San Francisco and the surrounding areas

Feb 21st, 2006, 11:43 AM
  #1  
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San Francisco and the surrounding areas

My boyfriend and I (both east coasters) are planning a trip to California in June or July for about a week. Neither of us have visited California so we hope to get a good taste for it in a week. Since it's such a big state, we've decided for our first visit we'll focus on Northern California. These are the places we're interested in:

San Francisco (Alcatraz, Gold Gate Park, etc)
Napa Valley/Sonoma
Lake Tahoe
Muir Woods
Monterey Bay/Carmel
Big Sur

We realize that visiting all of these places in just one week may be a bit aggressive. So, what would you suggest as a loose itinerary for two 25 year olds? We've read about catamaran sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge, hotair ballooning in Napa, horseback riding (which we both love to do) on the beaches of Half Moon Bay, and all the camping/hiking in the redwood forests - are all of these worth it? Are there any beaches that we could visit for a day nearby? We are active and we'd like to see everything but, at the same time, we don't want to feel so rushed that we can't enjoy our visits.

What are some fun activities for 20 somethings? Any hotels or B&Bs that you think are a must?

We plan to rent a car so driving is an option.

Any suggestions you can give would be much appreciated!
VAgal is offline  
Feb 21st, 2006, 12:01 PM
  #2  
 
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Does your one week include your flying time from the east coast, meaning you will really only have 5 days?
Even if you have a full 7, I'd stick to San Francisco and only one other area. You could have a wonderful trip that includes Muir Woods and Sonoma by taking 2 or 3 days and exploring the coast of Marin County along Hwy 1, with its great beaches like Stinson, Bolinas, Drake's and Point Reyes Beach, beautiful scenery, redwoods, hikes and walks at Point Reyes National Seashore, views from Mt. Tamalpais. You could head to Sonoma and do a wine tasting for an afternoon easily after that, on your way back to SF. This trip would not be too rushed, since you aren't doing too much driving.

There are literally hundreds (thousands?) of threads asking questions just like yours, about what else to do in the SF area and how much time it takes-you might want to read those.
christy1 is offline  
Feb 21st, 2006, 03:29 PM
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I think with a week you could afford two days to go down to Monterey/Carmel/the Big Sur. The Napa and Sonoma Valleys could be done in 1/12 days, leaving a half-day for Muir Woods.

The one to leave out is probably Lake Tahoe. Beautiful, yes, but a long day up and back, and the California coast is even more special.
Underhill is offline  
Feb 21st, 2006, 08:53 PM
  #4  
 
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Hi,

We are 20somethings that just returned from San Francisco, but we were trying to cram a lot into 1.5 days - didn't have the luxury of the time you have! We went to Muir Woods and thought it was very pretty there (and it was our first look at Redwoods, and they are very impressive). We also took a Gray Line tour of San Fran, went to Sausalito (very beautiful and quaint). I wish we'd had time to go to half moon bay. Use the "search" function on this board - tons of great info for San Fran!

Have fun on your trip!
ls2006 is offline  
Feb 21st, 2006, 11:07 PM
  #5  
 
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You have some time to see both the city of San Francisco and some of the surrounding area, but should be advised that June and July on the coast are often very foggy, chilly and not at all warm (this will be the case on all the beaches in the area, unless there happens to be a warm spell, which does happen, but can't be counted on).

Tahoe would be a relief from the fog, if it happens, Tahoe is a four to five hour drive from SF, so you'd want to spend probably two nights there, not just try it as a day trip.

Or try the Healdsburg/Russian River trip I just posted about on another thread.

Check out other threads, in general, there's tons of info on SF and the area.
sequoia370 is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2006, 05:14 AM
  #6  
 
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What do you mean by beaches? You're on the West Coast. If you mean to swim, you need to go south about 400 miles. For strolling you merely need to take the Streetcar to the end of the line to Ocean Beach. Tell us more.
bbqboy is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2006, 05:41 AM
  #7  
 
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Take the time to drive down to Big Sur and Monetrey. Stay at the Spindrift Inn on Cannery Row for one night in Monterey...beautiful rooms! (2 days - 1 night)

Take 3.5 days in San Francisco:

1 day for the vineyards in Napa or Sonoma - our first time we took a bus tour and it was great. Ever since we have driven ourselves so we could go to the vineyards we wanted to see.

1 day drive to Muir woods in the am, stop by Saulsilito on the way back into san fran for dinner.

The time left (a day and a half?), tour San Fran - Pier 39, Chinatown, Coit tower, take a trolley ride, the cannery, so much to see.

If you plan to visit Alcatraz, get your tickets in advance via the web. If you try to get tickets when you arrive, you may not get to go!

We've been to San Francisco now every year for a short vacation for the last 5 years. You can see a lot and spend quality time in 5 days!

8-)
cwojo99 is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2006, 06:49 AM
  #8  
 
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Not to complicate things, but if you haven't locked in your travel arrangements, the classic intro to California is to fly in to LA, rent a convertible, and drive up the PCH to SF. We did it for our honeymoon and can provide details if you wish.
Carpetbagger is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2006, 07:02 AM
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Personally, I'd either go North or South, but not both (& I'd leave out Tahoe). Make sure you also leave ample time for the city itself. Once you narrow things down we can provide more detail as well.
SAnParis is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2006, 07:07 AM
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How much do you like driving? I just got back from San Francisco last month, and our group rented a van and drove to Sonoma via Muir Woods. We spent two hours wandering through the redwoods, and then visited two wineries, including a vineyard tour. And that was in miserable weather, driving at a snail's pace. We didn't feel rushed at all -- in fact, we could have easily visited another winery, but there were flood warnings for Sonoma Valley. We were back in SF in time for dinner (and about two hours before the mudslides!). So right there, you could do two of your to-do's in a day. You could also easily visit Golden Gate and Alcatraz on the same day. And I'm saying that as someone who likes to take my time and craaaaawl through the sites. Make sure you leave time to enjoy the city too!
karameli is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2006, 09:29 AM
  #11  
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Thank you to all who have responded so far. You're very helpful! Sounds like Lake Tahoe might be a stretch - I think we may end up leaving it for another time.

sequoia370, the comment about the weather. Is San Francisco too foggy in June and July that we should move our trip to a different month?

