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JoeDavola

Las Vegas And San Francisco

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I always fire a post up here when I'm away somewhere to see what you knowledgeable folks can tell me.

Off to Vegas For 5 days and San Fran for a couple of weeks. As per usual I've got nothing really planned, apart from a trip out to death valley from vegas.

Any tips on what do do/see are appreciated - would like to venture down the west coast a bit once I'm in San Fran, but not sure if this is feasible without a car (i.e. using public transport)?

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Things can be done without a car - but they will be very difficult outside the centre of large cities. Just hire one. You will be glad. When younger I got from San Diego to Magic mountain outside LA and back - all on public transport. I actually think I should have received a medal.

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WORLD CHAMPIONS San Francisco Giants start the season on Monday 13th April, well worth an afternoon or evening out at the ball park if you haven't been before. Giants play in a nice stadium down by the bay, you will meet lots of interestign people, tickets are cheap and usually easy to come by (although maybe not for Opening Day) and there's as much beer and junk food as you need. And some sport to watch as well.

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I always fire a post up here when I'm away somewhere to see what you knowledgeable folks can tell me.

Off to Vegas For 5 days and San Fran for a couple of weeks. As per usual I've got nothing really planned, apart from a trip out to death valley from vegas.

Any tips on what do do/see are appreciated - would like to venture down the west coast a bit once I'm in San Fran, but not sure if this is feasible without a car (i.e. using public transport)?

Yosemite National Park. Stunning

The Big Sur. The coastal route between SF and Los Angeles.

Do by car on the road or by train. Amtrak lay on special viewing carriages on that route. Half the side of the carriage is glass and the seats face outwards.

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Yosemite National Park. Stunning

Yes, I had just been googling it actually! Would you reccomend staying overnight in it or nearby, rather than only having one day to do an entire round trip from SF to it and back?

The Big Sur. The coastal route between SF and Los Angeles.

Do by car on the road or by train. Amtrak lay on special viewing carriages on that route. Half the side of the carriage is glass and the seats face outwards.

Will check that out too cheers!

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WORLD CHAMPIONS San Francisco Giants start the season on Monday 13th April, well worth an afternoon or evening out at the ball park if you haven't been before. Giants play in a nice stadium down by the bay, you will meet lots of interestign people, tickets are cheap and usually easy to come by (although maybe not for Opening Day) and there's as much beer and junk food as you need. And some sport to watch as well.

Excellent idea! Will do if I can snag a ticket.

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Alcatraz is very interesting and atmospheric and well worth a visit.

heading over the bay to Berkeley and Oakland is wortwhile, wander round the University and head down to the docks at Oakland where there is a perfectly preserved pub from the 1880s that Jack London used to drink in, the whole thing is at a crazy angle due to various earthquakes but it's like stepping back in time inside. They still serve booze. Get the subway over (called BART) and the ferry back.

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Excellent idea! Will do if I can snag a ticket.

You can look on MLB.com to see what will suit, select a game, see the view from your seat, buy the ticket and then print it out from the comfort of your UK home. If the dates don't suit the Oakland Athletics will be playing at home when the Giants are on the road, but the stadium is a dump and it's harder to get to.

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I believe you have to book several days in advance for Alcatraz. If you don't want to miss this, then you may have to book before you leave the UK.

Just booked it this very second! :) Was wondering if there was anything else I should be booking in advance....

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Yes, I had just been googling it actually! Would you reccomend staying overnight in it or nearby, rather than only having one day to do an entire round trip from SF to it and back?

One day to do a round trip is just not sensible. It will be a 3-4 hour drive each way. There's so much to see that it would be worth spending 2-3 days and going to different places. I'd recommend Lake Tahoe as well while you're there.

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Any tips on what do do/see are appreciated - would like to venture down the west coast a bit once I'm in San Fran, but not sure if this is feasible without a car (i.e. using public transport)?

