5 Weeks, 4 States & 3874 Miles around California & the Southwest Roadtrip WITH PHOTOS
WooHoo, after only being home for what...2 months now, I’m finally finished my TRs, here the FULL trip report all together. A little bit of background, we [Mum, Dad and myself, DD19], did a roadtrip around California, and part of the Southwest hitting some Nationals Parks, in total we took nearly 10,000 photos, travelled 3874 miles through 4 states over 5 weeks.
This was our itinerary [29th June – 3rd Aug];
Vegas 1 night > Grand Canyon 2 nights > Monument Valley 1 night > Page 2 nights > Bryce NP 1 night > Zion NP 2 nights > Vegas 2 nights > Death Valley NP 1 night > Yosemite NP 3 nights > San Francisco 4 nights > Monterey 1 night > Cambria 1 night > LA 5 nights > Anaheim 3 nights > San Diego 4 nights > Vegas 1 night
Re: the itinerary, a night in the ones of the lakes areas [Mono, June, Mammoth etc...] or Lee Vining, to break up the long drive between DVNP and YNP, and have a chance to see more of the Sierras Mountains.
Another night in San Francisco would have been great, there are soo many things to see and explore it would have just be great, to have a day, with no time limits, just time to roam.
2 nights in Monterey, would have made a big difference – we would have had just more time.
And 3 nights in either Santa Barbara, or Orange County [Huntington, Newport, Balboa], just to relax and chill out. After 5 weeks of constant travelling about half-way through, 2 full days of chilling would have been GREAT, to sleep in LATE, and relax by the pool/beach.
Right here goes the TR, I will spilt each location into its own post
Bellagio: We stayed at the Bellagio for one night before we started our roadtrip off, the hotel was very nice, we had a standard room with a mountain view and could see the Rio and Palms, though it was a loooong walk to get to the room.
Check in was easy and efficient. Bed was comfy, enjoyed the electronic blinds. Bathroom was lovely, loved the walk in shower, we even had scales in the bathroom too. Didn't get a chance to try the pool, though would have loved to. We had the Breakfast Buffet in the morning, very nice! The fountains were amazing, stood and watch 4 shows in a row. It would have been great to stay longer!
Tues 29th June: Home to Vegas
We were up early, had an 11:25am flight from Gatwick to Vegas. Flight was long, boring and uneventful. Didn’t take off til 12ish, no on-demand TV, and only odd TV channels were working. Arrived in Vegas around 2pm, took around an hr to get through immigration and get car rental. Went to the Wal-Mart Superstore on Eastern, and got supplies and picked up our Sat Nav we pre-ordered online, before we left – that we didn’t ended up using until LA.
http://i6.photobucket.com/albums/y21...t/DSCF2202.jpg Bryce Canyon
Checked into Bellagio, quick and easy. Got a Mountain View room , with views of the Rio and Palms. Had a look around the Conservatory, and went and had dinner at Cabo Wabo, outside the hotel, in the Miracle Mile Shops. Afterwards we headed north up the strip and checking out the hotels, ending up at the Venetian, impressive shopping area, it does feel like your outside, but AC’ed!
Headed back to Bellagio, had been a long day, and had a long drive ahead of us to GCNP the next day, had just missed the fountains and didn’t realised they run every 15mins, I thought it was every ½ hr, never mind we’d be back to Vegas soon.
Wed 30th June: Vegas to GCNP
Not adjusted yet to Pacific Time, we were wide awake by 4:30am; decided to get up as we had a long drive ahead of us to GCNP. We all showered and washed and were at the Bellagio Breakfast Buffet by 7am – no queue, and where able to go straight in, the restaurant was fairly busy. The food was good could have been better, it was only warm/hot, not piping hot as I had expected it to be. I ended up filling up on the usual breakfast foods, and was too full to try the unusual foods
Checked out of the Bellagio, and headed south on the strip, and got our photos taken at the Vegas sign, there was only two other small groups there taking photos. On to the Hoover Dam, we parked on the Arizona side, and spent around an hr there. I can’t believe the change in water level, it’s amazing, though not good!
We travelled on part of the old route 66 from Kingman to Seligman; the road was empty – hardly any other cars, and not much to be seen out of the windows. We stopped in Seligman, for gas, snacks, and souvenirs. Then I was shocked, it started to rain! Only slightly though, we stopped in Williams and had lunch our first of many McDonalds for the trip.
We finally arrived at the GCNP at 3:30pm, taking us 6hr30mins to complete the drive in all, rest stops, food and gas.
GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK
Maswik Cabin: It's good enough, we stayed for 2 nights. It's about the scenery not the lodging. Good location to the rim 1/4 mile, though there are lodges closer. It's as close to a camping experience as I'll probably ever get. Very dim light in the room, no AC only a fan, we left the door open a few times. Bathroom was small, toilet was squeezed inbetween the shower and wall, not a lot of room. Though would probably stay again if visiting the Grand Canyon, and if the other lodges were fully booked.
Wed 30th June: Vegas to GCNP
We arrived at GCNP at 3:30pm, brought our NP Annual Pass, and headed to the Visitor Centre. Mather Point was under construction, so we walked the rim to Yavapi Point, I cannot describe fully what it is like seeing the canyon for the first time, just amazing.
We checked into our cabin at the Maswik Lodge, totally different from our previous night at the Bellagio. We had dinner at the Pizza Pub, and ended up missing sunset, I was around 7:30pm or so I think, but we arrived at that time, rather than getting their an hr before – duh!
Thrus 1st July: Our full day at the GC, we were up in the morning for sunrise at 5:15am, we viewed it from Yavapi Point, it’s cold that time in the morning, you need long shorts, and a cardigan/hoodie. Sunrise was cloudy, and I don’t think we got the full experience. Afterwards we walked further west along the rim, and found some lovely quiet secluded spots. Breakfast, back at the Maswik Lodge.
We the decided to hike Bright Angel trail, once we passed through the natural bridge at the beginning of the trail, Dad decided to skip this trail – due to the large amount of switchbacks and steepest. Mum and I carried on, we’re not hikers but enjoy walking, this was hard. It was only 8am in the morning but it was hot. We spend 2hrs on the trail roundtrip, and didn’t even make it down to the mile & half house, the trail just came steeper and harder to get down. Mile markers would have been helpful to know how far down we were, I bet we were close.
Had lunch at the General Market, I love this place! Brought some souvenirs, got a GCNP collapsible cooler for the car. We then did the full route of Hermit’s Rest, we had to wait for the 3rd bus at the first point, but a ranger comes and talks you through the system and tells you a lot of interesting information. We spent 3hrs on the shuttle stopping at every point, apart from the first. The shuttle has a very good buffer system, so you never have to wait long for the bus, once on route.
Watched sunset from the bus stop, dinner at the lodge, and finished the night playing cards in the cabin.
Fri 2nd July: GCNP to Monument Valley
We had decided yesterday, to watch the sunrise from Hopi Point – we got on the 4:45am Hermit’s Rest shuttle bus, there wasn’t anywhere near the same amount of people queuing that were yesterday afternoon, the bus arrived, in total there was about 10 people on it.
Everyone got off a Powell point apart from us and another man, we both got off at Hopi Point but the other man disappeared, appearing later after the sun had risen sunrise was 5:15am. We had Hopi Point all to ourselves until, a tour bus of about 15 people turned up, just in time for sunrise, they didn’t stay long, only around 10-15mins. We then walked down to Powell Point to catch the bus, but managed to miss it at the viewpoint and ended up waiting ½ hr for the next shuttle to arrive.
Back to the room, we loaded up the car, and checked out of our cabin, and headed for breakfast at the Market Plaza [cheaper than Maswik Cafeteria], I wanted to purchase a National Park Passport, so we went to the Visitor Centre, got one and proceeded around the park and filled it with stamps.
By 9am, we were on the road heading out of the East Entrance to Monument Valley. We spent 3.5hrs driving the 25miles of Desert View, there was a lot of viewpoints we stopped at, we saw an elk, and also decided to start playing the license plate game [We did manage to get all 50, though we did cheat once, we never did find ‘West Virginia’ only on a restaurant wall at the end of the trip. We saw a wider range of plates travelling through the southwest NPs, compared to CA – which was CA, CA, CA plates constantly] Desert View was a good drive, I think that day, was the day I managed to burn my shoulders.
