14 Amazing Day Trips from San Francisco to Plan Now

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“14 Amazing Day Trips from San Francisco to Plan Now”

Part of what makes San Francisco such a fantastic place to live and visit is the city’s proximity to beautiful outdoor recreation areas and nearby towns and cities worth exploring. Within just a few hours drive, and sometimes much less, you can easily access mountain peaks and trails, stunning coastline and beaches, charming seaside towns, wine country, foodie destinations, and much more. 

Looking for ideas for day trips from San Francisco? Whether you’re a long-time resident, new to the Bay Area, or you’re visiting San Francisco and you’ve got a few extra days on your hands, we’ve got you covered with this list of the best day trips in the Bay Area.

Below, you’ll find everything you need to know to plan your day trip, with ideas for outdoor adventures, city escapes, and more. We’ve included information on how to get there, along with suggestions on what to do and where to eat and drink. Because we believe those details matter. Especially the “eat and drink” parts.

A stunning view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands (which you’ll find below)

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post, like hotel and vacation rental links, are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you we make a little bit of money if you click through and book. That being said, we would absolutely never recommend something to you that we don’t stand behind 100%.

Table of Contents show
1 The Best Day Trips from San Francisco: 14 Bay Area Day Trips to Plan Now
1.1 San Francisco Day Trips for Outdoor Adventures
1.2 Day Trips to Nearby Cities and Towns
1.3 Other Great Day Trips in the Bay Area

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The Best Day Trips from San Francisco: 14 Bay Area Day Trips to Plan Now

Here are some of our favorite excursions within 90 minutes of San Francisco (one way). 

Looking for a longer trip? Read our guide to the best weekend getaways from San Francisco to plan your next weekend trip – whether it’s a rugged backpacking trip or a romantic getaway for you and your partner.

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San Francisco Day Trips for Outdoor Adventures 

If you love outdoor adventures then you’re in luck. There are plenty of places where you can hike, bike, paddle, surf, or just enjoy nature and the great outdoors. Some of these are literally just across the bay, while others are a short drive away, leaving you plenty of time to make the most of your day.

You will need a car for the vast majority of the places in this section, with the exception of the Marin Headlands and Angel Island, which you can take public transportation to. 

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The Marin Headlands 

Distance from San Francisco: 5 miles / 15 minutes

How to get there: Head north on US-101 across the Golden Gate Bridge (or take the 76X bus from San Francisco).

Since it’s just over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, you can maximize your day in the Marin Headlands. The spectacular area is known for its breathtaking scenery, along with interesting historical sites. There are also miles of trails to explore.

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Things to Do in the Marin Headlands

Tennessee Valley Trail – This is one of the best, and most popular, hikes near San Francisco. You have the option of an easy 3.5-mile out and back trail to the small, black-sand Tennessee Beach, or a moderate 5.5-mile loop connecting to the Coastal Trail (which you can extend to Muir Beach) and Coyote Ridge Trail. Either way, you’ll enjoy incredible coastal views as you walk past rolling hills, coastal scrub, and wildflowers in spring. There’s a pretty lagoon popular with birds, as well as a nice overlook. At low tide you can sometimes see the engine of the shipwrecked SS Tennessee.

The Tennessee Valley Trail in Marin

Point Bonita Lighthouse – Located at the very southern tip of the Marin Headlands, and perched on a small, rocky promontory, the Point Bonita Lighthouse can be accessed via an easy though sometimes steep 0.5-mile trail, which crosses a tunnel (duck if you’re tall) and a small suspension bridge. The still operating lighthouse, which was built in 1855, is only open Saturdays through Mondays from 12:30pm to 3:30pm. The lighthouse itself is interesting, but the dramatic views may be even more so.

Point Bonita Lighthouse

Kirby Cove – Located at the base of the Marin Headlands, this pretty cove offers incredible views of Golden Gate Bridge (great for photos!) and San Francisco. Check out the Battery Spencer Viewpoint before tackling the steep, 1-mile trail down. At the bottom, Battery Kirby can be found right behind the beach. If you have more time, try to reserve one of the five campsites at the beach for an overnight, though there is no water available.

