There is so much to cover for Napa, Sonoma & San Francisco. Also I can spend so much time in all 3 of these locations, but with limited annual leave we found (hopefully) the best spots of these locations.
Also, a friend once told me if you always leave something to do, it gives you a reason to come back to a place you really liked! Which I think is a great way to think of it as there isn’t always enough time.
So here goes – this is my 3 day highlights!
Day 1 – Napa & Sonoma
Set off early from Yosemite (see blog post on how to spend 2 days in Yosemite) and put in Google Maps Oxbow Public Market which is in downtown Napa. The drive is approximately 3:15 hours depending on traffic.
We set off at 9am which meant we arrived around lunch time for some food.
There is lots of parking at Oxbow Public Market, you can park the car and head into the market.
It is a great pitstop and satisfy any hunger cravings before some tastings in wine land! I had some yummy tacos from C Casa. There are lots of dine-in options, retail shops for groceries and of course wine!
I personally love going to a food market on holiday as it has such a fun atmosphere and lots of different eateries to cater for all of your entourage.
After having a stroll around the market, we headed to Imagery Estate Winery for a tasting. The really interesting thing about this winery is that each wine type has different artwork by a local artist on the bottle specially for that year.
Don’t worry the designated driver didn’t drink but that is why we planned our trip to Sonoma and stayed in Sonoma Plaza so we didn’t need a car until the next day.
After visiting Imagine, you can drive to Sonoma Plaza – which is the downtown area of Sonoma. It is so quaint this area and read it is a little more laid back than Napa so wanted to stay here.
We checked-into our hotel, The Sonoma Hotel. This hotel was so cute and has so much history having been built in 1879. Throughout the hotel there are lots of reminders of the history yet been modernised.
The pictures don’t give it justice – it is a beautiful town. The reason it looks foggy in the pictures is when we visited, they had just had some horrible fires that had calmed down by the time we arrived.
The Sonoma Hotel had complimentary happy hour at 5-6pm, we started our evening right in the hotel!
Afterwards, you can have a walk around the plaza, there are so many different tasting rooms to try… just have a walk around and pick one and I am sure they will be great. Here is a list of all the different tasting rooms.
We tried Victor Hill – attracted by its funky artwork and it was such a lovely experience. It turns out to be a small family run business that makes less than 200 cases a year which feels special. Also the guy running the tasting was super chatty, friendly and did a good pour! Ended up buying 2 bottles to bring home!
Note – most tasting rooms offer a wine flight where you get to taste a couple of wines for USD15 per person. However if you buy 3 bottles it gets taken off the total amount. This is a great deal but don’t forget to check your allowances on your flight home!
The evening then continued to Sonoma Art Walk which we coincidentally found our about that night! The art walk is on the first Thursday of each month and so much fun! All the shops, restaurants, tasting rooms are open showcasing local art work, free wine and nibbles. If you can plan a trip around this I would highly recommend for a fun night!
Finally ended the night with dinner at the Girl and the Fig. Before the trip I had heard amazing things about this place, which I also found out was connected to the Sonoma Hotel which was perfect to crawl into bed after dinner. I would highly recommend the Brussel sprouts starter at this restaurant!
Day 2 – Sonoma & San Francisco
The Sonoma Hotel has a lovely charm as you enter and the breakfast in the lobby is such a delight. The staff lay out a lovely continental spread with croissants, orange juice and coffee/teas.
I took a seat in one of the corner spots of the lobby and enjoyed watching passerby and dreaming of all the history this hotel brings.
Shortly after this we commenced our drive to San Francisco, the final leg of the trip!
Once we arrived in San Francisco, we went to find out hotel The Pali Hotel a beautiful boutique hotel right in downtown. The location is perfect, especially if you love some shopping, you are literally by all the shopping spots in one direction and Chinatown in the other.
The Pali Hotel has just open their San Francisco location which meant we got a really good deal, but at the time not all their facilities were open. Now I believe there is a restaurant on the top floor – we had a sneak peak at the progress and it looks really cool!
There is also a happy hour from 5-6pm with complimentary wine in their lobby – be sure to check this out! I am loving the wine culture in this part of California!!
After checking-in we went for an explore around the city, I always find walking is great as you spot so many hidden gems you may not stumble across when in the car or underground/subway.
We also wanted to try an In and Out burger, had heard about this fast food joint which I definitely wanted to try out. Although still fast food felt much more “healthier” than the other options.
A sunset stroll along Golden Gate promenade is a must do in San Francisco. Picture this – the sun is setting and lots of people walking all along the promenade whether its tourists snapping photos, surfers enjoying the last wave or families having a picnic, it is such a beautiful atmosphere.
Start at “East Beach Parking Lot” and just keep walking towards the bridge, it is part of the regional “Bay Trail”. You could even go earlier in the day and bring a picnic on the beach.
Afterwards, we went to have dinner at Burma Love to meet a friend living in San Francisco. She recommended this place which is in the Mission district which is known for lots of trendy restaurants and bars. I love this place. It is the kind of place that you feel like you’re living in the city, not a tourist trap kind of spot. All the plates were sharing style and had a great buzz about it. I would go again if I could. It was also fun to have some Asian food given the friend we met up with was my flatmate when we both lived in Singapore. A great night overall.
Day 3 – San Francisco
We start the day with a delicious continental breakfast provided by the Pali hotel – I opted for a tea and pain au chocolate.
Once fuelled up, we are ready for a day of site seeing! The first stop was Lombard Street. Apart from the Golden Gate Bridge, it is probably one of San Franciscos most well known attractions. It is known for being the curviest street in the world with 8 sharp turns on the street.
I must admit it is very touristy, with lots of people taking pictures and I wouldn’t say it is the best site in the city, but worth just walking past and checking out quickly if it is your first trip.
If you drive by car you have to pay a toll to go on this street, certain areas of San Francisco have tolls to pay including this one. I would recommend exploring the neighbourhoods by walking and check this out on the way.
For the best and free scenic view point of San Francisco, head to Twin Peaks! It is a swirly road that takes you through a lovely neighbourhood in SF leading to the most amazing view of the city.
Best of all it is free to visit!
After visiting Twin Peaks, we headed back to the Pali hotel to collect our items and head to the airport to fly home. Overall I would say San Francisco isn’t so much a city you’d go to “check off” lots of tourist attractions, but more to enjoy strolling and soaking up the atmosphere.
With that said – that comes to the end of our wonderful 7 day trip.
Overview of things to do on this leg of the road trip:
- Oxbow Public Market in Napa
- Imagery Vineyard in Napa
- Victor Hill tasting room in Sonoma Plaza
- Dinner at the Girl and the Fig in Sonoma Plaza
- San Francisco view point at Twin Peaks
- Walk along the Golden Gate Promenade
Read more from the road trip:
Part 1: Los Angeles
Part 2: Santa Barbara
Part 3: Monterey
Part 4: Yosemite