Visiting Yosemite National Park, USA

I thought we’d go to Yosemite National Park today, because it’s a pretty incredible place. Like many Australians, we didn’t really know where to start in planning our visit to the park, and a lot of information we found online seemed to be more geared towards Americans, so here are some tips that I hope will help others make the most of their first visit to this gorgeous place.

HOW DO I GET THERE?
Drive. Well, fly to the general vicinity, then drive. If you fly into San Francisco, it’ll be about a 4 hour drive, around 5 hours from Los Angeles, or 7 hours from Las Vegas.

 

HOW LONG DO I NEED?
It’ll really depend on how much you want to do – for a bit of a taste, 3 days is a good amount; if you want to do some camping and serious hiking, give yourself a solid week.

WHERE SHOULD I BASE MYSELF?
You’ll need to consider the time and money trade off when you decide where to stay. The closer you are to the park, the more accommodatiom tends to cost. But if you go with something cheaper, it may add on quite a bit of driving time to and from the park each day.

We stayed in the Yosemite Valley at the Yosemite Westgate Lodge – it took us around an hour to get to El Capitan, had a restaurant and laundry on site, and very big, comfortable rooms. If you’d like to camp within the park, head to the National Park Service website for more information.

 

CAN I PARK MY CAR IN THE PARK?
Absolutely – car parking areas are all well signed, and they have a free, eco-friendly shuttle buses to scoot you around between major sights. It’s best to check for road closures and snow chain requirements in winter online before setting off, too.

DO I HAVE TO PAY TO ENTER?
Yes – you can buy a seven day pass from USD $30.00 per car from the entrance gates situated on all the roads into the park. Basically, plug “Yosemite National Park” into your GPS and prepare to hand over $30 when you get close to the park!

 

WHAT FACILITIES ARE AVAILABLE?
If you head to he Visitor Center in the middle of the Yosemite Valley, you’ll find park staff to answer your questions, as well as a pretty impressive general store (souvenirs and food and groceries), bathrooms, a café, camping grounds and shuttle buses. When you’re out and about, taking your long drives through the park, you will be able to find toilets periodically, but fair warning: they’re drop toilets…

WHAT SHOULD I SEE IF I ONLY HAVE A FEW DAYS?
If you have limited time, I’d recommemd the following…

Day 1: Drive to the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center and leave your car at one of the parking lots in the area. Between walking around and using the free shuttke, you’ll be able to see summits like the Half Dome, El Capitan, Eagle Peak and Sentinel Dome, walk along Tenaya Creek and the Merced River, maybe see some deer while you picnic at Mirror Lake, and check out the Yosemite Conservation Heritage Center.

Day 2: Get into your car, stock up on snacks, and drive the Tioga Pass Road all the way up to Tuolumne Meadow and back. Make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes so you can hike around Olmsted Point, and pack a picnic lunch to eat on the shore of Tenaya Lake.

WHAT SHOULD I BRING?
• Sunscreen. Always. And actually use it!
• Sunglasses. When that sun hits white rock or reflects off the water, your eyes will thank you.
• Layers. Just because the day starts cold, doesn’t mean it won’t heat up. Light layers are your friends.
• Comfortable shoes you can walk all day on uneven terrain in.
• A backpack – you don’t need to be toting a handbag around here.
• A map. If you’re planning on hiking, you don’t want to rely on your phone – batteries die, signals are lost. If you intend on exploring, even a small map is a good idea.
• A water bottle and snacks. You can of course buy it all there, but it’s always much cheaper to BYO. Just remember to take all of your scraps with you, because bears.

UMMM… BEARS??!
Yeah, that’s a thing. All you really need to know is stick to the marked paths as much as possible, if there aren’t many other people around, make plenty of noise as you walk (they don’t like that), and when you’re done with your picnic, pick up any pieces of lettuce and ham that have dropped out of your sandwich, and dispose of all food waste in one of the many bear-proof bins you’ll find in the park.