Pelican Inn – Located right by Muir Beach, you can grab a pint and some solid British pub fare (or High Tea) at this pretty, Tudor-style English inn. It’s one of the only options in the area.

Coastal Trail / Miwok Trail Loop from Rodeo Beach – Rodeo Beach itself is nice enough, and offers a wide stretch of beach. A great hiking option, which takes you to some of the best views in the whole area, is the moderate 5.5-mile loop trail along the Coastal Trail, Wolf Ridge Trail, and Miwok Trail. In the spring, look for wildflowers along Wolf Ridge. You’ll also pass by Battery Townsley and Rodeo Lagoon. Nearby Marine Mammal Hospital rehabilitates seals, sea lions, otters, and other injured marine mammals and is free to visit.

The Coastal Trail in the Marin Headlands

Planning a trip to San Francisco? Here are some of our other San Francisco travel guides to help you plan your time.

  • One Day in San Francisco: The Best of San Francisco in a Day
  • 3 Days in San Francisco: A Perfect San Francisco Itinerary
  • Where to Stay in San Francisco: The 7 Best Areas to Stay in SF
  • The Best Hikes in the San Francisco Bay Area

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Point Reyes National Seashore

Distance from San Francisco: 35 miles / 60 minutes to Point Reyes Station, further to the Lighthouse and Tomales Point

How to get there: Head north on US-101 to CA-1

Tule elk along the Tomales Point Trail

Point Reyes is a nature and outdoor lover’s paradise, with more than 80 miles of shoreline and 150 miles of hiking trails, biking routes, and horseback riding trails. Plus, there are some really excellent food options to reward yourself with afterwards.

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Things to Do at Point Reyes

We have an entire guide dedicated to the best things to do in Point Reyes with more detail.

Point Reyes Lighthouse – Located on the westernmost point of the Point Reyes headlands, considered one of the windiest and foggiest spots on the entire west coast, the Point Reyes Lighthouse was built in 1870. It was retired from active service in 1975 when an automated light was installed. The hike to the lighthouse is only 0.5 miles, though you do have to climb 300 steps on your way back. The lighthouse is only open from 10am to 4:30pm Fridays to Mondays. There’s a visitor center and a small museum you can explore, where you can read about life as a lighthouse keeper from 19th century logs. In the winter, look for migrating whales in the ocean below.

Tomales Point Trail – This moderate 9.5-mile out and back trail is great for incredible ocean views and a good chance of spotting wild Tule elk as you pass right by the Tule Elk Reserve. It’s a long trail but it’s largely flat. You also don’t have to go all the way to the end and can turn around at any time. Look for wildflowers in the spring and migrating gray whales in the winter. If you’re short on time, try the easy 1.6-mile Chimney Rock Trail instead, which still gives you incredible views of the coastline and elephant seals on the beach. 

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Bovine Bakery – There’s a reason for that long line. Their pastries are delicious. Stop here first to fuel up for the day, or for your post-hike snacks. The morning buns and bear claws are amazing, and they also have heartier fare like pizzas and quiches. A great spot to pick up supplies for your picnic later.

Hog Island Oysters – You can get these in San Francisco too, but there’s something about shucking your own oysters at the source, where they’re farmed – in fact, this is where I learned how to shuck oysters. Bring some wine, cheese, and crackers, and enjoy a picnic at the handy tables – or you can purchase everything you need for a picnic from their to-go shack. They also have a full-service outdoor cafe if you’d rather not DIY. Nearby Tomales Bay Oyster Company is another good option, though they don’t have a picnic area onsite. If you want to work up an appetite, try kayaking in Tomales Bay beforehand (check with Blue Waters Kayaking for rentals). 

