Me and a friend are leaving the Scandinavian tundra for a month in July to experience life on the west coast. I would be very grateful for any tips, advice and must-sees while we're there.

We're planning on spending a few days in San Fran, head up to Reno and Salt Lake City, then down to Vegas, the Grand Canyon, San Diego (in time for Comicon) and back to San Fran.

Classic 'merican customs such as a visit to the gun range, triple by-pass burger and winning back our entire travel budget on the craps table in Vegas are already scheduled, but is there anything you gentlemen think that two visiting guys in their mid-twenties have to do/see in the region?

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Frisco:  Fisherman's Wharf, Golden Gate Park including the Japanese Gardens, Japantown for sushi, the beach, maybe Alcatraz.

Monterey Bay Aquarium and maybe diving.

According to my wife, visiting vineyards (but that may be old hat to a European!).

 

Book the Alcatraz tickets a good month in advance otherwise you won't get tickets .

DON'T call The City "Frisco".  Frisco is in Colorado and Texas, NOT California.

BTW, Dragnet was wrong, Los Angeles is not "The City."

 

Disneyland

Venice Beach. 

I would put burning man high on the list if its on while your there .

Yosemite is not to be missed!

Thanks for all the tips! Yes, Burning Man was on my list, but unfortunately I was too late to register for tickets. Yosemite is a given, and we're thinking of visiting Death Valley too.

I'm interested in visiting one of the atomic bomb test sites also, but alas we were too late again when we drew up our plans. City Lights in Berkeley sounds interesting, one of my friends is a big fan of Ginsberg.

As a Bay Area native, let me point out rookie tourist mistakes:

*Not dressing for the weather. There was a 30-degree (F) spread in the temperature when I was out and about on both sides of the Golden Gate Bridge Saturday. It's almost always windy and foggy on the Golden Gate Bridge itself.

*"San Fran" and "Frisco." It's "ess-eff" (SF) or "The City."

*Please read carefully about US tipping. Not in SF itself, but everywhere else, waiters make less than minimum wage and depend on tips.

In Japantown, my husband and I recommend On The Bridge for what they actually eat in Japan. (service is slow) Don't go to Benihana's.

I assume you've looked at a map and know it's 4 hours by highway from SF to Yosemite with no stops or traffic, SF to Los Angeles ("ell-ay") is more than 6 hours, etc.

"How do you tell a San Franciscan in the tropics?  He's the one who always brings a sweater to the beach."

Rebekah's absolutely correct.  The Bay Area has very distinct micro-climates, and five or ten miles, sometimes just crossing a hill or a bridge, will result in huge temperature swings.

More tips: If you're landing at SFO and then spending a few days in The City, don't pick up your car until you're heading onto the interstates. If you're staying within SF itself, you'll pay $30 or more for parking each day (up to $70 for valets at the hotels). Also, if you rent a car at the airport, you'll pay an extra 11% tax, plus an extra $20 airport fee. Rent a car from a place that doesn't have an airport counter or airport shuttle. I know Enterprise and Hertz have offices in The City itself, not just at the airport.

To get from SFO to downtown, take BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), the light rail system. The main tourist sites are at Powell Station. It's about 30 minutes from the airport to Powell.

I do not know this business specifically but Nevada is supposed to have a number of gun rental ranges like: http://nevadamachinegun.com/  or http://www.yelp.com/biz/safe-shot-indoor-range-reno  If you are more interested in cowboying up try contacting these folks: http://www.sassnet.com/clubs/Clubs_list.php?state=Nevada   There is also: http://aircombat.com/  Airsoft and paintball are easy to find.  

You might want to call first to verify that they have ammunition. 

Do you have US friends to meet up with for this road trip? 

Triple bypass burgers and worse food will not be too difficult to find.  You might notice a significant difference in the price of meat and alcohol.  Enjoy but don't drive if you drink.  Other US foods to try include, bison, chili, cheesecake, steaks, baked potatoes, catfish, jambalaya, and a casino buffet. 

Your accent will draw girls like flies.  Which is great if you like girls like flies.  Have fun and take lots of photographs. 

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