LA - Las Vegas - San Francisco Self Drive Road Trip : 16 Days Holiday Itinerary for families - - Singapore Lifestyle Portal

LA - Las Vegas - San Francisco Self Drive Road Trip : 16 Days Holiday Itinerary for families

It's time for a Road Trip to California, USA!

We are fans of Road Trips. Having explored Australia in cars, we decided to take an adventure on another continent.

The USA was our destination for this holiday. We will travel on a road trip between LA, Las Vegas and San Francisco.  It was a fantastic experience. If you have about 2 to 3 weeks to spare, this will be the ultimate road trip for families choosing California as their holiday destination.

Ride with us on this Las Vegas - Los Angeles - San Francisco road trip. The whole journey will take us a whopping 1000 miles or 1600 Km.

It's a long post ahead, but we are sure that you will find nuggets of helpful information to help you plan for a similar road trip.

Day 1
Arrival - Los Angeles International Airport

We took a connecting flight from Singapore to LA ( through Tokyo) that lasted almost 20 hours, with a stopover in Tokyo.
Premium Economy

Thankfully,  we managed to snag a great deal from Singapore Airlines for Premium Economy and were comfortable during the flight.

Flight from Singapore to LA - Total 19 hours 30 mins, including a stop at Tokyo

After being on our butts for almost a day, we touched down at Los Angeles International Airport.

Arrival - Los Angeles International Airport

Since this was a self-drive holiday, we will collect our cars from Hertz. Compared to other destinations, collecting a rental car in LAX would require you to take a bus to an offsite location. Hertz collection centre was about 10 minute's drive from the airport, with regular buses picking you up from the airport.

Bus to Hertz Los Angeles

We had pre-booked an SUV for the ride, but no SUV was available when we reached there. Instead, we were given an MPV - Kia Carens, for this trip. Since it was similar in size, we had no issue with it.

Tip: If you are booking from Hertz, join their complimentary Hertz Gold Plus membership. Collecting a car under the membership would be much easier and hassle-free from our experiences.
PS Book an SUV or MPV; you would need the space for luggage.

Hotel: Country Inn and Suites by Radisson (Anaheim)
Travel:  LAX to Country Inn and Suites - 35 miles, 36 minutes
Country Inn and Suites Anaheim
The drive to the hotel (Country Inn and Suites) took about 1 hour. Thankfully, we drove during the off-peak period; the time taken could easily double. When driving in LA, note the traffic condition, as it could get quite bad sometimes.

The decision to stay a night in LA was wise. At different time zones, we were already comatose due to jet lag when we reached the hotel. It does not help when we feel a little queasy during the flight.
Jet Lag

Country Inn and Suites are located in Anaheim near Disney Parks. It is about 3 blocks away from Disneyland. Our room came with complimentary breakfast and Wifi. We were not too particular about the amenities as we only stayed for a night. Most importantly, it was a safe area to stay in and had 2 queen-sized beds.

Tip:  If you are travelling in a party of 4, get rooms with Queen beds and NOT double beds. Double beds are similar to Super Single size and might be too much of a squeeze to share.

Day 2
Highlights: Road Trip to Las Vegas, Peggy Sue's Diner, Eddie's World, Baker's Thermometer, Seven Magic Mountain, Las Vegas South Premium Outlet
Morning Drive to Vegas
The next day we had to leave at dawn for Las Vegas. We had planned our trip during Thanksgiving Week, and traffic was notoriously brutal during this week. We skipped breakfast to avoid a possible jam and made a dash for Vegas via the I-15. This 260 miles trip would take 4 hours without stops. For us, it will probably take much longer. After all, what is a road trip without checking out the local attractions?
Source:  Google Map

Tip: It is best to have a GPS Navigation unit if you travel out of town. Instead of renting one that can cost you MORE than the actual unit, buy a refurbished unit at half the cost. 

No time to read; watch our video highlight of the Las Vegas Road Trip here. Subscribe to our Youtube Channel for more!

Attraction: Peggy Sue's 50s Diner
Address:  35654 Yermo Rd, Yermo, CA 92398, USA
Travel: Anaheim to Peggy Sue's Diner - 118 miles, 1 hour 48 Mins

Peggy Sue's 50s Diner
To make up for breakfast, we stopped at Peggy Sue's Diner, a 2-hour drive from Anaheim.

Welcome to Peggy Sue
Peggy Sue's is a Diner that brings you back to the 50s. Filled with many movies and TV Memorabilia, it will make a tremendous quirky stop on the way to Vegas.

Inside Peggy Sue's

We stepped into the Diner and felt transported to the Twilight Zone!
Everything looks so retro like we had stepped into a movie set.
Every 50s and 60s icon can be found in this nifty Diner, from the Blues Brothers to Elvis to Marilyn to James Dean.
As for breakfast, they were priced reasonably ( compared to Vegas) at under $10 for decent bacon, eggs and hash brown set.

Attraction: Eddie World
Address:  36017 Calico Rd, Yermo, CA 92398, USA
Travel: Peggy Sue's 50s Diner to Eddie World -  3.2 miles, 5 Mins
Eddie World
Eddie World is not exactly an attraction. Instead, it is a Petrol Station with a grocery store. You can grab food, snacks and, more importantly, drinks. More importantly, the toilets were super clean, making it a good pit stop to pick up food and gas. Look out for the large sundae landmark for Eddie World.

Tip: Grab a couple of bottles of water. Most hotels do not provide bottled water or facilities to boil water. Getting a small bottle of water in Vegas will cost a few bucks. Remember, we are in a desert, so water is necessary. Grab at least a 1-gallon bottle per day. You would need it!

Attraction: World's Tallest Thermometer
Address: 72157 Baker Blvd, Baker, CA 92309, USA
Travel: Eddie World to Baker -  52.5 miles 46 mins

World's Tallest Thermometer - Baker

The next pit stop was the world's giant thermometer. Why do we make this stop?
Well, why not, as it is on the way to Vegas? It was also an excellent stop to stretch the legs.

