8 Breweries & Taprooms in 6 Hours: How I did a Self-Guided San Francisco Brewery Tour

Self-guided san francisco brewery tour

8 San Francisco breweries and taprooms in 6 hours – achievement unlocked! Since moving to the Bay Area almost 3 years ago, I’ve always wanted to plan my own beer tour of San Francisco. I have only resided in Berkeley during my time here so have mostly covered the East Bay’s inviting breweries. However, I was aware that many of San Francisco’s breweries are close together so I figured I’d cover many of them in one go someday.

That day finally came last month when my cousin and her boyfriend decided to drive up from South Bay for the weekend to stay at mine and Roger’s apartment. They rarely get to venture to the big city so I thought this was the perfect chance for the 4 of us to explore the San Francisco beer scene.

Note that a few companies around the Bay offer paid brewery tours that range from $99-$200/person (public and private), but they are more structured than the one we undertook.

How I planned our self-guided San Francisco brewery tour:

  1. I searched the web to find the most highly recommended breweries in San Francisco. Yelp, Thrillest and Eater SF mostly contributed to my list creation.
  2. I mapped the tour route on Google Maps, making sure every brewery was close to one another and that our route ended by a BART station to get us back to the East Bay by the end of the night.
San Francisco Brewery Tour

San Francisco Brewery Tour Route (Created on Google Maps)

Logistics of our self-guided San Francisco brewery tour: 

  1. Start early! We got a late start (around 5pm), which actually made for a pretty fun night, as we made it our goal to hit each spot before they closed.
  2. Every brewery on our tour were no more than 8 minute drives from each other! Nobody wanted to be a DD (designated driver) so we ended up taking Lyft everywhere, which was very affordable split 4 ways.

Breweries on our San Francisco Brewery Tour: 


Triple Voodoo (Dogpatch neighborhood)

Flight from Triple Voodoo Brewery

Flight from Triple Voodoo Brewery

This was a great first stop on our tour (and right across the street from a MUNI stop). Triple Voodoo has a wide selection of beers, many seating options, and is dog-friendly. For such a great spot, we were surprised it was less than half full on a Saturday. I would definitely recommend.

Smokestack at Magnolia Brewing (Dogpatch)

Smokestack at Magnolia Brewing

Smokestack at Magnolia Brewing

Despite its poor Yelp reviews, I definitely wanted to try the Smokestack given its popular array of beers. Sadly, Yelp was right and this was our least favorite of the breweries due to its poor (and even rude) service and overpriced food. They offer a small cup of almost cold and unseasoned mac n’ cheese for $7. I will say that their ribs are incredibly tasty though.

Magnolia’s main location in Haight-Ashbury is still on my list of places to try.

Laughing Monk (Bayview-Hunters Point)

Smokestack at Magnolia Brewing

Flight from Laughing Monk Brewing

Inside Laughing Monk Brewing

Inside Laughing Monk Brewing

A small space with lots of character. It’s hard not to smile after a glance at Laughing Monk’s logo, which is literally a laughing monk. A beautiful Autumn tree covers the brewery’s main wall, providing the perfect atmosphere to kick back with friends. They offer unique beers with even more unique names, such as “Devil’s Hoard” and my favorite: “STEVE?!”.

Ferment Drink Repeat (FDR) (Excelsior, Portola)

Games and Beers at Ferment Drink Repeat

Games and Beers at Ferment Drink Repeat

Unanimously voted as our favorite brewery on the tour. Why: the best tasting beers on the tour, the friendly service, selection of boardgames, and clean, modern atmosphere. Their lights look like hops!

Barebottle Brewery (Bernal Heights)

Flight from Barebottle Brewing

Flight from Barebottle Brewing

The largest brewery on our tour, offering corn hole, additional games, and a food truck (which sadly closed by the time we got there at 8:30pm). Honestly, things were getting a bit hazy at this point for all of us, but from what I can remember this place was solid (and very busy). There were many cute pups running around.

Almanac (Mission)

Almanac Brewing

Almanac Brewing (it was too dark to get a good photo of the beers)

Another wonderful brewery tour stop due to its friendly service and tasty beers. I only wish we had more time here, as it closed soon after we started drinking. Being in the Mission district, I’d highly recommend grabbing a burrito from El Farolito and heading over to Almanac after (we actually did the reverse).

