This past month, I had the opportunity to temporarily "live" in Northern California while my hubby was in training school. While here, we did some incredible things, and ate at some fantastic places. So I wanted to share my favourite sights and eateries with you all! This is a list of my favourite places and sights I experienced, and if you make your way out to Northern California, maybe you'll experience some of these same things too. To make it as easy as possible, I've split it up into three different sections: San Francisco, Sonoma County, and Mendocino County. So without further ado, below are my favourite things to see, do, and eat in Northern California!
First let's talk food, cause I freaking love it, and San Francisco has some KILLER eats:
- Sushirrito - Think Asian Chipolte. If you love sushi in burrito form you'll love this place. It's a local chain, and there's a bunch in San Francisco. My husband and I adore sushi, and this place was incredible for a quick lunch bite while exploring the city!
- Coach Sushi - Ok this place is actually in Oakland, but it was so delicious it deserved to be on my list. Their sushi was phenomenal, but even more phenomenal.... unlimited sake. Yes, folks. You heard me right. If you order up to a certain dollar amount of sushi, you get unlimited sake for 2 hours. It was crazy. The servers just keep coming to your table pouring sake like its water. Just be careful not to go overboard. ;)
- Kaiju Eats Ramen & Izakaya - Okay, so clearly my husband and I are Japanese foodies because that's all we seem to eat. This low key, hip, ramen eatery was fantastic! Amazing ramen with a really chill, intimate vibe. They serve ramen, sushi, and meat skewers here, but we just had the ramen. Still super fantastic. (P.S. If you like spicy food, get the Kara Age Ramen bowl!)
- Dynamo Donut & Coffee - This place is on the list for their unique flavoured donuts and great coffee. It's not on the list for its prices though. But maybe that's just a San Francisco thing. Expect to pay around 2-3 dollars per donut. It's not like those hole in the wall donut shops where you can get long johns for 35 cents a piece. It's a bit pricy, but really has tasty donuts!
- Humphry Slocombe - This ice cream shop is killer! They don't have a ton of flavour options, but the ones they do have are fantastic. Try their Secret Breakfast flavour. You can thank me later.
- The Mill - I didn't get a chance to go to this coffee shop this past month, but I've been here before, and loved it so much I had to include it in the list. Their coffee is fantastic. Their minimalistic vibe is right on. And they have amazing pottery. Win Win Win.
- Philz Coffee - Apparently this is a chain in all of California, but this Kansan girl had never heard of it before a friend told me I HAD to go there for their breakfast burritos. AND BOY WAS SHE RIGHT. Friends, go for the coffee, then keep going again and again for their divine breakfast burritos. I have NEVER had a better breakfast burrito in my life. It's that good.
Now let's move on to things to see in San Francisco! These were my favourite sights I saw:
- Crissy Field - I'm SUPER biased to this place, because it's where Andrew proposed to me 2 years ago, but regardless, its a pretty neat area to run, walk, and see the Golden Gate Bridge.
- Lands End - I met up with a photographer friend here, and this place is incredible! The Sutro Baths are here, plus some really amazing walking trails. It's a beautiful park, and I would definitely recommend it for photoshoots or just hanging out.
- Marin Headlands - Okay, this technically isn't in San Francisco, but I'm counting it here because it's my favourite view of the Golden Gate Bridge hands down. It's just NorthWest of the bridge, but since your viewing the bay from above, the views are incredible.
- Painted Ladies - We've all seen Full House. Just go see these beauties to take a picture, say you've seen them, and move on. ;) Alamo Square, the park across the street is a great place for a picnic and to view the ladies.
- San Francisco Botanical Gardens - This is located in Golden Gate Park, the central park of San Francisco, and it's totally worth a visit! It's $8 admission for non-locals, but it's huge and such a beautiful place to go see. They have so many different incredible flowers and plants. My favourite was the succulent garden. :)
This county is where I actually stayed and spent the most time during my month here. Here are my favourite coffee & food joints!
- Acre Coffee - I basically made this coffee shop in Santa Rosa my office. I loved coming here for their amazing coffee, phenomenal grilled cheese sandwiches, and minimalistic vibe. It's really busy, so finding a seat can sometimes be a challenge, but the parking is free, which as I am slowly finding out, in California that's a big deal.
