Winter in Northern California means cool, bright days and crisp, chilly evenings. It also means always having a great excuse to duck into someplace cozy for a pick-me-up. From fire-lit bars, to brick-oven-warmed bakeries, to restaurants chock-full of cozy ambiance, we asked the staff at our seven Norcal hostels for their favorite local spots to warm up. Read on for their picks, and get ready to settle in for the winter.
It’s a typical Tuesday afternoon at Café Franco: the hiss of steaming cappuccino milk muffles the crooning of Sam Cooke. There's a low murmur coming from over in the corner, where friends are catching up over peanut butter cookies at a long, reclaimed-wood table. Behind it all, the click-clack of laptop keys keeps an erratic beat.
These sounds do not combine to make up what most people would call “typical hostel noise” – and that’s exactly the way Café Franco likes it.
It's easy to know when you've reached the heart of San Francisco's Castro Street; it’s a place that boldly proclaims that you've arrived. Rainbow flags line the road and a giant art deco marquee that reads "Castro" announces the name of the theater it adorns and lets you know what neighborhood you’re in. Shops and businesses along the street entice customers with quirky names and humorous or provocative window displays. This part of town has a spirit of its own; one that is integral to the larger culture of San Francisco.
Bryan Biebl, a front desk associate at the Sacramento Hostel, has lived in Sacramento most of his life. He "rides bikes, designs things, and loves animals." Often cloaked in mystique, Bryan was kind enough to share his guide to Sacramento's evolving and eccentric nightlife.
Are you a wine-lover seeking an alternative to the standard Napa and Sonoma scenes? The tasting rooms and urban wineries flourishing in Sacramento might be just what you're looking for. Sacramento County's vineyards -- all 27,000+ acres of them, as of 2012 -- have established the region as a wine destination, and now you can imbibe the tasting room experience without ever leaving metropolitan Sacramento.
'Tis the season for free film events in San Francisco! Get classy at the iconic Top of the Mark restaurant while enjoying free wine tastings and watching the glamorous Audrey Hepburn. Or perhaps it's time to relive that favorite oldie on the big screen (The Goonies!), with an outdoor screening in one of the city's best parks.