I have a secret-when it comes to planning a trip-most of the time I don’t! I love the thrill of the spontaneous, fly-by-the-seat of your pants kind of trip.
There’s just something about deciding in the morning to get up and go somewhere and that night you’re on the beaches of Hawaii, or making the decision at 11:00 pm on Tuesday that instead of shipping your son his car from California to his new home in Florida, why not drive cross country instead and at 7:00 am on Wednesday it was Florida here I come. Now just because I don’t plan months in advance does not mean that I am not a smart traveler and look for as much information as I can and that’s where TripAdvisor has always been my number one travel resource. Whether it was searching for hotel reviews as I was pulling into New Orleans in the middle of the night, or searching for that perfect Mexican place to try, the reviews and recommendations on TripAdvisor have led the way for me and have never steered me wrong! My TripAdvisor app has always had the information I needed at the exact moment I needed it.
So over the last few weeks I found myself feeling adventurous and decided it was time to check some items off my bucket list without traveling too far from home and thanks to the all new TripAdvisor Attractions feature I created my very own Bucket List Staycation and I lived a lifetime over the course of just a few days. In fact it was almost embarrassing that I had lived in Sonoma Country for practically my entire life and had no idea of the plethora of choices I had just waiting for me to come and experience them for myself.
I was seeking those true Bucket List items so I pulled out phone and with the help of my TripAdvisor phone app I quickly started to scroll through their easy to use Attractions section and before I knew it I was booked and ready to go. No more searching through hundreds of websites, or calling places to check for availability or looking for coupons to get me the best price because TripAdvisor had taken care of all of that for me. Did you know that TripAdvisor is the world’s largest provider of tours, activities and attractions, with more than 56,000 bookable experiences in 2,500 destinations worldwide? TripAdvisor Attractions offers something for every kind of traveler. Book everything from walking tours, skip-the-line access and theatre tickets to hot air balloon safaris and Everest base camp treks and luckily for me I was able to find more choices than I could ever possibly do in a lifetime so I looked for things that would help me check things off my Bucket List.
Booking with TripAdvisor took all the guess work out of booking my choices because not only did I find suggestions for other travelers of things I didn’t even know existed in my own backyard, but I was able to have all the information I needed, check the availability, book and have the voucher right on my phone and the best part, I had the option of booking weeks or months in advance, as most people do, or in my case I picked from the list the night before and was on my way the very next day. Talk about as easy as 1-2-3! And if I had needed to change my plans or had questions after I booked, TripAdvisor has someone there to answer it all for me 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It just doesn’t get much easier than that.
Curious to see what I picked? Here’s a special look at how my Bucket List Staycation played out and what I was able to experience over the last few days that were right in my own backyard. I have always wanted to go to Africa and head out on a Safari so I did the next best thing with a visit to Safari West where Africa and the rolling hills of the Wine Country come together.
Why travel all the way to Africa when we have Africa waiting for you right here? Nestled in the hills just off of the 101 freeway a few minutes north of Santa Rosa is Safari West, an African adventure right in the heart of wine country. Guests are invited to climb aboard an open air jeep for a three hour tour through the 400 acre park that plays home to hundreds of animals including giraffes, zebras, gazelles, antelopes, wildebeests and ostriches, who are known to get up close and personal with you. From the moment you set foot onto the property of this fully accredited zoo, you’ll quickly forget that civilization is just over the hill. For the more adventurous, there are luxury tents available to spend the night in and 5-star meals like nowhere else.
Or maybe instead of going to Africa, what about not just strolling through a vineyard but riding through the Wine Country of Sonoma County by Segway!
SEGWAY OF HEALDSBURG
With Fall firmly underway, there is no better time to visit some of your favorite Sonoma County wineries but why walk through the vineyards when you can Segway through them?
With the breathtaking colors that the vineyards bring this time of year, and the harvest in full swing, and grapes hanging ripe on the vines, and perfect weather, there is no better reason to spend your afternoon wine tasting here in Northern California. And while renting a limo for the afternoon, or riding along on a charter certainly makes for a fun filled day, trust me when I say that you haven’t really seen the vineyards until you’ve done it by Segway with Segway of Healdsburg.
SEGWAY OF HEALDSBURG:
If you’ve never been on a Segway you have to put it on your list of things to do. Segways are always fun no matter where you’re off to but combine the experience of riding a Segway with the visceral sights, smells, sounds, and tastes of some of the world-class wineries that await you here in the Dry Creek Valley of northern Sonoma Country combined with the opportunity to taste and savor some of the best wines from the heart of wine county, you just can’t beat it when it comes to having one of the best overall experiences that can be had in one of the most colorful locations to be found anywhere.
The staff were accommodating and immediately let you feel as though you were in very capable hands and went out of their way for us at every step of the way, even with my countless questions.
