7 Weekend Getaways from San Francisco

See our recommendations for 7 fun weekend getaways if you live in San Francisco or if you plan to visit the Bay Area.
Metropolis of San Francisco
Loading Video...

The Metropolis of San Francisco: 1:51

From the nearly perfect weather that beckons you to explore the outdoors to the myriad food (hello, Mission burrito, you delicious thing, you) and cultural options, there’s no question that San Francisco is a visitor’s paradise. But the City by the Bay is only part of what the area has to offer. Here are some of our favorite San Francisco day trips for the perfect weekend getaway.  

Sea Ranch

California Coast in Sea Ranch

California Coast in Sea Ranch

Photo by: TrevorFairbank / Getty Images

TrevorFairbank / Getty Images

Just over 100 miles north of San Francisco, Sea Ranch is ideal for a taste of the outdoors. With more than 50 miles of trails, this popular vacation spot offers visitors the chance to take a hike through the redwoods or hit the 10-mile stretch of bluff trails with the Pacific Ocean crashing below. See if you can spot some sea lions or whales, or venture into the water on a fishing or kayaking expedition. The strict rules surrounding the architecture of the town, in Sonoma County, only add to the landscape: Details such as unpainted wood and a lack of overhanging eaves allow the buildings to blend into the landscape. There are no street lights in the town to avoid “light pollution” and the view of the night sky is dazzling. Stop by Bodega Bay, a little over 1 hour’s drive away, for more beauty and some great wine tasting.

Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea and Asilomar

Children looking at jellyfish exhibit at Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, CA

Children looking at jellyfish exhibit at Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, CA

For an action-packed weekend, start in Monterey and visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium, followed by a stroll down Cannery Row and Fisherman’s Wharf. No literary fan’s trip would be complete without a visit to the National Steinbeck Center. Next, head to Carmel-by-the-Sea, a lovely beachside town and explore 17-Mile Drive, the famous coastal landmark that runs from Pacific Grove to Pebble Beach, for some awe-inspiring ocean views. Point Lobos State Reserve and Borromeo de Carmelo Mission are also interesting stops, as are the 9 wine-tasting venues nearby. Carmel also boasts multiple festivals such as the Carmel Bach Festival, celebrating the classical composer, and the Carmel Art & Film Festival, which showcases the best in independent film. End your weekend at Asilomar State Beach for its miles of coastline and rocky coves.

Muir Woods and Sausalito

Muir Woods, California

Muir Woods, California

Just 12 miles from San Francisco, the Muir Woods comprises 560 acres of redwoods, some as tall as 250 feet and 1,000 years old! The park is also home to 50 species of birds, black-tailed deer and hundreds of other wild inhabitants, and was the setting of scenes from the movies Return of the Jedi and Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Next, venture to the beachside town of Sausalito. Visit the Point Bonita Lighthouse (the last manned lighthouse on the California Coast), catch a stunning overlook of the Golden Gate Bridge, enjoy the outrageous houseboats dotting the shore and grab a bite at French bistro La Garage. For the diehard historian, peruse the Nike Missile Site to learn all about the Cold War.

Santa Cruz

Pier and Boardwalk in Santa Cruz, CA

Pier and Boardwalk in Santa Cruz, CA

Photo by: Mitch Diamond / Getty Images

Mitch Diamond / Getty Images

For great surfing, head 70 miles from San Francisco to Santa Cruz. Visit Pacific Avenue for quality vintage shopping. Wander down Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk for old carnival rides (don’t miss the Big Dipper), before hitting Seabright State Beach. And before you go home, stop at the infamous Mystery Spot -- the woodsy enclave is quite the magical retreat of optical illusions … and bold claims by its operators that the laws of physics and gravity do not apply here! You decide.

Half Moon Bay

Shore of Half Moon Bay, CA

Shore of Half Moon Bay, CA

Photo by: Steve Geer / Getty Images

Steve Geer / Getty Images

Thirty-five minutes from San Francisco is the quaint coastal town of Half Moon Bay. The town has great resorts and day spas and for the outdoor enthusiast, horseback riding opportunities at Sea Horse Ranch. You can also go bird-watching, play golf overlooking the Pacific Ocean, or browse through the numerous shops and art galleries in the town’s historic section. If you’re lucky and the waves are big enough, you may catch the annual world-class Mavericks Surf Contest, where surfers have just 24-hours’ notice to get there and compete.


Photo by: Getty Images

Getty Images

Take an hour-and-a-half train ride to Sacramento, which leaves you in the historic part of town with restaurants and shops, as well as an idea of what life was once like in the region. For the kids, head to the California State Railroad Museum. Next, there’s ice cream -- be it Gunther’s Quality Ice Cream, with flavors like Swiss orange chip and green tea; Vic’s Ice Cream, with favorites like cappuccino chip; and The Original Hagen’s Orange Freeze, which makes its tasty treats in options such as mango, mint chocolate chip and coconut cream. For the adults, El Dorado and Amador counties and the Lodi region grow award-winning wines and have wine-tasting opportunities. Sacramento also hosts several interesting festivals celebrating its cultural diversity like the Festival de la Familia and the Pacific Rim Festival.

San Jose, Los Gatos and Livermore

Vineyard in Los Gatos, CA

Vineyard in Los Gatos, CA

Photo by: alacatr / Getty Images

alacatr / Getty Images

With the Santa Cruz Mountains as a backdrop, visit the town of Los Gatos armed with a designated driver. After a drive through the redwood forest, visit some of the area wineries such as the Santa Cruz Mountain Winery, Testarossa Vineyard (California’s fourth-oldest, continuously operating winery) and the Fleming Jenkins Vineyard. Nearby Livermore has 40 additional wineries, as well as the Isabel Trail for a post-wine walk. And for the local oddity, stop by Livermore’s Fire Station No. 6 to see the Centennial Light Bulb, a light that has been burning nonstop since 1901. Next, head to San Jose, the third largest city in California. Visit Santana Row for upscale shopping, the Tech Museum of Innovation for a hands-on adventure for all ages, and end the day at California’s Great America amusement park in nearby Santa Clara, CA.

MORE: Is San Francisco's Lombard Street the Crookedest?

Is Lombard St the Crookedest?
Loading Video...

Next Up

San Francisco's Must-See Neighborhoods

From Chinatown to Castro, here’s our list of the city’s most culturally diverse neighborhoods and why you should visit them.

Romance in the San Francisco Presidio

Find out why the Presidio, located in San Francisco, is the perfect place for couples looking for a romantic getaway. 

San Francisco Weekend Trips

Our favorite San Francisco day trips for the perfect weekend getaway.

Historic San Francisco

Delve into our brief historical overview of the 'City by the Bay'.  

Sports Spots in the Bay Area

Check out the best sports spots the Bay Area has to offer.

Girl Getaway Hotels in San Francisco

Oyster.com's top picks for girl getaway hotels in San Francsico.

Best Value Hotels in San Francisco

Oyster.com's best value hotels in San Francisco.

Weekend Guide to San Jose, CA

Though its neighbor to the north, San Francisco, gets more attention, it's well worth your time to find your way to San Jose.

Top Picks for Where to Eat in Queens, New York

Andrew Zimmern tells us why Queens is on his "must-eat" list, including where to get some of the best dishes New York has to offer.


Trending Now

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss Travel Channel in your favorite social media feeds.