- The Flying Goat - This cute little coffee shop in Santa Rosa has incredible coffee and total instagram worthy floors. Their coffee is phenomenal, but I did not go there as much as Acre because parking wasn't free... I mean, priorities.
- Tiny Thai - This Thai restaurant in Cotati is super small, but has the best thai food! I loved their green curry (did you think I was going to get anything other than that? :P) The lady taking our order was super friendly, and just made me absolutely love this place.
- Russian River Brewing Company - Okay. If you are in Santa Rosa ever, this is a MUST. Their beers are to die for, and though there menu is simple, it's SO SO good. Andrew and I had their Pliny Bites for an appetizer, basically pizza crust bites with cheese and jalapeños. BUT THE BEST APPETIZER YOU'LL EVER HAVE, I PROMISE. I was sweating by the end from the spice, but it was WORTH IT. Their pizza was killer as well!
Now for my favourite sights and things to do in Sonoma County:
- Point Reyes National Seashore - If you love nature, the outdoors, and National Parks, this is a no brainer. There are TONS of hiking trails, lots of beaches to frolic on, and a really amazing lighthouse. Andrew and I spent the whole day here, and it was perfection. GO GO GO.
- Bodega Bay - If you're going to Bodega Bay, you have to go to the Bodega Bay Head Trail. Whether you hike the trail or just park and view the lookouts, this place is SO beautiful.
- Hanna Winery - I'm putting this one under the 'things to do' category, because though wine tasting is something you drink, it's really more about the experience of doing it! We chose Hanna Winery honestly because it was the only one open on Easter when we went, but honesty, there's a million in this area to choose from. If you're in Sonoma County, wine tasting is definitely a must!
- Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve - The first time we came here was 2 years ago after we got engaged. It was magical then, and it is still magical now. Coming from Kansas, Redwood trees just astound me. They're so foresty and magical. Just go. You won't be sorry.
There's only one food place in this county that had my taste buds happy dance:
- Saucy - This upscale pizzeria and pub was one of my favourite places I ate at while in California. They have a bunch of beer and pizza options that are all to die for. Andrew and I had the Di Capri pizza, which had pesto, goat cheese, roasted red peppers, and garlic on it. We typically favour options with meat, but this pizza was so good, meat probably would have ruined it.
Last, here are my favourite sights in Mendocino County:
- Mendocino Headlands State Park - By far, this was my favourite place to visit in Mendocino County, and it's in the city of Mendocino! Heyyyoo! I did a photoshoot here, and the views during sunset literally took my breathe away. It's definitely a drive from San Francisco, but worth every single mile. Holy moly it's gorgeous. (Also I think it's DEFINITELY better than the overrated Glass Beach in Fort Bragg which is technically the more popular attraction in the area.)
- Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens - This is in Fort Bragg, but it stood it's ground against San Francisco's Botanical Gardens. It's a bit more pricy, $15 a person, but free for military families (yay!). The gardens go all the way out against the coast which was why I loved it so much. A billion rhododendron blooming AND coastal views. I'm down.
- Redwood Valley Recording Studio Airbnb - This is not something to see necessarily, but the most amazing place to stay. Spencer and Ester's place is an old recording studio turned quaint airbnb, and Andrew and I LOVED it. It's nestled in a really quaint space about 15 minutes North of Ukiah. Spencer was SUPER friendly, and even provided us with wine and chocolate as apart of our stay. If you're staying in the area, we can't recommend this place enough! You can view their place HERE.
- Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve - Spencer from our Airbnb recommended this place to us, and he didn't let us down. It's quite similar to Armstrong Redwoods, with a different vibe. We loved hiking through the forest, and as cliche as it sounds, it definitely reminded me of Twilight. Okay, okay. I said it. Now we can be done. ;)
And there you have it friends! My must see's and eat's for San Francisco and Northern California! This area is incredible and I highly recommend anyone thinking of visiting to definitely check it out! This area may be the highest cost of living in America, but it's also one of the most beautiful areas in the country. If you have any questions about any of the places I mentioned, feel free to leave a comment below and I'll do my best to help!
Lindsey Roman is an adventurous, destination wedding and elopement photographer based out of Oahu, Hawaii and available worldwide. She lives for outdoor adventures, intimate moments, and candid images. Her style is raw, passionate, and authentic. She believes in chasing sunsets, laughing too hard, and most importantly: capturing genuine moments that evoke feeling over perfectly posed photographs.