There are so many different destinations you can choose from when you decide to take a vacation in the state of California. However, there is just something special about the city of San Francisco that will have you choosing that as your destination of choice when you are looking for an amazing vacation opportunity. There are many reasons for this. But the main reason is that there are so many places to go near San Francisco. You can even take weekend day trips from San Francisco. With all the possibilities, you might want to travel to San Fran sooner than later, so you can come away from SF more relaxed than when you arrived.
25 Best Day Trips from San Francisco
1. San Jose
San Jose is the perfect San Francisco day trip for families. You can easily reach San Jose in approximately two hours by car from San Francisco. Younger kids find that amount of time is doable, and parents feel the same. Once you arrive in San Jose, you can take the kids to the Children’s Discovery Center and California’s Great America amusement park. The whole family will love the mysterious Winchester Mystery House, while older teens and the adults will prefer to spend the entire day shopping at Santana Row.
2. Carmel Beach
You can’t go to California and not spend time at one of the beaches. One of the best bay area day trips is Carmel Beach. This beach is down near Monterey, so you can easily combine the two into a full day’s adventure. When you are not relaxing on the soft sandy beach, you can spend a little time exploring the town of Carmel-by-the-Sea. We recommend walking along the pathway labeled Scenic Road, because you will see stunning views along the way.
3. Napa Valley
The distance from San Francisco to Napa is approximately fifty miles. This makes it a fabulous San Francisco day trip option if you do not mind heading to the north. There are more than four hundred wineries within the Napa Valley, and you can go to as many as you have time for. We recommend hopping onto the Napa Valley Wine Train during your visit, because that will allow you to see more of this area in the shortest amount of time. This is a perfect romantic getaway San Francisco, so you might want to spend a couple days there.
One of the best day trips from San Francisco would include time down in Monterey. Everyone in your family will love spending time at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. But don’t forget to leave some time to tackle the 17-Mile Drive. You may also want to explore Fort Ord Dunes State Park. This is an excellent location if you want to really explore areas near San Francisco, because Carmel-by-the-Sea and Point Lobos are all nearby too.
If you are looking for places to visit around San Francisco, you must cross over the Golden Gate Strait to Sausalito. It is easy to do on the Sausalito Ferry, so don’t think the travel there will be challenging. Once you are there, you will find yourself in the middle of a charming location. The best views can be seen at Cavallo Point, but don’t forget to check out the ambiance and vibe at the Bridgeway Promenade.
6. UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley
There are quite a few places to see near San Francisco, but one of the best SF day trip options will have you going over to the UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley. This garden is comprised of thirty-four acres and it has gorgeous views of the San Francisco Bay. The UC Botanical Garden was founded back in 1890 and since that time, it has been filled with the most diverse plants in the entire country. During your visit, you will have the opportunity to see twelve thousand different species of plants and flowers. You will notice the gardens are divided into sections, so types of flowers are not intermingled together.
7. Yosemite National Park
The distance from San Francisco to Yosemite National Park is one hundred ninety-two miles. That means it will take you approximately three and a half hours to four hours to reach this destination on a San Francisco day trip. Yosemite was the very first national park and that is why most people want to see it when they are in the general area. The cliffs of El Capitan are perfect for seeing extraordinary views, while Bridal Veil Falls offers the relaxing oasis you have always been searching for when on vacation.
8. Rancho Corral de Tierra
There are not many rustic San Francisco day trips, but Rancho Corral de Tierra is one of the best. This San Francisco day trip will take you about thirty minutes out of the city. The seven thousand plus acres of land was part of Mexican land and about four thousand of those acres are now controlled by the National Park Service. It is all part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area and it is mainly undeveloped. However, there are numerous hiking, horseback riding, and biking trails for you to use during your visit. When you are there, you should keep an eye out for the native wildlife. A few rare animals live there, including the San Francisco garter snake and the Montara manzanita.
9. Alcatraz Island
One of the best San Francisco day trips is the one to Alcatraz Island. The island is about twenty minutes away by ferry and it is one of the popular options when you are visiting the city. It is best to take one of the San Francisco day tours to see this island. While there are a couple different tours available, the best option is the Alcatraz Cellhouse Audio Tour. That tour covers the inside of the cells where the inmates stayed, as well as other parts of the island. Don’t forget to check out the views of the bay and the city from the island.
10. Muir Woods National Monument
The Muir Woods National Monument is twelve miles to the north of the city. It will take you approximately forty-five minutes to reach this destination if you decide to tackle it during one of your SF day trips. There are six miles of trails, but you can only hike along them. Horses and bikes are not allowed on these trails. You will be surrounded by redwood trees as you hike along, but don’t forget to keep an eye out for the coyotes, bobcats, deer, barn owls, and so many more animals that call this forest home.
11. Half Moon Bay
If you are spending 3 days in San Francisco, you must spend at least part of a day in Half Moon Bay. This charming town has a port, stunning beaches, art galleries, and amazing golf courses. There are even a few historic destinations you must visit when you are there. We love the Robert Mills Dairy Barn, but we have heard wonderful things about Purissima Village too.
12. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park
One of the day trips from San Francisco that will have you going further away from the city is Sequoia and Kings National Park. These two areas can be found within the San Joaquin Valley, which is in the Sierra Nevada mountains. These park areas are filled with massive caves and canyons, as well as mountains and looming trees. You can easily hike any of the eight hundred miles of trails, but know that you will want to spend at least one night here for the ultimate experience. That one night will allow you to see the shining stars in the nighttime sky. They will appear so much brighter in the really dark skies.
13. Point Reyes National Seashore
On your San Francisco trip, you must try to take the time to visit the Point Reyes National Seashore. This park has more than seventy-one thousand acres that are filled with forest and beaches. You will find the San Andreas Fault Zone in this park. The best place to see the zone is from the Earthquake Trail. You will find that trail near the Bear Valley Visitor Center.
14. New Almaden Quicksilver Mining Museum
One of the weekend trips from San Francisco can include a visit to the New Almaden Quicksilver Mining Museum. It will take you an hour and a half to reach this museum. However, the drive will be worth it if you are interested in learning all about the mining that took place in this area many years ago. Inside this museum, you will see all sorts of mining equipment, as well as items that were used by the mining families. There is even a replica of the office the mine manager used.
15. Tamalpais State Park
If you have 1 day in San Francisco, you can easily head over to Mt. Tamalpais State Park. This is one of the best places to visit near San Francisco. This is a popular hiking destination, especially if you love to see wildlife when you are out on the trails. You must go to the summit, which is more than two thousand feet high, because it offers magnificent views of the city and the surrounding area.
Any bay area getaways must include a stop at Filoli. This historic attraction is about thirty-five minutes outside the city. It is a country house that was constructed back in the early 1900s. You can tour this property on your own, but we recommend taking a guided tour to learn the most about this country home and the original owner.
17. Sonoma Valley
Sonoma Valley offers some of the winery experiences of Napa Valley, but at a slower pace. This is one of the places to visit around San Francisco. In fact, this is one of the most popular road trips from San Francisco. You will find a few fantastic wineries in this part of the country. However, if you are looking for the best of the best, we recommend heading straight over to Healdsburg.
18. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
One of the best weekend trips from SF will have you going over to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. This area is perfect if you are looking for a romantic vacation, because you can wander along the riverbanks or the hiking trails. Different trees line the trails and you will see many animals amongst everything. We love the self-guided nature trail, because we can read the signs that show what we are looking at as we are walking along.
19. Lake Tahoe
We think one of the best day trips from San Francisco is Lake Tahoe. Yes, it will take you about three hours to reach this destination. But there is so much to do there year-round. You can hike and swim in the summer and ski during the winter. And let’s not forget about the incredible scenery in every direction when you are on this weekend getaway bay area.
20. Santa Cruz
A San Francisco daily tour can take you over to Santa Cruz. You may not want to check out this beach town if you only have one day in San Francisco, because it won’t allow you to see as much as you should when you are in the city. However, if you have a few days on your San Francisco vacation, you must add this to your list. You can spend hours at the beach, or you can check out the rides on the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
None of your San Francisco vacations will ever be complete if you don’t spend at least a few hours in Sacramento. You can take a San Francisco day tour to Sacramento or you can include this destination in your weekend trips bay area. We recommend the latter, so you can really fall in love with the history of this city. You will love spending time in Old Sacramento with its Old West ambiance, just make sure you take the time to see Sutter’s Fort too.
22. California State Railroad Museum
Weekend trips from San Francisco must include a stop at the California State Railroad Museum. You will find this museum in Old Sacramento. Inside the museum, you will see restored locomotives, as well as railroad cars. You will love the caboose the most, but make sure you spend a little time at the different types of private cars. The history of the railroad comes to life in this museum, so you might want to plan an entire day for your visit. This will allow you to appreciate it all without rushing through.
Tours from San Francisco can include trips up to the wineries and breweries in Mendocino. When you are not drinking wine or beer, you can walk through the Mendocino Botanical Gardens or take the Skunk Train through the forest.
24. Little Italy in North Beach
The Little Italy neighborhood can be found in the North Beach area in San Francisco. This is one of the San Francisco daily tours you won’t want to miss when you are taking a SF day trip. You can easily eat your way through this neighborhood with all the bakeries and cafés. However, the culture is also something you will want to check out during your visit.
25. Silicon Valley
Tech lovers will want to add Silicon Valley to their places near San Francisco to visit. You can easily add this to your list of day trips from San Francisco, but you definitely won’t want to do it if you have to conquer San Francisco in a day. While Apple and Google will be on your must-visit list, we recommend adding the Computer History Museum to that list as well.
These are the 25 best day trips from San Francisco. You can easily plan multiple San Francisco day trips when you are on vacation. Although, you may need to decide which bay area day trips are the ones you want to do the most, since you might not have time to check off every one of the day trips bay area on your list.