12:30pm, and we were finally on our way to Monument Valley
Overall, I really enjoyed GCNP, it's something you can't really believe, and grasp its size. 2 nights is definitely the perfect amount of time.
The View Hotel: There is a $5 entrance fee per person even if you’re staying at the hotel. The room was great, but the hotel itself was a bit ergh, the gift shop was full of tat, most items were on sale. The restaurant was average, we had dinner and breakfast there, got $5 off per person for the breakfast buffet.
We had a room on the 2nd room, with great views of MV, we could watch all the cars on the dirt roads, we even had a little rainstorm. Comfy night’s sleep, watched sunset and sunrise from the room, free wire-less, and parking too.
Fri 2nd July: 12:30pm, and we were finally on our way to Monument Valley, we stopped in Tuba City for gas and lunch at McDonalds [a recurring habit], the drive took 3 ½ hr including stops, we got stopped by a police checkpoint, just before entering the state of Utah. Time had jumped forward; we checked into The View hotel, at 5pm and had room 217 – great views. We checked out the hotel, gift shop and visitor centre, ended up playing cards in the room while watching sunset. There was a 30% chance of a thunderstorm, which I managed to miss while being in the shower.
Saturday 3rd July: MV to Page, AZ
We watched sunrise for the room
Today we had a guided tour of MV at 9am, first we had breakfast, buffet only and $5 for hotel guests – the breakfast was better than dinner. We booked in advance the 2.5hr our tour with Simpson’s Trailhandler, we waited in The View Lobby at 8:45am, and no one was there, no other tourists, no one, as the minutes passed I wondered if we have been scammed. It was 9:05, and we got the hotel to ring Simpsons. It turns out the only other person wandering the lobby was our tour guide -- why didn't he come approach us?
Anywho, we were the only 3 people on the tour that morning, we had an unmarked open aired truck, it was abet awkward to start with, and the guide wasn't very chatty, at first I just thought we were going to drive around, without stopping. Our first stop was at one of the markets the locals set up, trying to make you buy stuff -- I wasn't impressed with this, we ended up stopping at 2 markets, we did end up buying some bracelets, my mum’s is broken, she noticed when we got to Page. We were supposed to stop and see the Hogan’s, but we never did.
The guide warmed up to us, through the tour, with stopped a various places, he told us about all the monuments, rock formations etc... It was a good tour, MV is definitely a sight, and I wouldn't recommend driving the track in your our car. A tour is the way to go, but I'm not sure if this one was worth the money.
We finished the tour at 11:45am and were on the road to Page, AZ
Overall I enjoyed our brief visit to MV, it's a sight to see.
We stayed in Page for 2 nights; it was an enjoyable stay, over the 4th July. It would have been nice just to chill out and relax here, on the lake.
Marriott Courtyard: This was our first stay at a Courtyard Marriott; the room was spacious, nice bathroom, free Wi-Fi and parking and free coffee in the morning. We enjoyed afternoons by the pool, not a lot of pool beds only around 15, and some were broken. Not a lot of great dining choices in Page though, but your usual Subways, Sonics, and Wal-Mart’s.
Sat 3rd July: We were on the road to Page, AZ by 12:20 UT time it took us 2hrs to get to Page and were there by 1:20 AZ time. We stayed the Marriott Courtyard, there was quite a queue to check-in, but we got a room on the top room overlooking the golf course, room 417.
We had a little drive around the town, finding where the Antelope Canyon Tour left the next day, had lunch at Subway, watch some 4th July activities going on. Ended up relaxing by the pool for a couple of hours, back to the room, uploaded some photos and showered. We fancied Italian for dinner, and ate at Stromboli’s outside on the deck, the place was busy, the portions were large, and the salads that came with the entrees were good, the bill was just under $50 for the 3 of us. Went to Wal-Mart got a few supplies, and ended the night playing cards in the room.
Sun 4th July: First lie in of the trip, until 7:15am, though I was really up from 5ish. Out of the room by 8am, Mum & Dad had a complimentary coffee from the lobby, and we drove to Horseshoe Bend. It took us about 45mins to do the 1.5mile round trip, the terrain was mainly sand, a hard sweaty walk even at 8am, we stopped for breakfast at Subway we were their first customers of the day, opened at 9am – the smell of fresh cookies was filling the room and we just couldn’t resist and each had a cookie for afters.
We had a look around Glen Canyon, very interesting. Headed back to the room and freshen up before our 11:30am Upper Antelope Canyon Tour, we arrived at 11:15 the place was chaotic, we checked in and waited outside to start boarding. It's a bit mad, when the guides are trying to organize you into your trucks, no groups want to be separated etc.., and they do need to have a better system for this.
You do get herded through the canyon like cows the experience would be absolutely amazing if it was just a few people in the canyon. We booked probably the busiest time slot of the day 11:30, I think around 8 trucks from Ekis drove to the Canyon, let alone how many other tour companies were there.
Walking through the canyon is an amazing experience, your guide does shout at the group a lot to carry on, follow me. But if you listen to them, they will take great photos for you on your camera that you could never get yourself, as an amateur photographer. As said AMAZING, don't miss out, definitely visit the canyon.
We had lunch at Sonic [a chain we don’t have at home], sat outside it was a very windy day, better and big burger than MD’s, we then drove and stopped at some of the scenic outlooks, the wind had really picked up, and at one outlook we were being pelted with sand and stones. Dad wanted to get on a boat, so we headed to Lake Powell [our NP pass got us in for free], the tours were too $$$, so we watched some boats at the landing for awhile, before heading back to the hotel and relaxing by the pool for an hr or so.
Washed and showered and went to Fiesta Mexican for dinner, the place was packed, the portions were large, we couldn’t eat it all, and on the way out we saw the finale of the 4th July fireworks. Before heading to Wal-Mart for more supplies.
Monday 5th July: Page to Bryce Canyon NP
We pretty much just had breakfast at Subway, with cookies for afters, and left Page to head for Bryce.
BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK, UTAH
Ruby's: We were on the first floor around the back of the hotel, with a lakeside view hardly what I would call an lakeside view though. We were only in Bryce for one night; wish it could have been longer. Would happily stay at Ruby's again, had dinner at the buffet, which was nice, good meats. Free parking and free Wi-Fi.
Mon 5th July: Page to Bryce Canyon NP
We had Breakfast at Subway, with cookies for afters, and then got on the road heading for Bryce. No sooner than crossing the state line into Utah, we got pulled over by the cops, and Dad received a hefty fine for speeding, while speaking to the officer, my iPod broke. Turns out there was contact solution [not ours, left from the previous rental] where I was storing my iPod under the radio. My iPod was officially broke! Not a good start to the day.
But driving to Bryce was a gorgeous drive, through little small towns, lush green farms with huge houses in the middle of nowhere, Dixie National Forest and Red Canyon. We lost an hr coming in to Utah and checked into Ruby’s around 12ish. We went and got lunch from Subway at the entrance of Bryce City [which is mainly own by Best Western], this Subway was expensive $9 for a foot long.
Around 2-3ish we finally make our way into Bryce NP, and did the 18mile scenic drive. We drove all the way, and then stopped on the way back; we stopped at most of the points. The ampitheatre is a lot more impressive compared to the drive, and the whole of Bryce Canyon is very red.
For dinner we had the buffet at Ruby’s, it was $18 each not a lot of choice but the food was GOOD, I really enjoyed this meal.
Tues 6th July: We were planning on doing a horse ride through Bryce, but were too tired soo skipped it, got breakfast and headed to Zion.
Bryce was good, I would like to go back, looking back I wished we had done the horse ride, if would have been amazing.
ZION NATIONAL PARK, UTAH
Pioneer Lodge: We stayed here for 2 nights, visiting Zion. The only negative I really have to say is they enforced a strict 3pm check in policy [we arrived at 1pm], and the girl was a bit rude about it, and not very helpful when I asked about the town.
Room was very nice, was a changed to have a different looking room for a change. They have a nice little pool, looking at the mountains, was lovely to sit and admire the view. Only 5-10mins drive to get to the park, the town of Springdale is very cute, I loved it and they have some great restaurants [try Oscars]. We had breakfast one morning from the coffee shop, which was nasty. Free parking, though the lot got crowded, coffee maker, fridge and microwave in the room too.
