Before you head out of town on a day trip, consider visiting one of these 15 attractions in and around downtown San Francisco. On the other hand, if you’re ready to hit the road, continue reading below.
Travel time 30 minutes – 10 miles. With only 7,000 residents, Sausalito maintains a coastal town charm while still close to downtown San Francisco. The town derives its name from the Spanish meaning of “place of abundance,” and that promise has led many to the city in search of inspiration and relaxation.
Travel time 45 minutes – 17 miles. Muir Woods National Monument is an old-growth coastal redwood forest. Due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, the forest is often in a coastal marine layer of fog. Muir Woods is a top-rated San Francisco day trip destination. We suggest you visit during the week or arrive early on weekends.
Travel time 1 hour – 45 miles. California’s Great America Theme Park in Santa Clara, Northern California’s biggest amusement park. Thrill rides here match or exceed theme parks in Southern California, including Six Flags. Great America is about an hour’s drive from San Francisco and a little over two hours from Sacramento.
Travel time 1 hour – 23 miles. It is situated just north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. Mount Tam attracts hikers, bikers, equestrians, trail runners, and other outdoor enthusiasts from Northern California. Deep canyons filled with redwood groves mesh against sunny slopes with springtime wildflower displays.
In just a single day trip, visitors can shop the many unique shops along Fourth Street, dine on many different American and ethnic cuisines. Take a stroll through a beautiful botanical garden or attend an award-winning theater production, symphony performance, or a tribal music concert.
Anthony Chabot Regional Park should be on your list if you are looking for a fun day trip with plenty of outdoor activities. The Park has over 70 miles of trails suitable for hikers of all skill levels. Most of the trails are dog-friendly, so be sure to bring your four-legged friend on this trip.
Travel time 1 hour – 23 miles. China Camp State Park has something for everyone. Especially popular with mountain bikers, hikers, kayakers, and casual campers. History buffs will appreciate the historic China Camp Village. Every August, the non-profit organization Friends of China Camp presents Heritage Day to celebrate Chinese-American heritage and the park’s natural history.
Travel Time 1 hour – 24 miles. Stinson Beach Park is part of the Golden Gate Recreation Area. Stinson Beach is easy to drive along California’s Highway 1 from the Golden Gate Bridge. Thousands of people escape San Francisco during the summer and head toward Stinson Beach for a day in the sun.
Travel time 45 minutes – 27 miles. Filoli was built ten years after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. At the time of its building, Filoli was a symbol of hope amid the ruin. Its English Renaissance gardens are considered among the finest recreated antique English gardens in North America.
Travel time 1 hour – 30 miles. Half Moon Bay State Beach has four miles of sandy beach just south of town. Sunbathing, fishing, picnicking, and camping are popular activities. Once a year, the “The Maverick’s Big Wave Invitational” contest is held. Swells at Mavericks have to reach 20 feet for the competition to take place.
Travel time 1 hour – 36 miles. The charming and historic town of Benicia is a comfortable San Francisco day trip. The combination of a vibrant art scene, historical landmarks, and excellent dining choices make this a place that can be enjoyed by one and all. Benicia has a long and fascinating past and has, over the years, played an essential role in California’s history. For a short period in the mid 19th century, the town became California’s capital.
Travel time 1 hour – 39 miles. Sonoma is where California winemaking started 200 years ago and where good restaurants, state-of-the-art spas, and adventurers thrive. Not as well-known or touristy as its neighbor Napa Valley, Sonoma’s kick-back vibe is just as infectious and has a lot more to offer than wine tasting.
Travel time 1.5 hours – 54 miles. Point Reyes is on a cape around 30 miles northwest of San Francisco. Much of the surrounding area is part of the Point Reyes National Seashore Reserve. Once hunted nearly to extinction, both the Northern Elephant Seal and the Tule Elk thrive in the area. Point Reyes is popular with water sports enthusiasts. Kayak along the shores of Tomales Bay, or explore the submarine world with a scuba dive guide.
Travel Time 1.5 hours – 44 miles. Many visitors to Mount Diablo head straight for the summit to enjoy the public view. There is a lot more to see and explore how up the 11-mile loop leads to the park’s top. Mount Diablo State Park features hiking, biking, horseback riding, rock climbing, and camping opportunities.
Travel time 1 hour – 18 miles. Located in Alameda, California, near Oakland, is a national treasure known as the USS Hornet. This floating city allows visitors to experience life as if they were out to sea for months on end. Tours of the ship are self-guided, the place is massive, and you have three decks to wander around.
Travel time 1 hour – 47 miles. Long before Pacific Coast Highway meandered its way along California’s coast, the small town of Pescadero served as a stagecoach stop for weary travelers. With its quaint charm and a hint of days of old, Pescadero and the area immediately surrounding it are abundant with day-trippers’ activities.
Travel time 1.5 hours – 50 miles. Napa Valley Wine train travels along highway 29 on its 3-hour trip. Various packages are available, including memorable holidays, murder mysteries, and jazz concert trains. For first-time visitors to Napa Valley, the train makes an excellent way to start your trip.
