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Beyond San Francisco


CaliforniaVenturing beyond San Francisco, visitors experience a subtle transition. From lush vineyards to a rugged coastline, surrounding communities complement The City's many virtues.

North Just across the world-famous Golden Gate Bridge lies Marin County, a hill-coated haven combining the quaint and alluring with the mighty and majestic. The Alexander Avenue exit off Highway 101 leads to Sausalito, a charming Mediterranean look-alike nestled along an inviting shoreline eight miles north of San Francisco. Rustic houses cascade down deep slopes to the bay, overlooking shops and open-air restaurants. Ferries from San Francisco make frequent crossings to Sausalito, as well as the nearby towns of Tiburon and Larkspur.

San Rafael, Marin's largest city, is 17 miles from San Francisco. Points of interest include the Marin Civic Center, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The terrain becomes more challenging at Mt. Tamalpais State Park, a 6,220-acre adventure 15 miles from San Francisco off Highway 101. Two miles beyond Mt. Tam, off Highway 1, rests Muir Woods National Monument, a 550-acre preserve of old growth coast redwoods, some as high as 252 feet and dating back 1,000 years. It's another 18 miles along Highway 1 to Point Reyes National Seashore, a 67,000-acre ocean park packed with diversions. The visitor center at Bear Valley is a good starting point for seashore explorations and features a life-size model of a Miwok Indian village.

Farther north, stretching 400 miles to the Oregon border, the small seaside towns of Bodega Bay, Jenner by the Sea, Sea Ranch, Fort Ross, Mendocino and Fort Bragg recall bygone eras. Many a glass has been raised amid the sprawling countryside of the historic Sonoma and Napa wine country, one hour north of San Francisco. The incessant sipping can be traced to more than 300 wineries.

Three routes make for pleasant exploration: U.S. 101 north from Santa Rosa, Highways 12 and 121 through Sonoma County, and Highway 29 north from Napa. While traveling 101 north, be sure and stop in Petaluma, home to charming Victorians, Adobe State Park (California's largest) and paddlewheeler riverboat cruises.

The East Bay communities of Oakland, Berkeley and Alameda spring up across the eight-mile San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, offering a fascinating mix of culture and history. Jack London Square and Village is a captivating collection of shops and restaurants on Oakland's western waterfront. Lake Merritt in The City's downtown corridor is ideal for jogging enthusiasts and midday daydreamers. Berkeley, a well-known liberal stronghold, is home to the University of California, offers unique shopping, trend-setting restaurants and world-renowned cultural and performing arts. Joe DiMaggio's hometown of Martinez and the quiet communities of Benicia and Vallejo, the latter home to Six Flags Marine World, are within 45 minutes of San Francisco.

In the Tri-Valley area near Dublin, Livermore and Pleasanton, 15 award-winning wineries make this one of the most accessible areas for wine adventures. Lake Tahoe, a four-hour drive, is the most coveted jewel in the stunning Sierra Nevada mountains. Accessible via Highway 50 or 80, it's a skier's paradise with breathtaking scenery and exciting nightlife, including gambling (on the Nevada side of the lake). Yosemite National Park in the heart of Mariposa County just four hours southeast of San Francisco is an all season center for recreation and getaways. Giant glaciers, granite cliffs and magnificent waterfalls encircle visitors.

Nature paints an especially alluring portrait south of The City; charming resorts spring up along California's majestic Highway 1 coastline, while equally enticing escapes await inland. Pacifica, a charming coastal community just three miles down Highway 1, offers miles of hiking trails. Picturesque seaside towns that include Half Moon Bay and Princeton-by-the-Sea encourage romantic getaways.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium, Cannery Row and the 17-Mile Drive along Pebble Beach are musts for Monterey Peninsula visitors. Carmel is tucked away under a blanket of trees; its downtown shopping sector resembles a peaceful turn-of-the-century marketplace. A short distance beyond Carmel lies the gorgeous grandeur of Big Sur, a good argument for applying the brakes.






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