Northern California Northern California
¤ Introduction ¤ Why Northern California?
¤ Geography ¤ History & Culture ¤ Recreation & Sports ¤ General Information¤ Request for Proposal

Highlights of
    Northern California

¤ San Francisco Bay Area ¤ The Wine Country (Napa/Sonoma)¤ The Gold Country
¤ Lake Tahoe¤ Yosemite National Park
¤ Monterey Peninsula/Carmel


Northern California is all you can imagine…and much more. With a geographic size approximately equal to France, it offers a rich mix of cultures, climates, natural resources, and landscapes. From the lush vineyards of Napa/Sonoma to the historic mining towns of the Gold Country to the grandeur of Yosemite to the majesty of Lake Tahoe to the dramatic coastline of Carmel/Monterey.

Northern California is a vivid tapestry offering something for everyone.

Northern California

For visitors preferring a cosmopolitan setting, San Francisco fits the bill, charming even the most jaded traveler with its beguiling hills, magnificent bridges, eccentric architecture and diverse neighborhoods, limitless restaurant choices, world-class hotels, dazzling nightlife, international museums, shopping, and popular sports events.

Northern Californaia Map
World Incentive Nexus can recommend a company to handle all details of a program in Northern California.


Why take an incentive group to Northern California?

  • Easy access by air from many countries to numerous locations in Northern California.
  • San Francisco: unique among America's cities and the cultural center of Northern California.
  • The natural wonders of the region.
  • Glimpses of wildlife from humpback whales to black bears.
  • The experience of Northern California's past and present: the life of gold seeking Forty-niners to survivors of the big 1906 earthquake.
  • Northern California welcomes visitors from around the world.


Geography Northern California encompasses an area bordered by the Pacific Ocean in the West, more than 15 sparsely populated counties to the north, the state of Nevada in the east and the great Central Valley and Southern California to the south.

A familiar route might take one from the city of San Francisco north across the Golden Gate Bridge through Marin County into Napa and Sonoma counties, east through the Sacramento Valley to the Gold Country, the Sierra Nevada Mountains and Lake Tahoe at the easternmost point in California and the state of Nevada, continuing southwestward to Yosemite and finally back to the Pacific Ocean through Monterey and Carmel.

There are six distinct regions featured in Northern California, any of which can be reached from San Francisco within a few hours. They include:

  • San Francisco Bay Area
  • The Wine Country (Napa/Sonoma)
  • The Gold Country
  • Lake Tahoe
  • Yosemite National Park
  • Monterey Peninsula/Carmel

History & Culture

After untold millennia of settlement by Native Americans, Northern California was visited in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries by a series of European explorers who sailed along the Pacific coastline and occasionally landed to take on water or make repairs.

A colonial province of the Spanish empire during the years 1769 to 1821, Northern California saw the founding of Franciscan missions whose presidios such as the one in San Francisco provided military protection for the emerging civilian centers.

With the discovery of gold in California at Sutter's Mill in 1848, news of the epoch-making discovery attracted hundreds of thousands of gold-seekers from across the country and around the world to Northern California. Their coming transformed not only the economic history of area, but much of its social, cultural, and political history as well.


The completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869 was another major event in Northern California history, and those who controlled the new technology of the "iron horse" became the wealthiest and most powerful men of their generation. The population and economy of Northern California continued to grow during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as agricultural production expanded and new industries appeared. Many of those who had amassed great gold or railroad fortunes built palatial summer estates and retreats in Lake Tahoe, and a burgeoning conservation movement, led by John Muir, strove to protect Northern California's vast natural reserves.


Like the rest of the country, Northern California was hit hard by The Great Depression, the economic collapse of the 1930s. Businesses failed, workers lost their jobs, and families fell into poverty, but in spite of the general gloom of the decade, Northern Californians continued to build and even constructed such landmarks as the Golden Gate Bridge. With the appeal of Prohibition in 1933, a renaissance of the wine industry began in Napa and Sonoma.

When World War II ended in 1945, Northern California played an important role as the site of the signing of the charter of the United Nations. Stability and prosperity continued through the next two decades. Once again Northern California came into the nation's spotlight with San Francisco as the heart of the 60's movement with the Haight-Ashbury alternative movement.


The history and culture of the Northern California is as varied as physical and cultural attributes of its regions, but one characteristic holds true - through the years, each one has developed into an unparalleled mecca for visitors from far and wide.


Highlights of Northern California

San Francisco Bay Area

San Francisco is not only one of America's most beautiful cities but also the most alternative and flamboyant. This combination has created a kaleidoscope of a city with each neighborhood being another bright light to amaze, from the stunning San Francisco Bay and its bridges, to the trolley cars trundling up the hilly streets and the bustling Chinatown. Following are just a few of the many attractions San Francisco has to offer.

San Francisco
  • Golden Gate Bridge
  • This suspension bridge that connects San Francisco with Marin County wows travelers with its rust-color beauty, 750-ft towers, and simple but powerful art deco design. Nearly two miles long, the Golden Gate, completed in 1937 after four years of construction, was built to withstand winds of more than 100 mph.

