When people hear about California I think their mind tends to go to the Los Angeles area and all its glitz and glamour. I have visited there a number of times and frankly, I am not all that impressed. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty to see, really good things, but it all still leaves me a little wanting.
Northern California is like a totally different state. It in no way resembles the south. Where Southern California is hundreds of square miles of urban sprawl, Northern California, even with its cities, allows you to quickly escape to the countryside. My observations come more from all the time I spent out there on business than vacation time. There was a stretch of four months were I stayed in Sacramento for the majority of the days during any given month. That gave me a lot of time to explore and visit.
San Francisco is the gem of the west. As different as it is from my home town city of Boston, it also has much of Boston’s quaintness and charm. You will find lots of great restaurants, historic places of interest, and activities to keep you entertained for at least a week. Just to the north of San Francisco is the city of Sausalito. This is an artist community situated just across the Gold State Bridge. From there you need drive only a short distance to John Muir Woods where you will find a wonderful redwood forest.
Redwood National Park is in the southeastern part of the state and a bit of a drive. Although you cannot get all the wonderful sights of Redwood National Forest, John Muir Woods still gives you plenty of redwoods to marvel over. The woods have any number of trails you can stroll along and enjoy the aromatic and scenic delight of the forest.
You might from San Francisco venture northward to the Napa Valley. The Napa Valley is one of the premier wine growing areas of the United States. It extends from Napa northward to Calistoga along route 29. En route you will encounter many wineries most of which are open to tourists and offer you a free taste of some of the wines they make. One thing, do not swallow the wine! You will get drunk. The wines are really good but these wineries all offer you a place to spit out the wine you have tasted.
From Napa you drive about an hour and a half to the state’s capital, Sacramento. Sacramento is an absolutely delightful little city to visit. I highly recommend visiting the “Old Town” district. This is the old portion of the city as it sat along the banks of the Sacramento River. It gives you some of that old city flavor but there is also the State Railroad Museum at the site.
From Sacramento take U.S. Route 50 eastward to Lake Tahoe. It will take several hours but the scenery along the way is really good. En route, look for the famous Folsom Prison. And the highway, even though not offering the speeds of an Interstate, still allows you to average over 50 MPH to Tahoe. Upon reaching the area of Lake Tahoe you will have traveled through 3 very different regions: the coastal mountainous area, the inland plains, and finally the Rocky Mountains.
Lake Tahoe is truly one of the most beautiful regions in the entire state. The lake is an extremely deep crystal clear lake that is surrounded by chalet style houses. Lake Tahoe itself is actually intersected by the states of California and Nevada. Route 50 travels along the southern edge of the lake into Nevada. If you were a fan of the western t.v. show Bonanza, you can see the actual set on the eastern shore. There is also a road leaving the western edge of the lake at route 50 and going northward around the lake. I highly recommend this beautiful route.
I am obviously a fan of Northern California but in this short article I have not even scratched the surface of all the many wonderful sites you can see there. With just a little planning you can have a vacation like none you have had before.