Tues 6th July: We backtracked on yesterday’s drive into Bryce, to get out of Bryce we drove on Mt Carmel Hwy, only facing minor delays due to the construction. We arrived in Springdale at 1pm, and tried to check-in at the Pioneer Lodge, but they had a strict 3pm check-in.
So we grabbed a coffee, and had a look around Springdale, and got a quick bite to eat from the lodge’s restaurant next door. We grabbed some ice cream from across the street, and browsed some of the stores, which basically had all the same merchandise.
We checked in at 3pm, and went and relaxed by the pool for a few hours; it was nice and hot in Springdale. The hotel was full of Europeans that were very noisy by the pool! After showering, we walked down to Oscar’s around 9ish.
Oscar’s is lovely, we sat outside it was still warm, with gorgeous mountainous scenery surrounding us. The food was very good, Dad and I had burgers, Mum had a steak salad we then shared a brownie ice cream sundae for dessert. Finished the night off with a game of cards.
Wed 7th July: We were up early this morning on the Riverside Walk by 9am. We had breakfast at the lodge’s coffee shops which was nasty; they only had bagels left which were stodgy. We took the car into the park, then hopped on the park’s shuttle and rode it up to The Temple of Sinawawa. The trail was nice, I was expecting more sights, we sat at the end of the trail, watching people start their walk in the very cold Narrows.
We got the shuttle down to Big Bend and walk from there to the Weeping Rock, great views. We headed to the Zion Lodge, and had some snacks [trail mix!] and drinks [Zion’s own!]. Started our last trail to the Lower Emerald Pools, before even crossing the bridge, a snake crossed my path!
It was heating up now, and getting hot I was watching out for snakes now on the way to the pools. Once there, is was very refreshing the mist of the weeping water. It was amazing to see water weeping through those huge rocks!
We then watched the informative film at the museum, and went out of the park for a late lunch [3pm] at the deli, at few doors down from the Pioneer Lodge. Nice sandwiches, had ice cream from afters, liked the different flavours they had.
We relaxed by the pool again, for a few more hours. Then after showering went to Zion Pizza and Noodles for dinner, we were going to go back to Oscars, but decided to try something new. The food was good, Mum and I had pasta and Dad had pizza – not as good as Oscars. Finished the night playing cards.
Thrus 8th July: Yesterday, after watching the Zion film at the museum we decided we were going to go to Kolob Canyon, before heading to Las Vegas. Kolob Canyon is only about an hour from the main park, and is much less visited, we got there at 8am. Once there we checked out the Visitor’s Centre, and did the 5 mile scenic drive. Kolob Canyon was nice, but I wouldn’t go out of your way to visit it.
After that we stopped in St. George, UT for breakfast, and arrived in Vegas by noon.
Overall, I really like Zion and Springdale. I would love to come back and do the Narrows and Angel's Landing trail.
MGM Grand: We stayed here for 2 nights, having earlier stayed at the Bellagio, of course in a different league. The MGM was nice, spacious room. We saw the lions, went to the pool area late afternoon, and couldn't find any empty beds. Good food court had a nice pizza one night. Not as great location, felt like a miles walk to everywhere.
Thrus 8th July: We arrived in Vegas, around noon, coming from Kolob Canyon, Zion.
We had a little drive around Downtown, checking out the different hotels. We checked into MGM Grand, checking in took ages, there was a slight queue, but it was our clerk that make the process take forever, she kept pushing us to try and buy an upgrade – we declined.
We went up to the room, which wasn’t soo much as a trek to the room compared to the Bellagio. It definitely wasn’t the Bellagio, a little worn around the edges but fine. We had a view of the Manhattan Express from our room. We went and got lunch, we had some sandwiches from ‘wichcraft, which were good and different, we went to go check out the pool area, which is heaving, no space left at all, we never did use the pool.
We found the lion habitat, watched them for awhile and listened to the spiel. We saw a Best Buy vending machine, which we had never seen before and Mum brought some noise reduction headphones from. We had a look around the food court, and got some expensive Haagen Daz ice cream.
Mum and I then went and checked out the NYNY and Excalibur, as said Vegas isn’t a lot of fun for a 19yr old. We had a look round the shops etc... We had dinner at the MGM Food Court, from the pizza place, a slice and Caesar salad, not bad.
We headed to the Mirage, as we had booked to see the 9:30pm showing of LOVE. LOVE was great, really amazing the types of things they can do. There was a lot of traffic on the strip, I didn’t think we would make it in time, but we were sat in our seats by 9:15pm.
Fri 9th July: Had a long lie-in weren’t out of the room til 12pm, headed to the Mirage and to check out the Secret Gardens, it was a hot day and the gardens were sweltering. When I saw the dolphins, I feel we had just been ripped off for our $15 pp; I like to think of the $15 as a donation for the animals’ well-being.
The dolphins were just swimming in the water you could hardly see them; there were about 5 in total, spread over 3 pools. There is an underwater viewing area, but it's sad to watch them under there as you can just see the dolphins chewing on the wire, trying to get out of that pool. When we came back out, the trainers were out, and doing a few little tricks -- nothing like SeaWorld, mainly the trainer just sat with their feet in the water, chatting to co-workers.
We then went to the tigers, seeing some random smelly animals’ in-between. The tigers were a sight to watch, they were having fun, play-fighting, a pleasure to watch, the only shame was the wire, separating you from the tigers, ruined all the photos, glass would be better. Overall, a nice little excursion -- maybe not worth the $15.
Next we headed to the Premium Outlets to do some shopping, but I wasn’t very enjoyable as there based outdoors, so there was a lot of walking outside in the boiling heat. The prices at the outlets seem high to me, we went to the food court for a late lunch – we were fancying a burger, but the outlets had no burger joint at, so we ended up with some naff Chinese.
Dad then dropped Mum and I off at the Fashion Show Mall, oh it was lovely to shop in the fully AC indoor mall. Mum and I did some shopping; I had a few people compliment me, on my accent! We then got a taxi to the Hard Rock Cafe; we had to pick up some souvenirs for family & friends. We then went to the ABC nearby, and got some food and water, and headed back to the MGM.
We wanted to go and see the Bellagio fountains as we had missed them when staying at the Bellagio, two weeks ago. We got there around 10pm, and stayed and watched 4 shows, they were amazing!!
DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK
Furnace Creek: This hotel was nice, a cool break from the scorching hot weather outside, we had a deluxe room. Didn't get a chance to use the pool, there were no beds left. We just stayed and relaxed in the room.
Dined at the 49'ers for both lunch and dinner. Room had a fridge, the only downfall was the toilet water was warm, and you could feel the steam off it while on the toilet, not pleasant. Would stay again, but in the cooler months, was too hot to enjoy. Death Valley was definitely like being in a furnace; the room was nice and cool though.
Sat 10th July: Today, we headed for the hottest and driest place in North America and IT WAS. We were on the road from Vegas by 8am, stopped at Wal-Mart got some water and supplies had a nasty McDonalds breakfast at Wal-Mart.
On arrival to DVNP, we took the 13mile uphill detour to Dante’s View, where you have views of the entire park, if I had realized this was the coolest weather we’d have all day, I would have savoured the time up there. Next was Zabriskie Point, a short, steep uphill walk in the blazing heat, but some good views.
We then stopped at the Visitor’s Centre, got my NP Passport stamped, and headed for Devil’s Golf course, but somehow Dad missed understood me, and the next sign I saw was ‘Beatty 60’, we turned round and headed in the RIGHT direction. We drove on the unpaved road to Devil’s Golf course, what a sign just dried up land. Next was Badwater, which was boiling – the lowest point in North America, 82m below sea level.
We next drove Artist’s Loop which was full of color, greens and purples. We finished around lunchtime, and checked into our deluxe room at Furnace Creek – the room was very nice, not what I was expecting. DVNP was literally a furnace, it was 48C outside, and didn’t get much cooler in the evening.
We had lunch and dinner at the 49’ers, they made sure you had plenty of water available. We were going to chill by the pool, but there were no beds left, so we chilled in the room. We checked out the gift shop and got some ice cream as well.