Attraction: Seven Magic Mountains
Address:  Off S Las Vegas Blvd at Terrible's Hotel  & Casino exit
Travel: Baker to Seven Magic Mountains -  67.3 miles 1 hour

When we saw the Seven Magic Mountains, we were a little trippy.
Having not been used to long drives, we puked in the car.   Seeing 7 colourful stones structure made us a little dizzier. Why were they in the desert?

It was good enough for us to stop and be in awe.

Tip: Play The Doors Break on Through when driving to the Seven Mountains. The Experience will be surreal.
So high
Attraction:  Las Vegas South Premium Outlet
Address:  7400 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89123 m, USA
Travel: Seven Magic Mountain to LVS Premium Outlet - 17 miles, 20 mins
Las Vegas South Premium Outlets

Given that we left early, we avoided the Thanksgiving traffic.

By the time we reached Vegas, we still had time before check-in. Since time was on our side, we stopped at South Las Vegas Premium Outlet. Our hotel, Luxor Hotel & Casino, was a mere 10-minute drive away,

Tip: Premium outlets are a must-stop if you are heading to the US. The value-for-money items are the branded goods from Coach, Polo, Tommy Hilfiger, Michael Kors and more. The savings can be up to 80% off Singapore's price. Prepare extra empty luggage or two.

Hotel:  Luxor Hotel & Casino
Address: 3900 S LAs Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89119, USA
We reached our hotel about 9 hours since we left Anaheim. If you are planning a road trip, consider pit stops. The hotel has an Egyptian Theme and is even built in the shape of the Pyramid!
Luxor Room

We had the newly renovated Tower Rooms. It was a great deal as we booked it early via It may not be in the centre of the Las Vegas Strip, but it was close to places we wanted to visit, such as Fun Dungeons @ Excalibur, M&M World and Hershey Chocolate World in New York, New York.

After a quick bite at the food court, we headed to Fun Dungeons @ Excalibur to cap off the night. We even spotted Youtubers there making a video. Do you know who they are?
Excalibur Fun  Dungeon - Spot the Youtubers

Day 3
Highlights - Twilight Zone Mini Golf, Circus Circus Midway Games, Las Vegas North Premium Outlet

Paris @ Vegas
After a long drive to Vegas, we decided to take things easy and explore the Strip for today.

Johnny Rockets

We headed to one of the Food courts at Bally's Las Vegas Hotel and Casino.  The food court was quite typical of food courts in Las Vegas. There was usually a mix of eateries serving burgers, pizza, Chinese food and the occasional Fried Chicken. Depending on the location, you can find Johnny Rockets, Panda Express, KFC or Popeye's in the food court. Food courts do not serve the best food, but they do their job. At less than US $10 for most meals, it is much more affordable than restaurants that charge about US $80 for a family of four.

Tip: Tipping is not necessary for food courts compared to restaurants where tipping is expected ( Usually 15-20% of the bill)

Attraction:  Twilight Zone Mini Golf
Address: 3645 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89109, USA
Twilight Zone Mini Golf

We are at Bally's mainly to have a go at the Twilight Zone Mini Golf. Mini golf was a fun way to spend time as a family. Playing it at the Twilight Zone brought us to another whole new dimension.

Attraction: Circus Circus Midway Games
Address:  2880 Las Vegas Blvd S, Circus Circus Las Vegas, NV 89109, USA
Circus Circus Midway Games

After the game of golf, our next destination was Circus Circus Midway Games. After watching countless youtube videos on carnival games, this destination was a must-do for us. If you are travelling with kids, be sure to bring them there.
The carnival games were much more winnable than the Fun Dungeon at Excalibur. We ended with half a dozen toys to bring home with us.

Attraction: Las Vegas North Premium Outlet
Address: 875 S Grand Central Pkwy, Las Vegas, NV 89106, USA

Las Vegas North Premium Outlet Mall

Next up was time for the grown-ups to have fun. It was another trip to the premium shopping outlet. This time we headed to the North Side. Our timing was perfect as it was the week of Black Friday. The added perks to the already great discounted prices meant our parents stocking up their wardrobes for the year ahead. Compared to the South, the Las Vega North Premium Outlet Mall was better as it had more shops than the former.

Tip: Check the website for extra coupons and savings. Some coupons are only available online.

Day 4
Highlights - Grand Canyon Day Trip

Today, we left the car behind and decided to take a day tour of the Grand Canyon. Theoretically, you can make a day trip there on your own. However, with 10 hours of driving to and fro, it would be physically demanding for us to do a self-drive. Consider spending an additional night at Grand Canyon if you want to make the trip on your own.

We decided to opt for a tour instead. Our tour was privately chartered and cost slightly more than the standard package. If cost is a concern, consider booking a tour from Klook. With the money saved, you could even upgrade to a helicopter tour.

Attraction: Las Vegas Sign
Address: 5200 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV89119, USA
Las Vegas Sign

The tour started early, at 7 am. Our first stop was a photo op at the Welcome to Las Vegas Sign. It was a short stop but good enough to take photos to prove we were in Vegas.

Attraction: Hoover Dam
Address: Nevada 89005, USA

Our itinerary included a stop at Hover Dam. We did not get to explore the Dam, but it was impressive.

Attraction: Historic Route 66
Address: Seligman, Arizona 86337, USA
For road trips to the US, one must visit Route 66. Although most of Route 66 has disappeared, certain parts retain their charms.
Route 66

Our trip included a stopover at Route 66 in Seligman, Arizona. This is a little town, but it is lined with quirky little shops that have existed since Route 66 was built. It was part of the original Route 66. Today, you can still experience life in the old days.

There was a cool shop there that had everything Route 66 related merchandise.
The King
You can also see old American classic cars in their original state there. Worth a stop for those Instagram photos.
Take a ride
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Attraction: Grand Canyon South Rim
Address: Rim Trail, Grand Canyon Village, AZ 86023, USA
Look out - Bright Angel Point
If you are heading to Grand Canyon, the South Rim would be the best place to experience nature's beauty. The South Rim is billed as the True Grand Canyon. The West Rim may be nearer to Las Vegas and boast a glass sky bridge. However, it is not part of Grand Canyon Nation Park.

Another alternative to the South Rim would be the Antelope Canyon & Horseshoe Bend located at Grand Canyon East. It is a highly Instagram-able place, but due to the terrains and hikes needed to reach there, there are better destinations than this one for kids.

