Thursday, February 12, 2009

25 Things: The Nor Cal Edition

After being deluged with my Facebook friends' lists of 25 Things, I have decided to compile a list of my favorite 25 Northern California experiences. Here goes:

1. San Francisco kid friendly dining tour. This could be a Best Of in itself. Currently my favorite restaurants and culinary experiences with the little ones include: Osha Thai (I like the Valencia location, but their new Glen Park location is more intimate and cheaper), Lisa Rogovin's Ferry Building tour, Charles Phan's steamed buns (at Out the Door and the Academy of Sciences), Gialina's margarita pizza, Little Nepal, Lettus Cafe, Dosa, Ebisu, Pacific Catch Seafood, Foreign Cinema, Chenery Park's kid's night (Tuesday), Local Tastes of the City tour of North Beach, Savor, Boogaloo, and Monk's Tavern.

2. Monterey: County: Coffee at Ol'Factory Cafe, whale watching with Sanctuary Cruises, then hiking Point Lobos. Top the night off with dinner at Passionfish and your Monterey County trip will make you start looking to purchase one of the classic Victorians.

3. San Mateo Coast: Watching elephant seals mate at Ano Nuevo, eating lunch at Duarte's, wandering through Half Moon Bay, then spending the night at Costanoa along the San Mateo Coast.

4. High Sierra: Breakfast at Alicia's Sugar Shack, then swimming in Pinecrest Lake on the quiet stretch of the Sonora Pass. Don't forget to check into McCaffrey House for a stellar night of sleeping in the woods.

5. Yosemite: A morning hike in Yosemite, before the crowds have arrived, then brunch at the Ahwahnee. For more adventure head to Tuolumne Meadows.

6. Point Reyes: The Point Reyes Station Farmers Market, a stop at Cowgirl Creamery, then an epic hike in Point Reyes. Top it off with dinner at Nick's Cove. Book a romantic room there or at Manka's.

7. Lake Tahoe: Kayak on Lake Tahoe, or a snowboard lesson at Northstar, then dinner at Plumpjack and a night at the new 968 Park Spa--this is mountain luxury at its finest.

8. Calistoga: Wine tasting in Calistoga, lunch at Solage Resort, followed by an afternoon of mud baths, hot springs and massage, then dinner at JoLe. Cap off the night at Indian Springs Resort.

9. Arcata: Hike through Redwood State and National Park, then head to Arcata for crepes, cappuccino and Victorian architecture with a hippie vibe.

10. Big Sur: Indulge in a middle of the night dip in Big Sur's Esalen's hot springs during the full moon.

11. Sierra Foothills: Take a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the Sierra Foothills, raft the American River, sip wine on a porch at sunset in Fairplay, before heading to Boccanato for a fine Italian dinner.

12. Mono Lake: Trip out on Mono Lake's lunar-like landscape. Make sure to try the lobster taquitos at the Mobil Station on your way home.

13. Sonoma County: Take a Sonoma Farm Tour ( You can visit goats, butterflies, bees, flowers, organic produce and cheese-making farms. Don't forget to taste some wine too. My favorite family friendly winery is Landmark.

14. Gold Country: Antique shop along Hwy 49 in Gold Country.

15. Live the high life in Napa County. Get a spa treatment at Villagio, have lunch at Bistro Don Giovanni, sip wine along the Silverado Trail, have cocktails at Auberge du Soleil, then splurge on dinner at French Laundry or Ad Hoc. For big spenders a night at the Poetry Inn, Meadowood, or the Auberge du Soleil can't be beat.

16. Sacramento: Visit Sacramento's Train Museum, then head to the new Grid neighborhood to boutique hop. Pasta dinner at Biba rates high on the Sac-town foodie experience.

17. Healdsburg: Raft the Russian River, have lunch at Ravenous in Healdsburg, then head out to Armstrong Redwood Park to horseback ride. Finish your adventure with dinner at Zazu in Santa Rosa.

18. Redding Vicinity: Camp in Lassen Volcanic National Park to fully explore the bubbling pools, hulking trees and vast nature of this region. Don't leave out a trip to McArthur Burney State Park on your way back to Redding--the waterfall is majestic.

19. Marin County: Hike Marin County's Dipsea Trail from Muir Woods to Stinson Beach. Stay over in Stinson in summer to catch the oceanfront Shakespeare Festival, then hike back the next day. Treat yourself to Pizzeria Picco on your way home.

20. Mt Shasta City's sophistication, new age vibe and wealth of outdoor activities beckons folks looking for that little something extra in their vacation. Stay at Stewart Mineral Springs and participate in the sweat lodge on Saturday nights and you will commune with more than nature.

21. Explore Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto, hike Tilden Park, stroll through the Albany Bulb, then stay over at the Rose Garden Inn. Book reservations for Chez Panisse early.

22. Bigfoot Country: Learn to kayak in the Trinity Alps rivers, fish for bass, then camp under the stars.

23. Mendocino COunty: Indulge your inner artist with a weekend in Mendocino County. Start with wine tasting around Boonville, then head to Mendocino to stay at a B&B. be sure to check out Jughandle State Park, the botanical gardens, and Bowling Ball beach.

24. Pacific Ocean: Take a whale watching tour to the Farallon Islands with Oceanic Society. Make sure to wear your sea bands. For the real adventures: check out the shark diving with Great White Adventures (

25. Drive San Francisco's 49 mile drive to see the finest attractions of my favorite city in the world. Don't miss Fort Funston, the view from Twin Peaks, Golden Gate Park, Lands End, the wealth of museums, and the Mission District murals.

So, that's 25--if you have any more to add, I would love to see them for the next edition of 25 Things.

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