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Southwest USA & The West Coast (California, Arizona etc) - General Thread
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Vikki_74
Old 23-05-2011, 3:09 PM
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Default South West USA & The West Coast (California, Arizona etc) - General Thread

Hanging around on the travel forum for the last 12-18 months both before and after a fantastic trip to California and Las Vegas last September, I've noticed that many threads get started about people's individual trips to this part of the world then forgotten about after a few days or weeks. There are a lot of extremely helpful and knowledgeable people on this forum who provide some great advice, but much of this seems to get lost over time, only for the same subjects and questions to come up again a few weeks later.

It is of course possible to simply search the forum, but I for one am always a bit reluctant to just ressurect an old post from a year ago or so, plus I appreciate that many people want to ask for advice on their specific itinerary and want to know that this is as up to date as possible.

To try and help everyone out I thought it would be useful if we could try and keep all posts on the subject of California, Arizona and the Southwest USA generally in one place, providing one place for prospective travellers to look for previous information / post their questions and for anyone who has done a similar trip to give advice / post trip reports etc. It works great for the established 'stickies' for Las Vegas, New York and Orlando so hopefully will prove helpful for this part of the USA too.

Just as an aside to this, I am in no means professing to be an expert in such matters - I have been to the US generally many times, but to the west coast only twice before with another trip planned for this year. I am as likely to ask for help on here as I am to give it and this isn't intended to be "my" guide to the area, merely a place where all information on the subject can be easily reached from one place.

To start then, the following is a list of links to all previous threads I could find on the subject - some of these are a little old now, but much of the information and advice provide is still as valid as ever:

Trip Reports

Perfectspace (August 2011)
Trip report

uncovered (June 2011)
Trip report

misa.blue (May 2011)
LA
LA/San Diego
Sea World
Laguna Beach
Santa Barbara
Carmel & Pismo Beach

mich_city (July 2009)
Part 1
Part 2

blindman (June 2009)
Trip report

jackieblack (April 2009)
Week 1
Week 2

Murphy_The_Cat (May 2008)
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

General Road Trip Ideas / Advice

Our California Fly Drive
California Trip Ideas Please
California Road Trip!
Should We Drive?
LA or Las Vegas for Longer?
USA Experts - Check my Holiday Plan is OK
Family Holiday - LA/San Diego Road Trip
San Francisco - Yosemite - Death Valley - Las Vegas
West Coast USA
West Coast USA
California - Flight Prices & Road Trip Plan!
USA - Golden Triangle
West Coast Road Trip
Budget California Holidays
Multi Centre - LV-SF-LA
Where to Go After Las Vegas to Chill?
Spending Money for Roadtrip SF-LA-LV
Touring Holiday to Nevada, California & Arizona
California - Second Time Around
California Trip Ideas Please
California Road Trip (with kids)
Honeymoon US Road Trip - Help Me Plan
California Family Road Trip
American Road Trip - Help!
Driving an RV in the USA
Hiring Private Motorhome
13 Nights to Drive from San Francisco to Las Vegas
California Coast and LA
West Coast Road Trip - Who Else Has Done It?
Calfornia/Arizona Flydrive With Young Child
LA/California on a Budget - Have You Been Because I Need Help!
LA, San Fran & Vegas + Poss NY Stopover - 10 Day Trip
San Francisco to LA - Where to Stay?
Advice on Travelling Around California
California Help - Going on Honeymoon in 11 Days!!
Road Trip - San Francisco to Vegas
California
4 Days in LA and 3 in Vegas - Any Deals?
California 10-14 Day Escorted Tour Sept 2010
California Fly Drive Advice
USA West Coast Road Trip this March
American Fly-Drive Need Advice
California Holiday August 2010

Specific Cities / Places to Visit:

