Northern California

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Golden Gate Bridge & San Francisco Sunset in Northern California

Due to its size, California is often referred to by its Northern and Southern halves. In Northern California, find everything from fertile valley vineyards to the tallest living trees in Redwood forest, from plunging waterfalls in national parks to skiing above crystal lakes, and from swimming in the Pacific Ocean to the laid back yet very stylish cities in the San Francisco Bay area.

San Francisco may be a major metropolitan area, yet it is relatively small in area when compared to its southern cousin of Los Angeles. Its compact size, surrounded by water on three sides, makes it easy to navigate the many hills and diverse neighborhoods in the City by the Bay.

The Golden Gate Bridge is perhaps the most photographed icon of San Francisco and California. The red suspension bridge opened in 1937 for both pedestrian and automobile traffic. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can walk or bike on the main walkway across the bridge, which is just less than one mile long. Most drivers enjoy taking the bridge and exiting to South Vista Point for postcard picture opportunities. The Golden Gate Park is a popular attraction nearby featuring flower and Japanese tea gardens, picnic areas, playgrounds and the Golden Gate Carousel. Be sure to visit Strawberry Hill inside the park. One of the highest areas in the park, Strawberry Hill rewards the visitor with spectacular vistas of the city, the bridge, as well as natural sights such as waterfalls, hiking trails and plenty of bird watching.

San Francisco Cable Car & Alcatraz Island

The San Francisco Cable Cars are another popular attraction in the city. There are three lines running today, taking you through notable areas such as Nob Hill, Ghirardelli Square, through Chinatown and Fisherman’s Wharf. The Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhood stretches from Ghirardelli Square, where you can enjoy the best chocolates of the city, to Pier 39 to chat with the city’s infamous resident California Sea Lions. Luxe Travel recommends staying at the Fairmont Heritage Place suites in Ghirardelli Square just steps from the waterfront’s best attractions. Take a cable car to Chinatown, the oldest and largest Chinese community outside of China. Visit here for authentic Chop Suey, Dim Sum and mooncakes, during the Autumn Moon Festival held in mid-September. Head to the Golden Gate Cookie Factory to watch how they make fortune cookies.

Many visitors to the Bay area take a tour of the famed Alcatraz Island, home to the former Alcatraz Prison. The 22-acre island and prison fortress has been immortalized in many film and television series, as an impossible escape. Today you can tour the many buildings and lighthouse as well as witness an abundance of flora and fauna that has since taken up residence since the prison closed in 1963.

San Francisco was home to the hippie revolution in the late 1960’s Haight-Ashbury district. The 1967 Summer of Love influenced a musical, freethinking revolution that caught hold in other cities across the country. Today the bohemian area is a thriving home to a number of independent businesses.

The Bay area also offers more artistic performances per square mile than any other city. The American Conservatory Theater hosts a number of Broadway performances in vintage playhouses throughout the Theater District. The San Francisco Opera is the second largest opera company in the US, and the San Francisco Ballet and Symphony groups regularly showcase premier performances.

Outside of the Bay area, Northern California sees many visitors to its legendary Wine Country. Over 400 wineries exist north of San Francisco in numerous valleys such as Napa and Sonoma. Luxe Travel offers a number of tours to suit your needs for a relaxing, enjoyable wine country vacation. From biking tours taking you through distinguished vineyards to deluxe spa accommodations with regular wine tastings and gastronomy offerings, the Northern California Wine Country is highly regarded as one of the best wine producers in the world.

Lake Tahoe in Northern California

Northeast of Sacramento, Lake Tahoe’s popular ski resorts rest on the corner of Northern California and Nevada. This beautiful natural setting is a perfect place to visit year round, for skiing in the winter to boating in the summer. The Sierra Nevada Mountains and over 300 days of sunshine provide the perfect ski conditions for either slalom or snowboarding pursuits. Take the kids ice skating and sledding at one of the many rinks or hills. In the summer, enjoy fishing, canoeing or kayaking in the deep crystal lake. There’s no shortage of entertainment in the region either. Lake Tahoe cities offer active and bustling casinos and clubs for when the sun goes down.

Vernal Falls Yosemite National Park in Northern California

For natural beauty, active travelers will revel in Northern California’s prominent national parks in the northern region. Nothing beats a visit to Yosemite National Park in near Mariposa, home to ancient Sequoias and towering Redwood trees, waterfalls from high peaks to deep valleys, and vast wilderness and wildlife. Spend your days in Yosemite National Park hiking, biking, rock climbing or traversing glaciers. Accommodations in the park range from rustic campsites to elaborate four diamond hotels. Alternatively, Redwood National Park, near the border to Oregon, features the tallest and most massive trees on earth. The forest is densely packed with the towering trees, and standing among them is a humbling and awe-inspiring experience. Further south, at the southern end of the Sierra Nevadas lays Sequoia National Park. Mostly covered by wild backcountry, the park is famous for the General Sherman Sequoia tree, one of the largest on earth.

If you’re staying in Northern California, consider a day trip or two to the Central Valley and Big Sur regions. The coastal cities are not as busy as the metropolitan San Francisco, but still offer many activities. Visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium or drive along the Big Sur coastline for stunning vistas with rocky hills meeting the Pacific Ocean.

Northern California is many things and is worth a visit any time of year, depending on your desired pastime. From wine tours in early fall, skiing in the winter or exploring the city by the bay in summer, you’re sure to enjoy all the areas have to offer. Contact the Luxe Travel team at 1-866-365-8747 or to talk with a Luxe Travel Advisor about your Northern California vacation.