Would have suggested http://www.nv.doe.gov/outreach/tours.aspxwhile you're in Vegas, but looks like they're fully booked all year.

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One day to do a round trip is just not sensible. It will be a 3-4 hour drive each way. There's so much to see that it would be worth spending 2-3 days and going to different places. I'd recommend Lake Tahoe as well while you're there.

You need to spend at least 2 days there. I stayed in a backpackers outside the park and met some of the natives who were going climbing/camping in the park. Poor, young and friendly. If time is limited stay in the park. There are facilities there and the place is rammed, but walk 250 yards away from any food selling/serving establishment and you'll find yourself in virtual wilderness and not a soul to be seen. This was 10 years ago so things could be very different, but if you like walking and lonliness its worth it for a few days.

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Vegas is great. There is a lot of stuff to do there. But even better is outside Vegas. Canyonlands is fantastic, but you really need some planning to get out in the wilderness. This is the sort of place you can die if you aren't careful.

Arches is impressive, but less of the scale of canyonlands. The walks are more manageable, and the walk up to delicate arch at sunset is hard work but pretty.

Grand Canyon is impressive, but it hard to do anything when you get there. Most people are advised not to try to hike to the bottom and out in a single day, so you have to book a place at the ranch. Bryce and Zion in utah are maybe 3-4 hours drive away and are much more beautiful and manageable than the grand canyon. The walks there are a few miles in length. I have been up observation point in Zion a few times. It's a bit of a trek but worth it :

http://www.tripadvisor.com/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g143057-d146987-i35856307-Observation_Point-Zion_National_Park_Utah.html#49615558

Death Valley is pretty but nowhere near as scenic as Zion or Bryce. if you like doing something a bit more challenging the trek up Angels Landing in Zion is not for the faint hearted.

I don't know how you will get from LV to Sf, but if you are driving Yosemite makes sense.

Unfortunately for me the big ticket park in the US is Yellowstone, which is completely amazing, but you probably don't want to hear that.

As a city SF is OK. I did the Alcatraz trip a couple of times and it is good. I would go again.

I've been to tahoe a few times playing poker and skiing. If it's your first trip then there are better places to go that are more scenic, like Yosemite for example. Tahoe is great though if you are into skiing and have a car as there are a lot of resorts round there to ski. Squaw Valley and Sierra I really like.

This is angles landing. You can see a small group of people hiking up on the right !

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/56/Angel%27s_Landing_Summit.JPG

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For Yosemite you will need to book a nearby hotel or, if you like, the hotel that is in the park itself. I stayed in the hotel in the park getting the last room - I would not stay there again. Hotel was very poor and I wished I had stayed in one of the hotels on the way into the park... they are some miles away but looked nicer... but you have to book in advance as the place just get filled up with tourists.

The best way to do Yosemite is to have all the camping gear, tent, own food, etc, and stay in the camp sites but that is not really something that a passing tourist can do.

It is worth just standing in the valley looking up at El Capitan and, if you are lucky, spotting the climbers up there hanging on the side.

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I always fire a post up here when I'm away somewhere to see what you knowledgeable folks can tell me.

Off to Vegas For 5 days and San Fran for a couple of weeks. As per usual I've got nothing really planned, apart from a trip out to death valley from vegas.

Any tips on what do do/see are appreciated - would like to venture down the west coast a bit once I'm in San Fran, but not sure if this is feasible without a car (i.e. using public transport)?

Boat trip on San Fransisco Bay

Take a tram ride

Eat in China Town

Avoid the top end of Mission street

If you want to do the Napa Valley thing - Cake Bread Cellars is one of the better experiences

Kings Canyon is much better than Yosemite IMO, but you have to do more on foot as there is only a road in

Tioga Pass out of Yosemite is good for the erratics and if you're out on it early you'll be likely to see black bears, especially if you hike laterally from the road. Take care.

