|Subject: Pacific Coast Highway drive|
I agree with the others. I would drive from Anaheim and stay in Santa Barbara for the night. I have never been to Herst Castle or Big Sur, but I have spent several weekends in the Monterey area.
If you want to spend alot of money, the Inn at Spanish Bay is right on the water, with plenty of beach to walk on, located within the 17 Mile Drive area. Carmel has alot of little shops and cafe/resaurants, a quaint, small town. Monterey has a nice aquarium, as well as some historic builings in the old downtown area, as it was once the capital city in California. It takes about 2 hours to drive from the Monterey area to the Bay Area.
While in the Bay Area, I would also recommend a drive to Sonoma, where the northern most mission along the El Camino Real, or Royal Way, is located, as well vineyards and beautiful scenary. A drive up the coast of Marin County to Bodega Bay is nice. Also, take time to visit Muir Woods, hiking among HUGE redwoods! Great America is a theme park close to Sunnyvale, but I'm not sure what there hours/days of operation are during winter. In San Francisco, there is plenty of shopping (Union Square is quite decorated for the Christmas season), tourist sights and great museums, such as the Exploratorium or the Zeum, which might be of interest to your teenagers. If you like European art, the Legion of Honor has a nice collection. It is located near the Presidio, with a great view nearby of the water and the Golden Gate Bridge.
As a teacher of high school students in San Francisco, I could give you a long list of things and places the local teens find interesting. Let me know if you need some ideas!
As for flying back to LAX, I would leave out of whichever airport gives you a better price. I always fly out of SFO, since it is closer for us. Driving to SJO will take you a least one hour, depending on the traffic. You can arrange to return the rental car at either airport.
Feel free to email me if you want more details.
Ciao, Kristy S.F.