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The Getaway Gang
Edited by Ian A. Stewart | Photo: Jeremy Koreski | November 3, 2016
With an ugly election season soon to be in the past, it’s high time to focus your attentions outward. But where? Here, 22 hardcore local travelers tell us where they’re R&Ring this holiday season.
Chasing Waves in B.C.
Who: Peter Mel, big-wave surf legend
Where he's going: This year, Mel is broadcasting surf contests across Europe; closer to home, though, he’s partial to the area around Tofino, on Vancouver Island.
Why there: As a globe-trotting surfer and broadcaster, Mel tends to let the swell dictate his movements. “This time of year, I’m making moves up the coast, for sure,” Mel says. One of his favorite landing spots is the little-inhabited Nootka Island, home to a sizable—and totally traffic-free—break.
Where he stays: In the past, Mel has set up at one of several surfers’ campsites on the island. (The nearby Nootka Island Lodge, from $250, works for the slightly less hardy traveler.)
The itinerary: In a word, surfing. But Mel says that even if you get burned out on the waves, the area still has plenty to offer: “The fishing’s amazing—salmon, halibut—that’s my second choice,” he says. “And the hiking and wildlife is second to none.” —Ian A. Stewart
Epic Beer Run
Who: Joe Trimble, proprietor of Alameda’s Encinal Market and beer tourist
Where he's going: SoCal’s best breweries
Why there: Beer.
Where he stays: Various Hiltons. “When you’ve got a lot of beer stored in the car, you don’t want to park at a seedy motel,” he says.
The itinerary: Jet to San Diego on a Friday and hit up Stone Brewing and Ballast Point. Then head out for a night on the town in the Gaslamp. Saturday, swing by Pizza Port in Bressi Ranch for a draft. Then hit Orange County: the Bruery in Placentia, then Noble Ale Works and Bottle Logic in Anaheim. Head up to Beachwood Brewing in Long Beach and, from there, gas it back to the Bay Area. —Joe Eskenazi
Skiing Like an Olympian
Who: Jonny Moseley, former Olympic skier
Where he's going: Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe
Why there: From the moment the first winter dusting hits Tahoe, Moseley and the family are on the slopes.
Where he stays: The family house at Squaw Valley.
The itinerary: This winter, Moseley’s looking to get his kids interested in cross-country skiing (good luck) and go “cat skiing” with Pacific Crest Snowcats. For the uninitiated, that’s being driven up backcountry hills on grooming tractors, then bombing back down. “You can explore all these areas between Squaw and Sugar Bowl,” Moseley says. —I.A.S.
L.A. Shopping Spree
Who: Dario Smith, men’s wardrobe stylist and cofounder of the Bellwether Project
Where he's going: Hollywood
Why there: For all our NorCal bellyaching, L.A. beats San Francisco when it comes to spotting next year’s fashion.
Where he stays: Airbnb, usually in Hollywood or Los Feliz.
The itinerary: For Smith, no trip south is complete without visiting Lot, Stock and Barrel in the Arts District, the “vintage Americana” boutique famed for its hand-embroidered garments. Smith also stops by Free Range L.A., a fried-chicken-sandwich food truck (“literally every time,” he says), goes for dinner and drinks at Yard House downtown, and does late night at Hyde Sunset. —I.A.S.
Who: Kevin Arnold, founder of Noise Pop
Where he's going: Mojave Desert
Why there: To soak in “all those strange desert psychedelic tourist attractions.”
Where he stays: Kate’s Lazy Desert (from $175), an RV hotel of colorfully decked-out Airstreams owned by Kate Pierson of the B-52s.
The itinerary: First stop is Pioneertown and the famed Pappy & Harriet’s bar and music venue. From there, Arnold and his girlfriend plan to swing by Landers to see the Integratron, the domed structure said to be “an electrostatic generator for the purpose of rejuvenation and time travel.” Then it’s on to Salvation Mountain near the Salton Sea. —I.A.S.