Bright Angel Lodge - Spot the Lookout studio
Almost all tours will include a longer stop at Bright Angel Lodge. You can walk along the trails from the Bright Angel Lodge to the lookout studio.

Bright Angel Point

The fact that most official pictures of the Grand Canyon come from the South Rim is a testimonial to its significance.
If you are lucky, you mean even spot some wildlife there.
Spot the deer

Our tour included additional stops at Duck on the Rock and other locations.
Duck on a Rock

The best part of the tour was the secret location. Unfortunately, we cannot tell you where it is, but the view was spectacular!

For complete travel options to Grand Canyon, we recommend visiting the Klook website. You have many choices, from the basic South Rim Day bus to Helicopter rides.

Attraction: Las Vegas at Night
Las Vegas strip
We were back in Vegas by about 7pm. The night was still young, so we decided to head to the strip for a walk. Since we stayed at Luxor, there are a few attractions suitable for families within walking distance.

M&M World
We made stops at M & M world to check out the wall of M&M.

M & M Chocolate
Naturally, we could not resist grabbing some for ourselves.
Take your pick
Our chocolate craving did not stop. Since Hershey's Chocolate World is directly opposite M & M at New York New York Casino, we decided to make a trip there too.

Hershey Chocolate Liberty

You can purchase the world's largest Hershey's bar there. We were forbidden from doing it as Dad felt it was too much of a sugar rush for us.
That did not stop us from getting a Hershey S'more (marshmallow and chocolate melted between two crackers). Very sinful but worth it!

Las Vegas looked alive at night with its bright neon lights. A walk in the evening is recommended to soak in the atmosphere.

Tip: At certain parts, it may get rowdy. For safety, walk only on the main strip where bright lights and plenty of people are around.
Viva Las Vegas

Day 5
Highlights - Explore Vegas, Cirque Du Soleil

Attraction: Circus Circus Midway Games
Address: 2880 Las Vegas Blvd S, Circus Circus Las Vegas, NV 89109, USA
Life's a circus
It's back to Circus Circus to watch the free circus act and have another go at the carnival.

Free Circus Act

Attraction: Mystere
Address: Treasure Island. 3300 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89109, USA

After that, we caught the original Cirque Du Soleil show Mystere at Treasure Island. This was our first Cirque Du Soleil show, and it did not disappoint.
We had great front-row seats in the house and were impressed with the set and performance. This was probably the best circus act we have seen to date.

Tip:  We got a great deal from Klook compared to the official site. Kid's tickets were only available from Klook. We do not have to pay any extra admin fee compared to the official website. ( Savings of about 30%)


After the show, we ended the day by exploring Fashion Mall next to Treasure Island for some Black Friday deals.

Fashion Mall

Whatever Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas!

Day 6
Highlights Road Trip - Drive to Anaheim

Ride to LA
It's time to end our Vegas adventure as we return to LA. As it was Thanksgiving weekend, a regular hours drive took us 8 hours instead!

Tip: Check the calendar before planning a trip to avoid traffic. Avoid Holiday Season if possible.

No time to read; check out the video version

Hotel: Residence Inn Anaheim
Travel: Las Vegas to Residence Inn Convention Center hours 259 miles. 4 hours
Residence Inn Anaheim
By the time we reached the Residence Inn Convention Center, night had already set in.
Big Size rooms at Residence Inn Convention Center
The good thing was that we were delighted with the vast room at Residence Inn. They had a separate living and kitchen area from the bedrooms. We got a great deal at as it was even cheaper than smaller hotels found in the vicinity. Complimentary breakfast and WiFi are included in the booking,

Cheesecake Factory

The location was perfect, as we could simply walk to the nearby mall for Dinner. Dinner was at the Cheesecake Factory, famous for burgers and Cheesecakes!

Tip: Choose a hotel within 1 block of Disneyland, so you do not need to drive and park at Disney.

Day 7
Highlights: Disneyland
Which way to Disney?
Attraction: Disneyland
Address: 1313 Disneyland Drive, Anaheim, CA 92802, USA

For this leg of our LA stays, the reason why we stayed at Anaheim was pretty apparent... Disneyland Park. In fact, it was both Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure that influenced our decision. Having been to Disneyland in Tokyo and Hong Kong, we were excited at the chance to visit the original Disneyland.

Tip: If you are heading to Disneyland, be there early. The queue for security would be longer than the queue for getting in.
Matterhorn Bobsled

With a 2 Day ' 1 Park per Day ' ticket from Klook, we saved about 15% from getting it individually. The prices were also lower compared to the official rate from Disney.  The multi-park admission is also a better option as it is the same price regardless if it is regular or peak season.

Getting in was a breeze as we simply showed the printed tickets at the gate to change for official tickets.

Disney was as magical as it was billed to be. One ride you should take advantage of would be the Matterhorn Bobsled, as it is only found in Disneyland, California.


In terms of the parade, it was good. Although we still think the best Disney parade experience would be in Disneyland Tokyo,  Disneyland California came in a close second.
Walt Disney
Disneyland California is the only park where construction was overseen by Walt Disney. It was amazing how one man's vision can impact millions.
Do stay for the fireworks in the evening.

Tip: Stand on the right side facing the castle. The fireworks would be blocked from the left due to trees.
Downtown Disney
We took a quick stroll at Downtown Disney. There are restaurants and shops there. However, some shops were already closed because we only left Disney at 11 pm.

Tip: Disney opens till late on certain days, sometimes even at 12pm. Check the  Disney website for updates.

Day 8
Highlights Captain Dave Dolphin and Whale Watch Safari

Captain Dave 
Attraction: Captain Dave Dolphin and Whale Watch Safari
Address: 24440 Dana Point Harbor Dr, Dana Point, CA 92629, USA
Travel: Country Inn to Dana Point 35 miles. 36 minutes

Rather than going to theme parks on consecutive days, we decided to take a break and head to the seas.
What will we see today?
The family, especially Mom, are fans of Whale Watching. So for this trip, we decided to arrange a unique whale-watching experience for her.
Whale Watch Family

Mom had been to Captain Dave's Dolphin & Whale watching safari several times. She had always wanted to share the experience with us, so we decided to fulfil her wish.

