There are a lot of things to love about this place—its sweeping panoramic views, quaint trolley cars, and mellow climate are all world famous. But for us folks that call the City by the Bay home, it’s the little things that make it marvelous. In our third installment, we’re going outside of the city to visit our friends and neighbors who are just a short drive or boat ride away.
Located just north of San Francisco, Point Reyes is home to a lonely little lighthouse. The waters below hide the greatest concentration of great white sharks on Earth. Peregrine falcons hover above in 40 mph winds, scanning for tiny rodents in the dry brush.
One of my favorite places is a three-hour drive north through some of the curviest roads in California. On the way up, you’ll pass through ancient redwood forests and Anderson Valley’s amazing wineries. I recommend picking up a bottle (or a case) of bubbles at Roederer Estate.
The road to Mendocino is a curvy one—choose your vehicle wisely.
Once you’re there, you should do absolutely nothing. Or as little as possible. Mendocino is one of the few places where time slows down and you can truly leave the rest of the world behind. Summers are usually accompanied by a thick, sleepy fog that nestles everything in slow motion. And in the winter, you can just chill on the coast with your bottle of Roederer and watch gray whales as they pass by on their annual 6,000-mile migration.
Christmas Day in Mendocino—whales are off camera opening presents.
Maybe this one’s a little bit obvious, but it has to be mentioned. Three hours east—I’m seeing a pattern here—of SF Bay is one of the world’s most beautiful natural wonders: Yosemite. It’s a place everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime, and judging by the crowds during peak summer months, it seems that just about everyone does.
Now, I’m somebody who loves the great outdoors, but I also enjoy the creature comforts of the city. You can either take a couple of weeks to traverse Yosemite’s many spectacular trails or, if you’re like me, you can get cozy at one of the snazzy lodges and visit the park during short day excursions. Either way, I recommend going in early spring so you can avoid the crowds and (weather permitting) check out some of the many waterfalls that dot the park.
Yosemite in the springtime. Wow.
The best way to describe Santa Cruz is kooky. I love heading down there at least once a year to the boardwalk and soaking up its mini Coney Island vibes. There’s something about the smell of corn dogs, the roar of the Giant Dipper, and the spray of the ocean that puts me in my happy place. And after dusk, when the carnival rides wind down for the night, everything becomes nicely spooky, which is probably why the campy vampire flick Lost Boys was filmed there back in the ’80s.
Don’t have the stomach for pairing funnel cakes with spinny rides? Check out the Mystery Spot, a self-proclaimed “gravitational anomaly located in the redwood forests just outside of Santa Cruz” where “your perceptions of the laws of physics and gravity are questioned.” What does that mean, you ask? Well, you’ll just have to check it out. Or, visit Mystery Hill in Irish Hills, Michigan (I used to visit Mystery Hill as a child and it’s basically a carbon copy).
The Mystery Spot also affects the space-time continuum, as evidenced here.
As someone who grew up in landlocked Ohio, the ferry system in the Bay Area has always held a special curiosity for me. Until I moved out West, my understanding of maritime activity was that you could hop on an old-timey paddle boat for a Mother’s Day cruise, but that was about it. In San Francisco, however, you can get on a real boat and it will actually take you somewhere other than past the Cincinnati Reds stadium and back.
You’re bound to make a friend or two on the ferry.
Just recently my team at Firewood met up at the Ferry Building and took a ride over to Sausalito, where we enjoyed a relaxing Friday of rosé, bocce ball, and good company. And the list of destination options is pretty extensive: Grab a ride over to Oakland and check out a concert at the Fox Theater. Pick through the flea market on Alameda. Or, if you want to check out some glowing millipedes, head on over to Alcatraz.
And don’t forget the bay cruises. I highly recommend the champagne brunch setup.
Cap’n Matty commanding the party on a Firewood cruise.