What happens in Vegas stays in…

 

Okay not really considering I went with my whole family! Yes, my mum, dad, brother, sister and my husband, who (bless his socks) endured the in-laws! This was our last big family holiday, which we were supposed to go on last year for my mum and dad’s 25th Wedding Anniversary and both their 50th’s (don’t tell them I told you!) but I got married! I had an absolutely amazing time… 3 and a half weeks with family, sun, sand and sea.. how could I not!!! A couple of people have asked if I had any recommendations, so I thought I would jot down a few things I wish I had known before I went to America. If you have any more questions though, just fire them my way!

 

Booking

I used expedia to book our whole trip, including flights, hotels and some activities! Before booking, I googled ‘expedia discount vouchers’ and found a code that gave me 10% off everything I booked! I also booked it through Quidco (if you have not been introduced to Quidco, acquaint yourself … quickly! It’s a cashback co-operative which you can earn money through when you buy anything online just for booking through them (Google it!) By using Quidco, I got another 10% cash back!) I also used Trip Advisor for reviews of hotels and activities. Lastly, try to fly with BA, not American Airlines. We had separate flights, in which, BA provide you with individual TV’s to watch all the latest movies, good food, eye mask, socks, blanket etc and American Airlines provide you with one TV to share between 20 people and no little luxuries!

 

Packing

Don’t forget your adapters, a sat nav (we would have been lost (literally!) without it!), a FairFX card is great for bringing dollars (check it out.. safer than carrying all your money and can be topped up when you’re in America on one of the best rates!), P20 (Wear sunscreen.. I learnt my lesson)!

 

Time allocation

For anyone going away for three weeks, I would go to San Francisco for 3 nights (as by the time you arrive you’ll sleep the first day), Yosemite 4 nights (so beautiful and relaxing!), Santa Barbara 3 nights, LA 4 nights (if doing all the activities, such as Universal/ Six Flags/ tour/ etc you need 4 nights if not then 2 nights is plenty), San Diego (we used San Diego as our time to chill and stayed in a resort, however, if you’re only doing the sights then a couple of nights is plenty) , Las Vegas 3 nights. I would also recommend going off peak, as there won’t be as many people!

 

San Francisco

San Francisco is beautiful, I think it’s the new ‘Windy City’ though, so make sure you bring a cardie! The main tourist area is Fisherman’s Wharf (along the front) and Union Square is where all the shops are! You’ll find that the carparks in the centre are a lot cheaper at the weekends, as companies use them on weekdays. If you are going to Fisherman’s Wharf, opposite Pier 33 (where Alcatraz is), on Francisco Road there is a car park which is $12 for the whole day! You can also walk (a long walk) to Union Square from here! There is also an iHop along the front (ask for directions as it’s behind a car park, which I would recommend having breakfast in.

Activities I did:

Golden Gate Bridge (The views are beautiful)

Cable cars (Ours was jammed packed so we didn’t get full enjoyment, but it’s an experience!)

Shopping (There’s a nice shopping centre, 2 blocks behind Macy’s. If you want to get to it, ask where Abercrombie and Fitch is)

Fishermans wharf

Painted ladies victorian houses

Cheesecake Factory in Macy’s (yummy!)

The tram

Alcatraz (need to book 6 weeks in advance!)

Movie Tours: http://www.zerve.com/SFMovieTours/BusTour (If you love your movies, this is great as shows you where movies, such as, Sister Act/Mrs Doubtfire etc were filmed around San Francisco .. I wasn’t but it was still a good way to see around San Francisco as we didn’t do a tour!)

 

Other activities that got good reviews on Tripadvisor:

Crooks tour of various scandals: http://www.crookstour.com/Buy-Tickets-Now–.html $30 same

Segway Tour around San Francisco:http://www.sfelectrictour.com/segway/san_francisco_city_tours.html $70

Cycle over Golden Gate Bridge: http://www.viator.com/tours/San-Francisco/San-Francisco-Golden-Gate-Bridge-Bike-Tour/d651-3306ROCK £40


Yosemite

I loved Yosemite, it’s so idyllic, and relaxing and the views are spectacular! I would recommend camping in Yosemite though, as it adds to the whole experience (have to lock your food up from bears etc), you definitely need to book this well in advance as it books up fast! When you are in Yosemite, go to Glacier Point, we also swam in one of the lakes but just be careful, as water in Yosemite can be very deceiving! Try to fill up as much petrol in bigger cities, as more expensive in Yosemite! Your pass in is also valid for a week if you do stay outside Yosemite, definitely try to get in more than one day!

 

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara is beautiful, palm tree lined streets, and there are no billboards at all, not as commericalised as other areas of America. There is not much to do in Santa Barbara to be honest, but I loved it as it’s so relaxing, it reminded me of a European tourist town.

 

Things to do:

Walk along the pier

Hire the 5 seater bicycle (good fun!)

We did the bus/boat tour (It’s a short tour!)

Lovely Mexican restaurants in Santa Barbara

There’s a strip of shops and restaurants which I loved!

 

LA

Although LA isn’t a particularly nice place, as it’s very busy. There are lots of activities to do to keep you busy!! I would definitely recommend doing the Beverley Hills/Hollywood tour, as trying to go to the Walk of Fame etc yourself, it’s nearly impossible to find a parking space! This way, you get to see all the sights and get to spend 30 minutes, at Rodeo Drive/Walk of Fame and Hollywood Sign! On the tour we did, we also saw celebirty houses, hospital Michael Jackson was brought to, court where Lyndsay Lohan had to go to, shopping centre Wyona Ryder stole from… … random things… as well as the main sights.. Book to go and see a TV show, such as Wheel of Fortune // Ellen // Dr Phil if you book in advance the chances are high!