It was an easy 35-minute drive from our hotel. Within minutes of our departure from the docks, we could catch a glimpse of dolphins out in the sea. They immediately swam up to us and alongside the boat. Super cool.
School of Dolphins

Another plus was that the ship was equipped with underwater viewing pods where we could see the dolphins eye to eye!

Sei Whale

Whales are not easily spotted during December as it is not the migrating season. We were lucky enough to spot a lone Sei Whale. Sea lions also greeted us on the way back.
Sea Lions
This whale watch trip was quite different from the ones we experienced in Australia. It was more dolphins than a whale watch cruise. Swimming with dolphins was indeed an eye-opener. The opportunity to see so many different species of animals cap a wonderful day for us.

Sunset at Dana Point

Day 9
Disney California Adventure

Disney Pier

Attraction: Disney California Adventure
Address: 1313 Disneyland Drive, Anaheim, CA 92802, USA

It's back to the theme park. This time we will visit Disney California Adventure. We were still determining what to expect as we had not read much about the place. Armed with our prepaid tickets from Klook, we are about to find out!

Holiday mood
Learning from our experiences at Disneyland, we arrived 30 minutes before opening. There was already some queue in front of us. The entrance to the park may be separated, but it is the same entrance for security screening.

Disney California Adventure is very much different from Disneyland. Disneyland is well known for child-friendly rides and shows. Disney California Adventure is leaning more towards rides for older kids.

*Bookmark our website; we will be bringing you a comparison in our future posts.
Let's Swing!
The ride itself was fantastic. The must-ride includes Radiator Springs Racer, Incredicoaster, soaring around the World and Guardians of the Galaxy. Note that queues are pretty long, so you must get a fast pass to sit all of them. On a busy day, you might not sit on all rides. We went during the off-peak period and managed to sit on 90% of the rides we wanted. Not too bad, we reckon.

Tip: Get a fast pass to a popular ride the FIRST thing you head to the park!
There was also a FULL musical - Frozen. This musical lasted one hour. Still, it was a must-see for fans as Frozen comes alive with an incredible set and cast. There are also other street performances but at a smaller scale than Disney's.
There were also carnival games at Pixel Pier. Of course, when there is a carnival game, you are sure The Wackies will make a go for it.
Carnival Games

We stayed there till dark. Disney Adventure Park closes much earlier than Disneyland. There is so much to do there that a one-day pass is not enough!

Disney Pier @ night

Day 10
Highlights: Hollywood Hills, Hollywood Walk of Fame, Grauman's Chinese Theatre, Dave and Buster, Universal Citywalk

Spot the Hollywood sign.
Attraction: Hollywood Hills
Address: Lake Hollywood Park 3160 Canyon Lake Dr
Travel: Anaheim to Hollywood Hills 37 miles, 1 hour

Today, we will switch hotels. We will be moving into Hollywood for the next three days. Our first stop was at Lake Hollywood Park to closely examine the iconic Hollywood sign. It was an exciting drive as we had to get off the tourist route and drive up residence on a hill to reach here. Furthermore, some roads were restricted to residents only,
Lake Hollywood Park

Tip: Google Lake Hollywood Park instead of Hollywood Sign. The latter would probably bring you to Griffen Observatory or residential areas that may be restricted to residents only.

Attraction: Hollywood Walk of Fame
Address: N Highland Ave & Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90028
Before checking in to our hotel, we head to the nearby Hollywood Walk of Fame to check out landmarks such as Grauman's Chinese Theatre and Hollywood stars.

Tip: Park your car at Hollywood & Highlands. You can validate your tickets if you purchase an item from a shop for a lower parking fee.
We found a Harry Potter hand mould. Given there is a big Potterhead ( he is into the books) in the family, we were glad to have spotted it.
Dave and Buster

At Hollywood & Highland, we headed to  Dave and Buster, an arcade centre, for a quick break.
Since we had time to kill before checking in, we decided to head in for a quick game. Ultimately, we walked out with a good haul after spending $20 there.
Win @ Dave and Buster

Not everything was fine and dandy. In Hollywood, we were almost hustled by a guy trying to give the kids his own 'free' CD. After signing it, he demanded a tip of US $20 for it. Spotting a hustle, we quickly walk away. Thankfully, there was some security there, and the man left us alone after that.

Tip: When travelling with kids, do stay on the safe side and not be enticed by unsolicited offers.

Hotel: Sheraton Universal Hollywood
Address: 333 Universal Hollywood Dr, Universal City, CA 91608, USA
Sheraton Universal Hollywood

Our hotel for the next 2 days will be Sheraton Universal Hollywood. It was located near Universal Studios with a free regular shuttle there, so it was the best place to visit Universal Studios Hollywood.  It may be slightly more expensive, but we save on parking fees at Universal Studios. Parking fees were from USD 25 to USD 60 for preferred parking!

Universal Citywalk
With the complimentary shuttle, we rode to Universal Citywalk for dinner.
Seeing Double
Dinner was at Johnny Rockets. It was burgers and fries, but it cost twice as much as Mcdonald's!

Tip: Food is expensive in the USA; remember to budget more for it, especially in tourist areas.

Our parents did save a pretty penny by shopping at Abercombie & Fitch. With sales going on, they managed to snag a few choice items retailing at a 70% discount off the already discounted price ( 50% off ) in Singapore.

Mind Boggling... If one thing is 'cheap' in the States, it will be clothing from popular brands originating from the US.

Tip: For more mileage on shopping, time your holidays to coincide with Black Friday Week. Sales are ongoing for the WHOLE week instead of just Black Friday.
Shop at A & F

Day 11
Highlights: Universal Studios

Universal Studios
Attraction: Universal Studios Hollywood
Address: 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608, USA

Our last theme stop for the trip would be at Universal Studios Hollywood. After having an incredible time at Universal Studios Osaka, our hopes were high for this theme park. Our tickets were pre-booked from Klook, and the entrance was hassle-free. As per our experiences from Klook, Universal Studios Tickets are usually cheaper than the official site.

The crowd was pleasantly light since it was a weekday and past Thanksgiving week. The queues were relatively short for the characters, so we took the opportunity to take some photos with them.

