Luxury experiences in California that are not to be missed

California, home to the stars and to some of the best natural wonders, food and wine in the world as well. You can think of Hollywood, Yosemite National Park, the Redwoods and the wineries. But how best to see and better still experience these glories.  Here are some of my favourite ways to spend a day.

Beach, oysters & wine trail

This day combines all my loves. You will be collected from your San Francisco hotel  by your Evergreen Escapes driver who is also a naturalist guide and driven across the Golden Gate Bridge, through the artistic community of Sausalito and up the coast along the rugged Point Reyes National Seashore. Taste oysters fresh from the clear, crisp waters of Tomales Bay. Visit the  Fort Ross Vineyards’ Tasting room in Sonoma County with its glorious views across the hills to the Pacific Ocean beyond. Try the Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and its celebrated Pinotage and enjoy a delicious picnic lunch.  You will be back in San Francisco in time for dinner full of fresh air and bonhomie.

From the Golden Gate to the rolling hills of the Napa Valley

Your Allure limousine will collect you from your San Francisco hotel  to Napa Valley for an entire day of private wine tasting among the beautiful, rolling hills of the Napa Valley. Your memorable day with include artisan cheese tasting, a picnic lunch and all the luxuries found in both the Valley and the Bay Area.  You will have private tastings, breathtaking views of the valley and of course world-class wines.  Finish your custom wine tour with dinner at a five-star restaurant before being driven back replete and happy to your hotel.

Broadway under the stars

Take your reserved seat in the VIP section in the Jack London State Park in Sonoma County to watch famous acts from Broadway perform on one of the most beautiful stages in the country. Past performers have included Broadway professionals from Wicked, Mamma Mia, Hairspray, The Book Of Mormon, Les Miserables, Jersey Boys and many more. The night includes VIP parking, pre-show picnicking, exploring and tasting from the food trucks, wine and your own GoVino glass to take home.

Fashion in San Francisco

If fashion is “your thing”, then this is the day for you. It is not mine, but I can think of several friends who would love it.  For six hours, Authentic Luxury Lifestyle will organise your private driver to take you to meet three or four fashion designers in their studios. You will meet a well-established designer, a bespoke designer and a small co-op of young designers.  You can talk to them about their work, current trends, what inspires them or anything else that spikes your curiosity.  Your day will include a lunch in one of San Francisco’s quirky restaurants washed down, as always in California, with a glass or two of wine.

Drive an exotic car

If  you have ever fancied driving an exotic or classic car.  This is your moment!  Whether it is a 1970s Cadilac de Ville, a McLaren, a modern Bentley or the latest Lamborghini Huracan Spyder, you can drive Highway 1 with the wind in your hair, roll around Hollywood – the choice is yours.  There are so many to choose from but I think my favourite from Legends Car Rental is the 1968 Corvette Stingray Convertible. Think Jackie Chan in Rush Hour.

You might even be able to drive this beauty: a 1928 Ford!  You can collect it from Los Angeles but I don’t think I would dare to drive it long distance.

Private chef class in Santa Barbara

You, and up to 8 of your friends, can join a top chef in the harbour of Santa Barbara at 8 o’clock in the morning where you will shop for fresh fish straight from the boats.  Next stop will be the Farmers’ Market to learn how to shop for the freshest, top quality ingredients and then you will go to the chef’s home for a hands on class.  The day, organised by Market Forays, will finish with a delicious feast and accompanied by premium local wines. Due to the early start, I would stay in Santa Barbara for at least two nights.  No penance, it is a lovely town with lots of really good hotels.

San Andreas Fault stargazing

I am aware that all my choices so far have been on or near the coast.  However, there are plenty of treats to find inland.   Go to Palm Springs for lots of reasons, golf, sunshine, tennis and the San Andreas Fault. Desert Adventures organise a private jeep tour of the fault by day, at sunset but my favourite is the stargazing one.  The air is so clear around here, the stars are amazing and the fault quite mind blowing. You will get to the area just before sunset so you will be able to watch the light changing and the stars appearing.

During the day in Palm Springs, you might like a private guided tour of some of the amazing mid 20th century houses or a private tour into Joshua National Park. Joshua is one of the newest National Parks and you would spend three hours in the park included a guided hike to Hidden Valley to see the majestic rock formations and the stunning Key’s View Overlook before returning to Palm Springs in  your private SUV passing through two deserts.

I hope this has given you some idea of the luxuries that California can provide.

Sandra Potter is Founder of Frontier Travel.

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Comments (8)

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  1. Lisa says:

    I love the sound of the beach, oysters and wine trail! I bet enjoying the oysters THAT fresh makes a huge difference to the taste. I’ll pass on the Pinotage, but the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir will do me nicely!

  2. Hi Sandra,

    I really like the idea of star gazing.

    Spending an evening looking up at the stars in such a pristine place works for me.

    As do all of these Cali activities.

    Driving an exotic cars ranks high on my list of awesome things to do as well. Inspired. Because I’ve not been behind the wheel of those classic rides. Brilliant.

    Any day at the beach works for me too. Especially in that area of California.

    More than any place, I’d love to visit both San Francisco and San Diego. Each feels unique to me.

    Thanks for sharing Sandra.

    Ryan

  3. Teresa says:

    California is such a unique area with so many different things to do. Thanks for highlighting just a couple of the activities – these all sound great. Broadway under the stars is especially appealing to me as I’m a big theatrical fan. The Book of Mormon has had such rave reviews, it would be great to see it in such a unique setting.

  4. Jeff says:

    That 1928 Ford is gorgeous! It looks in tip-top condition but I think I would agree with you about not driving it too far!!!

    I like the idea of the private chef class – I have done that a couple of times in Europe and learnt a lot, so that’s definitely something I’d like to give a go.

  5. Edward Bell says:

    “Wine and cheese” – you’re speaking my language, Sarah. You can’t really get to know a place until you’ve tasted it and you’ve got some great recommends. Thank you for supporting meeting artisans and the creators – you’re talking about a growing travel philosophy here. Travellers really want to get under the skin of a city, and generally that means they have to meet the people who breathe life into it. A walk down the street or ‘dropping the pin’ really can’t replace the human connection… especially when everyone has the internet in their pocket. Even if it is fun occasionally. Big part of the reason I love my job :) Thank you for such a meaningful post!

  6. Sara says:

    Oh wow this really sounds like the ideal way to spend time in California – there is so much to do here! I always hear about Napa Valley, it must be quite an experience. Would love to go to the Broadway outdoors show, that would be a fab way to spend a warm evening. These choices are great, but I would still love to do stuff like visit the Yosemite!!

    • hi Sara
      Glad you like the post – we can combine any of these ideas with Yosemite – you are right, it is a must visit and only about 3 hours from San Francisco.

    • Edward Bell says:

      Hey Sara, if you’re a nature lover, Yosemite will mesmerise you. It’s worth every ounce of organisation you’ll need to put in.

      I went to Yosemite in an RV late June this year and even though it’s so popular, it’s still in one of my top 10 experiences on the planet. If you’re dead set on Half Dome, permits are super competitive and I’d suggest applying in the pre-season lottery so you can plan your trip (the other option is to wait and try the daily lottery during the season – you can only apply 2 days before your hike day).

      Even if you don’t get to go to Half Dome, the 4 Mile track hike is challenging and will surprise you from every switchback (waterfalls, half dome and the village are worth a pit stop every few hundred steps). It’s a winner!

      Ahhh, I’m so excited for you to visit. You’ll absolutely love it. If you want to just chat or ask questions, leave a comment.

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