Thursday, April 30, 2020

Top Things to Do in Northern California

With its inspiring blend of brilliant weather, abundant local produce, diverse history and culture, and celebrated natural beauty, Northern California has something to offer every traveler. Visitors to the region can choose their own adventure along the coast or down its rugged spine, celebrating natural history, modern culture, food, festivities, and everything in between.


Here’s our pick of top things to do in Northern California

Experience San Francisco

This iconic, eclectic city marks the ideal starting point for any Northern California trip.

San Francisco is chock-full of things to do, from eating breakfast sandwiches on the beach to hiking from the Golden Gate Bridge, from vintage shopping in The Haight district to taking dumpling tours through Chinatown.

Spend a few days cramming in culture before driving deeper into Northern California. Having your own transport is a must; when you set off from the Bay Area, start by leaving your extra travel bags at a San Francisco luggage storage facility. Simplify your road trip and keep your belongings safe during your next adventure: Yosemite National Park.

Explore Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is, quite simply, spectacular. With its towering trees and granite walls, expansive fields and forests, outdoor enthusiasts won’t be short of things to do. Visitors to Yosemite can hike, camp, whitewater raft, zipline, rock climb, mountain bike, and more. Just remember parts of the park are only open seasonally and require permits.

For travelers craving more national parks and great driving roads, ride the breathtaking Highway 395 to other incredible locations like Death Valley and Sequoia National Forest. Foodies and urbanites, however, should continue north to Sacramento.

Dine in Sacramento

Sacramento is heaven for foodies, as it’s known as America’s farm-to-fork capital. The region is home to one of California’s oldest wine-producing areas, as well as gastronomic delights to suit any budget and palate. Furthermore, the city is lined with over 600 murals, plus vintage shops, historic buildings, bike paths, and breweries.

For a fun, extra activity that’s an easy drive out of Sacramento, head for Apple Hill next.

Enjoy Apple Picking

What better way to appreciate California’s world-renowned produce than by harvesting some of it yourself? Apple Hill is a fun attraction for couples, families, and food lovers.
Visitors can pick their own apples straight from the tree, as well as a wide variety of pears, stone fruit, and more. Graze an array of apple-themed treats, like apple milkshakes at High Hill or apple cider doughnuts from Rainbow Orchards. Kids can play in pumpkin patches or with farm animals, while grown-ups can sign up for cooking classes or explore wineries on site.

Sip in Napa and Sonoma Valleys

These two towns and regions differ in what they can offer tourists and wine aficionados, including grape varieties and value for money.

Napa Valley has been described as the “Vegas of wine country”. It’s world-famous (read: crowded) and more expensive, and visitors to the region tend to be high-rollers who cruise between vineyards in rented limousines, hot air balloons, or via the elegant Napa Valley wine train. Guests can even play winemaker for a day, tasting and blending their own concoctions from the many grape varieties in Napa Valley.

Choose Napa if you want to spend your time in total luxury, tasting cabernet sauvignons, chardonnays, and merlots.

Sonoma Valley is lesser known and commercialized, yet nearly double the size of Napa and presenting more grape varieties. There aren’t as many flashy activities on offer, but the plus side is less traffic and lower cost, and a more laid-back atmosphere. Visitors can feel as though they have the whole valley to themselves. Rent a bike in Sonoma town and pedal between a selection of wineries, or drive if you’re willing to split or choose a designated driver.

Choose Sonoma if you’re chasing peace and quiet, and more reasonably priced zinfandels, sparkling wines, red blends, and zesty, unoaked chardonnays.

Hike Lake Tahoe

Intersecting with the great Pacific Coast Trail, Lake Tahoe is a naturalist’s dream. This lake is surrounded by a bounty of flora and fauna, including glacier-carved granite cliffs, snowmelt waterfalls, and wildflowers. Not to mention the epic selection of hikes, from casual strolls around Emerald Bay to 10,000ft (3000m) peaks.

Serious hikers can traverse the 165-mile (266km) Tahoe Rim Trail, with certain stretches following original routes used by Washoe Indians, Basque shepherds, and early pioneers. The trail crosses six counties and two states, so is no easy feat...though certainly a bragging right. Those with less time or energy can catch gondolas to some of the higher routes.

Experience Gold Country

A large piece of California’s history and future innovations converge in Gold Country.

The 1848 discovery of glittering flecks in the Sierra foothills sparked a mass migration of over 300,000 prospectively-rich pioneers. See their legacy preserved in the tiny town of Coloma with its old general store and post office, and Marshall Gold Discovery State Park. Winding back roads in the region spill over with newer treasures, including farm-to-fork eateries, wineries, antique shops, and B&Bs.

Savor Mendocino

Concluding your winding journey north is the idyllic hamlet of Mendocino. Picture yourself in a setting of whitewashed cottages and water towers, with artists painting against a backdrop of rugged cliffs, and a slew of farmers and winemakers preserving the land and producing a specialty culinary scene.

Stroll the streets of charming galleries and shops, before visiting the neighboring towns of Trinidad and Eureka. Tourists passing through between December and May can join locals in welcoming around 20,000 grey whales on their annual migration. Finally, Mendocino is a gateway to California’s majestic Redwood National and State Parks, where the world’s tallest redwood trees will take your breath away.

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