Interactive map: From the farmlands, to National Parks, to San Francisco, explore California with our family

California-Google-Maps

View Our Family Trip Through California 2012 in a larger map

(How to use the map above: Because Google Maps is not playing nicely with WordPress you will have to either click the image or click the link below it to get into the interactive map. I have laid out our trip on the map in chronological order. Start on the red peg and head to the right and up towards the green peg. At the green peg head back down the coast toward the purple peg. The purple peg is the last stop before heading home. You can also read the pegs on the left-hand side.)

We spent almost two weeks traveling by car through California this summer. We saw the farmlands in central California and explored three national parks — Sequoia, Kings Canyon and Yosemite. We camped, canoed, hiked and swam in rivers — all with only an occasional internet connection! (I am definitely recommending Curry Village in Yosemite for camping for those who don’t know how to camp. It’s kind of like the Disney World of camping. They make it easy and half the world is there, but you can get out into the woods and feel alone.)

After roughing it, we headed north to San Francisco. The kids and I had never been to San Francisco, and we absolutely loved it. Surprisingly our National Park pass got a workout there too. Two of our favorite sites were the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which was parkland on the cliffs surrounding the bridge. There were old military forts that once protected this great port from invasion. There was a missile base there that was used in more recent history. (The tour is guided and took too long so we just wandered a little on our own.) The land, the wildlife and the views of the bridge and port were just incredible. We also highly recommend the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park. Besides a regular museum, it features historic vessels in the harbor that you can board and explore. The kids just loved it, and it really brought history to life.

From San Francisco we went up to see the wine country. I loved the kids seeing the vineyards and how grapes grow. One of the vineyards had a mission museum that explained how the Spanish missions developed in California. We only spent a few hours checking out the city and wineries. (We didn’t do any tastings with the kids.) From Sonoma, we headed back down the coast stopping at beaches along the way. (My $10 Target double-sided beach blanket/picnic blanket was very handy on this trip. We used it for camping, beaches and picnics.)

Pacifica and Carmel were my two favorite beaches we saw. The cliffs of Pacifica were beautiful and the sand in Carmel was the whitest I have ever seen. You can see the famous Pebble Beach Golf Course from the Carmel Beach. I asked Michael how he knew what it was. He said “I’ve played that course many times on Tiger Woods.” The town of Carmel is adorable.

Feel free to ask questions about touring California with your family. I am happy to try to answer.

(Read about our parents’ getaway to Oregon — with photos!)
(Photos courtesy of Michael Giarrusso.)

23 comments Add your comment

[...] Sit back and enjoy my slideshow about the beauty of Oregon. (There is music with it so watch the volume if you are at work.) I am happy to try to answer questions about our trip and the state. Please share your favorite parent getaway places or any special spots you visited in Oregon. (Check out our family road trip through California. We hit three national parks, camped in Yosemite,… [...]

motherjanegoose

December 31st, 2012
1:39 pm

I love CA! I want to fly out and drive the coast. We also want to visit Yosemite. I have been to most of the larger cities in CA but would love to go for just a long week and traipse down the coast. FCM…want to join me…haha!

TWG… Thanks for sharing! What happened to your Thanksgiving trip to Disney?

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

December 31st, 2012
1:46 pm

I will try to get some disney shots and recs up — the slide show for oregon took a while — the Disneyland trip was great and I really did like Californialand. Since we had done the real California this summer I was worried it was going to feel fake and not interesting but we had a lot of fun there.

Patrick

December 31st, 2012
2:20 pm

I loved California. My mom and I went over there back in mid to late-August to stay with a friend of hers while her (the friend’s) parents went on a cruise. The friend lives in Lompoc, CA (which I could see on the map linked above). We went up to the vineyards, did some wine tasting, drove up along historic US Route 1, drove past William Randolph Hearst’s estate (I spotted a couple of zebras in the front pasture), observed one of the elephant seal colonies, ate at In-N-Out (which is the law in California, like it is that you have to eat at the Varsity while visiting Atlanta; we still say Five Guys is better), and toured La Purisima, one of the California missions.

One thing I’ll say about central California, where our friend lives: If there was anywhere I’d want to move, that would probably be it. We were concerned about the weather, since California is known for its heat. Our friend told us that’s more southern California, like down towards Los Angeles. Central California seems to hold a steady mid-to-upper 70s during the day, and drop down to low-to-mid 50s at night. All year round.

We also ate at some little Thai restaurant that was built inside an old Taco Bell. They had their own herb garden behind the restaurant, which made things taste way better. Also had some awesome Mexican food at this little hole-in-the-wall place.

We went up to some of the farms as well, and that was interesting to see the workers harvesting some of the crops. We sat and watched, mesmerized, as a whole group of them were cleaning cauliflower heads before throwing them up on the truck. We went to a little farmer’s market up that way, and did we have some of the BEST fruits and veggies you ever had! Fresh-picked: the only way to fly. We grow our own garden back in Georgia, but we got a few things we don’t grow, such as peaches (how odd), oranges (goes without saying), and strawberries (which we do grow, but haven’t had much luck with lately). I bought bag of tortilla chips that tasted way better than any tortilla chip you get at the store or Mexican restaurant. They had to be homemade, and had a better texture and flavor than anything you’d find in the store or Mexican restaurant. I need to e-mail our friend and ask her if she can pick up and ship us a couple of bags.

