Five Brooks Ranch
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Five Brooks Ranch

Five Brooks Ranch
Ride horses on the pristine beaches of Point Reyes National Seashore

It doesn’t get more idyllic than horseback riding at Five Brooks Ranch at Point Reyes National Seashore. Imagine meandering along a gently snaking trail, soaking up panoramic views of lush forests and serene meadows, with ospreys soaring overhead. As the trail curves to reveal a wide stretch of pristine coastline, all you hear is the sound of waves crashing on the empty shore as you cruise down the white-sand beach.

About 30 miles north of San Francisco, Point Reyes National Seashore is home to a 100-square-mile nature preserve, and its sandy shoreline is one of the few places in California where you can ride horses on the beach. Marin’s Five Brooks Ranch is the go-to spot for horseback tours around here, with access to more than 120 miles of spectacular trails and expert guides to lead you on trips that can last from an hour to an entire day.

Their most popular guided ride, the two-hour Fir Top Trail excursion, goes through towering tree groves and along a peaceful creek, offering glimpses of the cerulean waters of the Pacific. Whichever trails you decide to explore, bring your binoculars and keep your eyes peeled for the abundant wildlife. The seashore is a sanctuary for nearly 40 species of land mammals and at least a dozen types of marine mammals. Look for elk and deer, sea lions, otters, dolphins, and migrating grey whales (plus almost 500 bird varieties).

Visitors also have the rare opportunity to glimpse an array of threatened or endangered animals that call the area home, such as the Point Reyes Mountain Beaver and various types of turtles and seals. And talk about a super bloom—there are some 900 types of flowering plants here, as well as 120-plus tree species. (A ranch representative recommends visiting in the springtime—to bypass the summer crowds while enjoying views of the flowers beginning to open.)

Open daily and year-round, Five Brooks also offers pony rides for younger riders. These take place around a pond where kids can spot resident turtles, heron, and quail.

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Harriot Manley/ Sunset Publishing

Discover the San Francisco Bay Area

A crimson bridge, cable cars, a sparkling bay, and streets lined with elegant Victorian homes—San Francisco is undeniably one of the world’s great cities. Located along the Northern California at the state’s distinctive bend in the coast, the region has an alluring magic that stretches beyond the bay to diverse cities with nightlife and trend-setting cuisine.

"I left my heart in San Francisco, High on a hill, it calls to me." —singer Tony Bennett

The Bay Area is also home to some of the world’s finest wine country, including Napa Valley and Sonoma, plus waterfront towns, dramatic beaches, and the tech-savvy southern end of the bay known as the Silicon Valley, where lunchtime ideas at Google, Facebook, and Apple, turn into the next brilliant innovation. 

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Mathew Spolin/Getty Images

Spotlight: Napa Valley

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Explore ultimate wine country luxury in the land where Cabernet is king

Napa Valley reigns as the land of grand estates, expansive tasting rooms, quaint towns, and elegant lodgings, many of which edge up to the...

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Russian River Brewing Company

THE CALIFORNIA QUESTIONNAIRE: Natalie Cilurzo

The co-owner of the wildly popular Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa shares her story, along with a few Golden State favorites

Natalie Cilurzo will never forget the day everything changed for the Russian River Brewing Company. It was February 5, 2010—the first Friday in...

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Spotlight: Sonoma County

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Escape to wine country with secret vineyards, cozy inns, and rich history

Spanning more than one million acres from the Pacific Ocean to the rugged Coast Range, this slice of wine-country bliss defies typecasting. Yes,...

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Eiojo Torpe/Getty Images

Sausalito

Explore this quaint town that’s just over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco

Just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, a steep hillside covered in chaparral and eucalyptus drops from Highway 101 to a flat, sunny shoreline, two...

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Spotlight: Berkeley

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See a stunning museum, shop, and feast in the Bay Area’s most outspoken city

A haven for backyard artists and coffee-shop philosophers, Berkeley has deep roots in the Flower Power movement of the 1960s and ’70s. But...

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San Francisco's cable cars are the country's only mobile National Historic Landmark.
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Golden Gate Bridge

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See one of the world’s most famous landmarks, spanning an elegant bay

With towers soaring 746 feet/227 meters into the sky, its span arcing across the mouth of San Francisco Bay, and all of it painted bright red-...

