This was probably one of the most beautiful vacations we've taken together so far. California is so picturesque that at times I felt like I was in a post card. The weather was on our side the entire week so we got to enjoy so many outdoor activities. If you are planning a trip to the west coast, keep reading to see some of the highlights of our trip.
Napa Valley Wine Train
Although this isn't technically San Francisco, Napa Valley is a short car ride away from the city. It's somewhere I've wanted to visit ever since I turned the legal drinking age. You see it in pictures but nothing compares to driving in between miles of mountainous lanscape and vineyards.
We took the very scenic route with a train tour. It takes you through Napa Valley and stops at two winery's, Charles Krug Winery and Raymond Vineyard. Before touring the winery, they sit you down on the train for a gourmet 3-course lunch. It starts with an appetizer of your choice. We started with the tomato soup that went perfectly with the basket of fresh bread. We then got the seared beef tenderloin as our entree. Both dishes were delicious paired with a red wine.
The stops at the wineries were my favorite part. You get one hour at each and all of the wine tastings are included with your tour. Charles Krug Winery, one of the oldest wineries, takes you through a private tour of the estate while telling you about the history of the wine and family behind it. Raymond Vineyards is a bit more whimsical with a winery dedicated to the owners pet frenchie and very unique decor.
You should plan your entire day around this tour. It starts at 10:30 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes!
Company: Napa Valley Wine Train
Price Per Person: $300
Sunset Sail Under the Golden Gate Bridge
I don't think pictures can accurately depict this moment. It was one of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever experienced. If you want to really get the essence of the Golden Gate Bridge, there's no better way to do it than sailing under it while the sun is settling down into the water.
It starts at the meeting point in Pier 39 (which is also a cool place to go to if you want to shop or eat) and once you go in there's a table full of appetizers and a bar. You get 2 complimentary drinks. The tour is an hour and a half long. It takes you past Alcatraz Island and right under the Golden Gate Bridge. The service is exceptional. The staff is more than happy to answer any questions, take pictures for you, and bring drinks out to where you are. They truly made the experience that much better.
Some things you should know before you go:
-It gets cold so make sure to bring a jacket! If not, they do provide one for you.
-If you get motion sickness make sure to take something beforehand. The ride can get a little bumpy.
-Wear comfortable shoes. It's easy to trip while the boat is in motion so I wouldn't recommend heels.
-Don't worry about doing your hair. I made that mistake and the wind ruined all of my hard work.
Company: Adventure Cat Sailing Charters
Price Per Person: $60
Alcatraz Federal Prison
I watched "Escape from Alcatraz" when I was way too young to watch that kind of movie (thanks, dad) and it sparked my interest in this place. A secluded island about a mile away from a crowded city that contained the world's most infamous inmates!? That's the kind of stuff I'll spend hours reading about so obviously it was first on my list when we booked our trip to San Francisco.
We rode the ferry to the island and the closer we got, the more anxious I was to step foot into this historic building. We got on the island and the first thing I saw was a sign that read "Indians Welcome" and right below it "United States Penitentiary". Alcatraz island served many purposes, a military prison, a home for American Indians for 19 months, but it was most famously known for being a maximum security federal prison. Given its high security and location surrounded by cold, strong water currents, it was believed to be escape-proof. Some of America's most notorious prisoners were housed there like Al Capone, "Machine Gun Kelly", "The Birdman", and more.
We spent about 3-4 hours on the island. We took the audio tour which guided us through the prison while telling us true stories about what occured there narrated by former inmates and prison guards. We learned about the Battle of Alcatraz, attempted escapes, solitary confinement, and so much more. I highly reccomend it if you want to learn more about the history of Alcatraz. We then walked around on our own to get some pictures and explore. Luckily for us, we were there on a day that a former inmate was signing books. His name is Bill Baker and he's the last known Alcatraz prisoner who's still alive. We bought his book and had him sign it which was an incredible experience. There's also a video you can watch that teaches you more about the Native American's protests and occupation in Alcatraz. Visiting Alcatraz is just one of those things you have to do when you're in San Francisco.
Company: Alcatraz Island Tickets
Price Per Person: $47.90
One of the highlights of our trip was driving out to Big Sur. On a day we had absolutely no plans, we rented a car and made the scenic 2 hour drive. There's nothing like cruising above the clouds looking down at the ocean crashing against the cliffs. Not going to lie, it's a pretty scary drive when you're on the edge with no railing, thousands of feet above the ground but if you're careful it can be one of the best experiences.
We honestly didn't know where we were going to go. There are so many national parks, trails, and beaches along Big Sur. You can spend days there and not even see half of it. We stopped at a little restaurant, Big Sur River Inn, to fuel up and continue on our scenic road trip. We decided to stop at Pfeiffer Beach after it was recommended to us. When thinking of how I can describe this beach the only word that comes to mind is "wow". The rocks in the water, views of the mountains, and little pieces of purple sand made it one of the most impressive beaches I've ever been to. We didn't have time for much else but I can't imagine what the rest of Big Sur must look like. It's the perfect place to spend a weekend in.
Pro tip: Make sure to fuel up before you enter Big Sur because there aren't many gas stations around. Also, wear athletic clothes because there's a lot of hiking for most places you decide to stop at.
Price per person: We spent about $20 each on gas between 3 people. Everything else (except the food) was free.
Golden Gate Bridge
Last but definitely not least, we walked across the Golden Gate Bridge. You see it in movies, pictures, Instagram but nothing compares to seeing it in person. The walk was a little tiring but the weather was perfect so we couldn't pass it up. There were a lot of people biking across the bridge to Sausalito which we wanted to do but didn't have the right clothes on or the time. It's about a 35 minute walk (1.7 miles) so make sure to wear comfortable shoes. We took some pictures, enjoyed the scenery, and bought a button that reads "I walked across the Golden Gate Bridge". It was the perfect ending to the perfect trip.
Price per person: Free - all we had to pay for was an uber to get us to the bridge.
Overall it was a pretty remarkable trip. We experienced the best of San Francisco and had the chance to visit nearby cities as well. We love the west coast and know that this won't be our last time there. It's hard to beat those views and sunsets. If you ever have the opportunity to go, don't pass it up.