October 21, 2016

From the Road: California (Week Four)

We survived our fourth week on the road. I can’t believe it either. There have been ups, downs and I’ve come down with a small cold, but we’re still moving on. Every couple of days it’s a new city and it’s been a lot of driving, but it’s been pretty amazing, too.

Day 22: Los Angeles, CA

We made the short drive from Long Beach to Los Angeles to start our day with a double-decker sightseeing bus tour with StarLine Tours. I love to start out in new cities with a sightseeing tour to get a better feel for where we are and what there is to see in town. We saw the Hollywood sign, Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive, all the must-sees.

hollywood sign

Since it was a Saturday, Hollywood Boulevard was busy with tourists and “characters,” like Darth Vader, hoping to pose with tourist for a buck or two. My 8 y.o. wanted to hunt for Jennifer Lopez’s star on the Walk of Fame, but it was just too crowded. We were staying in nearby Santa Clarita, so of course, we had to check out the Western Walk of Stars along Main Street.

western walk of stars

Day 23: Sequoia National Park 

After a three-hour drive, we arrived at Sequoia National Park and headed straight for the one-mile Big Trees Trail. I wanted to see giant sequoia trees and we saw lots and lots of giant sequoia trees. The kids even got to see General Sherman, the largest tree in the entire world. Nice, right?

big trees trail

Before we ended our day at Sequoia National Park, two of the kids got sworn in as Junior Rangers. We kind of blew off the program at the Grand Canyon, so I was excited to legitimately complete our first one at this national park. We also got more stamps for our national parks passport.

Day 24: Kings Canyon National Park 

We stayed in Three Rivers during our visit to Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks. It was a little far to Kings Canyon National Park (75 minutes), so I took this park off our itinerary at the start of the trip, but since we saw all we really wanted to see at Sequoia, Kings Canyon was back on.

big tree kids

The drive to Kings Canyon National Park was windy. I was just thrilled not to be sitting in the back of the minivan for this drive. There’s a lot to see at Kings Canyon, like the actual Kings Canyon, but that would have added an extra hour to the drive, so we stuck to seeing more giant sequoia trees, like General Grant. Oh, and then our 10 y.o. got lost and we had to call in three park rangers, but it all worked out…

Day 25: Yosemite National Park 

It took around 2.5 hours to get to Yosemite National Park from Three Rivers, and our first stop was the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad in Fish Camp. It was a great stop for a 75-minute steam train ride before venturing into the park.


We stopped briefly at the Wawona Visitors Center inside Yosemite. I had to get a stamp for our national parks passport, of course. We also spent some time walking around the Pioneer History Center. I then quickly realized that anything I really wanted to see inside the park was at least an hour away, so we turned back to enjoy some pool time at our hotel in Oakhurst.

Day 26: Yosemite National Park 

We started the day with a short hike to Bridalveil Fall. This time of year, there wasn’t much to see, but that didn’t stop my oldest from scrambling up the rocks at the end of the paved path for a closer look at the falls. Given she prefers to complain about being outside, I was more than thrilled to see her interest.

tunnel view girls

In the afternoon, we hopped on a two-hour, open-air Yosemite Valley Floor Tour to take in some of the must-see sights in the park, like Yosemite Falls, Tunnel View and El Capitan. It was great to learn more about the park in this way. I also had a chance to hike on my own to Lower Yosemite Falls.

valley tram tour

Day 27: San Jose, CA

Our four days spent in three national parks was fantastic, but it was time to move on so we made the drive to San Jose. Our first stop was at the Tech Museum of Innovation, which my kids LOVED. We had a busy day planned, but my kids could have easily spent all day there cracking codes, experiencing earthquakes and exploring social circles.

tech museum

In the afternoon, we drove to nearby Santa Clara University. My husband went to law school at Santa Clara, so he was more than excited to walk around the campus and, of course, each of the kids picked up some spirit wear at the campus bookstore. Before the day was over, we walked around the Municipal Rose Garden to visit with some friends we knew from back east.

rose garden visit

Day 28: San Francisco, CA

Our day didn’t quite start out as planned. We’d hoped to visit the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose in the morning. Then, we discovered we needed two new tires on the minivan. Fortunately, my husband was able to take care of this (the mechanic asked if I’d driven through a lumber yard) while the kids and I spent a couple of hours back at the Tech Museum.

golden gate bridge2

By noon, we were on our way. We did a quick drive through Stanford University before making our way up to San Francisco. We got into town by around 2 pm and we were off on a hop on, hop off Gray Line sightseeing tour that we’d arranged with Viator. The guides were absolutely fantastic and we loved seeing the Golden Gate Bridge, Alamo Square and Chinatown. Excited to spend more time here another day.

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