Luxurious Destinations
Northern California
Destinations Within Northern California

Northern California Trip Itineraries

My San Francisco Bay Area Guide

Destination(s): Mill Valley

Walt Disney Family Museum LLC

Walt Disney Family Museum LLC

  • 104 Montgomery St., The Presidio of San Francisco
  • The Presidio of San Francisco
  • tel:415-345-6800
  • Visit website
  • San Francisco, 94129

This museum dedicated to Walt Disney, a.k.a. the Man Behind the Mouse, celebrates the innovator's life in 10 galleries packed with interactive media, videos, and listening stations. Plenty of Disney memorabilia are on display in the permanent collection, from early sketches of Mickey to the one-of-a-kind Oscar Walt won for Snow White--a larger statue with seven statuettes. Special exhibits and events are also on the calendar, including concerts and guest speakers. And it wouldn't be a shrine to Disney without putting his cinematic magic on display; Disney films are screened daily (except for Tuesday) in a 110-seat theater. read more about Walt Disney Family Museum LLC

Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park

  • Stanyan & Fulton Sts
  • (Great Highway at Fulton St)
  • tel:(415) 831-2700
  • Visit website
  • San Francisco, 94118

Spanning three miles from the edge of Haight-Ashbury all the way to the Pacific Ocean, Golden Gate Park contains so many mini-universes and attractions you'll want to (literally) stop and smell the roses on several occasions. Die-hard nature lovers can check out the Rose Garden, the Conservatory of Flowers, or the famous Japanese Tea Garden, featuring a classic pagoda, cherry blossoms, and landscaping straight out of the Land of the Rising Sun. Golden Gate Park's natural highlight, however, is the San Francisco Botanical Garden, which features a horticultural trip around the world (don't miss the redwood grove and succulents section).
Don't miss Golden Gate Park's two world-class museums, the California Academy of Sciences and the De Young Museum. Both were completely rebuilt in their original locations in the past decade, and are worth a visit for their architecture alone. The park is also the perfect place to get active. There are tons of walking paths, several public tennis courts, an affordable pitch and put nine-hole golf course, sport fields, and picnic grounds. You can even rent a boat and head out for a delightful row on Stow Lake. Spring, summer, and fall bring a number of events to Golden Gate Park, including bluegrass, rock, and hip-hop concerts and Shakespeare in the Park performances. read more about Golden Gate Park

Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island

  • Embarcadero and Powell St
  • (Pier 39)
  • tel:(415) 705-5555
  • Visit website
  • San Francisco, 94133

"The Rock," as Alcatraz is known locally, has a formidable past. Most people don't know it served as a lighthouse, military outpost, and military prison before becoming the notorious federal prison that held the likes of Al Capone, George "Machine Gun" Kelly, and Robert Stroud, a.k.a. "The Birdman of Alcatraz." The tiny island only miles from the San Francisco shore was considered the perfect detainment spot due to the surrounding shark-infested, frigid waters. Today visitors can safely enjoy guided tours of Alcatraz, including various cells, the mess hall, the exercise yard, and the surprisingly beautiful natural features of the island. Tour guides are extremely knowledgeable and relish regaling visitors with quirky stories of prisoners past. The truly brave can get locked up in a darkened cell for several minutes—all the more exhilarating considering the penitentiary's claim that all 14 escape attempts in the prison's 29 years of operation failed! read more about Alcatraz Island

Muir Woods National Monument

Muir Woods National Monument

  • Muir Woods Rd and Camino Del Cyn
  • (Follow signs from Hwy 101 N)
  • tel:(415) 388-2595
  • Visit website
  • Mill Valley, 94941

Commissioned by President Teddy Roosevelt and named for conservationist John Muir, these woods are a tribute to the enchantment of redwood trees. For anyone who's encountered California redwoods, you know of what we speak. For those who haven't, Muir Woods National Monument is the perfect place to experience these majestic wonders for the first time. When you enter the park, you're treated to flat, paved walking paths that meander through the lush grove of towering redwoods, spiraling ferns, and other native plants, complete with historic and scientific explanations of the forest's features. We recommend taking this classic Muir Woods route and then ascending higher towards where you can choose from a variety of dirt hiking paths; that's where the magic truly happens. As most visitors stick to the easy ground-level path, hikers are treated to a truly serene experience the higher they climb, sometimes hearing almost nothing but delicate birdsong. Some trails originating in Muir Woods go all the way to Stinson Beach or to gorgeous parts of Mount Tamalpais State Park, or lead to very special local secrets, such as the Tourist Club, a German beer tavern. (Because what's better than a refreshing brew after some hearty physical exertion?) read more about Muir Woods National Monument

Alamo Square

Alamo Square

  • Hayes and Steiner
  • tel:+1 415 391 2000 (Tourist Information)
  • Visit website
  • San Francisco, 94117

The line-up of Victorian houses called "Postcard Row" and the "Painted Ladies" is one of the most photographed residential streets in America. You'll most like recognize the view from its appearance in the opening sequence of the television show Full House, which was filmed in Alamo Square Park and meant to give the impression that single dad Danny Tanner and his girls lived in one of the magnificent Victorians (though set in SF, the series was filmed in a studio in LA). Bounded by Webster, Broderick, Oak and Golden Gate streets, Alamo Square Park overlooks the downtown area to the east, framing these turn-of-the-century homes against a backdrop of modern skyscrapers. Several are open to the public either as private home tours or as Bed & Breakfasts. read more about Alamo Square

