Day trips are a great, accessible travel hack for anyone in or traveling to a major city who wants to get to know a region in a deeper way. Joanne Encarnacion, a wellness guru, lifestyle coach, and mother based in San Francisco, took a day trip to Sonoma from her home city and shared her itinerary below.
I’m a huge fan of day trips. It’s a chance to get away to a destination that’s right in your backyard. Sometimes we don’t get to discover some of the hidden treasures just outside of our home city because we’re so busy planning out adventures that require extensive transport and advanced detailing. Everyone deserves a mini-break from their lives, even if it is only 24 hours.
My favorite part of this trip was our time at Glen Ellen Star. I’m a huge foodie. I love restaurants and kitchens that are well oiled machines. Being able to sit front and center of a bustling kitchen is one of my favorite things to do, and I’m so glad that my partner and I were able to enjoy that time together. We don’t eat out too much, so it’s always a nice treat to have someone else prepare your meals.
Pro-tip: If you’re looking to take a quick little getaway just outside your city, choose a destination that’s just about 50 miles away. This will give you a chance to still make it to your final destination in time for dinner and make a few stops along the way.
Stop #1: Third Culture Bakery
We stopped here for some road trip snacks and wound up talking to the owners of the bakery, Sam and Wenter, for a bit about their origin story and the inspiration behind Third Culture. I love being able to understand the heart and soul behind a small business. It gives me a deeper level of appreciation and love for the food, products, or services I support. We ordered our favorite drinks (Golden Yogi and cold brew coffee), all of the mochi muffins, and our favorite mochi donuts: the ube coconut, matcha green tea, and the jasmine tea donuts. The vibe is super casual, fun, and unpretentious.
Stop #2: Grizzly Peak
We stopped at Grizzly peak to take in a view of San Francisco from the east bay just after we stopped at Third Culture. Before we started on this drive to Sonoma we took a quick stop to take in a view of the city, say farewell for now, and start on our drive. Seeing San Francisco from the east bay is always such an incredible experience because the view from that side of the bay is unreal. You truly get to see how large the Bay Area is and how small San Francisco is in comparison to it all. The experience was calming and gave me a sense of gratitude.
Stop #3: Ram’s Gate Winery
We got thirsty and wanted to do a little wine tasting before checking into our hotel. We spent about two hours and enjoyed the Gateway Tasting and added on a cheese board. We ended up purchasing two bottles of wine: a lovely Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir. The vibe was casual, but elevated. Pro-tip: They have electric vehicle charge stations, including Tesla chargers. Perfect for those who own electric vehicles or hybrid cars.
Stop #4: Gaige House + Ryokan
This was such a magical getaway and the perfect place for the night. Since we were getting away from San Francisco and wanted to escape our busy work and home life, a little staycation was just what we needed. We opted for the Ryokan Zen suite which included a huge japanese soaking tub that I simply did not want to leave! Just note that this place doesn’t offer room service or have on-property dining, so you will have to leave for food. The vibe overall was calm, peaceful, and very zen. It was raining, which meant that parts of the property were unused and unavailable, but the rain gave our stay a very magical feel.
Stop #5: Glen Ellen Star
We spent about 2 hours having dinner here and enjoying our time at the counter where we had front row seats to the kitchen, my favorite kind of place to sit. We ordered a white sauce pizza with sofrito, house-made sausage, and arugula; brussels sprouts with brown sugar bacon marmalade; grilled flat iron steak with root vegetable fricassee, dijonnaise, and mache; and topped it off with warm apple pie with vanilla maple bourbon ice cream. It was pretty casual—we walked in soaked from the rain and they still welcomed us with open arms. The restaurant is super cozy, small, and felt like home. If you’re sitting at the counter in front of the open kitchen you’ll feel even more like home.
Stop #6: Cornerstone Gardens + Marketplace
The next day we stopped to stretch our legs and walk around the gardens here. My partner and I have shot several weddings in the past here, and it was nice to be able to see how this place is set up for the public and not a private event. There’s also this cute little shop called Nomad Chic, a boutique I discovered during my trip to Todos Santos in 2017. The Sonoma location is their first location, and I love seeing what new items they curate for their customers.
Stop #7: Gott’s Roadside
Driving always makes me hungry, so we stopped for burgers and fries at one of my favorite places. I’m a classic cheeseburger gal, so I ordered the Bacon Cheeseburger with a side of fries and kombucha. The kombucha on tap is one of my personal favorites: Revive’s hibiscus tea kombucha.
Stop #8: Hawk Hill
Hawk Hill is one of my favorite views of San Francisco. I always love stopping here when we’re headed back into San Francisco because you get to see and appreciate its greatness.