San Diego, LA, Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, Napa and SF road trip
August 6, 2013 7:57 AM   Subscribe

We are planning on flying to LAX and rent a car from there and then drive to San Diego, LA, Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, Napa. We will be flying out of SFO. Total time for the trip is 10 days including flying, from Aug 9'th to 19'th. (So 8 days) Please suggest things to do, places to stay, good restaurants and any other advice.

We (including a 3 year old) are planning on flying to LAX and rent a car from there and then drive to San Diego, LA, Yosemite, Lake Tahoe. We will be flying out of SFO.
Total time for the trip is 10 days including flying. (So 8 days)

1) Looking for cheap places to stay for the night in all locations.

2) We are foodies that would try anything. Any must visit restaurants?

3) We want to spend a day at the beach in San Diego. When I search I find many beaches. Please suggest me you favourite beach. I'm not looking for an isolated, secluded beach. I prefer someplace with people and a boardwalk with shops, restaurants. Prefer a place with parking available close by (I don't mind paying a reasonable amount to park for the day). Lot of online reviews say that parking fills up early. How early are we talking about 8am? 10am?

4) I heard that Sequoia National Park is similar to Redwood National Park. Can we just skip Redwood NP and visit Sequoia instead?

5) In LA we are not planning on doing Disney or Universal (Out kid might be little too young for that). Are there disney characters in the streets (in Las Vegas there were people dressed in costumes, that you could take pics with for few bucks) that we could show him?

6) Also where to park when visiting Hollywood walk of fame?

Any Other advice or suggestions welcome :-)

posted by WizKid to Travel & Transportation around California (32 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
That's a whole lot to pack into that period of time. I'd suggest cutting way back on the number of places, thus reducing drive time and increasing leisure.
posted by jon1270 at 8:03 AM on August 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

San Diego beach with a boardwalk? Why that would be Mission Beach! Get there before noon and you'll be fine for parking, especially if you're there on a weekday. I also quite like Coronado, which doesn't have a boardwalk per se, but is a highly walkable area. The people seem to love Mootime Creamery there.

Have fun!
posted by too bad you're not me at 8:04 AM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd pick up a car at LAX, drive 30 min north to Santa Monica for a day at the beach. Toss the kid in the car after dinner and drive through the night to Yosemite, you'll avoid all the traffic and there's not much to see between LA and Yosemite. Have a lazy day in Yosemite valley (swim at sentinel beach, picnic lunch in El Cap meadows, and then spend the night in Tuolumne Meadows. Go from Tuolumne east to Mono Lake (stop for fish tacos at the Mobil station in Lee Vining), then head north to Lake Tahoe. From Tahoe it's an easy drive to Napa.
posted by foodgeek at 8:11 AM on August 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

If you're going to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, there are some Disney characters on the street, but honestly, they're kinda gross. Your 3 yo won't notice, but you will.

That said, park at Hollywood and Highland, parking is free for an hour or two with validation from one of the shops. The Disney El Capitan theater is right across the street and Planes 3D opens there on August 9. Every Tuesday is Tiny Tot day and it plays in 2D. There's a soda fountain and a gift shop, so you can get enough Disney in for a 3 year old right there. Also, usually, before the movie, there's some sort of preshow.
posted by Sophie1 at 8:13 AM on August 6, 2013

Um, this is an ambitious itinerary. You are going to spend more time in the car than anywhere else. I live in LA and we spent 7 days going to/in/home from Yosemite. It's a good 8 hour drive from LA or SFO, about 400 miles, so one day; we saw three areas of the park (and had to skip 3 more we wanted to see due to time constraints) then a day's drive back to LA or SFO. I also just spent 4.5 hours driving from San Diego home to LA, a distance of 113 miles. so traffic is unpredictable based on distance, is all i am saying.

My advice: skip san diego, southern beaches in CA have more sewage issues and can be less pleasant. Go to LAX day 1, spend the beach day in Venice on day 2, then pop east to Hollywood, spend day 3 at the Walk of Fame and hollywood. There are costumecharacters there, usuallynot Disney licensed, available for pics. Take singles and $5, they make you pay per pic. Stay in the eastern part of LA on day 4, go to Griffith park or the San Gabriel mountains for a mountain/hiking thing, then drive up the coast, taking 2 days, go to parks north of San Francisco, spend 2 days there, drive back to SFO, go home. This gives you a taste of all the biomes of CA while skipping the driving long distances thing.
posted by holyrood at 8:17 AM on August 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

I've seen some characters on Hollywood Blvd, but trust me, they weren't Disney!

