Need vacation ideas in the San Francisco region

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Need vacation ideas in the San Francisco region

Postby Bammerman » Wed Feb 13, 2013 3:20 pm

My wife and I are both terrible vacation planners, but we've decided to go to California in mid-May for about 10 days. Spend 3 or so days in San Francisco, then rent a car and tour around/explore to the north and the south along the coast. We plan to drive south to somewhere around San Luis Obispo and then take the train to San Diego (family). We welcome any ideas or suggestions! This will be our first real "vacation" in years (i.e., not family-related trips) and we'd really like to enjoy ourselves without spending a fortune, if possible. At least we're able to pay for our plane tickets out of credit card "flex points" we've already earned. We want a mix of both urban, and natural, delights and scenic adventures. Some hikes, but not too challenging. Some wine-country scenery, but not too much (I drink wine, she can't). We like to stay in B&B's and non-chain motels when possible. Thanks in advance for all ideas, directions, etc.
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Re: Need vacation ideas in the San Francisco region

Postby MathWizard » Wed Feb 13, 2013 3:23 pm

Muir Woods has coastal redwoods. It is an extremely relaxing place to wander through.
Take the first exit north of the Golden Gate bridge.
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Re: Need vacation ideas in the San Francisco region

Postby TnGuy » Wed Feb 13, 2013 8:35 pm

Be sure to drive a little bit north of San Francisco and visit Point Reyes National Seashore. The scenery is spectacular - and the drive getting there along Highway 1 is wonderful, too.


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Re: Need vacation ideas in the San Francisco region

Postby crowd79 » Wed Feb 13, 2013 8:39 pm

Pretty positive you'll get more useful information here:

http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowForum-g60713-i30-San_Francisco_California.html
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Re: Need vacation ideas in the San Francisco region

Postby hicabob » Wed Feb 13, 2013 8:46 pm

Hearst Castle is worth seeing if in the SLO(bispo) region and since you are driving down the aquarium in Monterey is world-class ,to say the least, and on the way.
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Re: Need vacation ideas in the San Francisco region

Postby magellan » Wed Feb 13, 2013 8:48 pm

If you're at all interested in architectural history, you'll probably enjoy a 2 hour walking tour of SF architecture led by Rick Evans. It's not exactly cheap, but DW and I did it a couple of years ago and we really enjoyed it.

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Re: Need vacation ideas in the San Francisco region

Postby john94549 » Wed Feb 13, 2013 8:55 pm

You might find some ideas here:

viewtopic.php?f=11&t=108805

Note: Somehow that comes up at page 2. Start at page 1.

[link fixed - admin alex]
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Re: Need vacation ideas in the San Francisco region

Postby Bammerman » Thu Feb 14, 2013 8:45 am

Thank you for these suggestions and links!
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Re: Need vacation ideas in the San Francisco region

Postby Harold » Thu Feb 14, 2013 10:00 am

Driving south out of San Francisco, you'd probably want to take some combination of 280 (which follows the San Andreas fault, and accompanying lakes etc.) and Skyline Drive which follows the ridge (giving views of the bay and ocean, depending where you stop and walk). Then you'd want to cut through the Santa Cruz mountains, probably stopping someplace like Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Then drive down Hwy 1 to Monterey (stopping at Elkhorn Slough if you're interested in being up close with sea otters while kayaking). I'm a fan of the Jabberwock Inn in Monterey, which is a short walk from the aquarium if you were to visit; getting a bike and riding along the Pacific Grove coast from Monterey would be both spectacular and easy. Then after you get your car again you could poke around in Carmel. Point Lobos State Reserve is just south, followed by the unbelievable Big Sur scenery on your way to SLO.
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Re: Need vacation ideas in the San Francisco region

Postby SamGamgee » Thu Feb 14, 2013 10:22 am

I also endorse Muir woods.
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Re: Need vacation ideas in the San Francisco region

Postby Harold » Thu Feb 14, 2013 10:29 am

SamGamgee wrote:I also endorse Muir woods.

