Don't let an unstable economy keep you at home this year. Instead, use it as an excuse to stay local and explore parts of your state you may have only ever seen on a map. Last week, we revealed five of our can't-miss spots for 2009. Read on for our remaining five picks of delectable escapes within driving distance.
5. The Shasta Region
Although Lake Shasta was more a puddle than water reservoir in 2008, thanks to an all-consuming California drought, outdoor lovers will still be enchanted by the Shasta region and its various nature offerings. From Whiskeytown Lake to the Caverns to Lassen Volcanic National Park to Mt. Shasta itself, you won't be hard-pressed for activities to fill your days. Though vaguely reminiscent of a truck stop town, the city of Mt. Shasta has a handful of delightful lodging options (like Strawberry Valley Inn) and quality eateries (like Lily's Restaurant). If that's not your cup of tea, book a room in nearby Dunsmuir (the kitschy Railroad Park Resort is a popular option) or McCloud, which perhaps have a bit more charm. Added bonus: Shasta will allow you to get your skiing and snowboarding fix, without fighting the crowds at Tahoe.
4. Tomales Bay
Northern California restauranteur Pat Kuleto's newest stay-and-play enterprise, Nick's Cove, is as good a reason as any to flee the city and head an hour north for a relaxing weekend of surf 'n' turf in Tomales Bay. Encased by beautiful scenery and golden beaches, this section of the coast is far from glamorous (though Nick's is pretty darn posh, all things considered), but if you're OK spending your days with a fishing pole in hand, then it's the place for you. Book one of the cozy cottages at Nick's, complete with wood-burning stoves and heated marble floors, and fill your belly with friends from the sea at the on-site restaurant of the same name. Oysters are the dish du jour all day, every day along this section of the coast—many establishments procure them right from Tomales or else the famed Drakes Bay down the road—so don't miss out. And when you've exhausted all other options, visit neighboring Bodega Bay and see where Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds was filmed.
3. Russian River
Although known on a global scale for its gay and lesbian scene, Russian River is a fun retreat for all ages and walks of life. Make your headquarters in Guerneville, one of the busiest logging centers in the West during the 1880s, where the preferred method of transport is bike (which may come in handy should you choose to partake in one of the area's most popular activities: wine tasting). From there, you can head further inland to a number of wine regions, or west to the coast (or stick around and chill at Armstrong Woods State Reserve). Should you need your fill of bubbly, give Korbel Champagne Cellars a try (though be wary—the champagne actually comes from France!), before grabbing a bite to eat (and more vino) at Applewood Inn. Be sure and book one of the 14 green-chic rooms at the recently-opened Boon Hotel + Spa, which was modeled after a Balinese resort with a clean, contemporary design and central saline pool and hot tub hidden among the foliage.
2. Half Moon Bay
You needn't venture far for a complete change of scenery. Just 30 miles south of the city, the rugged seaside stretch of Half Moon Bay could easily pass for the craggy Scottish coast (particularly around the striking oceanfront Ritz-Carlton, which is nestled between two top-notch golf courses). Hike out to the infamous Mavericks, where many have been pummeled by monstrous waves (just watch your back), and splash around in the shallow tide pools the ocean leaves behind. If you're a surfer of any level, you'll likely be hitting the sea for an adrenaline jolt. From now until April is also prime whale-watching season, so keep your eyes peeled and binoculars handy.
Meander far from Napa's epicenter to the northernmost pocket of Wine Country for a more laid-back, quiet time to reflect (and guzzle wine … because what better tool for reflection is there?). Pay a visit to the beloved Frank Family Vineyards or Sterling for its scenic gondola ride alone, then walk off your buzz via a stroll down shopping way, Lincoln Avenue. Enjoy some quality alone time (with yourself or a lover) at the splendid Chanric Inn, with its well-appointed rooms and perfect decor. Chef Ric Pielstick, who owns and manages the inn with his partner Channing McBride (get it? Chan-Ric?), is a grade-A chef and culinary school-trained, and you'll have the opportunity to sample his masterpieces via a tasty three-course brunch (Ric even offers cooking classes for those who wish to emulate his genius). If you manage to find space for lunch and dinner after Ric's cuisine, head seven miles south to St. Helena for a meal at Martini House or a feast at Meadowood.