We stopped by Big Rec Taproom and Zoe’s to round out our 8 tour stops on the way to El Farolito and the 24th Street BART station.


Thanks for stopping by! Do you have any San Francisco brewery recommendations?


Highlights from BottleRock Napa Valley Festival 2017

Napa’s biggest music, food, and wine/brew festival came to a close Sunday night after 3 jam packed days of massive headliners, celebrity chefs, and a plethora of activity-filled sponsor booths. For a festival only in its fifth year, the organizers of BottleRock really know how to pull off a crowd-pleasing event (for over 120,000 festival goers). Last year was my inaugural BottleRock experience, and I was so fortunate to be granted a 3-day VIP pass this time around after winning a photo contest from BottleRock on Instagram last year.


If you are considering going to BottleRock next year, here is information that may be helpful. This is my favorite festival so I can’t say enough positive things about it.


Highlights of BottleRock 2017

  • Favorite performances: Foo Fighters, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, and the Naked & Famous.
  • Favorite meal: Paella from Gerard’s Paella.
  • Favorite interactive sponsor booths: Alaska Airlines (cool photo booth and free Moscow Mule making kit), Columbus Craft Meats (free salami), and Jim Beam (free fan that turns on when plugged into your phone!).
  • Coors Light Sports Bar: we loved this place not only as a momentary escape from the heat, but because they printed out free Instagram photos whenever you used the hashtags #BottleRock and #HopValley together! There was no limit on the photos you could print.

Why I love BottleRock 

  • It’s not just a music festival. It also celebrates two defining characteristics of Napa (and two of my loves): food and drinks. And the breadth of variety they offer is wonderful! They have sushi, pizza, burgers, falafel, cupcakes, Indian, dim sum, vegan, and so much more. Where else can you get discounted noted Napa restaurant food from the likes of Mustard’s and Morimoto?!
  • The design details. BottleRock is so well thought out that I’d love to see an ultra-high-speed video of the organizers putting it together. There is something photo-worthy in every direction – from colorful lanterns, beautifully placed lights, large art displays, to live mural paintings.
  • Its demographic is more mature than most music festivals. This means no teenagers running around wasted and puking their lunches out behind a tree or on a perfectly good patch of grass. For the most part, BottleRock festival goers are fun but appear to know their limits.

Accommodation & Transportation for BottleRock 

  • Accommodation in Napa is not cheap so my group of 5 opted for an Airbnb in Suisun City, which is 25 minutes east of the festival. It was just $435 for 2 nights ($217 per night) in an entire home to ourselves and I thought the location was great.
  • Last year my group stayed in a secluded Airbnb in Sonoma for a much higher price. This is also a good option, but the festival traffic from Sonoma to Napa is worse.
  • I recommend booking your accommodations as far in advance as possible, as Napa is a popular destination in general.
  • We drove everyday, but the festival does offer free shuttles to and from San Francisco, Sacramento, Oakland, San Jose, Fairfield, Sonoma, Mill Valley, Palo Alto and Santa Rosa.

Is VIP worth it? 

  • What comes with a VIP wristband: separate access to food, drinks, sponsors, and viewing areas (some sections are raised for better viewing). The best perk of VIP was the VIP-only acoustic stage, which featured many bands and artists in an intimate environment. We were a little choked when The Naked & Famous didn’t end up playing during their slot though.
  • Personally, my current financial state would not allow me to purchase a $709 festival pass regularly. However, I think it’s worthwhile – especially for the intimate shows – if you have the extra money to spend. Maybe someday…

Price comparison:

  • General Admission: $139 (1 day) and $349 (3 day)
  • VIP:  $275 (1 day) and $709 (3 day)

BottleRock 2017 in Photos:

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Macklemore and Ryan Lewis on the main stage

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The highly photographed LOVE structure at BottleRock

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One of the many colorful lantern displays at BottleRock

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At the BottleRock VIP entrance!

