This time of year it’s all about being orange in Half Moon Bay. Farm after farm in the seaside community is loaded with colorful pumpkins of all shapes and sizes, just waiting to take up residence in your window or on your front door step. In case you need more motivation to get moving in search of a great gourd to call your own, the self-proclaimed World Pumpkin Capital is throwing a party this weekend that’s worth marking on your busy calendar.
It doesn’t matter whether you carve it, cook it or smash it. It just isn’t Halloween without a pumpkin. Picking out the perfect jack-o-lantern can be an all-day affair with farms around the Bay Area pulling out all the shots to attract you to their part of the patch.
We’ve officially turned the calendar to autumn, and though it’s hard saying goodbye to summer, fall has plenty offer in Sonoma County. Harvest of all types - grapes, apples, pumpkins and a variety of other vegetables - is kicking into gear and you can get a taste of it all in one weekend.
You don’t have to be a history buff to understand how the discovery of gold pretty much put California on the U.S. map. The Gold Rush began in 1849 and by the fall of 1850 California became the country’s 31st state. But a little bit of history goes a long way in places likes Sacramento and Placerville. You’ve cruised through both places a hundred times on the way to Lake Tahoe, so while you’re counting the days until snow, take a weekend to strike getaway gold.
Traveling as a family typically goes hand in hand with traveling on some kind of a budget. Costs add up quickly when dinner for two doubles to dishes for four, and you take up a majority, if not all of the row on the airplane. So when you stumble upon an unexpected bargain when on vacation, like Santa Barbara’s Downtown-Waterfront Shuttle, it stands out like a shining star.
The kids may be back in school, but don’t buy into the 'summer’s over’ frame of mind. Along with being prime festival season, September and October are two of the best months to get outside and soak up some sun. Sonoma County’s Johnson’s Beach, along the Russian River, is a great place to start, especially if you’re a fan of good music.
The calendar may say fall but in the Bay Area, but the weather and the calendar don’t always see eye to eye, so don’t pack away those summer clothes just yet. Think of waking up to a sunny morning as a day to stock up on much needed vitamin D. In other words, get to the beach. Here are a few sandy suggestions, in case you need some inspiration.
Occidental is one of those hardly-ever-heard-of tiny Bay Area towns. Do you know where it is? Quick. No idea? You’re not alone, which in my book is an even bigger incentive to play a visit. Occidental is in Sonoma County, west of Sebastopol on the Bohemian Highway. At last count, its population barely topped 1,100. How many folks live in your apartment building?
As 101 winds north the changing scenery lets you know when farm country gives way to wine country. But a little more than an hour past the Golden Gate, a giant opportunity is tucked away to the west of all those distracting vines.
Take the River Road exit off 101 in Santa Rosa and head 15 miles or so to Guerneville. But instead of heading into town, hang a right on Armstrong Woods Road and explore Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve.
Surrounded by grapes and vineyards, soaking up the warm ambience of Calistoga is easy. Sitting at the northern end of Napa Valley, it’s further from San Francisco than many of its well-known Wine Country neighbors, but thanks to geothermal hot springs, this laid-back spa city’s warm welcome will make you forget about the extra minutes in the car.
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