Travelling Around LA
Los Angeles Hotels - Best Place to Book?
San Diego
Disney - Anaheim - Where to Stay?
San Francisco - Advice Please
Reno & Lake Tahoe
San Francisco Hotel Room For 3 Nights
Needing a Hotel for LA and San Diego
Yosemite National Park Accomodation
LA - Any Must Dos / Must Avoids??
Yosemite in April
Los Angeles with Teenagers
Holiday in LA - Car Hire or Taxis etc?
Good Sites for Vegas and LA Combined?
Las Vegas to Los Angeles - Where to Stop?
Six Flags Magic Mountain vs Universal Studios LA
Camping at Yosemite

NOTE: For anything Las Vegas related, there is an established 'sticky' packed full of useful information here:
Las Vegas Guide and MSE Thread 2011

Flights & Car Hire

UK to Western USA - Looking for Flights Help
Has Anyone Flown KLM or Airfrance to San Francisco
Car Hire from LAX
Dollar Car Rental - USA
Car Hire Vegas - San Francisco
Car Hire US with Ebookers?
Car Rental - LAX
Car Hire in California
Hertz Car Hire in California
California Car Hire - October 2010
Car Hire for Las Vegas to Santa Barbara Trip
22 Year Old Car Hire in California
Car Rental and Inland Flights USA
Hiring a Car in California
USA Car Hire Costs
Alamo Car Hire at LAX
One Way Car Hire - Seattle to San Diego

Useful Websites Outside of this Forum

These are just a few other sites I have found useful in the past when planning trips to the West Coast and elsewhere in the US - I'm sure there are many others, will post more if and when they come to mind!

Trip Advisor Road Trips Forum
Full of many extremely helpful people who have done this type of road trip in the past and are always willing to share their knowledge, suggest itineraries etc to newbies.

There are of course all the individual city/state specific forums there too, but I figure most people know about and can easily find them already.

Road Trip America
The site and forum is generally very useful, but I also particularly like their Map Wizard (first posted on here by someone else a while ago - Murphy the Cat?) which is fantastic for plotting routes and seeing what other sights / places of interest there might be along the way

Roadside America
Billed as a "guide to uniquely odd tourist attractions" and does what it says on the tin - lots of fun!!

usatourist.com

visitcalifornia.com

Money Saving Sites

Travelzoo

Hotel and Entertainment deals for most major cities in the US:

San Francisco & Northern California - Hotels
San Francisco & Northern California - Entertainment

Los Angeles & Southern California - Hotels
Los Angeles & Southern California - Entertainment

Texas & The Southwest - Hotels
General USA - Entertainment

They also have "local deals" on loads of things to do in various places along the west coast:

California Central Coast
Los Angeles area
Orange County
Sacramento
San Diego
San Francisco Bay area

Groupon

Well worth signing up to their daily deals for anywhere you might be visiting on your trip - just select the relevant city from the drop down list at the top of the page and input your email address.

Currently covers Phoenix & Tucson in Arizona and a whole list of cities in California including LA, Napa/Sonoma, Orange County, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz & Monterey. Also Salt Lake City, Utah and Colorado Springs / Denver in Colorado for anyone going a little further afield on their trip.

restaurant.com

Offers a great way to save some money on food, buying gift certiificates for any of the restaurants listed which give a certain amount off your total bill. Standard prices are often $10 for a voucher worth $25 off a $35 spend, but discount codes are frequently available (sign up to their emails for details, or just search online) which offer up to 80% off this price, making the cost of the $25 off $35 voucher as little as $2.

Not all restaurants listed are worth a visit, but it's worth having a look at what's available and cross-referencing with a review site like Yelp to see what's decent. We used a number of these on our trip last year and were generally very pleased with the quality and value offered - see my post here for more details.

Goldstar

Features a ton of different things to do in various cities, from bus tours and boat trips to pub crawls and theatre shows, all at discounted prices. They often only have selected dates available at a time, but for the longer running offers you can sign up to be told about updates when more dates are put on sale. Covers San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Jose and Orange County within California, as well as Las Vegas.