It took us less than 15 minutes to wait for The Flight of Hippogriff AND Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey compared to 90 minutes EACH in Osaka.  We managed to take ALL the rides we wanted for Universal Studios Hollywood without the Express pass.

The Express Pass might be necessary for specific dates depending on when you are heading there. You can check the crowd calendar here. If it shows that 'It is packed' or 'Forget about it, getting the Express Pass would make more sense.

Hollywood Studio Tour

The main highlight of Universal Studios Hollywood is not the rides but the Studio Tour. It was an excellent tour featuring a tour around the studios, special effects location and 2 incredible virtual reality screenings of King Kong and Fast and Furious. One of the more dramatic props is a real aircraft that is still burning, built especially for a scene in War of the Worlds!
Studio Tour: Plane Wreck
 Krustyland was another one of our favourite locations.

It was the carnival games that got us excited. We even won some games here.

Tip: Games cost $5 a pop. However, if you double that, they usually give you more chances to win. Instead of playing every game, focus on the ones that you use skills instead of luck.

One must-eat at Universal Studios Hollywood would be the gigantic doughnut. One is enough to feed 4 for lunch!
Big Donut

We stayed till late to watch The Wizarding World of Harry Potter come alive with Christmas lights and snow. Year-end visits to theme parks are usually great as they would be decked up in Christmas colours.

Hogwarts Castle
Universal Studios shut its doors relatively early compared to Disneyland. However, with a lesser crowd, we covered almost all the attractions in a day.
Universal Globe
Attraction: Universal Citywalk

As the night was still young, we headed to the nearby Universal CityWalk for dinner and more shopping.
Universal CityWalk

There are a couple of shops you should visit at Universal CityWalk. The first is It's Sugar - a shop selling everything related to Sugar. A nightmare for parents as children gets sugar high while they are there.
It's Sugar
The nightmare continues with the world's scariest doughnuts - Voodoo Donuts.
Voodoo Donuts
Can you say RIP, Donut?
Sugar overload

Universal CityWalk was a fun place to visit. There were many food options, such as Tony Romas, Bubble Gump Shrimp Company, Johnny Rockets and Hard Rock Cafe. Spending the night with kids was also relatively safer than the nearby Hollywood. Even Santa was having a great time there.
Dancing Santa
We strongly recommend Sheraton or Hilton Universal as your hotels if you are heading there. The location is perfect for a trip to Universal Studios Hollywood.

Day 12
Highlights: Road Trip to San Francisco

Only 238 miles to go!
372 miles (600 km), 6-hour drive.
Source: Google Map

This was the longest drive we have taken on a road trip. In context, Singapore is only  50 miles from East to West. A drive from LA to San Francisco would be the equivalent of driving end to end in Singapore close to 8 times!
The Fog
The route we chose was the shortest via I-5. There were other 2 routes. US 101(400 miles) and Highway 1(434 miles). The different routes could take 10-12 hours to complete with stops. As we were there after the devastating California Fire, parts of the highway may have a diversion. Not wanting to take a risk, we decided the shortest way would be our route.
Aircraft Tyres?
Honestly, the I-5 has little view as you drive through miles and miles of barren land. The exciting thing we saw was a fog that threatened to cover the roads and a truck delivering plane tires. That said, it will make an easy drive to San Francisco from LA within a day compared to Highway 101 or Highway 1. The last trips are recommended for at least a 2-day drive with stopovers.

Attraction: Harris Ranch
Address: 24505 W Dorris Ave, Coalinga, CA 93210, USA
Travel: Sheraton Universal to Harris Ranch - 189 miles. 2 Hours 45 mins
Harris Ranch
Based on our research, taking a break at Harris Ranch Inn for food and toilets was recommended. We stopped for the facilities but skipped the food as the restaurant was closed. There was a Mcdonald's close by, and we decided it would make a better option as we could pack and eat on the road. For those driving on the i-5, there are plenty of stops for petrol and fast food along the way. You would need to make at least one stop for petrol, so plan ahead for a break.

Attraction: San Francisco Factory Outlet
Address: 2774 Livermore Outlets Dr, Livermore, CA 94551, USA
Travel: Harris Ranch to San Francisco Factory Outlet. 146 miles 2 hr

To break the drive's monotony, we stopped at San Francisco Factory Outlet. This outlet has most of the brands in Las Vegas outlets and malls. It probably would be the mecca for shoppers looking for a good deal.

We found a couple and picked up a few gifts for Christmas here.

Source: Google Map

On the last leg to San Francisco via the i-80, there was a toll of USD 5 per vehicle to cross the bridge into San Francisco. We had not read about it online, so do prepare spare change for this. The end of the drive to San Francisco was beautiful as we crossed a tunnel and emerged on the other side of a bridge towards the city.

Hotel: Pier 2620
Address: 2620 Jones St, San Francisco, CA 94133, USA
Travel: San Francisco Premier outlet to Pier 2620 - 40 miles, 1 hour
Pier 2620
Our hotel for San Francisco was Pier 2620, Fisherman's Wharf. We chose this hotel because it was a block from Fisherman's Wharf. This hotel will suit you to a tee if you are into the industrial decor.

Day 13
Highlights: Krispy Kreme, Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum, Exploratorium, Aquarium by the Bay, USS Pampanito, Ripley's Believe it or Not

We had to say goodbye to our trusty ride today. Parking in San Francisco can cost a bomb. Overnight parking in our hotel was at US 50 ++. Add parking charges in other locations for sightseeing, and the expenses for parking itself will be shocking.

Tip: As we arrived during weekends, the Hertz outlet was closed when we arrived. We should have parked at the hotel instead of the car park at Anchorage Square. We ended up paying overnight parking for that. If you are in a similar situation, park at Anchorage Square ( it has other car rentals there, too) instead of the hotel to save on parking charges.

