Zaballa House (credit: Randy Yagi)
Valentine's Day is fast approaching and if you are thinking of heading off for a romantic weekend, there's really no time to waste. While you may have postponed making reservations because you're on a budget, a romantic interlude doesn't have to include a pricey dinner and pricier hotel or vice versa. Indeed, even the most popular Bay Area destinations can be quite affordable, as long as you do a little advance planning. Here are some suggestions on visiting five romantic destinations in the Bay Area on a budget.
Half Moon Bay
Just a short trek from San Francisco, Half Moon Bay can make for the perfect romantic getaway for couples on a budget. Many of the most popular dining spots are reasonably priced as are some lodging, such as the Coastside Inn and Zaballa House. Best of all, there is no cost to admire the sweeping ocean views as well as casual strolls through the downtown shopping district or at Pillar Point Harbor. Zaballa House is a particular good accommodation as each room is equipped with a kitchenette, complimentary wine and cheese and a gourmet breakfast served each morning. For an affordable Valentine's dinner, Sam's Chowder House, Barbara's Fish Trap and Half Moon Bay Brewing Company are all smart choices.
French Laundry Garden
Visiting Napa Valley on a budget, even over the busy Valentine's Day weekend? It's possible, but affordable lodging such as Hawthorne Suites Napa should be booked as soon as possible. Still, there are plenty of affordable things to do in Napa, such as visit to Mason Cellars Oxbow Tasting Room at the Oxbow Public Market for a complimentary glass of wine, a stroll through downtown Napa or a visit to the di Rosa art gallery. Visitors might also want to check out the NapaTouristGuide website for two-for-one wine tastings and discounts from participating Napa wineries, such as Artesa Winery, Black Stallion Winery and the Hess Collection.
UC Santa Cruz
A walk along the world famous Beach Boardwalk may not be high on your list as an affordable romantic destination, even if admission is free. But there are plenty of things to do for couples visiting Santa Cruz, from walks along the beaches or redwood forests to affordable wine tasting and dining by candlelight. Suggested walking tours include the Santa Cruz Wharf, UC Santa Cruz campus, Capitola Village and the must-see West Cliff Drive from the Santa Cruz Lighthouse to Natural Bridges State Park where a monarch butterfly Migration Festival will be held on Valentine's Day. Suggested moderately priced accommodations in Santa Cruz include Pelican Point Inn and the Pacific Blue Inn.
Known as the gateway to the spectacular Sonoma Coast, Sebastopol is a Sonoma Wine Country destination on the rise. For the past several months, this small town west of Santa Rosa has received widespread attention, primarily due to its stylish culinary and art center known as The Barlow. Formerly an apple processing factory, visitors to The Barlow can enjoy wine tasting at MacPhail Tasting Lounge and Wind Gap Winery, beer tasting at Warped Brewing Company and hand-crafted gin, sloe gin and whiskey at Spirit Works Distillery. Visitors to The Barlow should also make plans to visit the fascinating Tibetan Gallery and Studio and cap a romantic evening by dining at the fabulous Zazu Kitchen, described as the "poor man's French Laundry" and led by the delightful celebrity chef Duskie Estes and her husband John Stewart. The Sebastopol Inn is an excellent choice for lodging in Sebastopol but a larger availability of rooms over the expected Valentine's Day weekend can be found in neighboring Santa Rosa.
View of Tiburon from Angel Island
Couples seeking a romantic getaway without having to drive might want to consider a ferry ride to Tiburon. Largely considered one of the most romantic places in the Bay Area, Tiburon is a beautiful bayside town with breathtaking views of the San Francisco Bay and a wealth of choices for dining, shopping and sightseeing. Visitors can drive to across the Golden Gate Bridge to Tiburon from San Francisco in about 40 minutes, but a ferry ride from Fisherman's Wharf takes the same amount of time. The Waters Edge Hotel is Tiburon's most popular overnight accommodation, but a more affordable option is the Marin Suites Hotel in neighboring Corte Madera.
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