It's been two weeks since my husband and I took our little getaway trip to Northern California so what better time than now to take a trip down memory lane and share my post-trip recap. Better late than never, right?!
I shared a few highlights in a previous Weekly Workouts post regarding my workouts while on vacation in Cali but I wanted to share my full four-day itinerary as well. If you are like me and had never been to California, particularly Sonoma and San Francisco, you might find this helpful. Or, if you have been and are looking for some new places to check out on your next trip, hopefully I did something you might not have that you can add to your next visit (or maybe avoid...keep reading to find out why)!
Our first two days were largely spent in Sonoma County with a little time at Muir Woods and my last two days were spent solo sightseeing San Francisco while my husband went off to work at his corporate office HQ.
As for how I planned what to do...I am a big fan of Google Maps when it comes to planning. Whenever I travel to a new city or a place I haven't been in awhile, I create myself a map pinning all the places I want to visit in the weeks leading up to travel. It makes it super easy to sketch out an itinerary and once I am out and about on the trip, makes it a breeze to determine where I want to go next, how far it is, whether I can walk or need to take public transit and check reviews. A side note if you do the same with Google Maps is that it often will drain your cell battery so bring along a spare power bank if you're relying on keeping maps open for directions.
As far as where we laid our heads during the trip, we flew in late Friday evening and stayed close to the SFO airport so nothing fancy to share there. Saturday and Sunday (Day 1 and 2) we stayed at Kenwood Inn & Spa in Kenwood, California. It was absolutely beautiful. You'll find it right off the main road heading towards Sonoma but it felt tucked away into an entirely different little mediterranean world. We were greeted with sparking champagne upon arrival and welcomed into our room with a note congratulating us on our wedding anniversary and a box of yummy chocolates. The room itself was gorgeous. Fireplace, balcony overlooking the pool with additional mountain views, and heated bathroom floors (yes, you read that right and they were amazing, nothing I ever knew I wanted or needed but loved). Nightly wine reception from a local Sonoma vineyard with cheese and crackers and a buffet breakfast came with our stay. The breakfast was delicious. I am still drooling over those cinnamon scones (#foodfreedom). Another notable mention goes to the pools. They had a warming pool, regular pool and hot tub. I hadn't even thought to bring suits but wish we would have. That warming pool would have been especially nice with the cooler temperatures in the morning and evening.
- Equator Coffee & Tea
Little gem in Mill Valley, California and a perfect stop to grab a quick bite and get your caffeine fix before a visit to Muir Woods. It's here that I discovered my love for the oat milk latte. The food was also delicious. I had a gluten free waffle topped with bananas, almonds and almond butter. So freaking good.
- Muir Woods
I loved, I mean LOVED, this place and could have easily spent an entire day if not longer here. We did a 3.5 mile round-trip hike into the woods. Pictures just do not do this place justice, it's an unbelievable site to see. Most definitely a place worth visiting and to have on your list.
- Williamson Wines
We made a pitstop in downtown Healdsburg on the way up to Bella Vineyards. This had come recommended from a friend and was a fun stop. The tasting itself is free and comes with small food pairings. The wine was great and the jams, truffle salt and cheese paired alongside were amazing. Downtown Healdsburg is definitely a place I want to see more of. It's a cute area that we just barely got to see this visit.
- Bella Vineyards and Wine Caves
At Bella Vineyards, we did the Ultimate Tour and it was worth every penny. We took an vintage army truck up through the vineyards, tasted grapes straight from the vine and sat at a picnic table overlooking the mountains while tasting several of their delicious wines. Pours were generous and tour guide was awesome. They had several varietals of zinfandel on the tasting menu which was a definite win in my book. Did I also mention we had Rose straight out of a growler?! I thought growlers were just for beer and sometimes coffee. You betcha I took one of those home!
