Valentine’s Day destinations close to home!

The rugged California North Coast, just above Salt Point State Park.

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with these classy destinations close to home!

The historic Hotel Stockton is home to Bella Vista Restaurant in the southwest corner.

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner – if you’re seeking adventuresome and romantic destinations in northern California here are several recommendations from my wife, several friends and me, both locally and further afield. With the holiday falling this year on a Wednesday, you can celebrate on either “before or after weekends” or on the day itself.

If you are seeking a fine dining option locally, these are local restaurant favorites: Prime Table, Papapavlos and Market Tavern, in Lincoln Center, CoCoRo on Miracle Mile, Bella Vista in the old Hotel Stockton, downtown, and Wine and Roses in Lodi. All offer fine dining, classy décor and that vibe just right for romance. If you are staying local, don’t forget the Lodi Wine and Chocolate event, February 10 & 11, 2018, 11 AM to 4 PM – with choices of 50 wineries for tasting and chocolate sampling.

If you’re looking for an overnight destination, I’ve learned that such special destinations should offer these attributes: semi-secluded, scenic, with fine restaurant(s) nearby, classy lodging if we are spending the night and, a sense of history – my own inclusion.

The historic Murphys Hotel, always a gold rush favorite!

These destinations measure up and are within three hours of San Joaquin County.

Sutter Creek's historic Main Street and Hotel Sutter.

Sierra foothill favorites offer both fine dining and cute, historic gold rush towns to explore. Murphys is one of our favorites, with an eight block stretch of historic shops and hotels, featuring wine tasting, shopping and fine dining. Restaurants like Alchemy and the Murphys Hotel offer good options for fine food. Further south on Highway 49 you’ll find Sutter Creek with a 10 block stretch of old Main Street complete with bed-and-breakfasts, tasting rooms, shops and restaurants. The Hotel Sutter on Main Street is a fine place for lunch or dinner; marvelous pizzas can be found at Gold Dust Pizza, just off Main on Eureka Street.

The California coast from Bodega Bay, the Russian River and north is rugged, secluded and offers a variety of lodging and restaurant choices. If you are a Hitchcock fan, tour inland a few miles to the town of Bodega and see the old schoolhouse filmed in ‘The Birds’ movie, starring Tippi Hedren and Rod Taylor, a classic flick shot in 1963. Dine at the Tides Wharf and Restaurant in Bodega Bay or the River’s Edge in Jenner, each with lovely views of the Pacific and fine seafood.

Big Sur coast and Bixby Bridge, constructed in 1932, just before Highway 1 opened.

The Big Sur coast, just 2.5 hours to our south west, has long been a favorite of romantics. This section of the rugged California coast coffers secluded getaways, rocky coastline around every corner, lovely resorts, classic campgrounds if you’re camping and marvelous restaurants. The Spanish called it “El Sur Grande”, the Big South, for the vast reach of rugged and treacherous coastline. Mexico offered land grants in the early 1800s, but settlers in numbers would not arrive until just one hundred years ago.

Highway 1 was only completed in 1937, opening the coast to growing tourist visitation. We recently toured south of Monterey and Carmel, passing several spectacular state parks (with a Mediterranean climate – camping is possible and often sunny this time of year).

You’ll find scenic campgrounds here; Andrew Molera State Park is just 20 miles south of Carmel; 4800 acres with a variety of exploring opportunities from beaches to the Big Sur River, as well as Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and Lime Kiln State Park. Kirk Creek Campground is a bit further south, a gem perched on the bluff overlooking the Pacific – first come, first served and run by the US Forest Service.

Ragged Point Inn on a bluff high above the ocean is a favorite, high on a bluff with ocean spreading in several directions.  With views, motel, cabins and restaurant surrounded by gorgeous gardens, it offers grandeur and solitude. Another favorite restaurant is the Big Sur Roadhouse, getting rave reviews for breakfasts or lunch and less expensive than some of their competitors.

Snow-shoers and cross-country skiers tour with ranger at Sugar Pine State Park on Tahoe's western shore.

Journey just north and see elephant seals at Ano Neuvo State Park (reservations for Ranger-led tours required) and at the six-mile long Piedras Blancas rookery, just north of San Simeon, with parking right off Highway 1, a short walk and no reservations required to view these massive animals.

Touring to the snowy Sierra, North Lake Tahoe always offers adventure; headquarter your visit in lovely Tahoe City on Tahoe’s north shore. Fabulous skiing includes nearby destinations of Alpine Meadows, Squaw Valley, Homewood, Northstar and Diamond Peak. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are also popular. Sugar Pine Point State Park features historic buildings, beautiful views of the lake and was site of several events for the 1960 Squaw Valley Olympics. Check out the small Olympic Museum building at Sugar Pine Park to refresh your memory of Olympic history at this beautiful park on Tahoe’s western shore. Tahoe City also offers a host of motel options and Airbnb choices. For the best breakfast or lunch, try Rosies, and for a beautiful, romantic dinner, Plumpjack at Squaw Valley Resort.

For information: Lodi Wine and Chocolate event,; Murphys,; Sutter Creek,; Bodega Bay and California’s north coast,; Big Sur,; North Lake Tahoe,

Contact Tim at and follow him at Happy travels in your world!


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