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Finding your friends at BottleRock can be difficult so we always agreed to meet under the lanterns

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Floral photo-op at BottleRock

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Exploring the BottleRock VIP area

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Got Sailor Moon buns at the Paul Mitchell tent in the VIP section

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My favorite dish the festival: Gerard’s paella

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Hand rolls from Morimoto ($10 each)

 

 

 

 

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The intimate VIP stage

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The tent where the VIP stage is

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One of my favorite bands, The Naked & Famous, performing

Let me know if you have any questions about BottleRock or if you have anything to share about your BottleRock experience!

London in 3 Days: Things to Do (2017)

Hello, fellow travelers!
I am painfully aware that I stated in my March blog post on our Eurotrip that I’d do deeper dives into each of our 6 European destinations. That clearly didn’t happen. Whoops. However, summer is fast approaching and I wanted to share our experience now in case any potential European travelers need some insight! Over the next few weeks, I’ll give you the lowdown on each European city we went to in chronological order.
First up…

London, England
Where we stayed: At my dear friend’s apartment in the trendy Shoreditch neighborhood of London. We were so lucky to have these accommodations and I highly recommend the generally tourist-free area. It provided a completely different experience from the London trip I’d taken previously with my family when we stayed by Oxford Circus (tourist central).

Highlights & What to do in London:

Neal’s Yard at Covent Garden: What a hidden gem! If it weren’t for my local friend, I may have walked right past the entrance to this colorful alley. Filled with shops and eateries like the famous Homeslice pizza, this is a do-not-miss.

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The Colorful Neal’s Yard at Covent Garden

Homeslice Pizza London

With our Massive Pizza at Homeslice in Neal’s Yard

Maltby Street Market: Another spot not (yet) widely known to tourists! This narrow street gets filled up with shoulder-to-shoulder traffic on weekends with hungry locals clamoring for hot bites and samples from food stalls and restaurants at Maltby Market.

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The Bustling Maltby Street Market

Camden Market: While Maltby Market may be a food destination, Camden is a vast destination for unique shopping and vintage finds. I guarantee you will get lost roaming from stall to stall at Camden. Plus, they have a plethora of international food options.

For more London market options, I highly suggest taking a gander at this top 12 list.

Camden Market

Late Night Shopping at Camden Market

Carnaby Street: This is an excellent alternative to shopping along Oxford Street. While still bustling, Carnaby also provides the quintessential London experience (equipped with it’s very own glimmering British flag to greet you high in the sky). You’ll find trendy shops, restaurants, and relaxing pubs at Carnaby.

Carnaby Street London

Strolling Carnaby London

Shoreditch: Mentioned already, the Shoreditch neighborhood is great if you’re looking to sink your teeth into the London art scene (there are galleries and street art scattered throughout). Vintage shops, food stands, international flavors, and adorable markets can be found here.

Shoreditch London

Cute Shops in Shoreditch

Shoreditch Art

Street Art in Shoreditch

King’s Cross Station: Immediately add this to the Harry Potter fan must-do list. This is where Platform 9 3/4 lives! Unfortunately its popularity means that there is about an hour long wait to get a good picture with the iconic wall. I opted to quickly get a picture in on the side. A very busy Harry Potter gift shop can be found here.

Platform 9 3/4

Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station (I was as giddy as I look)

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The Very Busy Harry Potter Gift Shop at King’s Cross Station

221B Baker Street (Sherlocke Holmes’ home): Again, another must-do if you’re a fan of the infamous detective. A gift shop and museum is located here.

The Sherlock Holmes Museum

The Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221B Baker Street

Walk along the River Thames: touristy and crowded, but worth it on your first trip to London. From Big Ben to the London Eye, almost every iconic London landmark can be seen along the Thames.

River Thames London

Taken on our River Thames Stroll

Have yourself some afternoon tea: Stop for an hour during your busy London timeline and relax in one (or a few) of London’s tea rooms.

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Teas at Yumchaa in Shoreditch

Yumchaa Tea Brick Lane

Interior shot of Yumchaa in Shoreditch

London Underground (metro system): This may seem like a very bizarre highlight, but it is truly one of my standout experiences in London. I am still floored by the complexity of London’s intricate train system and am downright impressed by the number of stations through the greater London area. I totally get why you would have the Underground on your shirt.