Japanese Tea Garden

Japanese Tea Garden

  • At the corner of Tea Garden at Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • (Golden Gate Park)
  • tel:(415) 752-4227
  • Visit website
  • San Francisco, 94117
Fisherman's Wharf

Fisherman's Wharf

  • The Embarcadero
  • Fisherman's Wharf
  • tel:(415) 956-3493
  • Visit website
  • San Francisco, 94133

Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco's historic waterfront, is at the top of every visitor's muse-see list—and we mean every visitor (locals tend to avoid it). Despite abundant souvenir shops, Fisherman's Wharf still has plenty of appeal. Families shouldn't miss the aquarium and sea lions sunning outdoors at Pier 39, nor Fisherman's Wharf's novelty museums, including Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum, the Musee Mecanique, and the Wax Museum at Fisherman's Wharf. History lovers can explore the area's maritime past at an anchored submarine, a WWII ship, and an array of old-time vessels. Shopaholics can find more than just souvenirs on Jefferson Street and at Ghiradelli Square, an outdoor mall featuring (you guessed it!) the city's signature chocolate. Fisherman's Wharf is also an unbeatable dining destination, whether you prefer only-in-Cali burgers at In-n-Out or premium fish and seafood. If you're in town during November through February, you're in store for a harvest of Dungeness crab, a local specialty. Try clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl for a year-round Fisherman's Wharf culinary delight. read more about Fisherman's Wharf

California Academy of Sciences

California Academy of Sciences

  • 55 Music Concourse Drive
  • Golden Gate Park
  • tel:(415) 379-8000
  • Visit website
  • San Francisco, 94143

Renovated and reopened in late 2008, the California Academy of Sciences has a lot to boast about. With a four-story tropical rainforest, an aquarium housing over 38,000 species of fish, the deepest coral reef exhibit in the world, an impressive all-digital planetarium, and a host of other exhibits that take visitors on a tour of the natural world, it's no wonder tourists and locals alike are lining up every weekend. The building is an attraction in and of itself. A gem of sustainable architecture, it features a living roof made of solar panels and 1.7 million species of native plants, uses recycled denim for insulation, and has floor-to-ceiling windows that give visitors a seamless view of surrounding Golden Gate Park greenery. Underscoring its hip, green image, the California Academy of Science's café serves up decidedly healthy, yummy dishes that even kids could like (and that's no small feat). read more about California Academy of Sciences

Conservatory of Flowers

Conservatory of Flowers

  • JFK Drive, Golden Gate Park
  • Golden Gate Park
  • tel:(415) 666-7001
  • Visit website
  • San Francisco, 94117

Built in the late 1870s, the oldest building in the park is the last remaining wood-frame Victorian conservatory in the country. It's also a copy of the conservatory in the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew, England, with a spectacular, 14-ton glass dome atop its perch. The gardens in front of the conservatory are planted seasonally, with the flowers often fashioned like billboards depicting the Golden Gate Bridge or other city sights. On the east side of the conservatory (to the right as you face the building), cypress, pine, and redwood trees surround the Dahlia Garden, which blooms in summer and fall. To the west several hundred feet on John F. Kennedy Drive is the Rhododendron Dell. The dell contains the most varieties -- 850 in all -- of any garden in the country. It's especially beautiful in March, when many of the flowers bloom, and is a favorite spot of locals for Mother's Day picnics. read more about Conservatory of Flowers

Pier 39

Pier 39

  • Beach St & The Embarcadero
  • On the waterfront at The Embarcadero and Beach St
  • tel:(415) 981-7437
  • Visit website
  • San Francisco, 94133
Haight-Ashbury

Haight-Ashbury

  • Haight and Ashbury Streets
  • tel:+1 415 391 2000 (Tourist Information)
  • San Francisco, 94117

This center of '60s psychedelic activity to this day retains counterculture credentials with a proliferation of piercing salons, bookstores brimming with hippie nostalgia, and off-beat shops set amid Victorian architecture. read more about Haight-Ashbury

Strybing Arboretum & Botanical Gardens

Strybing Arboretum & Botanical Gardens

  • 9th Avenue at Lincoln Way
  • tel:(415) 661-1316
  • Visit website
  • San Francisco, 94122
Lombard Street

Lombard Street

  • Between Hyde & Leavenworth streets
  • Above Ghirardelli Square
  • tel:(415) 391-2000
  • San Francisco, 94133

Famed as the "crookedest street in the world," the swath of Lombard Street between Hyde and Leavenworth streets in San Francisco's Russian Hill district is indeed full of twists and turns. Lombard Street was designed as a series of switchbacks in order to make its steep grade navigable by automobile. Today, you'll almost definitely see Lombard Street congested with cars making the celebrated drive down. Therefore, we recommend hoofing it—you'll be able to admire all the more slowly the lovely, brightly-colored houses flanked with bougainvillea and all manner of flowers, as well as the gorgeous view of North Beach, Telegraph Hill, and the bay. After winding down Lombard Street, head east to nearby North Beach for serious Italian eats, or north to the maritime delights of Fisherman's Wharf and Ghiradelli Square. read more about Lombard Street