Muir Woods is wonderful if someone is looking to see redwoods near the city (and would miss them otherwise) but there are many other even more impressive places to see them.
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Re: Need vacation ideas in the San Francisco region

Postby EagertoLearnMore » Thu Feb 14, 2013 10:36 am

When in San Diego you could visit the Midway. Also, San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (outside of San Diego). Both the zoo and the safari park are very nice.
+1 Muir Woods
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Re: Need vacation ideas in the San Francisco region

Postby SPG8 » Thu Feb 14, 2013 10:51 am

The wine thing is worthwhile, and we just went to a few that were open to the dirty public. We paired that day with Muir Woods in the morning.

If you do wine, the circuit is basically a north/south oval. If you want to jump across, instead of driving around, take the Oakville Grade (this is very good knowledge discovered quite accidentally). A rental with some pep would enhance the experience, but isn't necessary. Somebody posted a video online that I was about to link, but on second thought don't look, just drive it.

Russian River Brewery is in Santa Rosa.
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Re: Need vacation ideas in the San Francisco region

Postby Bammerman » Thu Feb 14, 2013 11:50 am

Harold, which do you think are the "more impressive" places to see redwoods, other than the Muir Woods? (North or South of SF)
And thanks for the specific ideas about routes and places to stay, that's just what I was hoping for.
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Re: Need vacation ideas in the San Francisco region

Postby coalcracker » Thu Feb 14, 2013 11:54 am

If you like raw oysters check out Tomales Bay Oyster company in Point Reyes. It's BYOB and you sit outside at picnic tables on the bay. If you like blue cheese, you can bring some Point Reyes blue too, it's fantastic. You can also bring charcoal and grill the oysters if you want.

Big Sur is beautiful and well worth the drive. We did the reverse drive from LA to Northern California last March. If you want to stay in Big Sur and you like smaller inns, check out Deetjen's. Nothing in Big Sur is cheap but it's one of the more reasonable options. Definitely a quirky place, but in a beautiful setting among the redwoods, and the food was really good.
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Re: Need vacation ideas in the San Francisco region

Postby epimedium » Thu Feb 14, 2013 12:05 pm

Yosemite National Park isn't too far of a drive (about 4 hours) and it is absolutely fabulous. My wife and I have been to many of the parks and it remains one of our favorites. We included it as part of our trip to San Francisco and Napa/Sonoma. We also found Marin County north of SF to be a beautiful area.
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Re: Need vacation ideas in the San Francisco region

Postby Harold » Thu Feb 14, 2013 12:29 pm

Bammerman wrote:Harold, which do you think are the "more impressive" places to see redwoods, other than the Muir Woods? (North or South of SF)
And thanks for the specific ideas about routes and places to stay, that's just what I was hoping for.

Well, I mentioned one of them (Big Basin) and there are a variety of other similar parks. Going farther afield (i.e. probably too far for this trip) Humboldt State Park and Redwood National Park in the northern part of the state are jaw-droppingly amazing.
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Re: Need vacation ideas in the San Francisco region

Postby Martindo » Fri Feb 15, 2013 10:34 pm

Neal wrote:If you like raw oysters check out Tomales Bay Oyster company in Point Reyes. It's BYOB and you sit outside at picnic tables on the bay. If you like blue cheese, you can bring some Point Reyes blue too, it's fantastic. You can also bring charcoal and grill the oysters if you want.


The Tomales Bay Oyster Company just closed, so that's out....BUT Point Reyes National Seashore is a wonderful place to hike, both inland and on the coast itself. (The oyster company was ordered to close by the Park Service for environmental reasons.) Go on a kayak trip on Tomales Bay (places will rent or take you out), check out the towns of Inverness and Point Reyes Station, go the the lighthouse, hike in the park, and get a feeling for the coast and the old, italian dairy farms on Pt Reyes Peninsula.

