Skip Nav

Northern California Must See Spots

Dear Sugar
Vacation time is here and this year my husband and I are headed to visit his family in San Jose. It is my first time in this part of CA and I can't wait.

The plan is to roll it into a week of; family, San Francisco,
Napa/Sonoma, and anything else we can fit in. Can you help me fill out my must do/see list?

I need a locals take on things like the best wineries to visit, the best sushi, best shopping, the best fancy restaurant (we enjoy eating). Just help me make it a sensational vacation! Cal Gal

Dear Cal Gal
Check out this post Honeymooning In San Francisco we wrote. They know their town so get after it and have some fun.

Town Hall and Gary Danko are the two top schmancy restaurants in San Francisco - and right now Town Hall is hotter than ever. Try and call ASAP for a reservation (rumor has it they book up two months in advance).

As far as "must see spots" in San Jose, I recommend going to Santana Row. It's the city's finest shopping district (Gucci, Escada, Tods, etc...) with a collection of fabulous restaurants as well. Blowfish (sushi) is a must eat as well as Amber India (Indian) and Straits Cafe (Malaysian).

Gilroy Outlet Stores are 20 min south of SJ. There are 145 stores there if you are really looking to tear it up.

Big Basin State Park has beautiful hiking trails in the coastal redwood groves. If the weather cooperates, it's a nice place to hike and picnic.


In downtown San Jose, there ain't a whole lot happenin outside of work hours, but there are a couple of good places to eat. The Fairmont Hotel has a nice fancy brunch, there’s an upscale restaurant called Arcadia in the Marriott Hotel and Kubota, in Japantown has amazing sushi.

Outside Of San Jose there are several attractions as well:
The Monterey Aquarium is about an hour and 15 min from SJ. It's a bit touristy, but also a fun place to buy souvenirs, eat ice cream, rent kayaks and see the beach and the seals.

About an hour West of SJ is the famous Santa Cruz boardwalk. (They filmed The Lost Boys there, remember the carnival scene?) It's sort of an Atlantic city on the west coast.


Also, about an hour 15 min drive is the quaintest town I've ever encountered called Carmel By The Sea. It's filled with restaurants, art galleries, candy/cheese shops and cottage homes by the ocean. Clint Eastwood used to be mayor here!


Carmel Valley is in the same vicinity. The weather is almost always perfect and it’s a wonderful, rural alternative to Carmel. The top hotel, restaurant and winery is Bernardus Lodge - the fancy restaurant there is called Marinus. Have a fantastic trip.

Latest Love & Sex