Explore More: Your Passport to Adventure
Jun 01, 2018 12:15PM
10 Perfect Days in Japan [32 Images] Click Any Image To Expand
Whether it’s a road trip to a nearby wine region, an overseas journey to Japan, or a weekend away for some serious R&R, slipping away from your routine is never a bad idea. In the pages that follow, we have various ideas and itineraries for every type of traveler—from the person without a passport, to the “been there, done that” globetrotter. Dust off your suitcase and explore more this year…
4 Festivals Worth Traveling ToBy Megan Wiskus
1 / Wanderlust
Find your true north and celebrate mindful living amongst the breathtaking Sierra Nevada scenery at Wanderlust. The four-day festival at Squaw Valley allows you to choose-your-own adventure with yoga and meditation sessions, organic cuisine, inspiring lectures and workshops, outdoor activities, and heart-pumping tunes. From July 19-22, expect to unplug, unwind, and recharge as you partake in a pool party at 8,200 feet, attend a late-night concert under the star-lit sky, flow through an invigorating vinyasa class, or get your feet wet paddleboarding. wanderlust.com/festivals/squaw-valley
Basecamp Tahoe City is the ultimate boutique hotel and prime place to pick as your home base. With stylish, cabin-chic rooms (including a “Great Indoors” option with a tent and faux fire pit), a cozy lobby pouring local craft brews, continental breakfast with DIY waffles, and nightly s’mores, it truly is the ultimate “base camp.” Located five minutes to the lake and smack dab in Tahoe City, guests can hop on the local TART bus for easy access to Wanderlust. basecamptahoecity.com
2 / Outside Lands
Janet Jackson, Bon Iver, and Beck are just a small sampling of the artists performing at this year’s Outside Lands in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Escape the Sacramento heat from August 10-12 and enjoy three days (single-day tickets are also available) of world-class music, art, and comedy alongside some of the Bay Area’s best food, beer, wine, and people-watching. The festival is also committed to sustainability; to that end, over 90 percent of last year’s waste was composed of reusable, recyclable, and compostable materials. Now that’s “where’s it at.” sfoutsidelands.com
Though most hotels within close proximity to the park will be booked (and raise their prices by leaps and bounds), don’t let that discourage you from staying somewhere farther away. InterContinental San Francisco catches your eye before entering, thanks to its 32-story, cool-blue exterior, and continues to impress once you step inside (think elegantly appointed rooms dressed in rich wood and marble with sleek, stylish furnishings, and spectacular city views). Booking a Club Room means complimentary breakfast, afternoon tea, evening cocktails, and more. If going green’s your thing, you’ll be overjoyed to hear that the property is LEED EBOM Gold Certified under the U.S Green Building Council, and is the largest LEED Gold Recipient of existing buildings in California. The only downside? You may find it problematic to peel yourself away from the premises. But when you do make it out, a pre-paid shuttle to Outside Lands is just a short Uber ride or walk away! intercontinentalsanfrancisco.com
3 / Wine in the Woods
Imagine sipping on handcrafted local wines, sampling artisanal food like Tomales Bay giant barbecue oysters and Harris Ranch tomahawk ribeye steaks with garlic butter and Cipollini onions, listening to live music, and indulging in dessert around a campfire—all under the beautiful pines of Yosemite. Sound too good to be true? Experience all of the above, and more, at Wine in the Woods—a low-heels, laid-back festival on August 25 that’s forest-to-fork at its finest. tenayalodge.com/packages/wine-in-the-woods
All that wine means you likely won’t want to travel far when it comes time for bed. Luckily, booking a room at Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite means you can walk your way to dreamland…no designated driver necessary. The luxury mountain resort—surrounded by the Sierra National Forest and just three miles from the south entrance of Yosemite National Park—features elegant environs and pretty panoramas from every room. Whether you choose to bring the kiddos and canines, or make it an adults-only getaway, Tenaya has packages to keep everyone content. tenayalodge.com