Cowgirl Creamery – Sadly, their shop and cafe in the Ferry Building closed down after 18 years, so the Creamery Barn Shop & Cantina in Point Reyes is now their only retail outlet. Though you can find them in different markets in San Francisco. Sample their amazing cheese, and pick up your new favorites for a picnic to take back to San Francisco with you.

Heidrun Meadery – For something different, try a tasting at Heidrun Meadery. They make sparkling mead, which is like a sparkling wine, but made from honey instead of grapes. You can bring along a picnic to have with your tasting. Tours are also available if you want to see the bees, the gardens, and how they make it all. 

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Mt. Tamalpais

Distance from San Francisco: 16 miles / 40 minutes

How to get there: Head north on US-101 across the Golden Gate Bridge, then CA-1

A sacred mountain to the Miwok, who named it “coast mountain,” Mt. Tam is a popular destination for outdoor lovers, who seek out its more than 200 miles of trails, legendary mountain biking, and spectacular views.

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Things to Do at Mt. Tam

Hike to the East Peak – There are several ways to reach East Peak, the summit of Mt. Tam at 2,571 feet. A great, though steep, route is the 3.9-mile out and back trail from Mountain Home Inn. Head up the Gravity Car Fire Road to the Old Railroad Grade (a really popular mountain biking route), then take the Fern Creek Trail all the way to the summit. Take your time to appreciate the views from the top, assuming it’s not blocked by fog. This is also a great sunset spot. A much easier option is to take the short 0.6-mile Plankwalk Trail loop (which you can extend by doing the Verna Dunshee Loop as well) from the Mt. Tam East Peak Fire Lookout Station. 

The view from Mt. Tam’s East Peak

Steep Ravine/Matt Davis Loop– This moderate 7.5-mile loop is a classic and showcases much of the beauty of the area, including redwood forests, lush canyons, streams, wildlife, beach, and plenty of incredible views. Start at Stinson Beach and take the Matt Davis Trail (look for wildflowers in the spring) up to the Pantoll Ranger Station, then take the Steep Ravine Trail down past groves of coastal redwood (look for waterfalls in the spring). Hop on the Dipsea Trail (with jaw-dropping views of the beach, coast, and Point Reyes) until you end up back at Stinson Beach. Spend the rest of your time at the beach. You could also start and end at the Pantoll Ranger Station instead, but know that there will be a fee for parking there.

Coastal views along the Steep Ravine Trail

Cataract Falls – One of the most popular waterfalls in the area, Cataract Falls can be reached via a moderate 3-mile out and back trail from the Bolinas Fairfax Road. Heading uphill, you’ll pass by lush forests, a creek, bridge, and some steep steps. There’s also a picnic area towards the end. You can combine this trail into several longer loop options, or start from the Rock Spring Trailhead for a longer hike that tracks the entire Cataract Segment.

Equator Coffee – For great coffee, tea, and an assortment of baked goods, stop at Equator Coffee in Mill Valley on your way to Mt. Tam and fuel up for your day of outdoor adventures.

Parkside Cafe – Located right by Stinson Beach, Parkside Cafe is a great spot to grab some food after your hike. The seafood and pizzas are good options. There’s also a takeaway snack bar where you can grab some quick snacks or tasty soft serve if you want to maximize your beach time.

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Mt. Diablo State Park

Distance from San Francisco:  45 miles / 60 minutes

How to get there: Head east on I-80 to CA-24E 

At 3,849 feet, Mt. Diablo is one of the highest mountains in the Bay Area, with stunning views from its summit and more than 50 miles of hiking and biking trails. It’s a sacred mountain to the Miwok and Ohlone, who believe it to be the point of creation.

Mt Diablo State Park is, well, a state park, which means you’ll need to pay a $10 entry fee at the gate to get in. 

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Things to Do at Mt. Diablo

Summit – On a clear day, you can see nearly 200 miles, past the Golden Gate Bridge to the Farallon Islands to the west, to Mt. Loma Prieta in the Santa Cruz Mountains to the south, to Lassen Peak to the north, and the Sierra Nevada to the east. It’s said you can see parts of 40 of California’s 58 counties from here! Get a closer look with the telescopes at the observation deck. A small museum also covers the geology and habitat of Mt. Diablo.

