Q. My husband and I will be in Vegas for a full week in February. We were considering taking a road trip to California, because I'm sure we'd get tired of seeing all the slot machines after a few days. Would you be able to provide me with a few suggestions, such as which city in California is closest to Las Vegas, which car rental company has the cheapest rates, and possibly suggest a hotel. I am especially interested in visiting a few wineries in California. Any other tours or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
A. I've actually done this trip and it's a good one. I'd suggest driving to Palm Springs, CA (800-967-3767 or www.palmspringsusa.com for sightseeing and hotel suggestions) and overnighting there and then head to Los Angeles (213-689-8822 or www.lacvb.com) from there, overnighting again. Then you'd drive up the coastal highway, going through Santa Barbara (800-218-0881 or www.sbcountywines.com) perhaps staying at the Santa Barbara Four Seasons hotel (if your budget permits; 805-969-2261 or www.fourseasons.com/santabarbara) or perhaps the very quirky Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo (800-543-9666 or www.madonnainn.com) and the heading up to San Francisco for the Napa Valley (888-881-3309 or www.napawinetours.net) and Sonoma County (www.sonoma.com)
Q. Could tell me which Los Angeles area airport would be most convenient to Doheny State Beach?
A. If by convenient, you mean the closest, it would be the John Wayne Airport (949-252-5200) in Orange County. It's approximately 30 miles away.
Q. My husband and I, with our two daughters, are traveling to San Francisco in June. We would like to take some side trips but not necessarily on a formal tour. Does public transportation go to Carmel, Monterey and the Muir Woods? Any suggestions and help would be appreciated.
A. Personally I think you'd be better off renting a car if you really want to visit Carmel, Monterey and the Muir Woods. To get to Carmel and Monterey, you'll have to take a Greyhound bus (800-231-2222) to Salinas, and then hop on the Monterey-Salinas Transit bus (888-678-2871). The bus ride between San Francisco and Salinas itself is four hours and will cost you $65 round-trip for four adults.
To get to Muir Woods (415-388-2596) from San Francisco, you'll have to catch either bus number 70 or 80 (or bus number 10 or 22 from Sausalito) to Marin City, and from there you'll catch the Muir Woods Shuttle (Route 66). This service is operated by Golden Gate Transit (415-455-2000) and only runs on weekends. The Route 66 service won't start until Memorial Day weekend. If you want to visit Muir Woods during the weekday, your other option is to travel via the West Marin Stagecoach (415-526-3239) service from Marin City, which will drop you off at Muir Beach. From there it's a relatively flat three mile hike along the Redwood Creek Trail and the shoulder of the main road to the Woods.