- Greater Los Angeles,
- Napa Valley,
- North America,
- San Francisco,
- San Simeon,
- United States
I can't believe we did all this in less than a week! We started in San Francisco, went up to Napa, and then drove back down the coast. The best meal was at Chez Panisse, of course, and if you are in Napa you have to do a tour of Frog's Leap. The highlight for me was the Hearst Castle. Love those Gilded Age mansions. We sadly had to skip Big Sur since it was prime wildfire time. That meant going back north and driving inland for a while. But road trips are all about going with the flow, right?
M.A.C. (Modern Appealing Clothing), California
San Francisco, California 94102
Tel: 415 863 3011
Rich hipsters with a hankering for avant-garde Belgian and Japanese designers shop with the big dogs at M.A.C., the longtime Hayes Valley mainstay for pricey-but-worth-it works of fashion art. Owned by stylish brother/sister duo Ben and Chris Ospital, the store is like a brick-walled curio cabinet for the family's collection of eclectic artworks and unexpected garments—if you've ever dreamed of a corset that looks exactly like a miniature men's three-piece suit, then this is the boutique for you. With a well-edited selection that includes A.F. Vandevorst, Tsumori Chisato, and Martin Margiela, there's no shortage of totally wearable and expertly tailored looks for clients with the means. The men's collection is really the highlight here, with a large offering of Dries Van Noten alongside Lanvin, Engineered Garments, and local label Turk + Taylor. Though there's often a killer sale rack for women, the men's clothing rarely goes on sale.
Open Mondays through Saturdays 11 am to 7 pm, Sundays 12 pm to 6 pm.
San Francisco, California 94108
Tel: 800 766 7628
Founded in 1861 by Solomon Gump to introduce Gold Rush parvenus to the decorative arts, the famous Gump's purveys costly, beautiful, and unusual housewares in addition to a wide selection of inexpensive gifts. As well as bedding, bath accessories, china, and crystal, you'll find jewelry and objets d'art, such as Limoges boxes and Murano glass. Gump's wares show a strong Pacific Rim influence, and an 18th-century Ching dynasty Buddha (not for sale) greets visitors who enter from Post Street.
Open Mondays through Saturdays 10 am to 6 pm, Sundays noon to 5 pm.
See + Do
Cable Car Rides, California
Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964, the San Francisco cable cars are crowded but worth riding at least once for the gorgeous views and one-of-a-kind experience. Of the three routes, Powell-Hyde (over Nob and Russian Hills to Aquatic Park) and Powell-Mason (over Nob Hill to Fisherman's Wharf) are the most scenic, but they're also the most crowded, as they carry passengers to and from Fisherman's Wharf. If you can't stomach the long queues or want to find someplace off the tourists' radar, ride the California Street line (over Nob Hill toward Pacific Heights; closed for construction until mid-June 2011) from its terminus at Market Street to the end of the line at Van Ness Avenue; from there, walk to Lafayette Square, in Pacific Heights, for a hilltop picnic, followed by window shopping along swanky upper Fillmore Street. (Tip: For a great photo on the California cable car, shoot east downhill as you approach Stockton Street; the Bay Bridge tower is briefly framed just right between downtown skyscrapers.) For all lines, board at the beginning/end of each circuit or hail the car along the route from one of the stops marked with brown-and-white signs. Purchase tickets at turnarounds or from the conductor ($5; MUNI transfers not accepted). Service is frequent, with special schedules on weekends—check www.transit.511.org for details. —updated by John A. Vlahides
See + Do
Home to the city's Latino community and popular with artists and yuppies, too, the gritty Mission District has taquerías and thrift stores, hip bars and upscale design boutiques—don't miss Monument for glam midcentury furniture and accessories (573 Valencia St.; 415-861-9800). In the streets around Mission and 24th, you'll find colorful Latino murals, especially in Balmy Alley. Visit the lovely old Mission Dolores, which gave the area its name (3321 16th St.; 415-621-8203). Your tour would be incomplete without a burrito: Locals favor El Farolito for its knock-out carne asada (2779 Mission St.; 415-824-7877).—Updated by John Vlahides
Wilkes Bashford, California
San Francisco, California 94108
Tel: 415 986 4380
A San Francisco original since 1966, Wilkes Bashford is the city's priciest and most exclusive department store, catering to local elite hungry for upscale sportswear, couture, and premium men's suits—labels include Brioni, Kiton, Monique Lhuillier, and Azzedine Alaia. But with Neiman Marcus, Saks, and Barneys all in the neighborhood, it's Wilkes' personal service that keeps customers coming back. The sales team and tailor will make house calls, and the staff is experienced in closet clean-outs and wardrobe editing. Gift wrapping is always gorgeous (and free), and if you get hungry while perusing the season's looks in the private salon, just order a little "room service" from the acclaimed Campton Place. Too tired to carry your packages home? Wilkes will have them delivered.
