Even after traveling extensively, I still claim California to be a must-see destination of the world. It has something for everyone. We’ve got deserts, mountains, lakes, rivers, ocean, forest, rich people, homeless people, extremely (overly?) friendly people, and some of the highest murder rates in the world…..like I said, we’ve got it all.
Every time I have someone visit from out-of-town, I try to deliver a well-rounded experience of the area I grew up in. So, I’ve decided to come up with 5 incredible places you MUST VISIT if you are coming to the Bay Area…or are visiting me… and if you are crashing at my house, it’s very rude that you didn’t give me enough notice. But I’ll let you stay, because that’s the kind of friend I am.
- For a city atmosphere, the obvious choice is San Francisco. I can’t even explain my love for this wonderful city. From the skyscrapers, to the independent coffee shops, to the Golden Gate Bridge, I just adore this place. Yes, there is an EXTREME number of homeless people, and there is the annoying yuppy San Fran elite (not to mention an outpouring of the hippest of hipsters) but there is a sense of community and kindness I have yet to find in any other city. With beautiful parks around every corner, unique meals for the extravagant foodie, and enough art shows/museums/concerts/[insert indie event here] to keep yourself busy for years, this is the number 1 location that you can’t afford to miss.
- If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Silicon Valley, head up to Lake Tahoe. It’s about a 3 hour drive out of town, but definitely worth the distance. With clear fresh water reaching a diameter of 22 MILES this place has a never-ending supply of places to explore. During the summer tourists head up to lounge by the lake, hike through the mountains, and gamble the night away in Reno, Nevada. During the winter there are hundreds of ski runs to choose from, sledding for the less adventurous, and an abundance of cabins to keep you warm. The only thing about Tahoe some aren’t prepared for is that it is in the wild, and animals do dominate our lands. Now, I’m not saying you have to be prepared for a crocodile terrorizing the town à la “Lake Placid”, but one year my aunt’s car did get torn to shreds by a slightly neurotic bear. Don’t fret, that story will be coming soon….
- There are few places that rival the beauty of Monterey/Big Sur. With cliffs shooting down to the water, and common whale sightings, this area of California is one of my absolute favorites. Now the water is not the warmest, and this part of the coast is known for its Great White Shark population, but there is something about just sitting up on a rock overlooking the tumultuous, roaring waves that brings a different sort of peace. A wow-I-never-realized-how-small-of-a-part-of-the-world-I-am-kind of calm. If you want to be humbled by the sheer vastness of nature, look no further.
- Trees, and bird watching, and flower picking, and all that
boringstuff has never really intrigued me. That was until I was introduced to the greatness that is Redwood trees. In Big Basin, the trees grow as tall as 300 feet and just add to the dwindling importance of your life after you visited Big Sur (see above). Visiting Big Basin National Park is the perfect outing if you like hiking, picnicking, or hitting on unbelievably attractive park rangers; be prepared for some windy roads, a cooler temperature, and a bit of a neck cramp from trying to catch a glimpse of the top of these elusive trees.
- Now, I haven’t yet had the means to fully enjoy Napa/Sonoma Wine Country yet, but believe me, when I do, things are going to get weird. Besides being a haven for your everyday wino, Napa is absolutely breathtaking. Only one and a half hours out of busy San Francisco, the local shops, restaurants, and vineyards provide an alluring and enticing homegrown feel.
There are many, many more cities/towns/parks I would have loved to recommend, but if you are on a quick vacation, these are the locations I wouldn’t leave Northern California without seeing. Please come visit us, we’re rather friendly, we have great Mexican food, and live in one of the most beautiful places around. I promise you won’t leave disappointed.