Best Day Trips from San Francisco: Explore Northern California

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From the beautiful beach views to the smell of eucalyptus, San Francisco is a great city to live in. Regardless of how much you love it, though, taking a break from walking up hills and pushing past the crowds on Market Street is always a good idea. You don’t have to look far from San Francisco to find other coastal and inland towns worth visiting. When you’re feeling burnt out from the city, take a day trip from San Francisco to somewhere special.

Since San Francisco is located along the Pacific Ocean and peaks its way out of the redwoods, you’ll find plenty of nature to explore. Aside from the trees and ocean, you’ll also find wine tasting and the heart of California gold rush history just a bus or train ride away. Below, you’ll find our favorite day trips from San Francisco, including our recommendations for places to eat, stay and dance through the night.

San Francisco to Napa Valley

You don’t need a car to get out of San Francisco. Napa Valley is a relatively short bus ride away and, with beautiful views of wineries and rolling foothills, you’ll feel refreshed by the time you make it back to the city on Monday.

If you’re trying to make the most of your weekend getaway, then check out the Napa Valley Wine Train, which offers dinner while watching beautiful scenery pass you by. For a taste of the town, check out local restaurants that offer some of the best New American cuisine that California has to offer. Top your weekend off with a visit to Silo’s, where you can relax to the sound of reggae and jazz.

You can find other things to do in Napa Valley by visiting our complete guide!

Book your trip from San Francisco to Napa Valley today.

San Francisco to Sacramento

Just because it’s not coastal, it doesn’t mean it’s not worth the visit. A lot of people traveling to Lake Tahoe pass through Sacramento on the way up the mountains, but few people think to stop to check out the growing restaurant scene and the great nightlife in the City of Trees.

If you’ve never been to Sacramento, then make sure you pay a visit to Old Sacramento. This historic part of town features everything from the California Railroad Museum to beautiful views of the American River. For food lovers, make sure that you stop by Naked Lounge or Fish Face to catch the latest poke craze sweeping across California.

For more recommendations, visit our complete guide to fun things to do in Sacramento!

Book your trip from San Francisco to Sacramento today.

San Francisco to Santa Cruz

San Francisco isn’t the only place in the Bay Area worth visiting; in fact, there are many other cool towns and cities bordering the coast. One of our favorite places is Santa Cruz. This is the perfect destination for a day trip from San Francisco because you don’t have to travel far and it’s a nice balance between relaxing nature activities and fun nightlife.

Make sure you stop by Natural Bridges and walk out across the beach over to the tide pools. At night, stop by 515 Kitchen & Cocktails for late-night fare and a refreshing beverage.

You can find more fun things to do in Santa Cruz in our complete guide!

Book your trip from San Francisco to Santa Cruz today.

There is more!

We asked some of our favorite travel and lifestyle bloggers for suggestions on additional destinations and attractions you can visit in the Bay Area area and have an amazing time even if it’s just for a day. Check out their recommendations and experiences below.

San Francisco to Healdsburg

Lifestyle and Travel blogger Jessica of the//value went on a trip to Healdsburg, CA and detailed all the cool places you can visit on a fun day trip from San Francisco. Her adventures included a visit to the Charles Schulz Museum, grabbing a bite to eat at local must-visit eateries, treasure hunting at local antique shops and, of course, winery hopping, among many other things.

Click here to read all about Jessica’s fun time in Healdsburg.

Book your trip from San Francisco to Healdsburg today.

San Francisco to Wine Country, Big Sur, Oakland and Berkeley

Travel blogger Sarah of Cultural Chromatics knows the coolest destinations to visit in all directions outside of San Francisco. Where it’s Wine Country to the north, Big Sur to the south, or Oakland and Berkeley to the east, Sarah knows just the places you need to hit up to fully appreciate Northern California.

Click here to read all the details about Sarah’s day trip suggestions. 

As you can see, there are many amazing places you can visit during a day trip or a weekend getaway from San Francisco. You only need to hop on a bus and set your adventure spirit free.

Visit Wanderu.com to book the cheapest bus tickets from San Francisco to Napa Valley, Sacramento or Santa Cruz, Healdsburg and many other destinations. Comment above with your experiences and travel suggestions! 

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About the author
Austin Bay

Austin Bay

As a Northern California native, Austin's favorite trips begin and end in the mountains. He's always on an adventure to find new running trails and stay somewhere long enough to get to know people.