Pinnacles National Monument will get you onto the San Andreas fault

Ana Nuevo will get you to see and smell elephant seals

The Board walk in Santa Cruz will take you back a few years, and in the summer you'd get to see lots of silicon valleys.

Monterey Bay Aquarium is a MUST

You could consider a whale watching trip from Monterey Pier out into the bay. If you get sea sick and don't go to sea often, the Pacific swell will 'get you'. Don't bother with stugeron etc as you'll doze through the whales.

Point Lobos is a nice small coastal park

Big Sur is a must, Nepenthes restaurant is a good setting in the evening

You could easily spend 10-12 days doing that alone

Canyonlands (better than Grand Canyon, especially if you only plan on standing at the rim and looking down)

Bryce

Zion

Grand Canyon (only really any point if you spend some time hiking down. A day will get you half way down and back - don't forget it's opposite to mountain climbing as you are going up hill when your tiring). If you just stand at the rim and look down you can't really grasp it.

Capitol Reef

Arches (so so)

Then you get to the 4 corners area which is a great playground

The drive across the Mojave desert is dull

Vegas - one night is enough for me, although as thecrashingisles (next post says), Cirque du Soleil is worth it. I'd agree you could spend 2 nights.

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In Vegas I'd definitely recommend one of the Cirque du Soleil shows. Not cheap but very memorable. I don't agree that one night is enough. You need to stay longer to get the sense of a place with no night and day. Going into the Venetian in the middle of the night to see a fully lit up fake Venice is utterly bizarre.

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If you do decide to drive from San Fran to Vegas - you could go via Yosemite - make sure that you stock up with LOADS of big containers of water and put them in your boot. They will cost you a few bucks in a store but are worth it from a staying alive POV if you break down or get lost in the middle of nowhere - people die all the time along that route.

By LOADS of water I mean several of the seriously large water containers that you will see in the US supermarkets and will never find in a UK store. Sun cream, salt tablets or dehydration sachets that you mix wiith water, matches, some kind of medic kit and a snake bite kit - yep, a snake bike kit. Oh and some food that you can eat in an emergency. Big floppy cool hat for your head also.

I know it sounds ridiculous but when I lived out there I heard no end of tales of people who underestimated that journey and either almost died... or just died.... when they broke down or got lost.

When I first made that journey friends presented me with a snake bike kit. I thought it was some weird S&M tool but you soon realise why they are an important piece of kit out there.

You can buy all of the above for 50 bucks or less and is money well spent.

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I grew up in California and lived in San Francisco for 10 years. I'd really strongly recommend having a car for at least part of this trip. You don't need (or even want) a car in San Francisco, but it really isn't that big of a city (it has the same population as Leeds) and it would be a shame to be stuck in the city the whole time. There's a lot to see out of town.

One thing you might want to consider is driving from Vegas to San Francisco, up the east side of the Sierra Nevada mountains, then through the Tioga Pass in Yosemite National Park to get to over to San Francisco and the coast (this route is only open during the summer though). You would see some amazing scenery along the drive, could take a small detour to Death Valley, and be able to see Yosemite, which really is the best national park in the US. Unless you really like gambling, I'd shave off a day or two from the Vegas part of the trip and use that for driving over to San Francisco.

In San Francisco, the south-eastern side of town (South of Market, over to the Haight, then down to Noe Valley, and over to the Mission) is bit more interesting, less touristy, and (importantly) warmer than the Fisherman's Wharf/Chinatown area, which can be a bit of a tourist trap. If you stay on the western side of town (west of the Haight-Ashbury) and it's after June, it will be freezing cold because of the fog blowing in off the ocean.

This place (my old local taqueria) https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place/La+Taqueria/@37.7540911,-122.4234606,17z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x0000000000000000:0x21fce96ce541e475has great burritos and Mexican food in the Mission. You'll probably end up in Chinatown, but for a more authentic experience, go to one of the chinese restaurants on Clement Street by Golden Gate Park which is the modern chinese area of the city.