All in all, we had a great time, and would love to go back again.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

December 31st, 2012
2:31 pm

sounds awesome Patrick! I had a student in my class this last semester from north of San Francisco and she was having such a hard time in AZ because of the lack of super fresh produce. She was used to eating from farm stands all the time and only having the very best produce. She created an excellent blog called the Food Desert looking at foods in AZ and California. She compared chicken farming, produce, she did little videos about examining the eggs you were guying in the grocery store. She was used to farm eggs. She had a very interesting perspective being from California on what is just “normal” produce — which would be super high-quality in the rest of the US.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

December 31st, 2012
2:33 pm

Patrick did you notice the port-o-potties all around the fields — we were glad to see them — remember years ago farmers in general had the ecoli problems but if the workers had no place sanitary to go what did they expect. Do the farms in South Georgia and Alabama have port-o-potties in the fields??? I never really noticed them driving to florida

Techmom

December 31st, 2012
2:44 pm

Love to visit Cali but wouldn’t want to live there. My mom was born and raised in San Francisco and still swears she’s going to move back one day. I just laugh at the cost of living there. BUT it is gorgeous there, especially in the summer. Most people in San Fran don’t even have air conditioning. Hard to imagine with our southern summers.

I want to take a trip out west this summer with our son (he graduates this year so I feel like this might be our last chance). We took him to Disneyland & San Diego when he was about 9 but only visited southern California. There is so much more to California than just the southern parts! I want to fly into Portland and take a couple of weeks to drive down through some of the spots that I grew up visiting (and some I never got to) and really show him the western part of the US. I’m hoping to visit Yosemite, San Francisco, Napa, Hoover Dam, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon & Mt. Zion… now it’s figuring out where to fly into and out of and how much a one-way car rental is going to cost!!)

motherjanegoose

December 31st, 2012
3:07 pm

Loved looking at the crops and vineyards in CA. I cannot fathom how much food is grown there! Similar to looking at the crops grown in the Valley of Texas but not the same crops. When we moved here amost 25 years ago, we were SO disappointed at the Mexican Food in ATL. NOT the same as CA or TX. I remember eating my first TACO in Southern CA over 40 years ago when we visited our Aunt in Yorba Linda. My first trip to Disneyland too! Traveling really teaches children what our country is about. I remember when we took ours to Pearl Harbor. Neat stuff!

Techmom, in the past I have found out that there was not a drop charge for a one way in FL or CA. You may want to check that out. I am not sure if it is still in effect. If you rent in CA, you can just return somewhere else in CA. I typically rent with National and they almost always have specials.

Patrick

December 31st, 2012
3:14 pm

Theresa – I don’t recall seeing any porta-potties there, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t there. That may have been part of the trip I didn’t think to register, since it would be rather mundane in my opinion. We did go to a Whole Foods (”Whole Paycheck”) store, and saw the bag ban in full effect. It was strange to not see the racks of plastic grocery bags in the check-out lanes of the stores, as we’re accustomed to seeing in Georgia. We also went into a Ralph’s and it was the same thing. Ralph’s is to California what Kroger is to Georgia: it’s owned by the same company.

Patrick

December 31st, 2012
3:16 pm

Also, I’ve had farm-fresh eggs before. When I was a kid, I’d visit my great-grandparents down in Monticello, GA. They didn’t have a full-working farm – most of their animals were merely pets. The chickens weren’t even of the laying or eating varieties. I remember going with my great-granddad to a chicken farm a couple miles down the road from where they lived. He would buy eggs by the crate there. Often times he’d get the double-yolk eggs.

Georgia

December 31st, 2012
3:30 pm

The produce is terrible in the southeast and always has been. You have to be real lucky to get a good tomato or apple or blueberry or canteloupe. Eating out? The food in general is horrible all over the southeast, AND the portions are way too small. (woody allen). Perhaps the worst offender is South Carolina. OMG! Dysentery is the state pastime. Not a problem, you can always go get the coleslaw at Walmart. It’s our approach to the very concept of food. Do you know what they think of the Croisantwich in France? Why do we settle for the slop we settle for? And why doesn’t anyone do anything about it? How many Restaurant Impossibles do you have to watch to figure out America cant cook? Can’t we start a chef-exchange program with the good people of France? If it weren’t for oreos and milk, half of us woulda starved to death years ago.

motherjanegoose

December 31st, 2012
3:34 pm

When we moved to the farm, we were used to white eggs. We had Barred Rock Chickens which layed brown eggs. Araucan chickens lay colored eggs and many want them for Easter Eggs. We found that the eggs from chickens who ate a steady diet of insects, were a more intense yellow in the yolk. We also opened eggs that were fertilized and that was not pretty but a fact of life! We certainly did not know about free range chickens back then.

motherjanegoose

December 31st, 2012
3:40 pm

I think I left an A out of the colored chicken name…sorry.