The London Underground

Map of The London Underground system

Did I miss something on my London to-do list? Let us know in the comments below!

Europe Trip 2017: How We Affordably Visited 5 Countries in 19 Days

It’s been less than a week since my partner and I returned from our whirlwind trip to Europe and I can barely recall what we did because of how fast-paced it was. Thank God for pictures! Firstly, the vacation was a success! There were no major mishaps and I am fortunate for everything we saw and experienced. This post will be purely the basics of our trip and I aim to provide tips for your potential future Europe trip!

CITIES WE VISITED (in order):

  1. London, England (highlights: the cool markets and cheap beer)
  2. Paris, France (highlights: the amount of things to see AND the patisseries)
  3. Madrid, Spain (highlight: the delicious and cheap tapas)
  4. Amsterdam, Netherlands (my favorite city of the trip for its beautiful canals and being the most walkable city …oh, and seeing the Red Light District and coffee shops made for an even more unique experience!)
  5. Berlin, Germany (highlight: the history insights on WWII and the Cold War)
  6. Barcelona, Spain (almost tied with Amsterdam as our favorite destination for its stunning architecture)

TIPS ON TRAVELING AFFORDABLY TO EUROPE:

  • Our Accommodations: we lodged entirely via Airbnb! We never paid more than $42/night (USD), with Amsterdam being the most we paid for lodging.
  • Our Flights: we flew low-cost airline, EasyJet, within Europe and paid no more than $100/ticket and flew once via Iberia from Madrid to Amsterdam.
  • The Season: traveling in February is what I mostly attribute the affordability of our trip to. Our flights to and from Oakland, California cost just $520 round-trip via Norwegian Air! I highly recommend this airline. 2 meals for a 10 hour flight.

IMPORTANT OBSERVATIONS and TIPS FOR TRAVELING IN EUROPE:

  • The Bathrooms (or WC as they say in Europe): you have to pay to use all public bathrooms (this was quite the detriment for my small bladder). I highly suggest dining at restaurants that have bathrooms so you can use them then.
  • Drinking Water: there is no such thing as free water at restaurants! This is definitely something I’ve taken for granted in North America. Buy cheap bottled water or fill up a water bottle at your hotel/Airbnb. Tap water was safe to drink at all the cities we stayed in except for Barcelona (according to our host).
  • Public Transit: if you choose to take public transit everywhere like we did, make sure you have lots of change on you! Many machines only take coins. If machines do take card, then they must be a credit card with a PIN number. I highly suggest getting combo day passes if you’ll be taking transit a lot (e.g. we got a discounted 3-day pass in Paris).
  • Cash and Currency: many places in Europe are cash only and I highly suggest taking out pounds and euros back home and not once you’re on vacation. We made the mistake of bringing American cash to exchange in Europe only to find that they take a lot of commission when converting the cash for you. Also see if your bank offers free credit cards to use abroad! We got one from Bank of America with zero fees and tried to use it as much as possible overseas.

I hope this was helpful for your future European travels! Let me know in the comments below if you have any questions. I hope to write more in-depth blog posts on each city shortly, which I’ll link to here.


PICTURE HIGHLIGHTS from OUR EUROPE TRIP:

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London: Neal’s Yard Covent Garden is an adorable spot for food and shopping

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London: Sherlock Holmes’ abode, which is now features a museum and tour

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Paris: The obligatory Eiffel Tower photo

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Paris: Even in the off season, the crowds of people doing selfies at the Arc de Triomphe was slightly overwhelming!

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Paris: Pont des Arts, which was once home to thousands of love locks

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Madrid: Legs at Plaza de Jacinto Benavente

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Madrid: Having fun at Parque del Retiro

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Amsterdam: A sample of its beautiful homes

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Amsterdam: Exploring the scenic Jordaan neighborhood

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Berlin: Part of the Berlin Wall Memorial

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Berlin: 4 dreamy statues and the Berliner Dom

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Barcelona: Arc du Triomf (yes, they have one too!)

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Barcelona: Inside the breathtaking – and still under construction – Basilica de la Sagrada Familia

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Barcelona: Taking in the sun at Playa de la Barceloneta


I would love to hear about your past and future Europe travel plans in the comments below! Also let me know if you have any questions about our trip.