Carpetbagger, we have not made final travel arrangements. I'm interested in what you did on your honeymoon - would you mind sharing what you did?

As for the activities I mentioned...should we do things like the catamaran sailing under the GG Bridge and hotair ballooning over Napa or are these activities that aren't really worth it?

What are your thoughts about Half Moon Bay? Anyone been horseback riding there?

Thanks again, everyone!
VAgal is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2006, 12:58 PM
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VAgal,
Well, here goes... We flew into LAX, rented a convertible through Budget (the convertible is more expensive but I thought worth the splurge for the scenic driving)and stayed at the Inn at Playa del Rey
http://www.innatplayadelrey.com
which is located on a bird sanctuary convenient to LAX, Venice Beach & Santa Monica. We liked our room, the staff & the breakfast. Since this was our honeymoon we spent more than we would have normally on lodging but there were other choices in all the places we stayed so you could do roughly the same trip less expensively.

After spending the weekend in the LA area (spent time at Venice Beach, The Getty Museum & Hollywood), we set out on the Pacific Coast Highway North (aka the PCH or Route 1). This road hugs the coastline the whole length of the state. Not good if you're in a hurry, but one of the great scenic drives in the U.S.
Our next destination was Santa Barbara where we stayed at the Bath Street Inn
http://www.bedandbreakfast.com/ppf/L...com/frame.aspx
We liked the breakfast and the friendly staff but weren't crazy about our room plus this place was a little too "Victorian" for my taste. Lots to do in Santa Barbara, nice beach, hiking, the mission. Have lunch at La Super Rica Taqueria for authentic Mexican http://www.frommers.com/destinations...ra/D43652.html
Route 1 & 101 run concurrently at this point and the highway heads inland after Santa Barbara, so we took Route 154 over the Santa Ynez mountains for spectacular mountain views and white knuckle driving (stick to the 101 if the weather is bad).

I'm going to stop here and continue this post tomorrow.
Carpetbagger is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2006, 03:18 PM
  #13  
 
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What kind of horseback riding are you thinking of? Galloping through the surf, or a nose-to-tail walk along the shoreline? I haven't ridden in Half Moon Bay, but I have done so further north, near Mendocino. Most places have nose-to-tail walks along the beach, which can be very scenic, but not so much different than a walk on foot along the beach.

We've been to Napa Valley, but not Sonoma. It's a pretty area, but IMHO, not to compare with the areas along the coast. (Though if you're really interested in California wine, maybe a day trip would do.)

Several years ago, we took a trip (with kids; we're a ways beyond the honeymoon phase) that combined the Carmel area and S.F. (We visited Half Moon Bay and Napa Valley on different, adults-only trips.) Carmel and its beaches are beautiful, and there are several nice state parks nearby. Monterey just didn't click with me, though the aquarium is fantastic (and I usually don't much like aquariums). From Carmel, one day we drove down the coast, taking short hikes and ejoying the views along the way. We stopped for drinks at Nepenthe; can't beat those views! We visited the redwoods in Big Basin at the beginning of the trip, on the way from the airport to Carmel; that made for a long drive, but it was a beautiful one, and you won't have whiny kids with you.

On catamaran sailing, I'm not a big sailor, but you might check on how big the waves are in the bay (might be a bumpy ride?).

It sounds like you're pretty active people. There's lots of good day hiking along the coast, including in the redwood forests. Biking on the coast is somewhat difficult. If you run, by any chance, there are some great routes in the Carmel area. There are plenty of opportunities for walking in S.F.; there are some routes from Coit Tower that go through areas that seem like they're in the jungle, not in the middle of a city.

There are tons of romantic B&Bs in Carmel - we didn't stay in any of them! We've stayed in a variety of hotels in S.F.; my favorite was the Hotel Triton; it's quirky and the decor is fun, and close to Chinatown, which I love to wander through. But we usually need to be near Union Square for business reasons; if I had my choice, I'd stay in the Cow Hollow area. We've stayed at the Hotel Monaco, in the Union Square area; their lobby is nice, but the rooms I found rather ordinary. We stayed at the Fairmont for a special birthday; I didn't like it because it's on a hill, and we like to walk a lot (and run), and everything was down from there.
Lexma90 is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2006, 03:29 PM
  #14  
SAB
 
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In response to question about best time to visit--September/early October and May. Although given our recent weather apparently, we should start recommending February. June, July and August are not the best months in SF or close to the coast, because of fog.
SAB is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2006, 07:11 PM
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Fog can be very heavy along the northern California coast in summer, but at the same time the inland areas are baking in the sun. The west side of San Francisco gets socked in when it's foggy, but the east side, where most of the tourist stuff is, can be sunny or just have wispy fog at the same time. Biggest problem with it is visiting coastal areas for hiking or sightseeing. It's not alway foggy there in summer, but it can settle in for weeks at a time. As SAB says Sept/Oct and May are generally warmer than the summer on the coast. I prefer May or even late April along the coast, as it's still green, and wildflowers are out.

Try visiting Big Basin state park if you head south, bigger redwoods and more of them than at Muir Woods, and a great half day loop hike about 11 miles to Berry Creek Falls. Also can ride horses at Andrew Molera state park on the ocean at Big Sur, the longest stretch of beach in Big Sur.
sequoia370 is offline  
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