Have you been longing to take some time away but just don’t have the time or the budget to travel to a far off destination? Do you see the ads for the luxurious trips to spas, wineries and restaurants and just can’t wait to do them? Yes me too. I’ve been sitting on miles for years, thinking at some point I’d have both the time and the money to go to New Zealand for an extended trip. Remembering my trek across Australia 12 years ago (really? 12 years? Yikes!), and my requisite trip to Europe after…much after…college, I wonder if I’ll ever get the opportunity to truly travel.
To me, travel is distinctive of a vacation. To travel is to experience the culture, the region, the food, the wine, the rambling streets of shops. To travel is to get to know the town you are in, for however long you are there. be that a day, a week, or a month, you can get to know the town and it changes your experience.
So where am I going with with? With a little creativity and ingenuity, you can plan a staycation or mini break that incorporates these adventures close to home. We all have limitations. It might be the economy, it might be a mortgage, it might be college tuition. Today, over 90% of tourism is based on visiting family and friends. This is especially true as we head out and about, or home, for the holidays.
For those of us who live in the 9 county bay area, we are within 1 hour of several major wine tourism destinations. Yes, Napa and Sonoma are two of the most well known, but what about Livermore, Santa Cruz, and the smaller sub-AVAs of Sonoma? throw in a couple hours in the car and you can be in Amador, Calaveras, Mendocino, Anderson Valley, Hopland, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands, or Paso Robles.
As I plan my holiday activities, I think about how I can make each of these destinations a stop on my itinerary. Pick a place you’ve never been or haven’t been to recently. Stay for dinner. Many destinations are transformed after the witching hour, which might be 7pm on a Sunday or 9pm on a Saturday. Hang out in the local bar. experience the twon! There is nothing quite like waking up early in Carlton, Oregon and walking down the main street. Yes, the B&B breakfast was amazing, but so was the people watching at 8am as farmers of both vegetables and wine grapes got their day started.
Sitting in the plaza in Healdsburg at 8pm on a Sunday is an entirely different experience than sitting there on a busy Saturday. When the day trippers go back to the city, and the families go back to their suburban homes, the locals come out to play. Have a glass of wine in Bergamont Alley, or catch the Friday night music at Garagiste Healdsburg. If you are in Paso Robles, hang out at Villa Creek and play count the winemakers. Wherever you are, throw the guidebook away – and find out where the locals are enjoying their time off.
Wineries are often found in unexpected areas. Did you know there is an urban renaissance of wine business here in San Francisco? They are a well kept secret and most are not open to the public, but with a little digging you can visit some amazing producers right here in the city limits. Add a trip to Treasure Island, and you can get a history lesson as well as some great Rhone style wines from Winery SF. If you are planning a trip, one of my best suggestions is to sign up for flash sale daily deals (Groupon, Living Social etc) email alerts as well as a local events service. While you might get some spam from the daily deals, you are also likely to find out about a small wine bar or restaurant that you wouldn’t otherwise know. Some of my best discoveries both in my hometown as well as when travelling have been from these ideas, as well as from recommendations from friends.