My week in California last fall was basically three things:
1. The weekend near Lake Tahoe.
I went to visit my friend Shannon so I don’t have any great ‘stay here’ tips. But I can say, hike! From what I can tell (which may be heavily influenced by Shannon and her hobbies) the mountains of California are for exploring! So, the best way to experience the culture of the place is to dive into the woods and come out and talk about it.
Well, that’s what we did anyways, starting with a day trip up to Tahoe to bag my first peak (hiker slang for summiting a mountain) and take in views of Donner pass (which has its own interesting history of desperation and cannibalism that makes for interesting travel conversation). We also hiked a little by the local Yuba River and took a stroll through her quintessential mountain town. Northern California is nothing like the east coast, in geography, in climate, or in culture, which makes it exceptionally fun to explore.
2. Midweek jaunt to Yosemite
After bidding farewell to one friend I met up with the next and we headed to Yosemite. As my first National Park Yosemite did not disappoint. It’s ginormous, user-friendly, and just rugged enough that you don’t feel like you are totally trapped in a tourist trap. Rida and I were only there for a night but we squeezed in a short hike for big views at Taft Point, saw the sunset shining back on Half Dome, and enjoyed the views from Tioga Pass. I also stepped a foot onto the Pacific Crest Trail. So that was cool.
3. San Francisco
We ended our week with two short days in San Fran. It was another one of those ‘squeeze it all in’ experiences but we had the added pleasure of happening to be there during Fleet Week. This meant that there was an air show going on every afternoon over the bay. On a whim we bought tickets to tour the bay by boat and then proceeded to disregard the audio tour and instead enjoy the skilled aerial maneuverings of the Blue Angels. I love when vacation surprises me! (Also, if you are going to watch an airshow, watch it with a plane nerd. Their excitement is contagious!)
Don’t worry. We also saw the Painted Ladies, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Lombard Street.
Oh, and then, the ever iconic Golden Gate Bridge from every angle.
Another spontaneous favorite of mine was a stop at Land’s End. It’s just a park on the coast that feels a little out of the city and also offers the historical interest of public bath ruins.
Tips for Travelers:
- In Yosemite we stayed in Half Dome Village in tents. It was freezing and October, but we brought sleeping bags and loved it! Mostly for the experience. I’m not a ‘camping person,’ so that’s a lot for me to say.
- In San Fran we stayed in Oakland, which is just across the river. This was a win for us because we had excellent airbnb hosts, saved a little money, and had free parking. San Fran has sufficient public transportation to make this a valid option.
- One of my favorite things about cities are the food options. If you ever happen to be in Sacramento, Bacon & Butter is worth a stop!
Why You Should Go To California:
- The variety. Mountains, cities, beaches, and forests are all day trips apart. Beautiful, beautiful day trips apart.
- The variety. Not just that what it offers is various, but also, it’s so different than many other places I’ve been. The air is drier. The trees are taller. The drivers change 3 lanes at one time. And it’s three hours behind the east coast. All of this makes it feel like you aren’t just vacationing at home.