Keep in mind that, like most US cities, there are some really dodgy parts of San Francisco (nothing like being chased down the street by a knife-wielding crack head to drill this into you). As a British tourist, you will stick out like a sore thumb, so if you're going to be adventurous, be aware of the dangers. Avoid Hunters Point and the extreme south-eastern part of San Francisco, and West and South Oakland on the other side of the bay.

Something to consider is rather than driving south from San Francisco (assuming you rent a car) is to drive north. It's less touristy, much more authentic, and has amazing scenery. A three/four-day itinerary would be: Day 1, drive up the coast to Bodega Bay via the Point Reyes National Seashore; Day 2, drive over to Sonoma Valley wine region via the Russian River and Healdsburg (I like this winery: www.prestonvineyards.com), spending the night in the town of Sonoma; Day 3 (not totally sure you'd be into this but it is the ultimate California experience) go to Harbin Hot Springs (http://www.harbin.org/), spend the day soaking in the clothing-optional outdoor hot springs, get a massage, and then you can rent a cabin there or camp out for the night; Day 4 drive back to San Francisco via the Napa Valley which is more touristy than the Sonoma Valley but still worth seeing. This would be a fair amount of driving, but less than if you drive down the coast south from San Francisco where interesting things are more spread out and you can't really drive in a loop if you need to get back to San Francisco rather than continuing on to LA (you would have to drive back the same way you came). If it's impossible to rent a car, part of the area north of San Francisco is still accessible. There's bus service to Sonoma and Napa, and you could probably find a ride share to Harbin on the internet. If you do rent a car and want to add on more to this itinerary, I'd recommend driving further up the coast to Mendocino, and then back through the Anderson Valley and Boonville (stopping at a winery or two in this area) to get back to the Sonoma/Napa area.

This might seem like a lot of driving, but that's what people in America do.

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I really like the Russian River area - reminded me a lot of Gower / Pembrokeshire.

I did the Tioga Pass and started off in Yosemite in t-shirt and shorts but, as I drove higher, it got colder and colder... and snow appeared... and there were some very steep drops... It was a day or so after the pass had been opened in early May IIRC.

Maybe the thing to do is to rearrange your plane tickets - fly into one airport - San Fran - and depart from Vegas or vice versa?

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If you do decide to drive from San Fran to Vegas - you could go via Yosemite - make sure that you stock up with LOADS of big containers of water and put them in your boot. They will cost you a few bucks in a store but are worth it from a staying alive POV if you break down or get lost in the middle of nowhere - people die all the time along that route.

By LOADS of water I mean several of the seriously large water containers that you will see in the US supermarkets and will never find in a UK store. Sun cream, salt tablets or dehydration sachets that you mix wiith water, matches, some kind of medic kit and a snake bite kit - yep, a snake bike kit. Oh and some food that you can eat in an emergency. Big floppy cool hat for your head also.

I know it sounds ridiculous but when I lived out there I heard no end of tales of people who underestimated that journey and either almost died... or just died.... when they broke down or got lost.

When I first made that journey friends presented me with a snake bike kit. I thought it was some weird S&M tool but you soon realise why they are an important piece of kit out there.

You can buy all of the above for 50 bucks or less and is money well spent.

I agree with the advice on the water, the hat and the sun cream, but the snake-bite kit is a bit over the top. Unless you're scambling through the underbrush in the wilderness, you're highly unlikely to see a rattlesnake. One might be sitting by the side of the road, but they're more afraid of you then the other way round, and they will quickly slither off. It is worth pointing out, that it is dangerous to take "short cuts" when driving out in the desert or the wilderness. Never drive on an unmade road unless you're a local and know where it goes, and don't drive around barriers closing roads in winter in the mountains (they might find your body after the spring thaw, if you're lucky). It's also not unheard of for the local authorities to "forget" to lower the barriers on closed roads, leading to people driving off into a snowy doom.

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