4 / Great American Beer Festival
Though our region boasts its fair share of brew fests, the aptly named Great American Beer Festival in Downtown Denver is exactly that: great. Bringing together visitors from around the globe and over 100 judges to taste and critique thousands of American-made craft brews, it’s the largest ticketed beer fest in the U.S. This year’s event runs from September 20-22; admission includes unlimited one-ounce samples and a commemorative tasting cup, plus access to presentations, food, and hangout spots (including a silent disco and “Heavy Medal” area featuring, you guessed it, medal-winning beers). greatamericanbeerfestival.com
Hop your way home to The Maven or The Oxford, two of Denver’s hippest hotels. Both are just about a mile from the festival and within walking distance to plenty of after-party fun. Anchoring the city’s Dairy Block—a mixed-use development near Coors Field featuring shopping, a food hall, art-filled alley, and more—The Maven boasts loft-style, naturally lit, artsy rooms with amenities that run the gamut from a complimentary beer or margarita and coffee at “the Airstream” to discounts at a bevy of nearby businesses. The Oxford is one of the city’s most historic hotels and recently went through a major facelift, keeping all the old-timey charm (think antique headboards, claw foot tubs, and rich drapery) with today’s modern conveniences and amenities aplenty. themavenhotel.com, theoxfordhotel.com
10 Perfect Days in JapanBy Megan Wiskus
For those who’ve never stepped foot in Asia or are apprehensive to do so, I have a destination for you. Not only is Japan a juxtaposition of centuries-old traditions and cutting-edge technology, but the cuisine is a gourmand’s paradise—with more Michelin star restaurants in Tokyo than anywhere in the world—the public transportation effortless, the streets safe and spotless, and the scenery spectacular. It’s a place that’s welcoming to Westerners and will leave an imprint on more than just your passport.
DAY 1: Stay your first three nights at one of Tokyo’s newest properties: The Centurion Classic Akasaka. Centrally located and sited next to popular attractions, the well-designed space provides all the creature comforts of home and an abundance of amenities. Directly opposite the hotel is one of the most authentic spots to slurp down a soul-soothing bowl of ramen. Look for the yellow facade and slip into one of the uniquely Japanese wooden booths at Akasaka Ittenbari—a shop that’s been in business for over 35 years and has the art of ramen-making down pat. After polishing off the spicy miso variety and an order of chewy, fresh-made dumplings, you’ll be in an official food coma and ready to snooze your jet lag away.
DAY 2: Lace up your comfiest pair of shoes and start the day on foot with a visit to Hikawa Shrine, whose red “torii” gates are visible from the hotel. Arriving in the early morn means the grounds are especially spiritual. Continue on foot to the Imperial Palace, an expansive park-like area surrounded by a water-filled moat and home to gardens galore and palaces aplenty. Other must-see areas—all easily accessible via the easy-to-navigate, efficient trains—include Harajuku
(the city’s pop culture and fashion-forward hub whose side streets are scattered with upmarket boutiques and cozy cafés) and neon-splashed Shibuya (home to the famed “Shibuya Crossing,” which is rumored to be the busiest intersection in the world). After a bit of downtime, it’s time to make delicious memories with an All Star Arigato Food Tour. The three-hour walking experience takes you through the sights, sounds, and tastes of Tokyo most tourists miss. Learn more about the locals’ lifestyle as you dig into seasonal dishes at multiple stops and see a whole new side of the city. Post-tour, you’d be remiss to skip Golden Gai. Home to a hodgepodge of pocket-sized pubs that span six narrow alleyways and fit no more than 10 people, it’s a bar-hopper’s paradise.
