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Apr 16, 2011 01:28 PM

California Vacation Recomendations

I am new to chowhound so looking forward to eeing the reccomendatios I will get, thank you in advance! My spouse and I are heading to California next month on vacation. Would love some reccomendations on dining (or must see sites, etc). We love great food and there is really no budget. We don't always love a full sit down dinner, a great bar with outstanding apps and delish drinks is perfect for us too. We are starting in San Diego and driving up the PCH. Here is our basic itenerary and where we are staying to give you an idea:

San Diego - 2 nights, US Grant
LA - 1 night, SLS Beverly Hills
Monterey - 1 night, still finding a hotel
Napa - 2 nights, Westin Verasa
San Francisco - 2 nights, Westin St. Francis


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  1. You have to add Santa Barbara and either the Biltmore or San Ysidro Ranch if budget is no problem. Plenty of other places to stay down a bit in price, but if you want the real deal here, these are the places to stay. Or Simpson House in downtown Santa Barbara, which is 5 star B&B.

    Julienne is the best we can suggest for dining here and it is worth the journey, but there are so many other pleasurable places to dine and ways to spend time in our area as well as exploring the Santa Ynez Wine Country close by you may want to plan a few days with us too.

    If you like to take a long walk, be sure to take the board walk hike out from Oso Flaco Lake to the dunes and Pacific Ocean for a visually stunning experience, just north of Guadalupe and the Lompoc area of Highway 1.

    Caution because Highway One got washed out in our last storms in some parts so check what kinds of detours you might need to make, and the Highway 101 substitute is fairly scenic too in an old rural California agriculture sort of way -- and you may get to also visit the Artichoke Capitol of the World in Castoviille that way too!

    Plus Chowhound dining expert here Melanie Wong can take you to some surprising places in the Central Coast Salinas area of Highway 101 either on this thread or do a search for her posts for this part of Highway 101 Central California.

    1 Reply
    1. re: glbtrtr


      Highway 1 is completely CLOSED about 40 miles north of San Simeon, for the next 4 weeks at least. You will have to take Highway 101 north from San Luis Obispo to get to Monterey. Count on about 6+ hours from LA to Monterey with minimal stops. Lots of chow opportunites along the way, just search any of these towns here on the California board for results: Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez Valley, Buellton, San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles, Templeton.

      That said, you might want to linger in the Santa Ynez and/or Paso Robles area to get a feel for those wine producing areas, for your next trip. The Central Coast is laid back, unpretentious and gorgeous, with many chances for chow finds of all kinds.

      For the fun of it, California is very ag-based, and we have great farmer's markets all year long. here is a guide to finding one, wherever you end up: if you're taking Highway 1 into Lompoc, north of Santa Barbara, here's some wine tasting info.

    2. For LA and SF, you will need to query on those specific boards.

      Too bad you don't have more time as Santa Barbara or Paso Robles are worth a stop.

      In the Monterey area, Passionfish in Pacific Grove has an extensive wine list priced at retail and interesting preparations -- though not super fancy. The Sardine Factory in the Cannery Row area is much more expensive, huge wine list, but unique dishes such as abalone bisque. The finest of old school Monterey dining.

      If you like striking natural beauty and walking around in a gorgeous area, Point Lobos State Reserve (just south of Carmel) is my favorite place in the world. A nice place for a picnic.

      701 Lighthouse Ave, Pacific Grove, CA 93950

      Sardine Factory
      701 Wave Street, Monterey, CA 93940