Visiting California for the first time...need advice!

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Re: Visiting California for the first time...need advice!

Postby rustymutt » Thu Jan 17, 2013 8:46 am

The wife and I have spent many weeks in that area in the last 10 years with friends and relatives living there. We've always had a great time. We prefer Sonoma over Napa for expense reasons. A visit to the Castle winery in Napa is fun. This is a real castle from Europe that was moved brick by brick to Napa and rebuilt. Takes about 2 hours to go through it on a tour, and the wine is served at the end in a tasting room/gift shop. Be aware that if you take the cheaper tour, you'll be ignored by the the host at the wine tasting for those who paid higher tasting fees. The Charles Schulz museum in Santa Rosa was fun for Peanut fans. We were there in Sept./Oct this year, and got to watch gray whales feeding in Bodega bay, at the Bodega head. This was a rare treat for us. Even our local host hadn't ever seen gray whales at Bodega Bay. We like to go to the smaller wineries, and have found some of our best wines here. Dress for colder weather, as this time of year, it's cold at night, and warmer during the day, if the sun is out. We took a boat from Catoosa to San Francisco, and walked the wharf. Be ware of well dressed pan handlers. They look wealthier than I did, and I would complement them the fine Italian belts, or shoes then had on, and declined their request for money. We've always had fun in wine country, and have met some really cool people.
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Re: Visiting California for the first time...need advice!

Postby at ease » Thu Jan 17, 2013 3:46 pm

...we like wine a lot and have made the wine-run several times...but, a couple days was about all we needed so your thoughts about 3 nights in that area starting with the drive there on your noon arrival is how we would do it...plus a couple nights/days in the Mont/Carmel areas seems good also....4 nights in "the City" as someone called it should be enough to see the sights....some mentioned point Reyes which is an easy drive north of SF, a good day trip if you need one....if you have a car in SF and do cross the Golden Gate (toward point reyes) and it happens to be a nice clear day, one thing we like to do is take the first exit (i believe) on the north side of the G-gate bridge, go under the highway and head on up the old road toward the top of the bluff overlooking back at the bridge and SF in the background...it is a popular site at at sunset with folks enjoying a beverage and the great view of the city across the bay....many folks take pictures from there, when it's a clear day that is....we always carry a jacket, umbrella and wine opener just in case...
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Re: Visiting California for the first time...need advice!

Postby supersharpie » Wed Jan 23, 2013 3:45 pm

Bumping this for any additional advice you guys have...looks like we will be spending the first two nights in Santa Cruz at an ocean front property, then three nights in Sonoma (still haven't definitively settled on a town), and the four nights in the city. Even though we are staying in Santa Cruz we plan to spend our first full day in the state motoring between Monterey and Big Sur.
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Re: Visiting California for the first time...need advice!

Postby supersharpie » Wed Jan 23, 2013 3:49 pm

Raybo wrote:I am a docent at Alcatraz and can give you a "behind the scenes" tour, if we can arrange a time to do it.

You will still have to buy your tickets there, but once on the island, I can give you a personal tour. The only place to get tickets is alcatrazcruises.com .

PM me if you are interested.

By the way, this offer goes for anyone else who might be interested.


Please check your inbox :D
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Re: Visiting California for the first time...need advice!

Postby Minot » Thu Jan 24, 2013 4:42 am

DiscoBunny1979 wrote:Usually commuter flights are quite convenient at SFO to Santa Rosa.
Only if you're flying before 2001.

If OP hadn't already purchased their tickets, they could connect in LAX. Santa Rosa Airport is quite convenient to Healdsburg, but you can't fly there from SFO. There is convenient (and fairly comfortable) shuttle service between the two airports.

I'm surprised that no one has mentioned Point Lobos, which is just south of Carmel. It has justifiably been called "the greatest meeting of land and sea in the world." With any luck, you will see seals and sea otters in their natural habitats. I'd recommend spending an entire day. Take a picnic lunch. Hike from Whaler's Cove to Granite Point. This is one of the areas you're likely to spot sea otters, as is the Seal Point Trail. Go tidepooling at Weston Beach, and walk out to Bird Island via China Cove. There is no place quite like it. Try to go on a week-day, when there are fewer people.

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Re: Visiting California for the first time...need advice!

Postby supersharpie » Fri Jan 25, 2013 12:09 am

So...it looks like if you want to explore the city on foot it is almost unavoidable to walk through parts of the Tenderloin. I don't want to be mugged. Advice?
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Re: Visiting California for the first time...need advice!