The view from the summit of Mt. Diablo

Rock City – This area is full of unusual sandstone formations that are fun to explore. Highlights include the Wind Caves, Elephant Rock, Fossil Ridge, and Artist Point. Sentinel Rock and Boy Scout Rocks offer good rock climbing, while many other areas offer fun scrambling for adults and kids. You can also see Native American grinding rocks near the Grotto.

Hiking – The Mount Diablo Grand Loop is a great option and circumnavigates the entire mountain. You can enjoy spectacular views of the Bay Area and beyond from here, along with fantastic wildflowers in the spring. Those looking for an easier way to circumnavigate the mountain can take the 0.8-mile Mary Bowerman Interpretive Trail near the summit. In the spring, go waterfall hunting on the Waterfalls of Mt. Diablo Loop Trail.

Walnut Creek – Stop at Walnut Creek on your way to or back from Mt. Diablo for food and drinks. To fuel up for your day of adventure, stop at the Sunrise Bistro or grab some sandwiches at Kinder’s. The Walnut Creek Yacht Club is a good choice for seafood and has a good oyster bar and an excellent wine list. Teleferic Barcelona offers great tapas, while Il Fornaio is a solid choice for pizza and pasta. Finish up with ice cream from the San Francisco Creamery Co.

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Day Trips to Nearby Cities and Towns 

If you’re looking for a bit more of an urban outing, there are a number of nearby towns and cities that make for great San Francisco day trips. From wine country, to a university town, to laid-back beach towns, here are our picks.

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Healdsburg

Distance from San Francisco: 65 miles / 75 minutes

How to get there: Head north on US-101 across the Golden Gate Bridge

You almost can’t visit the Bay Area and not visit wine country. Located in Sonoma County, and offering arguably the best all around wine country experience, Healdsburg is ideally situated where the Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley, and Alexander Valley growing areas all intersect. 

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Things to Do in Healdsburg

Go wine tasting – This is after all the main reason you are here. There are more than 20 tasting rooms within walking distance of downtown, and more than 100 wineries just a short drive away. Some wineries require a reservation, so be sure to check before you go. Most tastings will cost, but it is totally reasonable to share a tasting and if you really like the wine often the fee will be waived with a bottle purchase. Just make sure you have a designated sober driver for the ride home. If you need a pick-me-up, grab some coffee from Flying Goat Coffee.

  • Locals Tasting Room is a great way to sample several small-production wineries at the same time, plus the tastings are free. 
  • For an elegant wine tasting experience with spectacular views and a beautiful chateau, head to Jordan Vineyard & Winery. They have an amazing three-hour wine and food pairing experience if you have the time, but if not, you need to at least try their chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon. 
  • Another spectacular estate, with gorgeous gardens, and a wide range of wines, is Ferrari-Carano. 
  • For a different experience in an underground wine cave, and great Zinfandel, check out Bella Vineyards & Wine Caves. 
  • If you love sparkling wines, J Vineyards is a good choice. 
  • For a laid-back experience that’s right in town, head over to Banshee Wines, usually open until 6 or 7pm. 

Sample the cuisine – The dining scene in Healdsburg is also fantastic. If you want to just grab something to go or to pack a picnic to take with you wine tasting, Oakville Grocery offers everything you need. Take your time and linger over small casual plates in their lovely outdoor patio at Bravas Bar de Tapas. The same group also operates the excellent Willi’s Seafood & Raw Bar. Barndiva serves up modern, farm-to-table cuisine. And if you can get a reservation, splurge for the seasonal tasting menu at SingleThread.

Other options – While wine and food are the two main draws to Healdsburg, there are other options too. There’s an excellent assortment of art galleries downtown worth checking out. Rent a bike and ride along the winding Dry Creek Road (and/or use the bikes to visit various wineries!). Or paddle in a kayak or canoe down the Russian River, which cuts right through town.