Open Mondays through Saturdays 10 am to 6 pm.
See + Do
Golden Gate Bridge, California
Opened in 1937, Golden Gate Bridge is named after the Golden Gate Strait, the entrance to the San Francisco Bay. Its color, "international orange," was selected to enhance its visibility to ships in the fog. Perhaps the world's most beautiful bridge, it is also its leading suicide location: More than 1,200 have jumped to date. Plastic-wrapped notes found in the jumpers' pockets include the lines "Survival of the fittest," "Adios—unfit," and "Absolutely no reason except I have a toothache." Instead of driving or cycling (or jumping), walk across the bridge to savor the majestic views—but be sure to dress appropriately. It can get chilly up there, and favorite hats have been known to sail away in the gusting wind.
Chez Panisse Restaurant and Café, California
Berkeley, California 94709
Tel: 510 548 5525
When Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse in 1971, she sparked a "green" revolution that spread around the world. And though focusing on local, artisanal ingredients is now de rigueur in California and elsewhere, Waters is still the master. Her strictly limited (only one option per course) seasonal menu changes daily, so each visit is like dining at the home of a friend who happens to be an incredibly talented chef. One night, the entrée might be an oven-roasted veal chop with fresh herbs and spring vegetables; another, a dish of unadorned, pristine black figs might serve as petits fours. Warm, earth-toned decor adds to the sophisticated-homey feel, and a more casual upstairs café with an à la carte menu catches the overflow.
Open Mondays through Saturdays 6 to 10 pm. There are two seatings per night.
See + Do
Frog's Leap, California
Rutherford, California 94573
Tel: 800 959 4704 (toll-free), Tel: 707 963 4704
Frog's Leap provides a playful counterpoint to Napa Valley's stuffier wineries. Built around a big red barn, Frog's Leap feels like exactly what it is: a farm. Outside the tasting room, wander past a frog pond through meandering organic gardens of heirloom vegetables and flowers, and pluck sun-warmed fruit right off the trees (come in August, when the peaches ripen). All of the wines are made with organically grown grapes. Though the winery produces some very respectable and long-lingering merlot, its sauvignon blanc is the star of the show: Delicate, with bright fruit overtones, this is one of Napa's best-known wines. Because of legal restrictions, you'll have to take the full tour to sample the juice, but the light-hearted staff and magical gardens will make you glad you did. Tasting fee, appointment required.
Open Mondays through Saturdays 10 am to 4 pm.
See + Do
Domaine Chandon Winery, California
Yountville, California 94599
Tel: 707 944 2280
One of the first French-owned wineries in California, Domaine Chandon opened with a splash in 1975 and is best known for its wide range of sparkling wines, including brut, blanc de noirs, extra-dry, and rosé varieties. Regularly scheduled tours guide visitors (up to 30 at a time) through the process of crafting and bottling bubbly. Purchase a flight of tastings and take your glass (included in the tasting fee) out to a café table on the terrace for majestic views of the surrounding Napa Valley countryside. There's also Étoile, a formal restaurant that's great for lunch (reservations essential). Although you'll find better sparkling wines at Schramsberg, Domaine Chandon provides more amenities, and it has one of the area's only late-night drinking permits. When the rest of the valley shuts down, drop by the Étoile wine lounge for drinks and entertainment (summer only). Tasting fee, no appointment necessary.