The AA

Various businesses in the US, including a lot of the major hotel chains, will offer a discount for AAA members (the American version of the AA) - hotels are often around 10% off the normal 'best available' rate. These discounts are also available to AA members so if you are one, remember to check for AAA rates when booking and take your card with you!

mousesavers.com

A great place to look for offers on tickets, tour packages and deals on nearby hotels if you plan on visiting any of the theme parks etc around LA and San Diego (Disneyland, Universal Studios, Sea World, Knotts Berry Farm, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Legoland or the San Diego Zoo / Wild Animal Park for example) but also lists various offers and discount codes available on car hire etc. There is some good advice on there too so well worth a look.

Craigslist
For buying second hand anything you may need during your trip, or selling on anything you have bought when you're done with it - bikes, camping equipment etc (thanks richiehp for the recommendation).

If anyone else has links to other interesting past topics from this forum, or to other sites / sources of information, please feel free to post. Any trip reports which aren't included in the above threads would also be useful in gathering as much information together in one place as possible.

Alternatively, if anyone is planning a trip and has any questions, if you could try posting them here first so all the responses are in one place that would be great.

Happy planning everyone!
Vikki

Last edited by Vikki_74; 19-01-2012 at 11:11 PM.
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# 2
Vikki_74
Old 23-05-2011, 4:07 PM
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Other Useful Websites - Things to See and Do on Your Trip

CALIFORNIA

San Francisco

Alcatraz
Fisherman's Wharf (and map)
Sausalito
Walking tour: Union Square - Downtown - Telegraph Hill / Coit Tower / North Beach / Chinatown
Cable car tour: Using the Powell/Hyde and Powell/Mason lines
Bay cruises: Red & White Fleet, Blue & Gold Fleet

Santa Cruz

Boardwalk
Mystery Spot

Monterey/Carmel

Cannery Row
Monterey Bay Aquarium
Fisherman's Wharf
17 Mile Drive
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

Solvang

In and around Los Angeles

Santa Monica Pier
Third Street Promenade
Farmers Market
Self guided podcast walking tours of Downtown LA
Beverly Hills Trolley Tour
The Getty Museum
Griffith Observatory
Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific
Warner Brothers Studio Tour
Sony Pictures Studios Tour
Paramount Pictures Studio Tour
Red Line Tours
Starline Tours

Anaheim

San Diego

San Diego Zoo and Safari Park
Flagship Cruises Harbor Tours
USS Midway
Little Italy
Old Town San Diego
Old Town Trolley Tours
Seaport Village
Horton Plaza

Palm Springs

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Camping in California

Information on camping in California's state parks
California outdoor recreation ideas
Camp California! website

ARIZONA

Sedona

Sedona Trolley
Sedona SuperPass
Verde Canyon Railroad
Blazin' M Ranch

Phoenix

Desert Storm Hummer Tours
Goldfield Ghost Town
Dolly Steamboat

Page

Colorado River Discovery rafting trips

Jerome

THEME PARKS

Universal Studios Hollywood (Burbank, LA)
Six Flags Magic Mountain (Valencia)
Disneyland Resort (Anaheim)
Knott's Berry Farm (Buena Park)
Legoland California (Carlsbad)
Sea World (San Diego)

NATIONAL PARKS

Arizona
California
Nevada
Utah

Bryce Canyon

Full Moon Hikes
Canyon Trail Rides

Zion

Hiking the Narrows
Hiking gear rentals

Last edited by Vikki_74; 29-08-2011 at 10:59 AM.
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northwest1965
Old 23-05-2011, 6:30 PM
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Wow, thats great Vikki
Loved our trip to the West Coast USA. Death Valley is the place to go!
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LillythePink
Old 23-05-2011, 6:40 PM
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Yay - great timing....off to California in about 7 weeks so will have a good look through all of these.