I live in Santa Rosa so have been around wineries a lot. It's fun to visit a few -- I think the "tasting" is tiresome -- but many are really beautiful and the landscape in Sonoma/Napa is wonderful. I wouldn't go out of my way to drive around both Sonoma and Napa counties. Too similar given your ten-day time constraint. I'm for Sonoma County with it's great coastal opportunities along with some wine fun. People like to go out to some fine restaurants in Healdsburg. (Reserve ahead for some of the most popular ones.)
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Re: Need vacation ideas in the San Francisco region

Postby chaz » Fri Feb 15, 2013 10:43 pm

I liked visiting Alcatraz.
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Re: Need vacation ideas in the San Francisco region

Postby Rob5TCP » Sat Feb 16, 2013 1:02 am

While Muir woods IS impressive, Big Basin is much larger and is a great place for viewing the Redwoods (about an hour outside of S.F.).

Several hours away: lies Yosemite and Sequia National Park. If you like Redwoods, you will love the Sequia's - the largest
living thing ever on Earth. Plus Yosemite (except in summer) is a visual smorgasbord of sites (mountains, waterfalls-depending on the
season, it's own Sequia groves, cliffs, magnificent hiking trails). The downside, you need at LEAST two days.
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Re: Need vacation ideas in the San Francisco region

Postby Raybo » Sat Feb 16, 2013 1:06 am

chaz wrote:I liked visiting Alcatraz.


I'm a docent at Alcatraz and can give you a personalized tour of the island. You still have to buy your ticket (alcatrazcruises.com is the only place to do so), but once on the island, I have keys to lots of places you can't normally go. In addition, if I show you around, you can get a refund of the $8 headset rental fee!

Send me a PM of you are interested.
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Re: Need vacation ideas in the San Francisco region

Postby graveday » Sat Feb 16, 2013 1:41 am

How do you feel about public nudity? It's recently banned. Wintertime Fairbanks, Alaska has not yet considered a ban. Not so sure about Fairbanks, Texas.
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Re: Need vacation ideas in the San Francisco region

Postby Sriracha » Mon Feb 18, 2013 10:34 pm

Martindo wrote:
Neal wrote:If you like raw oysters check out Tomales Bay Oyster company in Point Reyes. It's BYOB and you sit outside at picnic tables on the bay. If you like blue cheese, you can bring some Point Reyes blue too, it's fantastic. You can also bring charcoal and grill the oysters if you want.


The Tomales Bay Oyster Company just closed, so that's out....BUT Point Reyes National Seashore is a wonderful place to hike, both inland and on the coast itself. (The oyster company was ordered to close by the Park Service for environmental reasons.) Go on a kayak trip on Tomales Bay (places will rent or take you out), check out the towns of Inverness and Point Reyes Station, go the the lighthouse, hike in the park, and get a feeling for the coast and the old, italian dairy farms on Pt Reyes Peninsula.


It's my understanding that Drakes Bay Oyster was shut down http://www.sfgate.com/science/article/U ... 077624.php. Until this post, I hadn't heard anything about Tomales Bay Oyster Company closing down. Its website doesn't mention anything about it. It'd be terrible if they both go down....
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Plans are firming up nicely

Postby Bammerman » Mon Apr 08, 2013 8:53 am

Hi folks, Our vacation plans are firming up nicely. We'll be spending four nights in Berkeley (thanks to old friends who offered us a place to stay), and one night at the Glenn Ellen Inn in Sonoma, which should give us a chance to explore the city sights as well as the area to the immediate north of SF. Then we take the train to Salinas, get somehow from there to Monterey (did you know that almost everything is closed in California on Sundays??) to pick up a rental car, and drive to a B&B we've rented in Carmel. This will be our base for four more nights to explore the coastal region. Next we drive back to Salinas, return the rental car, get back on the train as far as San Luis Obispo, where we will spend the night before rejoining the train as far as San Diego. From there on we're in my sister's hands. So, first of all, thanks for your ideas and comments thus far. Do you have any additional suggestions of things for us to see and do, given the above (firm) itinerary? Favorite hikes, restaurants, shops, parks, whatever?
Thanks!
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Re: Need vacation ideas in the San Francisco region