Try the Farmer's Daughter on Fairfax in Hollywood. It's a funky, refurbished hotel across from the Farmer's Market. I like DuPars, also across the street, for Pie.

If you want to see celebreties, check out the CVS/Longs/Rexall at the Beverly Connection at Beverly and Third. I saw Seth Green there and he was completely cool!

I liked the Sofitel, but it's pricier.

In Tahoe, my Mom liked the Inn on the Lake on the California side, when she was the El Dorado County Court Administrator.

I can whole heartedly recommend the Nob Hill Motor Inn in San Francisco. Great location and free parking!

Frankly though, if I were you, (and I've done plenty of CA roadtrips.) I'd skip LA and Napa this time out. Otherwise the most memorable part of your vacation will be inside the rental car. I might even skip Tahoe. It's more fun when there's snow anyway. If you want to break up the trip, between San Diego and Yosemite, I recommend the wide spot in the road of Buttonwillow. There cheap lodgings can be had, quick eats (that Pupuseria looks fun) and I'm sure there will be a pool at the motel.

I'd do San Diego, Yosemite (straight up 5) then San Francisco. Plenty to see and do, without getting all wrung out.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:22 AM on August 6, 2013

For a nice boardwalk, try Santa Cruz, just south of SF.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:23 AM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would also skip San Diego. It's out of your way and is not a fun drive from Los Angeles. Venice Beach and Santa Monica are good alternatives if you're looking for fun, boardwalky style beaches.

Sequoia National Park is one of the best places I've ever been. You definitely don't need to drive all the way up to Redwood to see some amazing majesty.
posted by something something at 8:23 AM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

There's also a good redwood grove in Marin Co. just across the Golden Gate bridge from SF.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:25 AM on August 6, 2013

There is also a pile of big redwoods at the southern entrance to Yosemite.
posted by foodgeek at 8:31 AM on August 6, 2013

If you're foodies, do yourself a favor and read a few of Jonathan Gold's articles. He often does sweeping lists of, say, Koreatown or the San Gabriel Valley (Chinese food mecca). You'll wish you were staying here for 3 months. Oh, and go to Guisado's for tacos.
posted by malhouse at 8:51 AM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

The only thing Redwood National Park and Sequoia National Park have in common is really big trees. (Redwoods in one, Sequoias in the other.) They have completely different climates and geography. Redwood NP is also a good day's drive north of SF. Stick with Sequoia -- it fits better with your itinerary.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:08 AM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

There's a difference between the big Sequoia and the coastal redwoods. Both are amazing, and I'm not going to undersell Muir Woods for a moment (or any of the other places you can see Sequoia or large redwoods, especially way up along the north coast around Redwood National Park), but if I could only see one I'd go for Sequoia. Rather than trying to squeeze in Sequoia National Park, how about coming in the south entrance to Yosemite and hitting Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park. Big trees, less out-of-the-way driving.

So, yeah: Mariposa Grove is on your way, has big trees.

I'm more into the scenery than the cities, so I really like foodgeek's itinerary and the suggestions to skip going down to San Diego. Hit Santa Monica pier, maybe drop into Hollywood, and then drive north while the kids are sleeping. Go into Yosemite from the south entrance, stop at Mariposa Grove, hit the valley, up over Tuolumne Meadows and Tioga Pass, down to Mono Lake, stop at the Tufa Towers (if it's the end of the day, which it probably will be if you didn't make reservations for Yosemite Valley moths ago) maybe stay overnight in June Lake), then up to Tahoe, but by the time you get there I think it'll be a letdown vs the High Sierra and the 395 desert area. Then duck over to Napa (I'm waving from Sonoma) and foodie it up in the North Bay and SF.

And note that to those of us who live here, any one of these places we've recommended is worth a week's (or more) stay exploring...

And it is easy to lose just how freakin' big California is. It's 5 hours of driving from my house, an hour north of San Francisco, to Redwood National Park. If you're flying into LA and out of SF, stay roughly between those places, that's still a hell of a lot of spectacular amazing country.
posted by straw at 9:15 AM on August 6, 2013

I really feel like you have WAY too much in your itinerary especially given you are travelling with a child . You will probably spend close to 20% of your waking hours DRIVING! I am N Cal native (w child) , and have been to all of the places you mentioned. I think if I was working on a trip with your travel parameters maybe Santa Monica/Venice, Yosemite/Sequoia, then SF would be WAY plenty. Not sure about your finances, but the Ohwahnee Lodge in Yosemite is rather nice, and offers an extremely special dining room experience.

