I am planning a March trip to California and as I am getting ready to finalize arrangements I have a few questions for my fellow Insiders. I have read some great suggestions on previous posts from erc, pluto77, misterchk, sg1974, californian, painedplatinum, IAHFLYR, jerrycoin and many others. It is a shame that @anadyr is not active on MRI - I know he had many good California recommendations.
I look forward to hearing thoughts from many members of the MRI community, not just those I tagged above.
Let me share the tentative itinerary: Day 1 - 3 San Francisco; Day 4 - Sonoma / Napa / Russian River breweries and wineries; Day 5 - Monterey / Carmel; Day 6 - PCH; Day 7 - LA, Reagan Library; Day 8 - LA Beach areas; Day 9 - 13 - Palm Springs
Marriott Fisherman's Wharf vs. Marriott Union Station - I have seen IAHFLYR's nice write up about Marriott FW, but would be interested in hearing any other thoughts pro or con for these properties?
Breweries and Wineries
Mrs. Jakeal is not a big fan of dry wine. Is Napa / Sonoma worth visiting? We are already planning to be north of San Fran visiting the following breweries: Bear Republic (Healdsburg), Russian River (Santa Rosa), and Lagunitas (Petaluma). Would the wineries in the Russian River area be better for sweet wine options? Are Napa / Sonoma downtown worth walking around? Would it be worth finding time to fit in wineries in the Paso Robles area in Southern Cal?
erc, any other breweries you would recommend between San Fran and LA?
Pacific Coast Highway
I know pluto77 has offered lots of feedback on this topic previously. About how long does the ride from Carmel to Morro Bay take with a stop at the Hearst Castle? Any recommendations for a lunch stop along the PCH?
Los Angeles and suburbs
I know Frogs recently took a trip to the Reagan Library. How much time should be allowed for a visit at the Reagan library? What about how much time for a trip to Universal or Warner Brothers Studios?
Palm Springs or San Diego
Looking to end the trip with five nights relaxing in Palm Springs. Trying to decide between Palm Desert Resorts | Palm Desert Hotels | JW Marriott Desert Springs and the soon to open Triada Palm Springs, Autograph Collection: Palm Springs Unique Hotels. Any thoughts? Has anyone heard or know anything about the new Autograph property?
A few other questions: Is it difficult to get from the JW in Palm Desert to Palm Springs without a car or is it necessary to have a car in the Palm Springs area?
Thanks in advance for all the valuable suggestions I know fellow Insiders will have.
I like the wharf area. I stayed at the Marriott FW for 7 nights and did enjoy it. It is more touristy, safer feeling, and has a lot of things to do while Union square is more in the downtown area and would be good for shopping if that is what you want to do. The PCH drive is scenic and it depends on how many stops you make. You want to drive slow to enjoy one of the most scenic drives in the world. Lunch (or a snack stop) along PCH, when you reach Nepenthe in the Big Sur area.is worth the outstanding view. This is fairly close to Carmel and might be a good brunch break. Hearst Castle in worth seeing and if you have advance tickets can get right through but then you need to time getting there at your time. If you miss it, they will try to put you on another tour when you get there. Time for the Reagan Library is up to the individual. The first time I went I had about 2 hours and took 3 and was not done so on the way out, I bought a pass and returned. The studios likewise can take a full day if you are interested but a few hours might do.
You really do need a car in the desert area. I like the JW and have not been to the new AC but that one is in Palm Springs and you might be able to get by without a car but I would not advise it. Everything is spread out and not walkable. The bus service is limited.
"The City" (San Francisco) provides you with ton of fun opportunities, but it sounds like for a mid-day break you may want take "brew tour", thus visit a great Brewery, San Francisco Craft Brewery Tour | Tour Anchor Brewing; you will need to make reservations as soon as possible, or take a brew break at the Beach Chalet Brewery & Restaurant | Ocean Beach, San Francisco, CA
Also plans to visit Ferry Building Marketplace, take a tour of SF Giants Stadium AT&T Park Information - Tours | SFGiants.com: ballpark. Do plan to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, it's always a fun and great experience .Golden Gate Transportation District
For Marriott hotels, there are numerous options, from my prospective staying near and around Union Square will provide access to everything, if you have access to the MR Lounge they all have it except for Fisherman Wharf.
