San Francisco has a lot to offer, but it would be a shame to miss the many great towns that are within easy driving distance. There are at least a dozen places worth vacations in their own right, but here are a few you should consider exploring.
Napa is lovely but don’t miss charming Sonoma. Gorgeous scenery, vineyards galore, great food (and wine), and plenty of spas make Sonoma worthy of at least a few days when you’re ready to indulge your senses and slow down.
Auberge du Soleil (www.aubergedusoleil.com), Bardessono (www.bardessono.com), and Hotel Healdsberg (www.hotelhealdsburg.com) are some of the best places to be pampered.
A spectacular coastline dotted with Victorian villages, acres of towering redwoods, and miles of great vineyards, make Mendocino a magical getaway. Hike to the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse and visit the Mendocino Art Museum.
And you will definitely want to spend a night at the MacCallum House (www.maccallumhouseinn.com), a Victorian beauty with sea views and a really great restaurant.
It’s all about the surf in this seaside town, whether you like to swim in it, fish in it, or hang ten. A boardwalk offers a fun honky-tonk touch and the downtown area is full of charming cafes and shopping.
If you’re staying over, hang your hat at the luxurious Chaminade Lane Inn (www.chaminade.com) or the groovier Santa Cruz Dream Inn (www.dreaminnsantacruz.com).
Visit the town that Steinbeck made famous. Cannery Row’s sardine days are over but it’s been transformed into a major tourist attraction with shops, restaurants, and hotels-all situated on beautiful Monterey Bay. Make sure you visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium (www.mbayaq.org) and take a drive to Carmel.
The Highlands Inn (www.highlandsinn.hyatt.com) and the Bernardus Lodge (www.bernardus.com) provide opportunities to pamper yourself, California-style.
If you can’t bear to tear yourself away from San Francisco, Sausalito-located just across the Golden Gate Bridge-might be the perfect compromise. Check out the houseboats, visit the Bodega Bay lighthouse, shop the seasonal Farmer’s Market there’s plenty to do here and you can still rush back to the big city for your San Francisco-fix.