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cwinar Jan 1st, 2011 08:25 PM

HELP NEEDED -NorCal Ten Year Wedding Anniversary
Attention all NorCal experts, your advice is needed:

I plan to surprise my wife for our 10 year wedding anniversary with a 5-6 day trip to Northern California during the middle of July 2011 and I have limited knowledge of the area. I have only spent one night outside of Napa. I also spent a portion of the day in Sonoma. We don't plan to spend more than one night in San Francisco, which will most likely be our final night in California. We are from the midwest, so spending time at the ocean is vital! With that said, I hope to make this more than a beach vacation.

Some trip details...
I will be completing a conference outside of San Francisco during the 8th of July. I plan to pick her up at the airport in SanFran on July 9th. She will be accompanied with our good friends who we most recently helped celebrate their ten year anniversary in Key West, FL. Both couples are seasoned travelers with little to our agenda but quality food and accommodations, great sights and a relaxed itinerary. We will return home on July 15th. We are on a moderate budget as three of the four adults are secondary school educators.

I am beging to investigate the possibilities. A couple musts for us:

1. We must spend sometime in either Napa or Sonoma enjoying the wine, food and surroundings. (1 day and night) Any suggestions on food, cultural attractions, etc?

2. We must eventually get to the coast with a night or two at a B&B on the coast. Any suggestions regarding towns to stop and explore, a driving route, places to stop for culture, food, scenic views, etc would be much appreciated.

In addition, we will be flying in and out of San Francisco where we will rent a car for the fun that awaits.

Again, your helpful advice is much appreciated as I begin to plan what I hope to be filled with many fun and unforgettable memories.

Thanks in advance.


bon_voyage Jan 2nd, 2011 06:26 AM

Our favorite place in northern California is Mendocino which is located on a headland above the Pacific. Our second favorite is Healdsburg which has a very pretty square at its center. I think they'd make a lovely 10th anniversary combination. I'd drive at least part of the way up the 1 along the coast to Mendocino (the stretch just north of Jenner is spectacular) and return via the 128 and 101 to Healdsburg. We've also enjoyed the area around Point Reyes (more traditional beaches here but be aware that the Pacific off California is COLD) and, in Napa, the area around Yountville and St. Helena.

november_moon Jan 2nd, 2011 10:27 AM

I was thinking the Mendocino area as well. Another option, if you want an area that is a little more lively is the Monterey Peninsula/Big Sur. Both are near wine-growing regions, so you wouldn't have to go to Napa/Sonoma specifically go enjoy wineries.

Do you have your flights booked yet? Depending on where your conference is and where you choose to go afterwards, it might make more sense to fly in and out of San Jose or Oakland.

cwinar Jan 3rd, 2011 05:42 PM

Thanks for your help. I haven't booked flights yet. My conference is located in Moraga, CA.

I have read great things about Mendocino! What are your thoughts about the grove of Red Wood trees?


1JAR Jan 3rd, 2011 06:35 PM

We recently stayed at Bodega Bay Lodge in the Ocean Club Suites w/ fireplaces and jacuzzi tubs. We met land locked Atlanta friends my husband had not seen since high school. I negotiated a discount found on Travelzoo.. however I looked at the website & they have some specials now...the Lodge is lovely, restaurant top in the area, spa excellent and location wonderful.
Much diversity, about the area with lots of coastal drives, 1/2 hour to Sonoma (which we preferred for wine tasting) and just the right mix of perfect CA. coastal beauty, wildlife galore, and amenities.
You can drive to Armstrong Woods for redwoods (coastal drive is lovely) have dinner sunset at Jenner. Duncan Mills has Cape Fear Cafe a true gourmet find.

Parrothead Jan 3rd, 2011 06:52 PM

I'd like to help and have lots of ideas but I am a bit concerned about being on a moderate budget and wanting quality rooms and food in the middle of summer. Can you give us an idea of your daily budget per couple? In Napa & Sonoma wine country a room under $200 is rare unless you stay 20+ mles outside the winery roads. Your only chance for a 1 night stay in wine country would have to be midweek.

How many times would you like to change rooms in 6 nights?

janisj Jan 3rd, 2011 08:23 PM

Moderate for one person is different for someone else. What is you actual nightly budget for hotels/B&Bs?

Wine country, Mendocino, Carmel/Big Sur are not hotbeds of budget accommodations - especially in mid summer.

bon_voyage Jan 4th, 2011 07:17 AM

Cwiner, which redwoods were you referring to? The Armstrong Woods that 1JAR mentioned would fit easily with a Mendocino and Healdsburg/Russian River wine country trip. If you go to Mendocino and travel the 128 to or from the 101, you will also drive through several miles of redwoods near the junction of Route 1 and the 128.

toncasmo Jan 4th, 2011 09:50 AM

look into carmel/pacific grove or half moon bay, my favorite

november_moon Jan 4th, 2011 10:32 AM

Moraga is in the east bay - Oakland is your closest airport, but SFO and SJC are close enough that if you get a better fare or schedule on a flight to one of them it may be worth it to make the extra drive. You've got options.

There are lots of choices for seeing redwoods whether you go north or south.

If you choose the Mendocino area, but find that lodging there is too steep, check Fort Bragg. That town has more budget options and is still on the coast - Mendocino itself has long been a pricey town while Fort Bragg is its working-class cousin. The town of Fort Bragg is experiencing a rebirth with new shops and restaurants though - Sunset Magazine had a nice write up a few months ago.

For the Monterey/Carmel area - you might have some luck with Priceline for lodging. You won't get to choose your hotel and probably won't be right on the water, but you'll get a good price and be able to stay in the area. Also, Monterey itself has more budget options than Carmel, which is decidedly upscale.

degaro Jan 4th, 2011 01:02 PM

Half Moon Bay Suggestions:

Lodging - Great little boutique hotel called The Beach House. Quiet, Coastal, Romantic, and they have the best masseuse's in house!

Dining - Try Sam Chowder House next door. Great NE Seafood. You can even catch a drink or two sitting on these cute blue & white Adirondack chairs while watching the sunset in front of your own little fire pit overlooking the Pacific Ocean!

Shopping - Cute little Main Street too!

tomfuller Jan 4th, 2011 01:24 PM

The cheapest accomodations you can find in this area would be at the Marin Highlands HI Hostel which is within the Muir Woods NP just north of San Francisco. They have private family rooms as well as dorms. You can use the community kitchen if you don't want to eat out at a restaurant. There are also 3 HI Hostels in San Francisco. My favorite HI Hostel is the one in Sacramento.

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