    Golden Gate Bridge
  • Cable Cars

  • Designated as official historic landmarks in 1964, these famous vehicles are by far the best way to experience the rise and fall of the San Francisco skyline. Originally invented in the 1880's to replace horses (since they often broke their legs) to help with climbing the steep hills because of the fog and slippery pavement, Cable Cars are endearing to both visitors and long-time residents alike.

    Cable Car
  • North Beach
  • North Beach is that rare thing -- a neighborhood that manages to be a perennial hit with tourists, and also to remain beloved by San Franciscans. It's best known as San Francisco's Little Italy, with its high density of check-clothed ristorantes, cafés and Old World delicatessens. It's also a popular pilgrimage for fans of the Beat movement seeking the old haunts of Kerouac and Ginsberg.

  • Coit Tower
  • When firemen saved the life of Lillie Coit as a child in 1933, the eccentric heiress built this observation tower in their honor. Reminiscent of a fire hose nozzle, the tower was quite controversial in that era. Situated on top of Telegraph Hill, Coit Tower is one of the best ways to glimpse a panoramic view of the City.

  • Chinatown
  • One of the four largest Chinese communities outside China, San Francisco's Chinatown offers authentic Cantonese cooking, markets selling everything from rugs to rice and the most colorful array of Eastern Asian clothing imaginable. Early morning visits also offer a truly pleasurable glimpse at a real working community.

  • Fisherman's Wharf
  • Visitors throng the sidewalks and piers of Fisherman's Wharf - a centre for "tacky" souvenirs, Bay-view restaurants, shops, and the spectacle of some 400 resident sea lions sunbathing on pontoons at Pier 39. But in the early hours of the morning, the ambitious visitor can get quite another view - that of a busy fish distribution centre sending out seafood both locally and nationally. Just a short walk from the Wharf are Ghirardelli Square, former chocolate factory turned chic shopping centre, The Cannery, housing 30 specialty shops, and the Hyde Street Pier, which displays such historic ships as the Eureka, an 1890 paddlewheeler, and the schooner C.A. Thayer.

    Fisherman's Wharf
  • Alcatraz
  • A short ferry ride from Pier 39 takes visitors to Alcatraz Island, the former maximum security federal penitentiary that held such notorious criminals such as Al Capone, "Creepy" Carpis, and Robert Stroud, the "Birdman of Alcatraz." Closed in 1963 due to the high cost of maintenance, it was reopened in 1972 as a recreation area with a self-guiding trail, cellblock tour, slide show and ranger programs.

  • Golden Gate Park
  • The 1,000 acres of Golden Gate Park encompass meadows, lakes, myriad gardens, an open-air music concourse, a children's playground and vintage carousel, a buffalo paddock and the tallest artificial waterfall in the West. The park is home to an assortment of museums and fronts onto Ocean Beach, which affords spectacular sunset views. Some 7,000 plant species flourish in the Strybing Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, while the must-see Japanese Tea Garden is an absolute haven. The Presidio, the land and buildings surrounding the approach to the Golden Gate Bridge, was formerly one of the oldest military installations in the country and now houses a forest, a Civil War brick fortress and a museum.

    Golden Gate Park
  • Museums
  • San Francisco is a museum-rich city, with a variety found throughout the City's colorful neighborhoods.

    The California Academy of Sciences

    This renowned center of research and education in the natural sciences has Earth, Ocean and Space - all in one space in Golden Gate Park. Many a child's favorite venue, this Golden Gate Park museum complex boasts the Morrison Planetarium with its planetary sightings and orbits, the Natural History Museum with its dinosaur bones, and the vast Steinhart Aquarium with crocodiles, dolphins and sharks galore .The "Safequake" exhibit simulates San Francisco's famous earthquakes of 1865 and 1906.

    The California Palace of the Legion of Honor

    Set on a headland where the Pacific Ocean spills into the San Francisco Bay, the Legion is a replica of Napoleon's Palais de la Legion d'Honneur in Paris and its collections span 4,000 years.

    The Asian Art Museum

    This museum, just recently relocated into its new home in Civic Center, houses one of the largest Asian art collections in the Western world, over 13,000 art objects spanning 6,000 years of history

    The Exploratorium

    This world-famous interactive museum located in the Marina District, features over 650 'hands-on' exhibits including 'Shadow Box' and 'Tornado.'

    The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

    Located in the South of Market district of San Francisco is this stunning, light-filled brick-and-glass creation by prominent Swiss architect Mario Botta that balances high-profile, crowd-luring exhibits with well-chosen cutting-edge shows.

  • Shopping
  • From Union Square to Union Street, from major department stores and international designer boutiques to trendy chi-chi boutiques and purveyors of unique art, crafts, and upscale chains, San Francisco shopping offers something for everyone.

