Roadtrip SF to LA/Indio with teens?
April 18, 2011 2:03 PM   Subscribe

Help me plot out an awesome roadtrip and hotel from San Francisco's East Bay to Indio, CA this weekend. Bonus point: teenagers, driver's sanity, scenic viewpoints

Heading to the Big 4 Heavy Metal concert with three teens. The show's at the Empire Polo Grounds (same loc. as Coachella). We're leaving SF East Bay on Friday at 8:30am, the concert's Saturday at 2pm, we're returning Sunday.

I want to avoid I-5 as much as possible, more interested in scenic routes with one or two stopping points along the way that would get us to a teen-friendly hotel by Friday night.

The kids are fairly quiet and well behaved, but the possibility of adjoining rooms or a suite is a plus. Two rooms, two beds per room, under $250/room, and most importably, a reliable three hours or less drive from the concert on Saturday morning.

I'm fine with staying anywhere from Santa Monica to Burbank to LA to Indio itself the night before the show, and wondering if any of these are too far (3+ hours) on a Saturday morning?

I would love a hotel that is in a walkable, interesting neighborhood or park. I want to avoid right-on-the-highway places if possible.

Fun stops, excellent ice cream stops, and the like for the drive down appreciated. I'm thinking Vasquez Rocks or a stop along the coast.
posted by zippy to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total)
Best answer: Ooooo I love these.

May I suggest staying in Palm Springs the night before? PS has a small downtownish area that has some nice restaurants and a great pedestrian feel. And you'd be right there first thing in the morning.

The big decision is the route down, though. 101 is as convenient as 5, but it's much more scenic in spots. Of course, if you really want scenery, it's hard to beat Pacific Coast Highway, but it'll take a little longer.

You might cut east from Stockton/Modesto via 108 to 395. 395 is a very nice drive (less so as you go south), and will take you to Victorville. From V-ville either 15/215/210 through San Berdoo or 18/247/62 the back way down to 10 and Palm Springs area.

I would avoid staying in LA before heading to Coachella. The distance isn't a deal breaker, but there will be a lot of traffic going out there. It always amazes me that an entire interstate highway (10) out in the boonies can be bumper to bumper for miles and miles. But, if you do, Santa Monica's Third Street promenade and the pier are fun places to walk around. Burbank's downtown is fairly nice/good street life, and Pasadena's Old Town is, too. I kind of discourage you from staying in L.A. though, just because of the drive in the morning.

I have heard a little about Riverside's downtown, but I can't speak from experience. It's a lot closer to Coachella as well, and less off your main route.

As far as a mid-point/first night stopping place, look at these:
PCH/Route 101: San Luis Obispo; very well regarded downtown night life college town
Route 395: Bishop; lovely little town, gorgeous scenery, Erik Schat's Bakkery (sic)

Wel I wish I could offer more specific advice, but maybe this is a start. Have fun!
posted by Xoebe at 2:29 PM on April 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Highway 1 is closed through Big Sur due to multiple rock slides. Don't go that way!
posted by zsazsa at 2:53 PM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Xoebe, SF -> SLO -> Palm Springs on Friday looks doable, though I'm worried about hitting heavy LA traffic from SLO to Palm Springs that night and reaching the limits of my driving endurance (Google says 9.5 hrs w/o traffic, 12.5 with, yow).

East Bay to 108 to 395 to Palm Springs sounds really pretty and, bonus, goes past Mono Lake and Mono Cone (mmm, Ice Cream). Google Maps says 11.5 hrs, and doesn't say anything about "with traffic" which sounds like the route isn't subject to LA rush hour.
posted by zippy at 3:01 PM on April 18, 2011

Response by poster: Here's the 108 - 395 to Palm Springs route I'm considering. Would this be a mess due to the Big Sur slides?
posted by zippy at 3:05 PM on April 18, 2011

Response by poster: (Never mind re: Big Sur, I'm a maroon)
posted by zippy at 3:06 PM on April 18, 2011

I'm not familiar with the area, but wouldn't this be a concern? Caps aren't mine.

SR 108
posted by notned at 3:22 PM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Ooh, good find. Google Maps, showing the Traffic layer, claims that ban on 108 and 395 S ends on the afternoon of Apr 18, 2011, and my trip isn't until Apr 22. Should I believe Google?
posted by zippy at 3:33 PM on April 18, 2011

I doubt it. This has been a heavy snow year, so it'll probably be closed until May or later. All of the other passes across the Sierras are closed, too.
posted by zsazsa at 3:41 PM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sorry about that, I didn't realize that the snow kept those pass roads closed this late in the year. And yeah, we've had some big storms kinda late, too.

You know, you could go through Truckee on 80 into Carson City and get on 395 that's a beautiful drive. Stop for lunch in Truckee, they have a really cool old town, just a couple of blocks long. It's a much nicer town than the name makes it sound like.
posted by Xoebe at 3:51 PM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Buuut, if it were me, I'd save the Truckee trip for later. That kinda puts you on 101, you miss Big Sur with the slides :( but the nicer part of the 101 drive is between Paso Robles and Ventura.
posted by Xoebe at 3:56 PM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: 80 will work, it would be very nice, but it gets your drive time up more than I would like.

For your consideration....

99-58-395 etc.

Forestiere Underground Gardens in Fresno is cool, and Basque Food in Bakersfield is a cultural experience. On second thought with teenagers forget the Basque food. But even for teenagers the underground gardens are cool. They're not exactly gardens, I don't want to oversell. Shorter drive time gets you more hot tub time in Palm Springs. I'll stop now.
posted by notned at 4:00 PM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

In case you do decide to go through SLO, there is a drive-in movie theater there (Sunset Drive-in)- could be much fun for the teens on Friday night.

However if you stay in SLO I think you'll end up with more than 3 hours drive on Saturday...
posted by marlys at 4:26 PM on April 18, 2011

Response by poster: I'm liking the Palm Springs area stay Friday night more and more. If I have time, I think I'll take 101 down to SLO and cut over. SLO's drive-in sounds cool but the showtimes are too late for this trip.

What's this talk of hot tubs in Palm Springs? And any hotel or restaurants in that area worth checking out?
posted by zippy at 9:53 PM on April 18, 2011

We did the Hilton through Priceline for $50/night, I don't know if they'd go cheaper. I thought it was nice, pool, hot tub, weight room.

We went next door to the place with blue awnings for a nice/inexpensive steak dinner. Sherman's Deli is supposed to be great and was always busy but we never made it in.
posted by notned at 11:28 AM on April 19, 2011

Response by poster: I wanted to thank everyone for the advice, including the bit about not driving on roads closed by snowstorms.

I took notned's recommendation for 99-58-395 down and wanted to share trip specifics.

First, it's a nice drive. More scenic than 5, I think.

If you leave the SF Bay around 9am, you can hit the Chicken Pie Shop in Fresno for lunch. Green vinyl bench seats. Chicken pies. Chicken pie omelettes! We forgot to hit the hanging gardens, but that would have been a nice stop, I suspect.

And about 2 hrs from Palm Desert, and slightly off the route, there's Vasquez Rocks where one can recreate the Kirk vs Gorn fight scene.

Palm Desert is, as a friend says, beige. Restaurants close by 10pm, so when you're done with check-in around 10pm (and the Best Western Palm Desert had comfy no-frills rooms), hit one of the two In-n-Outs in the area. Both are open until 1am - 1:30am.
posted by zippy at 6:13 PM on April 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

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