San Francisco and Northern California

Weekend Getaways

by Amy S. Maclsaac, Esq.

After our trip last fall to Las Vegas, my mother and I headed back out West to Northern California. We took a week-long trip this September as part of a tour of San Francisco and the Yosemite Valley. If you don’t mind a long flight and time change, a trip to Northern California can be a great getaway from New Jersey. Tip – make sure to have a good pair of walking shoes since this trip included a lot of walking. The weather was pleasant (in the 80’s) but some days were a bit windy so pack a variety of clothing.

We spent the first couple of days in San Francisco. We enjoyed a ferry boat from Sausalito to San Francisco where we took in the sights of Alcatraz. Did you know that “The Rock” is now a national park? Alcatraz is not only the sight of one of the most infamous prisons, but it was the sight of the first lighthouse in the Western U.S. Although we only saw Alcatraz from the shoreline, tours of the sight are available and are very popular.

Next, we ventured to one of the seven wonders of the modern world – the Golden Gate Bridge. It is truly spectacular in person! Tip – there are vista points on both the north and south sides on the bridge with limited parking lots. There are several guided tours of the bridge by foot, bicycle or bus. The views are amazing! Our next stop was Lombard Street – the crookedest street in the world! There are 8 sharp turns on Lombard Street so make sure you are well rested if you try to walk it. San Francisco is a vibrant city with lots of coffee shops and restaurants, however we could not ignore the significant homeless population as well.

We then headed about 2 hours south to Monterey. If you’ve never been to Monterey, make sure you get there during your next trip to California. Foodies will love the eclectic array of restaurants like Crab House and Old Fisherman’s Grotto. Monterey is known for its uber-fresh seafood and it does not disappoint! There is a lot to do in Monterey including the aquarium, a nature preserve and Old Fisherman’s Wharf. We especially enjoyed Cannery Row – an area filled with hotels, restaurants and boutiques. There is something for everyone in Cannery Row! Did you know that Monterey is the mecca of whale watching? Make sure to take time for a boat cruise to watch the local dolphins and whales!

When visiting Monterey, make sure to check out Carmel-By-the Sea, which is only about 15 minutes away. Carmel Beach is one of the most iconic spots on the coast – the beach is breath-taking! There is a nice, laid-back downtown area filled with restaurants, shops and art galleries. The Historic Carmel Mission is also a must see!

The final part of our adventure included a trip about 4 hours north of San Francisco to the Yosemite Valley. If you are a lover of nature and the outdoors, this is the place for you. Visitors to Yosemite Valley are greeted by the beautiful Brideveil Falls which plunges 620 feet. Tip – there is an easy paved trail from the parking lot to the base of the waterfall. We then proceeded to El Capitan. El Capitan is a vertical rock formation that is 3,000 feet from base to summit and it is gorgeous! Fun fact: El Capitan is 2.5 times taller than the Empire State Building! It was amazing to see climbers dotted along and up the mountain and to think they sleep out overnight up there is mind blowing! Hiking El Capitan is not for the beginner hiker – it takes 10-12 hours on average to hike to the summit and some parts are brutal. El Capitan is a true natural wonder!

Our trip to San Francisco and the Yosemite Valley was fun-filled and packed with adventure. From the beach to the Golden Gate Bridge to El Capitan, there is so much to experience in Northern California! It was a real treat to see a different area of the country! On to our next adventure!

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