Postby graveday » Mon Apr 08, 2013 12:52 pm

The Glen Ellen Inn is actually in Glen Ellen, not Sonoma. Sonoma is not too far away though. Ask the locals what to do. There is great hiking that takes you up on Sonoma Mountain, or you can check out Jack London State Park or the Bouverie Flower Preserve. It should be beautiful with the recent refreshing and much needed rains.
Glen Ellen was the place the great food writer M.F.K. Fisher located herself for her final days.
I'll wager when all is said and done you might figure Glen Ellen as the sweetest part of your vacation.
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Re: Plans are firming up nicely

Postby hicabob » Mon Apr 08, 2013 12:57 pm

Bammerman wrote:Hi folks, Our vacation plans are firming up nicely. We'll be spending four nights in Berkeley (thanks to old friends who offered us a place to stay), and one night at the Glenn Ellen Inn in Sonoma, which should give us a chance to explore the city sights as well as the area to the immediate north of SF. Then we take the train to Salinas, get somehow from there to Monterey (did you know that almost everything is closed in California on Sundays??) to pick up a rental car, and drive to a B&B we've rented in Carmel. This will be our base for four more nights to explore the coastal region. Next we drive back to Salinas, return the rental car, get back on the train as far as San Luis Obispo, where we will spend the night before rejoining the train as far as San Diego. From there on we're in my sister's hands. So, first of all, thanks for your ideas and comments thus far. Do you have any additional suggestions of things for us to see and do, given the above (firm) itinerary? Favorite hikes, restaurants, shops, parks, whatever?
Thanks!


Salinas may well be an eye-opener when you see "the other California". If you like Steinbeck, the Steinbeck museum in Salinas is worth visiting. The contrast between Salinas and Carmel is significant to say the least.
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Re: Need vacation ideas in the San Francisco region

Postby noyopacific » Mon Apr 08, 2013 2:12 pm

One of my wife and my most memorable stays was 25 miles south of San Francisco at the Montara Lighthouse Hostel http://norcalhostels.org/montara
Being a hostel, it is very inexpensive (for the area) at about $75 for a private room and $25 each in a bunk in the dorm room. Reservations are a good idea (AYH membership costs $3 additional per night if you are not a member.) The best part was a soak in the ocean view hot tub, perched on the edge of a cliff (if the hot tub is still operating, it was $14 for 1/2 hour for a couple and an advance reservation was necessary.) If you have never stayed in a hostel, you should know that a quick easy chore is expected in the morning, there is a kitchen available and other guests share the common areas. We have always found visiting with the other guests a pleasant bonus.
The information contained herein, while not guaranteed by us, has been obtained from from sources which have not in the past proved particularly reliable.
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Re: Need vacation ideas in the San Francisco region

Postby Sunflower » Mon Apr 08, 2013 2:26 pm

graveday wrote:The Glen Ellen Inn is actually in Glen Ellen, not Sonoma. Sonoma is not too far away though.


Sonoma County.
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Re: Need vacation ideas in the San Francisco region

Postby dm200 » Mon Apr 08, 2013 2:50 pm

Coastal redwoods, both north and south of SF. Monterey peninsula. Yosemite to the east of SF.
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Re: Need vacation ideas in the San Francisco region

Postby wilpat » Mon Apr 08, 2013 3:01 pm

EagertoLearnMore wrote:When in San Diego you could visit the Midway. Also, San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (outside of San Diego). Both the zoo and the safari park are very nice.
+1 Muir Woods


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Re: Need vacation ideas in the San Francisco region

Postby john94549 » Mon Apr 08, 2013 3:44 pm

For ancient redwoods, up-close-and-personal, try the Skunk Train in Willits. Make sure you book the real train, not the motorcar. The real train has vintage rail cars and an open-air gondola car. Running commentary by Conductor. Leaves in the AM, lunch at the turn-around, return in mid-afternoon. There's a website.

