Monday, December 13, 2010

Fantasy of Lights, Los Gatos

We hopped in our car Sunday night for what we thought would be a quick drive to Los Gatos to enjoy the "Fantasy of Lights" at Vasona Park. For the past 12 years, the park has hosted this massive show, with 40+ holiday-themed displays you can cruise by from the comfort of your car. As we drove toward the park, we idly wondered what special event might be taking place, given the road closures, traffic control and signage about. Rather belatedly, we realized the light display IS the special event, and the line of cars was everyone ahead of us waiting to enter the park! So a half hour gander to see some pretty lights turned into a two hour round trip, with 45 minutes spent edging toward the park entrance, and another 45 minutes to crawl along the park's road. There is plenty of time to admire each display - and, it should be said, it is an impressive show. The Fantasy of Lights runs through December 31st, nightly from 6pm - 10pm, $15 per car.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Day Tripping: Over the Golden Gate

Ok, so we have all gone to gaze at the iconic bridge, and most of us have probably driven, pedaled or walked across it. But what exactly is there to do you do once you cross? Quite a bit, as it turns out. A popular option is to putter about in the shops and galleries of Sausalito (this can also be accomplished as a nice day trip on the ferry from San Francisco's Pier 41).

With spring weather still making an appearance, we decided to cross the bridge and head to Muir Woods, a lovely tract of preserved forest with both paved and unpaved trails crossing through it. (Going in the morning is the best bet to avoid the crowds and buses). After a good hike through the redwoods - the largest over 250 feet and some 1,000 years old - we were ready for some lunch. The Dipsea Cafe in Mill Valley provided a bright and casual stop with a menu large enough to please everyone.

A scenic drive along highway 1 took us to Stinson Beach, a long wide swath of white sand that is one of the best beaches I have seen in Northern California. While it looks lovely from the car window, it is often windy and cool here, so come prepared! On our way back, we made a quick detour into Point Reyes National Seashore to hike down to the lighthouse, which was built in the 1870s, and enjoy the vistas.

We'll certainly head this way again, as there is much left to explore.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Fun in the snow

When most people think Northern California and snow, they think Tahoe. And while the Lake Tahoe area certainly offers many great options - Heavenly, California's largest resort; Squaw Valley, home to the 1960 winter Olympics; and the snowboarding mecca Sierra-at-Tahoe among them - it is far from the only show in town. Shasta Cascade, Mammoth Lakes and Central Sierra all offer great winter options for skiing, boarding or just enjoying a winter wonderland.

With so many choices, and just as many opinions on which is the best destination, I won't even attempt to run down them all, but rather point out some great websites to help you decide on your perfect winter get away.

First and foremost, of course, is the weather. Check out the conditions before you leave; depending on your route and destination, you'll also need to know if you will require tire chains or other gear for your car. provides snow and weather conditions at the resorts, while provides detailed highway conditions.

Next up, a little research on what type of resort you want - diamond runs, family friendly, great apres ski, back country or boarding options, or perhaps a bit of everything. At you will find a nice overview of the different destinations, with site specific links. At you will find a very well laid out site providing resort information, conditions, lodging details, reviews and summaries to help you decide which destination will best suit your needs.

The season can start as early as November and runs well into spring, so there is no excuse to get out and enjoy the California snow!