The best road trips include a scenic stretch of highway, some fun and funky hotels, delicious local food, and some “bucket list” sights and attractions that you’ve always wanted to see. This California “escape” had it all….and then some:
The trip went great. To not have to worry about all of the details in the pre-planning and to have someone with the knowledge and experience that you have, it took away any anxiety we had. Because of this, the trip (and planning) went well.
The flights went very well. (Only one minor delay on the way back.) We got our boarding passes early like you suggested, always sat together and were always in the A or B boarding line.
The car rental worked out fine. No problems with the process. We got a roomy auto with a sun roof and Satellite Radio, which we LOVED! (E-Street Radio made my husband very happy)
The Marriott Courtyard in Oakland was a nice hotel. It was comfortable and clean and not far from the car rental location.
Monterey was very pretty. It was fun to see the seals and we loved the scenic harbor. Very charming area… went to Carmel also. It had unique galleries and shops. The Mariposa Inn was also really nice. It was comfortable and roomy with a nice pool. (Wish we could have stayed there longer!) After leaving Monterey, we drove all the way to Big Sur. It was breathtaking. What a beautiful coastline!!!
The Comfort Inn Yosemite Gateway was our only disappointment in hotels. It did not look that clean, it was not updated and the fixtures in the bathroom did not work properly. (also, no elevators… only stairs which is a pain when you have heavy luggage going to the second floor.) I would not recommend this one to other folks. But, on the plus side, it did not take us long to get to Yosemite from this location and the town itself was charming in its own way. (We found a great Mexican restaurant!)
While we were there, we did a few easy hikes & walks in the park, took the Yosemite bus to various locations throughout the park to take LOTS of photos and explore, did an evening star viewing tour and a Tram tour of the park which was narrated by a very animated, energetic park ranger. It was really hot the first day (and too crowded) but was a bit cooler (and less crowded) on Monday. So, Monday was a nicer day at the park for us! On Tuesday, we drove out of the park, saw Mariposa Grove, and headed towards gold country.
One other highlight: My husband got to kiss the Stanley Cup. The owner of the Bruins owns a company called Delaware North, which owns the concession stands at the National Parks. So, he brought the cup to Yosemite. My husband was thrilled! He (and a bunch of other folks) got photos with the cup in a huge field in back of the Ahwahnee.
As far as our stay at the Ahwahnee, at first, Darren was disappointed. They gave us a cottage in the back of the hotel instead of a room IN the hotel. He really wanted to stay inside the hotel. But, the hotel is amazing. The architecture is so beautiful. We took advantage of any any extras they offer. They advised us on tours to take in Yosemite, so were very helpful in that way. The cottage was surrounded by trees and was still very nice. The night’s stay included free breakfast in the formal dining room, which is quite amazing! (The food was really good.) We also dined at other restaurants in Yosemite that are not part of the hotel. We did not bring formal clothing, so did not have dinner at the Ahwahnee.
The Hotel Rex in San Francisco was really nice. The location was perfect. Close to the bus and trolley routes. The place was clean and charming. They gave us a bottle of wine and chocolates for our anniversary. (The only place to do that!)
On the first day in San Francisco (Wed.), Darren and I walked a lot. We tried to figure out how to navigate the bus system. It took us a while (by Thursday) to know what we were doing. The trolley system was fun, but crowded. Too many tourists on them! That is why we took the bus most times. During our stay, we walked the Fisherman’s Wharf area, Lombard St., Haight Ashbury (great record shop called Amoeba Records), toured the Cartoon Museum, visited SoMA bookstore for art books, did a double decker bus tour so that we could see the Golden Gate bridge and other sites that we may have missed. Friday night, the baseball game was fun (but cold!) Darren and I did not realize how cool it gets in the evening!
We loved Lori’s Diner for breakfast and lunch. It is filled with Retro-charm: Old radios, a vintage car, old Coke machines, juke boxes, Elizabeth Taylor’s dress, etc. We love that kind of stuff! (it was down the street from Hotel Rex). We also ate at the Tee Off Bar & Grill. Guy Fieri showed it on Diners, Drive Ins & Dives. Darren got the pork chop dinner that Guy raved about. It was in the Richmond part of town. We also had crab on Fisherman’s Wharf at a place called Alioto’s. It was good, but I do not know if it is anything too special. It was hard to choose one. There are so many places there. I saw a write up in a tourist pub, so picked this place. We also ate at the Ball Park Friday night. A great selection of food types there.
Here are my tips for anyone considering a similar trip:
Coastal CA: Drive the coast! (no need to say anymore!)
Yosemite: Prepare to walk a lot (comfortable shoes) and dress in cotton…but layer for cool nights. If you can stay in the park the whole time, do so. It will cut down on travel time and give you more time to enjoy your time in the park. Bring a back pack and plastic water bottle that you can refill. You can save money on bottled water. Be prepared to take LOTS of photos! Every spot is amazing.
San Francisco: Again, dress for cool weather. Layers of clothing… bring a sweater or fleece jacket or two! Get to know the transportation system BEFORE you go. Then, when you get there, you will not waste time trying to figure it all out. Avoid taking public transportation in the wharf area in the summer. Walk a few blocks toward downtown and the crowds will be smaller.