Sun 11th July: We were on the road to Yosemite by 7:50am, Dad found driving out of DVNP challenging through the mountainous roads, we saw the Sand Dunes and Stovewell Pipes on the way out of DVNP
I liked DVNP I’d like to go back in the winter months, when I could actually withstand, being outside. TBH on the Saturday I think we could have probably made it up to Scotty’s Castle, which I was keen to see, rather than spending the rest of the afternoon in the room.
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK
We spent 3 nights in Yosemite, staying at Yosemite View Lodge outside the park. I would have loved to stay inside the park, but we didn’t booked as always said a year in advance, and the Yosemite Falls Lodge was full, and we weren’t too keen on the idea of Curry Village, or Wawona Hotel [too south].
Yosemite View Lodge: The location is alright, only 3 minutes by car from the Entrance, though you would be a lot better staying in the valley in Yosemite. El Portal has nothing, for dinner your choices are only at the lodge itself really, we ended up driving to Mariposa for dinner 2/3 of the nights, a 20-30mins drive.
The first room, we were put in, reeked of urine -- when we went down to the lobby they didn't believe us. We got another room they only had one room left -- which happened to be an upgrade to a $400 a night [I don't know who would paid that much for this place] to a suite, this room had a dodgy air-con unit, which we complained about for the next 2 nights, but the hotel was at capacity, so we were stuck with the room. We did receive a discount [not a lot], for our misfortunes.
The hotel is old, and in need of a revamp now! The housekeeping binned our fresh soap every day. Why? There was a selotaped to the wall sign in the rooms saying 'Please don't leave food out, it can attract ants'. There is no Wi-Fi in the rooms, only the lobby which closes at 11pm.
The hotel is racoon-friendly, I came out the room the first night to find a racoon in the bin, I told the lobby about it, they laughed about it, when I walked away, and told me the cleaner empties the bins on a night, only to find the bin as the racoon left it, in the morning, the racoon came every night -- why don't they have bear-proof bins like Yosemite, this is bear country you know. Would not recommend this hotel, make sure you book a year in advance and stay inside Yosemite.
Sun 11th July: Today was going to be a long day, which we were aware of, a 300mile+ drive from Death Valley to El Portal. TBH if I could go back, I would stay the night in one of the lakes areas, or Lee Vining, to have more time to explore the Sierras, rather than just driving through most places.
We were up and on the road by 7:50am, Dad found the mountainous roads travelling out of DVNP challenging. We stopped in Lone Pine for breakfast; saw Mt. Whitney, through Big Pine. We stopped in Mono Lake, had a look around the Visitor Centre. Carried on to Lee Vining and grabbed some sandwiches from Whoa Nellie, a very busy chaotic location.
We drove along Tioga Pass, stopping various times, spending hours. We ate our lunch on some rocks at Tenya Lake, which was gorgeous; you could still see some snow on the mountains. I was amazing driving from the desert heat of Death Valley [and lowest point] to the highest point in North America [Mt Whitney], then to the cool green, mountains of Tuolumne Meadows. Just to look out the window and deer to be roaming the land, we never did see any black bears though.
We were watching people climbing the dome, near Tenya Lake, stopped at Olmstead Point; Yosemite Creek drove through tunnels, saw waterfalls on the way to El Portal. We checked into the View Lodge around 6ish, went to find dinner and the choices were slim, so we decided to have a drive, and ended up in Mariposa, a much bigger town, with better options and cheaper gas.
We ate at the Happy Burger Diner, less than $35 for the 3 of us. The food was good, and freshly prepared, the place has been voted Business of the Month, even though it was heaving with flies. There was free Wi-Fi though, and it was busy with lots of other people. Drove back to the hotel, and were interested to find out about the rockslide just outside of El Portal.
Mon 12th July: Later start to the day then I would have liked, we had breakfast in the room, from groceries we had brought in the hotel market. Got into the park around 10ish, stopped at Bridalveil Falls, an easy 0.5mile hike that we found quite steep actually. The Fall was powerful and we got spray off it.
Next signposted stop was Swinging Bridge, great views of Yosemite Falls (?), the location was gorgeous, we could have just stood there for ages. Waiting to get out of the car park, a douche in a convertible managed to reverse into us, when we were directly between us, he obviously didn’t even glance between him, before he starting reversing. There was only minor damage to the car, and we got his details.
We got to the Valley, parked up, and got on the shuttle. I loved the YNP shuttle drivers, they were soo funny, and told everyone to shut up, while she was trying to speak. We got off at the Visitor Centre and watched the film, which was very interesting.
Shuttled over to shuttle stop #6, and hiked up to Lower Yosemite Falls not nearly as much spray as Bridalveil Falls, but everyone was scrambling up the rocks. Next was lunch around 2pm from the Yosemite Lodge food court, just over $30 for the 3 of us, food was good.
We next stopped at the Sentinel Bridge for views of Half Dome, everyone was floating down the river, I would have loved to have done that! Back on the shuttle, with another funny shuttle driver, who kept yelling at everyone to move all the way to the back of the bus.
Got off at Happy Isles, had a look around the centres, then back on the bus to the car, we got back to the hotel after 5pm, and had dinner at the pizza place at the View Lodge.
Tues 13th July: The plan for today was Tunnel View, then Glacier Point and the southern end of the park, Mariposa Grove and Wawona. We were out of the road by 9:10am, Tunnel View was still fogged over, I was looking forward to hiking Glacier Point, but we weren’t feeling up to it, and said we do it later in the day. Carried on down to Wawona and got stuck in all the traffic due to the roadwork’s, it took us around 2hrs+ to get to Wawona Hotel.
We parked up at the market, and Pioneer History Centre, Mum wanted to do the Horse Drawn Carriage ride, but it wasn’t running today, so we headed to the Wawona Hotel, and checked out the grounds and gift shop. We then headed for Mariposa Grove, but the lot was full was we ended up backed at the market for the 3rd time, and struggled to get parked. Got the shuttle down to the grove, brought some lunch, and decided to do the tram tour of the giant sequoias.
The tour was very good, only about half full, we saw a coyote. It’s amazing to see the trees, what they have lived through, seen, and survived, the history. It was 3:30pm now and we didn’t want to drive back through all that traffic, due to the roadwork’s so we headed out the south entrance, missing going back to Glacier Point :(
We drove through Oakhurst, had a coffee and ended back in Mariposa, where we had an early dinner at Happy Burger, learnt on the free Wi-Fi about the Ferguson Rockslide outside El Portal. As we still had time, we went back to Tunnel View, for a better view and watched the sunset.
Back to the hotel and packed for San Francisco tomorrow
I really enjoyed Yosemite, and would have liked more time, to do some more hikes, see more. Next time I definitely want to be in the Valley.
We stayed in SF for four nights, but could have stayed much longer, we only scratched the surface. As we had a car, we stayed in one of the multiple motor lodges; we ended up at the Coventry Motor Inn.
Coventry Motor Inn: The hotel is on the old side and could do with a makeover, but if you’re coming to San Francisco with a car it's a good place to stay, with free car parking, also with its sister properties along Lombard St. No issues with the room what-so-ever, as said the hotel has free enclosed parking, though the spots are tight!
Good location, it's between Chestnut and Union with a lot of nice shops and restaurants, once you get off Lombard, with a lot less tourists. We came back from North Beach late one night around 12am, got off somewhere on Union St, and the place was buzzing and safe walking around at night. There was a mini-mart right on the corner by the hotel, if you needed any snacks or drinks including liquor. To catch the bus, you either needed to walk a block up or down, depending on your end location. Wouldn't hesitate to stay again.
Wed 14th July: We arrived coming in from the Bay Bridge from Yosemite, we managed to navigate ourselves from the Bay Bridge to Dollar [had to report a minor bump on the car, from Yosemite] to the hotel, without the use of a GPS. It was confusing driving the city, with all the one way streets, hilly roads, it was like being on a rollercoaster, driving up the high streets, getting to the junction at the top, where you didn’t have a clue if there was anything on your left and right, then going straight back down the steep streets – it was quite fun actually.
