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The northern Bay Area has two major airports: San Francisco International and Oakland International.

San Francisco International Airport -- Almost four dozen major scheduled carriers serve San Francisco International Airport (SFO; tel. 650/821-8211; www.flysfo.com), 14 miles directly south of downtown on U.S. 101. Drive

 

time to downtown during commuter rush hour is about 40 minutes; at other times, it's about 20 to 25 minutes. BART has service from the airport to downtown and the East Bay.

Oakland International Airport -- About 5 miles south of downtown Oakland, at the Hegenberger Road exit of Calif. 17 (U.S. 880; if coming from south, take 98th Ave.), Oakland International Airport (tel. 800/247-6255 or 510/563-3300; www.oaklandairport.com) primarily serves passengers with East Bay destinations. The airport is also accessible by BART via a shuttle bus.

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) is a rapid transit system serving the San Francisco Bay Area. The heavy-rail public transit and subway system connects San Francisco with cities in the East Bay and suburbs in northern San Mateo County. BART operates five lines on 104 miles (167 km) of track with 44 stations in four counties. Arrive in downtown San Francisco from SFO in just 30 minutes for $8.10.

 

Door-to-Door Van Services

Nearly a dozen door-to-door van services operate from all terminals at SFO.  Fares average $15-17 per person.

Taxi

Taxi service is available from SFO to downtown.  Approximate fare to a downtown destination is $40-50.  Taxis may add a $2.00 pass-through fee to all airport fares leaving SFO. Voluntary ride sharing for two or more persons with a maximum of three destinations is permitted.

Car Rentals

Auto rental counters are located in the centralized SFO Airport Car Rental Center.  Shuttle buses to the Rental Center depart from the Upper Level outside curb every five minutes.  The SFO AirTrain (an intra-airport people mover system) provides transportation to the Rental Center.

Additional transportation options can be found at www.sanfrancisco.travel

Visiting The Napa Valley

The easiest way to explore the Napa Valley is by car. Just over an hour north of San Francisco, you enter the southern end of the Valley which stretches approximately 35 miles (56 km) in a northwesterly direction.  Its width varies from approximately five miles (8 km) wide near the City of Napa in the south to approximately one mile wide near the northern-most town of Calistoga.  Because it is so compact, it is easy to enjoy experiences throughout the Valley from one base.

Three international airports are within 90 minutes of Downtown Napa (San Francisco International Airport, Oakland International Airport, and Sacramento International Airport).

The Napa Valley is comprised of eight distinctive small communities, each offering its own unique experiences and inviting relaxed exploration: (listed from north to south) Calistoga, St. Helena, Lake Berryessa, Rutherford, Oakville, Yountville, the city of Napa, and American Canyon.

Additional transportation options are available at www.visitnapavalley.com.

Links to the local/regional tourist information websites:

  • www.sanfrancisco.travel
  • www.visitnapavalley.com
  • Museums, places of interest
  • San Francisco Must-See Icons & Landmarks
  • Alcatraz
  • Cable Cars
  • Coit Tower
  • Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39
  • Golden Gate Bridge
  • The Painted Ladies
  • Asian Art Museum
  • California Academy of Sciences
  • deYoung Museum and the Legion of Honor
  • Exploratorium and the Palace of Fine Arts
  • San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Highlights of The Napa Valley

  • Wineries along vineyard-lined country roads
  • Historic downtown main streets in Napa, St. Helena and Calistoga
  • Public Art-Walks in Napa, Yountville and Calistoga
  • Nature preserves and vineyard vistas viewed from hot air balloons, the Napa Valley Wine Train, bikes, or guided hikes.
  • Bothe State Park and Historic Napa Mill
  • Old Faithful Geyser
  • Petrified Forest
  • Napa Valley Museum

Major regular wine events

San Francisco

  • Dine About Town (January 15-31 and June 1-15)
  • San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition Public Tasting (February)
  • Uncorked! Wine Festival (Spring)
  • SF Chefs  (July/August)

Napa Valley

  • Robert Mondavi Winery Summer Music Festival (July & August)
  • Napa Valley Film Festival (November)
  • Flavor! Napa Valley – A Celebration of Wine, Food & Fun (November)
  • Napa Valley Restaurant Month (January)
  • Napa Valley Arts in April – A Celebration of the Arts in Wineries (April)

Main tourism activities and important things people shouldn't miss

One of the nicest things about visiting San Francisco is that, although the city is “big” in terms of attractions and amenities, it is geographically small – only 49 square miles.  Consequently, it is very easy to see and do a great many things in a short period of time.

