With travel season upon us again, it’s time to explore getaway options, both long distance and a little closer to home. If a true vacation is on your agenda, consider the many ways to relax and unwind in San Francisco. If you’re swamped and can only take a few days away from the grind, how about a quick, three-hour drive northwest to the charming town of Galena?

If you’re one of the millions of people who’ve already been to San Francisco, you undoubtedly want to return. And if you haven’t been yet, now is a good time to discover what all of the fuss is about, according to Barbara Hoffman, business development director at Suzi Davis Travel. “The city and the surrounding area has so much to offer,” she explained.

First up: getting there. “If renting a car is part of your plan, flying into San Jose has a lot of plusses,” Hoffman advised. “It’s far easier to get in and out of San Jose than San Francisco. Those familiar with the city already know that driving and parking in San Francisco is a challenge. San Jose has become a ‘mini-hub’ for American Airlines, and the service is frequent. But if you’re going to do ‘all city,’ a cab from SFO to your hotel makes sense.”

If you’re currently planning a fall vacation, she said San Francisco should be at the top of your list. “One of the best times to travel to the Bay Area is early fall. It’s a golden time of year, when the weather is usually warm and fairly dry with cool nights. There are so many wonderful sights to see and places to explore that being there when the weather is good makes it that much better.”

Perhaps the biggest question any traveler faces is where to stay. Fortunately, Hoffman said the list of fabulous hotels in and around the city is a long one. “The well-known ones include the Westin St. Francis, the Palace Hotel, the Mark Hopkins Intercontinental, the Fairmont, and the Ritz Carlton. For something a little offbeat, the Hotel Triton is a good one, as is the Clift. Across the bay in Sausalito is the Inn Above Tide (www.innabovetide.com). There are spectacular views from the rooms, which are literally ‘above tide’ with magnificent views of the city from across the bay. Ferry service to the city is frequent, easily accessible, and offers valet parking. It’s small, elegant, and has easy access to restaurants and shopping. You might want to try breakfast at Fred’s for a change of pace.”

If you love to eat, Hoffman said San Francisco is the place to do it. “From the elegant and chic—Gary Danko’s (www.garydanko.com), Fleur de Lis, 231 Ellsworth (www.231ellsworth.com), Oakland’s Bay Wolf, and Berkley’s Chez Panisse—great food experiences await. And one of the new ‘hot spots’ is the Boulevard.”

For a treat, she said Mitchell’s Ice Cream (www.mitchellsicecream.com) and Tartine Bakery (www.tartinebakery.com) are must-visits.

After you’ve had your fill to eat, try a Segway Tour offered by the San Francisco Electric Tour Company (www.sfelectrictour.com), she said. “The area abounds with great walking and hiking options: a trip to Muir Woods is always in order, Telegraph Hill has lots to explore, and the Filbert Steps offer a way to see the city that even the locals seldom do.”

Most people enjoy the many side trip possibilities a visit to San Francisco provides. For wine lovers, there’s no better way to spend a day (or two) than exploring nearby Sonoma and Napa Valley. Hoffman also suggested a trip to Half Moon Bay—only 30 to 45 minutes away—and a stop at Moss Beach Distillery for brunch. Then, keep driving to Carmel for great galleries, shops, and bistros. “It’s worth a day to make this trip—and maybe an overnight at one of the many inns and B&Bs or at a truly wonderful resort called the Highlands.”

Whether in the city itself or exploring the surrounding area, San Francisco offers limitless ways to enjoy some much-deserved time off.

A long weekend away is great for recharging your batteries until you can squeeze in a longer trip. Galena is a popular destination for a quick getaway—perhaps because it feels like a complete departure, while being only hours away.

Galena offers plenty of places to stay, including a crush of intimate B&Bs and inns. The Goldmoor Inn and Aaron’s Cottages and Cabins, which sit high atop the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River, provide one upscale option (www.goldmoor.com). Depending on your needs, you can stay in a deluxe cottage, an elegant log cabin, or a suite. Amenities include private, two-person whirlpools; a mantled fireplace; entertainment system and use of the DVD library; and a complete galley kitchen with stocked mini-fridge.

The Inn at Irish Hollow (www.irishhollow.com) and its private cottages are another way to relax in ultimate comfort. Set on 500 acres of rolling hillsides and valleys, the inn offers lush amenities for sophisticated travelers. The inn’s kitchens serve up gourmet breakfasts and seven-course dinners, and the on-site massage staff offers massages ranging from 75 minutes to two and a half hours. The cottages include huge limestone fireplaces in both the bedroom and the sitting room, all-marble baths with large double whirlpools, four-poster king beds, furnished screened porches, and beautiful artwork.

The Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa (www.eagleridgeresortonline.com), just a few miles outside of Galena, offers a complete resort experience: championship golf, horseback riding, hiking, and every spa treatment imaginable at the Stonedrift Spa. The inn provides fireplace rooms and suites just steps away from the pool, fitness facilities, and restaurants. You also can rent houses with anywhere from three to six-plus bedrooms that include all of the comforts of home. Another option is a one-, two-, or three-bedroom villa—all of which come fully equipped.

When it comes to dining, Fried Green Tomatoes (www.friedgreen.com) is a hands-down favorite for locals and tourists alike. Between its award-winning chef and the exceptional wine list—honored with the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence three years standing, as well as Wine Enthusiast magazine’s Ultimate Wine Menu Distinction—you’re in for a treat. The Perry Street Brasserie (www.perrystreetbrasserie.com), featuring a European master chef, is another good choice. And Oscar Pike’s (www.oscarpikes. com) features international cuisine ranging from Asian to Italian to Caribbean.

In addition to the abundance of fine dining options, Galena is known for its unique shops. If fine art is a passion, the Galena area boasts more than a dozen art galleries and stores—and even more antique and collectible shops. The many specialty stores in Galena earned its downtown the “Best Main Street” designation by Midwest Living Magazine. For the culinary guru, there’s Chocolat’, Galena River Wine and Cheese, Galena’s Kandy Kitchen, and Galena Cellars. For something a little offbeat, duck into Poopsie’s for a laugh; pick up French goods at La Provençale; or discover garden accessories, jewelry, and more at La Vie en Rose.

History is alive and well in Galena, and the locals are happy to share their knowledge with curious visitors. The most famous historical connection is Ulysses S. Grant, whose home in Galena receives heavy tourist traffic. Other historical sites include the Belvedere, an Italianate 1857 mansion built for J. Russell Jones, ambassador to Belgium; the Dowling House, Illinois’ oldest stone structure and Galena’s oldest home; and the Galena/Jo Daviess County History Museum, which includes artifacts from the Civil War, mining, steamboating, clothing, geology, and more.

Fine dining, golf, skiing, shopping—Galena is the perfect destination for a long weekend away any time of the year. a&s