DAY 3: Though there’s plenty to do in Tokyo proper, sometimes a day away—especially when it involves snow monkeys swimming in hot springs—provides even more perspective to a place. Located about two hours via bullet train (Japan Rail), a trip to Nagano and the aforementioned monkeys, is well worth the early morning wake-up call. Though doable on your own, I advise booking a one-day tour courtesy of Snow Monkey Resorts. A professional guide will greet you at the train station and take you on a fun-filled journey to Jigokudani Park for some up close and personal “monkeying” around with the wild Japanese macaques (the most northerly living non-human primates), followed by a hearty lunch, visit to Zenkoji Temple, and sake tasting—all while ensuring you don’t get lost and providing interesting insight into the country’s culture.
DAY 4: Spend the morning exploring the world’s biggest wholesale fish and seafood market, Tsukiji, where you can have sushi for breakfast, shop for souvenirs, and meander through the narrow streets and stalls. Another must-do early morning adventure is a trip to the Arashio Beya Sumo Stable where, on select days, you can witness the aspiring wrestlers in action. After seafood and sumo, hop on the bullet train for a two-hour, 20-minute trip to Japan’s original capital, Kyoto—a much quieter, slower-paced city in comparison to Tokyo. The 10-room Arashiyama Benkei, a traditional Japanese inn known as a ryokan, delivers personalized and unparalleled service from kimono-clad staff. Tradition weaves its way through every nook and cranny here, including the delectable multi-course dinner (kaiseki) that’s eaten in-room while wearing a yukata, tatami-mat beds, and open-air hot spring baths (onsens) that’ll whisk all your worries away.
DAY 5: After waking up to another mouthwatering meal, explore the surrounding Arashiyama district—a nationally designated Historic Site and Place of Scenic Beauty that’s full of old-style shops and sited along the gently rolling Hozu River. Must-see activities include the Bamboo Forest, a serene, tree-filled grove whose swaying stalks will calm even the most militant minds; Tenryu-ji, a UNESCO World Heritage Site said to be one of Kyoto’s five great Zen temples; and going for a ride on a traditional rickshaw. Once you’ve had your fill of green tea things (it’s abundant in this area), head to neighboring Kyoto City. The best way to get your bearings—while getting full-sized food samplings and a bit of exercise—is to take the Kyoto Food Night tour with Ninja Food Tours. After experiencing the city’s tucked-away restaurants and izakayas (bars) and wandering the lantern-lit streets, you’ll be a Kyoto (and cuisine) ninja!
DAY 6: Rise and shine and get ready to tackle the temple-laden town via two wheels. With its bike-friendly, mostly flat streets and various rental companies (Cycle Kyoto offers numerous guided tours and affordable rental options), it’s the easiest and fastest way to explore your surrounds without being confined to a car. Though dotted with historic shrines, temples, and other structures at every turn (there’s more than 2,000), I recommend stops at Tofukuji Temple, the famed (and often photographed) Fushimi Inari Shrine, and Kiyomizu-dera. End the evening strolling through Nishiki Market and the geisha-filled Gion district before devouring handmade, bite-sized dumplings from Gyoza Hohei and expertly crafted cocktails from Bar Sloth.
DAY 7: Catch the futuristic, white-nosed bullet train for a detour to Hakone, a mountainous town home to hot springs, views of Mount Fuji, and an abundance of natural beauty. A stay at the newly opened, ultra plush Ten-yu means bathing in mineral-rich waters at either your in-room onsen or the public baths (one of which boasts an infinity pool and magnificent mountain views); modern, minimalistic rooms that still hold tight to tradition; and artful, multi-course meals prepared with hyper-local ingredients that are almost too pretty to eat. With nearby hikes, morning yoga, easy access to nearby attractions, and the aforementioned baths, leaving here is the hardest part. For those seeking a hotel that’s high-end without being hoity-toity, a stay here is well worth the splurge.
