When you want to escape the lingering Texas heat for a few days in the fall, but you don’t really want to head north to more blustery conditions, Sonoma or Monterey, located northeast and south of San Francisco respectively, are fabulous options for short retreats or group getaways. And, lucky for you, if you live in or near Dallas, both destinations have direct flights from Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, making your trip stress-free.
Wine Country: Three Days in Sonoma County
When thinking about California wine region, most people think of Napa Valley first, but Sonoma County is definitely giving Napa a run for its money. This quiet region set 45 minutes north of San Francisco is home to 425 wineries and an abundance of unique venues and experiences that will surely make your destination event one to remember.
After arrival at either San Francisco airport or the more intimate Santa Rosa airport, transportation for the weekend can be provided by Beau Wine Tours, which has a small fleet of vehicles and also offers winery tours. First stop should be the Osmosis Day Spa where guests will relax in the original cedar enzyme bath or meditate in the serene Zen gardens.
For accommodations, options include brand names, such as The Hyatt Santa Rosa, or boutique properties, such as Vintners Inn. Upon arrival, wow your guests with gift baskets filled with locally sourced candles, cheese and, of course, wine. Three J Farms makes for a perfect opening reception spot—you can cap off the day with Alley 6 spirit cocktails and stunning sunset views.
Petroni Vineyard’s, which is located on the side of a mountain in a unique (and quite technologically innovative) wine cave, is another top location for a VIP event. And if you want to hold your party on a private estate, Distinct Locations & K Group is a firm that has exceptional access to one-of-a-kind properties and venues.
Prior to heading back to Texas, adventure company Off the Beaten Path Signature Experiences can organize a Sunday brunch for your group on a working farm. Your guests can sip wine from Moshin Vineyards, K Squared Cellars and Silver Trident Winery while picking fresh berries.
I can’t think of a better way to end the weekend.
Sonoma County Tourism
Coastal Adventures: Three Days in Monterey
Just what you’d expect from a California town along the coast, Monterey’s temps are nearly Zen-like in their balanced way, never scooting too far up or down the thermometer from 70 degrees year-round. Home to Cannery Row, made famous by author John Steinbeck, today this small town is probably better known as the setting for the HBO show “Big Little Lies” which is filmed in many locations around town.
The city is well prepared for larger groups, thanks to a 40,000-square-foot conference center that is connected to not one, but two, hotels: Portola Hotel and Spa (which offers direct access to the conference center off the lobby) and Monterey Marriott (accessed via a skybridge). All three properties combined add up to more than 85,000 square feet of meeting and event space.
For smaller incentive trips, consider the 93-room Quail Lodge and Golf Club with an 18-hole championship golf course or the 60-room/suite Sanctuary Beach Resort, an intimate, village-inspired venue. Or check out the 16,000 square feet of event space and the 208 guest rooms of the InterContinental The Clement, located waterside in Monterey.
For grand events or VIP receptions, consider the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. Dedicated to marine wildlife, research and conservation, the former sardine cannery is home to more than 35,000 creatures and over 550 different species. The aquarium is a nonprofit organization, so you’ll be helping to support its efforts as your group enjoys a spectacular backdrop of colorful sea creatures.
For group activities, head outdoors. Hop on a bike from Adventures by the Sea for a ride along the coast or go whale watching from the fleet of Discovery Whale Watching. Souvenir shopping can be had at Carmel-by-the-Sea or Old Fisherman’s Wharf. Or get behind the wheel of a Land Rover for an off-road driving course, courtesy of the Land Rover Experience Driving Center at Quail Lodge and Golf Club. You’ll navigate hairpin turns, climb piles of logs and brave steep descents, all while building a stronger team camaraderie.
It’s an action-packed group getaway in a chill, California town.
Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau