My brother is getting married in Ottawa in very early June next year so we're just starting to plan our trip over to North America. I think we'll probably come over to Canada &/or the US for a 7 to 10 day holiday before heading to Ottawa so we're recovered from the travel before the wedding.
I've visited the US twice before - once when I was eight and we visited Disneyland, San Francisco and the area around Grand Junction, Colorado. The second time I was 16 and went on a school trip to New York - so not exactly recently! My husband has only transited through LAX and isn't terribly excited about repeating the experience.
I have a few ideas at the moment - but I thought I'd ask if you would do an 'Ask Cloud' for a few more!
My starting criteria are:
1. We'd prefer outdoorsy, scenic areas to large cities - our main interests are hiking & good food.
2. We'll have a four year old with us.
3. We don't want to pack & re-pack every day so we're thinking of either being based in one place with a reasonable amount of stuff to do within a 2hr drive for day trips OR hiring a motorhome and hitting the road.
My ideas so far ...
1. road trip in California (eg to Napa Valley, Yosemite),
2. flying to Salt Lake City and a road trip up to Yellowstone and back to Denver
3. A cabin in Vermont
I'm totally open to other ideas though - especially places that are less well known and might be a bit more relaxing!
Anyway, no hurry on it and only if it suits your posting schedule but it'd be great to get some advice from you & your readers!
I love thinking about travel ideas, so even though it has taken me a while to answer this question, I have been thinking about it off and on since I got the email.
One possibility is to make it an entirely Canadian vacation, and spend some time in Vancouver. I'd include a trip to Vancouver Island, both for Victoria and to visit the Buchart Gardens, which are beautiful. On the mainland, Stanley Park in Vancouver is very nice and there is some easy but nice hiking within a short drive. Mr. Snarky and I visited back before we got married, and we had a great time. I think it would work reasonably well with a kid in tow, too. We spent a couple of nights over on Vancouver Island, rented bikes and rode around Stanley Park, did a couple of hikes, and also had a good time exploring the city.
Another possibility would be to fly up to Portland, and explore Oregon. Portland is a fun city to visit with a kid, and Oregon is beautiful. You would have no trouble finding some nice hikes there. We had a great time on our visit there back when Pumpkin was about two. It rains a lot there, though, so you'd want to plan for rain and just be pleasantly surprised if you got sun.
Flying into San Francisco and exploring Northern California is a great idea. The redwoods are easily accessibly from San Francisco and they truly are awe-inspiring. I have never done the Napa road trip myself (it is on the list...) but I have several friends who have, and they all say it is a lot of fun. I know you are after outdoorsy more than city, but if you do fly into San Francisco, I think you'd be happy if you gave yourself a couple of days to explore it. It is a great city, with a very different feel from any other American city. You can plan in a trip to Golden Gate Park to get some outdoor time in the city- it is large and wonderful.
I also have several ideas around flying into LAX. Your husband is right, transiting through LAX is horrible. However, actually arriving in LAX is not so bad.
LAX itinerary 1: Rent a car and drive to Newport Beach. Stay at the Hyatt Back Bay, from which you can walk over to a kayak rental place and kayak the estuary. If you are inclined to see Disneyland, you could easily drive over to it for a day. After a few days in Orange County, drive to Las Vegas. This is a long drive, but doable in a day. Spend one night in Vegas, see the fountains at Bellagio and be thankful your child can't read the fliers advertising all sorts of things you don't really want to explain to a small child. You can definitely find some great food in Vegas, too. Then drive to Zion National Park, in Utah. Parts of this drive are beautiful, and the park itself is absolutely gorgeous with wonderful hiking opportunities. I do not think there is scenery like it anywhere in New Zealand or Australia, but I have not explored western Australia, so maybe there is something close there. It will be a little warm in June, though, so only take this option if you don't mind hiking in heat. We stayed at the Cable Mountain Lodge, which gave us lots of space and enabled us to walk directly into the park or into the village for meals. Stay a couple of nights at Zion, and then drive back to Las Vegas to fly on to your wedding.
LAX itinerary 2: Arrive in LAX, rent a car, and stay one night to get acclimated. Marina del Rey is a nice area not far from the airport, from which you can walk to Venice Beach if you'd like. Strolling the back canals of Venice Beach is pretty cool, actually. Then drive to Santa Barbara or to some place on the central coast. We really liked Morro Bay. There is a lot of beautiful scenery in that area, and you are sure to find some good hiking. You can stop in Solvang on your way up if you want to see a classic American kitsch town- it styles itself as a Danish town. Depending on how much time you Drive on to Monterey, where there are more nice hikes and a great aquarium. If you get lucky with the weather, the drive is also gorgeous. Even though you're doing it in the wrong direction (most people try to drive south, so that they are on the side of the road by the ocean), it will still be pretty. You could also choose to stay in Big Sur or somewhere near there, where there is supposed to be wonderful hiking. I've never done that, though, so can't give advice. Drive on to San Jose or San Francisco to fly out.
LAX itinerary 3: Arrive in LAX, and drive or take the train down to the San Diego area. Since you're after outdoorsy activities, I'd stay in north county, maybe in Leucadia for a beach town feel. Visit Legoland, which your daughter would be the perfect age to enjoy. Hike at Torrey Pines State Beach. If you want more hiking, you can drive inland to Julian, which is a cute little mountain tourist trap, with great apple pies and some nice hikes nearby. If you decide on this option, write for more detailed ideas- I have a lot of recommendations for things to do in San Diego beyond the Zoo and Sea World. I should write some more San Diego posts- the Birch Aquarium, dinner in Old Town, various fun things to do in Balboa Park beyond the Zoo...
Those are my ideas. What other ideas do the rest of you have for Zenmoo?