Tell Me What To Do - SF Bay Area vacation version
May 29, 2021 11:49 AM   Subscribe

I want to get away for a night or two (Jun 12-13 or 11-13) to celebrate my husband's birthday. We live near San Jose CA and I have spent too much time browsing hotel sites trying to find a place that is an easy drive, a nice getaway and not too expensive (under $300 per night w/taxes) Please, would someone just tell me what to do!

Major considerations:
- a birthday celebration - would like it to feel special in some way.
- don't want to spend too much time traveling so somewhere in easy driving distance of San Jose
- Basic couch potatoes but like to be in nature or stroll a quaint town. No camping or hiking, leisurely strolls are more our speed.
- Both fully vaccinated, just starting to move out in the world. (Not excessively vigilant but introvert husband + COVID means we have been heavily hibernating for the past 15 months.)

Where should we go? The more specific the better. My brain seems to be unable to actually make a decision on this.
posted by metahawk to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (10 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
We really enjoyed our couple night stay in Half Moon Bay back a few years ago. We stayed here, which we quite liked. It seems like it has a few rooms in your price range. They also include breakfast, IIRC.

The hotel group the place I linked is part of has other places in Carmel-by-the-Sea and a few other nearby towns. They also regularly have specials for a free night, etc., so you may be able to find a discount.
posted by chiefthe at 11:59 AM on May 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

I would get an Airbnb in Carmel.
posted by pinochiette at 12:00 PM on May 29, 2021

My family used to spend a weekend at Pismo Beach every year - it’s a bit further down the coast from the Bay Area, but it was worth the drive and was a laid back, easy time away.
posted by umwhat at 12:18 PM on May 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Stay in Carmel Valley. On the way down, eat some beignets at Googie Grill. Go to Refuge to lounge in some hot (and cool) pools in a forest-ed ambiance. Eat at Cafe Rustica (I like the Goulash, mmmmm). Drink some pinot noir at one or many of the tasting rooms (with outdoor seating) in Carmel Valley village. At some point, go to Carmel by the Sea -- window shop, buy some fancy cheese. This is roughly what I have planned for this upcoming week of vaca.
posted by ellerhodes at 12:49 PM on May 29, 2021 [2 favorites]

Bodega Bay, Bolinas. Tide pools, lunch at a pub, dinner at a nicer place.
posted by at at 12:52 PM on May 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

This looks like almost exactly the same recommendation as Carmel but I have multiple sets of friends in the area whose "gotta get away, gotta be easy" default is Monterey. The only thing you have to do in advance is get a place to say, and maybe some dinner reservations, and otherwise you can just get there and decide moment to moment what kind of activity level you feel like.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:56 PM on May 29, 2021

Best answer: A couple more that we've liked for weekends:

Fort Bragg: a nice atmospheric drive there through Jackson State Forest, walk on Glass Beach, visit the lovely Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens on the way back. We liked to stay at the Harbor Lite Lodge overlooking the harbor; walk down the cliff path to the harbor and eat at the Sea Pal Cove: a divey shack right on the water but fantastic fish & chips and good beer.

Santa Rosa: Hotel La Rose is old-school, a little too stuffy for us; The Astro is more hip and mid-century-modern. Lots of good food options; we liked El Coqui for Puerto Rican food. Russian River if you're into the beer scene although it's always been jam-packed every time we've been there pre-pandemic; Three Disciples on Mendocino and Shady Oak on 1st were much more relaxing places to grab a beer. The Luther Burbank Home & Gardens are nice; I found the Charles M. Schulz Museum surprisingly engaging as a not-particular-fan-of-Peanuts.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 2:02 PM on May 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

I would stay in an Airbnb in Healdsburg within walking distance to the plaza, and enjoy walking around the town, checking out local wineries & the farmer's market, and have a dinner at one of the fancy restaurants. Within your price range are cute little cottages with private pools and/or hot tubs.
posted by Jaclyn at 3:54 PM on May 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: May I recommend the Sierra foothills? I live in Grass Valley / Nevada City, two cute little gold rush towns that are both places real people live and also have tourist amenities. Our two grand old Gold Rush hotels just reopened; the National and the Holbrooke, and either would be a great getaway for a night or two. Three hour drive from San Jose. I'd come for two nights. Spend some time poking around shops in town, visit the Empire Mine, maybe go down to the South Yuba river for a hike and swim. You'll have a nice time.

Slightly closer to San Jose is Murphy's. That's also a nice town with a great amenity which is like six wine tasting rooms all right in town. You can just sort of roll from one winery to the next without having to worry about driving. Also near some caves you can explore and the Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Sutter Creek is another Gold Rush town option.

If you prefer the coast the Central Coast between Avila Beach and Oceano is full of nice little beach towns with hotels of varying quality. Good wineries inland near Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo. Also a three hour drive. The area around Cayucos / Morro Bay works much the same way.

If you want much closer, on the beach go to Monterey. The aquarium is the big attraction.

Your weekend (June 12) is literally 3 days before California officially reopens from Covid, it's a shame you aren't going a week later. Grass Valley is pretty open though, there's still plenty to do.
posted by Nelson at 4:02 PM on May 30, 2021

Response by poster: Thank you! Reservations made. We opted for the Ocean View Lodge in Ft. Bragg, just a little fancier than the Harbor Lite Lodge that we_had_a_deal recommended. We couldn't get the dates we wanted so husband suggested we go a little later and also spend in night on our original weekend in Monterey at the Monterey Hotel.

Nelson's recommendations for the Sierra foothills was also very tempting - I'm saving for later in the summer.
posted by metahawk at 11:08 AM on June 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

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