Where to stop on drive from SMF to SNA?
May 3, 2011 9:47 AM   Subscribe

At the end of June, I'm thinking about driving from Sacramento to Irvine over a few days with my two kids, aged 9 and 11. Where should we stop along the way and where are some good places to stay?

I'd like to take the scenic route, maybe spend a day in San Francisco (not part of the "few days"), visiting Golden Gate Park and Exploratorium. We'll probably skip the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

I'd drive a good chunk of the time along Route 1. I see on Google Maps a number of state parks -- can you recommend any of these as being particularly good? Is Hearst Castle worth visiting? Should we try camping or is there other inexpensive lodging along the way?

Should I try to convince my mom or aunt (who live in the SF bay area) to accompany us to Irvine (and then they would drive of fly back)?
Or should I go it alone? (can I handle it?)
My mom has offered for me to take her car (and I would return it after visiting my dad in Irvine) -- should I do this or rent a car?
Or should I skip this and just fly down? (maybe they'll appreciate it more when they are older)
posted by indigo4963 to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total)
Hearst Castle is worth visiting once. And I think your kids are *just* old enough to have a good time and create a memory.
posted by Danf at 10:01 AM on May 3, 2011

Moonstone Beach near Hearst Castle is pretty cool.

You want to stop here for the best beach side sandwiches EVER. and the little store is great for kids to explore!
posted by jbenben at 10:30 AM on May 3, 2011

Route 1 and 101 are the best scenic routes. It's hard to say what's going to interest young kids along any of the routes. There are inexpensive accommodations but they are usually the fleabag Motel 6 type places that you would expect. Lodging is cheaper inland, but the inland routes (I-5 and State Route 99) are as boring as can possibly be imagined. Be aware that Route 1 is going to take a good deal longer than the other routes. It's a beautiful drive, though, and almost any of the state parks along it is worth a stop. Also, be aware that there's often fog along parts of Highway 1 during the spring and summer months. The Santa Cruz Boardwalk is touristy but fun. Big Sur and Carmel are sort of midway and worth a stop. Hearst Castle is definitely worth planning a side trip for.
posted by blucevalo at 10:33 AM on May 3, 2011

Route 1 is currently closed near Gorda due to a landslide. Be sure to check with caltrans before you head down that way.
posted by doctord at 10:39 AM on May 3, 2011

If you pass through San Jose, the Children's Discovery Museum is a lot of fun. Your kids would be at great ages for most of the exhibits there.
posted by kyla at 11:31 AM on May 3, 2011

Thanks for the feedback everyone. Looks like mom will accompany us for part of the trip to Bakersfield, then we'll other transportation to Irvine. Maybe bus / train. But she'd prefer the highway and we'll find places to stop there, along the way.
posted by indigo4963 at 6:21 AM on May 5, 2011

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