  • Dining
  • San Francisco is known throughout the world for its wide variety of restaurants. From the Asian restaurants in Chinatown and the Richmond district, to the Italian cafes and trattorias in North Beach, from the seafood emporia at Fisherman's Wharf to the five-star French and California cuisine restaurants in and around Union Square, San Francisco is the place for dining out.

  • Sports Events
  • Any visitor to San Francisco with a yen for sports excitement will be thrilled to find out that the City and the San Francisco Bay Area is home for teams and venues for all the major American sports, including San Francisco Giants (Baseball) San Francisco 49'ers (American Football), the Golden State Warriors (Basketball), the San Jose Sharks (Ice Hockey), and Sears Point Racetrack (NASCAR).

    Sports Events


    The Wine Country (Napa/Sonoma)

    First-time visitors to America's most famous wine region are sometimes surprised to learn that wine has been made in the Sonoma and Napa valleys since the late 1800's. Over the years, famous names such as Beaulieu, Charles Krug, and Mondavi have been joined by a multitude of rising stars that range from huge corporate-financed giants to tiny mom-and-pop enterprises.

    Wine Maker

    By far California's most famous grape growing region, Napa Valley, a rich and fertile stretch of valley, a little over 35 miles in length, is home to almost 300 wineries, most of which line Highway 29. Many of the large wineries such as the Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville offer guided tours of their facilities including the underground limestone caves and storage casks.

    Sonoma Valley is often thought of as the "other" Wine Country, forever in the shadow of the Napa Valley, but it really is a very different experience. Sonoma still manages to maintain a backcountry ambiance thanks to its much lower density of wineries, restaurants, and hotels, and because it is far less traveled than its neighbor to the east, it offers a more genuine "escape from it all" experience. Small, family-owned wineries are its mainstay, just like in the old days of winemaking, when everyone started with the intention of going broke and loved every minute of it.


    A short hour's drive from San Francisco introduces visitors to the many attractions and activities available in the Wine Country. Besides wine tasting, the area's attractions include mud baths and spas, hot air ballooning, canoeing and kayaking, hiking and biking, dining, and shopping.

  • Wine Tasting
  • Most of the wineries in both the Napa and the Sonoma Valley open their doors to visitors for wine tastings as well as tours of their facilities. Visits to many of Napa Valley's corporate-owned wineries are quite structured, tastings and tours on the Sonoma side of the Mayacamas Mountains are more low-key, and come with plenty of friendly banter between the winemakers and their guests.

  • Napa Valley Wine Train
  • From the moment of entering the historic Napa train station, a threefold adventure begins…a return to the gracious era of elegant rail travel with distinguished service... a deliciously crafted culinary and complete wine experience (champagne brunch, gourmet lunch or exquisite full-course dinner) and an enjoyable and relaxing journey through the heart of Napa Valley's picturesque vineyards past world renowned wineries. The meticulously restored 1917 Pullman Dining Car replete with etched glass, polished brass, fine fabrics and rich mahogany, and dressed with damask linens, fine china, silver flatware and crystal ware, is the perfect setting for monthly special events such as the Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre with actors attired in 1915 era costumes.

    Wine Train
  • Calistoga Mud Baths
  • The Wine Country has long been in the forefront of the American love affair with hot springs, mud baths, and spa treatments. Blessed with natural mineral ash from nearby volcanoes and mineral springs, areas around Calistoga and Sonoma were popular with Native Americans well before the stressed-out white tourists arrived. Today, spas of every stripe are found throughout the region.

  • Hot Air Ballooning
  • Floating serenely above one of the most beautiful places on earth, the Wine Country, a nature walk in the sky begins just after dawn, affording spectacular views and many surprises: the Pacific Coast, San Francisco's Skyline, Redwood Forests, Geyser Mountains, the graceful Russian River and lush rolling vineyards.

  • Canoeing and Kayaking
  • Located in the heart of the Redwood Country on the Russian River in Sonoma County, this region is known for some of the most beautiful scenery in California, beginning at a tranquil spot near Forestville and paddling leisurely down-stream to the historic town of Guerneville.

  • Shopping
  • With its rich range of shops and stores, the Wine Country is a haven for finding that perfect gift or keepsake. Choices run from big-brand factory outlets and traditional malls to one-of-a-kind boutiques, with craft shops, bookstores, art galleries, antique markets and gourmet shops in between. Great summer weather inspires the many open air markets, from weekend flea markets to weekly farmers' markets.


    The Gold Country

    An excursion to this historic region, which extends along Highway 49 from the gentle Sierra Nevada Foothills in the west to the spectacular mountains of the High Sierra in the east, transports visitors back to 1848 when the discovery of gold touched off the largest gold rush in history. While preserving much of the gold rush history through historic displays and period activities, picturesque Motherlode mining towns such as Murphy's, Angel's Camp and Sonora feature quaint hotels, award-winning wineries, fine restaurants, antique shops and art galleries. White-water rafting, lake fishing, hiking, biking, wildlife watching, cavern exploring, golfing and panning for gold are just a few of the area's diverse recreational attractions.

