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Ravenseye Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Mar-10-06 10:31 AM
Original message
Northern California Driving Tour
The other post about a cross country trip reminded me that my wife and I (sans children) will be taking maybe 3-4 days in late May to travel in Northern California. My wife has never been out there and my time has been limited. We'll be starting in San Francisco and do some of the touristy things there weather permitting. Cable Car Ride, Coit Tower, Lombard Street, etc.

So we'll do AT LEAST a day in the city, but I'd also like to go out and see some cool stuff. Not necessarily like 'oh hey nobody does this..' type thing, but more like...the cheesy stuff that you take for granted. Like i want to drive up and go to a redwood forest as well....go to the overlook of the golden gate bridge...

Any recomendations on what to do on a 3-4 day excursion in and around San Francisco and Northern California? Say constrained to about 6 hours total drive distance from the city...

What is a must see? What is a must go to? Any suggestions are appreciated.
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cally Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Mar-10-06 11:08 AM
Response to Original message
1. Drive to Marin and see Muir Woods
Find a hiking trail you like, and take a hike in the Golden Gate National Seashore, Muir Woods, Mt. Tamalpais, or Point Reyes. I think the whales are migrating then and possible the elephant seals are in Pt. Reyes. Call Pt. Reyes ranger station and find out. Napa, Sonoma, and Calistoga are a short drive away.
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Ravenseye Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Mar-10-06 11:39 AM
Response to Reply #1
4. Whales would be cool
I've done them before, but my wife has never been on a Whale watch, or seen seals in a natural habitat. I think she'd really like that.
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marzipanni Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Mar-10-06 11:24 AM
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2. Weekend or mid-week?
Other than commute hours, I'd rather be road touring during the week.
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Ravenseye Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Mar-10-06 11:40 AM
Response to Reply #2
5. during the week
we'd be flying to my parents place out in Tahoe, stay for a day or two, leave the spawn of our loins, and then head out to have some alone road time for the mid week, back by end of the week.
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NV Whino Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Mar-10-06 11:36 AM
Response to Original message
3. From San Francisco
drive up the coast on Highway one. Mendocino will take you to your 6 hour drive limit. Then loop back and come through the wine country, Sonoma and/or Napa. If you plan for Napa, let me know and I'll meet you for a glass of wine.
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Ravenseye Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Mar-10-06 11:42 AM
Response to Reply #3
7. Highway 1 sounds cool
Is that the stereotypical thing you see in the movies where it winds around cliffs etc? That'd be neat.

What's a good vineyard or two in Napa or Sonoma to go to? Nice ones, not crappy ones.
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NV Whino Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Mar-10-06 12:01 PM
Response to Reply #7
12. Oy! We got no crappy vineyards!
Well, maybe one or two. :)

Highway 1 starts winding around cliffs just past Jenner on the way to Mendocino. If you want redwoods, go through Guernville to the coast. Here's my suggestion.

From SF go over the Golden Gate bridge, up 101 to Guernville Road to coast. Turn right, go up Highway 1, through Jenner, winding through the cliffs to Mendocino. Spend the night. Coming back cut over to Highway 128 and go through Anderson Valley and Booneville. Follow 128 through Healdsberg and into Alexander Valley and Knights Valley. All of the previously mentioned is wine country. Then you can go to Sonoma, which has a wonderful town square or come down the Napa Valley and then back to SF. Get a map and take a look at the route.

And really, you can't go wrong just picking an interesting looking winery and stopping in. Check out info on Napa Valley at /

Google Sonoma for Sonoma info.

