Driving.. Surfing... Riding... USA
Anya Waddington and her family drove California’s Pacific Coast Highway and had a holiday of a lifetime.
FAMILY ROAD TRIP
The Beach Boys on the stereo, the roof down on the Thunderbird and the surf curling over the golden sands of California, everybody has dreamt, at least once, of cruising Highway One. You may no longer be a barefoot, careless twenty-something, with only a freshly waxed surfboard for company, but the good news is this road trip makes for an outstanding family holiday. So if you want to unite your teenage fondness for Baywatch with your children’s desire for diners and celebs, this is your next summer destination. The trip can be broken down into varying lengths depending on how much time you have; our family of five chose the pretty standard San Francisco to Los Angeles leg.
SAN FRANCISCO Decision one – south to north, or north to south? Being British, our decision to drive southwards was based on the weather. The climate in San Francisco in August can feel familiarly English and so we decided to head towards the heat. It also means you drive on the coastal side of the highway getting optimal views. There is masses to do in this beautiful, hilly city. We ate dim sum in Chinatown, saw Calder mobiles in the Museum of Modern Art and went vintage Flower Power shopping in Haight Ashbury. Hiring bikes is easy and we spent a day peddling the popular route over the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito (home of Otis Redding’s Dock of the Bay) along the waterfront bike paths and on to the little fishing town of Tiburon. This 22-mile marathon justified the delicious lobster rolls at famous Sam’s Anchor Café before returning by ferry to San Fransisco. There’s a ferry back from Sausalito for those who want to do a shorter 8-mile bike ride. The ferry out to Alcatraz is a must (pre-book tickets online). And make sure you get the audio tour – it’s narrated by an ex-convict and is the best any of us have ever heard.
“The ferry out to Alcatraz is a must. And make sure you get the audio tour – it’s narrated by an ex-convict and is the best any of us have ever heard. ”
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK Picking up our ginormous SUV, we headed inland to Yosemite, stopping en route at the obligatory roadside diner, complete with a couple of cops straight out of CHiPs eating their burgers behind us. We stayed in a serviceable motel just outside the park. The park is best explored on foot. Wear walking shoes, take plenty of water, sun cream and swimmers. With hindsight we should have carried a picnic as food inside the park is expensive and pretty disgusting. There are various hikes and routes – all well marked on maps. Unavoidably, in August, it is crowded and the rivers are at their lowest, but swimming in pools above waterfalls surrounded by the spectacular scale of the granite cliffs and natural beauty is breath-taking.
MONTEREY From the wilderness of Yosemite, we drove west along the coast to the pretty town of Monterey. Nothing quite prepares you for the noise of so many seals, sea-otters and sea-lions flopping around in the bay. We pre-booked a whale watching tour with one of the smaller companies whose smallish boat allowed us close up to the dolphins and whales. A word of warning, if you are prone to sea-sickness, take action before you set off! Afterwards, we ate clam chowder from bowls made from hollowed-out sourdough – a Monterey speciality. Although expensive, the Aquarium is also well worth a visit. One evening we drove out to Carmel – the pretty seaside town where Clint Eastwood was once mayor.
SANTA BARBARA The coastline views as you drive from Monterey to Santa Barbara are justifiably legendary. Just after Big Sur we broke the journey at Hearst Castle – the extraordinarily opulent home of the William Randolph Hearst. Then on to Santa Barbara – all palm trees and blue sea – the perfect place to learn to paddleboard. The Santa Barbara Shellfish Company, an end-of-the-pier seafood shack, served some of the most delicious clams, mussels, lobster and crab we have ever had.
LOS ANGELES Unless you’re a sadist, a family holiday to California needs to include Disneyland. We deliberately overshot LA (our final destination) and spent a whole day in the theme park, staying in the Hilton which was walking distance away. With younger Disney-mad children in tow, it might be worth investigating the packages for the hotels inside the park. We paid up for fast passes (worth every penny). My husband had been pretty grumpy about this bit of the trip but even he was impressed. The Americans do theme parks so well and the late-night firework display and parade is awesome, even for the most miserable cynic. In LA we parked our car and never moved it again (note to self – we should have abandoned it here). Everyone drives but the most economical and easiest way to get around is by Uber. One day, after the lottery win, we’ll stay at the iconic Shutters on the Beach, but this time we made do with cocktails and dinner and watched the sunset over Santa Monica beach. Famous for world-class art museums, The Getty is no exception. Its views over the city make it worth prioritising even for the non-art lover. Not far away is Hollywood and the Walk of Fame, and for those of you who need more theme parks, Universal Studios combines movie magic with spectacular rides.
The Turquoise Holiday Company offers a 12-night Californian coastal family road trip from £7,995 per family including flights & transfers. turquoiseholiday.co.uk
5 OTHER SUGGESTIONS FOR A GREAT SUMMER STATESIDE FROM SUZIE SKIPPER
TURF & SURF
On our ‘wish list’ (when we win the Lottery!) is this 16-night family holiday combining the rugged scenery and bears of Alaska with the iconic beaches and surf of Hawaii. Go ziplining and rafting in Talkeetna before heading into the Denali Park to spot wildlife. One night in Oahu before six relaxing nights on the Big Island for some watery fun from kayaking and paddle boarding to deep sea fishing. Finally, land in LA for two last magical nights. From £9,995 pp includes flights and transfers. scottdunn.com
NEW YORK, NEW YORK…
Older children will love a visit to the Big Apple. Make like a real New Yorker, book tickets to the new production of Oklahoma! opening on Broadway in April and stay in a gorgeous private home, whether it’s Midtown Manhattan or in the groovy Meat Packing district. Our NY insiders suggest visiting the Tenement Museum, the High Line and Radio City’s stage door tour. Graham Avenue Townhouse in Brooklyn sleeps 5-8 from $660/night. onefinestay.com
WAY DOWN SOUTH
Take a 14-day tour of America’s Deep South and you’ll be in for a cultural treat. Wander the streets of country music epicentre, Nashville; learn about the Civil Rights Movement in Memphis and explore the plantations and grand homes along the Mississippi. Then on to New Orleans for a spot of Jazz and Cajun/Creole cooking classes. From £2,930 pp for a two-week trip, includes flights, transfers, car hire, accommodations and excursions. audleytravel.com
Emily and her youngest went to Jackson Hole, Wyoming just before Christmas. They cannot wait to return in the summer. Original Travel have a great Family Ranching holiday that includes Jackson and Grand Teton National Park. From £17,600 for a 14-day trip for a family of four including all ranching and rodeo experiences, flights, transfers and accommodation. originaltravel.co.uk
DISNEY & FLORIDA
Home to Disney World’s four theme parks, Orlando, Florida is a must USA trip for families. Emma Barnett, founder of Tots Too, says Disney is just as much about the adults as the kids and the whole family can enjoy the rides together. Stay away from the frenzy of the parks in the Four Seasons Resort, which has plenty to keep kids occupied after hours plus early park entry via a luxury coach service. Our top tip – pay up for those fast passes, they’re worth every penny. A week’s stay costs £10,000 for a family of four. totstoo.com