@ Georgia, if you think the produce is bad here, then you should go to North Dakota. I would cry if I had to shop in their grocery stores year round. My son was in NM and the store we went to was also horrible. I find the produce at Publix and Costco to be pretty good. I rarely shop at Wal Mart.

My daughter is a good cook but not many girls her age ( 20) have a clue. Most just zap something in the microwave or eat out. I can cook but as many know here, I am tired of it. I posted the pictures of our Christmas Eve dinner on Facebook and a friend of mine who lives ITP told me it looked like Southern Living. That made me laugh as my daughter is now intrigued with food photography. She does a great job!

DB

December 31st, 2012
9:54 pm

@MJG, I saw your Christmas photos on FB — she did a wonderful job on the photography! There was a great one with the candle on the table — and as much as I detest brussel sprouts, even those looked possible!

Our family enjoys California — we’ve been several times, every time to a different part to experience it a different way. Yosemite (at Curry!), Sequoia, San Diego several times, LA a couple of times (my daughter was so smug about her $99 prom dress she got on Rodeo Drive!) Sacraomento and Lake Tahoe, San Francisco a few times, both with and without kids. The Monterrey highway just feeds my soul. Then north of San Francisco, not only Napa, but areas that are more like “real life”. the coast redwood forests, and on up to just into Oregon and Crater Lake. While we visited Las Vegas a few years ago, we made a point to duck over into Death Valley for a wild look at a “desert”.

Sounds like you guys had a wonderful time, T — good for you and Michael for making memories for your kids that will last a lifetime!

Wow, thanks!

January 1st, 2013
3:31 am

Hey, AJC, Why cant you hire Georgia based bloggers? Thanks for reminding me that my spouse just lost a job after 13 years and we cant go to Florida, let alone California?…or Oregon? wtf?

motherjanegoose

January 1st, 2013
1:09 pm

@wow…sorry for your dilemma and I hope things work out. The world is certainly bigger than GA and I , for one, enjoy reading about other places even if I have no plans to visit. We moved here from TX 23 years ago, for a job, and some folks there told us we were crazy to do it.

HIRE SOMEONE RELEVANT TO THE SE

January 1st, 2013
1:19 pm

I am not “Wow, Thanks!”, but I will second the above opinion. I am so tired of clicking on this blog and seeing that it is all about the west coast, and the above entries would suggest that this has turned into a coffee house for “Prof. TWG” to catch up with her few personal cronies who read her blog. Does this help your hit count? I will champion the cause to have a local Southeast Mom write this column…it is just silly to have this non-local woman continue to write it. Also, she is called Theresa only because she hasn’t earned the higher degrees to be addressed as otherwise in the classroom, folks!

HIRE SOMEONE RELEVANT TO THE SE

January 1st, 2013
1:24 pm

And good Mom journalism, right? She is always so judgemental about EVER-Y-THING, but her latest tweets are Kim Kardashian pregnant and Jessica Simpson baby bump…Good Lordy, AJC…hire a real journalist instead of this self-righteous, pompous, AZ Mom-joke

This is Mrs. Norman Maine

January 1st, 2013
3:30 pm

Theresa, this was great. Thanks for sharing. I’ve been wanting to take my family to California and do something similar, I’m going to use your trip as a blueprint to plan mine and my family’s.

Betty

January 1st, 2013
8:58 pm

What great adventures you’ve had! Thanks for sharing! I, for one, appreciate it. I don’t know that we’ll get out to the west coast this year but I like hearing (and seeing) how other families use their vacation time and would love to plan something similar. Sounds like your kids got to experience many things through these travels and learned a lot. These are memories you have made as a family. Good for You!

Mayhem

January 2nd, 2013
8:20 am

I grew up out west and went to California two to three times a year. We always went to Carlsbad, just north of San Diego. Fond memories as a child. We took a HUGE family vacation out there in 1998, and that was the last time we were out west. We met up with some friends of my parents (who went to college together), and hung out for a week….So pretty out there, but I love Georgia.

Patrick

January 2nd, 2013
9:18 am

I agree MJG. I like reading about other places, and especially from people who live in other places. That’s the beauty of the Internet: You can feel like you’ve visited or lived some place, without actually having lived there. I used to read a blog by James Lileks, a humor columnist up in Minnesota. He’s written about a lot of stuff going on in the state, and especially around Minneapolis, that I feel like I know just about as much about up there as I do down here in Georgia. He’d posted pictures of the state fair every year. He’d blogged about stuff going on in his family, and the neighborhood. I enjoyed reading his entries. I don’t anymore because I don’t have the time, and he changed the format a couple of years or so ago, and I don’t like the new format. Also, he doesn’t update as much as he used to.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

January 2nd, 2013
11:23 am

two new topics for today — sorry the first one didn’t pop up right — new topic is there!!

http://blogs.ajc.com/momania/2013/01/02/u-s-georgia-birth-rates-dip-especially-for-hispanics/?cp=1#comment-96637