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We had 7 days that needed to be split up between San Francisco, Sonoma, a wedding, and travel. This is how we did it.
**If you don’t feel like reading this entire blog check out my Youtube channel to watch the video of our trip 😉
Day 1 started off at 3:20 a.m. in Boston, MA. We had a six and a half hour flight standing between us and the sunny state of California. After landing in San Francisco we got our rental car, some caffeine, and then we headed to Sonoma. The drive was a little over an hour with a very important stop along the way, In and Out Burger. There was no way I was leaving Cali without trying one of their burgers and some animal style fries. A basic instagram pic of my tray was posted to my story and we were back on the road. The cool part about this drive is that you get to cross the Golden Gate bridge (cue the Full House theme song) and the rolling vineyards start to surround you as you get closer to Sonoma.
We decided to stay in an Air BnB for this trip and it was the perfect fit for us. We had a single family house, 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a kitchen full of supplies, and a deck with a view. We were a 10 minute drive to Sonoma Square and we couldn’t be happier. Staying at a house versus a hotel was perfect for traveling with another couple. Instead of sitting on someone’s hotel bed while trying to pour wine and hang out we had a whole house to spread out and relax in.
View from our Air BnB’s deck in Sonoma
We had made reservations at El Dorado Kitchen in Sonoma Square, as it was my birthday and we all deserved a nice dinner after a long day of travel. The restaurant is located in the El Dorado hotel and had the menu we were looking for. Fresh ingredients, unique dishes and a great wine list. Definitely try the wagyu beef carpaccio, if that’s your kinda thing.. After dinner we wanted to check out downtown Sonoma and quickly realised that most stores close pretty early… bummer, but we did find a bar down the street that was open later and had a few drinks before bed.
Trolley Wine Tour Day!! I heard from a few friends that getting a driver or hopping on one of these wine tours was one of the best ways to enjoy the vineyards and they were so right. We booked the tour a few weeks before our trip and I believe we paid $99 per person. Worth. Every. Penny. I can’t recommend the Sonoma Valley Wine Trolley enough. The tour picked us up in Sonoma Square, brought us to 4 boutique vineyards, hosted a catered lunch that was delicious and we got to sit back, drink wine and not worry about driving or where we should go next.
Sonoma Valley Wine Trolley!
Our first stop on our wine tour was at Imagery Estate Winery, this was a smaller vineyard that focuses on limited production wines with an art gallery to check out while you sip. We had great wine here and learned a lot about the vineyards biodynamic approach to wine making. Up next we stopped at Benziger Family Winery which was my favorite stop of the day. Here we had a tractor tour through the vineyards, a little lesson about grapes, a tour through their wine cellar, wine tasting, a nice gift shop to check out and lunch on their beautiful patio.
One of the stops on the Benziger vineyard tour!
Lunch was catered by the Girl and the Fig which was at the top of my list for places to eat while in Sonoma. Everything from the Girl and the Fig was so fresh and tasty, we had several choices to choose from and dessert as well. You were able to buy a bottle of wine to enjoy with lunch if you wanted which is nice, because the bar at the patio was not open while we were there.
Where we ate lunch at Benziger. Girl and the Fig was delicious!
After lunch we went to Paradise Ridge Winery. This was at their Kenwood tasting room location as their main location was burned to the ground during the 2017 California wildfires. This tasting was unique as our wines were paired with herb infused chocolates. They ended up having a deal that if you bought $50 worth of wine your tasting was free so we did that. To finish off our wine tour we went to Mayo Family Winery, this was a smaller tasting room and tour but we had a great Port Wine with chocolate and now I am hooked on dessert wines.
Paradise Ridge tasting paired with herb infused chocolate.
The only “downfall” of going on this wine tour is that you don’t get to pick out the vineyards you visit for the day. The plus side is that you get to meet new people and spend the day mingling with your group here and there. After the tour was over we ran into another couple that we chatted with throughout the day. We decided to get dinner together in Sonoma Square and we had the best time getting to know each other.
Wedding Day. We had the first half of the day to ourselves and there was one Vineyard I was dying to go to, Jacuzzi. We fell in LOVE with this Vineyard. It was like we were in a Tuscan villa. We ended up buying a cardboard box that would hold 12 bottles in it so we could bring bottles of wine back home as checked luggage. This ended up being so handy! It had built in wine holders so the bottles weren’t rolling around or clanking together in the box. We stopped at another vineyard on our way back, Gloria Ferrer. Here we got flights of sparkling wine, which was a nice break from what we had been drinking the past few days. The view from the patio is worth the trip in itself. We quickly realised we were running out of time and had to rush back to get ready for the wedding. We spent the rest of the night at the wedding and it was perfection!
