Interesting places in California to photograph and sight seeing - any suggestions ?

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by bipinsnair, Dec 25, 2014.

  1. bipinsnair

    bipinsnair Mu-43 Veteran

    Sep 7, 2012
    Herndon, VA
    Bipin Nair
    Traveling to California tomorrow (26th Dec 2014) with my wife for a 5 to 6 days trip. Flying to LA and plan to be in LA for less than 2 days and then plan to drive to San Francisco area via the pacific coast highway. Planing to do that drive in 2 days with halt somewhere in the mid way between LA and SFO. Not planning to see anything in SFO as we already visited SFO before.

    Any suggestions on something that should not be missed in LA and along the way on the pacific coast highway ?

    We enjoy more of nature and not much interested in things like museums, theme parks and such. In LA, we will have only 1 and a half days and plan to just see the city, Hollywood, Santa monic area etc and we also have have to visit a friend. So, we don't have much time in LA.

    Once we get to SFO area, we will be staying in Fremont and we still have 2 days there. So, if there are any naturally beautiful places around Fremont/Sanjose/SFO area, we would like to see that too. Yosemite is out of consideration as there may be snow and don't want to drive there.

    Flying back from San Jose and plan to rent a car from LA for the whole trip. The trip is not solely for photography, but I think there are good scenic places along the way where I could take some photos.

    In short, I am looking for some suggestions on the following

    1. Any good places in LA. If it is a naturally beautiful place, even better
    2. Things that should not be missed along route 1 pacific coast highway. Or any not so popular places (that don't often get mentioned in travel websites) along this way which are good?
    3. Any good places to visit around San jose/Fremont or even SFO (out side SFO downtown area) ? I think Napa valley is good, but not sure how good is it at this time of the year.

    Any suggestions and information are welcome and thanks in advance.

    Merry Christmas to all :) 
  2. iamwhoiam

    iamwhoiam Mu-43 Regular

    Nov 29, 2014
    You could go to the Huntington Library and Gardens located in San Marino, CA. Lots of excellent photographic opportunities there.
    There's also a large arboretum located in Arcadia.
    You may also be interested in the Getty Center and/or Getty Villa. The Center is located in Los Angeles near Brentwood and the Villa located in Pacific Palisades.
    You need advance entry tickets for the Villa.
    Not too far from Santa Monica is Venice Beach which is an interesting place to visit.

    On your drive north you can stop at Solvang which is a Danish type village. I haven't been there in years so have no idea what it's like.
    Not sightseeing but if you like to gamble you can stop at the Chumash casino near Santa Barbara.

    Northern CA....Montrerey and the Monterey Bay Aquarium

    Have fun during your trip.
  3. Richantablin

    Richantablin Mu-43 Rookie

    Dec 25, 2014
    2 museums which r amazing for their environmental (landscape)beauty are the big Getty art museum in the Santa Monica mountains and the Getty villa in Malibu. Palos Verdes peninsula and Laguna Bch are beautiful. Santa Barbara is nice. Near Morro Bay is a beautiful wild place named Montana de Oro state park. Everything north of there is exquisite, esp Julia Phiper (?) state park on the coast S of big sur. That is the spot with water fall plunging 100' to a rocky beach. Also Pt Lobos (?) St Pk on the south side of Carmel, where Ansel Adams took most of his coastal pix. Enjoy!
  4. Carbonman

    Carbonman Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jul 10, 2014
    Vancouver BC
    Take a few hours to do a tour of Winchester House outside San Jose. It's huge and strange, and has a very interesting history. In San Jose proper, there's Rosicrucian Park and Egyptology museum. It's a little offbeat but has lots of great picture opportunities. The Pacific Coast Highway between San Jose and San Francisco is awesome for scenery.
  5. rbelyell

    rbelyell Mu-43 Veteran

    Sep 15, 2013
    Mountains of NY
    LA: off santa monica take Topanga Canyon Drive up into the hills. very beautiful. some nice inns and restaurants up there the santa monica pier is good for street photos.

    Rt 1: about halfway between LA/SF is the Treebones resort which is at the beginning of Big Sur. its a group of yurts overlooking the Pacific, and it has a great bar and sushi restaurant where you can eat makki while whale watching and taking in the sunset. you can also stay in one of the yurts, which have running water, are very nicely appointed, but no toilets or showers. if you cant get amazing shots here, gotta rethink the hobby! ):

    SF: if youve time to just shoot over the Golden Gate bridge you can go to Muirwoods which is a Redwood forest. if youve never seen our native american redwoods theyre certainly a sight to behold--you'll not easily see anything like it anywhere in the world. bring a wide angle lens or a camera with 'pano' ability or you'll be kicking yourself. on the way to or from you can stop in Sausilito which is a lovely little island acroiss SF bay, have some seafood and take in the gorgeous SF skyline view. some great street and landscape shooting here. you can take a ferry back and get some more great photos.

    i try not to tell people about equipment or aesthetics, but imo this is a 21-35mm lens trip, and lends itself to pano photography, so if your cam has that ability, be prepared to use it and i think you'll really appreciate the results even if youre not a 'pano' or WA type guy.
  6. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman Subscribing Member

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    speaking as a foreigner who has spent some time in LA over the last few years... so much so that I was warned by US immigration about spending too much time there the last time through, and someone who has done the PCH drive both ways let me contribute a couple of thoughts

    Apologies to my LA friends - this is just how I see things as a visitor

    1) OK you are not doing the 20 hour journey from Europe with a 9 hour time difference... but you are still doing a lot in a short time. LA is a big place to get around... really big... and the traffic can be horrendous. Beverly Hills to downtown is 30 minutes... Beverly hills to Santa Monica probably the same

    2) LA and natural beauty are not words that often go together. Its a big flat urban sprawl. Best views I have found are from the Griffiths Observatory, or from the Getty Museum

    3) Its not what I would call a bustling city... Being from Europe I am used to people on the street in places like London, Paris and New York. LA is not like that... well not many parts I have frequented, even Downtown.

