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Thread: Pacific Coast trip planning questions...

  1. #1
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    Pacific Coast trip planning questions...

    My family is planning a road trip from Los Angeles to Seattle later this summer. So far we're planning to visit:

    Los Angeles
    • La Brea tar pits
    • Chinese theater
    • See the Hollywood sign
    • Venice Beach
    • Santa Monica pier
    • Drive through the rich peoples' area


    Up the PCH (1) to San Jose
    • Hearst Castle
    • Winchester Mystery House


    Across to the mountains
    • Yosemite NP
    • Lake Tahoe
    • Bonanza Ranch visit


    Back to San Francisco
    • Coit Tower
    • Golden Gate Bridge
    • Chinatown
    • Pier 39
    • Curvy Lombard St.


    To Crescent City, CA
    • Muir Woods
    • Redwood NP


    To Astoria, OR
    • Crater Lake NP, OR
    • Cannon Beach SP
    • _Goonies_ sites


    Mount Hood / Columbia Gorge loop

    To Seattle
    • Loop around Olympic NP
    • Space Needle
    • Fisherman's Market


    That's the highlights so far. Anything huge I'm missing? Keep in mind that we're not huge into fine dining, nightlife, and if it is a museum / aquarium / etc. it has to be something special. Mainly just want to see the region's man-made and natural wonders.

    Also, what is swimming like? I know it is colder than the Atlantic, but is it not swimmable without a wet suit? We'll bring water shoes since we know the coast is pretty rocky in places.

    Originally I had planned a loop trip, from LA up to Crater Lake and back down to LA. I had to ditch Death Valley NP (which I'll pick up next year, likely, on that trip), Lassen Volcanic NP, and Sequoia / Kings Canyon NP but picked up northern OR and WA -- seems like a good trade. Both come in at just shy of 3,000 miles.

    Thanks for any input!

  2. #2
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    Mount St. Helens is the glaring omission on this list. It's a must see if you care for natural wonders, which you mention. Mount Rainier, which is sort of on your way to Seattle, is also amazing. Many other locations are interesting, too, but out of your way. For example, if you ever do head to the Lassen area (great, highly recommended), be sure to visit Burney Falls.
    Last edited by Dave Markell; 05-06-2012 at 11:39 PM.

  3. #3
    World's End Supernova
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    How long do you have for this trip? That's a lot of stops unless you have like two weeks.

    I'd second Mt. St Helens and Mt. Rainier - each are capable of at least a half day or a full day worth of interesting things to see. Near Astoria you also have the fun little beach towns like Cannon Beach as well as an old fort that's fun to wander through just south of Astoria.

    And in Seattle both the EMP music/sci fi museum and the Museum of Flight are worth seeing if you have any interest in either subject.

    As for swimming, anything north of Portland is going to be cold no matter what else is going on. Northwest Oregon's coast is ok when its warm outside - keep in mind that Portland is often notably warmer (5 to 10 degrees fahrenheit) then Seattle at any given moment.

  4. #4
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    Here are a few suggestions:

    Los Angeles
    La Brea tar pits
    *LACMA (LA County Museum Of Art -- right next to tar pits)
    *Petersen Automotive Museum -- across the street from the tar pits
    Chinese theater
    See the Hollywood sign
    Venice Beach
    Santa Monica pier
    Drive through the rich peoples' area

    Up the PCH (1) to San Jose

    *Malibu Creek State Park
    *Santa Barbara Zoo (cute little zoo, good for kids)
    *Mission San Miguel (pulls no punches history of the Spanish did to California natives)
    *Moonstone Beach
    Hearst Castle
    *Big Sur
    * Monterrey Bay Aquarium
    *Dennis The Menace Park, Monterrey,CA.
    *Santa Cruz Boardwalk
    *Roaring Camp
    Winchester Mystery House
    *San Jose : The Tech Museum


    Across to the mountains
    Yosemite NP
    Lake Tahoe
    Bonanza Ranch visit
    *Sutters Mill
    *Jelly Belly Factory Tour (Fairview, CA)

    Back to San Francisco
    Coit Tower
    Golden Gate Bridge
    Chinatown
    Pier 39
    Curvy Lombard St.

    To Crescent City, CA
    *Berkeley Hall Of Science
    *Muir Beach
    Muir Woods
    Redwood NP

  5. #5
    Mad Chester
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    My recommendation is skip Hearst Castle and the Winchester Mystery House. They're not a complete waste of time, but they don't live up to the hype. My experiences:

    Winchester Mystery House: "This house was designed by a very bad architect."
    Hearst Castle: "Yes, this very rich man certainly bought a lot of things."

