Calistoga Mineral Water Delivery Truck (credit: Randy Yagi)
The city of San Francisco was recently listed as the best destination in America for a fall getaway. However, other locations within a two-hour drive of the city are also worthy of merit, some frequently mentioned among the world’s best regardless of the time of year. With the summer crowds gone and a good chance for clear weather for at least another month, it’s a great time to take some time off and enjoy some relaxation before the holidays. Here are five of the best fall getaways within a two-hour drive of San Francisco.
It doesn’t get much better than historic Calistoga for an unforgettable fall getaway from San Francisco. Arguably the best destination for a relaxing spa treatment in all of Northern California, Calistoga is also world renowned for eclectic shopping, romantic dining and luxurious accommodations. For a truly Calistoga experience, visitors should consider experiencing a soothing mud bath followed by a massage typically offered by many of the most popular overnight accommodations, ranging from moderate like Golden Haven Hot Springs Spa and Resort to opulent at Solage Calistoga. Like any other Napa Valley destination, Calistoga has a host of world-class wineries, such as Schramsberg Vineyards, Vincent Arroyo Winery and the fabulous Castello di Amorosa.
Getting within a two-hour drive to Carmel is a bit of a stretch, but it’s unquestionably among the best fall destinations from the entire Bay Area. Ranked the second best Small City in America by Conde Nast Traveler and one of the world’s most romantic cities by Travel+Leisure, Carmel is a fascinating destination for shopping, dining and culture. Top area attractions include Carmel Mission, 17-Mile Drive, Pebble Beach and the Monterey Aquarium, recently voted the World’s Best Aquarium by Trip Advisor. Among the recommended lodging in the Carmel area are the Lodge at Pebble Beach, Carmel Valley Ranch, Quail Lodge and the Inn at Spanish Bay.
Just 70 miles north of San Francisco, Healdsburg is among the best small towns in America. That’s according to the Smithsonian Magazine, Fodor’s and a host of other online sources. Located in one of the richest wine-producing regions in Northern California, there are more than 80 wineries operating around Healdsburg, including J Vineyards & Winery, Williamson Wines and Seghesio Family Vineyards. Healdsburg is also well known for lodging, including the Michelin-Starred Madrona Manor, Healdsburg Inn, across from the historic downtown plaza, and Honor Mansion, voted Trip Advisor’s most romantic hotel in the country.
About an hour drive from San Francisco, Napa is the gateway city to the world famous Napa Valley Wine Country. Some of best shopping, dining and lodging can all be found in this beautiful city that lies along the Napa River in the southern end of this renowned wine region. Easily one of the top attractions in Napa is the acclaimed Napa Valley Wine Train, providing a scenic, three-hour tour of boundless grapevines and lush hillsides. With the grape harvest season over, it’s also a great time to visit top wineries such as Jamieson Ranch, Silverado Vineyards, Hess Collection Vineyards and Domaine Carneros. Napa River Inn, Carneros Inn and Vino Bello Resort are all excellent choices for the perfect overnight getaway.
Santa Cruz is a perennial pick for a fall getaway from San Francisco and the reason is quite simple – the beaches and the redwoods. With summerlike weather typically extending beyond October and the busy tourist season over, many Bay Area residents will spend a weekend or more on the gorgeous beaches of Santa Cruz or hike through UCSC and Henry Cowell Redwood State Park. The biggest tourist attractions are the world famous Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, drawing millions of visitors for more than 100 years, and the adjacent Santa Cruz Wharf for great food and whale watching trips. A good choice for overnight accommodations is the relatively new Hotel Paradox, just one mile from the Santa Cruz Main Beach or the Chaminade Resort and Spa.