Cultural Enrichment South of the Border
Who: Nicole Hollis, designer
Where she's going: Mexico City
Why there: “The color, history, and culture of Mexico are always inspiring,” Hollis says. “I love the bustling urban environment and enjoy the immediacy of craft, including beautiful furniture, textiles, and jewelry.”
Where she stays: Hotel La Valise (from $360) or the Condesa DF (from $210).
The itinerary: Shopping and trolling for design inspiration are big parts of Hollis’s southerly jaunts, as are trips to museums including the Museo Jumex and Frida Kahlo’s home. And then there’s the food: Hollis points out Club Tengo Hambre, a roving supper club organized by food bloggers Bill Esparza, Jason Thomas Fritz, and Antonio and Kristin Diaz de Sandi. —Lauren Murrow
Finding California’s Funkiest Coastal Escape
Who: Spud Hilton, San Francisco Chronicle travel editor
Where he's going: Fort Bragg
Why there: Though most Bay Area urbanites look to Mendocino for their coastal getaway, Hilton prefers to relax just a little farther up the road. “Don’t get me wrong,” Hilton says. “Art galleries, little B&Bs, the Murder, She Wrote house—those are all great. But at the end of the day, Fort Bragg is a more ‘real’ place. It still has the gorgeous coastline. It’s a little less expensive, a little less crowded, and a little less pretentious.”
Where he stays: Being the type to look for something “a little funky,” Hilton stays at the Grey Whale Inn (from $135), built in 1915 and formerly a hospital.
The itinerary: Though kayaking on the Noyo River and riding the Skunk Train are fun diversions, you go to Fort Bragg to take in the vistas—“for the drama of the coast itself,” he says. “The craggy rocks, the cliffs. The way the storms come in and beat against those rocks is one of the best shows in town.” —Emily Stewart
Teeing Up a Golfer’s Weekend
Who: Andy Cummings, head golf pro at TPC Harding Park
Where he's going: Scottsdale, Arizona
Why there: Cummings and his wife have family in Arizona, so each winter they head down to the Valley of the Sun to visit the in-laws—and swing the sticks. Cummings says he always lines up rounds at TPC Scottsdale on the Stadium and Champions courses. “One of the cool things is they’re always building it out for the Waste Management Phoenix Open [Jan. 30–Feb. 5, 2017], so you get to play the par-3 16th with that whole stadium feel to it,” he says. “It’s definitely a great time to play that facility.”
Where he stays: The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess (from $299). “The pool and everything they have adds to the overall vacation,” Cummings says.
The itinerary: A whole lotta golf. And Old Town Scottsdale is awash in restaurants and bars, making for a nice place to debrief after 18 holes. Cummings says he also tries to catch one of the local football teams—the NFL’s Cardinals (located in Glendale) or, closer to town, the Arizona State Sun Devils, in Tempe. —I.A.S.
Riding the Rails to the Rocky Mountains
Who: Vanessa Gregson, development coordinator at WildAid
Where she's going: Glacier National Park, Montana
Why there: “I’m on a mission to see America’s national parks” by rail, Gregson says, to “breathe the clean air, and hopefully drink a bit of huckleberry liquor.”
Where she stays: Gregson says she’ll camp some nights, stay in Airbnbs others, and hunt for cute lodgings as she finds them.
The itinerary: In this case, the journey is the destination. “Taking an Amtrak to the park is so intriguing,” she says. “There’s something magical and nostalgic about taking the train. It’s a bit romantic.” —Nick Madden
Worshipping at the Altar of Nature
Who: Celisse Muller, director of creative agency Fondly and Affectionately
Where she's going: Wild Willy’s Hot Springs, near Mammoth Lakes
Why there: Because it’s beautiful! “I think the most wonderful part is how natural it is,” Muller says. “We kind of forget that the earth creates these beautiful things. We want porcelain tubs with golden claws. But the earth has this to offer already, and it’s almost more wonderful.”