DAY 8: When in Hakone, one must avail of the money-saving Hakone Free Pass, which provides unlimited use of buses, trains, boats, cable cars, and ropeways in the Hakone region, in addition to discounted admission to select tourist attractions. From Ten-yu, start your journey at Lake Ashi where you can witness the majestic Hakone Shrine before boarding the Hakone Sightseeing Cruise (“pirate ship”) and—on clear days—catch a glimpse of mighty Mount Fuji. After disembarking, hop on the Hakone Ropeway for a 30-minute aerial journey above the region’s violent volcanic fumes. At the final stop, stretch your legs and—if you’re brave—try a famed “black egg,” which is rumored to add seven years to your life. Following a ride on Japan’s only and oldest mountain railway, you’ll arrive at Gora where you can stop for lunch, check out the Hakone Open-Air Museum, and eventually continue on the “Romancecar” back to Tokyo.
DAY 9: For your final two nights in the “land of the rising sun,” I suggest snoozing at one of Tokyo’s most stylish “social apartments”: Hotel Graphy Nezu. Tucked away from the hustle and bustle, the hotel-hostel hybrid is a short walk to Ueno Park, some of the city’s best museums, and plenty of under-the-radar shops and eateries. The property itself boasts features like a communal kitchen, cozy café-bar that makes a mean marshmallow matcha latte, and rental bikes. Don’t expect too many bells and whistles here, however—just clean, comfy surrounds with friendly staff, a retro-rad ambiance, and plenty of perks like free smartphones, laundry, and an adult beverage each evening.
DAY 10: Last days are always bittersweet, especially when you’re in a place as jaw-dropping as Japan. To end the trip on an especially unforgettable note, check out the area known for its riverside views and rich tradition, Asakusa, and hop over to the Asahi Beer Headquarters where you can sip on suds from 22 floors up while taking in magical views of the skyline and Sumida River. Nearby is one of Tokyo’s most popular attractions, Sensoji Temple, a massive (and the city’s oldest) Buddhist temple that dates back to 645 AD. Leading up to the gates is a colorful pedestrian path filled with snacks and souvenir stalls, so you can make any final purchases before saying sayounara.
As anyone who’s been to Japan can attest, it’s a country that surprises, delights, and inspires—a place that’s easy to love and will have you longing to return.
// Order a 7-Day Japan Rail (JR) Pass before you leave the states and activate it upon arrival at the airport. It’s also beneficial to purchase a PASMO Card, which allows you to travel on all other modes of transit. Loading it with approximately $30 USD is enough to get you through 10 days doing the activities above.
// All subway signs and stops—in addition to most menus—are in both Japanese and English; what’s more, the locals are always happy to help, so don’t be afraid to ask.
// Direct flights to Tokyo abound from SFO; if you’d rather depart from Sacramento, look at flying into LAX and hopping on a direct flight from there (in my case, this option was actually cheaper).
4 Grape EscapesBy Tara Mendanha & Debra Linn
1 / AMADOR COUNTY
This region has more than 40 wineries—some of which date back to the 1800s—and produces some incredibly rich Zinfandels, Barberas, and Rhones.
SIP / Helwig Winery (helwigwinery.com) is known for sweeping vistas of the Sierras that can be enjoyed on the patio or with a picnic in the pavilion. Just down the road, relax in the shaded outdoor seating area amid ponds, manicured greenery, and fountains with a glass of Port or Barbera at Villa Toscano Winery (villatoscano.com). Terra d’Oro (terradorowinery.com) perfectly captures the essence of the “Land of Gold” and produces a delicious Pinot Grigio, Moscato, Barbera, and Zinfandel. Reminiscent of a Tuscan farmstead, Avio Vineyards (aviowine.com) boasts beautiful grounds, shaded tables, and an Airbnb. They welcome you to bring a picnic to accompany their raspberry sparkling wine, too.
SNACK / Find the finest and freshest sandwiches, salads, artisan cheese, and desserts at Amador Vintage Market (bethsogaard.com/vintage-market) in Plymouth. They even offer a special “Box Lunch” so you can snack while you sip. Other can’t-miss noshes are the chef-inspired pizzas and salads at Villa Toscano Bistro (villatoscano.com/bistro).
