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Our incredible 3 week road trip USA was our first big international trip with our kids, and we are so keen to return soon. With a vast array of cities, attractions and amazing natural landscapes, it was hard to decide exactly where to go when we first started planning. With 3 kids in tow, we also didn’t want to be moving hotels every day or two, and we wanted to keep driving to a minimum. We ended up covering 3 states (California, Nevada and Arizona), drove approximately 1,600 miles (2,500 kms), plus took one internal flight from Las Vegas to San Francisco.
Anaheim – 5 nights
Where we stayed: Anaheim Desert Inn & Suites – super close to the Disneyland entrance so we could easily walk the 5 minutes in and out as needed with tired kids. Our room included a small fridge and microwave, so we self-catered some of the time, or ate at one of the nearby restaurants such as Denny’s, IHOP or Tony Roma’s. A basic yet filling continental breakfast was included with our room booking.
What we did: Disneyland of course! With 3 young children (plus 2 young-at-heart adults), a visit to the happiest place on Earth was at the top of our ‘must-do’ list while stateside, and it didn’t disappoint. The parks were decked out in all their Christmas finery and looked amazing.
Edwards – 3 nights
We spent a few nights with friends who are currently posted at Edwards Air Force Base, which included a trip to nearby Tehachapi to play in the snow.
Grand Canyon – 2 nights
Where we stayed: Maswik Lodge – Located on the South Rim in the Grand Canyon Village. Our room was comfortable, though a little squishy with the addition of a roll-away bed for one of the kids. A small bar fridge and pod coffee machine are provided in the room. We bought cereal and oatmeal cups from the local grocery store for breakfast.
What we did: the Grand Canyon! Photos do not do this place justice, it is impossible to capture just how huge and majestic it really is. We were lucky enough to even have some snow while there!
Las Vegas – 1 night
Where we stayed: Polo Towers by Diamond Resorts – our 2 bedroom suite was awesome! Plush, spacious, a full kitchen and 2 bathrooms, a 1 minute walk from the strip and no casino, the Polo Towers was the perfect location for us. A bonus was the free guest laundry, so I got a lot of washing done that night!
What we did: On our way from the Grand Canyon to Vegas, we stopped at Bearizona and Hoover Dam, and also drove on a small section of Route 66. While in Vegas we walked the strip in the evening with the kids, watched the gorgeous Bellagio fountains, before heading up to Treasure Island to watch Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Mystere’, which had us all mesmerized. We flew from Vegas to San Francisco the next morning.
San Francisco – 4 nights
Where we stayed: Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Fisherman’s Wharf – our room was very spacious, even with 2 king beds and a sofa bed unfolded in the room we still had plenty of room to walk around, and a huge bay window overlooked the street below. Breakfast was included with our booking, and was the best breakfast we had on the whole trip, with a huge range of food and drinks to choose from. A small kitchenette in the room included a pod coffee machine, fridge and microwave, so we visited the nearby Safeway grocery store and self-catered most nights.
What we did: Alcatraz, California Academy of Sciences, Golden Gate Park, Lombard Street, Japanese Tea Garden, Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39. There was so much to see and do in San Francisco, but we simply ran out of time!
Yosemite – 4 nights
Where we stayed: Yosemite West, in a private rental booked through VRBO. We had an entire house to ourselves, complete with a pool table, fireplace and hot tub on the deck – perfect for our white Christmas!
What we did: hiked the easier trails with the kids (Bridal Veil Falls and Yosemite Falls), admired the stunning views, went wildlife spotting (deers and squirrels!), played in the snow, soaked in the hot tub and made s’mores.
Read more about why we loved visiting Yosemite with kids.
Monterey – 1 night
Where we stayed: Holiday Inn Express Monterey Cannery Row – a large comfortable room for the 5 of us, however it only included a fridge (no microwave), so we ate out that night (Louie Linguini’s, so good!). Breakfast was included, and the location was perfect.
What we did: We visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium in the afternoon and we enjoyed learning about the underwater life along the California coastline, despite the huge crowds there at the time. We finished with dinner and a stroll along Cannery Row and the waterfront. Monterey is a beautiful town, and I wish we could have had another night there to explore it more.
Pismo Beach – 1 night
Where we stayed: Shore Cliff Hotel – perched high on the cliffs, every room here has amazing ocean views. Our family room was spacious yet cozy, with special little touches like a pair of binoculars so we could spot wildlife from our balcony. A hearty breakfast was included in our booking.
What we did: We drove down the Pacific Coast Highway from Monterey to Pismo Beach, and this stunning drive didn’t disappoint. Rugged coastline, sheer cliffs, bridges, elephant seals and even a waterfall on the beach! We also checked out the Monarch Butterfly Grove, and admired the amazing views from our hotel room, complete with wild sea otters playing at the bottom of the cliffs. You can read more about our time in Pismo Beach here.
Hollywood – 2 nights
Where we stayed: Magic Castle Hotel – massive suite with everything we needed for a comfortable stay. The service from the friendly staff is incredible, and the kids loved the free-flow soft drink and ice cream machines located at the pool. Our room had a full kitchen so we could cook for ourselves, and a tasty continental breakfast is served in the lobby, complete with Vegemite for us Aussies.
What we did: Hollywood was busy busy busy, as in the sidewalks were PACKED! We managed to have a quick look at some of the stars along there, and even found Walt Disney right at our bus stop. We then hopped on a bus and went to the La Brea Tar Pits. It is free to wander the grounds and view the tar pits outside, however if you want to go inside the museum itself there is an entry fee. The museum showcases the history of the tar pits, as well as the incredible array of fossils that have been excavated over the years.
This wraps up our 3 weeks West Coast USA adventure, however I can guarantee it won’t be our last! What destination or attraction is on your list for your road trip of West Coast USA?