Category Archives: California

Top Five Things to do in the Southern Part of Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park Wawona southern south entrance

While the Yosemite Valley is the most popular place to visit during a trip to Yosemite National Park, the Southern part of the park near Wawona should not be missed. A visit to the Southern part of Yosemite offers the park’s largest group of ancient giant sequoia trees, the best place to learn about the history of Yosemite, the historic Victorian-era Big Trees Lodge (formerly the Wawona Hotel), and less crowded hiking and climbing opportunities. One of the great highlights to many visits to Yosemite National Park is a walk among the ancient giant sequoia trees in the Mariposa Grove. If you are interested in spending some time in the south end of the park, then read on to discover our list of the top five things to do in the southern end of the Yosemite National Park. If this is your first trip to Yosemite, you might start by reading our Read the Rest…

Planning a Day at Yosemite National Park: An Introduction to the Yosemite Valley

Yosemite National Park visiting planning a day in Yosemite

The Yosemite National Park in California is one of the many gems of the American National Park System. Yosemite National Park is a World Heritage Site known for its giant granite cliffs, waterfalls, clear rivers and streams, ancient Giant Sequoia tree groves, large meadows, and a wilderness that supports a variety of wildlife. The passing of the 1864 Yosemite Land Grant by President Abraham Lincoln was the first instance of park land being set aside specifically for preservation and public use by the United States, and set a precedent for the 1872 creation of Yellowstone as the first official national park and the beginning of the National Park System. While this giant park encompasses over 750,000 acres of land, most people only spend time in the popular 7 acres known as the Yosemite Valley. Ethan and I just visited Yosemite National Park for the first time last week and we share a Read the Rest…

Fun & Wacky Museums: Our Visit to California’s PEZ Museum

PEZ Museum Burlingame Museum of PEZ Memorabilia California

This weekend Ethan and I visited the Burlingame Museum of PEZ Memorabilia—that’s right a PEZ Museum! The one-room museum is dedicated to the history of this iconic candy and displays over 800 unique PEZ dispensers. It was voted one of the “top 50 American roadside attractions” by TIME.com and has the world’s largest PEZ dispenser on display! In addition to PEZ, the museum also includes exhibits on classic toys and banned toys. After hearing that this quirky museum was located so close to us, we had to stop by and check it out. We grabbed our PEZ dispenser (Batman) and headed to Burlingame, California to learn about PEZ candy. Basic Information about the PEZ Museum Location? The Burlingame Museum of PEZ Memorabilia is located at 214 California Drive, Burlingame, CA 94010. It is located in San Mateo County, approximately 20 miles from San Francisco and 30 miles from San Jose. Read the Rest…

Computer History Museum: A Museum for Techies and Geeks Located in the Heart of Silicon Valley

Computer History Museum Mountain View California Silicon Valley

The Computer History Museum contains the largest international collection of computer-related artifacts in the world and the museum’s exhibits guide you through the past 2,000 years of computing history. Depending on your background, that sentence may either get you excited or have you wondering why on earth someone would pay to see a collection of outdated computer hardware. However, whether you are interested in computers or not, this is a first-class museum that contains an amazing amount of artifacts and information. It is also not all about mainframes and supercomputers, but has exhibits about computer games, artificial intelligence, computer graphics, and robots. At what other museum can you learn how to do calculations using Napier’s bones, play Pong, pretend to beat Watson on Jeopardy, see models of the earliest computers, hear the personal stories of the foremost innovators in the technology industry, and learn the role that computers have played Read the Rest…

17-Mile Drive: A Scenic Drive along the Monterey Peninsula in Pebble Beach, California

17 Mile Drive 17-Mile Drive Pebble Beach Monterey

The 17 Mile Drive in Pebble Beach, California first opened in 1881 to horse-drawn carriages and has become one of the most famous scenic drives in the world. 17-Mile Drive is a privately owned 2-lane road that winds its way along the Monterey Peninsula through the Del Monte Forest, along the rocky Pacific Coast, and alongside several popular golf courses, including the world-famous Pebble Beach Golf Links. Even if you don’t have the money to spend on the expensive shopping, dining, and golfing at Pebble Beach, you get still get some million-dollar views of Monterey Bay, rocky beaches, cypress trees, marine animals, birds, exclusive homes, and famous golf courses by taking this coastal drive. We’ll provide all the basic information you need to know to take the 17 Mile Drive, share some tips and advice so you can get the most out of your trip, and tell you about our Read the Rest…

Hiking at Lands End in San Francisco

hiking at Lands End San Francisco

Hiking at Lands End is a great way to explore the rocky northwestern corner of San Francisco. Imagine that you are walking in a wooded area alongside the ocean with spectacular views around every corner—hiking at Lands End makes it easy to forget that you are actually within the bustling city of San Francisco. So far this is one of my favorite short hikes in the Bay area and provides one of my favorite views of the Golden Gate Bridge. If you stay on the main coastal trail at Lands End it is a very easy hike, but the main trail also connects with other local trails and offers several worthwhile detours for those who have more time and stamina. The trail hugs the coastline and offers views of the historic ruins of Sutro Baths, old shipwrecks, small rocky beaches, a war memorial, and wonderful views of the Golden Gate Read the Rest…

