Updated: May 12, 2020
To all the moms, grandmoms, great-grandmoms, step-moms, and aunt-moms (yes, they're real), I hope you've had a peaceful, Mother's Day, warmed by the love of your offspring...whether birthed by you or not, with you or elsewhere. Dad-moms...you too deserve fond wishes, because your role as mom is also significant, and appreciated.
I've heard that you're wondering how to go about getting out of the house for your first vacation-like venture. Are there places to go, things to see and do that would really give you a good time? Will it be safe? The answer is yes. This week I'll offer a possible itinerary as an example, with two more to come the next two weeks. The details would be curated to suit your budget, timing and taste, of course; these are just ideas for now. The assumption here is that states/cities continue to open up for business, while practicing whatever guidelines are in place to maximize public health and safety - physical distancing, masks if necessary, plexiglass barriers where applicable, etc. Your actual itinerary would avoid infectious hot-spots and risky activities, of course. The goal is to get out and enjoy, avoiding hazards to your health; sunscreen required.
A WESTERN ADVENTURE - How about a two week guided tour from California to Arizona and Utah, ending in Nevada. Why a guided tour? Several reasons: 1) you get to SEE EVERYTHING. If you're doing the driving, your vacay memories will mostly be of a long, winding, grey ribbon of asphalt. BO-RING! 2) Private tours; no waiting behind crowds of people; reservations for places that most people have to book up to a year in advance; 3) comfort and luxury, with just the right amount of adventure, delectable meals, activities and fun - and someone else to schlep your stuff; 4) your travel director is a professional, knowledgeable story-teller/historian/encyclopedia/entertainer/walking Google of restaurant recommendations and restroom locations. You'll get so much more at every stop than if you drive up to it, take a look, snap a photo, walk around, then get back in your car. I promise you. Okay, guided your it is. Here we go.
Your getaway begins in San Francisco, with transportation to your hotel and a welcome dinner. Next day, after an iconic cable car ride along the picturesque streets, you visit the Conservatory of Flowers and Golden Gate Park, walk across the emblematic Bridge, and travel on to the city of Sausalito. A scenic ferry ride will bring you back to San Francisco, where your afternoon is at your leisure. Next day, you're on to California's Gold Country, through the imposing Sierra Nevada mountains to Yosemite National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You'll have a private, ranger-led valley floor tour, spot mule deer, and black bear, and get your rest up at Yosemite Valley Lodge, close to Yosemite Falls, North America's highest waterfall. If the evening is clear you’ll be able to take in the sparkling night sky over the park.
Move on to Monterey with a stop at the Merced Fruit Barn. In Salinas, tour a local farm known for heirloom artichokes. Arrive at your hotel on Cannery Row, and journey to quaint Carmel-by-the-Sea, a seaside community where you’ll have ample free time. Along Pacific Coast Highway, enjoy a relaxing drive across the Monterey Peninsula and along 17-Mile Drive. Stop at Pebble Beach and its world-renowned links, as well as Lone Cypress, and Seal and Bird Rocks for a glimpse of sunbathing seals and sea lions. I used to live here - it's beautiful, and I liked it enough to say I'd live here again.
On Day 6, on to the American Riviera - a tour and wine tasting at a Paso Robles winery, en route to Santa Barbara. Walk along Santa Barbara's Historic State Street to Stearns Wharf. Check in to your idyllic beachfront hotel, ideal for making the most of your stay along the grand ‘American Riviera'...white buildings, terra cotta roofs, beautiful weather and an array of bars and restaurants. No trip to Santa Barbara would be complete without a visit to the iconic Mission Santa Barbara to explore its blooming gardens, and to learn about the chain of 21 missions along California's El Camino Real. A local expert will take you on a walking tour of Venice Beach, Muscle Beach, and the canals. Arrive at your modern L.A. hotel.
Day 8 and you're exploring the glitz and glam of L.A. with your Travel Director. Experience a bit of nostalgia in downtown as you ride aboard the lovingly restored Angel's Flight Railway, and be treated to an exclusive and private guided visit of the Los Angeles Theatre, a grandiose historic movie palace. Visit Hollywood and Highland, where observation decks allow for the best views of the Hollywood sign. See the iconic TCL Chinese Theatre as you walk along the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Drive along the famous Sunset Strip to Beverly Hills before walking along Rodeo Drive. Select a visit to either the Petersen Automotive Museum or the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. Then dinner at Nick and Stef's Steakhouse.
On Day 9, it's the rugged charms of the Mojave Desert wilderness on the way to Scottsdale, AZ. Look out for the Joshua trees and wildlife found in the National Park, you might just spot a jackrabbit or coyote. Once in Scottsdale you can relax in the hotel after a long day and replenish for your upcoming adventures. Next day, journey north to the bohemian colony of Sedona. Attractive to healers, this spiritual town’s vortexes are rumored to offer alternative medicines and practices. If retail therapy is more your thing, explore Sedona’s shops and galleries, or simply take in its natural rugged beauty, which makes it a hotspot for hikers, swimmers and eager campers. Visit Grand Canyon National Park, where you have the opportunity to take an optional, once-in-a-lifetime, flight-seeing tour by helicopter or plane. Join local expert 'Canyon Tim' for an informative and exclusive talk about the wonders of the Grand Canyon before ending your day with a tranquil night inside the park and an appetizing dinner in the lodge. Located on the South Rim, this beautiful venue offers a wet-bar, barbecue and private balcony, so you can feast on hearty food while taking in the stunning views.
Day 11 - Monument Valley (l Iove this place!) and Lake Powell (yes, here too!). Head through striking crimson landscapes to the historic Cameron Trading Post where you will find Native American arts and crafts. Journey on through the barren beauty of the desert to Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, where you will board all-terrain vehicles to explore the valley with your Navajo guide. Stop at the Glen Canyon Dam to learn about its impact on the Colorado River before arriving at your lakefront resort. You are on your own next morning, to simply relax and enjoy the resort’s facilities. Later today, a serene cruise through the narrow sandstone turns of Antelope Canyon awaits. End the day with a breathtaking sunset from your lake view or marina view room.
Head to the sandstone cliffs of Bryce Canyon National Park in southern Utah on Day 13. Here you will be met by pine trees and red rock pillars. You’ll take a leisurely walk along Sunset Point to view the great amphitheaters of the odd-shaped monoliths, known as hoodoos, before traveling through more amazing scenery to the lush cliff-and-canyon landscape of Zion National Park. A day of sightseeing deserves some evening festivities, so join your Travel Director and new friends for a celebration dinner. Next morning, board a private Zion Canyon Shuttle. Live commentary will take you through the scenic highlights of the park, followed by some downtime to explore on your own.
Day 14, depart the natural beauty of the park to arrive in the bright lights and glamour of Las Vegas. With an array of shopping malls, live shows and dining opportunities, this dazzling destination is sure to entertain. Be sure to see the Bellagio's fountains at night. And for those looking to hit the casinos, make sure you come with your poker face ready. On day 15 you'll depart Las Vegas and head home. It’s time to say goodbye to your fellow travelers as your adventure comes to an end with a departure transfer to Las Vegas International Airport.
My next newsletter will feature an East coast itinerary, so I'll see you back here for that. 'til next week.