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Sausalito

Distance from San Francisco: 6 miles / 15 minutes

How to get there: Walk/bike/drive over the Golden Gate Bridge or catch a ferry from the Ferry Building 

Just over the Golden Gate Bridge, this pretty seaside town is known for its colorful houseboats, Mediterranean feel, and incredible views.

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Things to Do in Sausalito

Stroll the Bridgeway – The Bridgeway is the main street of Sausalito. The Bridgeway Promenade section, between Princess and Richardson streets is particularly scenic. Enjoy spectacular views, and a large assortment of galleries, shops, and restaurants. Other landmarks include the Sea Lion statue, Yee Tock Chee Park, the Southern Sausalito Boardwalk, and the Northern Sausalito Boardwalk. 

Image credit: f11photo / Shutterstock.com

Bike or paddle – Sausalito is great for biking, with scenic views all around and plenty of bike parking in town. A bike also allows you to explore areas outside of Sausalito. You can bike across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco and then bring your bike back to the city on the ferry, or rent one in Sausalito. Kayaking and standup paddleboarding are also great ways to explore on the water at Sausalito. Sea Trek can outfit you with everything you need, including guided tours.

Explore the Houseboats – There’s a vibrant community of around 500 colorful floating homes (the resident’s preferred term) in five floating marinas in the northern Marinship neighborhood. Take a self-guided walking tour around the Gate 5 Road area and the Gate 6 Road area. You won’t be able to go inside unless you happen to catch their annual tour, but it’s still worth a wander. Be respectful and don’t talk loudly, ride bikes, smoke, or bring pets. Afterwards, stop by the nearby San Francisco Bay Model to check out the 1.5-acre 3-D pneumatic model of San Francisco Bay.

Grab a Dungeness crab roll (or any of their sustainable seafood options really) at Fish. For modern and gluten free Mexican, head to Copita, and try to choose from their more than 100 tequilas and mezcals. Or enjoy cocktails and pizza while playing a game of bocce ball at Bar Bocce. Finish up with a scoop of two of Lappert’s incredible ice cream. Yes, it’s worth waiting in that line.

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Oakland

Distance from San Francisco: 10 miles / 20 minutes

How to get there: Head east on I-80, take public transportation (BART or a ferry to Jack London Square)

You might be surprised at all the points of interest here, from Lake Merritt to a thriving arts and culinary scene, and a redwood forest just minutes from downtown.

Things to Do in Oakland

Lake Merritt – Lake Merritt is known as the Crown Jewel of Oakland and it’s easy to see why. A tidal lagoon, it’s also the oldest designated wildlife refuge in the country and home to many different native birds. There’s a lovely 3-mile loop around the lake, and several themed gardens within Lakeside Park. You can also rent all sorts of watercraft to get out on the water, or even take a gondola ride. Grab some drinks and seafood at The Lake Chalet, and sit out on the pier. Or head to Arizmendi for their vegetarian pizza and tasty baked goods. On Saturdays there’s a great farmers market at the Splash Pad.

Jack London Square – You can also get out on the water and paddle the Oakland Estuary at Jack London Square (go with California Canoe and Kayak), then check out the replica of Jack London’s cabin. After you’ve worked up an appetite, you have several great food choices, including Souley Vegan, Everett & Jones for barbecue and blues, and Yoshi’s for Japanese and jazz. Grab a drink at Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon, built from the remains of a whaling ship, and where author Jack London used to drink (and supposedly wrote as well). Or grab a coffee at Bicycle Coffee.

Temescal Alley – Temescal Alley and Alley 49 may be the most well known and main alleyways but the area is teeming with hip shops, boutiques, galleries, restaurants, and bars. Shopping highlights include Dandelion Post, jeweler Marisa Mason, Standard and Strange, Homestead Apothecary, and the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse. Keep your eyes peeled for murals and mosaic trash cans as you walk around. Hungry? Top choices include Cholita Linda for tacos, Bakesale Betty for their fried chicken sandwiches, Homeroom for their mac and cheese, and Curbside Creamery for ice cream. Grab a beer at divey The Avenue with its skeletons and stalactites, a craft brew at Temescal Brewing, or some wine at Oakland Yard.

Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park – Just a few minutes from Downtown Oakland is a 1,830-acre park where you can walk among coastal redwoods. The Redwood Regional Park Loop is an easy and popular 3.5-mile trail, or try the longer French Loop Trail. The Chabot Space and Science Center next door is worth a visit if you’re into astronomy or have kids. 

Berkeley

Distance from San Francisco: 13 miles / 25 minutes

How to get there: Head east on I-80 to 580 or take public transportation (BART)

Located in the East Bay and easily accessible, Berkeley is quirky and bohemian, with lovely outdoor spaces, cool museums and cultural institutions, a vibrant culinary scene, and its namesake university.

Things to Do in Berkeley

UC Berkeley – Berkeley’s beautiful campus is worth a visit, even if you’re not a student or care to be. Enjoy sweeping views of the bay from Campanile (Sather Tower). Take a guided tour or try to seek out the secret spots. The university is also home to several excellent museums and venues, including the 34-acre Botanical Garden in the Berkeley Hills, the Lawrence Hall of Science, and Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. Then see if you can catch a performance at the Greek Theatre.

Telegraph Avenue – After your campus visit, stroll down Telegraph Avenue, which some consider the heart and soul of bohemian Berkeley. You’ll find plenty of eclectic shops, cafes, and cheap eats here. Highlights include Rasputin Music, Amoeba Music, Moe’s Books, and its many street murals. There’s even an app that tells you all about the area’s rich history.

Tilden Park – Spanning more than 2,000 acres, this popular park in the Berkeley Hills offers nearly 40 miles of trails (try the Bay Area Ridge Trail, Inspiration Point to Wildcat Peak for fantastic views, or look for the Fairy Post Office at the start of the Curran Trial). Go for a swim in Lake Anza, or just enjoy a leisurely picnic on the banks. There’s a golf course, and a carousel and miniature steam train for kids. You’ll need a car to get to the trailheads here. 

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Gourmet Ghetto – Anchored by Alice Water’s famed restaurant, Chez Panisse, the Gourmet Ghetto stretches for several blocks along Shattuck Avenue offering a wide range of food and drink options. Favorites include Gather, the Cheese Board Collective, Ippuku, and Revival Bar & Kitchen. You can also find the original Peet’s Coffee shop here (where the Starbucks founders once worked).

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Santa Cruz 

Distance from San Francisco: 75 miles / 90 minutes

How to get there: Head south on US-101 to CA-17

Enjoy sun, surf, and seaside fun at this quintessential and laid-back California beach town. The redwoods meet the coast, and the Beach Boardwalk is one of the most unique spots to visit in Northern California.

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Things to Do in Santa Cruz

Beaches and surf – With 29 miles of coastline, there are plenty of beaches to choose from. The buzzing Main Beach offers lots of amenities, and people. Enjoy plenty of sunshine at Twin Lakes State Beach, while Natural Beaches State Beach (walk the scenic West Cliff Drive there, with a stop at the Surfing Museum) is great for families and sunsets. Surfers should head to Cowell Beach, Pleasure Point, or Steamer Lane.

Beach Boardwalk – The West Coast’s oldest beachfront amusement park is free to enter but you have to pay to play, either per ride or with an unlimited pass. Two of the rides, the Looff carousel and Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster, even have National Historic Landmark status. There’s plenty of carnival food to be had, or grab some fish and chips and check out the resident sea lions at nearby Santa Cruz Wharf, the longest pier on the West Coast.

Mystery Spot – Genuine gravitational anomaly or tourist trap? You decide. Balls seem to roll uphill, water seems to flow upward, and people stand at a slant. It’s a very popular attraction so it’s best to book your tickets ahead of time.