- Yeti Restaurant
Yeti is an Indian and Nepalese restaurant in Glen Ellen that we visited for our anniversary evening. While we enjoyed our meal, it wasn't really too different from anything we could have gotten at home. Service was great, food solid too but I think next visit I'll explore other dinner ideas that might be a little more unique.
- Sonoma Valley Regional Park
Sonoma Valley and Hood Mountain Regional Parks were unexpected surprises in Sonoma. I hadn't planned on doing any hiking while we were visiting, but timing allowed us to stop at a couple of the local parks and I am glad that we did. Sonoma Valley Regional Park was hit recently in spots by wildfires, but was still beautiful. Plenty of trails for as much or as little hiking as you'd like to do. We choose to ignore the signs warning us of rattlesnakes and mountain lions and had a great time exploring here.
- Kunde Family Winery
The mountaintop tasting at Kunde is something very special and one-of-a-kind. After a brief tour through the wine caves which are pretty neat in and of themselves, a small bus takes you to the very top of the mountain where complete your wine tasting. The views here are unmatched. It is really so breathtaking. Once more, pictures don't quite do it justice. The wines were amazing as well and I will be tasting them at least twice a year when my wine club shipments arrive. Fun fact: On the tour, you pass by a boxing ring that was used in the filming of Bottleshock, starring Bill Pullman, Alan Rickman and a young Chris Pine. A lot of the movie was filmed here at Kunde. We have yet to watch it but I think once we have our wine club wines, that may be the perfect time!
- Russian River Brewing Company
Of course, with a beer loving husband (and who am I kidding, me too), we had to make a stop at a local brewery. Russian River in Santa Rosa was a great place to stop for lunch in between wineries and hiking. It's not big and it gets pretty busy so be prepared to wait but it's worth it. Food and beers were both great.
- Hood Mountain Regional Park
Steep, steep, steeeeep but super fun hike. We didn't have a lot of time to spend here but did a 30 minute round trip hike up one of the many trails in this park. I would love to go back here and do the mountain summit on another visit.
- Downtown Sonoma
- The Girl and the Fig
By far, this was my favorite meal experience of the trip. The Girl and the Fig lived up to the hype I had been told and we loved it. We got a charcuterie board as a starter and it could have easily been our entire meal. That Laura Chenel goat cheese is still on my mind. Served with honey and lavender, it was one of the best things I've ever tasted. Also, the fig jam. The fig jam. I could have, and did, put it on everything. Soooo good. We split an entree which was a smart choice considering we were pretty full after our meat and cheese board.
During our time in San Francisco (Day 3 and 4), we stayed at Hotel Zephyr which is right between Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39. For me, who was playing tourist, it was an ideal location. A really cool, trendy, eclectic hotel with a lot of unique features. The room was decently sized which from what I had heard from my husband's previous San Fran stays is not always the case. Our room itself came equipped with a dartboard, you know, for late night dart games, and bay views. One of my favorite features of the hotel was the open outdoor area just off the main lobby with several firepits, games (ping pong, bags, jenga, etc) and a bar inside a camper.
- Boudin Bakery
When in San Francisco, eat sourdough. I think. Well, in any case, I did. This was a fun place with baskets of sourdough swinging overhead on a track and sourdough shaped animals like a teddy bear, alligator and turtle. Totally would have brought one back for the kids if it would have survived the trip. I grabbed a quick breakfast here before heading out to explore on my first day in SF. Scrambled egg, bacon, and sourdough waffle taco was my menu item of choice and it was pretty darn good. Food freedom at its finest right there. I do not usually eat sourdough bread, but in this case, it was worth it. Also a good place to pick up cute souvenirs for the kiddos.
Sea Lions @ Pier 39
I have never seen anything like the Sea Lions at Pier 39. So flipping funny. I visited these silly sea lions at least three more times during my trip. I'm convinced if you are having a bad day, one trip to the sea lions will cheer you right up. They are very territorial over their spot on the dock and will bark at each other to defend their spots. It's a sight to see.