Wow, sounds like a terrific trip. You've got some good breweries on your list, I'm a big fan of Lagunitas, especially their Lagunitas Pils Czech Style Pilsner and at the other end of the ABV spectrum (have a sandwich ) their Lil Sumpin Extra! Ale (not to be confused with just their Lil Sumpin) - mmm.
Two that come to mind (neither that I have been to, though);
Firestone Walker in Paso Robles Firestone Walker Brewing Co. - Craft Beer one of the very best IPAs (and I'm not that big a fan of IPAs) I've ever had - Wookey Jack, a black rye IPA - uniquely distinctive, I like some of their pale ales and they have a pilsner I like (I think it was Pivo) but several of their brands are well made. We almost went up their when we traveled as far north as Santa Barbara, because their wines (which the pros in the forum can speak to) are the type Mrs. E likes, Paso Robles Varietals Produced | Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance so if you make a winery trip, definitely stop by Firestone Walker (although from the looks of reviews - food is only average, so plan accordingly).
The other brewery that comes to mind (friends went and enjoy - although it was before the $15 fee) was the Anchor Steam Brewery Anchor Brewing | San Francisco Craft Brewers Since 1896 right there in San Francisco. Would probably be interesting based on the history of 'Steam' beer (they copyrighted the term, not the process and it's known as California Common elsewhere).
Palm Springs - definitely a car; Warner Brothers tour was enjoyable, a lot of great film history, we had a friend give us a tour and took about an hour (I don't know how long the actual tours last, my input is about the quality of the 'stuff' - it's worth a visit).
I'll jump in as you go along (like with the Getty Museum, nice museum, great views) as I think of anything else.
ps - I forget exact location, but I think you're somewhere in the vicinity of Downingtown. I'm a big fan of Victory which is based there - Prima Pils (one of the founders worked at Old Dominion in my neck of the woods). Who knows, one day an Insider Get Together - eh?
I love the Big Sur drive. Have fun putting together what looks like a terrific trip, I'm sure you'll get some great insights, we have some real pros on the subject.
I knew I could count on you for breweries, erc. I am in York (Central PA), about an hour from Downingtown. All of my family is in Philadelphia so I often pass Downingtown on the way, but have never stopped at Victory (though you bet I've had their beer!). It might just be a Insider get together one day, or even better maybe the Yuengling brewery in Pottsville.
A few SF ideas
San Francisco bike rentals and tours We had a great time renting bikes down in Fisherman's Wharf and taking the tour that crossed the Golden Gate into Sausalito and the redwoods of Muir Woods, then ferrying back to the Embarcadero. Probably any bike rental with the proper due diligence could work - check for bogos with groupon, living social (where we got one) etc.
We also had fun parking the car at the base and walking the downtown mountain park - Twin Peaks to the top - great views (free).
Also we went to Lands End in Lincoln Park, terrific hikes and views of the bridge and bay - very contemplative (also due to wind, ten degrees colder than elsewhere).
Thank-you for the opportunity to exchange ideas about your California trip!Here's some thoughts:
San Francisco: The Marriott Fisherman's Wharf, or The CY FW, would be my first choices. Have stayed at most of the properties in the area, but love this area. Make sure if you want to go to Alcatraz, you buy your tickets on-line and early. It can be a tour ticket!
Napa: Do it during the week!
PCH, take your time, and enjoy the drive!
Reagan Library, Well worth it, and just either get there early or late. The parking can be a problem.
LA Area, think about getting a "Audience seat" on game shows or Nightly shows. They can be a lot of fun. Met Jay Leno, who was wonderful, and sat on "Wheel of Fortune" in the audience. A lot of fun, and really easy to do!