thanks and good thinking
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photome
Old 23-05-2011, 7:12 PM
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Viki its a good idea but will only work if this thread is made a sticky, otherwise it will disappear in to the ether
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tingtong
Old 23-05-2011, 7:22 PM
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Very informative and a great resource for anyone off to West Coast USA. Many thanks for taking the time to share your info.
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richiehp
Old 23-05-2011, 7:52 PM
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For roadside assistance and discounts, there is also AAA.
Also check out craigslist.org if you needed to buy used things or sell whatever you bought during your trip (camping gear, bikes, etc.)
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Vikki_74
Old 23-05-2011, 8:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by photome View Post
Viki its a good idea but will only work if this thread is made a sticky, otherwise it will disappear in to the ether

Completely agree photome, only thing is how? I've PM'd one of the board guides and am currently waiting to hear back, but if in the meantime you know how to get something "stickied" please let me know!
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realised
Old 23-05-2011, 9:33 PM
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Great thread! As a regular visitor to the west coast, I've always wished there was a thread encompassing everything together!
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Traincrashing
Old 24-05-2011, 12:01 AM
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Great idea. Another thread for me to look at everyday as well as the Las Vegas one in preparation for my November trip super excited!
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photome
Old 24-05-2011, 8:02 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vikki_74 View Post
Completely agree photome, only thing is how? I've PM'd one of the board guides and am currently waiting to hear back, but if in the meantime you know how to get something "stickied" please let me know!

I think thats the way to go, you could always ask Trets (from the vegas board) he got the Vegas thread up and running and got it made a sticky
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Vikki_74
Old 24-05-2011, 12:55 PM
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Well i heard back from the board guide, and apparently there are already too many stickies in this section of the forum so they are reluctant to add another

One possible solution which was suggested is to have just one sticky for the USA which has links to the various threads for vegas, new york etc but not sure if that will happen or not. In the meantime i guess the only solution is for people to keep posting here to keep the thread bumped up to the top couple of pages, but that won't keep momentum for long i'm sure.

Oh well, at least the thread is here with all the info if anyone needs it!
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# 13
Crichton
Old 24-05-2011, 10:20 PM
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Vikki is it correct that in Vegas you can save quite a bit of money with coupons for various restaurants, etc. ??

I was curious if you just pick these up in and around Vegas, or if you can find them online anywhere. I'll be staying in Vegas for 3 days, and I think it will be a fairly hectic 3 days so I want to be as prepared as possible (That is providing I can bare to go outside, I've heard it got up 45C in July last year).

Also, I don't know if anyone might have any info on this, but I know in Vegas the casino's do have dress codes and I was wondering if anyone knew if they tend to relax them at all, especially when it's likely to be 25C in the evening when I'm there in July. It would be nice if I could get into places wearing shorts when it's so hot, rather than having to wear trousers.
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Vikki_74
Old 25-05-2011, 9:05 AM
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The best place for you to ask these questions would be in the Las Vegas thread:

http://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/....php?t=2952818

I wouldn't even like to guess how many times the regulars there have been to Vegas but between them they know pretty much everything!!

To answer your question a little bit, yes there are coupons available for various Vegas restaurants, although it depends what exactly you're looking for. Restaurant.com is one option, there are a couple of books etc (the American Casino Guide is one I think, can't remember the other and can't really look it up at the mo' as I'm on my phone) you can purchase with various 2for1 coupons, although mostly for off-strip locations, and you will find various coupon books available when you arrive which can get you a few $ off various dining & entertainment options. If you look through the first few posts of the Vegas thread the details should all be in there.

Regarding dress code, it's a pretty casual place and the casinos certainly should let you in wearing shorts and a t-shirt at any time as long as you have money to gamble with! There are certain higher end restaurants where something smarter is required, but again on the whole most places are pretty casual. You will likely see people dressed in everything from shorts and flip flops to cocktail dresses and suits...most of the time anything goes so just wear what you're comfortable in, particularly if it's hot!