Where she stays: In a 1974 Fullback trailer with her boyfriend.
The itinerary: Soaking in nature. “The most magical moment is at sunset: You walk down this wooden slatted runway and see cows walking around, and you find these hot springs, which are wonderful because they’re natural. You’re surrounded by cows, watching the sunset.” —Caitlin Harrington
Decompressing in the Snow
Who: Joey Armstrong, drummer for Swmrs and son of Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong
Where he's going: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Why there: Armstrong goes to stay with his mom’s side of the family during the winter every other year. “I love the size of the city and the mellowness of the Midwest,” he says. “I’ve played over 150 shows since January, so having some time to hang out and just enjoy [the family] is going to be real nice.”
Where he stays: With family.
The itinerary: Other than the usual ice fishing, T-wolves games, and hitting up his uncle’s skate shop, Armstrong professes, “I will probably freeze my ass off in negative-degree weather”—but “I’ll be making the best damn snowmen east of California.” —E.S.
A Gourmet’s Holiday on the Central Coast
Who: Zara Franks, sommelier and assistant wine buyer at E&O Kitchen and Bar
Where she's going: Ballard Canyon AVA (American Viticultural Area), Santa Barbara County
Why there: “It’s a lesser-known wine region, but also very unique and beautiful,” says Franks, who’s looking forward to sampling the region’s under-the-radar syrahs. “People might not know this, but the Central Coast has a similar climate to Napa, so even if someone’s like, ‘I really love my Napa cabs,’ they can get really high-caliber wines from a totally different region that behave in a similar way. I’m excited to compare.”
Where she stays: Airbnb. “I’m hoping to find some nice little cabins that are tucked a little more inland, which is where all the wineries are,” she says.
The itinerary: When she’s not tasting wine, Franks is going to be checking out the dining scene in Cayucos. (The smoked-albacore tacos at Ruddell’s Smokehouse are a must.) Her pro tip for finding the best tasting rooms? “Find one place that gets some good reviews and ask them where you should go next. All you need is the one place, and then it kind of mushrooms from there. Follow your eye. Follow your nose.” —C.H.
Exploring Prehistory in NorCal
Who: Gavin Farrington, wedding photographer
Where he’s going: Fern Canyon in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
Why there: For Farrington, the secluded, fern-drenched canyon is best described as “otherworldly. The experience is almost like you’re in Jurassic Park. It’s magical, and I’m not the kind of person who says that lightly.”
Where he stays: Farrington grew up in nearby Ferndale, where visitors can stay at one of the numerous boutique B&Bs. (Farrington recommends the Gingerbread Mansion Inn, from $155.) They can also camp among the redwoods, or drive to Trinidad or Arcata to find lodgings.
The itinerary: On top of a cruise down Avenue of the Giants, the nearby towns offer plenty of charming diversions. Ferndale, Farrington says, is for “someone who likes artisan communities, or little postcard towns with lots of little shops and art galleries.” —E.S.
Unearthing Culinary Gems in Baja
Who: Aida Mollenkamp, founder of food and travel blog Salt & Wind
Where she’s going: Ensenada and Valle de Guadalupe, northern Baja California
Why there: A few years ago, Mollenkamp set a goal of visiting every state in Mexico, “but Baja is a state I keep returning to again and again because of the food. With a Mediterranean climate and lots of olive oil, seafood, and seasonal vegetables, it feels familiar to those of us from Alta California.”
Where she stays: “I’m partial to Encuentro Guadalupe [from $220], which has stunning views, jaw-dropping architecture, and is in the middle of the Valle de Guadalupe wine country.”
