Written by and photos by Nadia Ibanez
Living in SF sans car can be slightly nerve-wracking for a person who can’t still on the weekends. While I’ve walked the streets and explored all of the emerging neighborhoods in town, sometimes a girl just needs to get some air outside of the City. Thankfully, I discovered Tower Tours, a travel bus company taking out of towners and Fog City newbies to the area’s best destinations.
Catering to visitors and new residents, Tower Tours offers day trips ranging in all varieties. Want to see all of the touristy sites in just a few hours time? The Grand City Tour takes guests around town for 3.5 hours to see the sights of the Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown, North Beach, Presidio, Palace of Fine Arts and more. Want to check out Alcatraz or go on a drive to Monterey? Tower Tours does that too.
I’ve gone on two tours with the North Beach-based tour company and had a great time on both treks. If you’re new to the City and don’t have a car in tow, I highly recommend getting acquainted with your new surroundings with this locally-based tour company.
Explore Muir Woods and Sausalito
After living in San Diego all my life, I was ready to check out the heavily forested areas up here, so a Muir Woods tour was on the top of my agenda. Just a short drive away on one of Tower Tours’ comfy chartered buses, our tour guide led us through popular destinations in the area before driving into the forested canyon just north of the City.
Even if you don’t have the slightest interest in visiting a national monument, new city dwellers like me will absolutely appreciate getting out of the stale-aired city and into the wilderness — even if it is just for a couple hours. We had about an hour and a half to play on our own once we arrived at Muir Woods and it was just enough time to climb some hills, take photos and breathe in all of the clear, crisp air. I highly recommend that you walk up to Bridge 3, which is only a half mile walk, circle back to Bridge 2 and walk along the Hillside Trail to get a bird’s eye view of the redwoods below.
After Muir Woods, our driver took us through the hills of Sausalito and into the downtown dining and shopping area. You can jump off the bus and spend the rest of the afternoon in Sausalito, before taking the ferry back into the City, or stay on the bus and ride over the Golden Gate Bridge back to your hotel. (Guests can be dropped off directly back at their hotel in the City, which is an amazing accompaniment to your ticket.)
Spend the day in Napa Wine Country
Napa and Sonoma wine country have been on bucket list for years and I finally had the chance to visit the area the other day. The City was cloudy so wine country and all of its sunshine were calling my name. Our group met early for this nine hour wine tour. We crossed the bridge to wine country while our guide talked about the history of the area and its people.
Tower Tours has maintained relationships with quite a few wineries in Napa and Sonoma, ranging in smaller, organic wineries to full-fledged, nationally recognized wineries. If you’re a newbie to Napa like me, this tour is a great way to get a lay of the land.
Apart from wine tasting, one of my favorite parts of the day was lunch. The group was dropped off in Yountville, the culinary mecca in wine country. Chefs like Michael Chiarello and Thomas Keller have restaurants on this dreamy restaurant row if you feel like indulging. Or, drop by any one of the other casual restaurants all within walking distance of each other.
I dropped by Addendum, the pick-up, boxed lunch version of Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc restaurant. I had my pick of the restaurant’s most popular dishes, buttermilk fried chicken, pulled pork or pork ribs. Always go for the fried chicken, which is served with a buttery biscuit and two sides. The park-like backyard in which Addendum lives is gorgeous and is a wonderful respite after a long day of wine tasting.
Whether you’re a new denizen like me, or just traveling through the City, Tower Tours is a great way to see this wonderful Neverland and its surrounding areas. For more information, visit www.TowerTours.com.