    An excursion into a historic region
  • Highway 49
  • The Gold Rush Country covers 600 miles from north to south, but California's Highway 49, named in honor of the 49ers, runs through the heart of the Gold Country, often called the Mother Lode country. The mining areas are divided by Northern and Southern mines and travel from North to South on Highway 49 taking travelers through the most famous of the quaint towns and villages such as Sonora, Chinese Camp, Angels Camp, Columbia and Coloma that are ripe with history and character. Buildings and sites from the gold rush still exist and provide a glimpse of what the golden west was really like. There are many museums, shops, and galleries along the way that are rich in artifacts and can provide greater insight to the way it was!

    Highway 49
  • Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park - Sutter's Mill
  • Located in the town of Coloma, this is the single most important site in the Gold Country. The site of Sutter's Mill is where the Gold Rush began in1848 when James W. Marshall and John Augustus Sutter found the precious first nuggets. The site is now a 143-acre state park that incorporates various items of historical significance including many original buildings, a replica of Sutter's Mill, the Marshall Gold Historical Museum that contains various original artifacts, monuments and the Marshall Cabin.

    Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park
  • Columbia State Historic Park
  • Known as the gem of the Southern Mines, Columbia lies to the south of Coloma, and is the best preserved of all the old mining towns. Now designated as a historic district, every building is an original or a factual recreation, offering a true glimpse of life in the Gold Rush era. Visitors can ride in an authentic stagecoach, sleep in an authentic hotel of the time, walk along with Mark Twain and Black Bart and even pan for real gold!

    Columbia State Historic Park
  • Caverns
  • Caverns are prevalent throughout the Gold Country, and worth exploring. All of the caverns are stunning in their beauty with unusual crystalline shapes, underground lakes and stalactites and stalagmites. Many of the 49ers and notables of the day including Mark Twain, and Bret Harte left behind their signatures and dates of visit in the soft limestone rock walls.

  • Wineries
  • The Gold Rush brought people from all over the world, and French, Italian and German miners soon discovered that the land was ripe for grape growing. As a result a number of vineyards were established and thrive today. Local wineries include the Black Sheep Winery, housed in an 1860's barn, the Stevenot Winery (1860) and Kautz Ironstone located at Hay Station, an old Wells Fargo & Co. Station. All wineries are award winning and offer tasting, shopping and a bit of history.


    Lake Tahoe

    Just four hours from San Francisco and a mere five hours from Los Angeles is Lake Tahoe, a beautiful glacial carved lake divided in half by the Nevada/ California State Line. The largest alpine lake in North America, it has a surface elevation of 6,223 feet above sea level, is 12 miles wide, 22 miles long, and has 72 miles of shoreline. It has an average depth of 989 feet, is 1,645 feet at its deepest and contains 39 trillion gallons of water. If Lake Tahoe were tipped over, the water would cover the entire state of California to a depth of 14.5 inches! Lake Tahoe has a dry and comfortable climate with an 80 percent chance of sunshine throughout the year. The area averages 409 inches of snowfall per year.


    The jewel of the High Sierra, this winter wonderland with the largest concentration of ski resorts in North America, transitions in the spring and summer into an outdoor recreation paradise with biking, hiking, mountain climbing, golfing, fishing, hot springs spa rejuvenating, and a myriad of water sports. If exhilarating natural beauty were not enough, world class resort and hotel accommodations, terrific nightlife and entertainment, award-winning restaurants, and intoxicating casino gaming can be found at both the north and south shores of Lake Tahoe.

    Tahoe's South Shore

  • Emerald Bay
  • This is one of the most photographed places on Earth and is certainly the jewel of Lake Tahoe. Carved by glaciers, the bay is three miles long and one mile wide and is fed by the majestic Eagle Falls. The bay was originally the site of sacred summer homes for the Washoe Indian tribe, and then later became a playground for those enjoying the successes of California's gold rush. In 1928 the land was purchased by millionaire heiress Lora JM Knight and she built the grand Vikingsholm estate which is now a museum. She also built her famous "tea house" on Fannette Island, the only island in Lake Tahoe.

    Emerald bay
  • South Lake Tahoe
  • Ski Resorts abound in Lake Tahoe, but Heavenly Valley boasts Lake Tahoe's highest elevation, longest vertical drop, and the West Coast's largest snowmaking system. Some people visit South Shore solely for the indoor activities - gaming in luxurious hotel-casinos like world-famous Harvey's and Harrah's, where the lure of the tables and slot machines draw those willing to take a risk for a chance at fortune.

    South Lake Tahoe

    Tahoe's North Shore

  • Tahoe City

  • The largest town on the north shore of the lake is located between Truckee and South Lake Tahoe along Highway 89 near the Nevada state line and Donner Lake. It appeals to visitors with such recreational attractions as Burton Creek State Park, Kings Beach State Recreation Area, Sugar Pine Point State Park, and Emerald Bay State Park - the location of the Erhman Mansion - whose grounds were used to film the movie Godfather II.