LA and Hollywood can be a lot of fun. One place that I would really go back for a lunch or dinner is:
The Avalon Hotel in Beverly Hills has a "Hollywood Setting" for any meal, and is not expensive. A fun place to dine!
The Marriott Waterfront, was one of the finest hotels I have enjoyed. Wonderful staff, location and it had it all!:
Have a great trip!
Sounds like a great trip for sure. There are a few spots that we enjoy north of San Francisco as you travel north:
Russian River area you must stop in to KORBEL California Champagne and get some bubbly
Enjoy a fantastic trip.
Always available if I can make suggestions.
I will comment on your "wine country" questions - Your enjoyment of the area will be influenced by an interest in wine.
The Napa/Sonoma areas are lovely, but not necessarily unique or nicer than hundreds of other areas.
I'm a wine collector - consequently I spend (cumulatively) about two to three weeks a year in the area.
Much more time should be spent (if interested in wine) at the wineries rather than the towns. Also, if you visit the area one visit that is of interest to all is the Korbel champagne cellars tour of their facility that really explains the method that is considered the "champagne method".
Have fun and don't forget to spend allot of money. The people of the Republic Of California appreciate every penny!
Sounds like you have quite the adventure planned. I can offer some input about the Studio Tours and Hollywood area. I've been on studio tours with Warner Brothers, Universal, Sony, Paramount, and NBC which is now no longer offered. By far the best studio tour is Warner Brothers which will last 2 1/2 hours for the standard VIP Tour. I do recommend that you buy your tickets in advance online as the studio tours book up quickly at Warner Brothers.
Universal Studios is also lots of fun. The Hollywood location is much smaller than the Orlando theme park but offers some of the same popular rides. The nice thing about the Hollywood Universal Studios is that the studio tour is included with the admission to the theme park. On the Universal tour your ride a tram around through some of the back lot areas and see different special effects. The Universal studio tour takes about 45minutes but sometimes the wait in line can be long depending on the time of day you go. If the park is not too busy you can easily take in all of the rides/attractions you want in one day. Summer time in Hollywood is the busiest time of year and if you were to plan a visit then you may want to allow at least two days. A one day pass at Universal Hollywood is $87, a two day pass is $109, and a annual pass is $119. If you think there is the possibility of returning to Universal Hollywood within a year's time then the annual pass is definitely the way to go.
As jerrycoin mentioned there are lots of different tv show tapings that you can attend and all of them are free. Here is a link to some of the popular websites where you can obtain free studio audience tickets.
If you plan to stay in the Hollywood area I recommend either the Burbank Marriott or the Burbank Courtyard Marriott properties. Both are excellent properties and are a very short drive to both Warner Brothers and Universal Studios. I hope this helps! Have fun and let us know how your trip goes!
My two cents in san Francisco. Take sweaters and jackets. Theres alot of stuff to do in san Francisco. As far as sleeping, I personally would prefer a downtown hotel such as the marquis or jw because hotels by the warf tend to be more expensive, have very limited view and all you can see at night is black if you have a bay view as oppose to lights and buildings. Parking at all hotels is over 60 bucks a night, but at the marquis there's a very safe parking garage on mission and 4th that charges 35 bucks for the whole day. Downtown hotels are also in the center of shopping, bars, clubs. The marriott marquis view lounge has the best view in the city as well as tasty food. From downtown you can take the F rail that takes you to the warf though its suppose to be a city attraction I try to avoid it because it's full of weird people and its packed like sardines. I usually just drive there or walk from downtown which is about 20mins walking straight, you get good exercise, you can take pictures of the uphill and down hill streets and see the neighborhoods like the Italian part and China town. At the warf there's alot of food options, too many to name, there's the wax museum, a small patch of beach with sand and not too far is ghiradelli square which has lots of good desserts abd very pretty. If you have time visit the academy of science which is right next to the Japanese tea garden and across from the art museum. If the weather is nice and clear I suggest driving up on Market street and heading to Twin peaks for an unforgettable view of the whole city.
