One of the things I love to do is to go to a new place and get lost. Not irrevocably so, I just like to use my GPS to arrive at a specific location and let myself wander from there. I've discovered countless shops, restaurants, parks and other treasures by allowing myself to veer even just a little off the beaten path. Here are three favorite local places I recommend to start your explorations:
Walk Around The Top of Mount Tamalpais - in the late 19th/early 20th century, there was a train that took visitors to and from the top of Mt. Tam - you can still see some of the tracks of the Gravity Train and part of the station at the top, as well as interesting information about the hotel, the Tamalpais Tavern, that once stood there. The drive there is beautiful, and although the walk on the trail is pretty short (about a half an hour), you'll probably spend a lot of time looking down at the Bay Area below. I've heard that, on a clear day, you can see all the way to the Sierra. Depending on which way you approach the mountain, you can go home a totally different way - there are roads that lead to Muir Woods, Stinson Beach, Bolinas, or Mill Valley - choose your adventure! Tip: bring lunch with you and have a picnic at the tables near the beginning of the trail, or treat yourself to delicious Mexican food at quirky Joe's Taco Lounge in Mill Valley before you begin your ascent to the top.
Antiquing in Sebastopol - Along the Gravenstein Highway, you'll find a surprising assortment of antique shops (and a busy flea market on Sundays) - these are my favorites:
Food For Thought Antiques - This antique shop has a beautifully edited collection of furniture, tchotchkes, books, etc, but maybe the best thing about it is that the profits made by this shop directly supports Food For Thought - Sonoma County Food Bank. The food bank, located in Forestville, was founded in 1988 and since then has provided a free weekly selection of groceries, canned and boxed food, fresh produce (some from the food bank's own organic garden), and nutritional supplements to people affected by HIV/AIDS in Sonoma County. Take a virtual tour of the shop here.
Antique Society - Sharing the same parking lot as Food For Thought, Antique Society is set up more like one of those giant antique malls you find in the midwest - i.e. one of those antique malls I always exit the highway for! There are over 125 dealers represented here, offering everything from country relics, art, old books, artifacts, Victorian, Deco, Mission, Atomic Age Modern to California Mod. Take a look at some of what they have to offer here.
Ray's Trading Company - Keep driving down Gravenstein Highway towards town, and on the left you'll find Ray's, an antique/salvage shop that's like a cleaner, smaller version of Berkeley's Urban Ore. Only open Fridays & Saturdays, Ray's offers a fantastic selection of items for your home - furniture, wrought iron pieces, doors, sinks, plus a great selection of vintage reproduction cabinet, dresser and door hardware. Their web presence is almost non existent, which is both frustrating & charming. This is just one of those places you have to go and check out for yourself.
A Walk Along Dillon Beach - Last year I participated in the Bodega Bay Fisherman's Festival for the first time, and so many people asked if I had pieces with Dillon Beach. I didn't, since I'd never heard of it before, but since so many people were so passionate about it, I had to go check it out for myself. I'd been to/through Tomales a million times before, but I guess I'd always disregarded the signs that say Dillon Beach, this way! John and I brought Buck with us and it was awesome - Dillon Beach is beautiful, the beach itself is totally dog friendly, and on the gray day we decided to go in February, there were hardly any people there. After our walk on the beach, we had lunch at the Dillon Beach Cafe . Highly recommend for a lovely day trip.
Where are your favorite places to get lost? Tell us in the comments below!