Travel Tips: Labour Day Weekend in Southern California

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Leo Carillo State Park Beach

Our last visit to Southern California was on Fourth of July weekend where we stayed at a Torrance, CA Airbnb and spent most of our time at beaches (and looking for parking at beaches). Needless to say, visiting during America’s rowdiest weekend was a bit overwhelming. We hoped to explore Orange County, but failed to find parking at both Huntington and Newport Beach after much circling, and only succeeded at 7pm when we arrived at Laguna Beach. Our SoCal visit this time around was a bit less hectic to say the least.

We stayed at my aunt’s place in Pacific Palisades for two nights, which is nestled right in between Santa Monica and Malibu. She was a fantastic host and introduced us to places we wouldn’t have found on our own as tourists. I didn’t get a chance to write a full recap of that last SoCal trip, but want to offer suggestions on some unique things to do down there that we got to experience this time around.

Suggestions for Your Southern California Trip:

  • Palisades Park in Santa Monica – a great spot to relax and stroll just a few blocks away from the congested Santa Monica Pier and 3rd Street Promenade.
  • Sawtelle Blvd – if you like Asian food, this is the place to be! You’ll find sushi, ramen, and all the Asian desserts your heart fancies in this hip Asian neighbourhood. Bar-Hayama has $5.55 happy hour food from 5:30-7pm everyday.
  • The Arts District – we stumbled upon a lesser-known free gallery called Hauser Wirth & Schimmel, which is worth checking out if you’re into art.
  • The Garment District – you’ll feel like you’re shopping in local Mexico here! Comb through the cheesy graphic tees and knock-off bags to find some genuinely nice pieces.
  • Koreatown – I finally got to check out Ktown and it did not disappoint! We got lunch in Koreatown Plaza’s food court at Awoolim, which Yelp recommended.
  • Hiking in Topanga State Park – since I was a bit under the weather, we found a really easy hike at the Santa Ynez Waterfall trailhead. Despite being dry due to drought, the canyon was a really worthwhile destination.
  • Leo Carillo State Park Beach in Malibu – not super busy even on a long weekend and offers tide pools and picturesque rock formations.

Pictures from the Weekend in Southern California

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Palisades Park in Santa Monica

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Art at Palisades Park in Santa Monica

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Our Sake Bottle at Bar-Hayama on Sawtelle Blvd

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Art Piece at Hauser Wirth & Schimmel in the Arts District

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Food at Koreatown Plaza in Ktown

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Zuma Beach in Malibu

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Santa Ynez Waterfall in Topanga State Park

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Steps Down to Leo Carillo State Park Beach from the Highway

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Painted Underpass at Leo Carillo State Park Beach

 

Thoughts and tips on Southern California? Let me know in the comments below!

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Travel Story: A Day and a Half in Lake Tahoe

According to my Roger, I am “hard to surprise” because I’m always so busy. And so I was more than happy when he told me Saturday morning that he’d booked a night in Lake Tahoe. After parting ways with a friend from home that afternoon, we set off from Berkeley to Tahoe City, which took about 3 hours. We checked into the quaint Tahoe City Inn, which he had gotten last minute at $180/night. Being the bustling summer destination that it is, this was the most affordable he could find on a Saturday night. Our room was spacious and we were pleased that they have continental breakfast from 8am-10am.

That night, we ventured down the block to Japanese joint, Doma Sushi Met Galbi, which came highly recommended on Yelp. The family-owned business’ staff were extremely friendly and the rolls were delicious and fresh. After, we wandered down the main road of Tahoe City mostly playing Pokemon Go (there are quite a few Pokestops scattered throughout town) and walked down the marina pier. This place was perfect for a beautiful and relaxing stroll into what felt like a pastel-coloured cloud during sunset. We stumbled upon Tahoe Mountain Brewing to down a couple pints shortly after. The night was capped off by grabbing more beer at Safeway to enjoy in our hotel room where we were accompanied by TLC and the Food Network – 2 channels I haven’t had the guilty pleasure of viewing since living home with my parents.