I would not go to Tahoe for less than 4 days. If you do go to Tahoe, the relatively quiet west shore can be quite nice. Napa for a kid is tedious, as it is mostly wine and high end food.
posted by jcworth at 9:28 AM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I presume you didn't have the option of flying into San Diego instead, but anyway just wanted to mention that would save you some time that you'll lose going down to San Diego and back up to LA. In any case, when you drive through Orange County, you could stop in Little Saigon for the biggest selection of Vietnamese restaurants in the US.
posted by Dansaman at 10:11 AM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I live in LA, went to college in San Diego, have relatives throughout the state and I've done every single leg of the trip you're talking about many, many times. And I have a toddler.

I agree, the itinerary you've laid out is hugely ambitious for the time frame, and you won't see much of anything but the inside of the car.

If you only plan to spend one day in San Diego, and most of that at the beach, I'd skip San Diego altogether. Most So Cali beaches are pretty much the same. Stay in LA for a day (maybe two). You can easily hit the beach in the morning, Hollywood in the afternoon, and move on to your next destination.

Here, you have to make a choice: Do you want to drive the coast of California (admittedly, a beautiful drive, but it will take you a full day, or two, depending on if you want to stop and actually appreciate the scenery, or just drive through), or do you just want to get to No Cal?

If you don't want to drive, you could catch a commuter flight from LAX to SFO. A flight would only take you an hour (plus security, yaddah, yaddah, yaddah).

Decide whether you want to spend your outdoor time in Napa or Tahoe.

Yosemite is a 7 hour drive from LA, and roughly the same amount of time to SFO. It's roughly 5 hours from Tahoe. It's really requires more than a day or two to appreciate. (And at this late date, it may be difficult to get a reservation anywhere in or near the park).

Tahoe has the advantage of having gambling on the Nevada side, if that is your thing. But personally I think that is not really the reason to go to Tahoe - go to Vegas if you want to see the inside of a casino, go to Tahoe if you want to appreciate nature.

Narrowing down your itinerary would be a tremendous help to determining where you want to stay, eat, etc.
posted by vignettist at 10:29 AM on August 6, 2013

As in 3 days from now? Yosemite-area lodging will probably be nonexistent if you haven't booked it already, and it's not a "drive in, see it, leave" kind of place. You can check Yosemite Bug, though. Actually, most decent lodging in CA period will be booked. TripAdvisor has good recs, but you're probably going to have to take what you can get.

And I agree, you're going to spend most of your time driving.
posted by wintersweet at 10:39 AM on August 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

You're traveling in 3 days and you don't have lodging booked? You need to start doing that; it's going to constrain where you can go. Staying in the core of LA, San Francisco, or San Diego is probably out at this point, especially if you want to do it affordably. Yosemite is probably out: people plan that trip a year in advance.

For lodging in LA that might be available and won't be in a dangerous or super-remote part of town, try looking more inland, maybe towards the valley. You could stay in Burbank or Glendale maybe. You might be able to get away for less than $100/night in a Quality Inn or similar...
posted by mr_roboto at 11:00 AM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

According to a hasty Google Maps itinerary, that's 18 hours in the car. You shave off 3.5 hours by skipping San Diego. Skip Napa (as others have said, it's not generally geared to young kids), and you shave off another hour or so.

Do you have hotels booked? If so, what are your dates? If not, this could really shape your trip. Finding decent places to stay without a reservation in popular California towns in the summer is probably going to be tough.

As for Sequoia vs Yosemite, I love them both. But as a native Californian, they kind of blur for me. This Tripadvisor thread broadly classifies Yosemite as the more popular destination, with more "highlights" to see, while Sequoia is more of a "rugged" destination. Hit up either one early, as they'll get busy, and you can miss the beauty of the place for the sheer amount of tourists at either one.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:02 AM on August 6, 2013

When filthy light thief says you shave off 3.5 hours of driving by skipping San Diego, he/she actually means you are shaving off about 5 hours. Driving from LA to San Diego, particularly Mission Beach area (which, yes, has the best boardwalk and is a great beach for families), will take you more like 2+ hours each way, with traffic, realistically.

