Most of you know that I moved to the San Francisco bay area when my husband proposed a few years ago. We dated long distance for close to 3 years and during my visits he would plan day trips around the bay to help me experience beautiful Northern California and discover more than the typical Fisherman’s Warf and Alcatraz type places. Needless to say, Miles made it easy to fall in love with San Francisco at the same time I was falling in love with him (cue the “awe’s”). Now that I am in my third year as a California resident, I like to take guests to my favorite 3 locations that are off the congested tourist circuit.
1. Filoli Estate in Woodside, California is a gorgeous 19th century mansion and 16-acre English Renaissance Garden that is open to the public. The history of the families who resided here and how they lived in the early 1900s is interesting, especially the kitchen that had a production of its own. Make sure you leave ample time to explore the gardens. When I visit, I feel like I crossed the threshold into a secret garden and am happily lost in a fairy tale world of flowers, herbs, trees, patterns and overgrowth.
After touring around, I suggest driving a mile down Cañada Road to the Pulgas Water Temple for a picnic. Enjoy your lunch under Romanesque architecture and water features that will transform you to your inner god or goddess. Bring grapes, someone might as well be feeding them to you.
2. Fort Funston National Park is my favorite place to view the coast. Right on the South Western edge of San Francisco are the 200ft high bluffs where I like to reminisce of my morning strolls with Miles when we lived across the street on Lake Merced. This is a great place to take a leisurely hike on the sandy paths, ideally before sunset. Here dogs are off the leash and are in canine heaven. Your heart can’t help but be filled with joy. Extra points if you spot a Beagle, my favorite dog! You can also check out the hang-gliders who are confidently soaring above the cliffs.
Once the sun starts setting, drive 5 miles up the coast to the Cliff House for a sunset dinner. Keep an eye out for whales and dolphins that might make an appearance just before the sun goes down. If you have time before your reservations, explore the ruins of the Sutro Baths next door.
3. Wine tasting in Livermore . Although I am obsessed with Napa, you do not have to go far to get a taste of wine country and what the local cyclists call “Little Tuscany.” Livermore boasts over 40 wineries, some that are over 125 years old.
I recommend visiting Wente Vineyards which is probably the most elegant and popular for first timers. Catch a summer outdoor concert if you are visiting during the right time. This is still on my bucket list.
I had a great experience at Rubino Estates Winery when my sister and cousin visited me last summer. We probably tried over 15 wines and the associate was very knowledgeable.
Wood Family Vineyards is my vote for the best tasting wine in Livermore. I am even hesitant to share this tip with you because the Zinfandel “Muy Bueno” and Petite Sirah seem to vanish quickly at our grocery store so we stock up when we can.
After your taste buds need a break from tannins and acidity, neighboring Pleasanton has the cutest downtown for a meal and boutique shopping. I suggest the Meadowlark Dairy drive-thru for a soft serve ice cream cone treat.
Have fun exploring!