  • Squaw Valley
  • In 1946 it was the dream of a young Wall Street lawyer named Alexander Cushing, who managed to scrounge up $400,000 and changed the history of California and the ski industry when Squaw opened in 1949. In 1955 Squaw managed to secure the 1960 Winter Olympic Games - miraculously as a resort with one chair lift, two rope tows, a town with no mayor, and a lodge with only 50 rooms. Today it is one of the world's premier ski resorts boasting over 4,000 acres of ski terrain, over 6 peaks, a state-of-the-art lift system, deluxe accommodations, restaurants and shopping.

  • Truckee
  • This historic town lies just west of the Nevada state line near the crest of Donner Pass on Interstate 80. Like the early pioneers who followed the Emigrant Trail, as well as the ill-fated Donner Party who were stranded and then rescued near Truckee during the fateful winter of 1946-47, visitors today make their way through the natural beauty of the Sierras to a town with a truly Old West flavor, enjoying its distinctive shops, excellent restaurants, fun bars and cozy inns.

  • Incline Village
  • A visit to this charming town on Lake Tahoe's North Shore has it all, in any season: skiing, boarding, golf courses, mountain biking, casino fun, some of the best dining and finest resort accommodations at the Lake. Located just 35 miles from the Reno/Tahoe International Airport, it's the closest Lake Tahoe destination from Reno. Visitors can tour the Lake and catch glimpses of palatial homes belonging to the "rich and famous" - business tycoons and big-name entertainers.

  • Cal-Neva Resort
  • Located on Crystal Point on the Lake just south of Incline Village, this historic hotel and casino was originally built in 1926 by a wealthy San Francisco businessman who used it as a Lodge for friends and real estate clients. It burned to the ground in the 1930's, but was rebuilt and in the 40's and 50's earned the nickname "Lady of the Lake" through a succession of owners with names like "Pretty Boy", "Bones", "Baby Face" and even Frank Sinatra , "Old Blue Eyes". In the 1960's, Hollywood followers were enamored with Sinatra and the "Rat Pack," an unforgettable fraternity including Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Kennedy in-law Peter Lawford, while such icons as Marilyn Monroe "sang for their suppers" in the Celebrity Showroom. Now known as The Cal Neva Resort, today it is an impressive, full-service destination resort just 45 minutes from Reno/Tahoe Airport.


    Tahoe's Surrounding Area

  • Ponderosa Ranch
  • Just south of Incline Village memories of American television's most popular western of all time, Bonanza, come to life. Visitors can take part in the newly produced "Cartwright Ranch House Tour Experience" or explore the Authentic Old West Town, complete with sights, sounds and characters straight out of the pages of a Bonanza script.

    The Ponderosa
    The Ponderosa
  • Carson City
  • The rustic beginnings of a frontier town, when it was just a station on the Pony Express and the Overland Mail, shine through in the significant architecture, museums and local events of Carson City. Following the Kit Carson Trail, visitors will pass turn-of-the-century mansions, courthouses, a depot, and even a brewery. And the capital of the state of Nevada is a just stone's throw from Lake Tahoe.

    Carson City
  • Virginia City
  • Located just south east of Reno, this historic mining town is easily accessible by car from Lake Tahoe, Reno, or Carson City. While some say Virginia City's rich gold and silver mines financed the Civil War, Virginia City still maintains the flavor of the "hifalutin" mining days, when Mark Twain roamed the streets and everybody wanted a piece of the "Richest Place on Earth."

    Virginia City
  • Genoa
  • The oldest permanent settlement within the present borders of the state of Nevada, and one of the most attractive little villages anywhere in the American west, Genoa was established as a trading post in 1851 to serve the wagon trains as a resting and reprovisioning place between the open desert of the Great Basin and the granite barricade of the Sierra Nevada. The wonderful Walley's Hot Springs Resort, where visitors can swim and soak in the natural hot spring fed pools the way the Indians did before their world crumbled, and the way the Comstock wealthy did afterward, is a few minutes south, near the foot of Kingsbury Grade. World-class golf is also available at Genoa Lakes' 18-hole championship course.



    Yosemite National Park

    Stretching along California's eastern flank, Yosemite National Park embraces a vast tract of scenic wild lands set aside to preserve a significant portion of the Sierra Nevada.

    Park elevations range from 2,000 feet to more than 13,000 feet above sea level, and its 196 miles of roads and 840 miles of trails invite travelers to enjoy alpine wilderness, Giant Sequoias groves, and the dramatic grandeur that is the Yosemite Valley - the leaping waterfalls, towering cliffs, rounded domes, and massive monoliths that have inspired poets, painters, and photographers for more than 100 years.

    Yosemite offers countless sports and recreational options - hiking, back-packing, rock climbing, white water rafting, or horseback riding in the summer, and cross-country and downhill skiing in the winter. A variety of overnight accommodations ranging from rustic lodges to the distinctive and historic Ahwahnee Hotel to Relais et Chateau's charming and intimate Chateau du Sureau attract visitors to Yosemite throughout the year.