Checked in to the Motor Lodge, a little before 3pm. We headed out to Fisherman’s Wharf, by the bus to get our Muni Passes. Ended up getting on the bus on the wrong side of the road though, and heading in the wrong direction, always forget about the uptown/downtown thing. We found it hard to find bus stops though, there wasn’t always bus shelters, or bus stops signs, we figured out some bus stops, were just yellow painted on stop signs or the curb. I should have read more about the public transport before we left.
We got off at Ghirardelli’s, and tried to find where to get our Muni Passes from; I thought they would be readily available left in NYC, at every subway station etc... We walked most of Fisherman’s Wharf, the first cable stop, we ended up at, not the one closest to Ghirardelli’s, didn’t sell Passes anymore, every shop we asked at the cashiers, either didn’t speak much English, or have a clue what we were asking about, it was ridiculous.
Eventually we ended up back where we started at the cable turnaround by Ghirardelli’s, we brought a 7 day pass, for $27, as we had a daytrip to Wine Country, and were here for 4 nights – I thought if we ride the cable cars 4-5 times, and the bus, we’ll break even. Well the pass wasn’t worth it, we never managed to ride ONE cable car, and hardly rode the bus, we could understand the system, too confusing – trying to find the closest bus stop to your location and whether that line would take you where you wanted to go.
Anywho after wandering around for ages, we had seen most of the ships by the bay, and the sea lions. We were back at Ghirardelli’s and I saw a sign for McCormick’s and Schick’s, it was happy hour!! Our late lunch/early dinner was very nice, I had the burger. We then went to Ghirardelli’s for dessert, which was very busy we ordered and managed to find a table.
We then attempted to ride the cable car, but the queue at the turnaround was HUGE, we queued for a little while, but weren’t really dressed from the cooler SF weather, and headed back to the hotel.
Thrus 15th July: Today we planned to bike the bridge, we first had breakfast at Abigail’s on Greenwich St, a lovely quiet residential area, it was an enjoyable walk to and fro breakfast. Abigail’s was quite full, and we had a pleasant breakfast.
Dad decided to opt out of the bike ride, and chilled in the room he has a bad back, and I think was tired from the 2 weeks of roadtripping. Mum and I got the bus to Ghirardelli’s, and headed to Blazing Saddles, the place was chaotic but full of energy we got our bikes and ferry tickets, and headed out towards the water.
We biked as close to the water as we could, it was a very fun ride; we stopped and parked up at the Palace of Fine Arts, and had a walk around, but continuing onto the bridge. The bridge was full, and we had a lot of weaving in and out between people. Sausalito was an easy downhill ride all the way.
We locked up our bikes, and had a nice lunch at a sidewalk cafe, and some ice cream too, the weather change is amazing. Sausalito was lovely and hot, shorts and t-shirts weather, whereas SF was jeans, and jacket! Backed on the 3:20pm ferry to the Ferry Building, I would have liked to check out the Ferry Building, but we have left Dad for 6hrs+. So we biked along the Embarkment, tried biking along Fisherman’s Wharf, but there were too many tourists, so we biked a street down, soo much quieter!
Arrived backed at Blazing Saddles, they clapped and cheered as we arrived! Back to the hotel and picked up Dad, who was in bed watching TV! We went to Union Square, on a very full bus – people watching. We did a little browsing and shopping in US, and then tried to get the cable car up to Chinatown. But there was a queue again, and we were just at a regular stop, one cable car came, and only 2 people were able to get on, so we just ended up walking to Chinatown.
We had dinner at Hong Kong Clay Pot, a little hidden Chinese restaurant. I really enjoyed the food I ordered, but my parents found theirs bland; we ordered way too much as well, their portions are large.
As we hadn’t seen much of the city ourselves, and were terrible at the public transport system, and tomorrow we were going to Wine Country, we decided to book a city tour for Saturday.
Fri 16th July: Today didn’t quite work out the way we wanted, the plan was to visit some wineries in the Glen Ellen and Santa Rosa area. Was up and out later then liked – good start to the day, had breakfast at Cafe GoLo on Lombard St, nice friendly owner, place got busier as we left.
I wanted to be in Sonoma for 10am, when the wineries started opening, not leaving at 10ish. Stopped at the Sonoma Visitor Centre, got some free maps, and recommendations. Went to the Buena Vista Winery. Liked Sonoma was a very nice little town, nice plaza area.
Onto Glen Ellen, went to the Benziger Winery to do the tour about wine making, interesting tour, nice hot day, parents brought some wine. Had lunch at the Glen Ellen Market, there was lots of great freshly prepared options.
We didn’t leave Glen Ellen til 3ish, and most wineries shut around 4pm, we tried to make it to Baletto in Santa Rosa [Mum enjoys Rose], but we got a little lost and couldn’t find the right turn off. 4pm had past, so we carried on to Armstrong Grove, to see some redwoods, we had only days before seen the redwoods at Mariposa Grove in Yosemite. But these redwoods were the tallest living things in the world; the park was empty and quite.
We then headed down the coast through Bodega Bay, but the fog had already started to set in. Somehow we ended up off the coastal road and in Petaluma so we took the 101 south instead. Stopped at In-n-Out Burger, just before the Golden Gate Bridge entrance, our first In-n-out of the trip! The burger was enjoyable, but I wasn’t too keen on the fries.
We had been playing the license plate game this trip and only had 3 left to get, North Dakota, Wyoming and West Virginia. As turning into the hotel parking lot, we finally saw Wyoming!!! Only 2 left...in the morning we had managed to get booked on Mr Toads 3hr postcard tour for 10:30am tomorrow.
The temperatures, that day had varied soo much, Sonoma was hot, Armstrong Grove was cool, Bodega Bay was foggy, Petaluma was bright, and Golden Gate Bridge foggy.
Sat 17th July: This morning we had breakfast at Bay Watch on Lombard St, parents enjoyed, I was getting tired of either bacons & eggs or pancakes for breakfast. Mr Toads was booked for 10:30am, we were there about 45mins early, and brought some cheap windbreakers on Fisherman’s Wharf – they were useful for the tour. You locals always tell us to bring layers, but you really don’t understand what SF weather is like, til you get there.
The tour was very good, we had hoodies on, and still needed the blankets Mr Toad provided, and they also have clear blinds in case of rain. Anywho back to the tour, we chose Mr Toads, and it was more private and personal, only 9-11 people on each tour, rather than the 20-40+ on the other tour companies that serve SF. We were in a group of 9, the old cars are cute, and get A LOT of attention, be prepare to have your photo taken, and well as taking your own, we took hundreds from one 3hr tour. Space is tight on the tour, especially if you’re large, space will be a squeeze on the rows of 3.
http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-..._3944454_n.jpg Alamo Square Shoe Garden
Our tour guide was great, friendly, chatty, knew everything about SF; he took photos for our groups. It was a great tour; we saw more of SF in 3hrs with the Toadster than we would have in 24hrs by ourselves. It was a shame we did the tour at the end of our stay, as there were so many sights, we wanted to re-visited and explore in more depth.
We were dropped back off at Fisherman’s Wharf, and had lunch at In-n-out Burger – very busy location, once you were nearly finished eating, people would just crowd near you waiting for your table, very annoying.
Then we got the 39 bus to Coit Tower, another busy location, not what I expected it to be up top, the queues went quite quickly. We walked Filbert Steps, no parrots.
I wanted to go and check out the Ferry Building, so we waited for the F line, but trains were just passing us filled up, so we ended up back at Pier 39 and got some ice cream, before our night tour of Alcatraz.
While queuing to get on the boat, we saw the same couple that had been on Mr Toads tour with us in the morning. The Alcatraz tour was very good, I enjoyed the Park Ranger Speech, the audio tour was very informative, and we stayed and hung around for the slamming of the cell doors, soo loud. Dad and I really enjoyed the night tour, but Mum found it eerie. We got the last ferry [9:20pm] back to land.
Waiting to board the boat, I ended up getting poo’ed on by the birds, it was nasty. It was interesting to watch all the National Park employees on the boat, chatting getting on, off-shift. We then got the 8x bus to Washington Square, the area was very lively. We had dinner at Caffé BaoNecci on Green St, in North Beach. This was one of our best meals of the entire roadtrip, Dad and I shared pizza, the best pizza I have had in a looong time, and Mum has lasagne. I don’t think we finished eating til around 12am, and other groups were still there eating.