Skip San Diego. It's a lovely place, my hometown, and deserves a visit, but your itinerary as you've described it in your initial post is an absolutely horrendous nightmare. I wouldn't recommend that kind of trip for anyone, even a native Californian with their own car and an encyclopedic knowledge of the highways, backroads, and traffic patterns of the entire state. A family with a toddler? Are you kidding?

That said, here are answers to your questions, if you insist on persisting with this madness.

1) Try airbnb, VRBO, Priceline.

2) There are so many good restaurants in California. Better to plan your itinerary around travel times and where you're staying, then fill in the gaps with restaurants that are conveniently located.

3) Before 10am is fine. San Diego is very car-centric, so there's ample parking pretty much everywhere if you're willing to pay for it.

4) Yes, skip Redwood and visit Sequoia. The scenery is beautiful at both, so just do one—whichever is more convenient.

5) No. Although 3 is plenty old enough to enjoy Disneyland, and there's nothing else like it.
posted by booknerd at 11:36 AM on August 6, 2013

If you are bent on on a whirlwind tour through Yosemite and seeing Tahoe, and you probably can't get reservations there (there may be some walk-ins) how about reservations in Oakhurst and in Lee Vining or June Lake? Stay in Oakhurst, leave fairly early in the morning, hit Mariposa grove, see Yosemite Valley from the overlooks at the end of the valley, and then head up 120 to see the high country. That'll get you a view of Half Dome and El Cap, but put you further from the tourists than the stop-and-go that the valley itself will be in August. Yeah, it's rushed, but I've quite enjoyed a day trip into Yosemite Valley with a quick stop in Mariposa Grove from Oakhurst (with a very slow moving developmentally disabled adult, no less), so it's doable.

Although as a jaded Californian of almost two decades now, I'm generally headed for Calaveras State Park if I want Sequoia (and smaller coastal groves for Redwoods), and national forest when I want high Sierra.

If you want the wine country experience and something for the kid, you could do Sonoma/Valley of the Moon and stop at Sonoma Train Town.

And oh: 3 year old in LA? La Brea Tar Pits. Sabertooth tiger skeletons in the oozing oily mud pits. Seriously awesome.
posted by straw at 11:48 AM on August 6, 2013

I spend large amounts of time traveling around California and the southwest backpacking, camping and photographing. I live in LA and have been to Tahoe once this summer, Yosemite twice and Sequoia once. Based on my experience I agree with most of the other posters that this itinerary is extremely ambitious and you will most likely need to trim it down to keep your sanity.

No one has even accounted for the amount of time it takes to drive WITHIN Yosemite or Sequoia. Driving from Tuolumne Meadows to the Valley in Yosemite will take 2 hours one way, and that is if you don't stop. Do not underestimate winding mountain roads with 45 mph speed limits. Driving around to see sights within these parks will be a major time-sink themselves.

Also do you have places to stay booked in advance? You will not be able to find lodging in Lee Vining on the east side of Yosemite at this time of year. You will not be able to stay inside the park this time of year. It is all booked up (it books 6 months in advance and has been getting worse every year as more people clog up the park). I'm less certain about the west side near Mariposa, but there is some primitive camping nearby that is usually free all year. I usually camp at the base of Tioga road...but even the campsites in the Inyo Nat'l Forest on the way up the 120 will most-likely be booked out by now. Often times I literally sleep in my truck because I can't find camp sites.

If you have 8 days of driving time here is what a realistic, yet whirlwind, itinerary would look like:

Day One
-Arrive LAX and head south down to Manhattan Beach. 30 mins with parking to get there. Spend the day around Manhattan Beach enjoying the beach, boardwalk, shops and surfers. Parking is easier than Santa Monica or Venice and the beach is nicer. It has more of a San Diego feel as well. You can find cheapish hotels along Sepulveda east of the beach.

Day Two
-You can head over to Hollywood to check out the Mann's Chinese theater area which has costumed characters. Be warned that Hollywood is gross and seedy. Park in one of the pay lots on side streets north of Hollywood Blvd. west of Cahuenga Blvd. Do no attempt street parking...just pay 7-15 bucks to park. Trust me. You could spend the rest of this day beaching in Santa Monica or Malibu.

Day Three
4.5 hour drive through the San Joaquin Valley to Sequoia. Less sure where to stay here because I always camp. Campgrounds will be booked up. There could be some hotels in or near Squaw Valley. Arrange a place to stay first. Then head straight to the Giant Forest Area. You could also check out Grants Grove.

