It’s not feeling particularly fall-like out here, and that day was especially hot. We stayed for just over an hour, rushing around to see as much as we could, before escaping back to the comfort of an air-conditioned car. It was easily 100 degrees.
In “5 Things,” I’ll ask some of my favorite bloggers in cities all over the country to share insider travel tips on where to eat, shop, stay, and play in their neighborhoods (plus, what to pack to make the adventure complete). This week, Jennifer Young introduces us to the town of San Luis Obispo.
Welcome to the happiest city in America (or so Oprah says!). San Luis Obispo, aka SLO, is a charming coastal town located right between Los Angeles and San Francisco. I’ve been lucky enough to call this place home for the past five years. It’s the perfect place to visit for a weekend getaway, whether you’re in need of a trip to the great outdoors or just want a beautiful pit stop when traveling between LA and SF. There’s so much to do in the area, but here are some of my top picks.
Novo, 726 Higeura Street, (805) 543-3986
Novo is a local and tourist favorite in the heart of downtown SLO. Their outdoor patio dining in the evening is an SLO experience not to be missed. They serve a global cuisine with a plethora of wine choices (and great cocktails, too!).
Ruby Rose, 1235 Monterey Street, (805) 545-7964
Ruby Rose is the best place to shop, hands down. I don’t consider SLO to be a place for great shopping, but Ruby Rose will sweep you off your feet. From the gals at Ruby Rose themselves: “Combined with our love of junking, paired with the spirit of the road trip, we travel around the West Coast in our Airstream trailer. We scour flea markets, thrift stores, estate & yard sales to bring back lovelies to our vintage shop located in the quaint town of San Luis Obispo, California.”
Ruby Rose is open from Tuesday to Saturday, 11 AM — 5 PM, and Sunday 12 PM — 4 PM. Make time in your schedule to visit this gem of a place!
Granada Hotel and Bistro, 1126 Morro Street, (805) 544-9100
Another gem in the heart of downtown, Granada Hotel and Bistro is an ideal place to stay if you want to be in the center of everything — but with only 17 guest rooms and suites, make sure to book early. They have everything you will need for your stay in downtown SLO — access to complimentary Linus bikes; an indoor lounge with a fireplace; a rooftop patio for drinks and people watching; a downstairs bistro that serves brunch, lunch, dinner, and dessert; and a spa. What more could you need? (Oh, and a major bonus if you’re staying there on a Thursday evening — you’ll be steps away from SLO’s weekly farmers’ market. It’s the best!)
When I think of San Luis Obispo, the first thing that comes to mind is the abundance of beaches and hiking/running trails available. It’s a really great city to be in if you want to unplug and spend some time to soak in the beauty of the outdoors. I have so many favorite trails and beaches, but hiking Bishop’s Peak is high on the list. Make it to the top and you’ll get the best view of this charming city!
A great weekender bag like this one from Cuyana* would suffice for a trip here to SLO. Oh and don’t forget to pack your sunnies and sunblock if you plan to spend a lot of time outside! Enjoy!
After we landed in Los Angeles last Saturday, we went straight to Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice. There were a few cool shops and restaurants there when we lived in LA, but it was nothing like it is now—Steven Alan, A+R, Jack Spade, Firefly, Linus… and a few dozen delicious places to eat and drink line the blocks.
We started with brunch upstairs at The Tasting Kitchen.
We’ve been visiting Napa and Sonoma for years, but it wasn’t until last week that we finally spent an evening enjoying the Napa Valley Wine Train. We’ve seen it glide past (while we’ve sat at a red light, roshambo-ing for the role of designated driver) and have always been curious. So when they offered us a chance to come aboard for a date, I didn’t hesitate.
In case you aren’t familiar with it, the Napa Valley Wine Train is an antique train (think refurbished 1915-1917 Pullman Cars) that runs on 25-miles of track through the valley while you sip wine and eat a multi-course meal (prepared onboard). This summer, it celebrates its 25th anniversary!
Here are some scenes from the evening—which was gorgeous!