    I'd spend that time tooling around the beaches between Aptos and Half Moon Bay, or stopping in Monterey to see the aquarium and poke around Cannery Row. I like a restaurant called "Sea Harvest", which has good food and is reasonably priced.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jupiter Jones View Post
    Here are a few suggestions:
    Those are some awesome suggestions. I'd add Alcatraz to the SF stop. Perhaps a few wineries on your way north if you're at all interested in wine.

    edit: agree about the Winchester house. It's odd and has some moderately interesting history behind it, but I don't know that it's worth a stop. Personally, I'd rather go to the awesome big screen theaters right next door or the restaurants and shopping across the street. :)
    Last edited by ReptileHouse; 05-06-2012 at 07:22 PM. Reason: x-post-o-matic

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    Thanks a bunch for the great additions, Mt. Ranier / Mt. Saint Helens are probably a go. Lassen, which was in my original itinerary, is a bit more difficult (it would mean going from Tahoe to Crater via a more inland route and skipping the northern CA coast (and Redwood NP) -- maybe a fair trade. The EMP museum goes on the list for sure, thought it sounds like the Sci-Fi part has been de-emphasized / dismantled? Mission San Miquel and Sutters Mill are also likely locks, thanks for those, as well as many of the others, particularly between LA and SF where I was stumped for much to do during that stretch.

    Sarkus, the trip will run about 20 days. Yeah, much much too big to attempt with much fewer days. Thanks a ton for the tips on swimming as well, good to hear that at least along the California stretch swimming is a possibility, if not even a bit further north. The kids will love hearing that.

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    I would definitely do Mt. Saint Helens as it's not too far off from the highway on the way to Seattle.

    If you're going to do Redwood NP you might as well avoid Muir Woods, since it's a lot more (and a lot bigger) of the exact same thing.

    --- Alan

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    Ditching Hearst is definitely a possibility, but the Winchester would be harder. My wife and I went about fifteen years ago, and yeah, it's a bit disappointing. But the kids read about it in school and are enthralled by the idea of stairs to nowhere and windows on the floor.

    Alcatraz is a good one, especially since my wife and daughter watched that show this past year. For some reason, despite having been to SF a bit, I've never felt a desire to go there -- but they might enjoy it.

    As for Napa Valley, neither of us has an interest in wine or wineries, beyond the pretty countryside. Currently the route from Tahoe back to just north of San Francisco goes through the area and that's probably enough for us.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alan Dunkin View Post
    If you're going to do Redwood NP you might as well avoid Muir Woods, since it's a lot more (and a lot bigger) of the exact same thing.
    Ah, I had wondered about that. I visited Muir Woods about 15 years ago and enjoyed it (along with Yosemite's grove of huge trees) but have never been to Redwood NP. Muir Woods is attractive to my son because it is Endor, but meh, skipping it may allow us to bring in Lassen and keep Redwood. A fair trade.

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    Also just read up on Burney Falls -- that sounds amazing. We've seen some really cool waterfalls on our trips (Niagara, Yellowstone, etc.) but these seem distinct from them enough to make it worth the trip. Leaning towards Lassen area heavily...

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    Quote Originally Posted by BigWeather View Post
    Ah, I had wondered about that. I visited Muir Woods about 15 years ago and enjoyed it (along with Yosemite's grove of huge trees) but have never been to Redwood NP. Muir Woods is attractive to my son because it is Endor, but meh, skipping it may allow us to bring in Lassen and keep Redwood. A fair trade.
    If you are up in Redwoods SP, be sure to find Fern Canyon. It's freakin' amazing.

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    If you're an Apple fan, if you head just a bit further North of San Jose there's Apple World Headquarters at 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino. Not like you can get a tour or anything, but the original Apple Store is there on the Apple campus and open to the public (or at least it was, not 100% sure it's still there).

    It's not really that exciting, but again if you're an Apple fan, it might be fun.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BigWeather View Post
    Also just read up on Burney Falls -- that sounds amazing. We've seen some really cool waterfalls on our trips (Niagara, Yellowstone, etc.) but these seem distinct from them enough to make it worth the trip. Leaning towards Lassen area heavily...
    Burney Falls really is gorgeous. It's not a towering colossus like Yosemite Falls or Bridal Veil, both of which you'll see in Yosemite, but it has a tranquil and unique beauty that I really enjoy. If you do visit the Lassen/Burney area, you can drive due north from there past the awesome Mount Shasta to Crater Lake along the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, a trip I've made several times and always loved.