Your adventure starts in Healdsburg, located just 65 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge in Northern Sonoma County where our guides greeted us for the day and worked with each person in the group as we mastered the art of the Segway, which is much easier to use than I ever imagined. After our lesson and safety briefing, we were off and on our way for a two-hour Russian River Winery tour. We first started by exploring Grant Avenue, which is known for its sweeping views, beautiful vistas, and of course many boutique vineyards that fill the countryside here.
Then it was the first stop of the morning, the Viszlay Vineyards, a warm and welcoming family owned boutique winery which is home to a thirteen hundred square foot winery building that sits at the top of gentle slopes and rolling hills.
The Viszlay Vineyards specializes in making small lot, estate wines from its’ 10-acre vineyard. We were greeted by John Viszlay who offered us a wide variety of wines to sample. Nestled amongst the 12 varietals that they grow, including the only Prosecco grapes in Sonoma County, John explained to us that they use sustainable farming methods and embrace the traditional wine making styles that produce soft, elegant and balanced wines. Then it was time to hop back on our Segways and it was off to the second winery of the day.
The second winery on our Segway tour was the Foppiano Vineyards, boasting 120-year roots in the Russian River Valley. Founded in 1896 the Foppiano Vineyards sits on a 160-acre estate in Russian River Valley.
In their tasting room we learned that their estate vineyards have produced a wide variety of award winning wines including their renown Petite Sirah, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay vineyards.
You can feel the generations and history and the stories that the vineyards hold all around you and it is apparent that the Foppiano Vineyards is a family epic full of tradition, perseverance and contributions to the history of Sonoma County and the wine industry. The perfect way to enjoy an afternoon is with a glass of Petite Sirah in hand, sitting out on the patio of the Foppiano tasting room, taking in the beauty of the vineyards imagining what it was like when they were first planted 120 years before. But I wanted to more than just ride a Segway, I wanted to soar so it was off to Sonoma Canopy Tours to zip line through the Redwood Trees.
SONOMA CANOPY TOURS
People come from all over the world to stroll through the majestic Redwoods of Northern California but why walk through the Redwoods when you can fly through them thanks to Sonoma Canopy Tours.
Located in the heart of Sonoma County, about 90 minutes north of San Francisco and just outside of the quaint town of Occidental, awaits Sonoma Canopy Tours one of the foremost zipline experiences bar none.
This high adventure family-friendly tour through the treetops and beyond is not exhilarating but educational. The unique course is compromised of 7 ziplines, 2 sky bridges, a magnificent spiral staircase, and a rappel back to the forest floor. One of the ziplines is over 800 feet long giving you panoramic forest views and deep ravines that cannot be rivaled anywhere.
A zipline lets the magic of gravity do all the work. Fitted with a specially-designed harness, you’ll reach speeds of up to 25 miles per hour on our fastest zips. On other elements of the course, you are able savor breathtaking views of the majestic Redwood forest at a leisurely pace.
Your tour starts at the base of the mountain where you are greeted by the special team of the Guides for Sonoma Canopy Tours all of whom have been carefully selected and well trained to handle any of your safety concerns. After a short ride up the hill, your guides will take you through a series of safety training, fit you with your gear and then you’ll take your turn on the practice zipline to ensure that you feel comfortable for the adventure of a lifetime that awaits you.
The world-class course and guides are annually certified by an outside professional canopy tour builder and trainer, as well as the Association of Challenge Course Technology (ACCT). Rest assured they offer the safest experience possible in the high canopy of the Coastal Redwood forest.
Once you’ve passed safety training, it’s time to load up in the truck and go! You’ll be driven right up to the platform of the first zipline and from there, you’ll quite literally fly from tree to tree to tree. The ziplines become progressively longer with each of the 8 stages.
Sonoma Canopy Tours is how education should be done-by experiencing and living it first hand. Along the way you’ll be up close and personal with some of the tallest, and oldest, living things you’ll ever meet (including Walter, the oldest tree on the grounds) and at the end of the day you’ll end your tour with a deeper appreciation for the forest and for our planet.
THERE ARE THREE DISTINCT FLIGHTS THAT YOU CAN TAKE:
The CLASSIC COURSE (DAY FLIGHT)
A zipline lets the magic of gravity do all the work. Fitted with a specially-designed harness, you’ll reach speeds of up to 25 miles per hour on their fastest zips. On other elements of the course, you can savor breathtaking views of the majestic Redwood forest at a leisurely pace.
This includes more zips and other great elements are added but with all the fun of the classic. It’s undergoing enhancements but will reopen in time for Memorial Weekend.
NIGHT FLIGHTS (CLASSIC COURSE AT NIGHT)
The Night Flight allows you to enjoy the same Classic Course after the sun sets! Along with the thrill of zipping quietly through the night time forest, you’ll view the night sky, moon, and stars from our tree top platforms guided only by the light of the stars.