STAY / Sutter Creek’s historic Hotel Sutter (hotelsutter.com) brings Gold Country charm to the heart of wine country and is the perfect gateway to all the wineries, boutique stores, golf courses, and historical landmarks. What’s more, their restaurant serves locally sourced, sustainable ingredients, and boasts views of Main Street from the balcony—making it an ideal destination for dinner.—TM
FOR MORE INFO, VISIT AMADORWINE.COM.
2 / EL DORADO COUNTY
Famed not only for its rich history but also for its wineries that produce some of the most intensely flavored and deep-colored varietals, a trip to El Dorado County is not to be missed.
SIP / Drop by Fenton Herriott Vineyards (fentonherriott.com) during your jaunt and enjoy a picnic in the gazebo, a game of bocce ball, or one of their many events this summer. Cielo Estate Winery (cieloestate.com) offers tranquil surroundings and a fine Tempranillo and Zinfandel. Saluti Cellars (saluticellars.com) has beautifully landscaped grounds, a bocce ball court, hiking trails, and a bed and breakfast. Try their “Capisce”—a blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Syrah. The Barbera and Zinfandel are a must at Gold Hill Vineyard and Brewery (goldhillvineyard.com) while picnicking on the deck and taking in the views. Crystal Basin Cellars (crystalbasin.com) is great for a fun day out while you enjoy some of their Renegade Red, Petite Sirah, or Pinot Noir. Relax under the wooded beamed arbor and enjoy gourmet food and wine pairings (try the Estate Malbec and Zinfandel) at Miraflores Winery (mirafloreswinery.com).
SNACK / Sweetie Pies (sweetiepies.biz) will provide you with the sustenance to hit all those wineries, with their scrambles, pancakes, and lots of baked goodies. Heyday Café (heydaycafe.com) dishes out salads and sandwiches that are the perfect on-the-go items for a trip to wine country. It’s also a prime pick once you’ve had your fill of wine and are looking for a proper dinner.
STAY / The Cary House Hotel (caryhouse.com) in Downtown Placerville boasts a historic ambiance with antiques dating back to 1857, paired with modern amenities like Wi-Fi and free parking. From here, you can experience the shops, art galleries, and restaurants of Main Street, while being a few minutes away from some great wineries.—TM
FOR MORE INFO, VISIT ELDORADOWINES.ORG.
3 / PLACER COUNTY
This region boasts quaint wineries that produce stellar varietals in the form of Barbera, Grenache, Viognier, Malbec, and more.
SIP / Enjoy breathtaking sunsets and scenery at Wise Villa Winery (wisevillawinery.com) as you savor over 30 of their award-winning wines in the elegant European setting. Rancho Roble Vineyards (ranchoroble.com) is a hidden gem with an outdoor oasis that produces a fine estate Barbera and hosts happy hour on most Fridays. Rock Hill Winery (rockhillwine.com) is perched on a steep hill and makes for a relaxing stopover while you try their vintage red. Cante Ao Vinho Tasting Room and Wine Bar (canteaovinho.com) offers wine by the glass or bottle after 5 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, along with gourmet food trucks and traveling musicians.
SNACK / The Bistro at Wise Villa Winery (wisevillawinery.com/bistro-info) creates gourmet small plates, mouthwatering entrées, and more that make for a perfect midday meal or delectable dinner. Head to La Fornaretta Restaurant (lafornaretta.com) in Newcastle for authentic, scratch-made Sicilian fare in a charming setting.
STAY / Loomis’ Flower Farm Inn (flowerfarminn.com) is located in the middle of a citrus orchard and is also home to a nursery, gift shop, barn, café, and tasting room for Casque Wines (casquewines.com)—so you’ll never be bored, hungry, or thirsty.—TM
FOR MORE INFO, VISIT PLACERWINE.COM.
