I’ll be the first to admit that I’m an East Coast kinda girl. I cherish all four seasons (sometimes I experience them all in one week, since I’m a Marylander), I love being able to be in NYC in four hours or Charleston in eight, and I roll my eyes at every Californian who tries to convince me that Dungeness crabs can ever compare to blue crabs.
But I’ll also be the first to admit that my first trip to the West Coast made me waver a bit on my strong sweater-weather stance.
If you follow me on any of my social media outlets, you’ve probably
picked up on my newfound California love been super annoyed by the bajillion photos I’ve posted, but I just can’t help myself from talking about my trip a bit more, because it really was perfect!
Since I have so much good information to share for those of you interested in visiting the Golden State, I’m going to recap my trip in three parts:
- Napa, San Fran, & the Surrounding Area
- Yosemite National Park
- Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea, & San Jose
So, without further ado, here’s part one . . .
- Napa Valley: I drank wine in a castle, OK?!? You could honestly spend two weeks in Napa and not see (and taste!) everything you wanted to. You’d also go broke, because Napa wine tastings can get really expensive really fast. Because of that, my friend and I focused on moderately priced tastings in over-the-top settings, and wound up at Castello di Amorosa (the aforementioned castle) and Domaine Carneros, a French château style sparkling winery. It was perfect. If I ever win the lottery, I’m going back to check out Chateau Montelena, which you may recognize from the movie Bottle Shock, and the high-end wineries recommended to us by people who actually know what they’re doing: Joseph Phelps Vineyards, Stags’ Leap, Silver Oak, and Robert Mondavi Winery.
- Muir Woods: When you’re done with Napa, check out this place, which seemingly belongs in a fairy tale. Hike some trails, hug some redwoods, and forget about the real world for a bit, and then stop by nearby Stinson Beach for some stunning views of the Pacific.
- Sausalito: Just a quick trip over the Golden Gate, Sausalito looks like it’s been ripped from a Mediterranean coastline and plopped down along the Pacific. Definitely worth a few hours of exploration, I’d suggest dining outside at one of the many street-side cafés that overlook the waterfront, or grabbing a drink at The Spinnaker, whose skyline views of San Francisco are unrivaled.
- San Francisco: So much to see, so little time! We took advantage of a hop-on, hop-off bus tour, something I’ve avoided in previous cities, deeming it “too touristy.” But consider me a convert, because it turned out to be an awesome way to get acclimated to the city, quickly learn its history, see its major sites, AND have built-in transportation.
- Things to do: Ride a cable car, check out the sea lions, climb up to the park surrounding the Coit Tower for some awesome panoramic views, stroll through the Ferry Building, visit the Palace of Fine Arts (maybe my favorite spot in the city), browse the famous City Lights Bookstore, walk through Chinatown, swing by City Hall and the San Francisco Performing Arts Center and surrounding buildings, see the infamous Lombard Street and the Painted Ladies, watch the sun set over the Golden Gate, and make the trek to Treasure Island to view the San Franciscan skyline at night. We weren’t able to fit in an Alcatraz Tour, but I’ve heard they are great!
- Where to eat: Grab some pizza at Tony’s (some of the best gluten-free pizza I’ve ever had), stuff yourself with some Ghiradelli’s ice cream straight from the source, and cap it all off with an Irish coffee from The Buena Vista, the cafe credited with first bringing them to the US. We also enjoyed some higher-end eats at Park Tavern and Colibri; a solid (and inexpensive) brunch at Eight AM; and ordered off the secret menu at In-n-Out. We unfortunately never made it to perhaps the city’s most recommended stop: Bob’s Donuts.
There are dozens of additional restaurants, bars, and cafés that were recommended to us, so let me know if you need additional dining suggestions, and stay tuned for Part Two of my California blog series, which will be all about Yosemite!
*All photos are my own