The Monterey Bay area on California's central coast is possibly my favorite part of California--it is that beautiful. On a recent cold January morning, I took my dogs to Asilomar State Beach at one end of the town of Pacific Grove. As the clouds and light changed every few minutes, a few surfers braved the cold waters, and dogs ran along the adjacent paths, I realized this is what locals get to experience as part of normal coastal life...peaceful and beautiful.
The state beach has walking paths that go on and on along the ocean. On the other side of the street sits Asilomar Conference Grounds, with picnic areas, beautiful lodging, and walking paths that take you through the dune areas. In all there are 107 acres to explore with 4 self-guided walks to choose from, and plenty of wildlife can be seen along the way.
San Francisco Day Trips
Get a rental car and head out of town - you've tackled the big stuff in SF and now it's time to see the variety of Northern California, just a day's trip away.
After five hours in the car, I was more than happy to hop out and hike the 1.4 miles out to Pfeiffer Burns State Park and get the prize of a beautiful waterfall. The water's color is an unreal sea blue/green that I have never seen before. The best part- the hike and view is free. Highly suggest if you are making the drive up or down the PCH.
Driving into Yosemite National Park, you make your way through a narrow tunnel. When you emerge, this is the view that greets you. It was winter time, and a blizzard had just blown through. While driving into the park, I had slipped on the ice, and crashed my car. I was desperately trying to not be in a terrible, disheartened mood. This view made everything ok again, and put me in the correct frame of mind to have an amazing trip. It rescued me.
Pickup the best local food products the bay area has to offer at Bi-Rite Market. The Mission was not always the pantheon of San Francisco nouveau cuisine that it is today. Now, the area—especially the block of 18th Street between Guerrero and Dolores—is the hottest foodie street in the city. You'll know the street by the lines outside Delfina Pizzeria and Bi-Rite Creamery (which is separate from the market). But to get a glimpse into a real foodie hotspot, stop into Bi-Rite Market and dodge crowds for gourmet groceries, local produce, and a cooler full of small-batch cheese.
Sonoma and Napa counties have hundreds of wineries that have tasting rooms set among the golden hills of the area. It's rare to find a winery where you can enjoy this scenery as much as the wine served in the tasting room. At Chateau St. Jean, they have a large picnic area on their grounds that overlook expansive vineyards. My friends and I bought food and wine at the large tasting room/store and settled in for hours while the sun turned the hills and our faces golden.
The California Coast is blessed with a belt of redwood trees. To walk, even from a parking lot, among these giants is to feel part of the forest immediately. Muir Woods National Monument is a short drive outside of San Francisco, right across the Golden Gate Bridge in Mill Valley.
At the park, there are several trails into the redwood forest. The trees' height begs a neck-craning, mouth-opening look up and exclamation of "wow." Their girth requires get close and spanning open arms across the bark almost in a hug. Both actions feel compulsory walking down the well-manicured trails.
In the summer, San Francisco is cold. Gray and Cold. Drive one hour outside the city and you'll find 100+ degree temperatures. When sun and a little adventure is what you're craving, try a whitewater rafting trip on the American River. Part of the trip is leisurely. As you paddle, you'll pass golden hills, pine forests, and the place where gold was discovered - Sutter's Mill. Pay attention though, there are several grade three rapids, including one named "Bouncing Rock," which may bounce you into the turbulent water (This may or may not have happened to me). Don't forget to keep paddling.
The Limerick Lane Winery has a pretty pedestrian name - it is actually on Limerick Lane, which just outside of Healdsburg. What makes this winery special (in addition to the beautiful French country tasting room) are the "Block" Zinfandels are 2009 vintages bottled by the year the vines were planted. Visitors can time travel by vine with a tasting of the 1910, 1934, and 1970 Blocks.
The Healdsburg downtown is beautiful, but can feel a little repetitive - gorgeous tasting room, local art gallery, gourmet restaurant ... repeat. The One World Fair Trade store is very different - it's a global department store of jewelry pottery, toys, books, and clothing . All goods are sourced from fair trade vendors and the international kaleidoscope delights.
All my life my mom was trying to drag me and my dad on a trip to Hearst Castle, and we always told her no. I probably wouldn't have appreciated it anyways in my younger years. However, before I moved to Hong Kong for work, I took a trip with my parents, and we finally made that trip to Hearst Castle. It was quite exquisite and incredible. I can't believe how much money this man must have had. I can't even fathom it. There are so many gardens, pools, rooms, and cottages on the premise. My mom actually did all four tours; which is way too much, but it was definitely a beautiful and rare place. It was rather impressive to see all the things Hearst had collected from around the world, and you could definitely see his world travels in his architecture and home furnishings. It was nice to see the world/home of another great world traveler, especially one in the era that he lived, even...
