Because every man needs a plan, and some of us need that plan with a flowchart, we present Where to Take Her: a series that answers a gentleman's most pressing lifestyle questions and recurs whenever we get around to it. This go-round: On the water. Do it to it.
All Outdoors Whitewater Rafting – American River – Kids eight and up can hit the south and middle forks of the American River. Day one: Class II rollers before overnighting under the stars. Day two: Class IV rapids by the names of Chunder, Catapult and Cleavage. All in, you’ll cover 25 miles of river before the take-out at Greenwood Bridge and a mercifully silent drive home.
Alma – Hyde Street Pier – Bay views are awesome and plentiful aboard the Scow Schooner Alma, and your kids will be captivated by the history buff Park Rangers who emcee the cruise. Luckily for everybody, S.F.’s story is a bloody and dramatic one, with ‘49ers (original version), devastating earthquakes and fires, Spanish explorers, and even a G-rated retelling of the red-light Barbary Coast district.
Calistoga Ranch – Calistoga – Busy yourself with a wine-blending class and locavore cooking tutorial or just chill out — expansively — in your 1,200-square-foot cottage. Your private outdoor living room comes with a fireplace, and she’ll enjoy the 150-minute Calistoga Cure, which includes an exfoliating body scrub, mud bath and customizable massage.
Marin Tidal Hot Springs – Stinson Beach – Also known by the more descriptive name of Steep Ravine Hot Spring, this tidal spring has its detractors — the locals can be surly, and there’s a twisty, tough climb required to access the pool — but still: spectacular views. Planning is required, since the spring is only accessible during the lowest of low tides.
Orr Hot Springs Resort – Ukiah – Way up Mendocino way is the eminently crunchy Orr Hot Springs, which includes, among its range of clothing-optional accommodations, six yurts and a creekhouse. Our choice: one of the three private cottages. The real draw is the medley of steam baths, saunas, and spring-fed baths — including two clawfoot tubs positioned on the rooftop for stargazing. Adjust iPhones to OFF upon arrival.
Sanctuary Cruises – Monterey Bay – The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is one of the best places in the country to treat your kids to an up-close-and-personal experience with aquatic life: dolphins, humpbacks, gray whales, orcas and the under-12 set’s perennial favorite — sea otters. Whale-watching cruises push off 2-3 times daily; for a more customizable experience, arrange for a private charter of Captain Mike’s 43-foot Delta Marine twin-engine (and biodiesel-fueled) vessel.
Solage Calistoga – Calistoga – Make the most of one of northern California's top spas with "Starlight at the Bathhouse," which offers private, after-access hours to the five-star hotel's spa surrounds for you and a friend. Soak in the geothermal-water-fed pool, steam it up in the sauna, and then relax on the deck beneath a starry Napa night, presumably enhanced by the included dessert and sparkling wine.