    A couple of exceptions are

    around Manns Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Bvd, which is a tourist trap area, but is a lot of fun because of the various street performers dressed as movie characters

    Venice Beach.... basically the point at which the idea of 'Go west young man' runs out... there is no more west. Its apparently much safer than it was in the past, but is full of interesting/eccentric and sometimes scary people and of course some great sunsets

    4) Unless you absolutely need to tick it off your bucket list, or have a designer shopping fetish, or hope to do some star spotting I would avoid Beverly Hills... The most soulless place I have ever visited... beating even Las Vegas... Maybe I am just jaded as its the nearest place to my normal residence in LA - my girlfriends parents :) . Still if you have to go to Beverly Hills, I would recommend Il Fiornaio as a good place for a glass of wine or a meal.

    5) Regarding PCH... its a drive everyone should do.. it has some great views, but not sure it offers great photo opportunities unless you take time to get off the road... most of the time you have a rock face on one side and a drop to the ocean on the other. I know you said you weren't into museums, but San Simeon, Hearst's home may be worth a visit

    just my thoughts and observations

    have a good trip

  7. kinlau

    kinlau Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 29, 2012
    In LA, stick to the beach areas like Huntington or Malibu, it's a world of difference from the rest of LA.

    I second the suggestions for Muirwoods near SF, much closer than Redwoods national park but the trees are astounding.

    The entire Monterey Bay Area is worth spend some time, 17 Mile Drive, Pebble Beach, Lone Cypress, etc. Lots of seals and sea otters too.

    Along the way is San Simeon, where you have the Elephant Seals, and only one of a few such easily accessible spots in the world.

    Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur, is a hidden gem, but well worth a stop.

    Give yourself lots of time on the Pacific Coast Hwy, the views are truly breathtaking, you will be stopping a lot.
  8. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    El Matador beach at sunset. :tup::tup:

  9. wanderenvy

    wanderenvy Mu-43 Regular

    May 11, 2012
    In LA

    1) Santa Monica Pier.
    2) Griffith Observatory.

    And then run like hell.


    1) Hearst Castle
    2) Santa Barbara - Old Mission
    3) Big Sur. Plan to spend a day/night here, drive slowly.
    4) Pacific Grove
    5) Carmel - Mission and take along the coast.
    6) Pebble beach drive around Carmel/Monterrey
    7) Go north of Santa Cruz to Bonnie Doone Beach, Pigeon Point light house.

    Number 7 will actually take you away from San Jose and Fremont. You can either drive back south to Santa Cruz and then use CA 17 to get to San Jose or continue and take CA 84 over the mountains and over the bay to Fremont.

    I am not particularly fond of the Monterrey Bay Aquarium. It looks and feels more and more like a kid focused zoo. It's on cannery row which is just another tourist trap, stay away.

    Bay Area

    1) Stanford University Campus.
    2) San Francisco. There's so much the city has to offer! Even if you have been there, there's a lot to do. Stay away from the tourist traps.
  10. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler Subscribing Member

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    McWay Falls is the name of the falls mentioned above. You can access from hwy1, 1/4 mi walk, do not need to enter the park.

    Hearst Castle.

    Weston gallery in Carmel.

    17 mile drive, between Carmel and Monterey.

    Monarch butterfly reserve in Pacific Grove (free, docents present), or there are monarchs in Pismo State Beach or...

    IMHO Winchester mystery house is a tourist trap.

  11. budeny

    budeny Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 4, 2014
    Boulder, CO
    Lotusland in Santa Barbara worth to visit.
    Lobos point - just south of Carmel
    Julia Pfeiffer State Park - waterfall into Pacific Ocean
  12. MarkRyan

    MarkRyan Instagram: @MRSallee Subscribing Member

    May 3, 2013
    Hearst Castle in San Simeon is pretty incredible.
  13. MizOre

    MizOre Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 26, 2011
    Redwoods south of SF -- and Marin County with the drive over Mt. Tamalpais to Bolinas. Pt. Reyes if you have time -- often very cloudy but with seals in the water just off shore who come watch you, jadeite and jasper pebbles on the beach. The Pacific Coast Highway -- take breaks and see what's around. The Sunset Celebration in the Berkeley Hills if you haven't seen that already. The whole coast between LA and SF is pretty marvelous.
  14. PENpal

    PENpal Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    Feb 15, 2011
    Route 1.. Monterey to Carmel-By-The-Sea..
  15. bipinsnair

    bipinsnair Mu-43 Veteran

    Sep 7, 2012
    Herndon, VA
    Bipin Nair
    Thank you all so much for all the suggestions. We are already in the trip and plan to check out the suggestions from you all. Very valuable information and once again thanks to all for the suggestions :) 
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