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Fall getaways: Autumn provides plenty of chances to recreate in the region

Signs on Barkley Road point toward Honey Bear Ranch in Apple Hill, one of the region’s fun spots for fall recreation.
Signs on Barkley Road point toward Honey Bear Ranch in Apple Hill, one of the region’s fun spots for fall recreation. pkitagaki@sacbee.com

This collection of stories written by staff of The Sacramento Bee provides options for outdoor recreation that fit well with the fall season.

By Stela Khury

Choosing where to go on a holiday so soon after summer is no easy task - going somewhere far away appears too much of an ordeal, but staying home seems like a waste of a long weekend. The solution may be as easy as picking a direction and going for it. Here are five fully budget-adaptable getaways no more than two hours away by car:

1. South: Lodi

Lodi is home to more than 80 wineries, restaurants for every taste, and accommodations ranging from budget hotels to Victorian inns and luxurious spas.

One of the best bets for visitors coming down for a day is to take advantage of fall's milder temperatures and go for a picnic, suggested Courtney Smear of the Lodi Visitors Bureau. Pick up a bottle of wine, shop around town for artisanal olive oil, fresh bread and other good finger foods before heading out.

Visiting a few wineries is a must. Oak Farm Vineyards is among the wineries that offer vineyard tours and a tasting room. Oak Farm earned some key prizes at the 2015 California State Fair, including best of show white and best white from the Lodi appellation.

Annalisa Babich, hospitality director of Oak Farm Vineyards, suggested that visitors try the vineyard's zinfandel made with all Lodi grapes.

2. West: Point Reyes

Point Reyes National Seashore is an animal sanctuary and a Zen getaway rolled into one. The reserve offers more than 40 spots that can be reserved for camping, picnic and grilling. Visitors need to hike to most areas, while some are accessible only by boat.

The reserve houses hundreds of species of animals, one of the most popular being the tule elk, a subspecies exclusive to California. Early September marks the halfway point of the tule elk's three-month rut season. During this period, visitors will be able to interact with docents to view the tule elk's curious mating sparring and hoarding behaviors.

For the less adventurous, Point Reyes also boasts hotels, resorts and seafood restaurants all through the Point Reyes to Bodega Bay seashore route. Options range from shucking oysters at the Hog Island Oyster Farm, a do-it-yourself spot overlooking the sea or dressing up for Italian fare at Osteria Stellina.

3. Northeast: Nevada City

Fall is a good opportunity for visitors to live like one of the roughly 3,000 Nevada City locals, said Lex Matteini from the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce.

"We are in between major events and all the hubbub (around Labor Day)," Matteini said.

The main street's traditional mining town buildings house local artisanal clothes and gold jewelry shops, chocolate made from scratch at the Nevada City Chocolate Shoppe, and local ice cream at Treats.

The city is also an ideal spot to set up camp for a visit to Tahoe National Forest and Grass Valley, home to Peaceful Valley, an organic gardener's store for supplies, seeds and fruit trees.

The various roadside fruit stands that open irregularly along the routes in and out of Nevada City are not to be missed, according to traveler Amelia Pardo, 56, of Sacramento. Some of the fruits that should be in season around Labor Day include blueberries and watermelon, according to UC Davis data.

4. East: Auburn

Auburn proudly labels itself the Endurance Capital of the World - and with good reason. The variety of trails can accommodate hiking, cycling and horse riding. Hidden Falls Regional Park, tucked away in eastern Auburn, boasts 30 miles of trails with scenic views of the mountainous region.

Another perk of the Auburn area is the several comfort food restaurants perfect for replenishing carbohydrates spent during all that physical activity. Locals recommend Awful Annie's for all-day breakfast.

Pets have their own exclusive exercise spot, too. Ashley Memorial Dog Park is a puppy's paradise. Located right along Highway 49, the soccer field-sized grassy lawn offers areas for different sizes of dogs, small pools for the canines to cool off, and a potable water fountain.

5. Local: Events

For those not willing to drive more than 30 minutes but who still want to enjoy a little bit of what each of these destinations have to offer, Clarksburg may be a good option. For the wine aficionado, the Old Sugar Mill is a community of 11 California wineries that offers group wine tastings and hosts events.

To get in touch with nature, visitors can reach out to the Delta Heartbeat, which arranges educational tours of the Delta for all ages. The Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge is also just a few miles down I-5. The park's Blue Heron Trail takes visitors through a little over a mile of wetlands for a small dose of exercise and photo-ops.

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