We then got the 45 bus to Union & Buchanan, after a debate on which side of the road we should be on, Mum and I won! The area of Union & Buchanan was also still very lively. Went headed back to the hotel and went to bed.
Sun 18th July: We were heading down the coast today, to Monterey. We had our last breakfast at Home Plate on Lombard St, a busy restaurant. Then last thing we did in SF was drive down the ‘crookest street in the world’, Lombard St. It isn’t as hard as it looks.
Overall, we really liked SF. I wish we had, had longer, just one more night would have been soo much better. Just needed to get our heads around the public transport system. Looking back, we should have first done Mr Toads, and Alcatraz. Next day bike ride, then the next two days, Wine Country, and just more time to explore SF.
After Mr Toads Tour, they was just soo many things, we would have liked to revisit, and explore in more dept. I really enjoyed the North Beach area, and the Cow Hollow area, around our hotel, between Union and Chestnut. I definitely want to return to SF. Also Fisherman’s Wharf, seemed to be a magnet – I hated FW, but somehow we seemed to just returning to FW constantly.
We only stayed in Monterey one night, 2-3 nights would have been great.
Best Western Victorian Inn: We stayed here one night, when we arrived around 2ish our room wasn't ready yet, but check-in lady gave us our room key anyway, but made us promised we wouldn't go into our room til after 3pm.
We were charged $12 for parking, which I wasn't aware of at time of booking, but beware of going up/down the ramp into/out of the underground parking, as you could badly scrape the underneath of your car; we found it best to go in at an angle. The room was nice, shame we only had one night there. We did have to call housekeeping for more toilet roll, we didn't have a spare roll. Would stay again.
Sun 18th July: We left San Francisco around 10:30am, we drove on the 101 to the 1, through Half Moon Bay, passed Santa Cruz [Mum and I had fell asleep in the car, and Dad drove pass the exit for Santa Cruz], I was disappointed to wake up about 20 miles before Monterey to find we had passed Santa Cruz, we stopped at McDonalds and grabbed a light lunch, and found a free very detailed map of Monterey there.
Went to check into the hotel, to be told our room wouldn’t be ready until 3pm, so we headed for the 17 Mile Drive, driving along Ocean View Rd to get there. We spent around 2hrs at the 17 Mile Drive, I loved the seals at Lone Cypress, they were soo cute! Our windbreakers came into use that we brought from San Francisco, Monterey was cold.
Next we went to the Aquarium, I had heard great things about Monterey Bay Aquarium, it was world renounced, amazing, not to be missed. To be honest, you could miss it and it not matter. We arrived around 5:30ish in the afternoon, no queue for tickets, felt $30 was too much for what the aquarium is, $15 is more the right price. The best section was the seahorses, that's about it TBH, we stayed until just before 8pm, and had seen everything we wanted to. Nothing to rave about, just an average aquarium, that could be anywhere in the world. Something to keep you occupied for a few hours.
We were going to head to Carmel for dinner, but were tired and instead ate at McFly’s on Cannery Row – not very good. I don’t know why I didn’t researched restaurants to eat at in Monterey, looking now it seems there are some nice places to eat.
Mon 19th July: We were out later today that I would have liked, had the free breakfast at the hotel, which was average. We had a little drive around Carmel, as we had missed it last night. We saw Clint Eastwood's pub he used to own, filled up on gas, and stopped at the Post Office. Carmel seems like a very cute town, I would have loved to spent more time in this area.
Next we stopped at Point Lobos SR, arrived just before 12pm. We did both of the shorter trials [Grove Cypress and Bird Rock], very dramatic scenery, but still cold outside. We carried on down the coast and were hungry, and I totally blanked about Nepenthe until we drove pass it later in the day, and we ended up stopping at the first place we saw at some rubbish Burrito Bar.
We stopped at Julia Pfeiffer SP, and took the trial to McWay Falls, AMAZING. The story behind the place is very interesting too, about the house that used to sit there. After this I’m afraid to say Mum and I fell asleep in the car, before stopping at Ragged Point, as Dad needed coffee.
We drove past the Elephant Seals, which we were going to check out later that day, before continuing to Cambria and checking into our hotel for the night.
I really enjoyed the scenery and wished I hadn't fallen asleep in the car!!! One night isn't enough for Monterey I go for at least 2 nights.
Little Sur Inn: We stayed here one night to see Hearst Castle, we had a ground floor partial room view, basically look out of the left handed side bay window and you can see the ocean! We never made it to the beach we went into the main town of Cambria -- very nice, lots of choice of restaurants and lots of cute little shops.
The room had a fireplace in the wall, that we used -- remote controlled! Free parking, and complimentary breakfast -- alright, I much prefer bacon & eggs. Would stay again. Don't miss the Elephant Seals, about 5 minutes north of Hearst Castle, an amazing sight to watch!
Mon 19th July: We drove past the Elephant Seals, which we were going to check out later that day, we arrived in Cambria and found our hotel for the night. Checked in, the clerk was very friendly and recommended us some restaurants to eat at. We went into the main drag of Cambria and checked out the town, we brought some supplies from the market, and checked out the cute little stores.
We headed back up to see the Elephant Seals, what a sight to see, they amazing to just stand and watch in their natural environment. The sounds they can make, they were funny to watch.
We had dinner that night at Main St Grill, not what we were expecting; its counter service, but very good, BBQ/American Food. I had the tri-tip steak sandwich, which was the best sandwich, I’ve had in ages, my parents were jealous!!
Tues 20th July: Today we had a tour of Hearst Castle booked for 9:30am, we had a complimentary breakfast, at the hotel it was average, all healthy options though. We got stuck in some roadwork’s heading up to Hearst Castle, that weren’t there yesterday.
We were on Tour 1, it was a very good informative tour, the property is amazing, I would have loved to seen more, they were very protection of making sure you didn’t touch things, lag behind and stay on the carpet, is basically a museum. The only downside of the tour was the weather, it was totally fogged up, so we couldn’t see the amazing views. We also watch the I-MAX movie, which was very good, not what I was expecting.
It was lunchtime, so we headed back to Main St Grill, and I think we all had the tri-tip sandwich, the BBQ beans were also very nice as well. We headed down the coast, saw Morro Rock in Morro Bay, briefly stopped at the Madonna Inn, in SLO and filled up on gas in Pismo Beach.
We had a little drive through Santa Barbara from State St to Stern’s Wharf, Mum and I wanted to stop and get out the car and have a stroll through Santa Barbara, but Dad want to carry on and get to LA. Santa Barbara to LA was heavy with traffic and we didn’t get to our hotel in LA until after 8pm.
The drive down Hwy 1 was very enjoyable the scenery was amazing, but the weather was a lot cooler than we expected, we had our windbreakers on for most of it.
Mum was leaving us she could only come with us, for 3 weeks, so LA and the rest of the holiday was just Dad and I. We stayed in LA 5 nights, originally was going to be 4 nights, but we had to drop Mum off at the Airport, so it became 5. As you can image 5 weeks of hotels and food, we were on a budget, and choose to stay at the Safari Inn, Burbank over 20th July to 25th.
Safari Inn: We originally had 4 nights booked, here then added an extra night at the beginning of stay. We had requested a non-smoking room, and this room we were given reeked of smoke, and we were assured this was a non-smoking room; we couldn't change room as the hotel was at capacity.
Thankfully we were able to change rooms for the last 4 nights, this room was soo much better, no smell and more comfortable beds. The rooms are old, and have marks etc... in places, but the room was a bargain, compared to rooms in Hollywood & WeHo areas.
It's not a bad location either your close to all the Studios, avoid the traffic for Six Flags [further north]. We went to a few concerts as well, one at the Staples Centre, the other at the Hollywood Bowl, and we just drove to the Universal City Metro Station, parked and took the metro -- easy and avoided all the traffic.
Hollywood is only a 5-10mins, if no traffic. Parking was free, and if the lot was full, you could parking at the sister hotel, just across the street, which we used as the lot was full most nights we came home late. Breakfast was free as well, we had one morning, but there wasn't a lot of choice though. Wi-Fi was free, we never used the pool, and we had a fridge. Would stay again, probably unless we could get a deal in the city.