Earlier this month, over the mother’s day weekend, Aron and I drove into Yountville (a little town in Napa that you may have heard of thanks to some fella named Thomas Keller) and had an anniversary lunch at Redd.
Redd won me over with the best mocktail (and a delicious meal) when I was pregnant with Hudson. This was the first time we’d been back, and I still loved it. The menu is a bit eclectic—many dishes have a bit of an Asian-fusion aspect whereas others are steadfastly European—but everything we’ve had has been great. I was especially excited about indulging in things like hamachi sashimi and tuna tartare (their take is amazing), oysters and (real) cocktails—the sorts of things that had been off limits last time (and throughout most of the past year).
But I was also reminded what a pleasure it is to indulge in a special midday meal.
I was thinking back fondly on our visit to the stunning tidepools outside of Monterey, and it occurred to me that I had a lot more to say about that trip and about paying a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium on your next trip to the central coast of California.
For one, where you should eat—which you know is always of chief concern to me. There’s a relatively new restaurant (it opened last year) inside the aquarium called Cindy’s Waterfront. If you’re traveling with kids and you’re absolutely sure that you can’t get them to settle for a sit-down lunch, there’s a new café attached as well; but if you can manage it, be sure and make reservations for window seats at the restaurant. We stopped by the desk first thing when we arrived and put our name in, but just to be safe, call ahead (they’re only open 11-3).
One of the best places to stop if you’re headed to Napa is the Oxbow Public Market—a marketplace filled with a focus on local farms and food vendors, and on supporting the surrounding region. It’s a reliably good place to pick up picnic supplies, like cheese and cupcakes, and Ritual coffee (in other words, dietary staples of sorts), before setting out to find your favorite winery.
The Market is located at 610 and 644 First Street in Napa, and most of the vendors are open late. There’s also a Farmer’s Market in the parking lot on Tuesdays and Saturdays, May through October.
And P.S. They have the best bathroom solution for avoiding those piles of wasted paper towels by the door!
Rounding out a slightly almond-themed week, some scenes from last weekend’s blossom festival…
Every spring—this year earlier than some—acres of almond orchards around here burst into incredible displays of pale pink of white blooms, and start to buzz, literally, as bees go to work pollinating trees. If you neglect to get out and about around the time the blossoms are on the branches, however, you could miss them entirely. So around the middle of February, I start looking for signs of spring in the neighborhood… and start asking friends who pass by the farms on a regular basis: “any blooms yet?”
It would be a shame to miss something as beautiful and transient as this.
On the Monday of President’s day weekend, Aron and I (and Skyler) drove out to Healdsburg—a small town at the very northern tip of Sonoma—to visit Shed, a relatively new cafe/shop space that means to update the concept of the local grange, bringing together “good farming, good cooking, and good eating.” I had first heard of its opening (and, notably, its beautiful, glass-enclosed, barn-like design) a while back and had been hoping to visit ever since; but Healdsburg always seemed like a bit too much of a trek—as compared to Calistoga or Napa, for example. Turns out it was well worth the effort.
It’s been a fantastic year. I can’t believe this past Sunday marked six years of blogging on Hither & Thither. It continues to inspire me—owing so much to the feedback and comraderie I get from readers, but also thanks to the joy of having an outlet to practice skills like writing and photography and to the joy of documenting and sharing personal milestones. I would have never expected this to become the rewarding work that it has, when Aron and I first started building the space together on that cold January day. (He wrote the first post! With no photos!)
I really enjoyed looking back over highlights last year, at five years, and hoped you might again, too. (Warning: it’s a long one!) …
Aron and I drove up to Tahoe on Thursday evening for what one might call a “babymoon,” leaving Hudson is the care of grandparents. For Aron’s 35th birthday, his parents generously gifted him two nights at the Ritz-Carlton, so we were eager to take advantage of the opportunity before baby girl arrives (which could be any time, really, within the next six weeks).
The gorgeous hotel sits mid-mountain at Northstar-at-Tahoe ski resort and is ski-in/ski-out. Sadly, I couldn’t take advantage of this feature (I’ve always wanted to stay somewhere and do that!), but there was plenty else to enjoy (not least of all the view of others living out my ski-in-dreams from our room).
