“So, do you…see celebrities everywhere then?” It’s the first question anyone thinks to ask when I tell them I’m from, gasp, California. Along with, “So it’s sunny all of the time then?” and, I kid you not, “Do you surf to class?” …Well, er, no, actually, I don’t. In fact, I’m from Northern California, more famous for its Golden Gate Bridge and the Napa Valley wine region than it is for glamorous and paparazzi-filled nights on the town. The only stars I see out at night are the ones in the sky, and, frankly, I’d like to keep it that way.
So, in honor of that Northern-Californian (or Nor-Cal, as we say) pride, I’d like to present a series of “amazing, beautiful, and entirely devoid of any surfboards or celebrity sightings” things to do in California.
Yosemite National Park: Sure, you’ve probably hiked before, but have you ever seen the jagged, flat-faced mountain that is Half Dome? Walked through meadows and across creeks, wound through forests and hiked right up to a waterfall all in the same afternoon? Hey, I only live a few hours away from the Park, and I’m still in amazement of it. Every time I go, there’s something new to see, all beautifully preserved and entirely free from city traffic (ahem, Los Angeles highways). Take a day tour from San Francisco or make a weekend of it and stay overnight in the local campgrounds, tent cabins, or hotels. Whichever you choose, just don’t forget your bug spray (and a camera)!
If you want an idea of exactly how amazing this place is, check out Ansel Adams’ famous Yosemite photography online before you go.
Napa Valley Wine Country: Okay, so maybe hiking, biking, and bug spray aren’t your thing. Well, how about an afternoon of wining and dining in the Sonoma and Napa Valley wine region? Located just north of San Francisco, the wine region is full of picturesque vineyards, gourmet restaurants, shops, and spas. (Bring it on, France!)
If you don’t believe me, check out the film, Bottle Shock (And watch out for a special guest appearance from my own University of California’s famous Viticulture and Enology department!).
And, finally, and most famously, San Francisco! With an endless variety of activity (everything from cable cars to Japanese gardens), San Francisco holds something for everyone. Whether you choose to walk along the Wharf or through Golden Gate Park, hop in a zip car for a whirlwind tour, shop ‘til you drop (you will never see a bigger Macy’s), or hop on a more traditional sightseeing tour, you won’t be disappointed (I never have been!). And for a night on the town, head to Little Italy for a garlic overload at the Stinking Rose or a cappuccino that rivals those in Florence (or so I’ve heard) or wander around Chinatown for some delicious and authentic food, fun (and often cheap) shops and breathtaking views of the Bay.