San Francisco has only one drawback - 'tis hard to leave.
Rudyard Kipling
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Taste the delicious dishes from these amazing California chefs

From a candy-colored pastry shop to Michelin-starred dining rooms, top restaurants run by celebrity chefs dot the Golden State. And even if you don’t know these chefs from the TV...

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Courtesy of MasterChef Australia

Atelier Crenn

Two Michelin stars sparkle at this minimalist gem

For a visual feast that also happens to taste amazing, book a table at Atelier Crenn, where gifted chef Dominique Crenn creates visually stunning...

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Kid-friendly fun zones, special kids' menus & amazing wine for the grownups

Sure wine country is romantic, but now it’s a surprisingly great destination for families too, with a growing number of vineyards trading in elegant tasting rooms for kid-friendly fun zones that...

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John/Flickr
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World-class accommodations in world-class locations

Head to the heart of California’s cities for luxurious stays at world-class accommodations. From San Francisco’s historic hotels to celebrity hot spots in Hollywood and Beverly Hills, California’s...

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Lynn Gately/Flickr
San Francisco itself is art, above all literary art. Every block is a short story, every hill a novel. Every home a poem, every dweller within immortal. That is the whole truth.
William Saroyan
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Harriot Manley/Sunset Publishing

Trip 8-10 days 10 stops

Ultimate Northern California

Explore the best of Northern California's Great Outdoors
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Farm-fresh produce, culinary adventures

Juicy heirloom tomatoes and just-picked strawberries. Super-sweet peaches shaped like mini UFOs. Artisanal cheeses, emerald-green olive oils, local wildflower honey—California’s farmers’ markets...

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Laura Flippen
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From Gold Rush history to the 8th wonder of the world, visit these favorites

If there was ever a box of chocolates—and all of them delicious—it’s the rich collection of natural treasures, fascinating...

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Amy Meredith/Flickr
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Make memories at some of California's family-favorite beaches

Sand, water, and kids—it’s a natural combination for easy family fun. This sandy dozen offers appealing, family-friendly features, such as calm water for new swimmers, tide pools for intrepid...

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Alex Farnum
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Courtesy of Alonzo King LINES Ballet

Performing Arts

Museums, music, and a hint of bohemia

Nested near the city’s cupola-topped City Hall, impressive performance spaces in San Francisco present some of California’s—and the world’s—...

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Courtesy of San Jose International Airport

Spotlight: San Jose

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Tech savvy, international flair

The first hit of this city’s unmistakable techy-ness starts right off the bat—if you get here by plane. Meet Space Observer, a 26-foot/7.9-meter-...

It's simply a very romantic place. Just one look at any of those streets, and you couldn't be anywhere else -- it's so beautiful, and there's that location, and the sense of the free spirit. ... Who couldn't become ravenous in such a place?
Julia Child
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Old-fashioned fun in the Golden State

Historic oceanfront playgrounds, classic city-park charmers, boisterous adventures—smaller theme parks and attractions offer an array of ways to play.  These smaller parks offer old-...

Safari West
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According to legend, Winchester Mystery House's maze of passages and building oddities were designed to confuse the ghosts of those killed by Winchester rifles.
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Kids get an inside look at wildlife, space, and more

From cool ways for your kids to learn about wildlife, to an insider’s look at a space station, to a chance to walk through a rain forest or learn about the night sky, there’s a bumper...

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Peter Alfred Hess/Flickr
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Trip 3-5 days 10 stops

San Francisco Bay Loop

Discover this something-for-everything loop tour around an iconic bay
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End your road trip by exploring one of the world’s great cities. Famous for grand-dame Victorians, classic cable cars, dynamic diversity, a beautiful waterfront, and a soaring crimson bridge, the “City by the Bay” truly has it all. Trend-defining cuisine ranging from Michelin-starred dining to...

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Check these amazing experiences off your bucket list

Kiss a beluga, see cool movie props, and learn about Walt’s secret hideaway on exclusive and behind-the-scenes tours at California’s theme parks and attractions. Here’s a roundup of worth-the-...

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Michael Saechang/Flickr
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Where to release your inner fashionista

Shopping is an art form in California. Whether you're in search of the perfect cocktail dress or an authentic Mexican piñata, you'll find it here. Want to sample fresh produce? Try our farmers...

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Tai Power Seeff

Livermore

Ranches, vineyards, and relaxed appeal east of San Francisco

With warm sun and wide-open spaces cradling vineyards, ranches, and wine-country estates, the Livermore Valley makes an appealing destination just...