San Francisco

Discover Land and Sea in Point Reyes

Posted May 26, 2009 by Kate Hamman

CA-PointReyesLighthouse-DEF Point Reyes National Seashore may be a mere hop, skip, and less-than-an-hour car ride from San Francisco, but it's worlds away from the bright lights of the city. Visitors find a nature-oriented escape carved between the endless Pacific Ocean and rugged wildlife. Food comes freshly plucked from the ground or water, and guests are welcome to shuck their own oysters.

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Hog Island Oyster Company: At Hog Island Oysters, you can have your oyster, and shuck it too. At the farm, guests learn about aquaculture, order fresh-from-the-sea oysters, and enjoy a picnic by the water. Picnic area fees are $8 per person on weekends, $10 without as available (weekend reservations are highly recommended), and $5 on weekdays. The price includes BBQ access, lemon, sauces, shucking tools, and a shucking lesson for newbies. So, pack a picnic, grab a bottle of wine, and come taste the freshest oysters on the market opened with your own two hands.

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The Point Reyes Lighthouse: Touted as the windiest place on the Pacific Coast and the second foggiest place in North America, Point Reyes is a prime destination for a lighthouse. And visitors can tour for free this beacon of hope that has guided mariners for more than 100 years. Just be prepared to climb down 308 steps to the ledge where the lighthouse sits to see the lens room. The stairway and visitor's center is open 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday through Monday, but closes if winds exceed 40 m.p.h. On bad weather days, guests can still peruse other historical artifacts such as a lightkeeper's journal and photos in the visitor's center.

Stay
Bear Valley Inn at Point Reyes National Seashore: Continue your coastal escape with a stay at Bear Valley Inn. Each room is inspired by the outdoors. For example, the Tides Room features blue sea tones. In the morning, you're greeted with a hearty breakfast, made with only fresh and local ingredients like eggs from the inn's own chickens. Rates start at $120 per night, and include breakfast. A 15-percent discount is available for those who bike to the inn.

Use our price-comparison tool to search for flights and compare prices to San Francisco and Oakland, which are home to Point Reyes’ nearest major airports.

(Photo: Rafael Ramirez Lee)

Take It Slow in Glen Ellen, Sonoma

Posted May 11, 2009 by Kate Hamman

Ca-glenellen-redbarnstore-def Just north of San Francisco, leave your hectic workaday pace behind as you encounter farms with grazing cattle, meadows of wildflowers, and especially rows of grapevines. This is Glen Ellen, Sonoma, where Jack London found his inspiration and agriculturists work the soil to produce top-notch wines, vegetables, and even flowers. Taste the fruits of their labor with a glass of Cabernet and a gourmet meal while you unwind and let the chaos slip away.

Stay
Glen Ellen Inn: Looking for a place to hide from the outside world? Look no further than the secret cottages of Glen Ellen Inn. With creekside views, fireplaces, Jacuzzi tubs, and a lack of in-room phones, these private, free-standing bungalows are just the place to lay low. Because of the inn's location close to downtown Glen Ellen and many of the area's vineyards, you can still get in a day of wine-tasting and shopping without having to travel too far. If you decide you never want to leave your little hideaway, the on-site Glen Ellen Inn Oyster Grill & Martini Bar brings the local scene inside with California-fusion inspired dishes paired with regional wines. Prices start at $149 for weeknights and $239 for weekends during high season.

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Valley of the Moon Winery: If you want a different type of escape, take a walk in the Valley of the Moon, where the wines are heavenly. Operating since 1863, this winery is the oldest in Glen Ellen, and pairs contemporary wine making with time-honored traditions. Free tours of the expansive grounds run twice daily, taking you through historical stone buildings, ancient trees, and fertile land. Complimentary tastings are offered between 10 a.m. and 4:30 p.m, and you'll find classic Sonoma-style reds and whites, as well as a smooth vintage port.

