Friday, February 8, 2013

30th Birthday Destination

First off - Thank you all for your sweet words on my last post!  We were both pretty ticked off with the outcome, but we're pushing forward, rearranging some plans and will be oh so happy if things work out for the August graduation.

So now onto the fun part! The destination for this year's annual birthday trip is...

San Francisco and Napa!!

There were some close guesses in the comments last week (Carol's San Diego).  We will be heading west to California, adding another state to our map.  Although I have been to Los Angeles & San Diego before, Chris has never set foot in the Golden State.  Since we both turn 30 this year, we decided to do a little more than a road trip.

One of the best parts about this trip is that we will be meeting up with my life long friend and her husband!  C and I have known each other since we were babies - our parents met in Lamaze class when they were pregnant with our older brothers who were born 2 weeks apart.  In 2011 we had the joy of being bridesmaids in each other's weddings.  We've been talking about planning a trip together ever since our weddings, and finally pulled the trigger for a fun week out west in August.  I love the timing because we get to continue our birthday trip tradition AND we get to celebrate C and her husband's 2nd anniversary out there.

Now for some advice!  I know that some of you live (or have lived) in San Fran or have traveled to Napa before.  I would love any tips/places to see/wineries to visit if you would like to share!  We are going to hit some of the big tourist attractions like Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge, but if you have any other spots we should check out or places to eat do share them in the comments! :)


  1. Oh, you'll have so much fun! I have no tips because I've never been there, but I can't wait to hear all about your trip!a

  2. what a fantastic way to celebrate your 30th birthdays! that is going to be so fun. drop by the san francisco ferry plaza farmers market if you get a chance. i also recommend walking around pacific heights (along fillmore), getting lunch at boulangerie on pine street off of fillmore, and eating on a bench in alta vista park, which has a beautiful view of the bay.

    walking along the shops and restaurants along union street in cow hollow/pacific heights area is also nice.

    in terms of wineries, there are so many good ones you can't go wrong. schramsberg is a sparkling wine producer where you can visit the caves and do a tasting, although you have to make reservations and it's more pricey than drop-in tastings at other wineries. chateau montelena is the winery that made the chardonnay that beat the french chardonnay in the famous 1976 tasting--it's not a large place, but it's nice and there's a pond out back. clos pegase has some really striking architecture and sculpture. sterling and st. supery offer a "bigger" wine tasting experience, with larger operations, which are fun also. but you really can't go wrong--you'll have so much fun!

    oh, if you're going to be in wine country, you may want to stop by yountville--there are some great restaurants like bouchon and ad hoc (both thomas keller places). so excited for you!

    1. Thank you so much!! Adding these tips to our vacation folder! I'm thinking we will need a nice restaurant in Napa to celebrate their 2 year anniversary.

  3. So fun! San Francisco is on our bucket list. :)

  4. My favorite city! My husband and I have been to the Napa Valley area a few times as well. Gotta tell you, it sucks you're flying because that means you have to limit how much wine you can take home :-/ Will you rent a car to go to Napa? Aside from the big production wineries, definitely try to visit some of the smaller more local wineries - that's where you'll find some gems! I don't want to bog you down with endless suggestions, but I'll give you my favorites:

    San Francisco
    - Fino (Italian) for Dinner:
    - Speakeasy Ales & Lagers, in case you get tired of wine:
    - Coit Tower offers some of the most spectacular views of the city:
    - If you're going to be in town for a few days, get a City Pass!

    Napa Valley
    **Pretty much all of the smaller wineries you'll need appointments for, if you're planning on your own make sure to call and check.
    - Elyse, right off of Hwy 29, awesome wine!
    - Oakville Grocery is a great place to pick up delicious cheese and charcuterie for a picnic at a winery:
    - The Terraces at Quarry Vineyards, gives you a private tour of their vineyards and does a balsamic vinegar tasting (something their family does) that is out of this world, definitely a unique experience:
    - Truchard, known for their Chardonnay (was served in the White House) and does a great tour of their wine cave:

    Hope you guys have a great time on your trip - can't wait to read all about it!

    1. HAHA! That was one of the first things we thought about (less wine since we're flying). It just means we'll have to be really selective like we were in ABQ last year.

      We will be renting a car! I think the plan is 2 nights in San Fran, then 3 nights in Napa and then the last night back in San Fran to be closer to the airport.

