California in 10 Days | Bucket List Guide to West Coast America

Bucket List Guide to West Coast America Yosemite National Park View

Back in June myself and Tom jetted off on one of our biggest adventures yet, to spend a whirlwind 10 days exploring the west coast of America. I have always dreamed of visiting California and had so many places on the bucket list to tick off, it was tricky to narrow it down to just a few days, but here’s how we did it, what we saw and what we would recommend.

Bucket List Guide to West Coast America Las Vegas Sign

Planning & Traveling

We planned our trip well in advance to get the best deals, booking flights a year in advance and hotels six months before, (keen beans, I know). We stayed in three main places on our trip, LA, San Fransisco and Las Vegas, so our first mission was deciding were to fly to and from. We shopped around and looked into flying from various airports before settling on flying from Manchester airport, as it was close to home. It worked out cheaper to fly to LA on the way there and then from Las Vegas on the way home. Once we knew our start and end locations we could start planning our trip around those dates and places.

Next we had to decide where and for how long we wanted to stay in each location. It was an easy decision for me as LA and San Fran have always been top of my travel list, whereas Las Vegas was just an added bonus, so we decided to spend less time there.

A lot of people we had talked to about the trip had suggested renting a car and driving between the cities, but due to ease and our short time scale we decided to to fly between cities. Plus, we looked into internal flight times and were pleasantly surprised at how cheap they were. This worked out the best option for us as we didn’t have to worry about nearly getting divorced over directions, dodging traffic, or being ripped off with parking charges. The flights were quick and stress free, meaning we were able to travel between cities within a day and without wanting to kill each other.

Whilst we were there we traveled around using bikes, Ubers or on foot. All really low cost and versatile, again we didn’t have to worry about parking in a city we didn’t know with these options.

Flights – Manchester to LA £280 pp

Las Vegas – Manchester £320pp

Internal flights – £62 – £120pp

Bucket List Guide to West Coast America LA Melrose Avenue

Where We Stayed

We decided to book one hotel in each place and use that as a base to explore each city. Although we were careful with money, we didn’t do this trip on a tight budget, we wanted to enjoy our stay and make the most of it so booking nice hotels was part of the treat. Saying that we stayed in some amazing hotels for a great price thanks to a little shopping around and booking early.

In LA we stayed at the Hotel Normandie for 4 nights, which was in the Korean area of the city, within walking distance of Downtown LA, Melrose and Hollywood. Due to the size of the city, it took a while to walk from one place to another in LA so we often caught Ubers to save time.

We stayed at the Hotel Alise for 4 nights in San Fransisco which was my favourite hotel of the whole trip. It was perfectly located in the center of San Fran close to shops, bars and restaurants plus they rented out bikes for free during the day, great for exploring further!

In Vegas we stayed at the famous Mirage Hotel on the Las Vegas strip for 2 nights. It was within our budget and was in an amazing location right on the strip. If you are looking for a cheaper hotel on the strip, I would highly recommend the Mirage, it has all the glitz and glamour without being totally overpriced.

See what else we got up to in Vegas here.

Bucket List Guide to West Coast America San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge

Day Trips & Excursions

As we didn’t have a car we relied on excursions to explore wider and do more whilst we were there. There was plenty of things to see and do but we didn’t want to exhaust ourselves so planned in a few full days of exploring in between relaxing days and flying. If you are planning a west coast trip it is worth looking into areas around where you are staying, for example, Yosemite National Park is a 4 hour drive away from San Fransisco meaning you can travel there and back in a day. I almost wet my pants in excitement when I realised we would be able to visit Yosemite, as it has been on my bucket list for years! Here’s some highlights of what we did in each place, be sure to click the links to read a little more about each city.

LA

Hollywood Walk of Fame – This such an iconic area, well worth a stroll along the street for a bit of star spotting.

The Griffith Observatory – Sitting high above the city, the observatory is a great place to snap a panoramic view of the LA skyline as well as the famous Hollywood sign. Entry is free to the Observatory

Melrose Avenue – Colourful, vibrant and full of designer shops, Melrose is the place to grab that killer Instagram snap.

Runyon Canyon – Get you walking shoes on and hike to the top of Runyon for the best view of the Hollywood hills. Free entry.

Santa Barbra & Venice Beach – A short taxi ride from the center of LA, Santa Barbra pier is well worth a visit for colourful arcades and vintage fairground rides. From there you can walk to Venice beach along it’s sandy side walk to be greeted by vibrant shops, street art and skateboarders.

Downtown LA – Visit the central market for the ultimate LA street food experience.

Read my LA travel diary here.

Bucket List Guide to West Coast America Hollywood sign view

San Fransisco

Alcatraz Island – Hop on board a ferry to Alcatraz for a amazing view of San Fran and wander around the grounds of the old abandoned prison. 3 hours £28-30 approx

Lombard Street – One of the most famous and windiest streets in San Fran, Lombard is a must see.

Yosemite National Park – Sitting to the north of San Fran, excursions to Yosemite run daily and for good reason. The outstanding beauty of this national park is breathtaking. 13 hours £107 approx

The Golden Gate Bridge – An iconic landmark that is best seen on bike.

Read more about our stay in San Fran here.

Bucket List Guide to West Coast America San Fransisco bridge

Las Vegas

Grand Canyon Helicopter Tour – A once in a lifetime opportunity that takes in sights such as the Hoover Dam and the Las Vegas Strip before landing on the West Rim of the Canyon. 3 hours £310 approx (Viator)

Las Vegas Strip – A buzz of noise and neon, the strip is the place to be in Vegas. With theme parks in hotels and shopping for days, you’ll never get bored here.

If we had stayed longer in Las Vegas we would have loved to visit the downtown area of Vegas as we heard of some really cool spots but just didn’t have time.

Bucket List Guide to West Coast America Grand Canyon View

So there you have it!

That’s how we travelled around California in 10 days! I hope you have enjoyed my little travel guide and learnt a bit more about our trip. It was a once in a lifetime trip for us and we loved every minute. I look back now and am still amazed at how much we managed to squeeze in. I would love to hear if this post has helped you if you are thinking of travelling around California. Or if you have visited California, I would love to hear your tips and travel plans, feel free to leave me a comment below or tweet me over at @madeupstyle on Twitter.

Anna x

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