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    New Romantic corsair's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigWeather View Post

    Also, what is swimming like? I know it is colder than the Atlantic, but is it not swimmable without a wet suit? We'll bring water shoes since we know the coast is pretty rocky in places.
    Santa Monica and Venice aren't rocky. You can swim there fine without a wet suit in the summer. I grew up with the south facing beaches (Huntington, Bolsa Chica), so never saw a rip tide in my life, but Lorini got caught in one when she was young in Santa Monica. Winter surf is better than summer, so lots of people have wet suits anyway - I had one and used it in the summer, but I'd be in the water for three-fours straight (when I was younger). Haven't been there in years and years, but the cool rocky place used to be the tide pools at Cabrillo Beach. One quick look - oh yeah, it's a national monument now:

    http://www.nps.gov/cabr/naturescience/tidepools.htm


    Originally I had planned a loop trip, from LA up to Crater Lake and back down to LA. I had to ditch Death Valley NP (which I'll pick up next year, likely, on that trip), Lassen Volcanic NP, and Sequoia / Kings Canyon NP but picked up northern OR and WA -- seems like a good trade. Both come in at just shy of 3,000 miles.
    Mammoth and Devil's Postpile National Monument, with Mono Lake up the 395 at the turnoff to the backdoor route into Yosemite.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ydejin View Post
    If you're an Apple fan, if you head just a bit further North of San Jose there's Apple World Headquarters at 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino. Not like you can get a tour or anything, but the original Apple Store is there on the Apple campus and open to the public (or at least it was, not 100% sure it's still there).

    It's not really that exciting, but again if you're an Apple fan, it might be fun.
    No idea if it's the original, but there is the company store there in IL1, which is indeed open to the public. Some items there (clothes, mainly) aren't available elsewhere.

    Also, if you're interested in that, and/or the Winchester house, I'd be glad to play local tour guide for an afternoon or whatever if you'd like.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigWeather View Post
    Ditching Hearst is definitely a possibility, but the Winchester would be harder. My wife and I went about fifteen years ago, and yeah, it's a bit disappointing. But the kids read about it in school and are enthralled by the idea of stairs to nowhere and windows on the floor.

    Alcatraz is a good one, especially since my wife and daughter watched that show this past year. For some reason, despite having been to SF a bit, I've never felt a desire to go there -- but they might enjoy it.

    As for Napa Valley, neither of us has an interest in wine or wineries, beyond the pretty countryside. Currently the route from Tahoe back to just north of San Francisco goes through the area and that's probably enough for us.
    How old are your kids or did I miss that somewhere? Based on their age the suggestions about the Monterey Aquarium and Dennis the Menace Park are great ideas. Also it would effect how much they would enjoy Hearst Castle.

    If you have no interest in the Napa Valley wineries then I would suggest you avoid the area as it is a traffic nightmare if busy.

    You are planning a lot of driving and a lot of stopping. You are a very brave/crazy person. :)

  18. #18
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    If you're interested in flying things at all, the Future of Flight museum in Everett (not to be confused with the also-awesome Museum of Flight in Renton) is tiny but has an incredible tour of the largest building by volume in the world. You get to see 747s, 777s, and the shiny new 787 production lines. The whole thing can fit into a morning or afternoon, and is quite unique!

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigWeather View Post
    As for Napa Valley, neither of us has an interest in wine or wineries, beyond the pretty countryside. Currently the route from Tahoe back to just north of San Francisco goes through the area and that's probably enough for us.
    Understood, but there is a cheesy geyser in Calistoga (north end of Napa Valley) that might be fun for the kids.

    Sounds like a great trip that will give everyone lifetime memories. Yosemite and Crater Lake are both just spectacular - probably two of my most favorite places of natural beauty that I have ever seen.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jupiter Jones View Post
    If you are up in Redwoods SP, be sure to find Fern Canyon. It's freakin' amazing.
    I google'd that and ... wow. Much like Custer State Park in South Dakota which rivaled its National Park neighbor (Wind Cave), Prairie Creek Redwoods SP may well rival Redwood NP from what I'm reading. Thanks!