    John Muir, renowned naturalist, pioneer conservationist and Sierra Club founder, whose writings contributed greatly to the creation of Yosemite, called it "a landscape...that after all my wanderings still appears as the most beautiful I have ever beheld." The most often featured highlights of the Park are Yosemite Valley, the High Country, Mariposa Grove and the Black Bear.

  • Yosemite Valley

  • Seven miles long and one mile wide at its widest, this section of the park glows with fields of flowers and waterfalls running full in the spring. The valley offers lodging, dining, tours, hiking trails, bicycle paths and rentals, nature walks, winter/spring sports, and interpretive programs.

    Some of its most oft-visited mighty rocks include El Capitan (7,569 ft.), towering 3,593 ft. from the valley floor, and one of the best places to observe rock climbers who come from around the world to challenge their abilities on its granite face; Half Dome (8,842 ft.), which, with its western face a sheer cliff of Plutonic granite, is not only the most recognizable attraction but also the youngest in Yosemite; and Sentinel Rock (7,038 ft.), on the south side of Yosemite Valley, and named for its likeness to a watchtower.

    Keith Waklet

    John Poinimo

    The incredible waterfalls which attract visitors to the park include Yosemite Falls (Upper, 1,430 ft.; Middle, 675 ft.; Lower, 320 ft.) which is the tallest in North America and fifth highest in the world with a total drop of 2,425 feet; Bridalveil Falls (620 ft.), which gives the appearance of a "bride's veil" when the wind blows the falls sideways; and Vernal Falls (317 ft.) and Nevada Fall (594 ft.) which are visible from the Mist Trail and reward hikers with a refreshing, rainbow-filled shower on hot summer days.

  • The High Country
  • Tuolumne Meadows epitomizes high country - it is where the wilderness is easily accessible, solitude is only a short hike off the main road, and star-gazing is not to be believed. Exploration can be done best on foot or horseback. Accessible by car during the summer only, it has numerous waterfalls, brilliant blue lakes, huge granite domes, and extensive hiking trails. Five High Sierra Camps are located along a loop trail in spectacular settings.

    Keith Waklet
  • Mariposa Grove-Giant Trees
  • At the south end of the Park is the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, which is native only in isolated groups on the western slope of the central and southern Sierra Nevada. There are three groves of giant sequoias in Yosemite National Park - the Mariposa, Tuolumne, and Merced Groves. Of these, the Mariposa Grove is the largest and most often visited, and contains about 500 mature giant sequoias. Visitors can spend several hours to a full day exploring this wonderland of towering giants.

    Keith Waklet
  • The Black Bear
  • According to the Native American Miwok people, bears have been in Yosemite since the world's creation, and according to their legend, El Capitan grew into a great rock wall when a grizzly and her two cubs fell asleep upon a large, flat rock. Since the last known grizzly in Yosemite was shot in 1895 at Crescent Lake, however, the only grizzly seen here today is the one on the California state flag. While the estimated 300 bears living in the park are all American black bears (Ursus americanus), the name is misleading since the color of individual bears varies from blond to cinnamon to brown to black. The average male weighs 350 pounds, the female about 250 pounds, and the largest black bear ever measured was nearly 700 pounds!

    The bear's natural behavior and foraging habits have been altered by years of access to widely available human foods. Habituated to these unnatural foodstuffs, they may lose their instinctive fear of humans, become aggressive, causing damage in their search for human food, and may even have to be killed. Yosemite visitors, however, asked to be part of the solution to this problem, can adhere to strict food management regulations and still enjoy observing these handsome and intelligent creatures.

    Nick Montanus


    Monterey Peninsula/Carmel


    One of the world's most dramatic meeting of sea, land and sky, visitors have been enjoying the spectacular beauty of the Central Coast since the 1880s. Located between Los Angeles and San Francisco, Monterey County's dramatic ocean scenery, pristine pine forests, and historic communities continue to beckon adventure-seekers, seafarers, artists, writers and vacationers.

    And no other California county can boast 99 miles of breathtaking Pacific coastline. Whether it's recreational activities from golf to scuba-diving and whale watching, arts and cultural events from the Carmel Bach Festival to the lively Festa Santa Rosalia, or a matchless range of art galleries, fine restaurants and wineries, Monterey County has it all.

    Peninsula North


    The first capital of California after it was claimed by the United States, Monterey enthralls visitors with its absorbing historical and cultural past in addition to an array of fine restaurants, boutiques, galleries, inns and recreational opportunities. Monterey also hosts a wide variety of festivals and world class events including The Monterey Jazz Festival, the oldest jazz festival in the world, The Monterey Blues Festival, Cherries Jubilee, The Great Monterey Squid Festival and Monterey Wine Festival, as well as major automobile and motorcycle races at nearby Laguna Seca Raceway. Special attractions include:

  • Fisherman's Wharf
  • Built in 1846 for many trading vessels bringing goods from around Cape Horn, Fisherman's Wharf is still a working pier with seafood restaurants and fish markets galore. Highlighting the Fisherman's Wharf experience are unique shops selling nautical items from local crafters.