Visiting Hearst Castle: An American “Castle” along California’s Central Coast

Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle, a hilltop mansion built by the late William Randolph Hearst, is located along the beautiful Central Coast of California in the tiny town of San Simeon. The infamous newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst with the aid of San Francisco architect Julia Morgan began construction of his dream mansion in 1919, a project that would continue for the next 30 years. Hearst named the property “La Cuesta Encantada” (Spanish for “The Enchanted Hill”). What began as an open ranch area where Hearst went camping with his family as a child, would later become the location of one of the most famous homes in the United States. The architecturally eclectic property consists of the main building (now often called the “castle”) and three guest houses, which are all filled with artwork and furnishings that Hearst purchased from around the world. In its heyday, Heart Castle had a private airfield, two Read the Rest…

Afternoon Tea in San Francisco: Palace Hotel Tea at The Garden Court

Palace Hotel tea

Looking for a place to have afternoon tea in San Francisco? Look no further than the Palace Hotel tea which is served in a stunningly beautiful dining area called The Garden Court. I love tea and the act of indulging in the formal ritual of afternoon tea, and I have been wanting to come to the Palace Hotel tea for over three years after I got a glimpse of The Garden Court during our first visit to San Francisco. The Garden Court is located where the carriage entrance to the hotel used to be and offers magnificent turn-of-the-century grandeur and elegance. Imagine a large room with a magnificent glass atrium, glass chandeliers, the buzz of people softly talking, china clinking, adorable children wearing crowns, and a grand piano playing, and you’ll have a good idea of the scene for afternoon tea at the Palace Hotel. Interested? Keep reading. Basic Information Read the Rest…

Our Dining Experience at The French Laundry: Reflections on our Anniversary Dinner

French Laundry

For our fourth anniversary, Ethan surprised me with reservations at The French Laundry during an overnight trip to the Napa Valley. You can read about that here if you missed that post. Eating at this highly rated restaurant had been something that I had wanted to do, but given the expense had never really thought I’d get the chance to do. But I was lucky enough to have the opportunity thanks to Ethan. So how was it you ask? Here’s our full review. General Information/BookIng: For general information about the restaurant, prices, and menus click here. For tips and details on how to book a reservation at the French Laundry, click here. Parking: We parked in one of the few spots directly behind the restaurant. There was also plenty of nearby street parking on and around Washington Street. Dress: Guests are expected to dress nicely and jackets are required at Read the Rest…

Non-Alcoholic Napa: 10 Things to Do in Napa Valley Without Wine

Napa Valley without wine

Napa Valley without wine??!! While the Napa Valley is one of the great wine destinations of the world, there are plenty of things you can do that don’t directly involve drinking wine. Perhaps you are not drinking due to health, pregnancy, or spiritual reasons, or perhaps you are traveling with people under the age of 21. Whatever the reason, there are a number of people who visit the Napa Valley without hitting up all the tasting rooms and wineries that fill up most people’s Napa Valley itineraries. Ethan actually stopped drinking alcohol a few years ago as a personal choice and so while we have visited wineries and tasting rooms, we have sought out a lot of other wine-free activities as well. So let us share our list of the top 10 things to do in Napa Valley without wine (listed in no particular order). 1. Attend A Performance One Read the Rest…

French Laundry Reservations: Tips and Advice on Getting a Reservation at The French Laundry

how to make reservations at French Laundry

It can be very difficult to get French Laundry reservations. In fact, it is often named in the list of top ten most difficult restaurant reservations to book in the world. However, this article will give you the facts on how to book a reservation at The French Laundry and tips on how to increase your odds of making a reservation based on our experience and from asking the staff at The French Laundry. So normally, making a restaurant reservation involves simply calling the restaurant or making a quick online reservation request. Generally you can do this a week or less in advance and boom you have a table. Things are not so easy at The French Laundry. It takes precise planning to make your call for reservations on the right date at the right time. There’s also winter and summer closure breaks, white truffle season, and summer tourists to Read the Rest…

An Anniversary Surprise: Crossing The French Laundry off my Bucket List

French Laundry

I got a really wonderful surprise this weekend. Yesterday was Ethan and I’s fourth anniversary (and Bastille Day!), and we had planned to spend a night in Napa over the weekend to celebrate. But we’ve both been very busy at work lately and the details of what we would do were pretty tentative. At least that is what I had thought! Two or three years ago, after we had moved to California, I told Ethan that someday I would like to eat at The French Laundry in Yountville, CA. It was one of the thousand things on my unwritten bucket list. To my surprise, Ethan had a viscerally negative response to this comment and said that even if he was a millionaire, he would not eat there.  He made it clear that apparently he believed that it would not only be financially irresponsible, but perhaps borderline unethical to eat there Read the Rest…