Trip of Views

Hi! Here I am! Still alive, I promise. I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted, but life got real busy for a second. Not that it’s slowed down much…but today, on this snowy spring day in Denver (yep, you heard that right. It’s snowing. On April 21st), I am happily forced to stay inside, giving me time to update you on our latest travels!

Lands End Lookout Park2
So let’s go a little back in time to the beginning of March.
At that time, Matthew’s Louisville rotation was coming to an end (YAY!) and we thought: what better way to celebrate than to go to a new place we’ve never been?! So, on Thursday, March 1st to Friday, March 2nd, we drove back to Denver from Louisville – stopping in Kansas City to take a tour & drink some tasty brew at the impressive Boulevard Brewery and of course enjoy some delicious KC BBQ at Jack Stack Barbecue (pictured below)

…and because driving all the way across the Midwest wasn’t enough travel for us, by Saturday morning, we were off to San Francisco!

Airplane free icon

If you know a travel nurse who gets to live in cool places for 3 months or more, and invites you to come visit and stay with them in each new spot, then you know how great of an advantage this is from a travel perspective. But, if you don’t know a travel nurse who you can visit in super cool places, then you need to re-evaluate your life and possibly find new friends.

Just kidding. But seriously, Matthew’s brother is a travel nurse and he and his now fiance (yay!) are the reason we’ve been able to have amazing (& reasonable) experiences in Chicago, Los Angeles, and now, just recently San Francisco and Santa Rosa!

Since lodging is totally free when we visit them wherever they are, the only expenses we have to worry about are flights – which are often cheap, thanks to Frontier being based out of Denver – and then just food/drink and fun activities.

Matthew’s brother & his fiance are temporarily living in Guerneville, a small, rustic town in Sonoma County, so we were able to get a taste of multiple parts of northern Cali. From San Francisco and Guerneville, to Santa Rosa and the coast of Sonoma, the one thing that stood out in every place was the views.

GoldenGateBridge_VistaPoint1In San Francisco, the views were those I had only seen in movies or on travel sites. To be there, seeing them in person was unreal. Traveling from park to park (including Lands End and Battery East Vista) and more spots throughout the city, we saw nearly every perspective of the Golden Gate Bridge.

On top of this, we also enjoyed unobstructed views of the whole city from other great parks, including Twin Peaks. Every single view was different, and absolutely stunning – and not to mention, free.

TwinPeaks2
Twin Peaks

Aside from the views, we of course did all of the touristy things in San Fran as well. We walked down famous Lombard Street, grabbed a sourdough bread bowl in Fisherman’s Wharf, strolled around Pier 39, and trekked across the Golden Gate Bridge.

The drive from San Francisco into Guerneville presented amazing views as well, as the sun set behind us, lighting up mountainside farms and vineyards. One of the best parts about Guerneville is that it’s nestled right in the midst of unbelievably tall redwoods. William & Megan’s long-term Airbnb was just 5 minutes from Armstrong Redwoods National Forest, where not only did we get to walk among centuries-old redwoods, but we also got to watch a magnificent sunset from Vista Point in the forest.

Another great vista stop was Goat Rock Beach, right near the mouth of the Russian River. Home to a colony of seals and a scenic shoreline, Goat Rock Beach was one of my favorite stops during the entire trip – and will also forever be one of William & Megan’s favorite spots, as this is where William asked Megan to marry him! Such a beautiful spot for a beautiful moment ~ a thousand congrats to the both of them!

As always, we couldn’t visit William and Megan without getting our drank on a good bit! Like us, they’re always up for a good brew, so we hopped on Groupon and grabbed some deals at local breweries, which is always a fun way to explore a new city you’ve never been to! We also went to some wineries (we were in Wine Country after all..), including the famous Korbel Champagne Cellars, where we went on a free tour and enjoyed free tastings.

While our trip was truly a blast, that doesn’t mean it was perfect – per usual with any great trip, there was a mishap. But, just like many of our mishaps, this one turned out for the best. Here’s a short summary of what happened:
William & Megan have been staying long-term in an older cabin in Guerneville, and the night before we arrived, their gas tank had run out completely – which meant no heat…which, in the redwoods of Guerneville that get pretty chilly at night through the morning, no heat is not exactly okay (especially for someone like me..who likes her warmth).

Guerneville_Hot Tub in Fairy RingLuckily, their sweet neighbor came to our rescue, allowing us to stay in his charming, family-owned cabin for a night. Not only was this adorable cabin specially decorated with family treasures passed down from multiple generations, but it also had an amazing backyard space with plenty of seating, a fire pit, and a hot tub – but not just any hot tub – this hot tub sat in the middle of a fairy ring, which forms when a redwood is damaged and its offspring sprout around it to protect it. What a beautiful concept, and an even more beautiful spot to spend our time while in Cali!
Overall, we had a great trip full of great drinks, tasty food, unique experiences, and overall, memorable views.

If you’re planning a trip to San Francisco or Santa Rosa, here are a few frugal tips:

  • Check Groupon before you go! This goes for all of your travels, as you’ll almost always find a great deal for a fun activity, tasty eatery or good brews!
  • Try to stay with a friend or family member for free lodging, as rentals can be a bit pricey in these cities; however, if you don’t have that option, go for a vacation rental just outside of the city for a more reasonable price
  • Research free activities to do and of course, partake in some of the free activities I mentioned, including going to parks, free wine tastings, and simply walking around the main tourist attractions!

Feel free to leave a comment with any more advice or questions you have about cheap travels to San Fran and Santa Rosa!

frugal & free,
Claire

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