Most wineries charge for tasting these days, but it's usually credited to a purchase if you purchase wine. Accommodations are not cheap. Nor are good restaurants. But the food is fabulous.
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Gormy Cuss Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Mar-10-06 11:42 AM
Response to Original message
6. On your hokey tour of the city...
I recommend the Musee Mecanique on Fisherman's wharf. It's a collection of stereoscopes and old mechanical midway entertainments. If you're staying in the financial district, it's easy to take a cable car from Powell and Market Streets to the Fisherman's Wharf area. From Fisherman's wharf walk ti Pier 39 and watch the sea lions. Then I would recommend taking the Embarcadero streetcar as a return trip to the financial district. It saves you from waiting on line for a cable car and it affords you an easy tour of a waterfront neighborhood with views of the Bay Bridge. You'll end up at the Ferry Building and Market St, six blocks from where you picked up the cable car. There are restaurants on the Embarcadero with views of the bay.

With your car, drive out to Ocean Beach and take a walk. This is a long strand that extends the length of the city and is often overlooked by tourists. The surf can be spectacular. It's too dangerous to swim here because of the currents.The only caution here is the winds can be very nasty. Hard to predict without going there. Baker Beach is another great little spot in a more sheltered area with views of the Golden Gate from below it. Land's End is a nice little walk in the Golden Gate too. Both of these areas have their own quirks, very Californian, and if you choose to go it's best to discover them on your own rather than be forewarned. ;-)

On your Marin tour (I second cally's suggestions) drive up Conselman road in the Marin Headlands immediately after you exit the Golden Gate Bridge. The views back to the city are great and if the weather is clear you can see all the way to the East Bay too.

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kwassa Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Mar-10-06 11:44 AM
Response to Original message
8. To the east, Yosemite National Park, to the south
Monterrey, Carmel, Capitola, Big Sur, the two Pfieffer parks, one a redwood forest, one on the ocean with huge rock formations.

Yosemite is the prettiest place in the world, to me. Spectacular. Not only the valley and waterfalls, but the Mariposa grove of sequoias.

Lake Tahoe is also in range, and gorgeous as well, with plenty of skiing if you like to ski.

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Arugula Latte Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Mar-10-06 11:50 AM
Response to Original message
9. I love the view of the Bay from the Berkeley Hills
You could go to the Cal (U.C. Berkeley) campus, get a drink at the Claremont Hotel, drive up to Tilden Park, soak in the sun setting behind San Francisco ... *sigh* ... my old stomping grounds ...

For anyone who's interested, read the description of driving in the Berkeley Hills close to the beginning of David Eggers' book "A Breathtaking Work of Staggering Genius."
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Taverner Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Mar-10-06 11:55 AM
Response to Original message
10. Santa Cruz Mountains are nice
Drive Highway 9, you'll pass some of the nicer hippie towns of that area. Be sure and stop by the Boulder Creek Brewery for some of their excellent garlic fries and Stout.

Big Basin is in the same general vicinity, and it's absolutely beautiful. Redwoods and canyons...can't get any better than that.

And while in the same area, head to Santa Cruz itself and check out our "Berkley on the beach". Surf culture meets smurf culture...

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Shakespeare Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Mar-10-06 12:00 PM
Response to Original message
11. You've GOTTA go to the Avenue of the Giants....
Just head up 101 after you leave San Francisco; it's about three hours away by car, but WELL worth the drive. If you've never seen giant redwoods, GO. There are some neat, funky inns and cottages that are surprisingly affordable to stay in. I highly recommend what I call the Tacky Tour, which includes a stop at Confusion Hill and Hobbiton. And to balance out the Tacky Tour, stop at this TINY little art glass gallery called Spirit Glass (just south of Phillipsville on the Avenue). The artist is really nice, and makes amazing pieces. And if you ask, he might even fire up his torch and show you how he does some stuff (he was kind enough to "demonstrate" for me last time we were there). And, most fun of all, you can stop at multiple places along the way to get out and walk around the redwood groves (tree hugging at its finest!) / (this covers several attractions, including Hobbiton and the "drive-thru" tree).

We enjoy escaping to Eureka whenever possible (we live in the north bay), and always make a few stops on the Avenue on our way. Our next trip will be over Memorial Day weekend.
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