I can't believe in less than a month Stephen and I will be heading back to California with his entire family—I can't wait! It also reminded me that I never shared details from last year's California trip (other than a few Mariposa Grove pictures)...oops! If you're looking to travel to a beautiful place, but want to keep it domestic, I can't recommend Cali enough. Here's how we planned our trip last year, with some advice scattered in along the way.
My first piece of advice for seeing California is much like you hear for seeing Europe: Don't try to do it all. It's more valuable to pick a few places to stay and immerse yourself there, rather than spend much of your trip checking in and checking out.
We decided to stay in two different places, and tried to do those places well: San Francisco, Carmel By-the-Sea, and Yosemite. We got two amazing travel books which I recommend Lonely Planet Coastal California
and Pacific Coast Highway: Traveler's Guide by Tom Snyder. The internet (obviously) has tons of valuable travel information, but I loved flipping through the books and dreaming of Highway 1. These books certainly helped us narrow down our destination list!
Except for the last couple nights in a Marriott hotel in San Fran (that I booked with points), we stayed exclusively in airbnb's. If you haven't used airbnb yet, I highly recommend it (use that link to get $25 off your first stay). It's an ingenious website with an incredibly user-friendly app that lets you rent out other people's rooms/apartments/houses. You can easily communicate with your hosts via the app and pay them directly. We loved all three of our airbnb's—and it was much cheaper than booking hotels!
Upon landing in San Francisco, we stayed in a private room in the Lower Haight neighborhood. It was magical staying downtown; I've never been in a city with more personality. From our room, we could easily walk to the Painted Ladies and admire them (and reminisce about Full House). We actually walked all the way to the Ferry building for a market, explored Fisherman's Wharf for the sea lions, and Ghirardelli Square and Union Square for shopping. If you're going to walk as much as we did, bring comfy shoes!
If you want Alcatraz (the infamous prison) tickets: buy them early! Even though tour books (and the internet) told us that, I still didn't buy them soon enough. Instead, we got on a double decker bus tour that exceeded our expectations. We didn't rent a car when we were in the city, so the bus gave us a chance to go across the Golden Gate Bridge—which was amazing and windy!
After exploring the city by the bay, we rented a car and began the legendary drive down the Pacific Coast Highway. It's impossible to describe the majesty that is the PCH....but I will try to do just that in my Part 2 post! :)
Wishing you all wonderful weeks! xx