San Francisco + someplace else

northern California destinations (c) 2017 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

So you're headed to San Francisco. You're planning to spend several days in San Francisco, deservedly one of the top travel destinations in the United States. You'll want to explore the city, maybe visit SFMOMA and take the tour to Alcatraz. Foodies will want to dine at some of the best gourmet restaurants in the world. Sports fans can watch the Giants play baseball at AT&T Park (walking distance from downtown). Summer is an especially good time to visit the Bay Area as you'll escape the summer heat and humidity that oppress most places ... but plan to wear long sleeves, dress in layers, and have at least a sweatshirt. I speak as a local! Mark Twain was only slightly exaggerating when he remarked that the coldest winter he'd ever experienced was summer in San Francisco.

But then where? All of Northern California beckons. San Francisco is wonderful, but there's so much else to see and do. The billboards in the picture above (photographed from a window at SFMOMA) offer three great ideas.

Muir Woods National Monument is a scenic old growth redwood forest just 17 miles north of the city. Though much smaller than Redwood National Park (310 miles to the north), you'll have the awe-inspiring experience of walking beneath the canopy of these majestic redwood trees, the tallest being 258 feet in height. The average of the park's redwoods is between 600 to 800 years with the oldest tree in the park being at least 1200 years old, alive during the rein of Charlemagne! (Because parking is limited, so to use the Muir Woods shuttle, or stay at historic Cavallo Point which can make your logistics simpler).

The Napa Valley Wine Country draws so many visitors that my advice is to visit during the spring or fall. You'll pass through the town of Napa, just 47 miles north of the city, en route to the wineries and quaint towns of Yountville, St. Helena, and Calistoga. The French Laundry, owned by chef Thomas Keller, has the distinction of three Michelin stars, and there are so many other fabulous restaurants to explore. Prefer to escape the summer crowds? I'd suggest the neighboring (but less well known) Sonoma County wine country, the town of Healdsburg, and the Michelin-starred Farmhouse Inn (a delightful Virtuoso hotel).

overlooking a beach cove (c) 2017 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

Big Sur is a truly dramatic spot on the Northern California coast, 143 miles south of the city. Unfortunately, the Big Sur bridge has a broken link, caused by landslides from this winter's record-setting rainfall, and is expected to re-open on September 30th. When visiting Big Sur, my favorite place to stay is Post Ranch Inn, another Virtuoso resort.

I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and have first hand experience with these destinations, where to stay, and what to do. Feel free to drop my team a line to explore the possibilities of what to see and where to stay.

copyright (c) 2017 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

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