Why not spend 72 hours in Northern California this holiday season? After all, it’s just a quick flight away and five-star R&R was never so glamorous as a long weekend here. Pack your bags and join us as we venture into some old territory for some new experiences

By Pamela Lillquist Vignette
Photography by Ariella Levitan

Just like the old Sinatra song goes, It Happened In Monterey. The romance of a bygone era can be captured with a new sense of ease and a nod to the past. This journey highlights some of the less traveled areas of Northern California – hidden spots to soak in the breathtaking Pacific Coast, extraordinary cuisine, classic film locations and of course, being at one with some of the state’s most breathtaking twisty roads. Not only is this trip a fun itinerary, it has been tested multiple times. It’s taken over a decade of exploring the region to find these little gems, so now we invite our readers into our insider destinations.

This trip never disappoints no matter what the season. It is busiest in the summer, in mid-August when classic car lovers descend on the region for one of several exclusive historic car showcase events, including the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and The Quail. If you want to escape the crowds like we do, take this first tip: Time this trip around the New Year holiday. Due to the temperate climate in the area, you will experience romantic fog in the morning, California sunshine in the afternoon and still get to bundle up during the crisp nights.

Puddle jump it from San Francisco, San Jose or Los Angeles to get right to the heart of scenic Northern California via Monterey. This is truly the place to rent a killer ride… A drive like this is one of a kind and deserves a car that makes it even more unforgettable. For a splurge on a dream car see



A short drive from Monterey Airport to Salinas takes you to the birthplace and boyhood home of author John Steinbeck. After a tour of the Steinbeck Center and this historic Victorian home, enjoy lunch in the Queen Anne style dining room.


The twisty roads continue through Monterey, over the famous Bixby Bridge and into Big Sur. Check into the most spectacular, award-winning hotel on the West Coast, the Post Ranch Inn. Relax from your exhilarating drive by whale watching out over the Pacific Ocean from a heated infinity pool.


Enjoy an unconventional dining experience at the Post Ranch Inn’s Sierra Mar restaurant. Then retire to your luxurious ocean view pavilion or tree house amongst the giant redwoods.



Awake to the serenity of the Ranch and start your day with some restorative yoga in a Mongolian-style yurt. Then, gourmet complimentary breakfast waits for you at the Sierra Mar restaurant.


Relaxed and ready to drive, experience the Pacific Coast Highway, with the ocean to the driver’s side, while heading back North towards Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Check into the Cypress Inn, a Carmel classic, just like the films made by its movie star owner, Doris Day.

Park your sporty ride and stretch your legs exploring the charming streets of charming Carmel. After getting retail therapy, grab a picnic and stroll to the Cypress-lined Carmel Bay Beach, at the end of Ocean Avenue. Once on the beach, look to the South, and you will see a Frank Lloyd Wright home perched on the cliff, one that was featured in the 1959 film, A Summer Place.


Back at the Cypress Inn, start your night with a cocktail at Terry’s lounge. Here jazz singers belt out standards, setting the tone for a relaxing and enjoyable evening.

Take in the twilight charm of Carmel as you walk a few blocks for dinner at Casanova. If you are in the area over New Year’s, this is the place to make the last meal of the year, the best. Their wine cellar is one of the most diverse and will be appreciated by any wine connoisseur. Book the special room and sit at “Van Gogh’s table.” Yes, it was his table… The restaurant staff will tell you the interesting story of how it came to be in Carmel at Casanova.

After walking off a little bit of dinner, return to Terry’s Bar and music room by the fire. Again, for New Year’s, this is the spot to be to sing Auld Lang’s Syne with friends of Doris Day (many of whom will have four legs).



An inspired start to New Year’s resolutions (or any day of the year) begins with a Point Lobos hike. Walk beneath the evergreens and all the way down the main trail to experience the closest and most dramatic vista of the deep blue ocean crashing against the pointed amber coastline. Overlook the spectacular film locations, as seen in the 1965 film, The Sandpiper, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.


After checking out of Cypress Inn, be sure to lunch at La Bicyclette. The charcuterie and cheese board make the perfect pre-drive lunch.

One of the best drives on this journey is next. Take a 17-mile drive and enjoy some of the scenic stops such as The Lone Cypress, as you make your way to the exclusive Lodge at Pebble Beach. Enjoy High Tea, a spa treatment or a round of golf by the surf “on par” with The Old Course overlooking the North Sea in St. Andrews, Scotland.


After a refreshment in The Lodge’s Terrace Lounge overlooking the links and the Pacific, enjoy your last little bit of the winding roads back to Monterey; that is, if you can resist the temptation to indulge in a night’s stay at the Lodge… what’s another 12 hours of luxury?

Once you have become familiar with Northern California, a perennial favorite among the jet set, you’ll want to come back season after season. As well you should; you’re guaranteed to discover a fabulous new experience every time. Join the ranks of history’s great artists, poets and bon vivants who found their inspiration here. With so many splendors to discover and enjoy, Northern California is one of our favorite destinations, too.

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