Explore the redwoods – Go for a hike among towering ancient giants at Big Basin Redwoods State Park (the Sequoia Trail is a popular and easy trail that will lead you to a waterfall, while the longer and tougher Berry Creek Falls passes several waterfalls)or Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park (the Cowell Highlights Loop will take you past many park highlights, including Cathedral Redwoods and stunning views), can take a steam train ride through the park with Roaring Camp Railroad.

Abbot Square Market – The former jail now is now a hopping food hall. Top choices include Pizzeria La Bufala, third wave Cat & Cloud Coffee, and Front & Cooper where you can sample artisanal beer, regional wines, and handcrafted cocktails. 

Penny Ice Creamery – They make all their ice cream from scratch from organic and locally sourced ingredients. Best in a homemade waffle cone. Yum!

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Other Great Day Trips in the Bay Area

One of the best parts about living in or visiting San Francisco is the huge array of things to do and see in the broader Bay Area.

We couldn’t fit ALL of the Bay Area day trips we love in the list above, so here are a few more to consider when you’re searching for the perfect day trip. 

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Angel Island

The largest natural island in San Francisco Bay, Angel Island has been many things throughout its history: Miwok hunting ground, Spanish supply stop, Civil War military fort, immigration station, WWII POW camp, and missile site.

Today, the 740-acre island is a state park – Angel Island State Park – with historical sites, beaches, parkland, and 12 miles of hiking and 9 miles of biking trails. Hike to the top of the 781-foot Mt. Livermore for sweeping views. Tram, e-bike, Segway, and kayaking tours are available.

Bring some food and enjoy a scenic picnic or grab a bite at the Angel Island Cafe (get the Way Down South barbeque pork sandwich) by the pier. Ferries are available year-round from San Francisco (pier 41), and seasonally from Tiburon. 

Muir Woods

Located just 12 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge, Muir Woods National Monument is home to more than 500 acres of towering old growth redwood trees.

Head to Cathedral Grove to see the tallest (258 feet) and oldest trees (1,200 years old) in the park. There are 6 miles of trails (including 2 miles which form the very popular and paved main loop trail). For more of a challenge, try the Canopy View Trail or the Dipsea Trail instead.

There’s also a nice cafe on-site (get the Marin Melt grilled cheese).

Reservations are required for all vehicles and shuttles (from Sausalito, Mill Valley, and Marin City—check in advance if it’s running), and a separate entrance fee must be paid as well. Private tours are also available. You can also access Muir Woods by hiking down around 2 miles from the Panoramic Highway if you don’t have a reservation (park by the Mountain Home Inn – you’ll still need to pay the entrance fee!).

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Napa Valley

We’ve already covered our recommendation for wine country, Healdsburg, in more detail above. Napa is the other main wine growing region. It’s certainly worth a visit so long as you are prepared for a much pricier experience.

Some of the biggest names in California wine are all here, including Silver Oak, Stag’s Leap, Domaine Carneros, and Robert Mondavi. The Napa Valley Wine Train is a great experience, with packages that include lunch along with stops at several different wineries.

Culinary superstars such as The French Laundry, Bouchon, and Morimoto Napa are all in the area as well. For a more accessible experience, the Oxbow Public Market lets you sample the best of northern California cuisine, while Culinary Institute of America (CIA at Copia) next door offers tastings, cooking demos, and a restaurant.

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Pacifica

Located just 15 minutes south of San Francisco, the historic surfing town of Pacifica is a great getaway for the day. Several local shops will teach you how to hang ten, or you can just chill at the centrally located and popular Pacifica State Beach (Linda Mar Beach) or the pristine Rockaway Beach.

Take the trail to Mori Point, or hike, bike or horseback ride the Devil’s Slide Trail. Pay a visit to the Shelldance Orchid Gardens, which is conveniently located next to the Sweeney Ridge Trail. Try your hand at fishing or crabbing off the Pacifica Pier. If the weather isn’t cooperating, head to Sea Bowl for bowling, billiards, and arcade games.

