San Francisco

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San Francisco offers every activity under the sun – and all within an hour’s drive or less. Want wine? Head up to Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Crave outdoor adventure? Marin County and Mt. Tamalpais have plenty. Sand and ocean? Stinson Beach to the north and Pacifica to the south are meccas for beach goers. Look below for options that are doable in a single afternoon.

Day Trips from San Francisco

Berkeley

A visit to Berkeley offers more than a stroll around the University of California’s picturesque campus: The best drama productions in the Bay Area are staged not in San Francisco but at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre (www.berkeleyrep.org). Take the BART from downtown San Francisco, just a 20-minute minute ride. 14 miles east of San Francisco; Berkeley, CA

2025 Addison St., CA, 510-647-2949, www.berkeleyrep.org
Tags: arts and culture | live entertainment | day trip | performing arts

Hearst Castle

Publisher William Randolph Hearst's 165-room estate is a magnificent sight. Explore the grounds, take a tour, and watch a documentary about the building’s construction. Just be sure and allot a full day for the visit; it will take you that long (if not longer) to explore all the grounds have to offer.

4 hours south of San Francisco, 750 Hearst Castle Rd., CA, 800-444-4445, www.hearstcastle.com
Tags: family | culture | architecture | history | day trip

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Overlooking Monterey Bay from historic Cannery Row, this world-renowned, and top U.S. aquarium offers special events, new animals, and family activities in a scenic setting. Paying homage to its location, the aquarium is particularly heavy on marine life from the Pacific Ocean and has impressive exhibits of enigmatic underwater creatures like the seahorse or jellyfish.

2 hours and fifteen minutes south of San Francisco, 886 Cannery Row, CA, 831-648-4800, www.montereybayaquarium.org
Tags: family | editor pick | day trip | wildlife | aquarium

Napa Valley

For a wine country tour, visitors have often bypassed the city of Napa, just an hour’s drive from San Francisco, in favor of Yountville and St. Helena further north. Yet lively Napa’s riverfront is undergoing a revival, with noteworthy restaurant openings and new wine-tasting venues; Saturday salsa dancing at Ceja Vineyards’ downtown tasting salon keeps the after-hours scene fresh. See our Napa Valley Travel Guide

About 50 miles north of San Francisco, CA,
Tags: day trip | culinary | wine tasting

Oakland

A quick BART ride or drive across the Bay Bridge will deliver you to the Oakland Museum of California (www.museumca.org) and the Dunsmuir House & Gardens Historic Estate (www.dunsmuir.org), as well as California’s next big foodie destination with acclaimed restaurants like Bocanova (www.bocanova.com) and Plum (www.plumoakland.com) moving into the neighborhood.

20-30 minutes east of San Francisco, CA, www.oaklandnet.com
Tags: family | culture | day trip | culinary

Sacramento

California’s Capital is loaded with history, fantastic museums, and beautiful architecture. It’s also home to the 23-mile-long American River Parkway, which is rife in greenery and a popular spot to go running, biking, rafting, or horseback riding. The downtown area has seen quite a renaissance over the past decade, with local celebrity chefs like Patrick Mulvaney (www.mulvaneysbl.com) keen on cultivating an A-list dining scene.

Under two hours east of San Francisco, CA, www.cityofsacramento.org
Tags: family | culture | architecture | history | day trip

Santa Cruz

This laid-back college town is loaded with funky shops, great restaurants, and surfers. Visit the boardwalk (www.beachboardwalk.com), the West Coast's last seaside amusement park, and the redwood forests of Roaring Camp Railroads (www.roaringcamp.com). Learn to surf while here – or fine tune your skills if you already know how – as it’s one of the top spots in California for catching a wave.

90 minutes south of San Francisco, CA, www.ci.santa-cruz.ca.us
Tags: beach | family | culture | day trip | amusement park

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

Your stop for numerous thrills, as well as chances to feed animals, learn about nature, and see numerous family-friendly shows. Formerly Marine World, fittingly there are dolphin interactions (for a fee) and a stingray pool, as well as a number of water rides and roller coasters. Check on the Discovery Kingdom website for frequent deals on admission.

45 minutes northeast of San Francisco, 1001 Fairgrounds Dr., CA, 707-644-4000, www.sixflags.com/discoveryKingdom
Tags: family | outdoors | day trip | amusement park

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