Day Four
Wrap up sequoia and then take the 2.5+ hour drive to Yosemite's West entrance. You will likely find available space in hotels in Oakhurst along the 41 towards Mariposa. This is still about an hour+ from the Valley. Drive into the valley for sightseeing, sunset for the rest of the day. You will need this time to adjust to the grandeur of Yosemite Valley from the tunnel-view entrance. It is overwhelming.

Day Five
Wake Early and spend day sightseeing within the park. Hit up the visitors center and talk to a ranger for ideas. Chill in the valley for half the day...maybe go up to Vernal Falls if baby can handle it. Definitely walk the path to the base of Bridalveil falls and Yosemite Falls. You could also relax by the banks of the Merced river. Definitely see the Mariposa Grove to round out your Big Trees portion. Skip the Tuolumne Grove...not as impressive.

Then take a 2 hour drive through the park along the 120 to Tuolumne Meadows. You will find lodging at this time of year south of Mono Lake at June Lake and Mammoth...but it will be expensive even for low-budget places. There is a good motel-6 in Mammoth. The travelodge is also solid. Avoid the Quality Inn. Keep in mind that Mammoth is exactly 50 minutes or so from the East Yosemite entrance at Tioga budget 3 hours driving from the Valley to Mammoth. This day alone has 5 hours of driving in it, not counting stops or detours.

Day Six
4.5 hours up to Tahoe. Stay on the south-east side of the lake along Lake Tahoe Blvd. There is a string of cheap motels there although at this time of year they may be booked / expensive. I can't say, I have only been to Tahoe in late spring or early fall. There is great camping at Nevada Beach campground if you have a tent. Nice place, good sunset beachfront views of the lake. Check out Sand Harbor and maybe Secret Cove if you are up to it (warning nude beach).

Day Seven
More Tahoe stuff. Emerald Bay etc...

Day Eight
Take the 50 out of Tahoe to SF. Spend some time in SF before heading out the next day.

Even with this itinerary you will spend most of your time in the car. Lodging will constantly be an issue due to price or availability if you have not booked in advance. You will underestimate the time it takes to drive around AT your destinations. Tahoe is large and mountainous, Sequoia is large and mountainous, Yosemite is large and mountainous. You get the idea.

You will not make it to the Redwoods and be relaxed. The Redwoods are GORGEOUS, but SO FAR out of the way. I do this stuff all the time and I rarely make it there on my expeditions.

In short:
-Skip San Diego
-Skip Redwoods

Even LA, Sequoia, Yosemite and Tahoe in 8 days makes my head spin. If it were me in that time frame I'd even cut out Sequoia and spend more time in Yosemite / Tahoe. The Mariposa grove looks like what you'd see in Sequoia to some degree...

Anyway...good luck!
posted by jnnla at 11:58 AM on August 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

Why fly to LA then drive to San Diego and back to LA? Driving from LA to San Diego is most of a day all by itself. Why not just fly direct to San Diego and rent the car (and start the drive) from there?

Alternatively, drop San Diego from this trip altogether.
posted by easily confused at 12:06 PM on August 6, 2013

I really like jnnia's itinerary, but rather than driving down to Mammoth and back up, if Lee Vining or June Lake didn't work, I'd see what was available in Bridgeport.
posted by straw at 12:28 PM on August 6, 2013

I live in San Diego and I say skip it if the beach is what you want. Legoland yes, the zoo yes, beach nah. Most of ours don't have shops and stuff anyway. It's dirt and water, they have that in LA. And right now I'm driving back and forth between SD and LA every week and it's's not worth it for beach.

There's a tiny little hotel in Marina del Rey, on the marina beach (in fact, right on Mother's Beach, which is a swimming area without surf, if you want some calm water), just a bounce to Venice, that is my favorite place to stay when I'm working in that part of town. Foghorn Harbor Inn. It's very simple but very clean, and free parking and breakfast is really hard to come by in LA. It is actually a smidge cheaper than its neighbors most of the time, even before breakfast and parking, though summer is high season and I have a hard time getting rooms every time I want.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:56 PM on August 6, 2013

One of the best mid-level restaurant in the bay area is Plumed Horse. There is a bar area that will serve the whole menu too. Totally worth it. It's in Saratoga.