  • Cannery Row
  • Home to more than 200 galleries, shops, wine-tasting rooms, restaurants, hotels and inns, this stretch was immortalized in the novel Cannery Row by John Steinbeck.

  • Monterey Bay Aquarium
  • Marvelous views of the ocean planet are at the heart of the nation's largest marine sanctuary. More than 100 galleries feature jelly fish, playful sea otters, quirky penguins, powerful sharks, elusive octopus and giant ocean sunfish.

  • Whale Watching
  • The Monterey Bay is the year-round best place in the United States to observe a spectacular diversity and abundance of whales and dolphins and marine mammals including Humpback Whales, Blue Whales, Pacific White-Sided Dolphins, Risso's Dolphins, Northern Right Whale Dolphins, Common Dolphins, Killer Whales, and Dall's Porpoise. Most whale-watching vessels also come in close to the shore, allowing views of shallower water species, such as the Gray Whale.

    Peninsula South

  • Carmel-by-the-Sea
  • With a population of 5,000 residents, this charming coastal town plays host to thousands of visitors each year. By the 1920's Carmel had already achieved its international reputation as an artists' colony, and today its biggest attractions are the downtown shopping district and its beautiful beaches. Visitors won't find many sidewalks, street lights, neon signs or mailing addresses, but they will find specialty shops, boutiques, art and photography galleries and great restaurants. They may even spot this charming town's most famous resident is actor, director and former mayor Clint Eastwood. There are few places on earth as incredibly dynamic, yet as quaint and picturesque as Carmel-by-the-Sea.

  • Carmel Valley
  • A stunning combination of sunshine and countryside highlights this lush valley retains the agricultural character of its history: rustic barns, fields of lettuce, vineyards and grazing animals. But most of the family holdings have evolved into award-winning wineries, one-of-a-kind shopping villages, world-class golf links, unique resorts and lodging, and roadhouse or fine dining establishments.

  • Pebble Beach
  • At the southern tip of the Peninsula, due west of Monterey and due north of Carmel-by-the-Sea, lies this unincorporated residential and resort area. A gated community in the beautiful Del Monte Forest, Pebble Beach is home to seven spectacular world-class golf courses - Pebble Beach Golf Links, Spyglass Hill, Poppy Hills, the Links at Spanish Bay and private Cypress Point. During the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am stars and stargazers each year delight in seeing celebrities, amateurs and pros test their skills.

  • 17 Mile Drive
  • Many artists have been inspired by the tenacious elegance of the lone cypress seemingly defying the odds as it clings to a bare rock above the Pacific Ocean. Today, this landmark remains one of the most enchanting and famous stretches of road in the country, with much of its most dramatic surroundings remarkably unchanged from the days when it was just a gravel road ribboning its way around the Monterey Peninsula and through the Del Monte Forest. It is one of only nine private toll roads in the country, and the only one west of the Mississippi.


    Recreation & Sports

    Keith Waklet
    • Windsurfing
    • Surfing
    • Scuba Diving
    • Sailing
    • Road Cycling
    • Whitewater Rafting & Kayaking
    • Hang Gliding
    • Golf
    • Horseback Riding
    • Hiking & Mountaineering
    • ALpine & Nordic Skiing
    • Snowboarding & Snowshoeing
    • Mountain Biking
    • Hot Air Ballooning
    • Rock Climbing
    • Jeep & Hummer Off-Road Trekking
    • Parasailing
    • Hot Springs and Spas

    Chris Falkenstein

    Spectator Sports

    • NFL Football
    • NBA Basketball
    • Major League Baseball
    • Professional Ice Hockey
    • NASCAR &Indy Car Racing
    • Horse Racing
    • Extreme Games
    • Professional Tennis, Ice Skating, Gymnastics
    • Professional Equestrian Events


    • Shopping
    • Local Market Places
    • Museums & Art Galleries
    • Sightseeing
    • Wine Tasting
    • Walking Tours
    • Driving Tours
    • Fairs & Festivals

    General Information


    There are numerous excellent hotels throughout Northern California, with the most luxurious to be found in San Francisco. All hotels, motels and bed & breakfast inns are graded according to the number of ammenities and the service supplied. The grading ranges from 1 to 5 stars. Generally service is excellent.


    The coastal areas of San Francisco and Carmel/Monterey enjoy a temperate climate with an average year-round temperature of 60F/15C degrees. The summer months bring the famous fog to these areas keeping the days cool.

    The Wine and Gold Country areas have moderate climates with warm summers averaging 90F/32C degree days and delightfully temperate winters.

    Yosemite and Lake Tahoe are at higher elevations and feature mountain climates. Winter brings welcomed snowfall and cold days while the summers average a wonderful 75F/24C degree days.


