Number 28 - November 2009
Welcome to "Rick's Tips," Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel's quarterly newsletter of fun and interesting things to do in San Francisco, the Bay Area, and Northern California. Whether you are visiting San Francisco or hosting visitors, Blue Heron can provide an unforgettable experience. Visit our website,, to learn more about our private, custom tours.

Winter in San Francisco

Northern California has two seasons: wet and dry. Rain is rare between May and October and (hopefully) abundant between November and April. Winters can bring endless days of gray skies and pouring rain as well as some of the clearest days of the year. While snow on the streets of San Francisco was last seen over thirty years ago, a chill is frequently in the air. Yet some winter days find San Franciscans enjoying the outdoors in our shirtsleeves.

There are some real advantages to visiting San Francisco in the winter. You can avoid the crowds and hotel rates are down. Your vacation can be more spontaneous; reservations to visit Alcatraz or your favorite winery don't need to be made weeks ahead of time. When you phone one of our hot restaurants for a last minute reservation, you have a better chance of getting a table at a time other than 5:30 or 10:00 p.m. There are seldom hour-long waits to ride the cable cars. Plus some special attractions can only be seen in the winter.

If you are a nature lover, there are some spectacular sights that only occur between November and March:
    Thousands of Monarch Butterflies spend the winter in Pacific Grove and Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz. These beauties usually arrive in November, mate in February, and then head eastward to lay their eggs and begin their annual migration. Seeing thousands of orange and black butterflies huddled in the trees for warmth is a spectacular sight.

    Elephant seals come ashore at A?o Nuevo State Reserve, located about 90 minutes south of San Francisco and 20 minutes north of Santa Cruz. Between December 15 and March 31, docent-led tours are available to see the seals during breeding season. You haven't seen anything until you've seen two-ton male elephant seals fight to establish dominance.

    Every year gray whales migrate between Alaska and Baja California. From mid-December through January, the whales pass by Northern California. After giving birth in the waters off Baja California, the whales begin their return journey to their feeding grounds in Alaska. The whales usually swim by Northern California in March and April. You can take a boat tour from San Francisco to see the whales or you can frequently see the whales from the shore. Good spots to see the whales are Point Reyes, about 2 hours north of San Francisco, and Pigeon Point, about 75 minutes south of San Francisco.

If it's raining outside, head inside to some of San Francisco's terrific museums. The DeYoung in Golden Gate Park is hosting a special King Tutankhamun exhibition through March 28. If you enjoy Cartier jewelry, you can see works from Cartier's private collection at the Legion of Honor from December 19 through April 18. The Asian Art Museum will show the first major exhibition in the west focusing on 19th century art from Siam (Thailand) and Burma (Myanmar). The exhibit starts on October 23 and runs through January 10. Don't forget that you can also avoid the rain and have fun at the California Academy of Sciences, home to a planetarium, aquarium, and natural history museum; the Exploratorium, a hands-on science museum; the Conservatory of Flowers, where you can see beautiful plants and flowers; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the Contemporary Jewish Museum, which is hosting a special exhibit of Maurice Sendak's illustrations through January 19.

Winetasting is a fun thing to do on a rainy day. You're inside except when you walk between the car and the tasting room, and the tasting rooms are nearly empty on weekdays in early December, January, and February. Plus wine country is beautiful when the mustard blooms in January and February. You'll see green hills, brown vines, and fields of bright yellow flowers.

San Francisco is a real food-lovers' city. We're home to some of the best restaurants in the country. The food is delicious whether you are visiting in the summer or winter. If you're a foodie and don't want to make reservations weeks, and even months, ahead of time, visit in the winter.

If you are a sports fan, you can see the Warriors play basketball in Oakland and the Sharks play ice hockey in San Jose. You can easily get to the Oakland Arena for an NBA game from San Francisco on BART, our subway.

Take a private tour of San Francisco with Blue Heron Custom Tours & Travel. You'll stay dry while seeing San Francisco's many sights in a 3.5 hour tour. You can also combine a morning tour of San Francisco with an afternoon of winetasting in an eight hour tour.

Don't be shy about visiting San Francisco in the winter. You may get a little wet but you will still see some great sights and enjoy some terrific wine and food. Maybe you'll get lucky and have a few days of sunny, 70-degree whether. And best of all, you'll avoid the crowds. I hope to see you soon.

Rick's Blogs

For more information on sights in San Francisco, read my blog: Rick's San Francisco Journal. My other blog, Rick's Wine Country Journal, contains travel information on Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino wine country.

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See you on the road,

Rick Spear
Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel
275 Staples Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94112
(866) 326-4237 (toll free)
(415) 337-1874 (local)
(415) 587-7433 (fax)
TCP 16309-S CST 20685 16-40

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