Even before you climb inside, the GoCar is clearly a car with a personality. The petite, three-wheeled two-seater has a hood that slightly resembles an eager-to-please smiley face, and an open top that seems custom-made for letting the breeze ruffle your hair. Then the real fun begins: built with the company's own software and a compassion for the voiceless robots of America, a talking GPS system guides two-seater GoCars through the city streets of San Francisco, San Diego, Miami, Barcelona, Madrid, and Lisbon with cheerful, info-rich narration. Second only to having a knowledgeable local jog alongside your minivan, tours zip along at drivers' own pace and accommodate as many pit stops as time allows.
If you follow Excelsior Urban Hikes' resident guide Christina, it will only take you two hours to see all of San Francisco. That's because it takes two hours to hike to the top of Mount Davidson, which offers stunning views of the city, both bay bridges, and the Pacific Ocean beyond to visitors who reach its summit.
Christina leads hikes down city streets and through nature trails to reveal scenic vistas. Besides Mount Davidson, she often takes groups to McLaren Park, where she points out interesting graffiti and pauses so hikers can take in views of the Outer Mission District. Christina also takes nighttime excursions to the top of Bernal Hill, where hikers can marvel at the sparkling bay lights and a lightening bug with a great stand-up routine.
Ryan Curtis loves local history, sunshine, and exercise, and he just happened to be clever enough to combine all three into a career. As the owner of Roam Local, he offers—and leads—private and semiprivate walking tours that explore the hidden stairways, alleyways, and gardens of San Francisco. As groups walk, hidden terraces with stunning views as well as famous sights come into view, usually from unexpected angles. That perspective often creates stunning photo opportunities that can’t be found on postcards, such as the Golden Gate Bridge before it’s infused with its morning coffee. As your guide walks and talks, they supplement their information with an interactive iPad presentation and San Francisco’s other standout: its balmy weather.
Many tour guides are passionate about history, but not enough to break into song. That’s where Wild Wes Leslie comes in. Rather than burdening sightseers with the droning narration and mandatory 19th-century ankle boots of a typical city tour, Wes divulges the details of San Francisco’s famous neighborhoods with energetic and original ditties sung to the strums of his ukulele. Resplendent in his bow-tie and bowler hat, the troubadour leads groups on 2.5-hour walking tours that explore well-known areas such as Chinatown and Union square, along with lesser-known spots including the city’s first red-light district.
Owner Jeff Cohn of JC Cellars has always been interested in the world of wine, but it wasn't until he tasted a Chateauneuf-du-Pape that the cosmos unfurled before him. "To go from tasting only single varietals to a blend really opened my eyes," he wrote in his bio. He started crafting his own wines and tinkering with production methods, experimenting with different yeast strains. Cohn eventually produced the 2003 Rhodes Vineyard Zinfandel, which was named number three on Wine Spectator's Top 100 List—the first time a California Zinfandel had even been in the top 10.
Now, Cohn curates a roster of 21 vintages based on Rhone grape varietals at JC Cellars. The wines are the product of both his own production techniques and time-tested French methods. Visitors to the cellars can gaze upon the aging barrels during tastings led by seasoned wine educators, before taking a bottle home to christen a life-size replica of the Millennium Falcon.
Although it hasn't quite reached the level of Napa Valley's 400-plus wineries, the East Bay's wine scene has experienced a rebirth—and East Bay Winery Bike Tours intends to ride right alongside as it continues to grow. Led by owner Jon Zalon, the company takes to the streets on two wheels to explore the area's ever-expanding collection of urban wineries and the faces behind the bottles at each stop.
In 2012, Diablo magazine plopped East Bay Winery Bike Tours at No. 10 on its "50 Things You Gotta do This Summer" list. No matter the season, EBWBT's rides present safe, scenic routes that include everything from a trip to an Oakland estuary to a pleasant cruise down Alameda's palm-lined streets—all without having to rent a car or a horse to drive that car. Every tour also makes sure to set aside plenty of time to soak in the surroundings, including picnics packed with homemade food.