Not a question, a thanks and trip report. We just got back for our 30th anniversary trip and had such a great time. The tips I received on these forums were very helpful.
We flew into SFO and headed to Monterey, what a beautiful place. On the advice of many, we drove down highway one from SFO, took our time and enjoyed the scenery. It took about 3 hours with only a couple of stops. Our first evening we went to Cannery Row for dinner and a couple of drinks. We're not into shopping in all the souvenir shops but it was fun to walk in and out of a few of them. We enjoyed just walking around and hanging out by the water. Next day we started our day out at the aquarium . It's awesome and a must do, even for those of us without little ones with them. From there we headed to the 17 mile drive. I really wasn't impressed except for a couple of the stops. I guess its worth taking the time to do just to see the lone cypress tree and the beautiful coastline, it's just that we only had 2 days in Monterey and the time could have been better spent. Point Lobos was a great stop. We walked along this beautiful coastline, saw the seals, waves crashing along the rocks, the cliffs, just breathtaking. I wish we could have stayed longer. From there we attempted Carmel. There were people everywhere and unless we missed a parking lot there was literally no place to park. We kept driving around looking for a spot on the street. We then gave up. Before we left for this trip we had decided we would enjoy the sites , see what we could see and not cram a million things into the day so at this point we spent a bit of time walking around Fishermans Wharf, had lots of samples of chowder, headed for a drink, relaxed, had dinner and called it a day. If anyone wants to get away from tourists for a bit we ate at Fishwife and it was great.
Next morning headed to Henry Cowell park. This was one of our favorite stops. The trees were amazing. We spent quite a bit of time here just walking the trails. It was so peaceful especially after two days of driving from SFO and our day in Monterey. After the park we headed to our hotel just outside of Napa. We chose a hotel based on price that was almost to Napa since this was just a stopover.
Next morning Napa. We drove north to Calistoga and then made our way back south stopping at the wineries along the way. Stayed that night in American Canyon at a Doubletree, again just a stopover. We chose this route so that we would end our day back somewhat closer to San Fran since that was where we were headed the next day. The wineries and the countryside were beautiful . And of course the wine was great. We didn't sample at every stop, we just walked in, looked around the winery and enjoyed walking around the grounds at some. Most were between $20 and $30 a person for an average of 4 samples so some we shared since my husband was driving plus it can get pretty pricy and if I drank at all of them I would have been asleep by 5pm. At one stop, we had a glass of champagne and a cheese tray and sat and enjoyed the view. We enjoyed our day in Napa very much. I wish we would have had more time to see the town.
Next morning we drove to San Francisco and ditched the car. Thank God we were done driving for a few days. We checked into the Hilton Union Square. We are honors members which is how we chose this hotel. Yes, it's a huge convention hotel but it's fine for families and couples as well and a great location based on walking and the muni stops. One thing I do want to mention. There is so much talk about it bordering the Tenderloin. Honestly, I would not have even realized that neighborhood was there had I not read it on the forums. You really never walk in that direction. We felt perfectly safe walking to and from the muni stops day and night, although we never really got back too late. First day we took the powell hyde cable car from the start all the way to the end. I must say, I wasn't thrilled. I think the only way to experience the fun of the cable car is to hang on the side. We sat inside and although you can look out the window the fun is seeing the hills which you really can't see from inside. From there we walked all the way to the end of the Embarcadero. It was a very pleasant walk with a stop in the Ferry Building, we walked on the pier by the Bay Bridge and sat for a bit and relaxed . We had dinner then had drinks outside of Chaya and watched the bridge light up, walked back to our hotel, it was not that far. Next day did some shopping, then City by the Bay tours. We don't usually do tours and walk as much as we can but with the hills we figured it was easier to take a tour. It turned out to be a great idea we saw a lot of the sites that just require a quick stop. That ended around 6 so again, dinner and drinks. Next day Alcatraz. We loved it. The ferry ride was nice and it was so cool to be inside the jail. The audio tour was great. After that we spent some time in Fishermans Wharf, then back to the hotel for a bit. We had to experience the Tonga room , had not planned to eat there but then decided to give it a try. The food is ok, rather overpriced as are the drinks but you're paying for the experience. We loved it . The band was so much fun. It's a must do I feel. Next day we slept in, walked around the city a bit then had lunch at Yank Sing in the Ricon center . That was delish and again a bit overpriced but it was an experience. We walked from there to Chinatown and went in all the shops. Walked around the city a bit had dinner and packed for our long flight home :(
I'll give more detailed info on the hotels and a couple of our favorite restaurants and stops on those forums .
Thank you all for your advice, we had a wonderful time in beautiful Northern California.