Weekend trips in Northern California

A friend recently asked me for some travel recommendations for a long weekend trip. After writing him a really long email back, I figured I’d share my recommendations in case anyone else was looking. Northern California has a ton of awesome short trips to go on that aren’t far away.

In Northern California

Napa/Sonoma
The go-to, so I won’t spend much time on it. But I recently stayed at The Calistoga Inn. From Nov-Feb, it’s $60-80/night to stay there, and it’s right in downtown Calistoga.

Yosemite
People forget about Yosemite, but this is one of the best times of year to go, between Labor Day and Thanksgiving. It’s about as empty as it gets all year, and it’s fun to be there when it starts getting cold. You can go on drives, bike rides, hikes, kayaking trips, all kinds of stuff. Or just relax and plunk down for a nice room and brunch at the Awahnee. You can stay in heated tents, with public showers, in Curry Village for under $100/night. The drive isn’t far either.

Tahoe
Now is probably the cheapest time of the year to go to Tahoe. Last year, I bought a groupon and stayed up at the Resort at Squaw Creek. We did some late fall hiking (though it was October, not November) and had dinner in Truckee. If you’re staying 2-3 nights, might even try continuing on for a night in Reno. I’ve been, it can be weird, but it’s also entertaining, small-towny and hilarious.

Monterey Bay
Monterey is awesome. I’ve done 2 trips down there for a weekend. The aquarium is awesome, year round. Tons of good restaurants. Personally, I like renting a place in Parajo Dunes, just north of Monterey city but on Monterey Bay. It’s classic california beach scenes, with houses built into the dunes (http://www.pajarodunes.com/). You can then do trips to Santa Cruz, Monterey or even down to Big Sur during the day (or even camp in Big Sur, if you’re so inclined).

Lake County
OK, so I haven’t been yet, but Lake County is high on my list of places to go. It’s the next county north of Napa, and it’s supposedly what Napa used to be like 30 years ago. A few wineries. Small towns. Not a ton of tourists but some. And much cheaper than Napa.  This place looks cool and strange: http://www.featherbedrailroad.com/

Russian River/Sonoma Coast
I spent a great weekend in Guerneville. It’s super quiet, right on the Russian River. There’s a ton of wineries nearby, and you can rent a home there for not a ton of money. I used this company: http://www.riverhomes.com. And being there, you’re only 25min drive from the Ocean.

Mendicino
Never been, but I hear good things.

A short flight away

Portland
There are few better places for trip that’s just a short flight away than Portland. Breweries, bicycling, parks, good weather, shopping, restaurants and hippies.

Cabo
You could easily do a 3-day trip to Cabo and not break the bank on housing and car for 2, before airfare. You can fly Virgin direct there from SFO.

Other parts of Mexico
Despite a bad rap, most of Mexico is totally safe, and parts of Mexico are amazingly beautiful:
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2011/09/28/mexico_national_parks.DTL&ao=all

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