Monday, June 29, 2015

Sutter Creek and Hope Valley

When I think of road trips with kids my mind automatically jumps to scenes of kids screaming "are we there yet?" while kicking the back of your seat for 4 hours straight. Not exactly a winning campaign message for family road trips. I remember a particular trip with our first child when she was 8 months old that involved a 4 hour drive to visit her new cousin. It was horrible. She cried for the majority of the way there and back. I think our biggest mistake was thinking we could make a 4 hour drive without stopping, and then thinking we could make the drive back home on that very same day (looking back it seems like an obvious mistake...what were we thinking?). Thankfully, we have come a long way since that first trip. So far in fact, that our drives to and from our destinations are turning out to be just as much fun as the destination itself!

Our recent trip to South Lake Tahoe was no exception. I was secretly dreading the drive through Sacramento and Placerville and was SO excited when I discover an alternative route along Highway 88. This new route only added 30 minutes to the drive (and that was assuming no traffic going through Sacramento...which I have yet to encounter) and took us through Lodi wine country, Sutter Creek and Hope Valley...all places I wanted to visit! Since our drive started at 9am, wine-tasting in Lodi was not an option, but we still got to enjoy the views of the vineyards on our way to Sutter Creek.

Sutter Creek is about 2 hours from Berkeley and was on my list of potential weekend getaway destinations, so I was eager to test the waters. We arrived shortly before lunch and spent about an hour perusing the shops and taking in the charm of this mid-1800's Gold Rush town. The original architecture still lines Main street, providing a Gold Rush facade filled with unique boutiques, restaurants and tasting rooms that are a beautiful blend between the older architecture and modern aesthetics. My favorite shop was The Antique Gardner, which was absolute perfection in my eyes. This perfectly curated shop offers a well rounded selection of gardening goodies, household items and gifts for all ages. The price points were reasonable, and covered a wide-range, so we had no problem finding some affordable souvenirs for our garden back at home.

I have a serious obsession with butlers pantries, and I fell in love with this one at The Antique Gardner. Definitely inspiration for my future pantry.

The back patio had a rabbit to entertain the kids.

Our next stop was Element, which offers some seriously delicious brunch options. The decor was tastefully executed and made for a very bright and welcoming space to enjoy a meal. We had the Badger St. Vaquero and Tailing Wheel, along with a side of chicken apple sausage and an organic potato medley for the kids. Everything was delicious.

Tailing Wheel - housemade biscuit, sausage patty, fried egg, rapini, havarti and a side of greens.
Badger St. Vaquero - crispy corn tortillas layered with black beans, roasted tomato salsa, double sunny egg, drizzled cilantro crema and queso fresco.
With are bellies full, we made the short walk back to the car, making mental notes along the way of all the places I wanted to explore on our next visit.

The remaining portion of the drive took us over Carson Pass and down into Hope Valley. This drive was spectacular. We were one of the only cars on the road for large portions of the drive (a nice contrast to the more popular route through Placerville) and the views were enough to make us pull over several times to take pictures. When we arrived in Hope Valley, it was like driving through a postcard. I just glared out the window with wide eyes and a dropped jaw, trying to process the beauty.

What are some of your favorite road trips?

Here are a couple other great drives we have had:
Weekend Getaway to Truckee
Donner Pass Hike and the amazing Goathouse Brewery

Details: The drive from Berkeley to South Lake Tahoe along Highway 88 is about 4 hours long, with Sutter Creek being at the 2 hour mark. Hope Valley is 30 minutes from South Lake Tahoe, and worth the drive if you are staying in the area. Our breakfast at Element was $35 after tax and tip.


  1. That was wonderful! Your photos look great, but I am hungry now! Very nice, I miss driving around in that part of California.

    1. Thanks, Mary! There are so many fun little towns in the Sierra's...I'm looking forward to spending more time in them in the future. And Hope Valley was soooo pretty! Makes me want to give camping a try :)