Oh, how I love living in the San Francisco Bay Area! There’s so much to do and it’s all relatively close by. Just drive 30 minutes to 3 hours in any direction to reach the ocean, forest, mountains, farms, or lake. Don’t forget the amusement parks, zoos, historical landmarks, and must-see tourist destinations too. My family is always up for taking day trips around the area.
5 Day Trips Around the San Francisco Bay Area
If you are looking for ideas on family day trips in the area, I have a few 1-day travel plans that you might like. As San Francisco is the main tourist hub, there’s quite a bit to do in the heart of SF itself. But, to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, here are few options you’ll enjoy just as much or maybe even more.
Half Moon Bay
Select any of the family-friendly beaches along this stretch of the Pacific Ocean coast for a picnic, to barbecue, to play in the sand, splash in the water, discover marine life in the tide pools, collect shells, or unwind to the sound of crashing waves. You can also eat in the nearby town of Pescadero, navigate the huge hay maze at Arata’s Pumpkin Farm (open during fall and part of the summer), or play with farm animals at Lemos Farm.
Enjoy wine tasting from various local wineries, ride the gondola at Sterling Vineyards, select a few savory spreads and fresh bread at V. Sattui for an impromptu picnic, soak in the hot springs at Calistoga, embrace the wild animals of the Savannah at Safari Park, or take a ride in a hot air balloon. It’s all about kicking back and enjoying life at a snail’s pace here.
I recently visited this area for the first time in my life and need to make plans to come back as soon as possible. Climb down (and up) 308 stairs at the Point Reyes Lighthouse, watch the wild Tule Elk roam free in the reserve area, see where Sir Francis Drake landed, take the Earthquake Trail, tour a recreated Miwok village, or hike to deserted beaches along the miles and miles of protected seashore.
The drive to Monterey is breathtaking but make sure to keep your eyes on the road if you’re behind the wheel. Do not miss the Monterey Bay Aquarium with gorgeous exhibits, step outside to watch wild sea otters in the bay, and walk down the street to shop along Cannery Row. Drive ten minutes to Carmel for wine tasting and quaint shops. Carmel oozes small-town charm. Stroll over to the clean and quiet beach of Carmel-by-the-Sea to unwind.
Kids can spend all day at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk with rides, snacks galore, and direct access to the beach to play in the ocean waves (the water here is cold though). You can also explore the beachside town with unique shopping and plenty of places to eat. Make sure you grab a cookie (or two, or three, or a dozen) from Pacific Cookie Company.
Preparing for Your Family’s Day Trip
Before embarking on any of these day trips, make sure to check your headlights. On the busy highways around the San Francisco Bay Area and in the bigger cities, there’s plenty of light. Headlight bulbs can dim over time. But, you’ll need as much light as possible for some of those dark, lonely, roads back to civilization.
On one forest road, there were no street lamps and the trees obscured all light from the moon and stars. Even the reflection in our rear view mirror was pitch black. We felt like an ax murderer was going to pop out (let’s see if you get the movie reference).
After dark is when wild animals like to suddenly jump out in front of cars to cross the road. Check your headlight bulbs and replace them with SYLVANIA SilverStar® ULTRA headlights if needed. These offer the best downroad visibility (in the product line), more clarity, have a whiter light, and provide fantastic night vision.
Discovering the San Francisco Bay Area
Whew! See how there are so many things to do in the San Francisco Bay Area? Don’t you want to try some of these day trips right now?! These are just a few travel ideas to keep you busy for your first few visits. After all, I’ve lived the San Francisco Bay Area most of my life and am still discovering new local gems. Plus, there are so many other places to see if you just drive one more hour out. You’ll need at least another 1-2 days to check those spots out, though. Those suggestions are for next time. 🙂
Do you live in the San Francisco Bay Area or have you visited here before? What day trips have you and your family taken? Tell me below so I can check them out!
I am being compensated for my participation in SYLVANIA’s #TravelSafe campaign. All opinions are my own.