    Quote Originally Posted by ydejin View Post
    If you're an Apple fan, if you head just a bit further North of San Jose there's Apple World Headquarters at 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino. Not like you can get a tour or anything, but the original Apple Store is there on the Apple campus and open to the public (or at least it was, not 100% sure it's still there).

    It's not really that exciting, but again if you're an Apple fan, it might be fun.
    Not a huge Apple fan, but an interesting option.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Markell View Post
    Burney Falls really is gorgeous. It's not a towering colossus like Yosemite Falls or Bridal Veil, both of which you'll see in Yosemite, but it has a tranquil and unique beauty that I really enjoy. If you do visit the Lassen/Burney area, you can drive due north from there past the awesome Mount Shasta to Crater Lake along the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, a trip I've made several times and always loved.
    I'm nailing down the exact route, but I intend to at least do the southern part of that route (can't do it all because I'm intending to head to the coast before heading back inland to Crater Lake), thanks for the link!

    Quote Originally Posted by corsair View Post
    Santa Monica and Venice aren't rocky. You can swim there fine without a wet suit in the summer. I grew up with the south facing beaches (Huntington, Bolsa Chica), so never saw a rip tide in my life, but Lorini got caught in one when she was young in Santa Monica. Winter surf is better than summer, so lots of people have wet suits anyway - I had one and used it in the summer, but I'd be in the water for three-fours straight (when I was younger). Haven't been there in years and years, but the cool rocky place used to be the tide pools at Cabrillo Beach. One quick look - oh yeah, it's a national monument now:

    http://www.nps.gov/cabr/naturescience/tidepools.htm

    Mammoth and Devil's Postpile National Monument, with Mono Lake up the 395 at the turnoff to the backdoor route into Yosemite.
    Thanks a ton for the swimming tips, glad to hear that further south wet suits aren't needed. As for Cabrillo, that was really neat -- but sadly we won't be going as far south as San Diego.

    Quote Originally Posted by ReptileHouse View Post
    No idea if it's the original, but there is the company store there in IL1, which is indeed open to the public. Some items there (clothes, mainly) aren't available elsewhere.

    Also, if you're interested in that, and/or the Winchester house, I'd be glad to play local tour guide for an afternoon or whatever if you'd like.
    Thanks for the offer! As things firm up we may be able to hook up.

    Quote Originally Posted by Scuzz View Post
    How old are your kids or did I miss that somewhere? Based on their age the suggestions about the Monterey Aquarium and Dennis the Menace Park are great ideas. Also it would effect how much they would enjoy Hearst Castle.

    If you have no interest in the Napa Valley wineries then I would suggest you avoid the area as it is a traffic nightmare if busy.

    You are planning a lot of driving and a lot of stopping. You are a very brave/crazy person. :)
    My daughter is 15 and my son 12. I'm thinking we'll just do photos of the exterior of Hearst Castle at this point and go to the nearby Mission San Miguel instead, that was an excellent suggestion. We've toured Biltmore here in NC so I'm not sure yet another big house with tons of stuff in it is going to impress. I visited Monterey years ago and while the kids may enjoy it we'll probably skip it for more unique stops (there are a ton of aquariums about now, I remember when they were rare).

    As for the trip itself, we're getting pretty good at these multi-week tours. Did Wyoming and surroundings in 2010 (blog here), a two week plus trip of 3,100 miles. Last year we did New England, Ottawa, and Quebec City (blog here), two weeks long. We've also driven to Nashville - Memphis - Saint Louis for a week as well as up to Maine and back. The kids have always been great in the car (we don't have TVs or anything, either, they just stare out the window, interact, or read). Wyoming had its rough spots (in particular a 10+ hour driving day) so that I've learned to try and keep daily driving under 5 hours and have something interesting to stop and see every day.

    Quote Originally Posted by Malderi View Post
    If you're interested in flying things at all, the Future of Flight museum in Everett (not to be confused with the also-awesome Museum of Flight in Renton) is tiny but has an incredible tour of the largest building by volume in the world. You get to see 747s, 777s, and the shiny new 787 production lines. The whole thing can fit into a morning or afternoon, and is quite unique!
    That sounds incredible! I love commercial aircraft (even more than military aircraft, I know, odd).

    Quote Originally Posted by Kemper Boyd View Post
    Understood, but there is a cheesy geyser in Calistoga (north end of Napa Valley) that might be fun for the kids.