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Top 10 Things To Do in Los Angeles

1. Check out the view of LA from the car park of Dodger Stadium

 http://losangeles.dodgers.mlb.com/la/ballpark/
Where? 1000 Vin Scully Ave, Los Angeles
Why go? Even if you’re not a baseball fan (like me), the view from the car park is unreal!
How long will you need? We were there for about an hour, because husband discovered we could go into the stadium and just sit around. And, the gift shop was open.
Cost? Free!
Read more:
– Travel Tuesday: Dodger Stadium, LA

 

2. Eat your way around Grand Central Market

 http://www.grandcentralmarket.com/
Where? 317 S. Broadway, Los Angeles
Why go? Food. All of the food. It’s also full of locals, and watching the way the huge the mix of cultures and ethnicities interact in a market setting is a true experience.
How long will you need? A few hours, preferably first thing in the morning.
Cost? How hungry are you? You can get a solid breakfast for only a few dollars if you’re struggling for cash, or you can buy all of the food!
Read more:
– Eat here: Eggslut & Tumbras at Grand Central Market, LA

 

3. Be a big kid at Universal Studios

 http://www.universalstudioshollywood.com/
Where? 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City
Why go? As if you need a reason…
How long will you need? All day!
Cost? Ticket prices start from USD$105.00 per adult

 

4. People watch in Santa Monica and Venice Beach

Why go? People watching at it’s absolute best, it’s the perfect spot to melt into the background and just observe the goings on.
How long will you need? A few hours.
Cost? People watching is the greatest free activity ever!
Read more:
– Through my eyes: Santa Monica & Venice Beach, LA

 

5. While you’re in Venice Beach, check out Abbot Kinney Blvd for good shopping and great food

 http://www.abbotkinneyblvd.com/
Where? Abbot Kinney Blvd. Obviously.
Why go? It’s a pretty hipster area, but in a good way – lots of gorgeous and really unique stores to buy some different souvenirs (because do you really want to be that guy with the Hollywood Star fridge magnet?!). And with hipsters comes great food – my cereal and peanut butter bowl from Another Kind of Sunrise (above) was magic!
How long will you need? Another few hours after you’re done people watching in Santa Monica and Venice Beach.
Cost? Free to meander, bring some money to shop and eat!
Read more:
– Eat here: Another Kind of Sunrise, LA (breakfast/healthy)

 

6. Enjoy a chili dog at the institution that is Pink’s

 http://www.pinkshollywood.com/
Where? 709 N La Brea Ave, Los Angeles
Why go? Because it’s a city institution – everyone from Dolly Parton to Jimmy Fallon to Aerosmith to Betty White have been! When we visited, we came across a particularly excited lady who was finally visiting for the first time after having lived in LA her whole life!
How long will you need? We were there for about an hour.
Cost? We got the classic chili dog with mustard, onions and chili, for around USD$5.00
Read more:
– Eat here: Pink’s, LA

 

7. Eat your way through The Grove Farmers Market

 http://www.farmersmarketla.com/
Where? 6333 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles
Why go? Food (noticing a theme?), and lots of it! While the Grove itself is a bit upper class and la-di-da, the Farmers Market is much more laid back, with those plebian food options that everyone loves. You can have your table-cloth clad restaurants, I’ll take a doughnut and pulled pork sandwich any day!
How long will you need? We visited a few times, and spend an hour or two each visit. It’s a great spot to grab a coffee and sweet and just watch the world go by!
Cost? Again, depends how much you’re eating…
Read more:
– Shop & Eat at The Grove Farmers Market, LA (Bryan’s BBQ Pit, Bob’s Coffee Doughnuts & Short Cake)

 

8. Take the trek out the Greystone Mansion and Gardens

 http://www.greystonemansion.org/
Where? 905 Loma Vista Drive, Beverly Hills
Why go? It’s stunning. It’s nothing like you’d expect to find in the neon soaked world that is Hollywood, and that’s why you need to go. It’s a little piece of paradise in a world of botox and hairspray, and that’s what you’ll need after a day or two in the mayhem.
How long will you need? Hire a car and drive. It’ll cut down on time walking and time spent in marriage counselling. Trust me (if you don’t read more below). Once you’re there, an hour or so should be enough to recharge!
Cost? Free parking and admission.
Read more:
– Greystone Mansion & Park, LA

 

9. See how the other half live out in Beverly Hills

Why go? Honestly, it’s fascinating. There is so much wealth and so many bizarre activities and conversations associated with that, and as a regular, middle class gal, it really is mesmerising to see how life unfolds for those with money.
How long will you need? Not long – we only lasted an hour.
Cost? Free to people watch, bring a few credit cards if you plan to shop!
Read more:
– From my travel journal: Los Angeles, 2014

 

10. Catch a movie at the legendary TCL (Grauman’s) Chinese Theatre

 http://www.tclchinesetheatres.com/
Where? 6925 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood
Why go? Hollywood takes a special kind of person to put up with it and find it interesting for more than an hour or two, particularly at night. When you reach your limit of fake-and-touristy, why not catch a movie at one of the most iconic movie theatres in the world?!
How long will you need? A few hours – they’re great cinemas so you may want to go back more than once!
Cost? USD$16.00 for a standard adult ticket