Postby Duckie » Fri Jan 25, 2013 12:25 am

The Tenderloin is more sad than dangerous. I walk there all the time. Just keep moving.
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Re: Visiting California for the first time...need advice!

Postby Raybo » Fri Jan 25, 2013 12:29 am

supersharpie wrote:So...it looks like if you want to explore the city on foot it is almost unavoidable to walk through parts of the Tenderloin. I don't want to be mugged. Advice?


1) get a bus pass and take the bus past the areas you don't want to walk through.

2) plan your walk so you go around the Tenderloin not through it. It isn't very big.

3) use taxis to get past the "bad" parts.

As far as I know, there isn't anything of interest to see in the Tenderloin and it shouldn't be a problem to get around without going through it. It is between where I live and downtown and I never walk through it, either taking a bus or walking around it.
No matter how long the hill, if you keep pedaling you'll eventually get up to the top.
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Re: Visiting California for the first time...need advice!

Postby travellight » Fri Jan 25, 2013 12:32 am

I would avoid having a car in SF and stay in a nice place. I did not care for the Columbus Motor Inn.

I liked Matanzas Creek Winery near Sonoma. Healdsburg is very lovely.
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Re: Visiting California for the first time...need advice!

Postby supersharpie » Fri Jan 25, 2013 12:49 am

I am starting to rethink the Columbus Motor Inn. What were your issues with the place?
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Re: Visiting California for the first time...need advice!

Postby travellight » Fri Jan 25, 2013 6:24 pm

It is just a big room with beds; lacking in style. It is well located but then many places are. I feel like it was a high price for what I got. I like to have some style or if I am going that basic in style, I want to pay about $70/night. That is what it is worth to me.

If you know your dates, you can try Priceline for 4 star hotels in the areas you like. If you are not familiar with Priceline, there is an entire strategy around how to do it. I can give you references if you like.

You can also use kayak for hotel rooms. I like the Kimpton hotels and would rather stay in one of those if I can get a great deal, like for $129/night. They are also well located and stylish.

The motor inns are mainly good if you need free parking. If you ditch the car idea in the city, it will free you up to other hotels.
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Re: Visiting California for the first time...need advice!

Postby westie » Sat Jan 26, 2013 1:23 am

Went to SF for the US Open last year, stayed at the JW Marriott at Union Square. Took the BART from SFO to Union Square. I do love SF, and I realize Union Square is a touristy area, but I have never encountered as many street people begging for money in any city in the country. It seemed out of control
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Re: Visiting California for the first time...need advice!

Postby anonenigma » Wed Jan 30, 2013 3:09 am

[quote="greenbldg"](I rented the Tesla and drove to Half Moon Bay)

Nice shot of Devil's Slide.
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Re: Visiting California for the first time...need advice!

Postby shankopotamus » Wed Jan 30, 2013 4:06 am

When traveling down Hwy 1 in Big Sur, we like to have lunch at the Ventana Inn, which is actually east of Hwy 1, but way up on a bluff. Ask for a table outside nearest the edge of the deck overlooking the ocean. You'll never know you're east of the highway. Absolutely stunning. Afterward, wander further south down 1 and go to Nepenthe for a glass of wine and spectacular views.

I second the recommendation for La Trappe in SF for a beer stop.
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Re: Visiting California for the first time...need advice!

Postby stilts1007 » Wed Jan 30, 2013 5:10 pm

Driving highway 1 south from San Francisco is a very scenic drive. If you can make it down to Big Sur the drive is beautiful. An earlier poster mentioned the restaurant Nepenthe down near Big Sur, food is just OK but the terrace has an amazing view overlooking the ocean. If you are heading north, we stopped in Muir Woods for some nice hiking & redwoods. Not as big as Redwood National Park but a lot closer & wasn't super crowded when we were there (November).
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Re: Visiting California for the first time...need advice!

Postby supersharpie » Tue Feb 19, 2013 9:52 am

Update:

We decided add four more nights to our trip, now we are spending:

3 nights in Napa (anyone have a recommendation for which town to stay in? Napa, Yountsville, St. Helena, and Calistoga seem to be the main towns in the valley)

3 nights in Pacific Grove/Monterey

3 nights in Healdsburg

4 nights in San Francisco

We are not married to spending all six days in wine country visiting vineyards...probably only 3-4 will be consumed with that activity. We are looking to spend some time visiting local museums, parks, and even possibly a factory tour (Jelly Belly anybody?) while in the area.

We decided to add a day in Pacific Grove so that we could spend a whole day visiting Big Sur and Carmel and another full day in Monterey, including the aquarium. The airbnb property we are staying at in Pacific Grove comes with two free passes.
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