As the summer draws to a close, you may be tempted to take in the grandeur of California’s great natural wonders to the north. While these are long hauls from the Santa Barbara area, the trip can be much easier if you find a nice place to stopover along the way. Recently I discovered just such an option for journeys to Yosemite National Park and Lake Tahoe.
Nice accommodations are very hard to come by in the Yosemite Valley area. The park’s Ahwahnee Hotel is always booked way in advance, and the next step down is typical National Park lodging, which I have found to be very uncomfortable. On our recent trip I found an area on the north side of Fresno that fit perfectly.
Instead of trying to make it to Yosemite in one day, we stayed over both going and returning at the Springhill Suites Fresno North. After a four-hour drive, this very new property offered a very nice lodging experience for a reasonable price. The property is located in an upscale part of town with many new restaurants and office buildings. The large rooms included state-of-the-art electronics and very comfortable bedding. Those of us with little ones in tow will find a hotel like this very comfortable, and the complimentary breakfast was a great start to the next day.
From the Springhill Suites it was only an hour’s drive to the Yosemite National Park entrance. While the Ahwahnee is tough to get for several nights, you can almost always get a one-night stay here if you have flexibility. My suggestion would be to stay over both going and returning at the Springhill and then one night at the Ahwahnee in-between. This way you can spend two full days in the park but only one night. I think you will find this easier on the wallet and more restful. Make sure you take the time to enjoy highways 46 and 41, which offer scenic mountain to valley views as you cut over from Paso Robles to Hwy 5. Go to marriott.com‘s Fresno site for complete details.
The North Shore of Tahoe is a much longer journey, and you will definitely want to break this one up. I would try to make it just north of Sacramento so that you will have no traffic the next morning on your way to Truckee and Tahoe’s North Shore. The Doubletree Sacramento in the Cal Expo area off Highway 80 is a perfect spot to park for a night, and they have lots of rooms. This hotel is just across the street from Arden Fair, which is a large upscale mall that comes in handy when traveling with family.
There are numerous wings at the Doubletree, and it is frequently used by airline crews. The airlines tend to house their pilots and attendants at the nicest affordable hotels. The rooms were well furnished and very comfortable. Best of all was the price, which you will be pleasantly surprised with. In the morning you have clear sailing on your way up the mountain as the traffic is heavy in the opposite direction headed into downtown Sacramento. Go to DoubletreeSacramento.com for more information.
Haggin Oaks Golf
Golfers that stay at the Doubletree Sacramento will want to check out the Haggin Oaks Golf Complex just a couple of exits to the north. This facility houses two championship, public access courses that rank among the best in the nation. The MacKenzie course is a creation of famed architect Alister MacKenzie, who crafted many Northern California layouts in addition to Augusta National. This course is a masterpiece and very fun to play. The deep bunkers and sloping greens will remind you of other MacKenzie layouts.
The Arcade Course is the other option here, and it is also very good — perhaps a bit tighter off the tee, but the green complexes are a little easier. You will need to pay attention at the end of the round as the closing holes are very demanding and could ruin a good round if you get careless. Make sure to spend some time before or after the round at the MacKenzie Grill, which serves as a Sacramento Golf Museum, paying homage to all the greats who have competed at Haggin Oaks.