Driving thru the wine fields of central California wasn’t technically on ‘the list’ of things to see or do while we were out exploring, but wow was it pretty awesome! If I remember right this was right outside Paso Pobles, and the best part about driving out there is the sweeping landscapes. We were heading up California State Route 46, a great two lane highway that connects the Cabrillo Highway (Pacific Coast Highway) and CSR41, which we followed towards Fresno. The coolest thing I found about these two roads was the stark differences you can experience in just a short period of driving. From the 1800ft high mountains of the Santa Lucia Coastal Mountain Range and the Sierra Madre Mountains, down in to the San Juaquin valley, and finally entering the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, where you can see the 4000+ft peaks in the distance. As you meander down the hillsides into what’s known...
My all time favorite thing to do in Northern California when the fog clears!
Shucking without gloves is risky business though!
Caramel coating and confetti toppings hide crispy apples for those desiring a sweet hunt. At this carnival candy store on Monterey's Fisherman's wharf, satisfy your sweet tooth with these apples, salt water taffy, and homemade fudge.
Rising high, the Sather Tower beacons visitors to at least absorb the higher education and beautifully laid out campus. Enter the campus from Telegraph Ave side and make your way up the hill towards the obelisk-shaped monument. You can climb the stairs for a true ivory-tower view.
No, not that CIA. This lunch feels a lot more pleasant and delicious I'm sure. Make a reservation at the Greystone Restaurant and taste local, seasonal menus while looking out over Napa Valley vineyards.
The craggy-rock view from the top of the staircase out to the Point Reyes National Seashore looks just fine from the top. But you didn't drive all this way to stand at the top while everyone else descends to see the historic Point Reyes lighthouse.
Leave San Francisco and meander along Highway 1 to Half Moon Bay. It's a little hamlet of a town with a few restaurants, general stores, and a wide open beach. It's a popular surf spot where you'll rarely see any water-destined individual without a wetsuit.
On the ground and in the sky, technicolor delights on the Santa Cruz boardwalk. You can catch the sky tram from one end to the other or walk through the psychedelic amusement park.
You came all the way to San Francisco and you're going to let some stranger in a chef's hat cook your dungeness crab for you?
Pshaw. There's a little-known alternative, even among locals, that's far more fun: Zip down the coast half an hour to Half Moon Bay and pull into the scenic, fragrant, non-touristy Pillar Point Harbor. Roam happily, then make your way to whichever fisherman's selling crab that day, right off the boat. Chat, buy, drive, boil, eat; repeat as needed.
Call the Fishfone first to see what's running. Depends on season, availability, etc.
Napa, Sonoma, Yountville just means endless miles of deliciousness! Schramsberg specializes in a vast selection of the sparkling wines fit for the White House...I'm serious, it's served at the white house. The tasting was amazing, as was the tour of the caves, it's an underground paradise, rows and rows of beautiful bottles. Schramsberg Vineyards is worth a visit!
If you guessed that to be an explosion of delicious sweetness in the form of Tiramisu, cloaked in milk chocolate, then you're right. No, it didn't come from a countryside baker in Italy, but rather aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train. Touristy as it may be, the Napa Valley Wine Train has a full-time chef and food staff that prepares all of their meals on board. This milk chocolate–covered Tiramisu was one of a couple desserts being offered on a recent weekday lunch ride and needless to say, there was nothing left when I was finished with it.
I love that photography has become so accessible to people. Not all of my photographer peers share my sentiment and just because everyone has a camera phone and apps like Instagram and Hipstamatic doesn't necessarily make one a photographer. However, I think its great that so many people have gotten the photo bug and that having a good camera and a photo application inspires people to snap away!
I think that you can take an amazing photo with any type of camera or medium and that an infinite number of people could take a photograph from the same vantage point at the same point in time and get an infinite number of results. Not one photo would be the same (like snowflakes).
I also believe that there are certain places that you can travel and be incapable of taking a bad photograph. The Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) near Carmel and Big Sur is one of those places. The landscape is...
Outstanding in the Field came to the Santa Cruz coastline and delivered a beautiful event on this private beach. Crashing surf was the soundtrack to the evening. Photo by Dinesh Kapoor.
A beautiful day on the Central Coast along Hwy 1 - seemed like a beautiful omen for the new year.
One of my favorite parts of living in San Francisco is how easy it is to leave it. Whether you need a few days to decompress in wine country, a couple nights in a tent, or a day trip to get out in touch with the great outdoors, it's so easy to do so.
I recommend heading up to Tomales Bay for the day (or the weekend, as there are many campgrounds in the area). We spent the first part of the day kayaking around the bay. The folks at Blue Waters Kayaking were very helpful in letting us know where to go and what to look out for on the water.
After working up an appetite, you have to treat yourself to some oysters. Tomales Bay Oyster Company and Hog Island Oysters are renowned, but if you don't have a reservation for the weekend, you might be out of luck like we were. I recommend heading into the town of Point Reyes Station a few miles down the road. We stopped in at Cowgirl Creamery and...