Just to add or endorse others suggestions:
Definitely walk the Golden Gate bridge, or do a boat cruise: Sightseeing Tours; Boat Tours in San Francisco | Blue & Gold Fleet
If you like baseball, do a tour of AT&T Park.
Tons of dining: http://www.rewards-insiders.marriott.com/message/91245#91245
Walk the trail from the Aquarium to Lover's Point and beyond (Asilomar Beach). Beautiful scenery.
Point Lobos State Reserve
Point Pinos Lighthouse Point Pinos Lighthouse - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Carmel Dining: Vesuvio's or Mission Ranch Restaurant. A little more upscale, Peppoli's at Inn at Spanish Bay. Go exactly at Sunset to see the bagpipe player. Pèppoli: Northern-Italian Cuisine Restaurant at Spanish Bay at Pebble Beach Resorts, California If you do the 17-mile drive in conjunction with Peppoli's, have Peppoli's validate your entrance receipt for 17-mile drive, and when you exit the drive, you can get a refund.
Drive to Morro Bay from Carmel is about 3 hours. Can't remember, but probably should add 3 hours for the Hearst Castle Tour, and stop at McWay Falls and Bixby Bridge. That will all put you past lunch, but a nice dining spot in Morro Bay (dinner perhaps) is Dorn's. 8-10 miles south of San Simeon is Cambria and Moonstone Beach. South still, but north of Morro Bay is Cayucos, all nice little coastal communities with quaint shopping and dining.
In Los Angeles, I would endorse the Getty Museum. Long Beach (Queen Mary and Parkers' Lighthouse in Shoreline Village are great).
For San Diego, I recommend a stroll through La Jolla Village. http://www.rewards- insiders.marriott.com/people/pluto77/blog/2012/12/11/la-jolla-california--the-jewel-city
For a brewery, I would suggest Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens - (Escondido and Liberty Station)
You've got a lot planned! Any questions, throw 'em out here for us!
I would certainly visit Hearst Castle.
There are multiple tours that you can take.
we went on the Grand Rooms Tour and it was very good.
We booked in advance on line.
I would allow more time for Carmel and Monterey. They were 2 places I really enjoyed.
The Monterey Aquarium is very good.
Carmel is great to just walk around the streets.
I haven't been to Palm Springs, but thought San Diego was great.
Would revisit there any day.
In San Francisco, alcatraz should be on your agenda if you haven't been before:
As Jerry said buy in advance, It is a very busy attraction.
jakeal, I love what you are planning on your trip! I want to go back and do wine country someday. At the Regan library, we got there at 10 a.m. when they opened and left when they closed at 5 p.m. My husband said he could have gone back. Keep in mind though that the purpose of the trip was to go there so we definitely took our time. I think it was californian who advised that it takes longer than they say and they were right. We thoroughly enjoyed it!
I have to say some of my favorite places in Napa valley area are:
Calistoga: Vincent Arroyo winery. Absolutely delicious wine.
Napa: Coles Chop house (excellent surf and turf) Not stuffy, cool energetic atmosphere.
The Sonoma Marriott is a nice property, had the chance to stay in one of their Cottages and it was nice.
Carmel: If you like Mediterranean food, you must go to Demetra cafe. Excellent meal.
Paso Robles: While I personally have not been, my brother in law and sister in law who both appreciate good wine say tat the Justin winery is awesome. I have had Justin wines and they are fantastic.
Just a few experiences of my own but if you have any questions I can provide more info.
Flights have finally been booked. Was able to secure a open jaw Delta award reservation before the change to Skymiles 2015!
The itinerary has changed slightly and now includes:
Seattle - San Fran - Monterey - PCH - Los Angeles - Las Vegas
Thanks again californian, blava007, erc, jerrycoin, IAHFLYR, misterchk, vaboywnder, jm1991, pluto77, sg1974, Frogs, and ks77 for all your suggestions! I may be back in touch for more advice before March.