Not about shredding that powder? These alternative winter getaways are free of Tahoe's traffic, crowds and most importantly, snow—and they're all within a four hour drive of San Francisco.
(Courtesy of Timber Cove Resort)
Miles of windy highway along Sonoma's rugged coastline lead to foggy, meditative retreats that you'll want to hibernate in till spring.
Stay: The Bodega Bay Lodge(103 CA-1, Bodega Bay) sits peacefully on the calm bay and feels totally removed from the rest of the world. Treat yourself to a rejuvenating spa day and share a bottle of vino from the comfort of your bathrobe and private balcony. Watch the sunset from the infinity hot tub, which is set on the edge of the water and so large it could fit a dozen people. Enjoy a seafood dinner at the lodge's on-site digs Drakes Sonoma Coast Kitchen—the seafood fettuccine has a dynamite medley of shrimp, scallops, salmon, and clams in a lobster cream sauce—and then fancy a nightcap at the poolside fire pits.
Eat & Drink: On a sunny day, claim a picnic table and get your clam chowder and crab fix at Spud Point Crab Company(1910 Westshore Rd, Bodega Bay), a small, family-owned Sonoma Coast staple that's been around for more than a decade. If you're seeking something less messy and slightly more sophisticated, the waterfront establishment Gourmet au Bay(1412 Bay Flat Rd, Bodega Bay) cooks up flatbreads and seafood (try the crab sliders) in their wood-fired oven. Pair your meal with the Wine Surf ($15), which features three wines of your choice served in a mini wooden surfboard. They also have a wine shop, so you can take some bottles back to your coastal abode.
Play: Grab a complimentary cruiser bike from Bodega Bay Lodge and ride over to Doran Beach for some mindless beachcombing. On your way back stop in at Sonoma Coast Vineyards(555 CA-1, Bodega Bay). Just a minute down the road from the lodge, sip coastal chardonnay and pinot noir in their unpretentious, ocean view tasting room.
Stay: The artsy, Frank Lloyd Wright–styled Timber Cove Resort(21780 North Coast Highway 1, Jenner) has the goods for the ultimate coastal retreat. Order up an ocean view suite and settle in for an intimate staycation where you'll never want or need to leave the grounds. Mid-century modern rooms come equipped with a record player (and tunes), yoga mat for re-grounding yourself, binoculars for whale watching from your balcony, a fireplace, and in some cases, a soaking tub. A large and cozy communal area features a lounging area, foosball table, a full-service bar, and Coast Kitchen, serving up breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Outside, sip cocktails and make friends at the oceanside fire pit, play bocce, or hike along two miles of coastal trails right on property.
Eat & Drink: Reserve a table at River's End (11048 CA-1, Jenner) for a romantic date night on the Russian River and splurge on the five-course Dungeness crab tasting menu ($84 per person). Aptly named Russian House #1(9960 Highway 1, Jenner) because it's the first Russian restaurant on the Russian River, this quirky establishment has a unconventional way of running things. There are no servers and no bill—bring a donation or contribute your own dish—and patrons simply stack their plates with authentic Russian fare served potluck-style. If anything, it promises a new experience.
Play: The scenic, switchback journey up to Fort Ross Vineyard(15725 Meyers Grade Rd, Jenner) is worth it for the Pacific Ocean views from their tasting digs' terrace, but the wines will seal the deal. The winery specializes in pinot noir and chardonnay grown just miles from the ocean, though make sure you also try the pinotage, a big and bold South African variety that's a rare find in California. Salt Point State Park (25050 California 1, Jenner) offers stunning photo opps and panoramic views along 20 miles of hiking trails. History buffs will enjoy a visit to Fort Ross State Park(19005 Coast Hwy, Jenner), an open-air museum of a Russian-era fort.
Stay: No resorts here. Have your pick of an uber-cozy and charming inn, like the 150-year-old Glendeven Inn(8205 North Highway One, Little River). Spanning eight whole acres, the property's 10 oversized rooms with ocean views and wood burning fireplaces are joined by a long list of amenities and discoveries, like far reaching meadows home to llamas and chickens (which provide organic eggs for breakfast every morning), hiking trails, a massage cabin, private gardens, and a wine barn stocked with more than 50 local wines to purchase by the bottle.
Eat & Drink: Lunch inside an adorable yellow Victorian farmhouse at Mendocino landmark Cafe Beaulojais(961 Ukiah St, Mendocino), where new chef Julian Lopez wows with inventive twists on classic dishes, like the Curried Crab Cake Bowl (turmeric based curry, charred broccolini, winter squash, and dill infused Jasmine rice). For dinner, head just five minutes south to Little River for a super fresh seafood meal at Wild Fish(7750 CA-1, Little River). We recommend the shellfish boil, a stew of saltwater goodies including Dungeness crab, Spring mussels, white prawns, and manila clams, all practically sourced from their front yard, er, ocean.
Play: Leisurely stroll the coastal trail of Mendocino Headlands State Park, located just steps from the town's main drag. Book a whale watching excursion; it's the best time to do it as the gray whales are journeying back North with their newborn calves. (Plan your trip for March and attend one of threewhale watching festivals.) Wine tasting in Mendocino's Anderson Valley offers a welcome reprieve from the crowds and prices of Napa and Sonoma. Visit some of our favorites with gorgeous views and tiny tasting fees: Roederer Estate(4501 CA-128, Philo), Goldeneye Winery(9200 CA-128, Philo), and family-owned Toulouse Vineyards & Winery(8001 CA-128, Philo).