Open daily 10 am to 6 pm; wine lounge open Thursdays through Saturdays 6 to 11 pm, summer only.
Yountville, California 94599
Tel: 707 944 2222
When you want to don high heels and rock your new Marc Jacobs dress, book a table at Redd. On most nights, a who's who of the local wine industry gathers to feast on Euro-Cal-Asian concoctions such as pan-seared John Dory fish with jasmine rice and saffron curry nage, and spring lamb braised and roasted with mascarpone polenta. The wine list is interesting for its "featured discoveries"—lesser-known picks from around the world—and its extensive selection of half bottles. But you won't find any bargains: Prices skew high. The minimalist-chic dining room is sexy and austere, with wide-open sight lines. But despite a recent upgrade in the ceiling tiles, the room is l-o-u-d. If shouting across the table bothers you, sit outside on the terrace.
Open Mondays through Saturdays 11:30 am to 2:30 pm and 5:30 to 10 pm, Sundays 5:30 to 10 pm.
Carneros Inn, California
Carneros, California 94559
Tel: 888 400 9000 (toll-free), Tel: 707 299 4900
If you prefer Wallpaper over Town & Country, and Minis over Bentleys, you'll love the modernist-meets-farmhouse aesthetic of the Carneros Inn, located in one of Napa Valley's least-developed areas. The inn was designed to reflect its agrarian surroundings, with 86 tin-roofed cottages grouped around flower-filled courtyards and rocking-chair front porches surrounded by orderly rows of grapevines, bucolic fields, and rolling hills. Interiors are idyllic in a very different way, with iconic Eames and Le Corbusier loungers, heated slate floors in the bathrooms, indoor-outdoor showers, and wood-burning fireplaces. Unlike most wine country retreats, kids are welcome here and even have their own pool. The inn's Euro-Cal dining room, Farm, has plush velvet booths, dark-wood floors, and high ceilings that give it the look of a converted dairy barn. Guests gather at the fire pits outside to sip wine at day's end. There's also the more casual Boonfly Cafe, as well as an on-site spa that puts local ingredients to good use—try the mustard-seed massage or the soothing goat butter wrap.
Yountville, California 94599
Tel: 707 944 8037
An offshoot of the celebrated French Laundry, Bouchon is a classic French brasserie, right down to the mosaic tile floor, zinc bar imported from France, and red velvet banquettes. Likewise the cooking, from giant plateaux de fruits de mer (seafood platters) to succulent roast chicken to a perfect steak-frites. But more than anything, it's great fun to dine here—the room buzzes with activity, and you never know who might walk through the door, from famous vintners to Hollywood celebrities. Bouchon serves continuously all day, making it ideal for a late lunch. Though there's patio seating, the real excitement is in the dining room. If you're only in the mood for a snack, pop into the neighboring Bouchon Bakery for goodies or to gather picnic supplies, including sandwiches, pain au chocolat, and of course, crusty loaves of bread.
Open daily 11:30 am to 12:30 am.
Treebones Resort, California
Big Sur, California
Tel: 877 424 4787
Green is the watchword at this cushy Mongolian yurt camp, set on a steep hillside midway between San Simeon and Big Sur. The 16 yurts have been constructed with an eye toward sustainability: They're temporary structures, with wooden floors and canvas walls stretched across lattice frameworks. Each has a comfortable bed gussied up with a patchwork quilt, a couple of chairs, heat, sinks, and electricity. There are no private baths—instead you wander down a path to a sparklingly clean bathhouse—and meals are prepared in a simple lodge building (dinners are generally barbecued, and you make your own waffles at breakfast). The place appeals largely to do-it-yourself travelers who pack their own beach towels, who prefer hiking and kayaking to golf and tennis, and who come for unadulterated contact with the landscape. After all, Los Padres National Forest sits behind the property, and the ocean stretches out in front. The one nod to luxury here is the heated pool and hot tub, a welcome relief after a long day of communing with nature.
