what is most important to you for this trip? Relaxing? Seeing everything possible? Fine dining? Picnicking with a bottle of wine? Coast? Mountains? Cities/towns? Rural places?

San Francisco
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6. Re: California: Central, Northern, & Pacific Coast Highway

This is way too rushed. SF needs at least 3 days. Tahoe is nice but not a must do. Mendo and parts north are too far for the the time you have.

Many people do a loop of SF->Carmel->Big Sur->Cambria->Yosemite and back. That you could do in the time you have.

So ... 3 nights SF, 1 night Carmel, 1 night Cambria, 2 nights Yosemite.

BUT, if you don't have lodging booked yet in Yosemite and you're talking about May/June of 2012 you're in for some effort to snag accomodation at Yosemite. You may find youself flexing your itinerary around whatever you can get there.

Your other option would be a northern loop from SF which would leave out Yosemite, Carmel and Big Sur. Your choice but IMO you cannot do both in 8 days and see much besides the hood of the car.

Memphis, TN
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7. Re: California: Central, Northern, & Pacific Coast Highway

Sounds like my plans are quite lofty. I was inspired by a friend who recently did something similar. Enjoying the views of the mountains, beaches, and driving along the coast are most important to me with at least a couple of winery visits. So, look like I need to regroup. Thanks all.

Oregon Coast
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8. Re: California: Central, Northern, & Pacific Coast Highway

Whew - I'm glad you're going to rethink. If you drop Lake Tahoe, Yosemite and Crescent City you'll have a much more enjoyable time :-)

Los Angeles...
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9. Re: California: Central, Northern, & Pacific Coast Highway

It's so hard to look at a wonderful place and not want to go EVERYWHERE (my problem going anywhere!) but I'm echoing many: give something up. I'd give up the Sierras (Yosemite and Tahoe). That way you'll have another reason to come back. Or find other mountains. Perhaps I'm jaded - we grew up in California and have been in the Sierras / Yosemite / Tahoe multiple times..... and our trip to Glacier National Park in Montana and Grand Teton & Yellowstone N.P.s in Wyoming just blew our brains!

Concentrate on the coast..... and even then you'll have a hard time making choices. But the coast is really wonderful. I'd choose going south into the Big Sur area and back. If you want redwoods, you can go across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco to Muir Woods - though I admit it's pretty crowded.

Whatever you do, just go ahead and make your decisions (and reservations) and be committed to having the best time you can!

Barb in so cal

Memphis, TN
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10. Re: California: Central, Northern, & Pacific Coast Highway

Thanks Barb, I like your angle. I too have visited the Tetons & Yellowstone, so I think I will focus on the coast, where my most desired spots are Redwoods and Big Sur. I hear many recommend staying at least 2-3 days in San Francisco, but it's not at the top of my list - more like a hub; although there are some sights I'd like to see there. Looks like Crescent City is about 7.5 hrs from San Francisco. Does everyone think that would be too rushed to make Crescent City, SF, and Carmel / Big Sur in 8 days? I'm also thinking about adding another day only if necessary and if I could get my flight changed.