A place of diver­sity and as­ton­ish­ing scenic beauty

Travel Guide to California - - CONTENTS - BY LAURA DEL ROSSO

78 Berke­ley 80 San Fran­cisco 82 Healds­burg

The San Fran­cisco Bay Area never dis­ap­points vis­i­tors: the ma­jes­tic tow­ers of the Golden Gate Bridge, the San Fran­cisco sky­line and other cities of cul­ture and great din­ing, an­cient red­wood groves, ex­pan­sive vine­yards and a coast­line of rocky cliffs and sandy beaches. Com­bine those with a Mediter­ranean cli­mate and a dy­namic en­vi­ron­ment of high-tech en­trepreneurs and it’s no won­der the San Fran­cisco Bay Area en­cour­ages a se­duc­tive, can-do way of life that re­volves around the high en­ergy of its res­i­dents and the great out­doors at its doorstep. The hub of the area is San Fran­cisco, a city of di­verse neigh­bor­hoods, world-class cui­sine and a wel­com­ing spirit of open­ness and tol­er­ance in the most Euro­pean of Amer­i­can cities. Be­sides the land­mark bridge, other pop­u­lar at­trac­tions draw mil­lions each year to what boost­ers call “Ev­ery­one’s Fa­vorite City” at the cen­ter of the Bay Area.

North Bay: Marin, Sonoma & Napa

Across the Golden Gate to the north lies Marin County, one of the most beau­ti­ful and af­flu­ent ar­eas of the U.S. Sausal­ito, Tiburon and Mill Val­ley are among its many invit­ing towns. The moun­tain bike was in­vented here to ma­neu­ver the twisty trails on Mount Ta­mal­pais. On the Marin coast, one ruggedly gor­geous beach fol­lows an­other, in­clud­ing along spec­tac­u­lar Point Reyes Na­tional Seashore.

Also in the North Bay, Sonoma and Napa coun­ties are home to acres of vine­yards and dozens of winer­ies pro­duc­ing some of the world’s

finest wines. Among the small towns full of bou­tiques, shops and tast­ing rooms is the Napa Val­ley ham­let of Yountville, a foodie din­ing mecca, with sev­eral Miche­lin-starred restau­rants, and the spa town of Cal­is­toga.

South Bay: Palo Alto & Santa Cruz

In Palo Alto on the penin­sula south of San Fran­cisco lies the bu­colic cam­pus of Stan­ford Univer­sity, one of the coun­try’s lead­ing uni­ver­si­ties. Neigh­bor­ing San Ma­teo County’s coast­line still shows its tra­di­tional fish­ing and agri­cul­tural roots. It’s within a short drive of ma­jor pop­u­la­tion cen­ters yet a world away, with its sprawl­ing artichoke fields and miles of pris­tine beaches. Santa Cruz County to the south of­fers vis­i­tors a wealth of at­trac­tions, in­clud­ing parks and winer­ies in its red­wood-cov­ered moun­tain range, and laid-back beaches where surfers pol­ish their tech­nique.

East Bay: Berke­ley & Oak­land

On the east­ern side of the bay lies the col­lege town of Berke­ley, with its his­tory of po­lit­i­cal ide­al­ism, Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia aca­demic pres­tige and cof­fee­house in­tel­lec­tu­al­ism. Berke­ley is al­most syn­ony­mous with Alice Wa­ters’ Chez Panisse and the move­ment to or­ganic, lo­cal and sea­sonal food. Berke­ley’s larger neigh­bor, Oak­land, is a cul­tur­ally di­verse city with vi­brant neigh­bor­hoods, a boom­ing down­town and lovely Lake Mer­ritt, whose three-mile path draws jog­gers and walk­ers.

City & Town

Even though it was sur­passed in pop­u­la­tion by San Jose long ago, San Fran­cisco re­mains the re­gion’s cul­tural hub. The city draws more than 25 mil­lion trav­el­ers each year to its dense 49 square miles con­tain­ing its fa­mously steep hills, thou­sands of restau­rants of­fer­ing an as­ton­ish­ing va­ri­ety of cuisines, dif­fer­ent groups of peo­ple, fas­ci­nat­ing neigh­bor­hoods, parks, Vic­to­rian-era houses and world-class mu­se­ums and cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties.

The city is easy to ex­plore on foot, with the wa­ter­front Em­bar­cadero, Fish­er­man’s Wharf, Chi­na­town and Union Square (the largest shop­ping area in the western U.S.) all within a short walk of each other. Col­or­ful vin­tage street­cars rum­ble down the Em­bar­cadero and Mar­ket Street, con­nect­ing to pub­lic trans­porta­tion that car­ries vis­i­tors to the city’s many di­verse neigh­bor­hoods and to Golden Gate Park, the large green­belt that ex­tends to the Pa­cific Ocean.

The re­gion’s other ma­jor cities are San Jose, where re­vi­tal­iza­tion has brought an ur­ban vibe, restau­rants and mu­se­ums down­town, and Oak­land, which at­tracts vis­i­tors with the ren­o­vated Mu­seum of Cal­i­for­nia, bay-front Jack London Square and a trendy din­ing scene. Its col­lege town neigh­bor, Berke­ley, is home to the strik­ing new Berke­ley Art Mu­seum and Pa­cific Film Ar­chive.