    There are a number of options for making phone calls: street phones or telephone offices, and from your hotel or inn. International Direct Dialing is readily available making it possible to get direct access to home country operators for collect and credit cards or by using phonecards which are easily purchased in hotels and gift shops. Most hotels have facilities for transmitting faxes. Many hotels have business centers that have Internet access, and there are also many internt cafes throughout the region. Mobile telephone networks are in operation for domestic calls.

    Ecology & Environment

    A wide range of flora and fauna exists in Northern California due to its size and diverse environments.

    More than one hundred national and state parks preserve large areas of these varied environments and protect its wildlife, ecology and unique histories. Some of the wildlife under protection includes the Bald Eagle, Mountai lion and Big Horn Sheep, as well as countless species of birds, amphibians and fish.



    120 volts AC, 60Hz. with 2-prong flat plug adapters are available throughout the United States.


    meats and vegetables. San Francisco is home to some of the finest chefs in the world, and restaurants featuring not only the famous local seafood but every kind of regional fare can be found on nearly every block. Napa and Sonoma Valley restaurants artfully blend food and wine to create unique and memorable dishes, and restaurants throughout Monterey and Carmel feature traditional and creative dishes highlighting the outstanding local seafood.


    Northern California is home to the award-winning vineyards that have made California wines famous. The Napa and Sonoma Valleys, Monterey County, the Gold Country and the Sierra foothills are rich with wineries of every size, producing high quality wines of every kind. Northern California is also known for its abundance of microbreweries that feature high quality locally-made beers such as Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Tahoe Red, Sudwerks and Gordon Biersch. Also there are many healthy drinks to be found at juice bars throughout the state.


    Jan 1New Year's Day
    January Martin Luther King Day
    February Presidents Day
    March or April Easter
    May Memorial Day
    May Bay to Breakers
    June 14 Flag Day
    July 4 Independence Day
    September Monterey Jazz Festival
    September Labor Day
    October 31 Halloween
    November 11 Veterans Day
    November Thanksgiving



    English is the official language. Spanish is also widely spoken in California.


    United States Dollar (USD) = 100 cents. Dollar notes are in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 100. Coins are in denominations of cents 01, 5, 10, 25, 50 and 1 dollar.


    Vibrant is the word for nightlife in San Francisco. With it's many theatres often featuring Broadway and off-Broadway plays, conert hlls, clubs and bars. San Francisco is a showcase for music, dance, poetry, drama and comedy from around the world.

    Passports & Visas

    Passport valid for 6 months beyond date of entry and tourist visas are required by nationals of most countries, as well as proof of sufficient funds and a return ticket. Requirements vary from country to country. For details on entry requirements for your country of citizenship please go to


    Special Events

    See holidays above.


    GMT -8. The state of California observe daylight-saving time from April to October.


    In restaurants it is customary to tip about 15%. Tax drivers will expect tips of about 15% of the fare not including extras for baggage or tolls.


    From the Pacific Ocean in the West to the sparsely populated countries in the north to the Sierra Nevada Mountains and Nevada in the west to the Central Valley and Southern California in the south, Northern California exhibits great physical diversity. The topography of Northern California is both varied and a collection of superlatives, including:

    The highest point in the contiguous U.S. - Mt. Whitney (14,495')

    The largest alpine lake in U.S. - Lake Tahoe (22 x 12 mi. area & 2000' deep)

    The oldest lake in U.S. - Mono Lake (700,000 years old)

    The largest marine sanctuary in the U.S. - Monterey Bay (5,312 square miles)

    The largest number of wineries in the U.S. - (500 in Napa and Sonoma Valleys combined)

    The artichoke capital of the world (Castroville, Monterey County)

    The largest trees in the world - Giant Sequoia in the Sierra Nevada (40' diameter)

    The tallest trees in the world - Coast Redwoods along northern Pacific coast (300' tall)

    The oldest trees in the world - Bristlecone Pine (over 4,600 years old)

    The second largest gold nugget in the world (found in Calaveras County in 1984)


    Travel into Northern California and within the region

    Travel to Northern California

    Air Travel to Northern California

    Northern California's is serviced by San Francisco Internation Airport. Most major international carriers fly into San Francisco (SFO) directly or via Los Angeles (LAX).

    The San Jose and Oakland airports are within 1 hour of the city of San Francisco and are popular alternatives for US Domestic travel to and from Northern California. The Sacramento (approx 2 hours from San Fransico) and Reno/Tahoe and Yosemite airports are closest to the Gold Country, Lake Tahoe and Yosemite regions and are also escellent embarkation points to other major US cities.

    Travel within Northern California


    With the highest concentration of drivers in the US, California has a vast network of interstates, highways and roadways that allow easy travel throughout the atate. Roads are paved and continually maintained.


    An elaborate ferry system links the city of San Franisco to Marin County (Sausalito, Tibourn, and Larkspur), the East Bay (Berkeley/Oakland) and the North Bay (Vallejo/Napa and Sonoma).


    BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) is a high-speed commuter link that operates throughout the Bay Area. Amtrak service is available from Oakland with direct service to many major locations within California and connections to most major cities in the US.


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