Travel Time 1.5 hours – 54 miles. This peaceful Sonoma town offers those who want off the beaten track plenty of opportunities to eat, drink, and de-stress. And you couldn’t ask for a more picturesque place for a San Francisco day trip. Glen Ellen is located in the north-eastern corner of Sonoma County. Drive time from the bay area is a little over an hour, depending on traffic.
Travel time 1 hour – 50 miles. A fascinating house of a very eccentric wealthy Sarah Winchester. Sarah believed in spiritualism and added strange features to the house because of her odd beliefs and interests. The “Mystery” part of the name implies that you might find a “Haunted Mansion.”
Travel time 1 hour – 50 miles. Pack up the car and head out to picturesque and peaceful Livermore. Just a short drive southeast of San Francisco, the area is a wine lover’s dream come true. Even those who are not wine drinkers will have plenty to see and do on this day trip.
Travel time 1 hour 30 minutes- 55 miles. In addition to world-class wines, Napa has a variety of fun things for visitors to do. Located northeast of San Francisco, Napa Valley is a great day trip or weekend getaway. Visitors come worldwide to see the beautiful valley, taste the world-famous wines, enjoy fine dining, and get pampered in the spas.
Travel time 1.5 hours – 55 miles. San Jose is California’s third-largest city and is home to high-tech computer firms, which sit alongside farms, ranches, and open spaces spread between the San Francisco Bay and the surrounding hillsides. It’s an old, culturally diverse city, jam-packed with historic buildings, brilliant museums, and many excellent restaurants.
Travel Time 1.5 hours – 58 miles. Jelly Belly Factory uses state-of-the-art equipment and even has robots to help with production. After taking the tour, you will get a free sample of this popular candy. Two things are inevitable when you visit Jelly Belly: one, you will have fun, and two, you will buy some of this delicious candy to take home.
Travel time 1.5 hours – 55 miles. Santa Rosa is the perfect destination for farm-fresh food, handcrafted beer, wine, and all things artisan. Just 55 miles north of San Francisco, the city is host to several farmer’s markets, a thriving music scene, various museums, and plenty of outdoor activities.
Travel time 1.5 hours – 56 miles. One of the Tomales Bay area’s main attractions is the Tomales Bay State Park, over 2000 acres large. It is one of the few state parks split by a bay; the larger side of the park is on the west side of Tomales Bay, and the smaller portion of the park is on the east side. When you are ready for a rest from Tomales Bay State Park, you can travel down to the Tomales Bay Oyster Company for an oyster picnic.
Travel time 1.5 miles – 68 miles. Along the stunning Sonoma coastline, an expansive and exquisite park has been created by California. Dedicated to preserving this unique environment, the Sonoma Coast Park offers a wide variety of activities.
Travel time 2 hours – 70 miles. With its seemingly endless miles of pristine beaches to explore, fresh seafood, and beautiful coastal scenery, Bodega Bay is less than a 70-mile drive north of San Francisco on Highway 101, yet it feels a world away. The little town of Bodega Bay has three art galleries, one antique store, five gift stores, two kite stores, a surf shop, and two grocery stores to stock on provisions for your return trip.
Travel time 2 hours – 74 miles. Decades ago, the town was built on the back of the timber industry. Now, much of the majestic, ancient redwoods are protected. As the Lumberjacks left, the hippies headed to Guerneville, and then members of the LGBT community. While the town may have a reputation for being especially popular with the LGBT community, there is plenty for everyone to see and do.
Travel time 2 hours – 75 miles. Famous across the state for its hot springs, mineral pools, mud baths, and massage packages, Calistoga is Napa’s #1 spot for spas. The original inhabitants of the area, the Wappo Indians, recognized the local waters’ healing properties.
Travel time 2 hours – 75 miles. Safari West African Wildlife Tours guests can take a three-hour tour led by an experienced guide. You climb aboard a Safari truck and head out onto the bumpy roads of the preserve. This trip lets you take an African safari without the danger of being charged by wild animals.
Travel time 1.5 hours – 71 miles. Nestled in stunning Santa Cruz, California, this 65-acre California state park was named for the naturally occurring mudstone bridges line the Pacific Ocean. Wave erosion carved these mudstone bridges after a combination of silt, clay, and diatoms were solidified into a mixture of stone that created three arches on the beach.
Travel Time 1.5 hours – 72 miles. Santa Cruz is south of the San Francisco Bay Area. Renowned for its natural scenic beauty, sun-soaked beaches, and spectacular redwood forests. Santa Cruz is not only famous for its surfing and artist community, with more than 2,000 artists calling it home. One of the top attractions is the historic Boardwalk—home to the Giant Dipper, one of the oldest roller coasters in the U.S.
Travel Time two hours – 92 miles. Moss Landing is situated halfway between Santa Cruz and Monterey. Most day-trippers travel to Moss Landing to enjoy kayaking in the Slough. Several outfits offer guided kayak tours. Before you leave town, a must-visit is Phil’s Fish Market and Eatery to feast on fresh seafood.
Travel Time two hours 120 miles. Carmel Valley is south of San Francisco, on the Monterey Peninsula. California is ranked as a top wine destination and is far less crowded than Napa Valley. Take a trip down the coast to Carmel-by-the-Sea, turn left onto Carmel Valley Road, and you have arrived in wine tasting heaven.