The Great Out­doors

One of the world’s largest ur­ban parks—the Golden Gate Na­tional Recre­ation Area— stretches over 60 miles of Bay Area coast­line. The area en­com­passes beaches, his­toric sites, bik­ing and hik­ing trails and vast open spa­ces to sa­vor the Bay Area’s var­ied nat­u­ral beauty. Among the high­lights are the ma­jes­tic Marin Head­lands and San Fran­cisco’s Pre­sidio and Crissy Field, a pop­u­lar walk­ing area and re­stored wet­lands that also draws kite board­ers to the white-capped wa­ters at the Golden Gate.

Rolling green hill­sides dot­ted with Cal­i­for­nia golden pop­pies make spring an es­pe­cially ideal time to ex­plore Mount Ta­mal­pais and Muir Woods in Marin County. Point Reyes Na­tional Seashore’s beau­ti­ful coastal ter­rain con­tains an abun­dance of wildlife, in­clud­ing mi­grat­ing shore­birds and ducks, whales that are eas­ily seen off the coast in mi­gra­tion sea­son (mid Jan­uary to mid March) and a herd of tule elk.

There also is no lack of wide-open spa­ces in the East Bay, where the re­gional park district in­cludes 65 parks cov­er­ing 113,000

acres in Alameda and Con­tra Costa coun­ties. In the Santa Cruz moun­tains, amid sev­eral vast open space pre­serves lies Cal­i­for­nia’s old­est state park, Big Basin Red­woods, es­tab­lished in 1902.

Her­itage & Cul­ture

Early Mex­i­can and Span­ish ex­plor­ers and set­tlers in the Bay Area left their mark, mostly in place names but also in his­toric build­ings from that era. San Fran­cisco’s Mis­sion Dolores, es­tab­lished in 1776, is the old­est build­ing in San Fran­cisco and the old­est in­tact orig­i­nal Mis­sion in Cal­i­for­nia. The patch­work de­sign of its beamed ceil­ings re­sem­bles lo­cal Na­tive Amer­i­can bas­ket weav­ing. Other old mis­sions are found else­where in the Bay Area: in Sonoma, San Rafael, Santa Clara, San Jose and Santa Cruz.

Ves­tiges of San Fran­cisco’s col­or­ful past, when the 1849 Gold Rush cat­a­pulted it from a ham­let to a large city al­most overnight, can still be seen in thou­sands of 19th-cen­tury Vic­to­ri­ans and quaint old quar­ters such as Alamo Square and Jack­son Square.

The Bay Area is home to world-class mu­se­ums, in­clud­ing the re­cently ex­panded San Fran­cisco Mu­seum of Mod­ern Art, the de Young Mu­seum and Cal­i­for­nia Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. In Oak­land, there’s the Mu­seum of Cal­i­for­nia and, in Palo Alto, the Can­tor Arts Cen­ter at Stan­ford. A lively art scene is found through­out the re­gion and dozens of the­ater, opera, sym­phony and dance com­pa­nies are based here.

Di­verse cul­tural in­flu­ences thrive in pock­ets spread through­out the re­gion, in­clud­ing many from Asia: Ja­pan­town and Chi­na­town in San Fran­cisco, an­other Chi­na­town in Oak­land and Viet­namese and South­east Asian com­mu­ni­ties in South Bay cities. Mex­i­can and other Latin Amer­i­can in­flu­ences can be found through­out, par­tic­u­larly in San Fran­cisco’s Mis­sion district, while Ital­ian im­mi­grants left their in­deli­ble mark in San Fran­cisco’s North Beach and Sonoma and Napa wine-grow­ing ar­eas.

Fam­ily Fun

Spend a day at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, a cen­tury-old amuse­ment park fa­mous for The Gi­ant Dip­per, a 1920s-era roller coaster.

Fam­i­lies also en­joy the San Ma­teo County coast, par­tic­u­larly Half Moon Bay’s mid-oc­to­ber fes­ti­val that fea­tures pump­kin carv­ing and pie-eat­ing con­tests. Santa Clara’s Great Amer­ica theme park thrills vis­i­tors with the most wa­ter rides in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

San Fran­cisco’s Fish­er­man’s Wharf and Pier 39 are lined with shops, restau­rants, street per­form­ers and even a colony of sea lions that wows crowds. The pier also of­fers an an­tique carousel and the Aquar­ium of the Bay, with more than 20,000 marine an­i­mals. Over in Golden Gate Park, the Cal­i­for­nia Academy of Sciences draws fam­i­lies with its pen­guin ex­hibit, a walk-through rain for­est and aquar­ium with a live co­ral reef tank.

EN­JOY­ING AN AL­FRESCO BEV­ER­AGE and fire with friends at Pier 39, be­low; Moon Fes­ti­val in San Fran­cisco’s Chi­na­town, the largest Chi­nese com­mu­nity out­side Asia, op­po­site.

PI­GEON POINT Light­house in Santa Cruz, right; fire­works light up the night on New Year’s Eve in San Fran­cisco, op­po­site.

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