See + Do
Henry Miller Memorial Library, California
Big Sur, California 93920
Tel: 831 667 2574
The brilliant and controversial writer was a native New Yorker, but his archive is here, in the town where he lived for 18 years and wrote some of his best work. If you like Miller, or think you might after having seen Henry & June, check out the library. It's a coffeehouse and cultural center of sorts, with open-mike nights and an outdoor film series in summer (call ahead to see what's on the calendar). The wooded grounds and funky little sculpture garden are lovely places to curl up with a book, and you're welcome to linger as long as you like. There's even Wi-Fi access, as well as an old blue iMac on an outdoor deck where you can check your e-mail.
Open Wednesdays through Sundays 11 am to 6 pm.
Post Ranch Inn, California
Big Sur, California
Tel: 831 667 2200, Tel: 800 527 2200
The hype is true: This place really is spectacular. It sits on a narrow ridgeline 1,200 feet above the crashing surf, and its architecture brings out the best in the setting. The buildings are all made from organic materials such as slate, glass, wood, and rusting metal to blend with the landscape; rooflines are stepped to mirror the distant mountains. Of the 30 rooms available, the best are the five Ocean Houses, whose roofs are covered in wildflowers and whose walls of glass overlook the sea. The seven Tree House rooms, built on stilts in the canopy of hundred-year-old gnarled oaks, are also excellent choices. The Post Ranch is a place to escape in privacy; no one under 18 is allowed, and there are no clocks or TVs in the rooms— although there are wood-burning fireplaces, massage tables, walking sticks, bird books, binoculars, and complimentary minibars. Bathtubs lined with unfinished gray marble and beds with denim bedspreads reinforce the luxe-rustic vibe. The three pools (including a cliff-top infinity pool) are open round the clock, so you can follow up your morning yoga, afternoon guided walk, or evening spa service with a soak.
See + Do
Hearst Castle, California
San Simeon, California
Tel: 800 444 4445 or 805 927 2010
Publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst's monument to himself is by far the best-known attraction on the California coast. Perched high atop La Cuesta Encantada (the enchanted hill) and modeled after the grandest European châteaux, it really is a castle, occupying a whopping 90,000 square feet, with 56 bedrooms and 61 bathrooms divided between four buildings. You can't possibly see it all in one day, but for most people, one of the five different tours suffices. If you've never been here, take Tour No. 1 to get an overview. (Make reservations well in advance; spots are limited.) If you're staying in Big Sur or Monterey, plan for a long day trip. It takes two to three hours to make the one-way trek, depending on traffic, and you'll want to spend at least a few hours at the castle. If you want to break the visit into two days, note that San Simeon has notoriously lousy lodging (the nicest place is the Best Western). For greater selection, head to nearby Cambria instead, which has better food, some cute B&Bs, and several passable seaside motels, but nothing that we believe merits a write-up here.
The Counter, California
Santa Monica, California 90232
Tel: 310 399 8383
This mod-style diner in Santa Monica serves fun burgers with grown-up appeal. Choose a beer or wine chaser, customize the toppings to your liking, and get ready for a sloppy messyou won't be able to resist overstuffing your burger with So-Cal options like sun-dried tomato vinaigrette and avocado. Kids get their due as well, with mini sliders, thick milkshakes, and great shoestring fries. (Adults: Dip yours in garlic aïoli.)
West Hollywood, California 90046
Tel: 323 655 0223
This fabulous vintage couture shop has supplied red-carpet gowns for the likes of Cameron Diaz, Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, and Sheryl Crow. The designers represented here are the best of the best: Yves Saint Laurent, Emilio Pucci, Andre Courreges. Downstairs is Decadestwo (323-655-1960; www.decadestwo.com), where designer ready-to-wear—including Prada, Marni, and John Galliano—runs just over half retail price.