Our second and – sadly – final day was mostly occupied by kayaking on the north tip of Lake Tahoe by King’s Beach. After comparing a few rental places in the area, we chose Tahoe Paddle & Oar for its affordable price ($75 for one double kayak for 3hrs). The excursion was super worthwhile and while not too far of a trek –  it was cool to kayak across the California-Nevada state line! Our journey back to shore was a bit more choppy than the trip we took over to the Nevada side.

Post-kayaking, we drove back to Tahoe City to grab fish n’ chips at Tahoe Mountain Brewing and went down to the beach. My one major piece of advice about beaches in Tahoe is to go to King’s Beach instead of Tahoe City’s beach. The City’s beach was rocky and muddy, whereas King’s Beach is laden with soft white sand and clear blue water. In hindsight, we wish we had spent more time there.

Overall, I highly recommend a weekend in Tahoe City and north Lake Tahoe!

The Trip in Pictures…

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A stroll down Tahoe City Marina

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Boats off the Marina

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Kayaking from California to Nevada

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Resting Our Arms

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Fun in the Double Kayak

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Tahoe City’s Animal Tree

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Found this “Historic” Lil’ Gem in Tahoe City Thanks to Pokemon Go

Thoughts on Lake Tahoe? Did I miss something in Tahoe City? Let me know in the comments below!

Napa: 12 Wineries in One Day

After relocating from Vancouver, BC to California in August 2014, I was thrilled to hear my parents planned their first weekend trip to visit me. We only had 2.5 days together so I planned a weekend where they could see as much as possible (without the San Francisco touristy destinations, which they’ve already done).

After hiking and sightseeing around the Point Reyes National Seashore and Marin Headlands on the Saturday, we ventured bright and early to Napa the next morning. And when I say bright, that is no exaggeration – the temperature that day rose to over 40 degrees Celsius (over 100 degrees Fahrenheit). We couldn’t wait to hop into each winery for the strong winds of air conditioning.

As the title states, we managed to visit a total of 12 wineries in one day. Don’t worry – that doesn’t mean we had 12 wine tastings, but that we saw the grounds of 12 different places. Some of which are very worth seeing. If you’re looking to show some out-of-towners Napa in one day, feel free to take a page from our book:

Itinerary for Napa in One Day:

9:00AM – Arrive at the Napa Valley Welcome Center as soon as it opens for an extensive map and 2-for-1 tasting coupons.

10:30AM – Drive all the way up to the north end of Napa to the town of Calistoga and have brunch. I highly recommend the French/Cajun spot, Evangeline.

11:30AM-6:00PM – Explore the wineries as you make your way back to downtown Napa to your heart’s content! Here are the 12 we ventured to in order:

* Indicates what I’d recommend stopping at

  1. *Chateau Montelena ($25/person tasting)
  2. Sterling
  3. Clos Pegase
  4. Charles Krug
  5. Trinchero
  6. *Berringer
  7. *Sutter Home (free tasting)
  8. *Heitz (free tasting)
  9. Beaulieu Vineyard (BV)
  10. Andretti
  11. Darioush
  12. *Hess Collection

Note: you definitely want to start the wineries early, as many of them close at 4/4:30PM. Neither of these require reservations either.

6:00PM – Stop by Oxbow Public Market to check out some trinkets, fun shops, and unique food vendors.

6:30PM – Dinner in downtown Napa. I found Spanish tapas eatery, ZuZu, on Yelp and it did not disappoint. The tapas are quite small however, so maybe opt for dessert after. We got gelato from Frati Gelato Cafe around the corner.

The Day in Photos…

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Evangeline for Brunch in Calistoga

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Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict and the Waffle

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Waiting for our Tasting at Chateau Montelena

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Chateau Montelena

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The Chinese-Inpspired Lake at Chateau Montelena

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Private Tasting Section at Chateau Montelena

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Unexpected Chalkboard at Sterling Vineyards

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The Iconic Napa Valley Welcome Sign

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At the Berringer Winery Grounds

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Berringer

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Heitz Winery

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The Columns at Darioush

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The Art Collection at Hess Collection

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The Prawns and Octopus at Zuzu in Downtown Napa

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Mexican Nachos and the Best Tapa – Flat Iron Steak

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Downtown Napa

Thoughts on Napa? Let me know in the comments below!