Winter doesn’t grip San Francisco in the same way as it does much of the country. We don’t have to shovel ourselves out from under the snow and “sub zero” is a temperature for ice cream, not a plausible description of the weather conditions. That said, some years are worse than others—this one being an example. And even in the good years, for our aging population winter means more time staying indoors. We have more trouble staying warm when we are older; it is a natural physiological condition. We’ve talked about how to stay warm while indoors, but at some point you realize: we’re still indoors and have been for weeks.
This can lead to a lot of stir-craziness, both for caregivers and their aging loved ones. San Francisco is not the easiest city in which to get around even in the best of conditions, and on ugly, cold, and rainy days staying inside can seem like the best option. That begins to get wearisome, though, and you might want to get away. For people who can do so, getting out of the city into the warmer parts of the Bay Area for a day, or even a weekend, is not just a way to break cabin fever, but to be reinvigorated and instilled with a sense of purpose. Here are some of San Francisco’s best winter getaways for caregivers and aging adults.
Winter Getaways from San Francisco
Hot Springs – Fort Bragg/Mendocino
For most of American history, hot springs have been a natural way to make people feel better. Even if their actual healing properties have been overstated, there is no doubt that they are soothing and relaxing, which is good enough. Fort Bragg, a Mendocino town, has a variety of natural hot springs and spas that take advantage of them. Along the beautiful Pacific coast, where the ocean beats itself against the land, the whole Mendocino area is famous for its rugged beauty. It’s where the power of nature can both fill you with awe and let you relax in a warm, natural body of soothing water—all less than a four-hour drive from San Francisco.
This is a little more than four hours away, which is a bit more of a trip, but for those that haven’t been, it’s one of California’s hidden gems. A Danish town that has kept much of its old-world charm, Solvang is known for its wineries, charming stores, unique architecture (including windmills and thatched-roof buildings), and warm sun. Winter tends to be in the 80s and sunny around there, which might not feel much like Europe to be sure, but it looks like the best parts of Europe made better. For an aging loved one with the urge, but not the ability to travel great distances, Solvang can be a unique and doable trip.
Although not one of the warmest nor sunniest place in California, Big Sur in winter offers its own charms. We know how ruggedly beautiful this spot, three hours south of San Francisco, can be, but not everyone knows it is the winter home of migrating monarch butterflies, flitting by the thousands through the surf-echoing fog. This is ideal for anyone interested in their majestic beauty, especially people who might be looking for a new hobby, whether it is becoming a hard-core Nabokovian lepidopterist, or just learning more about them. A great way to create, or rekindle, new interests for older people and caregivers.
Napa Valley is, of course, known for its wines and its tourists, but the latter are a little lessened in the winter. The beauty and serenity of the valley is not, however, especially if you go to some of the more tucked-away areas, such as Calistoga. Calistoga was founded to take advantage of the luxuriant hot springs, and not much has changed. This hidden gem, with its abundant shops and great boutique restaurants, has long been one of the most beautiful and relaxing places in a state known for them. Barely two hours outside the big city, you can feel like you are in another time, and even another world.
These kinds of trips are needed and are good for the soul. Being a caregiver can be a stressful job, and feeling trapped inside is bad for both physical and mental health, for everyone concerned. A relaxing trip doesn’t have to be forced on anyone, but making a fairly short and easy drive to get somewhere new, or somewhere fondly remembered, can be a huge mental health boost, and can even be good physically. Don’t let the winter blues get you down. California is a wild and beautiful state, and there are places that even lifelong residents haven’t seen. It’s never too late to go exploring.
At Institute on Aging, we’re dedicated to helping Bay Area seniors and their caregivers experience life to its fullest. Contact us today to learn more about our resources and programs.