Visiting San Francisco to me is more about seeing the larger area, and experiencing the diversity of recreation and sites in Northern California. For about $2,500 my fiancé and I hit all the major attractions in San Francisco while getting a small taste of everything the larger area had to offer. Here is a synopsis of our trip. We planned this trip distinctly for early April.
Day 1 – We flew into San Jose at about 1PM, this was cheaper than SF, and it gelled with our plans. Within an hour of landing we were standing under giant Redwood trees in the mountains and within the next couple of hours we were on the beach at Santa Cruz. We ate dinner on the pier and called it a night at a pretty average hotel. Santa Cruz was a good first stop, it was nice enough to be impressive, but certainly didn’t spoil what was next.
Day 2 – Each morning we filled up on breakfast at the hotel and carried around veggies and fruit, plus PB&J for lunch. We knew every night we would eat dinner out. This saved a lot. On day two we took an entire day to drive up the coast to San Francisco. There were gorgeous beaches to relax on. This was a pretty easy day and we spent about 2hrs in the car while managing to lounge on the beach, and take a brisk hike on the other side of one of the beaches. We arrived that evening at the Ocean Park Motel which was family owned, and a five minute walk to the beach for sunsets. This hotel was much cheaper than the downtown hotels.
Day 3 – The upside to our hotel location was the beach, and that morning I watched surfers attack five to seven foot waves. It was also one block away from light rail that takes you directly into the city. This day we dedicated to seeing the major sites downtown, ride a street car, see the warf, china town, Lombard Street the Full House home etc. All these attractions were easy to see in one day.
Day 4 – This day was to be used to see areas around the perimeter of downtown. We walked around Golden Gate park, saw the Japanese Tea Gardens, drove through Lincoln Park, and then spent a few hours around the Golden Gate Bridge. The Golden Gate National Recreation area is a must do. Our destination that day was Sonoma Valley, on the way we stopped in Sausalito. There was a place called Fish and Chips were we got awesome fish sandwiches and ice cream.
Day 5 – Wine country was nice, we did a group tour thing which I had mixed reviews on. We set a low expectation this day and caught up on sleep after the wine tasting. We stayed at an average hotel, and had a nice dinner. It was a romantic day, and it scored some points in preparation for the next two days of mountains and skiing.
Day 6 – This would be the second longest drive, in the morning we traveled from Napa Valley to Lake Tahoe. On this drive we used our AC and heat in under 2 hours. It would take us from sunshine and 80 to cold and a low in the 20s. Driving in Eldorado National Forest on the way was beautiful. We stayed at a Hotel pretty close to the Heavenly Ski Resort gondola lift. This was our nicest hotel and ran about $150.
Day 7 – With four fresh inches of power in early April we got an amazing blue bird ski day in at Heavenly. We skied pretty much from open to close. This is where the upgrade on accommodations came in handy. We were very tired and sore that night. Lake Tahoe has casinos, but we weren’t into that.
Day 8 – This would be longest day of driving, but the initial hour of the drive is very nice and enjoyable. In total we spent a little over three hours in the car. We took the morning to hang around Lake Tahoe and arrived at our last destination, Berkley, later in the evening. We found a few college bars to hit up, and stayed at an alright hotel. Be picky with this hotel selection because Oakland can be shady.
Day 9 – This day was dedicated to seeing Berkley, and the highlight was driving up the mountain side behind Berkley to watch the sunset. This was probably the best way we could have asked to end the trip. You can see the entire bay area, and the sun sets right over the city. You don’t need an entire day for Berkley, but the sunset view is outstanding.
Day 10 – We woke up in Berkeley and headed back to San Jose to fly out. This took about an hour and a half. We had a midday flight which put us back in the east coast late that evening.