      Thank you so much for ALL of these tips! Will definitely be sharing them with my friend since we'll be the ones to plan the majority of the trip (the guys are happy to hand over the planning responsibilities to us)

    2. Sound like a great trip! I'm the planner in my group of friends, but when it's my husband and I he takes over. Gets the Excel spread sheet going and he's in Heaven! Well if you're spending 3 nights in Napa, try to make it outside the Napa area into Healdsburg or Sebastopol. Tasting fees are a lot more reasonable and the wine is just as good (actually better IMO). Happy planning!

  5. What an exciting trip! I don't have any tips cause I'm dying to go to SF/Napa too!

  6. I loooove planning itineraries for my friends/family who come to visit! If it worked out, I'd love to catch up with over drinks or coffee :) Here are some of my recommendations:

    1. Check out VRBO and Air BnB for places in stay (especially in wine country) - you usually can get a better value than at the hotels. (and sometime you get fun extras like a garden, hot tub, free bottle of wine etc!)

    2. My favorite HH special is at Epic Roasthouse (recommended by Mrs. Peeptoe to me when I first moved out here!)

    3. I've never been to the speakeasy one of the other gals mentioned, but I have been to Bourbon & Branch! It's awesome, especially if you're whiskey people. Another really fun bar (usually rated the top bar in the city) is Pirate's Cove. It can get super busy, so a weekday HH might be your best bet - but it's a super fun rum bar with a grotto and tikki tree house.

    4. Having been on both the day time and sunset official Alcatraz cruises (the only ones where you can walk around the rock), I recommend the sunset one. They have more special programming, it's beautiful watching the sun set and seeing the city lit up at night. Book early though! They sell out.

    5. Bus tours - alas, my favorite cable car one doesn't do public tours anymore. I'm going to try Tower Tours for when my brother visits. A specialty tour that we really liked was the Movie Tour. There's a ton of movies set here in SF and it was a fun way to hit all the top spots.

    6. Bring jackets!

    7. See if you can grab some Giants tickets! We're reigning World Champs and the tix just went on sale :) The ball park is gorgeous.

    8. Off the beaten path sorts of things: Urban hiking, chocolate tours, Mural tour in the Mission, Source (vegetarian/vegan/Californian restaurant - our favorite in our old neighborhood, us carnivores love it too), Local Mission Eatery (our favorite restaurant in our new neighborhood - hasn't disappointed us yet)

    9. A word about wine country - My personal opinion is that Napa is quite expensive and slightly on the snobby side (think bottles starting at $50). I prefer Sonoma for the more accessible experience. Granted the bottles are still $30-50ish. Again, totally my personal preference for the more laid back feeling I get. If you both plan on tasting, book some transportation ahead of time. There's usually limo and town car coupons on groupon/google offers/etc.

    Yay! Sorry for the novel. If you want any other specifics, just give me a shout!

    1. Thank you so much Melinda!! I'm definitely adding this to our list of ideas. We're looking at doing a tour in San Fran since our time there is limited. Have you used any companies other than Tower Tours before? Any we should steer clear of?

  7. Yay, I was close. I just had a feeling it would be the West coast. We spent a few days in San Francisco a few years ago and my only advice would be to pack various types of clothing! It can feel like 75-80 F and 30 F all in the same afternoon - totally crazy. Bring lots of clothes to layer and comfortable shoes for all the walking.

    We enjoyed Fisherman's Wharf (really touristy, but kind of like the Times Square of SF - you just have to go once). There are sea lions that hang out by the pier and they are so adorable. Japan Town is close by and its definitely a treat if you don't have one (NYC does not). I also liked walking around the Castro and the Mission tasting bites, window shopping/real shopping. That takes a whole afternoon and evening.

    I've never been to Nappa but have always wanted to go even though we're not winos. Enjoy! You've earned it. I need your restaurant recommendations for Vegas!

  8. I LURVE Napa! I have a post with some of the wineries we visited up on my blog. Here's the link:
    We stayed at the Wine Country Inn, which we liked. Every meal we had there was great. We went to Mustards's Grill, Bistro Don Giovanni. There is a Dean & Deluca that you can go to get a nice easy, cheap lunch. Also I wanted to go to a place called Taylor's Refresher, which is now called Gott's Roadside Cafe. For a splurge, it might be cool to get a driver for the day and have them take you out to some of the wineries. That was really worth it.
    Have a great time!