18 September 2018
Planning a family-friendly multi-centre holiday this year? Featuring everything from the thrills of Disneyland California to the serenity and natural beauty of national parks such as Yellowstone and Yosemite, West Coast USA is the perfect place to combine several travel experiences, and with the bonus of easy and pleasurable travel between destinations. Travel quickly between destinations using speedy internal flights, or for a more picturesque journey; the Amtrak train covers the west coast. Car hire is also readily available, allowing you to experience scenic routes such as Big Sur at your own pace.
Yellowstone National Park
With dramatic changes in climate, wildlife and scenery throughout the year, Yellowstone promises spectacular views in all seasons. The vastness of America’s oldest and largest national park means that you are guaranteed to be amazed, whether this is your first visit, or you are thinking of returning to another part of the park. Old Faithful and the Grand Prismatic Spring are just two must-see attractions; as well as the multitude of wildlife including bison, elk, bears and wolves.
Travel Counsellor Margaret recommends staying for a couple of days to truly experience Yellowstone, "We stayed outside Yellowstone National Park for three nights in West Yellowstone in Montana and drove into the park daily. It is a huge park. We stopped frequently to take photographs of the dramatic countryside, the waterfalls, the volcanic fumaroles and the bison down by the river on the first day. We didn’t see any wolves, although on later days we saw elk as well as bison wandering around the woods and also holding up the traffic by ambling down the middle of the highway."
The list is endless in this hilly city! Hire a bike to discover the city's wonderful parks, take a ferry across the Bay to sleepy Sausalito, use the cable cars to explore the city’s famous neighbourhoods – Union Square and Fisherman’s Wharf or wind your way up Lombard Street – the “crookedest street in the world”. For an outstanding view of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and the city skyline across the Bay, a ride to the Marin Headlands is essential. Of course, your visit would not be complete without a trip to the notorious Alcatraz.
Looking for a few days away from the hustle and bustle of the other major Californian cities but still with the option of activities? Monterey has plenty to offer. Visit Monterey Bay Aquarium or even try kayaking in the Bay itself. Animal lovers can also go further afield and take a boat trip to see humpback whales, dolphins and even orca. Allow time to experience the spectacular 17-mile drive, which incorporates the famous Pebble Beach golf course; and Cannery Row, with its popular seafood restaurants and gift shops. Located approximately 120 miles of San Francisco, Monterey is the perfect place for a few days of relaxation en route to Los Angeles.
For “a little bit of everything” head down the coast to LA. Points of interest include the Hollywood sign and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, where you can find your favourite film star’s handprints. You may even spot a few “real-life” celebrities browsing the many boutique shops in Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive! For thrills and excitement, Disneyland Resort, Universal Studios and Warner Bros. Studios are the places to be; while the likes of Venice Beach, Santa Monica Beach and Malibu Beach offer sun, surf, shops and much more.
Situated towards the southern end of the west coast, sunny San Diego is a perfect location for families. Navy Pier is home to the USS Midway, where naval enthusiasts can explore this well-known aircraft carrier, and Seaport Village offers waterfront dining, charming shops and outdoor entertainment. Embarcadero Marina Park is the best place to view San Diego, and is a great place for kids to run around. If it’s animals you’re looking for, consider a visit to Sea World or San Diego Zoo and its safari park.
Travel Counsellor Carol recently visited San Diego, "During our three days there we took the trolley bus tour that took us to Old San Diego. There is a layout of museums showing all memorabilia from the Wild West days. The bus goes down to the harbour and through the main town and then across the amazing high bridge to a place called Coronado Island, this offers a great beach resort and very cosmopolitan. It has the largest US Navy air base. Back on the mainland, there is the largest US naval dock yard, which is home to the USS Midway, which is now a floating museum and well worth a visit, we spent four hours on board."
Although Seattle lies a long way north of many other west coast destinations, a short internal flight makes this fabulous seaport city a possibility. Venture to the top of the Space Needle, where you can simply take in the amazing views of the city, or enjoy a meal in the revolving restaurant. Other (but by no means all) attractions include the Seattle Great Wheel, sports stadium tours, Pike Place Market (for the original Starbucks!), Pioneer Square, Kerry Park and Lake Union, where there are many water-based activities.
Despite being a famous golf destination, Palm Springs is also known as a desert playground, and can easily be incorporated into a west coast USA road trip. The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens are a great way to see conservation in action; or if you’re feeling energetic, get a few lengths in at the Olympic-sized public pool at Sunrise Park! For a scenic adventure, hop aboard the aerial tram and climb the San Jacinto Mountains.
There are many ways to explore the many trails within this magnificent area. Feeling adventurous? Take to the skies in a helicopter or lightweight plane for breathtaking aerial views; or go white-water rafting down the Colorado River! Other options include hiking, mule rides, jeep, bus or train tours – or simply drive yourself for a more relaxed pace at your convenience. There’s sure to be an option for every budget and timetable.
Yosemite National Park
Whether you’re looking for a day trip or overnight lodgings, Yosemite epitomises tranquillity. Covering almost 1,200 square miles, you’ll find everything from deep valleys, grand meadows, amazing waterfalls, giant sequoias, and much more – all within the stunning Sierra Nevada Mountains. With infinite photo opportunities, try your hand at photography, or alternatively purchase prints of the landscape from the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite Village.
If you’re itching to plan your trip to the West Coast, or you would like further information on any of these fantastic holiday destinations, contact your Travel Counsellor now.