- Powell & Mason Cable Car
Of course, I had to do the cable car experience while in San Francisco. I was told the Powell & Mason was one of the more popular of the three so I decided to try it since it was ideally located near the Wharf. Super fun and a little bit scary the first time you go down one of the many super steep hills in the city. Tip: It's a $7 trip one-way but if you download the app you can purchase an all day pass for $12 (and that $12 is good for buses and other transit cars too).
Painted Ladies Tour Company
One of the highlights of my time in San Francisco, hands down. It's a small more intimate type of tour with seven passengers, eight if you include our guide, the driver. Our tour guide literally took us all over the city in the cutest little VW van named Pearl. There were six designated photo stops along the way where we got to hop out for photo opportunities. It was an awesome way to see the city and not have to take a variety of methods of public transit to do so. On the tour, I got to see the Golden Gate Bridge, Mission, Palace of Fine Arts, Billionaire Row, Twin Peaks, Painted Ladies, and Lombard Street just to name a few. An added bonus if you take the afternoon tour...white wine or beer!
- 21st Amendment Brewery
This was our day three dinner and it did not disappoint. I've been a fan of 21st Amendment beers for awhile so was looking forward to visiting the brewery. I knew the beer would be good, but the food was actually really good too!
Blue Bottle Coffee
Yum! This is a great spot for coffee and breakfast. The location I went to off Market Street was not too big and had a line out the door when I arrived but I quickly understood why. I had the steel cut oatmeal with fresh fruit compote and it was amazing. Perfect breakfast to fuel my day.
Located about a twenty minute drive from downtown on the west side of San Francisco with Pacific Ocean views, this is a nice place for a meal before adventuring around Golden Gate Park or, if warm enough, playing at the beach. It's a brewery/restaurant with decent beers and they have a delicious salad which features that aforementioned Laura Chenel goat cheese. Yum.
Whale Watching Tour
This was the one lowlight of my trip. I am trying not to be regretful of this decision, but it was just not worth the two and a half hours spent. I did enjoy the ride through the bay and underneath the Golden Gate bridge but then the boat ride takes you out past the bay into the Pacific to look for whales. It's cold, windy, and waves are very choppy so seasickness is a true possibility. Waves are splashing nonstop into the boat so not only are you cold but also wet the majority of the time. And, whale sightings are rare. I don't think we saw any actually confirmed. Next time, if I am looking for a boat ride, I'll be keeping it to around the bay or maybe a ferry to East Bay.
- Ferry Building
Super cool indoor market. There are a lot of neat vendors and places to shop inside the Ferry Building. Great place for souvenirs that you won't find anywhere else and try out some local food. If you are looking for a quick bite....Side Kick Cafe is an excellent choice.
Cowgirl Creamery/Side Kick Cafe
We didn't feel like a big dinner so the Side Kick Cafe at the Cowgirl Creamery was a nice option. Dinner here was a gruyere grilled cheese enjoyed whilst people watching.
The Musee Mecanique is unique that's for sure. It might be one of the loudest places I have ever been in with hundreds of penny arcades lit up and blaring their individual music all at the same time. Located at Fishermans Wharf, it was a fun place to stop in for a few minutes.
The list above is not exhaustive but covers most of the highlights. I spent a lot of time walking in San Francisco (hello, 25,000 steps each day!) and got to see a lot of the city just via a walk from point a to point b.
I feel like I only got a taste of both Sonoma and San Francisco so definitely have the desire to go back to both places again. Luckily, my husband travels to San Francisco frequently for work so the idea of a return trip is not out of the question. The brief time spent in both places gave me a good familiarity with the lay of the land, the highlights, and the lowlights. I came away with some definite favorites and places I want to visit when I return as well as an idea of what new things I would like to add to the agenda next time.
Have you been to Sonoma and/or San Francisco? What were your favorites? Anything not on my list that I should check out?