Here is a suggested list of the top 10 things not to miss in San Francisco, according to the San Francisco Travel Association:

  1. The Golden Gate Bridge, the most famous bridge in the world, manages to impress even the most experienced travelers with its stunning 1.7-mile span.  A pedestrian walkway also allows the crossing on foot, and bikes are allowed on the western side.
  2. Cable cars have been transporting people around San Francisco since the late 19th century.  The cars run on tracks and are moved by an underground cable on three routes.  Their familiar bells can be heard ringing from blocks away.  Tickets ($5) may be purchased at the cable car turnarounds at the ends of each route.  (www.sfcablecar.com)
  3. Alcatraz, the notorious former prison, is located on an island of the same name in the middle of San Francisco Bay. The prison was closed in the 1960’s, and stories about Alcatraz are legendary. Recorded cell-house tours are available, allowing visitors to learn about the prison as they explore the buildings and grounds.  To reach the island, take an Alcatraz Cruises ferry from Pier 43.  Advance reservations are recommended, 415-981-ROCK (7625). (www.alcatrazcruises.com)
  4. Fisherman’s Wharf is also home to Pier 39, a festive waterfront marketplace that is one of the city’s most popular attractions.
  5. Experience the unique character of San Francisco's Union Square District, where the best names in fashion, dining and theater can be found. Union Square is a great place to meet friends or family and enjoy a day of shopping, dining, theater or a movie at Westfield San Francisco Centre or the Metreon.
  6. North Beach, the city’s Italian quarter, is a neighborhood of romantic European-style sidewalk cafes, restaurants and shops centered near Washington Square along Columbus and Grant avenues. Coit Tower, perched atop Telegraph Hill, offers a splendid vantage point for photos of the bridges and the Bay.  (www.coittower.org).
  7. The entrance to Chinatown at Grant Avenue and Bush Street is called the "Dragon's Gate." Inside are 24 blocks of hustle and bustle, most of it taking place along Grant Avenue, the oldest street in San Francisco. This city within a city is best explored on foot; exotic shops, renowned restaurants, food markets, temples and small museums comprise its boundaries.
  8. Known as one of America’s best restaurant cities, San Francisco chefs excel at combining the freshest local ingredients, authentic international flavors and a touch of creative genius.  The Ferry Building on the Embarcadero features food and wine purveyors and a twice-weekly Farmers Market.
  9. Nightlife in San Francisco is a constantly changing scene.  The “hottest” clubs currently are in the South of Market and Mission districts, with live and recorded rock and Latin music.  Jazz, blues, swing and “oldies” music can be found all over town.
  10. A visit to San Francisco would not be complete without a cultural experience.  The city is home to internationally recognized symphony, opera and ballet companies. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Asian Art Museum, the de Young Museum, the Palace of the Legion of Honor and other museums and galleries are devoted to the finest of classical and contemporary arts. San Francisco is also home to the California Academy of Sciences - the only place on the planet with an aquarium, a planetarium, a natural history museum, and a 4-story rainforest all under one roof.

The Napa Valley

Wine

The Napa Valley has been endowed with the perfect environment to cultivate some of the world’s finest wine grapes.  There are more than 400 wineries, 95 percent of which are family owned and operated.  While Cabernet and Chardonnay are the most widely planted wine grapes, The Napa Valley holds many surprises for wine lovers looking for varieties off the beaten path.  Winery tasting rooms warmly welcome guests for fun and educational experiences that fascinate and engage at all knowledge levels, from new fan to connoisseur.

Dining

The Napa Valley’s culinary scene is thriving, with more than 125 restaurants.  In 2012, Napa Valley restaurants were awarded 14 Michelin stars – more per capita than any other wine region in the world.  Legendary chefs include Thomas Keller (The French Laundry, Bouchon, Ad Hoc), Christopher Kostow (The Restaurant at Meadowood), Michael Chiarello (Bottega and Napa Style), Robert Curry (Auberge du Soleil), Ken Frank (La Toque), Tyler Florence (Rotisserie and Wine), Masaharu Morimoto (Morimoto Napa), and Brandon Sharp (Solbar).

Arts

The Napa Valley is also the home of an extraordinary art collection – an impressive trove of world-class art for visitors and residents to enjoy any time of the year.  With public and private art exhibits and museums, winery art installations, art walks, galleries, open studios, and several notable live performance venues, scores of options exist in the combined “Napa Valley Collection” that will satisfy the deepest craving for cultural exploration.

Wellness

Many of the country’s finest spas are located in The Napa Valley – natural geothermal springs and volcanic mud baths are the foundation of a creative cornucopia of restorative therapies and treatments.  There is an abundance of active pursuits that draw visitors outside into the Valley’s natural beauty including hiking in State Parks and nature preserves, walking through vineyards, biking, yoga, kayaking, and hot air ballooning.

GWC Blog

August 28, 2014
This post by Ana Astrid O'Reilly is a participant in the 2014 Guest Bloggers' Program sponsored by...