    Sounds like a great trip that will give everyone lifetime memories. Yosemite and Crater Lake are both just spectacular - probably two of my most favorite places of natural beauty that I have ever seen.
    Google'd the geyser and for $10 per head we'll probably pass as we toured Yellowstone a few years ago (and they were even a bit meh at Old Faithful -- WHAT?!).

    Yeah, I'm very psyched about the trip. It'll be pricey, but I really enjoy seeing the country and sharing the experience with the kids. This is the third of four major (multi-week) trips we're taking, next year will be Grand Canyon, southern Utah NPs, Monument Valley, Four Corners, Mesa Verde, Roswell (gotta do that!), Carlsbad, White Sands, Guadaloupe Mountains, Tombstone, Petrified Forest, and Meteor Crater (Starman!).

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    Quote Originally Posted by BigWeather View Post
    This is the third of four major (multi-week) trips we're taking, next year will be Grand Canyon, southern Utah NPs, Monument Valley, Four Corners, Mesa Verde, Roswell (gotta do that!), Carlsbad, White Sands, Guadaloupe Mountains, Tombstone, Petrified Forest, and Meteor Crater (Starman!).
    I've visited every one of those and points between, so start a new thread next year when you're route planning and I'll be glad to give you feedback then, too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BigWeather View Post
    Alcatraz is a good one, especially since my wife and daughter watched that show this past year. For some reason, despite having been to SF a bit, I've never felt a desire to go there -- but they might enjoy it.
    Buy tickets ahead of time for Alcatraz. I personally recommend the night tour for an extra dose of spooky, and they open up parts of the jailhouse that are not available during day trips. Get the earlier boat so you can see everything.

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    New Romantic corsair's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigWeather View Post
    Thanks a ton for the swimming tips, glad to hear that further south wet suits aren't needed. As for Cabrillo, that was really neat -- but sadly we won't be going as far south as San Diego.
    End of the Harbor (110) Freeway, still well inside Los Angeles County. Directly south of downtown LA - 30 minutes or so (non-rush hour of course). Not particularly near San Diego.

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    I'm a big fan of Olympic National Park. I'm not sure what you mean by "loop around" it, but make sure that you take a short excursion or two into it; maybe a few short hikes or something.

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    My daughter is 15 and my son 12. I'm thinking we'll just do photos of the exterior of Hearst Castle at this point and go to the nearby Mission San Miguel instead, that was an excellent suggestion. We've toured Biltmore here in NC so I'm not sure yet another big house with tons of stuff in it is going to impress. I visited Monterey years ago and while the kids may enjoy it we'll probably skip it for more unique stops (there are a ton of aquariums about now, I remember when they were rare).
    Mission San Miguel is one of the few I have not been to. The mission in Carmel is beautiful as is the one in Santa Barbara. The mission at La Purisma while not as pretty is a "working" mission with animals and ag areas that demonstrate how the mission survived. My kids loved both of those missions.

    Hearst Castle has several tours, and depending on when you went you might have to pre-buy a ticket. The tour of the big house and pool areas is the best for kids. It is also a good last stop before you drive through Big Sur to the north.

    Unless you take a tour you can see the house but you don't get within a mile of it. It sits on a hill above the highway and you take a bus up to the house.
    Last edited by Scuzz; 05-08-2012 at 11:52 AM.

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    Oh - we expect lots of photos. :-)

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    Quote Originally Posted by corsair View Post
    End of the Harbor (110) Freeway, still well inside Los Angeles County. Directly south of downtown LA - 30 minutes or so (non-rush hour of course). Not particularly near San Diego.
    You guys are not talking about the same thing.

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    That sounds like a great trip! I wish I was going. :)

    Anyway, if I ever do get around to visiting the west coast of USA, I'd definitely go see Snoqualmie and North Bend, both of which were used for locations in Twin Peaks (including the very nice waterfall shot from the intro). Supposedly, they're not far from Seattle.

  29. #29
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    Snoqualmie is not too from Seattle, I'd say within an hour or so. The Falls are pretty good when there's a good bit of water going through 'em (like most waterfalls).

    --- Alan

  30. #30
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    If you and the family have your passports Vancouver and Victoria BC are worth seeing. Lots of beautiful lakes around the Olympic Peninsula. Lake Cushman and Lake Crescent are my favorites. And for hanging out I almost prefer Tacoma to Seattle these days. Though I love both. Tacoma just seems a little slower paced and they have a beautiful waterfront in Ruston and some really good restaurants and bars around downtown.

    Anyway have fun. I was planning something similar though smaller this summer but it fell apart. Maybe next year.

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