One Hour From: San Francisco
Raise your glass to the charms of Sonoma Valley. Idylic isles, fine wines and roaming robots ? this can only be California.
Monday 23 September 2002
Founded by Count Haraszthy in 1857, Buena Vista is the oldest and most charming winery in the Sonoma Valley. Tempt your tastebuds in the original stone-built press room and stroll around the sumptuous sunny gardens littered with fabulous fountains.
By car: take US 101 north and follow signs for Sonoma, then head for Old Winery Road; journey time approx 1 hour 10mins.
Feel like Zeus looking earthward from the top of mighty Mount Tamalpais, which, at 2,600ft, provides eye-boggling views of San Francisco to the southeast, the glittering Pacific to the west, and redwoods country to the north. Drive almost to the summit or follow the old Miwok Indian trails across this state park's steep hillsides, through stands of gnarly old oaks and orange monkeyflowers.
By car: take Highway 1 north, followed by the Panoramic Highway to the park's entry point; journey time 40 mins.
If you think the only interesting island in the Bay is Alcatraz, then take a ferry to its lovelier sister. With hiking trails, forests and serene sunny bluffs, Angel Island provides the ultimate escape from the usual tourist hangouts. This former military base protected San Francisco's gold supply during the civil war, but today's Angel is now strictly a bird sanctuary. Explore the island and its ghost town by tram or on foot.
By boat: frequent ferry from Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf; journey time 25 mins.
This amusement park is pricey at $43 entry, but promises motion sickness in so many different ways. Try the new V2 – Vertical Velocity, a spiralling impulse coaster that accelerates you to 70 mph while it tosses you up and down in 150ft cycles. Still standing? Then let your feet dangle from the Medusa, the fastest, highest roller coaster in the West. If you visit in October, don't miss the Halloween Fright Fest.
By car: take US 101 north, followed by Highway 37; journey time approx 30mins.
The Technology Museum of Innovation
This museum doesn't just display gadgets, it lets you toy with them, too, in the aptly named Imagination Playground. In a constant state of change, natch, its exhibits feature computers, lasers, space, futuristic stuff and programs for children.
By car: take US 101 south to San Jose; journey time approx 1 hour.
Travelbag (0870 890 1459; www.travelbag.co.uk) offers a seven-night room-only break at the Holiday Inn Civic Centre, from £756 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights from Heathrow and seven days' fully inclusive car hire.
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