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The Crepe Cafe

We used our other 'Kar' ( Hokkien slang for leg power) to get around town without a car. Thankfully, Pier 2620 was in a great location in Fisherman's Wharf. Most of the attractions we visited in the vicinity take less than 15 mins to get to on foot. Our first stop was The Crepe Cafe at Anchorage Square for crepes and Clam Chowder.
Clam Chowder

Tip: Clam Chowder is a 'must-try' food in Fisherman's Wharf. You can even see how it was made at Boudin Bakery with a tour on-site.
Boudin Bakery

Attraction: Krispy Kreme
Address:  353 Jefferson St, San Franciso, CA 94133, USA
Krispy Kreme

We were still hungry, so we stopped at US most giant Krispy Kreme Stores.
Lots of doughnuts to choose
Being fans of Krispy Kreme, it was hard to resist a bite.

Tip: Get 3,6 or 12 doughnuts at a go. The doughnuts will be priced cheaper with this combination,
Not included in the menu.
Attraction: Madame Tussauds San Francisco (Go San Francisco Card)
Address: 145 Jefferson St #600, San Francisco, CA 94133, USA

Madame Tussauds Wax Museum
Our first attraction in San Francisco was Madame Tussaud's at Fishermen's Wharf. Before the trip, we purchased the 2-day Go-San Francisco All-Inclusive Pass from Klook. The pass allowed us to visit up to 28 attractions on this trip. At Fishermen's Wharf, there are about 11 things you can do with the card, including a Hop on, Hop off bus that would bring you around San Francisco.  It was the best decision for San Francisco as we saved more than 50% in fees compared to purchasing directly from the attractions. To utilize the pass, just show the printout from Klook for the entrance.

Cable Car
Madame Tussaud's was a blast. Plenty of localised themes made it different from other past Madame Tussaud's we visited. We were taken on a little history lesson in San Francisco with a glimpse of the Hippie Age and Alcatraz.
Even if you had been to other Madam Tussaud's, the one in Fisherman's Wharf is still worth a visit.
Next, we took the Big Bug Hop on Hop off the bus to our next destination. Our Go San Francisco card allows us to take this ride for 2 consecutive days.
Pier 1 

We took the Big Bus to get to Pier 15 for the Exploratorium. The bus stopped at the Ferry building, and it was an easy 10-minute walk to the Exploratorium.

Homeless in San Francisco

You probably have heard travel tales about homeless people in San Francisco. During the day, walking in Fishermen's Wharf is relatively safe. However, there were still sights of the homeless around. They tend to leave you alone, but there were a few with unsound minds, so stay alert.

Tip: Some areas in San Francisco would be dangerous to venture to. The Tenderloin would be one such area. So stay around the tourist area, especially at night.

Attraction: Exploratorium (Go San Francisco Card)
Address: Pier 15, The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94111, USA
Travel: Big Bus Hop On Hop Off Stop 5
The Exploratorium was more than just a museum. It was an interactive world that allowed visitors to explore the world of science, art and human perception.
Lots of Gadgets
There were hundreds of gadgets that we could tinker with. Unfortunately, we spent about 2 hours there, and we needed more.
The Exploratorium would be among the best attractions we had been to in San Francisco. So if you have time for only one museum in San Francisco with kids, this would be the one. You can purchase tickets individually or get the San Francisco Go card for more value.


Attraction: Aquarium of the Bay (Go San Francisco Card)
Address: Pier 39, The Embarcadero & Beach St, San Fransico, CA 94133, United States
A short walk from the Exploratorium was the Aquarium of the Bay, located at Pier 39.
It was a relatively small aquarium. Given that it was an attraction on the GO San Francisco, we decided to pop in to take a look. The aquarium was typical of most aquariums. Given its size, we breezed through the exhibit, and the tour took about 1 hour. It may not be worth it if you are visiting it on its own. However, combining it with the Go San Francisco card will be a good stop if you are in Pier 39.

Fish Tunnel
Attraction: Pier 39
Address: The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94133, USA

Pier 39
Pier 39 is a bustling Pier and the place to be when you are at Fisherman's Wharf. There are plenty of restaurants and souvenir shops there. For younger kids, there is the Players Sports Frill & Arcade and a carousel for them to enjoy.
Pier 39 Carousel
The main star of Pier 39 would be the Sea Lions. The Sea Lions made Pier 39 their home since San Francisco 1989 earthquake and had been a permanent sight then.
Pier 39 Sea Lions
Attraction: USS Pampinito (Go San Francisco Card)
Address: 45 Sausalito - San Francisco Pier 41, San Francisco, CA 94133, USA
The USS Pampanito was a US World War 2 Submarine. It is now docked at Fisherman's Wharf.

This was our 2nd exploration of a submarine. The USS Pampanito tour includes a free audio tour that lasts about 1 hour. It would be an exciting insight into life in the submarine for history and navy buffs. The tour is also included in the Go San Francisco Card.

Attraction: Musee Mecanique
Address: Pier 45, Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, CA 94133, USA
Musee Mecanique Fisherman's Wharf

Next to the USS Pampinto was the Musse Mecanique. If you are a fan of the arcade, you must visit this old-style arcade with plenty of 20th-century penny arcade games.

Attraction: Ripley's Believe it or Not ( Go San Francisco Card)
Address: 175 Jefferson St, San Francisco, CA 94133, USA
Ripley's, believe it or not.
The last attraction for the day was Ripley's, believe it or not. We managed to cover 5 Go San Francisco Card attractions in one day. We saved over 50% on admission fees in one day.

Add caption
For a quirky experience, Ripley's Believe it or Not would make a good stop. We were wacky enough to appreciate the oddities in the museum and learned some amazing facts about what humans are capable of.

Get the Go - San Francisco card here
Dinner was a simple meal at McDonald's. It was getting late, and we decided a quick meal would be great; otherwise, walking back to the hotel might get daunting later in the night.

Tip: Drinks are refillable in McDonald's and some restaurants. Great way to refill fluid for the day

Krispy Kreme

We did pick up a dozen doughnuts from Krispy Kreme for Supper and breakfast for the next day.

Doughnuts anyone?

Day 14
Highlights: Hop on Hop-Off Tour, California Science Academy, Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown

Hop on, Hop Off, San Francisco
The itinerary of the day is a full tour around San Francisco City. The City is about 121.4 km² with a population of about 900,000. In terms of size, it is not as big as LA and getting around on the Hop on Hop off bus was the perfect way to explore the City.