4 / ANDERSON VALLEY
This hidden jewel of a wine region—sited along Highway 128 in beautiful Mendocino County—boasts a unique group of wineries, most of whom offer world-class Pinot Noir among other varietals.
SIP / Although Roederer Estate (roedererestate.com) is beloved for their sparkling wines (and who doesn’t love bubbles?), and Navarro Vineyards (navarrowine.com) has been making award-winning wines since 1974, don’t miss a visit to the charming tasting room at Lula Cellars (lulacellars.com). Along with offering tastings of some of the best Pinots you’ll find anywhere, the entertaining (and knowledgeable) staff will share lively stories of the people and history of this tucked-away region.
SNACK / There are quite a few interesting eateries in the Valley along Highway 128, including the humorously named Bewildered Pig (bewilderedpig.com), Mosswood Market Café and Bakery, and The Buckhorn (thebuckhornboonville.com)—a pub with local beer and wine and the only full bar in the area.
STAY / Despite a handful of accommodations in AV proper, for a really remarkable experience, I recommend traveling westward 30 minutes to the town of Mendocino and relish a stay at the Brewery Gulch Inn (brewerygulchinn.com). While sipping your recently purchased wines from the picturesque patio or balcony, you can enjoy spectacular views of the pines and Pacific Ocean.—DL
FOR MORE INFO, VISIT AVWINES.COM.
Submitted by Shawna Cordonnier, Travel Advisor at Roseville Travel, 201 Pacific Street, Roseville, 916-782-6363, rosevilletravel.com
ENJOY YOUR DESTINATION. Every destination has numerous experiences and tours available, and your vacation will be much more memorable if you take advantage of them.
TALK TO THE LOCALS. The best suggestions for “must-do experiences” often come from locals; they’ll know the best places to see or things to do that you may not find on your own.
DON’T OVERDO IT. It’s important to take advantage of everything your destination has to offer, but make sure you don’t overdo it. Leave yourself some time to relax and do things you stumble upon and didn’t plan for.
CHECK THE WEATHER. One thing you can’t plan for is the weather; check the forecast before you leave and pack accordingly.
TOP 3 DESTINATIONS: Italy, Hawaii, and Greece
Submitted by Mark Hoffmann, CTP, Sports Leisure Vacations, 9812 Old Winery Place, Suite 1, Sacramento, 916-361-2051, sportsleisure.com
USE YOUR MILES/POINTS. They’ll never be worth more than they are today. Hotels and airlines all devalue their programs on a regular basis, so once you reach a goal spend your currency!
JOIN FREQUENT GUEST/STAY PROGRAMS. This tip is especially true when it comes to hotels and rental car companies. You’ll get free Internet at hotels, along with other benefits that vary from brand to brand. Renting a car will be much easier, and you’ll be able to skip the lines at counters and often have a better choice of vehicles. With that, beware of small, local rental car companies.
NEVER BUY ANYTHING AT A TIMESHARE PRESENTATION. Don’t even take your credit cards or your checkbook. If you decide you must buy, always purchase on the secondary market. Someone who paid full price will be happy to sell to you at a discount.
TOP 3 DESTINATIONS: Oregon Coast (particularly the area around Newport/Florence), Cooperstown, and Route 66
Submitted by Genny Arietta, MCC, El Dorado Hills Travel, 3941 Park Drive, Suite 90, El Dorado Hills, 916-933-0476, edhtravel.com
CHECK YOUR PASSPORT’S EXPIRATION DATE. Many countries require that your passport be valid six months beyond your return travel date; don’t wait till the last minute to look!
CALL YOUR CREDIT CARD AND PHONE COMPANIES. Before you leave the country, let your credit card companies know when and where you’ll be traveling. Also, call your cell phone provider to see if you need a special international plan so you’re not hit with roaming fees.
TOP 3 DESTINATIONS: Italy, Ireland, and Iceland