See + Do
Hollywood Forever Cemetery, California
Los Angeles, California 90038
Tel: 323 469 1181
The "resting place of Hollywood's immortals" is L.A.'s answer to Père Lachaise in Paris; here, loyal fans can visit the tombstones of everyone from Rudolph Valentino to Johnny Ramone. Among the palm trees and mausoleums, there are even video screens that show Life Stories (like mini bio-pics put together by the families of the deceased). Occasionally in the summer, the public is invited to charity screenings: You can take a picnic dinner and a blanket and watch a movie in the graveyard. Hey, that's showbiz!
See + Do
Getty Center, California
Los Angeles, California 90049
Tel: 310 440 7300
This is architect Richard Meier's masterwork, a stunning 110-acre modernist complex in the Santa Monica Mountains housing the Getty Museum and other foundation buildings. When it was commissioned in 1984, the white travertine came from a quarry near Rome, and a special guillotine method for slicing it had to be developed for the construction. The Getty Museum is a symphony of light, with pools, fountains, and walls of glass bricks. The painting galleries are entirely illuminated by natural light filtered to protect the art. The Getty has had some financial and identity problems in recent years, but finally hired Australian Michael Brand in August 2005 as its new director and is at work shoring up its image. As you'd expect from an institution with a $5 billion endowment, the Getty has some big-ticket pieces, including works by Titian and Rubens, Cezanne's Still Life with Apples, and Van Gogh's Irises. The collection of decorative arts is wonderful, and now that the Getty Villa (see below) has reopened, the area once occupied by antiquities has been remodeled to house the renowned photography collection. Guests can choose from a self-service café, the sandwiches and salads of the Garden Terrace Cafe, or the Restaurant, which is open for lunch daily, but for dinner only on Friday and Saturday nights (reservations are advisable: 310-440-6810).
See + Do
Griffith Observatory, California
Los Angeles, California 90027
Tel: 213 473 0800
This 72-year-old Greek Revival landmark on a hilltop in Griffith Park is one of L.A.'s most recognizable icons, forever enshrined in the zeitgeist by the movie Rebel Without a Cause. The observatory finally reopened in fall of 2006, after an extensive $93 million renovation, including an addition and repairs to the façade. Most of the 40,000 square-foot addition is underground, and includes the new 200-seat Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon theater. The Samuel Oschain Planetarium has added all the latest digital bells and whistles, including a state-of-the-art new projector; astronomy shows are held in the planetarium every hour. The Observatory is also known for its hiking trails. However, trails to the north and east of the Observatory remain closed because of damage from wildfires. Only the trail from Fern Dell to the Observatory, which offers sweeping views past the Hollywood sign to the ocean, remains open.
Millennium Biltmore Hotel, California
Los Angeles, California 90071
Tel: 213 624 1011
Set in a neighborhood of striking architectural landmarks (including MOCA and the Walt Disney Concert Hall), the 1923 Biltmore is a sprawling hodgepodge of Mediterranean, Spanish, and Italianate influences—designed to elicit awe rather than to represent any one style. What's truly awesome, though, are the hotel's dramatic interior common spaces. The lobby has golden travertine walls, soaring ceilings of gold leaf and coffered wood, ornate rococo bas-reliefs, and an enormous fountain (surrounded by tables where high tea is served in the afternoons). The Gallery Bar and Cognac Room, with their wood-and-brown-leather decor and faintly erotic murals, resemble an exclusive gentlemen's club; and the basement health club manages to evoke both a majolica-tiled Egyptian temple and a cruise ship. Unfortunately, the 635 guest rooms and 48 suites are relatively uninspired. Though generous in size, with seating areas and large closets, they're furnished a bit frumpily, with overly ornate antique reproductions and heavy swagged drapes. Bathrooms are on the small side, and the art on the walls is hopelessly cheesy. Still, if old-school grandeur is what moves you, you'll get a lot of bang for your buck here.