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California newbie. Does this sound good?

New York
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California newbie. Does this sound good?

Hi everyone,

We are looking to do a combo san fran/Napa trip.

So far, I am thinking 4 nights San fran, 2 nights in Napa, and 2 nights in Sonoma. We are looking to go at the very end of may/early june. Does this sound like a decent tentative plan? Or should we cut a nights off of sana fran & add a nights osmewhere else?

San Francisco
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1. Re: California newbie. Does this sound good?

Four nights in SF is only 3 full days which is the bare minimum for a first time visit.

Your plan sounds fine. You might research the differences between Napa and Sonoma (and Sonoma County is very large) and decide if you really want to change hotels in the middle of the wine country experience.

Another option would be to spend two nights in either Napa or Sonoma and then head down the coast to Monterey/Carmel for two nights.

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2. Re: California newbie. Does this sound good?

I would add a night to San Francisco and choose one hotel in Sonoma or Napa - they're right next to each other and you can cover plenty of territory in a car.

Bloomington, Indiana
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3. Re: California newbie. Does this sound good?

I'd say it depends a lot on what you are wanting/planning on doing and/or enjoy doing.

You can easily spend a lot more time in SF and still not see "everything." On the other hand if you've been before, really don't like "big city stuff" and/or only want to hit the major "tourist highlights" . . . .

Personally, if I were to cut a night/day somewhere I'd probably drop one from either Sonoma or Napa; or maybe cut one of the towns out completely. They're really very close and it is easy to visit one (and associate wineries) while staying in the other. I'd guess the drive between them to be in the 30 minute range, maybe a little more. To me a couple of days, perhaps 3, is plenty for wine country; 4 or 5 seems like overkill. Now, if you're a real wine lover . . . .

Lastly, if I were to add something nearby I'd probably go with Monterey. There's the aquarium and the whole coastal area south of SF (Santa Cruz, Half Moon Bay, Big Sur, Carmel, etc.).

That's my $.02,

hlo

Okay, pass the tiara (although in my defense, I did leave a longer response).

Edited: 24 July 2012, 17:57
New York
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4. Re: California newbie. Does this sound good?

Thanks for all of your replies. Very helpful. Although I have a few more questions..

1)- In response to San Fran- This will be both of our first times , and while we are not huge "city people" (we live right outside of Manhattan and hardly ever go down there), we do wish to experience the highlights. Alcatraz, GG bridge, etc.

2)- In regards to Napa/Sonoma, we will only do one hotel for wine country..do you recommend or prefer one over the other? FYI- We LOVE our wine, if that helps .

3)- If adding on Monterey, at which point would we do that? After wine country?

Thanks again...this is terrific.

San Francisco...
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5. Re: California newbie. Does this sound good?

wrt to 1, while SF is a city, it is not the size of NYC and population wise smaller than San Jose which is just 50 miles away . You don't need a car in SF so you can plan you route either way starting in SF, going to wine country and then going south to Monterey and then leaving via SFO or your airport of choice

If you do love your wine, then you should chose a region which has the wineries you like to visit or the varietals you like to drink. If you are neutral about that, staying close to the city of Sonoma makes it a central place to visit both valleys and check out the wineries you want to visit. There is so much to read about and your local newspaper online, the NYT has articles on wine country that you may want to read and then decide where you want to stay.

Edited: 24 July 2012, 19:29
Roseville...
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6. Re: California newbie. Does this sound good?

Any place in Napa/Sonoma is great but my fav is St. Helena area in Napa County. Stay at Harvest Inn. Visit Sterling, Beringer, Mondavi among others.

Other opinions will vary! LOL!

Yes, I'd do Monterey after wine country.

Edited: 24 July 2012, 19:35
Bloomington, Indiana
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7. Re: California newbie. Does this sound good?