Last edited by Vikki_74; 26-05-2011 at 7:52 AM. Reason: Adding link to the Las Vegas 2011 thread
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tarkytarks
Old 25-05-2011, 9:03 PM
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Another vote for this to be made sticky!
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Vikki_74
Old 27-05-2011, 8:45 AM
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Just a bit of an update for everyone who has suggested this thread should be a sticky...

I heard back from savvy, one of the very helpful board guides for Overseas, and basically we're going to work on creating an index post for the USA which will link to this thread as well as the more established ones for Vegas etc all from one place. The index, plus a separate one for Europe and possibly another for the rest of the world, will then be stickied at the top of the forum.

Savvy has also volunteered to merge some of the existing posts for California and the west coast together so we can get a lot of the info all in one place rather than just having a massive list of links. I need to put together a list of threads to be merged - thinking of maybe just pulling together anything which has been posted in 2011 rather than the really old stuff, but if anyone has any other suggestions for what should be included please post here or PM me. I will still keep a list of links to older posts on the first page of the thread so they're still there for reference anyway but if you've spotted anything pre-2011 which is particular useful it would be good to know.
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trets77
Old 27-05-2011, 8:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Crichton View Post
Vikki is it correct that in Vegas you can save quite a bit of money with coupons for various restaurants, etc. ??

I was curious if you just pick these up in and around Vegas, or if you can find them online anywhere. I'll be staying in Vegas for 3 days, and I think it will be a fairly hectic 3 days so I want to be as prepared as possible (That is providing I can bare to go outside, I've heard it got up 45C in July last year).

Also, I don't know if anyone might have any info on this, but I know in Vegas the casino's do have dress codes and I was wondering if anyone knew if they tend to relax them at all, especially when it's likely to be 25C in the evening when I'm there in July. It would be nice if I could get into places wearing shorts when it's so hot, rather than having to wear trousers.

dress code for vegas = clothes below the waist .

casino's could not care less what you wear as long as you are spending money . some restaurants will have a code , and most Nightclubs .


regarding west coast USA . if you go past it , worth looking in at Solvang . surreal place with all it's fake windmills and sugary sweet shops ect

http://www.solvangusa.com/

also my fav really weird place to visit ( in Santa Cruz)

http://www.mysteryspot.com/




I vote for this to be sticky
Better in my pocket than theirs
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Vikki_74
Old 27-05-2011, 9:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trets77 View Post
regarding west coast USA . if you go past it , worth looking in at Solvang . surreal place with all it's fake windmills and sugary sweet shops ect

http://www.solvangusa.com/

also my fav really weird place to visit ( in Santa Cruz)

http://www.mysteryspot.com/
Yeah Solvang is quite surreal - when we went it was absolutely boiling hot which just made it seem even odder...windmills and 90+ degree heat are a strange combo!

I'm sure I remember seeing the Mystery Spot on TV once and it fascinates me - I can never quite make my mind up about whether it's real or some kind of elaborate hoax. I love strange tourist attractions and they don't get much stranger than that! We wanted to go last year but ran out of time on the day we were in Santa Cruz...it's definately on my list for another trip though.
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Starrystarrynight
Old 28-05-2011, 12:50 PM
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Great thread, Vikki!
I'm going to subscribe to the thread via the user control panel so I can make sure I get all the updates. A bit of an interim solution until it can be made a sticky or become part of the index post you mentioned :-)
We'll be off on our third trip to CA in around 3 months and I'm so excited!
Here's a link to a website that I've found useful before
http://www.anaheimoc.org/
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Vikki_74
Old 28-05-2011, 6:17 PM
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The thread you linked to is (a) out of date (b) locked and (c) an index to the whole of the travel board...so I'm not sure how trying to set up a thread specifically dealing with one area of the USA for people to post on is repeating that exactly?
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