Northern California Family Adventure

As our kids have grown, Charlie and I have begun the task of using our summer vacations to plan a great family trip through Caroline.   Last year we conquered Jackson Hole, Wyoming and treated the kids to Yellow Stone National Park.  We had an amazing trip filled with up-close and personal wildlife, horseback riding, heart-pounding white water rafting and beautiful hikes and biking.  With every activity we grew closer as a family, each of us amazed at the unbelievable landscapes of the Teton Mountains.

This July we had just returned from our Northern California Adventure.  It is important in our trip planning that we have trips that not only engage sightseeing and education; but incorporate a ton of outdoor activities as well, not only to keep the family active but to tire out our three children!

This year our trip began flying into the Monterey Peninsula Airport.  We began our journey in the Monterey / Carmel area of California.  From the airport landing at high noon we took off immediately to the Monterey Aquarium and checked out the sights of Cannery Row (remember John Steinbeck)!  Our kids loved the Aquarium and spent hours there taking in all the wonderful exhibits.  There are some great behind the scene tours as well.  Next, we checked-in at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands Inn.  The views are spectacular and a great pool for kids to unwind in at the end of a long day.  Carmel-By-The-Sea is the shopping and restaurant area that we found ourselves enjoying everyday while we were in the area.  My favorite breakfast spot (I had to eat there twice), Katy’s, had at least 15 different choices of eggs benedicts not to mention pancakes to waffles galore (and big portions too!) Carmel offered Charlie a round of golf at Pebble Beach (check that off his bucket list).  We took in a deep breath of salty sea-air as we coasted down the Pacific Ocean, soaking in the sun and views from the 17-mile drive to our drive down to Big Sur.   The kids enjoyed the beach, fall temperatures and hikes.

Next was our four-hour drive to Yosemite National Park where we stayed at the Ahwahnee Hotel.  We took the suggestion of a particular way into the park so we could tackle The Mariposa Grove (The Giant Sequoia Trees) & Glacier Point (Ariel view of Yosemite Valley floor).  These are two highlights of the Park.  We are thrilled to have been able to now have shown our kids two great National Parks in the USA!  In Yosemite we did have a private guide one day through Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides (Laura) who took us on a 3-hour hike on the first part of the day only to encounter our first BEAR!  After the bear glanced out way I was barely capable of functioning.  Somehow I mustered up the courage to grab a quick photo (not sure that was a very bright thing to do)!  The guide made us feel at ease and he soon went on his merrily way.  The hiking, Yosemite falls and Mirror Lake will all be cherished memories for us to remember.  The Awahnee offered a nice dining room to eat in with a wonderful piano player at the end of every day.  As always, after viewing Yellow Stone and now Yosemite you see why the recommendation to keep these breathtaking landscapes available for all to enjoy are a public treat.

Last we hit the big city of San Fran.  The steep streets and hills took the kids by surprise-so different from Richmond, VA.  We stayed at the deluxe Four Seasons, who were kind enough to have 3 big chocolate chip cookies the size of a dinner plate waiting for them in their room upon arrival!  We showed them the Chinese Cookie Factory (of course sampled a few cookies along the way) and took off walking around the very clean China Town.  We always utilize a city tour when in a big city to show us the highlights; Great Pacific Tour Company did a great job for about 4 hours explaining the history of San Fran and of course highlighting the big earthquake/fire of 1906.  The kids loved Lombardy Street, Alcatraz Tour is a must, and or course riding the cable cars!  Our favorite dinner spots were:  A16, Boulevard and Townhall!  I’m such a foodie that my dinners reservations at all our destinations are always researched in advance so as not to miss a thing when it comes to the local talent in a city.

This trip and its’ three very different areas:  Carmel, Yosemite and San Fran offered all of us the opportunity to see all the different landscapes Northern California has to offer.  It met our expectations of history (education), scenery, exercise, nature (wildlife), and of course great food.  Thank you again Caroline for another great summer experience!

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