1. San Francisco's 49 Mile Drive.
This is one of my favorite urban drive trips in America. It starts at City Hall and winds through Japantown, Chinatown, North Beach, the Presidio, Lands End, Golden Gate Park, the Mission District, the Embarcadero and much more, and never leaves the city of San Francisco. It's an historic route, established at the time of the world's fair on Treasure Island in the late 30's. Just follow the seagull.
>> More details here and here (49 Mile Drive Part 2).
2. The Black Diamond Mines.
This is the Appalachia of California, in the hills near Antioch and now part of the East Bay Regional Parks District. In the mid-late 19th century and into the early 20th, coal was mined here. Later, it became a center of sand mining for glass production. The mines have been carefully restored and are interpreted by East Bay Parks. The old communities that once flourished nearby are long gone, but bittersweet reminders remain....in a cemetery on a hill. It's a fascinating day trip back in time.
>> More details here
3. Point Reyes National Seashore.
I love Point Reyes....and recommend it as a multi-faceted vacation getaway in our own backyard. Nature and human history are on display, in the forms of Tule Elk, beautiful and diverse landscapes and a dramatic lighthouse above the Pacific. All that, and native American and geological history from the 1906 earthquake...adventure sports such as kayaking on Drakes Estero and Tomales Bay and fantastic west Marin organic food.....and you can easily spend your next vacation there....or drop by for the day or the weekend. It's world class.
>> More details here
4. Speaking of animals.
Winter is a terrific time to see wildlife in great numbers in northern California. The grand bird migrations in the Central Valley. Elephant seals on the coast, up close and personal. More elk on the Delta or up the coast, otters and seals on and near Monterey Bay...and maybe some California Condors if you keep your eyes peeled in Big Sur.
>> Elephant Seals
>> Grizzly Island
>> Birds of Los Banos
5. Ride the Rails and imagine Charlie Chaplin.
Take a ride behind an historic steam locomotive in Niles Canyon. It's a beautiful ride through a lovely landscape. Before you board the train, visit Niles and see why it was California's early Hollywood. Almost 100 years ago, western movies were made there by Bronco Billy Anderson who invited a friend to come and make some films of his own. His friend was a little-known director and performer named Charlie...and the rest is history. End the day by dining in Sunol, and celebrate the legacy of Bosco, the only California dog to be twice elected the mayor of a city.
>> More details here
About Doug McConnell:
Doug McConnell, co-founder and host of www.openroad.tv, The Traveler's Video Guide to the American West, has spent a lifetime exploring the open roads of the American West and beyond, both personally and professionally. From 1993 to 2008, he was the host and senior editor of KRON Television's, "Bay Area Backroads," the longest-running and most popular regional television series in northern California. Prior to joining "Backroads," Doug hosted, reported and produced many other series, specials and news reports for KPIX Television in San Francisco, KING Television in Seattle, KAKM Public Television in Anchorage, PBS and CBS nationally, the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet nationally and internationally, and numerous other broadcast and cable outlets. He's received many regional Emmys and other television awards. Doug has also been recognized as Honorary National Park Ranger, Honorary California State Park Ranger, Volunteer of the Year by the San Francisco Bay Trail Project, and Humanitarian of the Year by the Marin Humane Society, and he's been given the prestigious Harold Gilliam Award for environmental reporting in northern California. In addition to his television work, Doug has managed significant communications programs for the President's Commission on Coal, the Governor of Alaska, the University of Alaska, The Institute of Ecology, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and many other institutions. He holds a B.A. in Government from Pomona College and an M.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University.