Two months ago, I went for my longest vacation on my own. I spent seventeen days in Las Vegas, San Diego, Los Angeles, Yosemite National Park and San Francisco, with part of the journey driving on the Pacific Coast Highway. I'm not going to write a typical holiday blog, showing where I've been and sharing photos. Ever the practical person, I'm going to write about what I've learned and observed on this trip. For this entry I'm going to write about California
The San Diego Zoo is better value than SeaWorld San Diego
Let's just go on price alone - a day pass at San Diego Zoo will cost you US$51 while SeaWorld San Diego is $84. Even if they were the same price, San Diego Zoo is more worthwhile. San Diego Zoo has more to see, with more exhibits and animals. I went there for six hours and I didn't get to see all of the animals.
SeaWorld, however, has more interaction. They have more shows and more activity where you can get up close to the animals. If you have kids, it will probably be better to go to SeaWorld. Also the carpark at SeaWorld is US$15 for the whole day, while it is free at San Diego Zoo. If you are a little bit older and like nature, San Diego Zoo is more appropriate to you.
Downtown Los Angeles really needs some redevelopment
It is a pity how rundown the downtown area of Los Angeles is. In normal cities the downtown area is a vibrant place at the centre of all activity. In Los Angeles, it's full of cheap stores and deteriorating buildings. There is potential there, especially in the Broadway theatre district. They have a number of old theatres, which have great architectural merit to them. If only they had a number of wealthy people in that area to help fund an upgrade.
Good other places to visit in California - Santa Monica Pier, the elephant seals at San Simeon, Yosemite National Park, Pier 39 in San Francisco, the Steinhart Aquarium at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.
For those who love piers (and I should know having lived in Brighton with its famous Palace Pier), the Santa Monica Pier will not disappoint. It is a traditional pier, with lots with fairground games, a small theme park with rides, food stalls selling lots of goodies and your traditional souvenir shops. It's a nice day out and very different from the hectic bustle of Los Angeles.
Just near Hearst Castle in California is a beach full of elephant seals. Not just one or two, not just in double figures either - literally hundreds of them. Most of them are just lying down, catching the Californian sun for a nice tan. Occasionally you see two of them fighting, arguing who has that bathing spot.
The Yosemite National Park is a great place if you want to discover nature. There are many activities you can do: hiking, cycling, autotouring, etc. There are variety of hiking trails, from the novice to the ambitious, giving you spectacular views of lakes and mountains. The only problem with the park is that takes ages to drive into the centre - about 1.5 hours. If you are going to Yosemite for a few days, try to camp or stay in one of the lodges to cut down on your travelling time.
Pier 39 in San Francisco has the traditional shops but has a great site where sea lions just sunbathe. It's a nice sight to see but it can get smelly and loud quite quickly.
The California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco is quite impressive in its own right, with a good display about earthquakes. The most outstanding feature is the Steinhart Aquarium in the basement. Most aquariums are small and poorly lit. The Steinhart Aquarium is very extensive and well displayed.