Transamerica Pyramid
We took the Big Bus Hop on Hop off tour that comes with our Go San Francisco Card. There are other Hop on Hop off options, but since this came included in the Go San Francisco Card, we decided to use it as our primary vehicle for sightseeing.

Union Square

Taking a Hop Hop off the bus is a great option to explore the city. There were no worries about parking and the high fees to park. Furthermore, San Francisco is well known for car robberies, so taking a bus removes that worry.  The bus routes were interesting, taking you to popular tourist sites such as Union Square and the city's underbelly, such as the Tenderloin.  You probably would not even venture to these dark parts of the cities where countless homeless roam the street. It was safe on the bus as you see the different extremes of what San Francisco offers.

The Big Bus Hop on Hop off route has 20 stops. It brought us through the Ferry Building, Union Square, City Hall, Haight Ashbury,  Golden Gate, Palace of Fine Arts, Chinatown, and Pier 2620. You could hop off at any stop to explore and hop on to the next bus. Tickets come with the Go San Francisco Card.

San Francisco City Hall

Attraction: California Academy of Science (Go San Francisco Card) S
Address: 55 Music Concourse Dr, San Francisco, CA 94118, USA - Stop 11 Big Bus Golden Gate Park

Our first stop was the California Academy of Science. This is one of the world's largest natural history museums, housing over 26 million species.

Albino Crocodile

We spotted our first rare albino Crocodile there.
An Aquarium or a forest?

It had a rainforest, an aquarium and even a planetarium under one roof. Great for exploration for the young.  This attraction was also included in the Go San Francisco Card. After about 2 hours, we hop on the big bus to the next destination. You could also explore the Japanese Tea Garden, Shakespeare Garden, and de Young Museum located in the vicinity.

Big Bus Hop On Hop Off

Attraction: Golden Gate Bridge
Address: North Vista Point - Big Bus Stop 12 North Vista Point/Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Park
The next destination was the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. The bus drove past the bridge and dropped us at North Vista Point.

Tip: Sit on the top deck to feel the wind in your hair. Do warn that it could get pretty chilly during winter!

The stop was perfect for taking Instagram photos.

Take a closer look

We had wanted to stop at the Palace of Fine Arts. Unfortunately, we had to miss it due to the lack of time due to traffic. In hindsight, it may be better to get the 3 days all-inclusive Go San Francisco card instead of 2 so you could spend more time exploring the city.

Palace of Fine Arts

Attraction: Chinatown
Address: Chinatown San Francisco - Big Bus Stop 17 Chinatown Gate

Given Fisherman's Wharf's lack of Asian food and cravings for it, we stopped by Chinatown to have our fill. It was a good move as we found a Japanese restaurant that sold familiar food at a very reasonable price.

Enjoying Chow

Attraction: Pier 39
Address: The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94133, USA - Big Bus Stop 20
Giant Claw Game

Our last stop for the day was back at Pier 39.

Players Arcade

We had a go at the Giant Claw Machine and the Players arcade and walked away with wades of cash... replica $100 bills.

It was a wonderful day exploring the sights of San Francisco. We were glad to be car-free and still able to visit all the attractions safely. We highly recommend the Big Bus Tour if you are heading to San Francisco.

There are several ways to hop onto the Big Bus Tour. Here are some options.

Day 15
Highlights: Alcatraz

Attraction : Alcartaz
Address: Pier 33 Alcatraz Landing

Alcatraz was one of the main reasons we visited San Francisco. So it was no surprise we dedicated at least half a day there. Heading to the island was accessible with a boat ride from Pier 33.

Tickets to the Alcatraz tour usually sell out early. Therefore, ebook the tickets. You could opt for the Alcatraz tour only or a combination ticket from Klook that covers Alcatraz and one other attraction.

Indians Welcome

Here are some fun facts about Alcatraz.

It was a lighthouse, a military garrison, a military prison, and a federal prison and was even occupied by Native Americans during its history. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986 and is now a major tourist magnet in San Francisco.

The allure of Alcatraz would be the famous prisoners that called it home. The most notorious criminals in American history are Al Capone, Robert Franklin 'Birdman' Stroud, and George 'Machine Gun' Kelly. Likewise, Alvin ' Creepy' Karpis and Rafael Cancel Miranda once walked on these grounds.
Cellphone Audio Tour

It was also well known that no known survivors had escaped from Alcatraz. Hollywood had also taken notice of shows such as The Rock and Escape from Alcatraz dedicated to this Rock.
The tour included a world-class Cellphone Audio tour. It was one of the best audio tours we have ever had. Alcatraz may have lost its prisoners, but a crowd will always be waiting to discover its infamous jailbreaks and riots.
There is more to explore in Alcatraz than the prison itself. Head outdoors and discover a new side of Alcatraz, where prison guards once stayed with their spouses and kids. Some other parts of Alcatraz are open to the public on selective days and times.

Tip: Get the early tour to avoid large crowds on your visit to Alcatraz

For Alcatraz tickets, you can get them here.

Klook Travel Wifi

We had fun exploring and double-checking the facts of the audio tour with searches on the Internet. Thanks to Klook Pocket Wifi, the connection was a breeze. In fact, this nifty gadget served us well throughout our trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas to San Francisco. Highly recommended for its reliability. It was also cheaper than its competitors, making it value for money.

It was time to head back to Fisherman's Wharf after spending 5 hours in Alcatraz. On our way back, stop over at Northpoint Center. There is a Safeway there that sells groceries at a reasonable price. You could get 8 fried or grilled chickens at about $10!

In addition, we found the only Chinese food option (Asian Chinese Food) in Northpoint Center; our only regret was that we had not discovered this place much earlier.

Tip: If you are in Fisherman's Wharf, head to Safeway to top up water and snacks. Most hotels do not provide bottles of water for consumption.

Fisherman at Night

After a rest at the hotel, it was a trip to Fisherman's Wharf's iHop for a meal.

We snagged a great deal with kids under 12 eating free. Compared to Denny's, where we ate a few days ago, the food was much better and cost half the price of Denny's.

Day 16
Highlights: Lombart Street, In N Out Burger, Cable Car Turnaround at Powell Street / Market Street

Spot Alcatraz
Today marked my last day in the USA. Since our flight was in the evening, we decided to spend the day exploring the areas near Fisherman's Wharf.