Tues 20th July: We didn’t get to our hotel in Burbank, until gone 8pm, we have travelled from Cambria, and had done a tour of Hearst Castle. Anywho, we had dinner that night at Mo’s in Toluca Lake, nothing to write home about.
Wed 21st July: Today was Mum’s last day, her flight left LAX at 5:35pm; we started off the day a Warner Bros, and ended at Hollywood and Highland
Warner Bros Studio Tour: To sum up WBST in one word Mehh, I wasn't overly impressed by the Tour, I had been looking forward to it for months and went we got there, it was like 'Mehh...' Basically you’re being driven around in a golf cart, while the guide points out where various films/shows had/are being filmed. We were on the first tour of the day [8:20am], about 5 carts left at the same time, it felt scripted, unreal, and not as if you were a VIP.
I'm a big fan of most shows filmed at WB; Friends, Gilmore Girls, Big Bang Theory, Two & Half Men, but the lot was just empty and soulless when we visited, nothing was happening, whether we were there too early in the morning or what, I wasn't expecting filming to be happening, here there and everywhere, but just something to be happening, everything was last week, the other day, later today, next week. We didn't get out of cart much, only for the scripted stops.
I enjoyed seeing the exteriors of my loved TV shows, but I expected more -- not to see Charlie Sheen across the lot, but may you could add something new, the inside of trailers, seeing more of live sets, we did get to see the set of 'The Mentalist' -- I would have much rather visited 'Two & Half Men' set. It needed more time to stop and just look around, inside driving past a building and saying 'Big Bang' is filmed in there, let’s go inside, I wanted more. Disappointed, not worth the $50.
We had brought at GPS for this roadtrip, and today was the first time we opened it up, out of its box, after travelling for 3 weeks, through Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and Northern California, LA is where we needed it.
Quickstop at the H&H, for Mum to see the Hollywood sign, wasn’t overly impressed it was clouded over, you could hardly see it, yet even make it out in photos.
Onto Beverly Hills, found a lot with 2hrs free parking – had a walk up and down Rodeo Drive, like the little pedestrian area behind Tiffany’s. Had lunch off Rodeo Dr at a place called Panini’s Cafe – had some very nice sandwiches, this place though was heaving with Dr’s and Nurses!
Dropped off Mum, at LAX. Headed back to hotel, chilled we had a Rihanna Concert later that night, I don’t know why I didn’t realise this earlier, but we planned to get the Metro to the Staples Centre from H&H and park at the H&H for $10, then 2 nights later we parked at the FREE Universal City Metro Station, to get to the H&H. Why didn’t I realised we should have just gone to Universal City Metro Station, that night as well – I don’t know, we would have missed out on a ton a traffic, to drive the mile or 2, from W Olive Av, Burbank to H&H.
Anywho, it took us forever to get to the H&H, we parked up, grabbed the Red Line towards Union St, there are quite a few characters on the Metro, was interesting to people watch, we got off at 7th, and walked down to the Staples Centre.
Rihanna Concert was good, we were up on the top level, the sound didn’t sound soo good though, Ke$ha was supporting, and Eminem even came out! After the concert, we got back on the Metro to H&H, checked out all the stars in peace, the place was empty. It was nice to be able to read all the stars, and check out the hand/footprints in your own time. So guys, if you’re looking for at good time to visit the Walk of Fame, 12am should do! In bed, by 2am
Thrus 22nd July: Today, we were supposed to go to Six Flags, but we ended up sleeping in til 10:30am, I wanted to be at opening for 10:30AM!! Never mind, we changed the plan, and decided to hit Santa Monica and Venice Beach area. We took Sunset Blvd to SM, but got stuck in lots of traffic, there was some roadwork’s going on.
Found some 2hr free parking in SM, had brunch and checked out the Pier. Going on holiday with your Dad isn’t always the best option, I wanted to go 3rd St Promenade, but Dad’s aren’t really interested in shopping, instead we drove along Montana Ave, and the headed towards Venice Beach.
Found some parking, we didn’t really like Venice Beach, a lot of homeless people, and people trying to get your to listen to their CD’s, some got quite pushy at you. We walked along the beach for awhile and left. SM and Venice felt like very touristy areas, all trying to sell you tacky clothing, and souvenirs, you DON’T want.
We headed up to Malibu, and checked out the Malibu Country Mart, had a coffee and a cupcake at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. We tried to get on the beach, but we couldn’t find anywhere to park on the street.
We wanted to drive along Mulholland, and took Topanga Canyon Rd to it, saw a lot of residential areas, all different kinds of houses – I love all the different styles of houses the US has, compared to Britain. We avoided a lot of traffic, the roads were free flowing, and we had some good views of LA, stopping at some of the overlooks along the way. Saw the Hollywood Bowl from a bird-eye view, and got a much better view of the Hollywood Sign.
Picked up Dinner and Supplies up from Fresh n Easy in Burbank.
Fri 23rd July: Today we went to Universal Studios and a show at the Hollywood Bowl in the evening.
Parked at US by 9:30am for $14! USH is very similar to Florida, but Florida has the edge, more rides, less chaotic, and better friendly staff, but LA is a working studio/theme park. We got our SoCal CityPass changed inside the park, and rode Shrek 4D first – same as FL.
Did the Studio Tour, which already had a long wait, would be soo much quicker if employees actually filled up the trams! And if one guest didn’t hold a space in the queue, for another 5-10 people!!! Lots of Annual Pass holders, were in the park today. I enjoyed the 360 3D King Kong experience, very cool! Wasn’t again overly impressed by the tour, again it’s just seeing a load of empty sets, was nice to see Wisteria Lane though.
Simpsons was next, another long wait with technical difficulties. To the lower lot, and rode Mummy, getting your bag back from the locker was chaotic. We had lunch at 3pm at Panda Express and there will still large queues for lunch.
Back to the Upper Lot, watched T2-3D, this shows need upgrading, it’s soo dated. Watched Waterworld, funny preshow, good ending, weak middle.
Like the European and British areas of US. We weren’t going to but, we headed back to the hotel after US, as our camera battery had died, quick charge, and we parked at the Universal City Metro Lot, and got the Metro to H&H, and got on the FREE shuttle bus to the Hollywood Bowl.
That night, it was the BBC’s Planet Earth Live! no fireworks. The concert was good not really my style, but my Dad enjoyed it. We had good seats, behind the Superseats section, N1...I think, on the aisle dead centre. We did missed the 1st three parts, of the show though as the Will Call queue was huge!!!, turns out none of the locals want to pay the extra charge Ticketmaster charge, to get your tickets mailed, and would rather queue at the Will Call for free, our only choice was Will Call, being International Visitors. Got the shuttle bus, back to H&H, and were back at the hotel by 12am.
Sat 24th July: We made it to Six Flags. Breakfast at 8am and on the road to Magic Mountain by 8:30, arrived just before opening. Rode the Sky train, Tatsu [great flying ride, 20min wait], Déjà Vu [amazing, thrilling, scary, no wait], Terminator [long pre-show stuff before the ride, make wait time longer, alright ride], Riddler’s Revenge [standing ride, Dad was too big to ride, I didn’t want to ride along, especially after a guy just got off the ride, with sick all down his front!], Batman [Dad too big, rode alone, alright nothing amazing], Colossus [wooden, good ride], Scream, Goliath [good], Viper [neck breaker], and finally X2 [long wait, worth it, AMAZING ride!!!] Great theme park, loads of great rollercoaster’s, though the park map, should show which rides have larger seats, and which rides riders might struggle to fit on.
Dinner at In-n-Out, in Burbank, this location was literally just In and Out, no indoor seating, sat outside, had a GREAT chocolate milkshake. We skipped lunch, didn’t want to bring it up on the rides, lol!
Sun 25th July: Last day in LA, checked out of hotel, on to our next location, Anaheim not before checking out a bit more of LA. Had a lie-in, out of hotel by 10:30am, and went to The Grove/Farmer’s Market, had breakfast at Phil’s at the Farmer’s Market, did a bit of browsing around both places, our parking was free with validation. The Grove was a nice shopping area.
Onto Downtown LA, saw the Walt Disney Concert Hall, and Angel’s Landing. My Dad had decided he wanted to see the Queen Mary in Long Beach, so we headed there cutting our stay short in Downtown LA, and ended up driving to Long Beach, before heading to Anaheim. Got gas, downtown, quite creepy store, the cashier was behind a glass counter [not strange], but wore surgery gloves!?
