Pebble Beach Golf Links (credit: Randy Yagi)
Memorial Day is fast approaching and many Bay Area residents are already preparing for a Memorial Day getaway. A national holiday that honors U.S. military men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice, Memorial Day is also a celebration of the unofficial start of summer. With temperatures rising, it’s not too late to start planning to take advantage of that hard-earned day off. The following are five of the best Memorial Day getaways, all within a two-hour drive from the San Francisco Peninsula.
Known for hot spring spas, mud baths and world-class wineries, Calistoga is one of Napa Valley’s top destinations. Visitors to this historic mining town have a number of fabulous wineries to visit, like Vincent Arroyo Winery, Schramsberg Vineyards and Sterling Vineyards. But easily the most fascinating winery is the picturesque Castello di Amorosa, a medieval-inspired castle replete with drawbridge, guard towers, torture chamber and intricately painted interior walls. Other attractions include the Sharpsteen Museum, Petrified Forest, Old Faithful Geyser of California and the American Legion Memorial Day service at Logvy Park. Calistoga also offers world-class dining and accommodations, most notably Solage Calistoga, with its Michelin-starred Solbar and Calistoga Ranch. Other great recommendations for more affordable accommodations are Dr. Wilkinson’s Hot Springs Resort, Golden Haven Hot Springs and Calistoga Inn.
Located 15 miles north of Santa Rosa, Healdsburg is home to world-class dining and hotels, including one rated as the country’s most romantic. Although not nearly as touristy as many other Wine Country destinations, Healdsburg is one of the three major wine capitals of Northern California. The two most acclaimed lodgings are the Honor Mansion, Trip Advisor’s most romantic hotel, No. 2 Small Hotels and No. 3 Luxury Hotel in the U.S., and Madrona Manor, with its Michelin-starred restaurant rated the best in Sonoma County. For a more affordable recommendation, the Tuscan-inspired Best Western Dry Creek Inn is an outstanding choice. Arguably the most popular holiday attraction will be the Healdsburg Veterans Memorial Beach, opening over Memorial Day weekend. Visitors should also try to make time to visit downtown Healdsburg, with its landmark 19th century plaza amid the central shopping district.
Often considered the “greatest meeting of land, sea and sky,” the extraordinary Monterey Peninsula is easily one of the best getaways for Memorial Day. Nestled along the one of the world’s most beautiful shorelines, Monterey, Pacific Grove, Pebble Beach and Carmel all feature family-friendly attractions with breathtaking views of Monterey Bay. World famous attractions include the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Cannery Row, Carmel Mission and 17-Mile Drive. Pebble Beach is also home to four prestigious golf courses, with the legendary Pebble Beach Golf Links, heralded as the country’s greatest public golf course. On Memorial Day, the American Legion will host services at Devendorf Park followed by an Open House at Post 512 in Carmel. Several accommodations and dining are available in the area from RV and tent camping and luxury resorts to cheap eats and luxurious restaurants. Among the area’s best dining and hotels can be found on Cannery Row like the Monterey Plaza Hotel and in Pebble Beach, featuring the Inn at Spanish Bay and the Lodge at Pebble Beach. More affordable options include Casa Munras Hotel and the Colton Inn. The Sardine Factory on Cannery Row, Pacific’s Edge in the Carmel Highlands and Clint Eastwood’s Hog’s Breath Inn are all great choices for dining.
Extending more than 1,000 miles, thousands of travelers will descend upon the California Delta over Memorial Day weekend. With more than 50 picturesque marinas serving two dozen communities from Suisun Bay to Sacramento, water sports and overnight accommodations are the most obvious attractions. Arguably the most popular form of lodging are houseboat rentals, although rates are higher during the summer holidays, as are camping and RV sites such as Snug Harbor in Rio Vista, cottages and hotels like the historic Grand Island Mansion. Nevertheless, the Delta will be buzzing with activity throughout the weekend, with ferry boat excursions, boat rentals, fishing charters and water skiing all as popular choices. Foster’s Bighorn in Rio Vista, Island Joe’s Cafe on Bethel Island and Peter’s Steakhouse in Isleton are all great choices for low to mid-priced dining. Delta communities will also hold Memorial Day services, most notably in Stockton and Sacramento.
Most Bay Area residents know the top draw in Santa Cruz is the iconic Beach-Boardwalk. However, there is a wide variety of other attractions, dining and overnight options. Among the most popular spots for camping and RV parking are Sunset, Seacliff and New Brighton State Beaches and camping at Henry Cowell Redwoods and Big Basin state parks. Seascape Resort, Chaminade Resort and the Dream Inn are all great upscale options with other options along Mission or Ocean Streets or the Beach Boardwalk neighborhoods. A visit to Steamer Lane and Natural Bridges State Park on West Cliff Drive, the Mystery Spot and whale watching from Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor are among the most popular attractions. Over the Memorial Day holiday, the 20th Annual Santa Cruz Blues Festival featuring Greg Allman, Chris Isaak and others will be held at Aptos Village Park and the 31st Annual Civil War Battles and Encampment will be reenacted at Roaring Camp Railroads. Memorial Day services include remembrances at Evergreen Cemetery and the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History. While the Crow’s Nest, Shadowbrook, Hula’s Island Grill and El Palomar are all fine choices for moderately priced dining, other excellent bets are Café Brazil, Mobo Sushi and Lillian’s Italian Kitchen, with a more luxurious dining experience at Sanderlings at the Seascape Resort and the Sunset Restaurant or Linwood’s at Chaminade Resort.