Now that I had had a taste of flight, I wanted to soar higher and go farther so it was time to head 50 miles south for the biggest adventure of the Bucket List Staycation-a flight with San Francisco Helicopters that would take me not just over the city by the Bay, San Francisco but over and UNDER the Golden Gate Bridge!
SAN FRANCISCO VISTA GRANDE HELICOPTER TOUR
Ever since I can remember, on my drive down to San Francisco I have always dreamed of climbing aboard one of the helicopters that I would see sitting alongside the Sausalito waterside overlooking the San Francisco Bay and this week that dream came true when I was whisked away above it all on the San Francisco Vista Grande Helicopter Tour, part of the San Francisco Helicopter family. A quick and easy drive from Sonoma Country, I met up with Captain Ron, who lives his dreams each and every day as a pilot with this family oriented company for the past 22 years. With fog a part of the San Francisco landscape, the weather was one of those rare crystal-clear, picture perfect days to see those familiar scenes that are like home to me, but from a whole new vantage point. In fact Captain Ron explained to me that weather really isn’t as big of an issue as one might think with with less than a handful of tours having to be postponed each year for weather related issues. For those visiting our magnificent Northern California and staying in San Francisco, San Francisco Helicopters offers complimentary transportation to and from both Union Square and Fisherman’s Wharf hotels.
Your tour starts as you step on board the roomy and comfortable Bell 407 single engine helicopter which comforably seats up to six passengers. San Francisco Helicopters is one of the most popular and well respected helicopter charter companies in the Bay Area. They have been flying helicopters for 40 years and all of their Bell Helicopters are maintained by Bell Factory Approved Mechanics and are flown by Bell Trained, FAA licensed pilots.
Taking off from Sausalito, you are first flown over the scenic Marin Headlands and the Golden Gate which is home to an amazing richness of biological diversity and unique habitats as well as the Point Bonita Lighthouse. The Marin Headlands is also home to the Nike Missile Site as well as Fort Barry Chapel, Battery Township and of course the Marin Headlands Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation Center.
Then it’s time to head out over the Bay where on a clear day you can observe dolphins, whales and even sharks as you fly under the Golden Gate Bridge.
A quick loop around takes you past Baker Beach and then for an entirely different perspective, as you fly over the Golden Gate Bridge and think back to the 1920’s when the bridge went from dream to reality with the two sides being constructed from San Francisco Side and Marin and miraculously fitting together perfectly as they were finally joined together in the middle.
From the Golden Gate Bridge it is off for a once in a lifetime look at the City By The Bay from the unique San Francisco skyline…
Including an up close and personal look at the TransAmerica Pyramid Building and the San Francisco Financial District
Soaring over Golden Gate Park and as you approach the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge which has just opened it’s brand new towers and bridge after the original was damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake
Coming in close for a special birds eye view of the new tower…
And then it’s off to AT&T Park, home to the World Champion San Francisco Giants Baseball Team
And a special aerial view of the San Francisco Ferry Building-the only downtown building to survive the 1906 Earthquake
And the iconic Coit Tower and Lombard Street, the crookedest street in the world…
But before heading back to Sausalito, there’s the one of a kind view of The Rock, also known as Alcatraz the world famous prison that was home to some of the greatest criminal minds of all time and from which no one ever escaped
Before catching one last glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge….
And a look at the magnificent Sausalito/Tiburon Area where the average home price is over $2,000,000
Before all too long, you’ve landed back safe and sound at San Francisco Helicopters where your journey may have come to an end but you will take away enough memories to last a lifetime.
Whether you’re planning the perfect Bucket List Staycation, or in search of a weekend getaway or a once in a lifetime trip. did you know that you can use TripAdvisor for all your planning needs from start to finish. Did you know that TripAdvisor is more than just reviews?
Finding the lowest price hotel with TripAdvisor
- Find the best prices from 200+ booking sites: With one click, we compare prices from 200+ hotel booking sites – including the hotel’s own website – to help you find the lowest price on your ideal hotel
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And once you’ve booked your room, don’t forget to book those once in a lifetime activities that turn any trip from ordinary to extraordinary! Why book on TripAdvisor? Because booking attractions in-person, after arrival, can be risky – there’s no reviews to read, there’s no “big picture” overview of what’s available, some attractions may be unavailable at short notice or come with an hours-long line. TripAdvisor makes booking a breeze:
- Knowledge: TripAdvisor consolidates the options in one place, so you can easily search for what best suits your needs.
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- Whenever, wherever: You can book a month in advance, a week in advance, a day in advance, or a ‘skip the line’ ticket form the very line you’re standing in.
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- 24/7 customer service: Book with TripAdvisor Attractions and you’ll have 24/7 access to our customer support team.
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Now the only question left to decide is what are you waiting for? Whether it’s a quick surprise for the family, or you’re about to embark on that dream trip of a lifetime, make sure all of your planning starts and ends with TripAdvisor-it’s your one stop for all your planning needs.