Overall LA was good, I would had liked to stay longer just to chill, and mooch around the place, browsing but we basically spend 2 of our days at Theme Parks, hopefully there will be a return visit one day.
We spent 3 nights in Anaheim to visit Disneyland, we have been to Disneyworld many times, and I was looking forward to visit the original. We got a deal for Best Western’s Stovall Inn, not the best location, but it was get your 3rd night free.
BW Stovall’s Inn: The hotel was nice, the room was modern though very dark, our bathroom was 10x brighter than the room itself, I think we were on the wrong side of the hotel for natural sunlight. Parking is $8 a day don't see why they need to charge though. Breakfast is free, they have a better range of breakfast foods then other hotels, but get there early, as they don't refill once they had finished using that day’s quota of food. I think breakfast finished at 9 or 930 but there was no choice left what-so-ever, if you got there late.
We were at the end of the long line of rooms, and we still had a noisy rooms, kids running screaming outside your rooms all day long, waking you up in the mornings, the dumper truck beeping waking you up in the morning. The hotel offers free Wi-Fi, though neither of us could get connected to it in the room, even after complaining to the front desk various times [we can always connect at other hotels]. It was a long walk to Disney 20mins+, next time we'll stay closer to Disney.
Sun 25th July: We checked into the hotel around 4pm, coming from Long Beach. We headed straight for Disney, and got our City Pass changed to our 3 day Disney Hopper Pass. We decided to go to California Adventure and everyone seemed to be leaving it. Went to see if there was any fast passes available for World of Color, they were but only for 11:15pm, my Dad didn’t want to wait that long, so we skipped it for another night.
We went and watched the 5:20pm showing of Aladdin, the show is hilarious it’s a shame they are replacing it, the genie really steals the show. I think we had our first Mickey Ice Cream Cookies Sandwiches for the trip, you have to wait for them to defrost for 5-10mins, they really freeze the ice creams!
Next we went on Monsters Inc!, aimed at children, no need to ride again. Was able to walk straight on to Muppets 3D, didn’t have to watch the pre-show!!!! Same as WDW version. Next was It’s Tough to be a Bug, also the same as WDW, was soo funny though when everyone jumped up, as the critters/bugs left the theatre.
Over to Paradise Pier, but the rides had long waits [Toy Story, California Screaming], and were starting to close for World of Color. I rode Maliboomer by myself, I’m usually to afraid to ride these types of rides, but it was fun, what a rush! We tried to get on the single riders for Screaming, as the wait was 40mins, but the CM had just shut the queue.
We went to get some dinner, but saw the wait for Soarin’ was only 25mins, so we waited for that, got front row!! It was around 9pm now, so we headed over to Disneyland, to watch the fireworks, got a good spot, I just love the fireworks!!!!
We finally got some dinner at Downtown Disney, from the Jazz Kitchen Express, we had burgers and our first ben-nays! Back to the room gone 11pm.
Mon 26th July: I wanted to be at Disneyland for their 8am opening, but after 4 weeks of travelling we were tried and slept in, and didn’t get into the park til gone 11am, I wasn’t happy. We had missed breakfast at the hotel, and all the DTD locations were changing to the lunch menu, so we ended up with nutella crepes from a stand.
We got the Monorail in from DTD to Tomorrowland, turned out to be Star Tours last day before closing for refurb, so we waited in the 40min queue to ride it, there was even press there interviewing people about the rides refurb. Star Tours definitely needs a refurb, I’m glad they’re finally doing it, I hope the WDW version is getting one too. Next we rode Buzz, stated only 20min but it was longer, Dad won.
Got FPs for Space for 5pm, rode the Matterhorn [40min wait], I got FPs for Thunder [2:45pm return], while in the queue. Attractions in DL seem a lot closer together, compared to in WDW. Next was A Small World, wait was only 20mins, but the loaders were taking forever to load the ride, and it seemed wheelchairs guests got priority.
What’s the rule regarding wheelchairs guests? Do they get priority? Or do they still have to wait the stated wait time? If so it seems unfair, I have never seem so many people in wheelchairs, I’m not sure if all the people in them always actually need them, or just use them in theme parks to get priority? What’s up with the blue slips some guests have as well?
As we got off A Small World, the parade was coming by, so we stopped and watched that, though it’s not the typical parade anymore where the floats continuously more round the circuit, they now stopped and dance for 5-10mins at a time.
Rode Thunder Mountain, and got FPs for Indie that wasn’t until 9:30pm. We then rode Space, and got a late lunch/dinner at the Pizza Joint next to Space, the food was good, we shared a slice of pizza, pasta and salad – we also got a coupon at the bottom of our receipt for 20% off merchandise! Never before has Disney given us any type of discount, woohoo!!! Must be the economy. I glad my Dad wouldn’t let me do my Disney shopping the night before!
We rode the Monorail out of the park I really like the future slim line style of the DL monorails, compared to the WDW ones. We had a rest in the hotel room, before heading back to the park, for the fireworks – again, and to ride Indie.
We rode the monorail in to the park, which seem to take forever this time. Got an alright view of the fireworks, the castle was to the right, but whatever. Don’t you find it annoying when you have a perfect view, then 5-10mins in to the show, the parents in front of you, put their child on their shoulders!!
Headed to Adventureland after the fireworks, it was a mission to get through the crowds! the queue for FP return was huge and chaotic, but we managed to get through. Indie was good, very similar to Animal Kingdom’s DINOSAUR. We checked out a few gift shops in Adventureland, got some ice cream in DTD, and were back to the hotel by 11:30pm.
Tues 27th July: Had another little lie-in today, it was Magic Hours today, so I wanted to get to DL for 7am, and ride all the Fantasyland rides and Tomorrowland rides, before heading to CA to get FP’s for WoC. But Dad wanted to sleep, so we arrived at CA for 9:30am and queued in the HUGE queue for WoC FP’s, got tickets for the 9pm show in the Yellow Section.
Hit Soarin’, only a 15min wait, got FP’s for it as well.
Headed to Paradise Pier, I rode Screamin’ Single riders by myself, great ride, and then we both rode Screamin’ Single Riders, and got FP’s for it. We queued for Toy Story [45min wait], why no FP’s for it? This is a great ride I really love this, and Buzz. Dad says he’s doesn’t like the shoot-em-up rides, but I think he really does, he rubs it in when he wins! Which he did.
Dad sat in the sun, while I rode Maliboomer, and Mulholland Madness, via Single Rider. Next we rode Screamin’ with our FP, then back to Soarin’ with our FP. Lunchtime, and we had a good burger at Pilot’s Grill, I loved it when they have burger bars, and you can fill your own burger.
We went over to the Hollywood Lot, and was going to do the Backlot, we thought it was a tour like at MGM, we didn’t realise it was a show, so we skipped it. And got some more really frozen, Mickey Ice Cream Sandwiches.
I then rode ToT by myself, these types of rides aren’t’ good for my Dad’s back. I had never ridden ToT before, but as I had did Maliboomer twice now, by myself I thought I could do it. If you were to look at the ride photo, I’m the only person holding to my seat [I was on the front row aisle]!!! It was a great ride, definitely an adrenaline rusher!
I wanted to go to DL, and see the castle in more detail, and see what the Nemo Sub ride was about, but we arrived and the Main St area was heaving, the parade was on, it was 5:30ish so we hoped on the monorail and went and chilled in the room for a rest.
WoC was at 9pm, so we had dinner in DTD at Taqueria – they were some good tacos, not as good as the ones we later on had in Laguna Beach, then some beignets from the Jazz Kitchen for dessert. We got to CA, and headed for the WoC viewing area, I was hard to get a good spot in the Yellow Section, we were to the right of the show, and everyone was very protective over space, ‘We’re saving that for our friends’. We had an alright view in the end, but a big huge post was in the way. WoC was good, maybe next time we’ll do one of the dinner packages, to get a better view.
Wed 28th July: Today we were heading to San Diego, but not before doing some shopping in DTD, we drove and parked at the DTD lot, 3 hours free parking. We spent over $200 in the World of Disney store, before our 20% discount.
I really enjoyed Disney, and would love to come back
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