A while back my family and I took a fantastic trip to Northern California. My mom planned the whole trip. Now y’all know that normally I am all about being the planner because I want to make sure it is as near perfect as possible. When my mom plans a trip it is ALWAYS near perfect (probably because she is; truth). In fact she is probably where I get that from now that I think about it lol.
So without further ado, here is how to have a relaxing yet amazing trip into Northern California.
We first flew into San Francisco on a Friday afternoon. I really love San Francisco. It has such a wonderful vibe. We stayed at the Fairmont Heritage Place in Ghirardelli Square. There is an actual Ghirardelli factory in the square and when you step out of the hotel the wafting scent of chocolate wraps around you in a cocoon of pure deliciousness. So of course the first thing you have to do is head into the square to savor a bit of chocolate. There are plenty of other shops to explore and delicious places to eat all around. We enjoyed simply wandering the streets and exploring the bay area including Fisherman’s Warf for a bit.
I personally am a huge fan of Big Bus Tours, especially if you are visiting a city for the first time. This company uses large double decker buses to tour you around the city. They have headsets that are timed to explain the area you are driving through and your ticket allows you to hop on and off throughout the day. Any time I go to a new city I like to use Big Bus the first day to kind of get my bearings and become a little more familiar with the city. Sometimes they point out things I didn’t know about and might want to add into my itinerary.
After our tour we had lunch at Bistro Boudin. I absolutely love this place! They are famous for their sourdough bread. There is a café and a bakery downstairs and restaurant upstairs. The bakery is walled in glass so you can stand and watch as they make the bread. I love all of the fun animals made out of bread. They had this huge life sized alligator bread out on the table when we were there. Upstairs there is a fantastic view of San Francisco Bay. If you like clam chowder I highly highly recommend getting the clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. O-M-G! Soooooooo good.
Once lunch was over we headed to Pier 33 for a cruise to Alcatraz. The tour of Alcatraz was thought-provoking in a haunting sort of way. We were actually able to meet one of the previous inmates. He had written a book and was there signing autographs. My sister and I even got a picture with him.
Once back on the main land we decided to check out Lombard St, have dinner at Mamacitas, and visit Union Square.
Day 3 was a liiiittle more physically active than the rest of the trip….. we did a bike tour to Sausalito. Y’ALL I hadn’t ridden a bike in years (and to be honest never really got comfortable on a bike when I did ride. I’m more of a rollerblades kind of gal). You know those perfect Sundays? Those Sundays where it’s about 76F with a soft breeze so it doesn’t get too hot and there are big fluffy clouds floating through a brilliantly blue sky. That was the Sunday we got. An absolutely perfect Sunday, which was very unusual for the time of year we were there. Normally I would be so super stoked; the only problem was EEEEEEVVVERRRYYYONE was out. There were SO many people. It was like when you accidently step on an ant hill and they flood out in droves. Yeah, so remember how I hadn’t ridden a bike in forever? Try riding a bike around that many people on a sidewalk. I nearly died lol. I ended up on a tandem bike with the hubs a little less than halfway through. Our bike tour took us from the bay, over the Golden Gate Bridge, down this crazy steep hill, and into Sausalito. It was a beautiful ride and for those of you who are comfortable biking a lot of fun. In fact there were some lovely spots that would have been worth staying a while longer and I would have if I hadn’t had to keep up with the tour group. We did take the ferry back over to San Fran Bay (we decided to avoid trying to go back up that crazy hill). After dinner we took a night tour of the city. Seeing the dark buildings and golden gate bridge light up at night was breathtaking. While you are in San Francisco of course make sure go to Bistro Boudin; but some other restaurants you might enjoy are Amarena, Mamacitas, and Hogwash.
Monday we left San Francisco. I honestly could have spent another day or two there and been perfectly happy. There is so much to see and do. If you are planning to stay longer I suggest taking a ride on one of the cable cars for sure. When you’re in the mood for a walk, stroll through San Francisco’s china town and Golden Gate Park. The Exploratorium at Pier 15, Mission San Francisco de Asis, and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art are definitely worth a visit as well. As for my family and I, we took a drive up to Point Reyes Station to meet up with a wonderful local tour guide. This was by far my favorite and most memorable part of our trip. My mom, sisters, and I are all very big animal lovers, so this was right up our alley. We did a Food and Farm Tour. It was SO MUCH FUN Y’ALL!!!!!! Our guide told us the history of the town, where to get the best fresh seafood, all sorts of stuff. My favorite stop along our tour was Double 8 Dairy in West Petaluma. The gentleman that owns this farm is contagiously enthusiastic. He told us the story of how he started the farm with the intent to make “real” mozzarella, which is made with water buffalo milk. Well a few random events converged into a wonderful discovery; water buffalo milk makes the absolute best gelato in the world!!!! Your taste buds will want to weep in bliss when you take a bite of this gelato. Seriously! It is amazing. Get in a plane and fly to California right now just to get this gelato.
After our tour we headed over to the house we had rented right outside of Sonoma. It was a stunning house with everything you could possibly need to veg out in wine country. We spent most of the next few days touring and tasting at a few of the many many wineries in Napa and Sonoma. We did break up the wining with some dining of course. I absolutely recommend you go to the El Dorado Kitchen for dinner one evening. It is a bit on the pricey side but so delicious and totally worth it. A few other places you might like are The Girl & The Fig and Harvest Moon Café. We also hiked through Muir Woods one afternoon. Muir Woods is a stately redwood forest that became a national monument in 1908. We also went into the local town square for a little shopping. They happened to have a festival going on and we had such fun listening to music and taste testing all of the food trucks. I love food trucks! It really was a wonderful trip. I would have been sad to leave if I hadn’t had coming home to the fur babies to look forward to.
I hope you enjoyed the journey to San Francisco, Marin County, and Sonoma. I’d love to hear what some of your favorite places in Northern California are. Leave a comment below!
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