Napa Valley Wine Train (credit: Laurie Jo Miller Farr)
Like an assorted box of chocolates, San Francisco offers variety. You get colorful Victorian facades, Pacific Ocean breakers, a herd of bison, garlic fries at the ballpark, impeccable handcrafted cocktails, and lots more. It’s all wrapped up in intermittent rolling fog surrounded by warm and sunny climes to to the north, east and south.
Napa Valley Wine Train
1275 McKinstry St.
Napa, CA 94559
It’s a double bonus. There’s only one Napa Valley and there’s only one vintage wine train trundling through it. The latest journey called “Quattro Vino” is not just a sightseeing tour at all. A newly restored century-old carriage has splendid plush velveteen seating, handsome mahogany and shiny brass fittings to show off the white linen, four-course fine dining experience from Executive Chef Donald Young. Enjoy being served between your wine tasting stops at famous Napa vineyards: Charles Krug, Robert Mondavi, Merryvale and V. Sattui. Or, dine in elevated splendour in the two-story Vista Dome car with curved windows and panoramic views.
Alcatraz Island Night Tour
Pier 33, Alcatraz Landing
San Francisco, CA 94111
“The Rock” — there’s only one. The place that no one wanted to be sent is now a place everyone wants to go. Voted the number one U.S. landmark by TripAdvisor reviewers in 2015, readers also ranked the former federal penitentiary as the world’s seventh most popular landmark. It’s colder, creepier and spookier by night. The National Park Service’s self-guided audio, “Doing Time: The Alcatraz Cellhouse Tour” is compelling storytelling, complete with personal recollections in the actual voices of correctional officers and inmates who lived there. Bundle up in layers, wear your walking shoes, circle the island on Hornblower’s Alcatraz Clipper as sunset reflects on the Golden Gate, and experience the eeriness of nightfall in a maximum prison cell circa mid-20th century. Book as far ahead as possible, sell-outs are commonplace.
Cable Cars And Historic Streetcars
Cable Car Museum
1201 Mason St.
San Francisco, CA 94108
SF Railway Museum
77 Steuart Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
To understand what makes San Francisco go, do the ride plus museum combo two ways. That is, invest $7 to ride a bell clanging cable car up and down the crazy hills, peek at bay views, and peer down Lombard Street’s curves. You can find out how the world’s last manually operated cable system works at the free Cable Car Museum on Nob Hill. Check out 1870-era relics in the barn and visit the powerhouse where giant mechanical wheels spin, allowing moving steel rails to conquer steep hills at a steady 9 miles per hour.
Brightly painted trams add trainloads of color to Market Street and the Embarcadero, so pick a beauty and hop a ride. Electric-powered streetcars are connected to an overhead wire by a trolley pole, a clever system that helped build America’s cities and suburbs in the first half of the 20th century. The story of this collection of functioning trams that grace San Francisco’s urban landscape is revealed at the admission-free SF Railway Museum located at the crossroads of those two important thoroughfares.
1517 Shattuck Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94709
From Al’s Place to Zuni Café and from One Market Restaurant to 25 Lusk, where POTUS recently dined, San Francisco enjoys a stellar dining reputation among American cities. We look east across the bay to heap praise and credit at the front door of Chez Panisse for the inspired beginnings of California cuisine. With its roots in Berkeley, cooking with ingredients and produce that are organically and sustainably sourced from local farmers, fishermen, and ranchers started a healthy movement that expanded from the Bay Area to the nation. “Good, clean, and fair” is how founder/chef/proprietor/author Alice Waters describes this food economy. Forty-five years later, If you haven’t been to Alice Waters’ restaurant, isn’t it time? And if you have been, go again, for there’s only one Chez Panisse and we’re lucky it’s here.
Muir Woods National Monument
1 Muir Woods Rd.
Mill Valley, CA 94941
Happy birthday to the protected old-growth coastal redwoods on the occasion of the National Park Service’s 2016 centennial. Experts indicate these trees range up to 800 years of age with heights up to 250 feet. Sequoia sempervirens can be found near the Pacific shoreline from Big Sur to the Oregon border, yet Mount Tamalpais has dibs on sharing a very special 554 acres of these friendly fog-loving giants, and their fascinating, fragile eco-system, with the public only 11 miles from the Golden Gate Bridge. Muir Woods is extremely popular, so get an early start. Use the park-and-ride shuttle; there’s even one to pick you up at the Sausalito ferry landing, so no car needed and “the second best ferry ride in the world” is your bonus.
This article was written by Laurie Jo Miller Farr via Examiner.com for CBS Local Media