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Oak Hill Farm of Sonoma: Though it sells much of its bounty to local restaurateurs and markets, including San Francisco's famous Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, Oak Hill Farm welcomes visitors to eat off the fat of the land, too. With the Mayacamas Mountains as a backdrop and set among 700 acres of protected wildlands, the Red Barn Store, a 100-year-old dairy barn, sells vegetables, fruits, and herbs, as well as flowers and wreaths produced on its 45-acre organic farm. Prices reflect the quality of the produce, but it doesn't cost a thing to inhale a more agrarian-side of life.

Use our price-comparison tool to search for flights and compare prices to Oakland, San Francisco, and Sacramento, which are home to Glen Ellen’s nearest major airports.

(Photo: Oak Hill Farm of Sonoma)

Sourdough and Storytelling in San Francisco

Posted February 12, 2009 by Kate Hamman

Gocars Fresh seafood and a great location draw visitors to Fisherman's Wharf. Easily reachable by cable car, the wharf stands minutes from popular attractions like Coit Tower, and a few splashes across the bay from Alcatraz. The boardwalk can't be beat as a jumping off point for popular city tours.

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Boudin Bakery: It's doubtful that the Boudin family could have guessed in 1849 that the yeast in the salty San Francisco air would give rise to such a popular bread. However, fast-forward more than 150 years, and people are still addicted to the tart flavor of Boudin's serendipitous sourdough. At the flagship store on the wharf, you can tour the museum and bakery, watch the masters in action, grab a full course meal at the bistro, or enjoy clam chowder in a bread bowl for about $6.

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GoCar GPS-Guided Tours: Take the wheel and be in control of your own tour with these nifty yellow convertibles. They may not look like much, but they're equipped with a talking GPS system that helps you navigate through the city streets, and tells stories about the sights along the way. With several guided tours to choose from, and the option to stop for a picnic or to explore the area, there's no better way to get to know San Francisco. The vehicle seats two people and costs $46 for the first hour. Pick up your GoCar at Fisherman's Wharf, but be sure to make reservations in advance.

Stay
Golden Gate Hotel: Some hotels are simply a place to rest your head, while others are so comfortable you'll never want to leave. The Golden Gate Hotel makes each guest feel like he or she is in a fairytale, with plush mattresses, hypoallergenic down pillows and comforters, and homemade cookies at tea time. A short cable-car ride from Fisherman's Wharf, this 1913 Edwardian inn has been kept in tip-top shape for 25 years by third-generation innkeepers. Rooms with a shared bath start at $95 per night, and include continental breakfast and afternoon tea.

To search for flights and compare prices to San Francisco, please use our price-comparison tool.

(Photo: GoCar Tours)

American Airlines Cranks Up In-flight Wi-Fi

Posted June 25, 2008 by Zak Patten

Wifiaa You ever have one of those days? You know, nothing's going right, it's raining and your umbrella won't open, your dog is sick, and your boss just dumped a pile of work on your desk? Or maybe you slipped on a wet kitchen floor—courtesy of the leak in your roof? Then, out of nowhere, a little ray of sunshine enters your life.

After a 2008 spent in the doldrums, the clouds have lifted on air travelers, if only for a brief moment. That's because American Airlines has picked today to test wireless Internet service on two flights between New York and Los Angeles. And if those tests go well, we're looking at more trials on planes from New York to L.A., San Francisco, and Miami.

Once the Wi-Fi goes live, "passengers will be able to connect free to American's Web site, Frommer's travel guides, and limited news headlines." All well and good, but what about the Holy Grail of all Internet users: unfettered access to the full capabilities of the World Wide Web? Not surprisingly, that isn't exactly free. Depending on the length of your flight, you'll be paying $9.95 to $12.95 to get fully online. No, that's not cheap. But in American's defense, it's not much more than an average airport lunch. And assuming there's enough bandwidth, the service will be incredibly useful to business travelers and armchair Web surfers alike. And the airline, like all of its peers, is in dire need of cash. You're not going to get all thrifty now, are you?

I know this announcement has brightened my day. How do you feel about it? Is there any technology you'd rather see on your next flight than wireless Internet? Share it with us by posting a comment below.

(Image: stickergirl.com, wisewifi.net)


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