My girls’ getaways usually involve partying in places like Atlantic City, or bonding over wine tasting, but I had a very different kind of trip recently that turned out to be just as fun. I also discovered an area of Northern California that is often forgotten.
Marin County is the area you reach when you take the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, not far from Sonoma and Napa. I have two nieces that live in that area and they helped their aunt explore some spots that would make a great stopover for anyone heading to or from California Wine Country. But this girls’ getaway had to be quite different from my usual because Alea and Moriah are 12 and 10. Within a little help from Christine at the Marin County Convention and Visitors Bureau, I came up with a fun tweens celebration.
The first stop was at our accommodation for the weekend, the Gerstle Park Inn in San Rafael. I can’t say enough about this quaint, oversized bed & breakfast, and the hospitality of Jim and Judy Dowling. The couple has turned this sprawling house into a deserving addition to Select Registry, as one of the distinguished inns within North America. The rooms are just perfectly decorated in antiques and the grounds – which include an orchard you can explore and a set-up for croquet – was just what the weekend called for. I was also impressed by the made to order breakfast, which included eggs, pancakes and French toast during the weekend, a nice change from the usual bed & breakfast casseroles.
We probably could have just hung out at the Gerstle Park Inn all night, but there was someplace special we had to go. I am a big fan of Melting Pot fondue restaurants, but Alea and Moriah had never been. I decided to take them for their first experience at the chain’s most unique location. The Melting Pot in Larkspur, California, is nothing like you’ve ever seen. It’s housed in a circular building that was once an old brick kiln. The girls thought it looked like a castle and I loved the quaint booths. And we all loved lingering over our meal.
Our Melting Pot dinner included Shirley Temples, Wisconsin Trio Cheese Fondue and Chicken in a Coq au Vin sauce. We had a fun time catching up and thoroughly enjoyed the “Flaming Turtle” (milk chocolate with caramel and pecans, set on fire before us) fondue for dessert. By the time we got back to the Inn, we were full and ready for a good night’s sleep.
After breakfast, we picked some fruit in the orchard and played a little croquet. Then it was off to Phoenix Lake for a hike. The trails here are beautiful and for every level (including a novice like me). From there we were off to Sausalito, probably the most famous town in Marin County, where there’s no shortage of shopping, dining and the most breathtaking views of San Francisco you will ever see. We had hoped to also take the ferry over from Tiburon to Angel Island, but ran out of time.
My tweens girls’ weekend ended with a family dinner at Sol Food Restaurant back in San Rafael. This local favorite isn’t much nicer than a cafeteria, but the Puerto Rican food is good enough that the place was featured on The Food Channel’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. It was a fitting finish, since just like Guy Fieri does on the show, I had discovered another unexpected place for a girls’ getaway.
Marcia Frost has her own blog at WineAndSpiritsTravel.com and is the Wine And Spirits Travel Examiner. She also writes wine, spirits and travel for many other publications, including USA Today, Rum Bum and Golflink. She makes regular contributions at Girls Getaway.