Attraction: Lombard Street
Lombard Street
After hearing about Lombard Street and catching a glimpse of it on Antman and The Wasp, we simply have to look at ourselves. Lombard Street is located about 15 minutes from our hotel at Pier 2620. Be prepared to hike uphill for this view.

Down the winding road

This street has 8 hairpin turns and was designed this way to reduce the speed of traffic heading down the steep slope of Lombard. Residential areas lined both sides of the street with a fantastic view of the City from afar. After this trip, we can now proclaim that we have been on the most crooked road in the world!
Lombard Street

It's a downhill journey back to Fisherman's Wharf for breakfast.
Fisherman's Wharf

Throughout the trip, Dad wanted to try the famous California In-N-Out burger.
In -N- Out

He finally got this wish on the last day. The selection of burgers. There were only 3 kinds of burgers at IN-N-Out. Hamburger, Cheeseburgers and Double-Double. The menu may be basic, but the burgers were simply good. The best burgers eaten for the trip are chunky meat on toasted buns.

Delicious Burgers from In-N-out

Attraction:  Fisherman's Wharf Powell Street / Market Street Cable Car Turnaround.
Fisherman's Wharf cable car

After a hearty meal, we head off to the Fisherman's Wharf Powell Street / Market Street Cable Car Turnaround. We were lucky enough to catch a cable car making a turnaround. The turnaround was done manually by hand rather than electronically.

Ride to the top

With that, it marked the end of essential things to see in San Francisco. We may not have been to all the attractions there, but the essentials were covered during this trip.

It was time to say Goodbye to San Francisco and Fisherman's Wharf.
Since we had no car, we initially wanted to Uber to the airport. However, we managed to arrange a ride with the concierge. Talking to the driver, we noted that Uber drivers are not tested for marijuana (Marijuana is legal in San Francisco). Therefore, these drivers may be on drugs and driving simultaneously. In hindsight, it was wise to take the offer from the concierge for the airport transfer.

Tip:  If you want a safe ride, ask the hotel concierge to arrange one. Chances are the drivers recommended are repeated drivers working with the hotel. They would be more reliable than Uber.

Time to go home

It's time to head home. This time, we would be taking the nonstop flight back to Singapore. At 17 hours 30 minutes, it will be a new record for us in the air!
Nonstop flight to Singapore

We hope you enjoyed the post and found the itinerary useful. Activities in this itinerary (or similar) were mainly sourced from Klook and booked pre-trip. We have attached a list of activities for easy reference.

If you are heading to LA-Las Vegas - San Francisco and found this review helpful. Do support us by clicking on the links to purchase your needed activities. It will not cost you a penny more, but it would help us to keep the lights on.

Enjoy your trip to the USA!

Las Vegas

Los Angelas

Disney Adventure Park

Universal Studios Hollywood

San Francisco
San Francisco Go Card

Alcatraz Tour

Big Bus Tour

US Pocket Wifi

Hotels featured in this itinerary
Los Angeles

Las Vegas

San Francisco

If you like our work, you can buy us a coffee. Your support will help keep us going!

The post contains affiliated links. If you made a purchase through the links, you wouldn't pay a penny more, but we will get a small commission, which helps keep the lights on. Do support us if you like this review. This review was done at our own expense with the following exception - Themeparks sponsorship and Wifi provided by Klook.


  1. Hi. May I know how much was your total expenses excluding the air tickets?

    1. Hi Cecilia. It was about SGD 16K including airfares, accommodation, food, transport and attractions. It was quite a bit, but worth it for a trip that lasted almost 3 weeks ( including travel time)

  2. Thanks for this blog. Super detailed for references. Thnaks!

    1. You're welcome. Hope it helps in planning your trip if you are heading there ;)

  3. Hi! what a nice blog! planning to visit Las Vegas, LA and San Diego around the first 2 weeks of Dec 2019 with wife and 12 year old child. How was the weather and driving conditions ? any icy roads or lots of rain particularly around Las Vegas? does the sun set early probably around 5pm? Thanks !

    1. The Sun sets early in Dec ( about 5-6pm) , so take note of that while driving. California is the sunshine state in US. Even during winter, it does not get too cold ( about 10 -15 degree during the day) . No show when we are there. Driving condition is good, but plan your timing to drive only during daytime as there are parts of the roads without lights. Watch the speed too. The Speed at 65 miles per hour may sound slow but it is rather fast especially on the highway. Check out our driving tips in USA here

    2. May I know which company did you go with for the day trip to Grand Canyon departing from Las Vegas? How was it?
      Thank you

    3. Hi Dan, we took the GC Tour . A cheaper alternative would be from Klook

  4. Hi, Can I know roughly what's the cab fare from SF to airport and the $16k total expenses is for your family of 4? Thankyouu!

    1. Hi Vivan. Cab fare was about US60 if I can recall. The 16K is inclusive of everything (airfares, lodging, food, transport, entertainment, shopping) for 4. You probably could budget lower if you are not into shopping .

    2. If you exclude airfare and shopping. It's about SG 10K for hotel, car , food and entertainment

  5. Hi, i will be going to Grand Canyon south rim from Las Vegas in the first half of December this year for a day trip. Seems that your family was there around the same time. May I know how was the weather in Grand canyon during your trip? Thanks

    1. Hi there, the weather was cool. Bring a light jacket or sweater. Enjoy the trip!

  6. Hi, how's the parking in Las Vegas? Are they expensive?

    1. Parking could be found around the hotels or at the outlet malls. Reasonable price compared to SF. Overnight at about $18 for the one at Luxor. Best to choose a hotel that has a carpark for convenience.

  7. Hi, thanks for the detail information , very helpful to plan a LA tour. Just curious , why didn't you drove to Grand Canyon , probably stay a night and tour around but a day tour from Las Vegas instead ?

  8. Hi, thanks for the detail information . We are planning our year end. May I know what are the reasons that did not drive from Vegas to grand canyon and stay a night but instead took a day tour from Las vegas? TIA!

    1. Hi there. We decided on a tour as we were not familiar with the mountainous terrain and how long the drive would take for a day trip. We did not stay overnight as we do not wish to switch hotels in Vegas. Hope it helps!


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