The itinerary: Northern Baja’s unique mix of markets, street food, and high-end fare makes it ideal for food lovers. “Hussong’s Cantina is a classic for margarita lovers,” Mollenkamp says. “Do a street-food crawl—Lopez Mateos is a classic place to start”—and then follow with a tasting at Cervecería Artesanal Aguamala. Wine lovers will want to explore low-frills Valle de Guadalupe. “What I find really exciting is that the winemakers are willing to experiment there, so you’ll find wineries growing everything from chenin blanc and grenache to lesser-known varietals like fiano and palomino, which I feel grows particularly well there.” —C.H.
Heading North for a Dram
Who: Joshua Thinnes, general manager at PlumpJack Wine & Spirits, Noe Valley
Where he’s going: SoDo (south of the Kingdome), Seattle
Why there: Most of Thinnes’s travel plans revolve around distillery visits—often to Kentucky and Scotland—as he’s PlumpJack’s main whiskey buyer. One trip he’s looking forward to is visiting Westland Distillery in downtown Seattle. “They’re making a really good single-malt,” Thinnes says. “They bought a peat bog up in northern Washington to smoke their barley malts. So they’re really one of the up-and-coming players in the American single-malt world.”
Where he stays: The Hyatt at Olive 8 (from $180).
The itinerary: One place Thinnes should definitely visit is the Cannon Whiskey and Bitters Emporium, home to some 3,500 spirits. Throw in a nightcap at Liberty, on Capitol Hill; Radiator Whiskey, in the Pike Place Market; or Whisky West—a newcomer in West Seattle—and take two aspirin before bed. —I.A.S.
Keeping Tradition Alive in Big Sky Country
Who: Ken Fulk, renowned interior designer
Where he’s going: The slopes in Big Sky, Montana
Why there: “It’s our annual tradition with dear friends,” Fulk says. “Typically two weeks of uninterrupted skiing on some of the best and most vast terrain in the world.”
Where he stays: Fulk calls the Yellowstone Club, in the northern Rocky Mountains, the poshest resort to stay in—if you can get in. (It’s open to members only.)
The itinerary: “Other than skiing your butt off,” Fulk says, “there’s snowmobiling, hiking, sleigh rides, and it’s also the best and least-crowded time to visit Yellowstone National Park, which is about an hour away.” —L.M.
Aiming High on the Big Island
Who: Jenny Chung Seeger, owner of fashion boutique Acrimony and alternative jewelry store No. 3
Where she’s going: Mauna Kea, Hawaii
Why there: “Most people don’t go [to the Big Island], because it doesn’t have the best beaches,” Seeger says. “But I want to do less beach and more adventure. I’m a cyclist, and elevation changes are amazing for cycling. I really want to visit Mauna Kea mountain”—a dormant volcano and the highest point in Hawaii—“which is a strange and wonderful experience.”
Where she stays: Airbnb. “I like the feeling of being at home and being able to cook and go to local markets.”
The itinerary: Stargazing may not be as famous a Hawaiian pastime as surfing and scuba diving, but the observatory atop Mauna Kea, elevation 9,200, is one of the world’s most popular. Plus, go a little higher up the volcanic mountain to 14,000 feet and there’s often snow. “The experience of three different climates—all in one place, all in one day—is one of the reasons that the Big Island is so interesting,” Seeger says. —N.M.
Mind Expansion in Maui
Who: Casey Fenton, founding chairman of CouchSurfing
Where he’s going: Maui, Hawaii
Why there: Fenton decamped to the island a couple years ago to escape the city and focus on his startup. “Now it’s one of my favorite places in the world. I love the heart and warmth Maui has from a community perspective,” he says. Where he stays: “I always couch surf. Next week I’m going to stay with a physicist who created a grand unified theory that marries classic and quantum physics.”
