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3 weeks in dec / Jan from SF what to do?

Christchurch, New...
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3 weeks in dec / Jan from SF what to do?

Please help... We (2adults) are coming to California for a well deserved break over the Xmas break and beyond. We love the outdoors and have travelled extensively but not in the USA. Really want to see national parks, not cities so much. Will have a car, 4wd an option if needed and want to see desert areas as well as beaches. Can fly into Lax or SFO and don't have to leave from same airport as we arrived in. We want to see Vegas and SF but dont mind missing La or San Diego. Should we see Tuscon or just stick to the national parks? Pretty flexible really but do want to try and see the non commercial side of this area, not what we see on TV.

What are the not to be missed areas for our road trip?

Uden, The...
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1. Re: 3 weeks in dec / Jan from SF what to do?


Hope you realize there can be snow at places that time of year. Tucson has a National Park at both sides of it called Saguaro NP east and west. Very worth a visit . For Tucson best is to fly Phoenix. Have you considered Phoenix or Las Vegas for your flights? That time of year I always would rent an awd.

Lewes, United...
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2. Re: 3 weeks in dec / Jan from SF what to do?

Tet - From the OP's name, I'd guess they're from NZ. The obvious gateways therefore are SFO or LAX, rather than LAS or PHX. However, provided you book early or during a flight sale, there are some great domestic flight deals around to enable travellers starting from anywhere in the world to actually commence the driving element of the road trip almost anywhere they want in the west of the USA.

Hilly: Just because LAX is a rather horrid airport, and LA traffic is never the easiest introduction to driving in the USA and on the other side of the road, I'd always recommend you start from SFO. Also, SF is a way nicer place than LA, which I'd avoid, but that's just my personal view. Also, it's easy to see the city on foot and get over the jetlag before you have to do any driving.

As Tet mentions, there's always the chance of encountering snow at the time of year of the trip - which is often the preferred time to travel for Antipodeans, of course. That said, if you confine your trip to driving up or down the coast, whether south from SF towards LA (yes, you can turn back near Santa Barbara, but the coast in that direction is terrific) or head over the Golden Gate bridge from SF and head north towards say Portland or Seattle, you can get plenty of scenery, national parks, funky towns and very little snow, but perhaps rain.

To get, however, from SF to Las Vegas and then on to Tuscon does run the risk of snow as you have to cross the Sierra Nevada somewhere, and even some of the passes that are kept open all year round can be closed for a day for snow. The easiest way to the eastern Sierras from SF is probably via Lake Tahoe. From there it's an easy drive to Las Vegas thru Death Valley NP. Taken slowly, there are a huge number of interesting places to stop on the way. The area around Tuscon is nice, but, to me, it's not the greatest destination, and a way away from your starting point, a bit out on a limb - assuming you'd fly back home again from SFO.

I'm sure plenty of others will share their views and suggestions. This is just a start point, and my views. 3 weeks will allow you to have a great trip with lots of options.

BTW, you say you wish the non-commercial side of the USA. Have a look at the www.roadsideamerica.com website. It points out lots of minor points of interest, known to very few people (including locals sometimes) about lots of small places, or roadside stops. Can add a fun dimension to the drives.

Enjoy your trip,


Edited: 12 October 2011, 10:27
3. Re: 3 weeks in dec / Jan from SF what to do?

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