Since you don't seem to be overly "city people" then I think your time in SF is probably sufficient. I think you've got enough time to see the highlights without being too rushed. That said, you might make a list of all the things you want to do and some kind of idea how long you will want to spend on them (it can add up fast). For example, will a simple drive over the GG Bridge be enough (which you can do on your way to wine country) or do you want to spend time there, walk over, bike over or ???? Obviously the drive by won't really take any time (since you're doing it anyway), but the others could take minutes, hours or as much as 1/2 day (or more?).

Also, be aware that there are lots of things in SF beyond the normal "must see/do" things that might/might not interest you. You might give a list of things you like to do and see what the forum comes up with as suggestions.

I might decide whether to base in Sonoma or Napa by which valley has more wineries you want to visit. Personally I have enjoyed staying in Sonoma more than Napa, but that's my personal preference. Also, be aware that there are some smaller towns in the general area that you could also use as a base (Calistoga & St. Helena to name two). One thing you might use to decide is simply the hotel/B&B you end up preferring (based on rate, amenities, charm, etc). Bottom Line: Don't think you'll go wrong with either one.

As for when to add Monterey, I'd probably say do it after wine country; based on you then flying out of SFO, that way you'll avoid having to go through the city on your way to the airport.

Last item on this topic is car rental. You haven't mentioned it, but the general forum suggestion would be to *not* have a car during your time in SF (if you can avoid it). Pick it up when you're ready to leave SF and then drop it back in the city or the airport on you way out.

Hope this helps,

hlo

San Francisco Bay...
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8. Re: California newbie. Does this sound good?

Four nights in San Francisco sounds perfect. Remember to bring layers of clothes in case the weather changes fast.

It is hard to say that staying in Napa for 2 night and Sonoma for 2 nights is wrong. It really depends on the wines that you enjoy drinking, have you had California wines before or do you drink wines that are made closer to where you live? Are you interested in olive oil tasting or taking a tour through vineyards and wine caves. How about a class on pairing wine with cheese. Would you like to know how champagne is made, well there are great wineries that will show you. If you enjoy cooking there is the beautiful Culinary Institute at Greystone you can visit or eat at their restaurant (fabulous). If you are going to be driving that also limits your time wine tasting because you cannot drink and drive. Napa Valley and Sonoma are very different. Napa Valley is a bit more commercial than Sonoma, but their wineries are closer together. Sonoma is more ranch land and the wineries are much further apart. As for myself I would jump at the idea of 2 nights in Napa and 2 in Sonoma. They are farther apart than what you have heard depending on where you are at in the valley.

Take a look at this map …winecountry.com/visitorsinfo/Winery_Map.pdf

From Calistoga to the city of Napa in tourist season can take hours, and when it is not tourist season it will take 45 min to 1 hour. This is a Sonoma map.

…winecountry.com/visitorsinfo/Sonoma_County_…

That is a lot of driving, besides there are many upscale, quaint, affordable cottages, hotels, and B & B's in Napa Valley and Sonoma. All of the places to stay will depend on your budget. The cheapest place to stay and there is nothing really to see there is Napa. For beauty and the total package head north. Rather than the LONG drive down to Monterey from wine country drive out west to Bodega Bay and the Pacific coast line from Sonoma.

I hope I helped.

Dallas
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9. Re: California newbie. Does this sound good?

We stayed 4 nights in SF, then drove to Sonoma for a day trip, drove to Napa and stayed 1 night there, toured Napa the next day, then drove back to SF for 2 more nights. Our last full day in SF was totally open with nothing planned. We had considered driving to Pebble Beach but ended up just relaxing and getting a massage instead.

All of our touristy stuff in SF was done over those first 4 days. I didn't think we'd find enough to do in SF for 4 full days but I was wrong. I do think 4 nights is a good amount though--I don't really feel we missed anything.

Now I want to come back and do the reverse trip: Napa for 3-4 days and a night or two in SF. If I could pick any hotel in Napa, I'd pick Wine Country Inn in St. Helena. If I come back to Napa with my sister though, we are going to stay at Indian Springs.

10. Re: California newbie. Does this sound good?

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