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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.

UrbanBohemian UrbanBohemian 10 years
My parents are going to San Francisco this Valentine's Day for about a week. I'm so jealous!
Susan Susan 11 years
Thanks to everyone for the inside info. We are looking forward to putting it to good use. Thanks again!
malibu-stacey malibu-stacey 11 years
the BEST thing to do is to get about 12 of your friends together, rent some kind of chauffeured transportation and have someone ELSE drive you around the valley! that way you can "taste" as much as you want, and you never have to worry about where/when to go -- just hop in the car and enjoy! have fun!
sjpwannabe sjpwannabe 11 years
You may want to look into the wine train which is popular with tourists. You can check it out at St. Supery is a good starting point since they give an overview of winemaking. Sterling Vineyards has a tram car (gondola) which sets it apart from the other wineries. These are both in Napa. Opus One is a favorite for many locals. Beautiful scenery and tasty wine. It's located in St. Helena. Hess Winery is also on many must see lists. In addition to their wine they have a really nice art gallery in their tasting room. It's in Napa which is just next door to St. Helena. Kendall Jackson also has a nice tasting room but it's in Sonoma. Cheers!
Susan Susan 11 years
What about the wine country? Which winery would you suggest?
caligirl1201 caligirl1201 11 years
If you are super trendy and want to be hip, you must visit the Mission District. It's now replaced the Haight as the coolest neighborhood in San Francisco. Don't drive because there's no parking, but there's like 12 Muni (bus) lines on ever block and there's BART (subway) stations. The Mission area has a lot of great thrift stores and some high fashion places as well as great ethnic restaurants and colorful murals. There are record stores, cafes, and art studios. If you go at night hit up a Salsa club and dance the night away. It used to be considered a bad neighborhood, but it has gone through regentrification and there's alot of people buying lofts out there. One critic recently compared it to New York's SOHO district. Alot of locals, including me, spend lazy weekends there shopping and eating. You can see the real San Francisco because the Mission is home to over 100 different cultures, so there's a lot of diversity. People are friendly out there and sometimes it's the only part of the city with any sunshine. I would highly suggest taking a trip out there and having a real "San Francisco burrito".
aphrodite aphrodite 11 years
I love Mendocino. It's so pretty up there! However, it's a lot further North than Napa. Here are some of my suggestions: In San Francisco park at the top of Telegraph Hill and walk thru the hillside neighborhoods. The area is so lush and the houses are gorgeous. There's a great view of the bay and you might even see the wild parrots of Telegraph Hill (I think they can be seen between 12-2pm). Another thing you can do in SF is take a ride on the cablecar. I know it's a cliche but I really thinks it's a great experience. I lived on Nob Hill for years and regularly road them to get around. I miss it a lot. If you take the cablecars you can start in Union Square (where there is some realy awesome shopping), go up & over the hill (great views of houses and the bay), get off on Columbus Ave. in North Beach and right - up the hill - to "Sushi on North Beach". It's on the right side. If you go there make sure to get the North Beach roll. It's out of this world good. mmmm. The owner and staff is very friendly and the food is great. Afterwards you can continue up Columbus and see Grace Cathedral on your right. There's also some great night life and shopping in the area. I can't help you with wine because I don't drink wine, but I'm sure there is a lot of info all around the city. You may just want to do that in Napa, anyway. Have fun! :)
malibu-stacey malibu-stacey 11 years
it all looks so beautiful! i can't wait to go there! wait, i live here...! :)
vmruby vmruby 11 years
it all looks so beautiful!!!!!!
caligirl1201 caligirl1201 11 years
I love Carmel too, me and my girlfriends took a roadtrip there a couple of months ago and had a fun wine tour.
My-Opinion My-Opinion 11 years
Carmel Valley looks just like St. Augustine!
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