The weekend before Thanksgiving, we paid a repeat visit to Miller’s Citrus Grove—a 5-acre citrus farm from where we’ve (for years) been gifted, and from where we’ve (now) purchased delicious, sweet Mandarins. It’s always a pleasure to go to the source—which, in this case, is about 40 minutes away in Placer County, roughly 30 miles east of Sacramento. The fruit is left to ripen on the tree, so it’s exceptionally sweet.
As with the previous year, something in the golden, setting sun said fall, while the start of the mandarin season beckoned winter.
After we returned from our weekend in Yosemite, many people remarked on how much they’d like to (one day) stay at the Ahwahnee. The Ahwahnee is pretty much the pinnacle of National Park Lodges, in my opinion. It’s what many of us picture when we think of a classic mountain lodge. It’s just that it also happens to be very, very expensive.
Here’s the thing: you don’t have to be a guest to enjoy it. Just go for their lavish Sunday brunch—and spend some time looking around!
What’s especially nice is that you don’t have to dress up for brunch the way you’d have to for dinner. I packed myself a new Fair Isle Cardigan and, for Hudson, a Buffalo Plaid shirt, both from Old Navy. But even if you’re camping, just throw in a decent-looking sweater and you’re set! Such a nice way to come off of trail food.
One of the best things about living in Davis?
And 40 miles to Calistoga.
Even having visiting some pretty incredible places this summer (like Paris, Lake Tahoe, and Maui, for example), I’d count this day trip as a highlight of the season—one of the more awesome things we’ve done.
Up near Nevada City, where Route 49 (the “Mother Lode-” or “Gold Country Highway”) crosses South Yuba River, a series of swimming holes form when the river flow is low—perfectly cool on a hot day, which most summer days around here are.
Our friends showed us this spot, roughly an 1hr45min-drive from Davis, and reminded us why again it’s so exciting to have the chance to get reacquainted with Northern California.
It was Labor Day weekend when we went, and while we certainly weren’t alone (it’s a popular local spot), there is plenty of riverbed and boulders to spread out along if you’re prepared to do some ambling and/or swimming. That said, it was a bit of a challenge to get to the spot we spied with a two-year-old, a bag of picnic supplies, and a slightly-less useful pregnant lady. (It was nice to have a strong husband and some good friends to share the burden of crossing the water with kids—and then, crossing back again!) In other words, best to be prepared.
Once we found our spot and laid down our things, however, it was perfect! There was some current and you could swim downstream passing through and around the rocks, or you could eddy out into a smaller pool and just enjoy the scenery.
One of our favorite discoveries was this whirlpool (i.e. back massager) in a narrow, but fairly deep hollowed rock. Even Hudson took his turn standing in the small pool. When you were sitting inside, you couldn’t hear anything but the pounding water!
In the spring, when water levels are high, the current would be too fast (and the water too cold) for swimming. Here’s a site with flow data, but in general, late summer (and very early fall) is probably the best time to visit. The South Yuba River State Park association has more information.
Spots in the shade are hard to find along the river, and so while I wouldn’t recommend carrying too much if you plan to move around, do be sure to bring plenty of water and some sunscreen if you visit! Oh—and some non-slip water shoes! I wish I had done so.
A perfectly exhausting day in the sun. Even In-N-Out couldn’t rouse Hudson, who completely collapsed from all the fun.
aka “The easiest (half) day trip to the city with a transportation-loving toddler.”
A few weekends back, we drove into the city—grabbing breakfast in the car—with pretty much the express purpose of giving Hudson his first ride on a cable car. We ended up spending just a half-day in San Francisco, but it was the perfect morning—with something for everyone.
We used an app called ParkNow to find inexpensive parking near Fisherman’s Wharf before walking a few blocks over to Ghiradelli square. I noted, for future reference, that we were also starting out by Buena Vista Cafe which—if you’re a fan—makes a deliciously strong Irish Coffee (it originated the recipe). But we were on a mission: On weekends, and in the busy summer tourist season, it’s best to be at the cable car turnarounds as early as possible.