I agree with those above who recommend cutting out San Diego and focusing a little more on a few places rather than ALL OF THE PLACES! Marin Headlands is pretty amazing, and there's the touristy "walk across the Golden Gate Bridge" thing (just make sure you're aware that you can't cross the bridge without a pre-paid pass (you pay on the way into SF from Marin, and can get those passes at most stores around Marin and SF). No more cash lanes.

Oh, and always make sure you have an extra $5 in case you end up on a bridge in the bay area. Nothing is worse than not having cash and having to stop in some awful area trying to find a bank late at night. Ugh.
posted by guster4lovers at 5:51 PM on August 6, 2013

I'm a native Angeleno but I don't think L.A. is California at its best. Hollywood Blvd is just a tacky tourist trap. Venice and Santa Monica are nice beaches but you can get that in other places. Here is my recommended 8 day California vacation

1. Arrive LAX. Rent a car and drive straight up to Santa Barbara. Go to the beach, hit a local winery and find a great restaurant.

2. Drive up the 1 to Hearst Castle, then spend the night in either Paso Robles or Santa Maria (Madonna Inn perhaps). Hit another winery and great restaurant. You are now halfway up California.

3. Either go to crowded peak-season Yosemite or drive north on the 1 through Big Sur, stop for lunch, then on to Monterey. Do the Aquarium and Cannery Row. Find a nice motel in the area.

4. Continue up the 1 to San Francisco but pass through and go up the 101 to Sonoma. Spend the night there.

5. Tour wineries north of Sonoma around Healdsburg and the Alexander Valley. It's nicer than over-crowded Napa. Second night in Sonoma.

6 & 7. Drive to San Francisco and return the rental car which you don't want in the city. San Francisco is worth two days and two nights.

8. Departure.
posted by conrad53 at 8:22 PM on August 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

(just make sure you're aware that you can't cross the bridge without a pre-paid pass (you pay on the way into SF from Marin, and can get those passes at most stores around Marin and SF). No more cash lanes.

It is true that there are no more cash lanes, but you don't necessarily have to have a pre-paid pass. I just drove a rental car over the bridge a couple of weeks ago, and I just got a bill in the mail for the toll, done electronically.

Here is the FAQ for rental vehicles over the Golden Gate Bridge. You'll note in the last answer in that section that you can pay by telephone, online, or in person. I suspect one of the first two would be way easier for you.
posted by andrewesque at 9:06 PM on August 6, 2013

Hands down, my favorite place in San Francisco is the Exploratorium. You'll enjoy it and so will your child.

My favorite restaurant, ever, is Terra in St. Helena, but not necessarily a place I would go with a three year old.

That being said, if you only have 8 days, why are you taking on so much territory? If you like to drive for driving's sake, that's one thing. If you actually want to see, much less enjoy, any of the exquisite possibilities, how are you going to do that?
posted by Altomentis at 11:17 PM on August 10, 2013

Thanks everyone for the replies. We completed the trip. I'll add some notes for anyone looking through the thread in the future.
- The above itinerary (we dropped San Diego) worked for us. So consider this a highly individual choice. For some people it might be too rushed.
- We called 511 before crossing the golden gate bridge and did a pre-pay.
- There were 3 rooms (last minute cancellations) available at the Yosemite Lodge, and we were able to get a room. But don't count on it. Make early reservations.
- In Lake Tahoe 'Marina beach' is a private beach with $5 charge per person. We got free passes from the hotel. SO check with your hotel.
- SF downtown area was too expensive, so we stayed in Redwood city. It was a 20-30 minute drive to downtown on weekends.
- Parking near the Fisherman's Wharf is a total rip-off. So drive around. There were lot of other garages offering all day parking for $10-$15 per day.
- We purchased a 1 day muni pass, but most of the cable cars we full and were not taking on passengers. So be ready to spend lot of time at the cable car stop or avoid the pass at all.
- You can have a nice view of the bridge from the Bay Are Discovery Museum. Enough free parking.

- This might be debated by some, but it's only my humble personal opinion. I was not impressed by the beauty of Yosemite compared to Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Glacier NP.
posted by WizKid at 1:20 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would submit that if you did it that quickly, you didn't really get a chance to see Yosemite anyway. But of course YMMV. :)
posted by wintersweet at 11:41 AM on August 22, 2013

I was not impressed by the beauty of Yosemite compared to Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Glacier NP.

Having explored Yosemite thoroughly I agree with you one-hundred percent. I've always thought Yosemite is kind of meh next to those other parks....
posted by jnnla at 12:49 PM on August 30, 2013

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