Grab some pastries from Mazetti’s Bakery, a pulled pork sandwich from Gorilla Barbeque in the bright orange railcar, or seafood from Moonraker. Finish up with some wine at A Grape in the Fog.

Half Moon Bay

The charming and sleepy seaside village offers rugged coastal bluffs that overlook miles of sandy beaches. Relax on one of four beaches at Half Moon Bay State Beach, or stroll past all of them on the 3-mile Coastside Trail. Other great hiking options include the Purisima Creek Trail through the Redwoods Open Space Preserve and Montara Mountain.

You can go horseback riding at Sea Horse Ranch or play golf at two world-class championship golf courses with stunning ocean views.

When the surf swells, watch pros at the famed Mavericks surf break. Browse the locally-owned boutiques and galleries along Main Street. Grab some lobster rolls from Sam’s Chowder House or a Dungeness crab sandwich at Barbara’s Fish Trap, then down some local brews at the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company.

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San Jose

There’s more to San Jose than just tech companies. Pay a visit to the architecturally odd and supposedly haunted Winchester Mystery House with more than 160 rooms and see for yourself the bizarre layout and useless features, including stairs that go to nowhere, doors that can’t be used or lead to drops, and secret passageways.

Or spend the day at California’s Great America theme park.

Several interesting museums are worth a visit, including, not surprisingly, the Computer History Museum, the Tech Interactive, and the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum.

Santana Row offers plenty of upscale shopping and dining options. San Pedro Square Market food hall will have something for all tastes. Did you know there are more than 150 wineries in the mountains near San Jose? Try some flights at Testarossa Winery or Ridge Vineyards. If beer is more your thing, head over to Hermitage Brewing Company or Original Gravity.


Plan an Unforgettable California Adventure

Heading to California?We’ve got all sorts of super detailed, in-depth California travel guides written by locals to help you plan an amazing trip.

  • San Francisco: We’ve got a guide to spending 3 days in SF, one day in San Francisco for planning a shorter trip, and a complete guide to finding the perfect place to stay in San Francisco. We also have guides to 14 perfect weekend getaways from San Francisco and the best day trips in the Bay Area. Oh, we almost forgot, here are the 15 best hikes near San Francisco, written by two Bay Area locals.
  • Los Angeles: Read our perfect 2 Day L.A. itinerary, our guide to spending one amazing day in L.A. (with two versions!), and a guide to helping you figure out where to stay.
  • San Diego: Learn how to spend a day in San Diego, a weekend in San Diego, and where you should stay.
  • Lake Tahoe: Plan the perfect summertime adventure with our 3 day Tahoe itinerary, guide to the best hikes, and our guide to the best things to do in Tahoe.
  • Santa Barbara: We have a guide to planning a weekend in Santa Barbara, and a guide to a day trip to Santa Barbara from Los Angeles if you’re pressed for time.
  • Mammoth Lakes: To plan a perfect getaway in the Eastern Sierra, read our guide to the best things to do in Mammoth Lakes in the summer. Plus, our guide to the best hikes in Mammoth, featuring the epic climb to the top of Duck Pass.
  • Big Sur: Plan the perfect weekend away with our complete Big Sur itinerary.
  • Yosemite National Park: Plan an amazing trip with our guide to planning an amazing Yosemite itinerary, and our guide to choosing where to stay at Yosemite.
  • Joshua Tree National Park: Plan the perfect trip with our perfect weekend itinerary (or a day trip, if you have less time), a guide to the best hikes, and some cool places to stay in Joshua Tree.
  • Death Valley National Park: We have a SUPER detailed guide to planning the perfect Death Valley itinerary, and a guide to the best hikes in Death Valley National Park.
  • California Road Trips: See the best of the Pacific Coast Highway on our San Francisco to San Diego road trip, or make the trip up Highway from on a Los Angeles to SanFrancisco road trip. If you’re more into mountains than beaches, a Highway 395 road trip from Los Angeles to Lake Tahoe might be more your speed.


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