The itinerary: When he’s not ordering seconds at a roadside pad thai truck or stocking up on coconut water at Mana Foods, Fenton likes to get his adrenaline flowing. “There’s one hike called the Commando Hike, which goes through this unmarked series of waterfalls. You have to swim down into all these canyons, and you get to a waterfall, and you have to jump off and swim to the next one. You do this for miles.” He also likes to take in the view of the Big Island from 10,000 feet. “Hiking Haleakala Crater is so magical. You feel like you’re on the moon. The combination of beautiful and epic is just unmatched.” —C.H.
Cozying Up in Pinot Country
Who: Larissa Cleveland, destination wedding photographer
Where she’s going: Anderson Valley
Why there: Cleveland first discovered the region—which takes in the towns of Boonville, Yorkville, Philo, and Navarro—while on a wedding photography job, but since then it’s become a favorite. “It’s a great weekend getaway that not a lot of people know about,” Cleveland says. “It’s definitely a slower pace. It’s where you go if you want to sleep in and go to the café and meet the locals.”
Where she stays: The funky-chic Boonville Hotel (from $140).
The itinerary: “My favorite thing up there is the Philo Apple Farm,” Cleveland says. “You can stay there and take cooking classes from the farmer, and in the evenings, everyone sits down to eat together.” There’s also the beloved Anderson Valley Brewing Company, in Boonville, and some ass-kickingly good pinot noirs being produced at Baxter Winery. “Leave way more time than you need to actually get there,” she advises. “You’re going to be driving past a lot of beautiful farms and farm stands. I always want to stop and take pictures.” —C.H.
Southwestern Park-Hopping Expedition
Who: Laurence and Jessica Norah, full-time travel bloggers and photographers
Where they’re going: Road trip through New Mexico
Why there: “New Mexico offers dramatic landscapes, art, fantastic food, a variety of interesting festivals, hot springs, and loads of history,” says Laurence, one half of the Independent Travel Cats blogging couple.
Where they stay: A variety of options, including Airbnb, hotels, motels, and with friends.
The itinerary: “We’ll be spending a lot of time in Albuquerque and Santa Fe,” he says, before ticking off White Sands National Monument, City of Rock State Park, the Lincoln State Monument, the Roswell UFO museum, and Carlsbad Caverns National Park as proposed stops. “We’ll also ride the tramway to Sandia Peak, visit museums, and eat lots of New Mexican food.” —Gabriella Povoli
A Battery Recharge with the Fam
Who: Joe Gebbia, cofounder of Airbnb
Where he’s going: North Lake Tahoe
Why there: Gebbia says each year he and his family book a different Airbnb around Lake Tahoe. “The beauty of the nature, access to sports, and the choice afforded for houses to stay in makes it an enjoyable place for the family to gather,” he says.
Where he stays: Airbnb, natch.
The itnerary: Gebbia says he’s looking forward to hitting the slopes at Northstar and Squaw Valley. But other than that, he says he’s penciling in a bunch of at-home time with the family. “It’s a chance for the family to come together, with all the dogs, and all the stories collected in the months before,” he says. “We cook together, tell jokes together, and ski together. The idea of staying in a home allows us to feel like a family.” —I.A.S.
Beachcombing on the (Other) Islands
Who: Daniel Duane, author and magazine writer
Where he’s going: Channel Islands National Park, Santa Barbara County
Why there: After visiting the islands off the coast of Ventura once before on assignment, Duane—a frequent contributor to Men’s Journal and Food & Wine—can’t wait to get back. “It’s really a trip, that right off the coast of this gargantuan mega-civilization we call Southern California, there could be this almost uninhabited coastal wilderness,” he says. “It’s like it’s California—300 years ago.”
Where he stays: Lodging options are limited—most people stay aboard their boat or in campgrounds spread throughout the national park.
The itinerary: The water is the center of life, whether it’s surfing, spearfishing, or hopping between islands on a ferry or boat. But Duane says there’s plenty to explore ashore, too: “I’d be quite happy to camp and wander around and take hikes across the grassy islands,” he says. “That’s a pretty beautiful way to go.” —I.A.S.
Originally published in the November issue of San Francisco