Great for kids.
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Re: Plans are firming up nicely

Postby JupiterJones » Mon Apr 08, 2013 4:02 pm

hicabob wrote:If you like Steinbeck, the Steinbeck museum in Salinas is worth visiting.


And if you like Peanuts, the Charles Schulz museum is in Santa Rosa. We found it very enjoyable.

JJ
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Re: Plans are firming up nicely

Postby hicabob » Mon Apr 08, 2013 5:26 pm

JupiterJones wrote:
hicabob wrote:If you like Steinbeck, the Steinbeck museum in Salinas is worth visiting.


And if you like Peanuts, the Charles Schulz museum is in Santa Rosa. We found it very enjoyable.

JJ


Never seen that one, but for Dr Seuss fans the Dr Seuss museum (Theodore Geisel museum??) at the UCSD library in San Diego is fun
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Re: Need vacation ideas in the San Francisco region

Postby Balance » Mon Apr 08, 2013 9:17 pm

If you are planning on driving South from San Francisco and going to San Luis Obispo you can always pass by Santa Cruz on the way down to the Monterrey Peninsula. After San Luis Obispo you can also go south down the coast to Santa Barbara. It is a beautiful city and a great drive as well.
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Re: Need vacation ideas in the San Francisco region

Postby janelane » Mon Apr 08, 2013 10:30 pm

I love San Fran! Such a beautiful city. Here's a list of some of the things I did on my last trip there:

- Took the ferry to Sausalito - Cute little city for shopping/eats. I recommend stopping by Heath Ceramics, beautiful handcrafted ceramics.
- Vampire Walking Tour on Nob Hill - Pretty much just a regular history walking tour, but the tour guide wears a funky/goth getup.
- Winery tour at Jarvis Winery - I'm not much of a wine person, but this unique winery is located inside a cafe. I would recommend eating at Chef Morimoto's restaurant while you're in Napa if you like Japanese food.
- Tour the Winchester House - Giant mansion in San Jose built for the Winchester (as in Winchester gun and ammo manufacturer) family in the 1800s. The widow was convinced that the spirits killed by the Winchester products, so she kept building on the house, adding strange elements that were meant to confuse the ghosts (windows in the floor, doors to nowhere, etc).
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Getting from Salinas to Monterey

Postby Bammerman » Sun May 05, 2013 6:56 pm

Thanks for all the good ideas.

We're arriving in Salinas by train on a Sunday and, guess what, no car rental places are open there on a Sunday! So we have to get to Monterey to rent our car. Yes, there's a series of buses we could take to get there (inexpensive, but takes too much time) or a taxi (more expensive than we'd like). Anyone know of any other options?
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Re: Getting from Salinas to Monterey

Postby hicabob » Sun May 05, 2013 7:36 pm

Bammerman wrote:Thanks for all the good ideas.

We're arriving in Salinas by train on a Sunday and, guess what, no car rental places are open there on a Sunday! So we have to get to Monterey to rent our car. Yes, there's a series of buses we could take to get there (inexpensive, but takes too much time) or a taxi (more expensive than we'd like). Anyone know of any other options?


Salinas is not quite "the bay area". Get off the train in San Jose and get a car?
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Re: Need vacation ideas in the San Francisco region

Postby Bammerman » Sun May 05, 2013 7:39 pm

Yeah, the thing is, we have to return the car before we get back on the train some days later to head on south. We can rent it in Monterey and return it without surcharge in Salinas, where we board the train. But if we rent the car in San Jose, we'll have a lot of back-tracking to do to get back to San Jose (from Carmel) to return the car and get on the train. My wife hates backtracking.
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