Jacuzzi Family Winery Sonoma, California
Packed up, checked out at 11:00, and we were on the road to San Francisco baby! We were so excited to see the city that we added an extra day to the trip so we could explore the city and not feel rushed (SO glad we did this). We stayed in another Air BnB in the Noe Valley area. It was a single family home with an in law apartment in the lower level. It was small, but we really only needed it to sleep in. We did have to Uber almost everywhere we went as it was about a 30 minute ride to each of the locations we wanted to visit.
We dropped our bags off and Uber’d to Chinatown. I heard this was one of the better Chinatowns, and it was! I stopped in one of the little shops and bought myself a mooncake, which I have wanted to try since I saw it in a Disney movie years ago. We were pretty hungry and decided to eat some traditional Chinese food. We looked up places to eat on Google and saw a picture of Obama at one of the restaurants. If Obama was there, it must be legit.. The restaurant is “Z & Y Restaurant” and they have amazing noodles! We got the house cold noodles and szechuan beef, delicious and affordable. The noodles were under $10!
House cold noodles at Z&Y Restaurant
After dinner we decided to check out Pier 39. We didn’t have much of a plan for the night and figured we could find something to do in that area. There is something for everyone at the pier, food, bars, stores, arcades and a great view of Alcatraz!
This was our day to be hard core toursits and check a few more items off of our list. First stop of the day was Lombard Street. When we pulled up there were already people lining the street to get pictures and videos, even people in the middle of the road trying to get the perfect shot while traffic piled up behind them!
Bottom of Lombard St.
At the top of Lombard Street there is a trolley that brings you down the road and right out in front of the Buena Vista Cafe, my absolute favorite stop of the trip! I have never heard of this place until a friend told me about the Irish Coffees they make there. I don’t even like coffee, or whiskey, but wanted to check it out.
Everyone at the table ordered Irish coffees so I figured why not, I should try one and WOW! I am so glad I did because I loved it! It was the perfect, not too much coffee, and not too much whiskey, maybe that’s why I liked it so much.. The waitress told us to sip slowly so we get the cream mixed with the coffee in each sip.
Irish coffees at the Buena Vista Cafe
You HAVE to watch the bartenders pour these drinks (footage in the youtube video). The bartenders are very entertaining. After lunch we headed to another Pier area. We took a tour of a naval ship they had on display and then took an Uber to the painted ladies.
Perfect view of the painted ladies. If you sit further up on the grassy hill you will have a great backdrop behind the houses.
I thought this was going to be a stop and go thing but we ended up sitting on the lawn in front of the houses for about an hour. If you have time this would be a perfect picnic location with a great view. We decided to walk around in that area, grab dinner and go to an arcade/bar nearby.
Day 6’s plan was to visit Alcatraz and get a few shots of the Golden Gate. We wanted to get on the earliest tour possible for Alcatraz so it would be less crowded. I’m so glad that we did because as we were leaving it was starting to get crowded. HINT: if you take a ferry after 9:00 you can stop at Buena Vista Cafe for an Irish coffee to go on your way to the ferry ;). I’ll be honest, I was hoping for a spooky experience and didn’t get it. It was bright inside some of the areas and felt more like a museum than a prison. It was still a fun experience and I learned a ton! The audio tour was super easy to follow along with so definitely get a headset on your way in. You get some really great views while on Alcatraz and photos are allowed inside so bring your camera! Just be warned, there is a good amount of seagulls and it can get a little stinky in the sun.
Solitary confinement inside Alcatraz Federal Prison
After Alcatraz we rented electric scooters and zoomed around the hills of San Fran for an hour. This was honestly so much more fun than I had expected. My inner princess diaries fangirl was LIVING. We took an Uber to Bakers beach which is off to the side of the Golden Gate. We didn’t realize this was an unofficial nude beach, so if that’s not your thing maybe avoid it.. It wasn’t the warmest day out so the beach was not crowded at all. We took a few pics and were on our way. I would have loved to spend more time on the walking trails and bike paths but I didn’t know they were there until we were on our way back.
View of the Golden Gate bridge from Bakers beach.
We really did not have time for much on day 7. We woke up, packed up the Air BnB, and arrived at the airport. Our trip has come to an end… I never imagined I would like San Francisco as much as I did. We had great company and great weather which helped, but I was the not that excited for this part of the trip and it turned out to be amazing. If you are going to San Francisco and only have 1 day in Sonoma I highly recommend the Trolley tour followed by dinner in Sonoma Square. If you are doing it the other way around, I recommend hopping on a cable car, seeing the painted ladies and Lombard Street and getting an Irish Coffee at the Buena Vista. If you have read this far THANK YOU. Check out my Youtube video to see a recap of our trip 🙂