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Northern California

Northern-California

Great Destination:

5

Value for Money:

3

Total Stars:

8.0

Personality Types that Like it Best

Broad appeal, particularly in middle of curve, i.e., Centric-Venturers and Centric-Authentics

Did You Know…?

  • A redwood called Hyperion, measuring 379.1 feet high, is the world’s tallest tree.
  • The U.S. tried to buy California from Mexico before winning it in war.
  • The state counts more than 4,000 wineries.
  • California manufactures more electronic equipment than any other state.
  • Gold Mountain’s ski area is the oldest reported ski area in the Western Hemisphere.

From Gold Rush to fine wine

Northern California is associated with the Gold Rush; a scenic coastline and the Sierras; the largest trees on the globe; internationally renowned wine-growing areas, and the much-loved San Francisco, set on one of the world’s loveliest bays.

Visitors are attracted to the waters and the mountains for vacations both active and contemplative. They come to cities and towns to stroll historic downtowns, for shopping and for fine dining with good wine. Northern California offers a variety of climates, but generally visitors like the weather, too.

Because of its size and the diversity of its landscape, California is popular with travelers of all personality types and people with a wide range of interests. When rated separately, Northern California outscores its southern counterpart.

The lure of Northern California is partly physical: mountains, the Pacific Ocean, wilderness areas including the redwoods, lovely valleys (supporting grapes that translate into those wines), the mild climate — and, not least, the bay that provides an unparalleled backdrop to that most popular of places here: San Francisco.

San Francisco has other physical charms, too (claiming to be built on seven hills a la Rome, for one thing), and it is a manageable smallish city with good public transportation. It has plenty of nightlife, cultural events, good shopping and very good eats.

Other cities in the region (Sacramento and San Jose) offer their versions of the same (without the bay or ocean, but at lower cost). Besides, Sacramento, the state capital, sits in Gold Rush country; it is near the spot where gold was found in 1848, triggering the famed rush for riches — and leaving tourists with old mining towns to savor in the 21st century. In addition, the region’s founding story was brought to life by the likes of Jack London and Mark Twain.

One needn’t drive far from any city to find areas that are still rustic and not overly commercial. The most popular such choices are the Napa Valley wine region and several parts of the Sierras, which are Northern California’s ski country. Also adding to the visitors’ sense this is a majestic place are the Redwood and Yosemite national parks.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Calaveras County (home of Mark Twain’s “Notorious Jumping Frog”) is the site of hundreds of limestone caverns. The Moaning Cavern, four miles east of Angels Camp, is the archaeological site containing the oldest human remains found in North America. Enter via a 100-foot spiral metal staircase — or opt for the 165-foot rappel!
  • Outdoorsy types can’t miss: California has 20 million acres of national forest plus 50 wilderness areas for backpacking. They offer rock climbing options, too.
  • Ski the Sierras for California’s take on this winter sport. Look at Mammoth and Lake Tahoe regions.
  • From Morro Bay, you can choose any of these activities: kayaking, scuba diving, sportfishing and whale watching. You can rent a motorboat as well.
  • At California Cavern at Cave City, it takes more than an hour to traverse the lighted trails. If you are feeling bolder, cavern operators will provide coveralls, lighted helmets and professional guides (while “you provide the courage,” they say) to take you to points deep in the earth and across underground lakes not seen on the regular tour.
  • Hike and camp in Kings Canyon National Park, home to the world’s largest grove of sequoias. Sequoias are a kind of redwood.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Go to prison: Alcatraz is accessible by ferry from San Francisco. You will see remnants of the infamous clink plus exhibits that ../include objects made by notorious inmates; historic photos and documents; and escape materials.
  • Get the shivers, or just the giggles, at San Jose’s Winchester Mystery House. A wealthy Winchester rifle widow spent her last 38 years building a huge (160 rooms) house full of mysteries (how about that stairway leading to a ceiling?). The name’s origin is no mystery!
  • Sleep with some very big pets. You can overnight on the grounds at Vision Quest Ranch in Salinas. Breakfast is delivered by elephant (in a basket), and he’ll want fruit as his tip.
  • Drive through the beautiful rolling hills of Napa and Sonoma valleys, take a couple of wine tours and enjoy some excellent food as well. Napa is more developed than Sonoma.
  • Eat burritos in San Francisco’s Mission District.
  • You can picnic, bike, hike, fish (with a license) or go caving in marble caves in the Sequoia National Park. And, of course, you can see examples of the world’s largest living thing, the sequoia tree.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Boudin Bakery, creator of the Original San Francisco Sourdough French Bread, dates from 1849. Now a popular and edible souvenir, the bread is the centerpiece of Boudin at the Wharf, a tourist destination. Watch bread-making demonstrations, eat at Boudin Cafe and Bistro Boudin, shop in Bakers Hall and opt for the Boudin Museum & Bakery Tour.
  • Visit the Hearst Castle near San Simeon. It is a State Historical Monument and a National Historic Landmark.
  • Don’t skip your sightseeing at Fisherman’s Wharf, but do walk to the end of Pier 39 to watch sea lions frolicking on floating docks there.
  • Visit Sutter’s Fort in Sacramento, which is all that remains of the state capital’s first settlement. Follow the story of John Sutter, who owned the site where gold was found in 1848, by visiting the mining town he founded, Sutter Creek.
  • Tour the Lavender Bee Farm in Petaluma and see its 5,000 lavender plants. The tour also includes beekeeping demonstrations and honey tasting with lavender lemonade.
  • Spend a day in the Monterey-Carmel area. Monterey was built on the fishing and canning industries, and it is very much part of Jack London country (he has also been developed as an industry!). The boardwalk is great fun and be sure to see the Aquarium. As to Carmel, its scenic beauty, restaurants and elegant shops are relaxing and refreshing.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult Visit California at www.visitcalifornia.com