 

Activities I did:

Griffith Observatory & park:

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attraction_Review-g32655-d116887-Reviews-Griffith_Observatory-Los_Angeles_California.html Free. Good views of Hollywood Sign.

Universal Studios:  http://www.universalstudioshollywood.com/ As well as having rides, it also shows you how movies are created.. you also see sets from movies/TV shows like Desperate Housewives.. I absolutely loved it!! As soon as you arrive, look at times of the shows you want to see, such as the dolphin show and special effects (worth seeing) as by the time you go round the park, you may have missed the last showing! Also go in the ‘single ride’ line as you often get in the same ride as your family/friends and get through in 5-10 mins instead of 40-50 mins!!

Walk of Fame

Holywood Sign

 

Other activities that got good reviews on Tripadvisor:

Tour of Celebrities houses: http://www.starlinetours.com/los-angeles-tour-1.asp#BuyNow Adult $38/ Child $28

The Dodger Baseball game: http://mlb.mlb.com/schedule/index.jsp?c_id=la#y=2012&m=8&calendar=DEFAULT $25-$40Groundlings- check shows closer to the time: http://www.groundlings.com/shows/schedule.aspx?month=8

Mary Poppins Musical: http://www.musiccenter.org/cal/events/index.php?com=detail&eID=5689&year=2012&month=8 $40-$62

Venice Beach

Napels Canals

Six Flags: If you’ve never done six flags before, this one is great!

LA Galaxy

 

Laguna Beach

We just stopped off here for food on the way to San Diego, it’s a very, very popular beach and very beautiful!

 

San Diego

We stayed three nights in the Gas Lamp Area and three nights in a resort, if I was to do it again I would spend the whole six nights in the resort, as everything is very handy!

 

Activities I did:

San Diego Zoo: http://www.sandiegozoo.org/ Go in the evening (when we were there it closed at 9pm, so if you went at 5pm that would still give you four hours) as it’s very very hot! Also bring water!

San Diego Sea World: http://www.seaworld.com/ I didn’t like Sea World as much as Universal Studios, but we bought our tickets as part of a package, which you can buy in Universal Studios. It’s great for young children.. again check show times to make sure you get to see them all!

For shopping, there’s a good mall called Fashion Mall, also Mission Valley Mall is right beside it.

The Melting Pot.. I absolutely loved this restaurant! You cook your own food in a pot in the middle of your table, so you have melted cheese with dippings for starter, salad, vegetables and meat in your pot for main and then a fondue (I had white chocolate with melted marshmallow and cinnamon and then all the dips such as marshmallows, bananas etc came with it!!!)

 

Other activities that got good reviews on Tripadvisor:

San Diego Botanic Gardens http://www.sdbgarden.org/ : Trolly Tour:http://www.trolleytours.com/san-diego/rates-and-reservations.asp

San Diego Segway Tour: http://anothersideofsandiegotours.com/i-366725-the-gaslamp-segway-tour.html

Whale Watching: http://www.sdwhalewatch.com/san-diego-whale-watching-ticket-prices/

San Diego Chargers (Baseball): http://www.ticketmaster.com/event/0A00488B928A3A5F

Cornado Beach

 

Las Vegas

Las Vegas is amazing for couples, not so much for families. If I was to go again, I would stay in a nice hotel in the middle of the Strip, I would also do a show every night (if I won the lottery!) I found it very, very busy (busier than LA), allow plenty of time to go anywhere, as the traffic is crazy, the amount of people is crazy and you just feel as if you are queuing forever. Also try and book a few things to do before you arrive in Las Vegas, or organise your activities the first day, as it takes longer to get things organised than you think and then you can just relax and enjoy the show(s)!

 

Activities I did:

Grand Canyon by helicopter! You will find millions of companies offer this, there are ones where you can fly over the Canyon and the Strip, land in the Canyon and go down the river, land on the Sky Walk! We did the one were you drive to Hoover Dam, see Lake Meade, and then stop at a ranch, go horseriding and then fly over the Canyon (It picked us up and returned us to our hotel, it was $279 inc taxes to give you an idea of costs when you are comparing! We booked this one in CVS).

Wedding Chapel (Just to see!)

Watch the shows outside hotels, such as, Bellagio Fountains, Mirage light show and Treasure Island!

Cirque de Soleil: We did the ‘Ka’ show and it was absolutely amazing!!!!!http://www.mgmgrand.com/entertainment/ka-cirque-du-soleil-show.aspx

Carrot Top Comedy: Hmm… really funny first half, not so funny second half. My husband loved it though, but I would recommend putting the money towards another Cirque de Soleil or the Blue Man Group!!

Shopping: The shopping centre in the middle is fantastic, also the Outlet about 20 minutes away is also fantastic!!

 

Other activities that got good reviews on Tripadvisor:

The Blue Man Group (to be amazing!)

O’ Cirque de Soleil (Also supposed to be amazing!!)

Mac King Comedy

Absinthe Show

Digthis: http://www.digthisvegas.com/online-booking-form Las Vegas Dinner Show:http://www.jeffcivillico.com/las-vegas-dinner-show/

Shoot a gun: http://www.discountfirearmsinc.com/rentals.html FlightLinez Zip Line:http://flightlinez.com/Madame Tussauds:http://www.madametussauds.com/LasVegas/BuyTickets/Default.aspx (If you haven’t done

Madame Tussauds before, this is worth a juke!)

Trampolining: http://flipnoutfun.com/

Guinness World of Records Museum

Enjoy!!

Love Kate

xxx

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