There is no need to book a two-week-long vacation to enjoy the relaxation that comes with a great getaway. Whether you need a break from the hustle and bustle of the big city, or you feel like exploring a new town, a Californian weekend adventure can help you feel refreshed when you get back to work on Monday morning. These weekend trips in Northern California are all within driving distance from the Bay Area, making it easy to escape reality for a short while. Below, we’ll dig into some of the must-see spots in the Golden State and give you some tips on how to enjoy these great areas to the fullest.
With its famous wineries and stunning countryside, Napa Valley makes an ideal choice for an out-of-town trip. Set yourself up in a vacation rental in Napa proper, or one of the smaller towns in the valley, then use the Napa Valley Wine Train to discover more of the area. We suggest taking in the sights in the late afternoon, as this train boasts some amazing views of the Napa Valley sunset. If you’re feeling extravagant, you can even opt for a Wine Country tour by helicopter, with a wine tasting and food pairing included at some stops.
Pro Traveler Tip: While there are a countless number of amazing restaurants in the Napa Valley, we can’t say enough great things about the Sky & Vine Rooftop Bar. This place is absolute gold from its mouth-watering menu to an incredible view of the valley, we’re calling this the must-visit spot for your trip to Napa.
Drive Time From The Bay: If you’re choosing to stay in the Bay for your weekend getaway in NorCal, you can shoot up to Napa in about an hour and a half. The wine is worth it, but the drive alone might be worth the price of admission.
If you’re looking for a more affordable alternative to a Napa getaway, Sonoma is an excellent choice. The historic city is a scenic destination in itself, and the countryside around it is filled with vineyard landscapes that can rival Tuscany. If you’re booking your trip in the spring, you’ll be lucky enough to see the breathtaking landscapes of mustard seed season. Go on a historic walking tour, select over 100 wineries in the area to enjoy a wine tasting or two, or visit some state parks close by such as Jack London State Historic Park and Sugarloaf Ridge State Park.
Pro Traveler Tip: If you and your party are active and enjoy spending time in the great outdoors, you’ve got to get in a bike tour on your trip. It’s a relaxing and peaceful way to take in all the beauty of this prestigious and incredible valley.
Drive Time From The Bay: Basing out of the Bay is a great idea, and you’ll be able to get up to Sonoma in about an hour driving from the city. You’ll head North on the 101 and get a spectacular view of the Bay on the way up.
This seaside town has something for everyone. If you love the outdoors, try out one of many coastal hikes in the area. Whale watching tours, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and sandy beaches offer lots of fun for the family. If you’re on a romantic getaway, you can also visit Cannery Row for several wine tasting rooms and dinner date options. To take in the gorgeous scenery without exerting much physical effort, check out Monterey’s scenic 17-mile drive, or take a mini detour along Highway 1 to Bixby Bridge.
Pro Traveler Tip: While the aquarium is handily the most famous of attractions in this Californian paradise, we’d suggest you make some time for Cannery Row. And even though you’ll be drawn to a ton of great restaurants while there, we’d encourage you to eat at The Fish Hopper. This sensational restaurant is right on the water and offers a wide range of steaks and seafood. Split a surf ‘n’ turf or cut into a beautiful steak right on the ocean.
Drive Time From The Bay: Heading down to Monterey from the Bay is a lovely drive that takes about two hours. On your way down, think about stopping for lunch in San Jose. This lovely city is deserving of its own vacation, but make sure you bring the whole family for that one.
Yosemite National Park
For some fresh air, good ol’ exercise, and breathtaking views as far as the eye can see, look no further than Yosemite National Park. California’s first national park has hiking trails for everyone, so whether you’re packing a stroller, or you want to embrace a new challenge, you can enjoy the beauty of nature inside this gorgeous park. If camping isn’t your style, you can find a wide range of accommodations in Mariposa, Groveland, and Oakhurst, which offer good access to the park. Additionally, you can find a rental by the lake at Bass Lake, less than an hour away from the park’s entrance.
Pro Traveler Tip: Are you looking for the best places to take photos and enjoy some incredible nature? Be sure you head to Glacier Point where you’ll no shortage of natural beauty and spectacular views. Another wonderful spot in the park is Yosemite Falls. Also make sure to check out our special blog written just for Yosemite.
For a taste of the Sierra Nevada mountains, take a trip to Murphys, originally dubbed by western miners as Murphys New Diggings. This town located in the foothills of the mountains offers everything from cave explorations to white water rafting. It’s also an excellent place to learn more about the Gold Rush, with plenty of old buildings left over from the days of the Old West. Aside from all the history and quaint scenery you’ll find, you might think about tasting some wine. While the area isn’t as famous as Napa or Sonoma, it still produces some tasty quaffing wines that deserve a bit of your love and attention.
Pro Traveler Tip: You can’t go Murphys without checking out the world-famous Mercer Caverns. Founded in 1885 by none other than Mr. Walter J. Mercer, these caverns plunge down to a whopping 192 feet in some places! If you’re feeling strong, take the tour and climb the 16 flights of stairs, down and back.
Drive Time From The Bay: You can get to Murphys in about two and half hours from the Bay. It’s a lovely drive, but we’d encourage you to find lodging within Murphy proper if you’re enticed to make this your weekend getaway.
Get a feel for history in California’s state capital and cross one item off your bucket list of things to do in California. Stroll down the wooden boardwalks in Old Sacramento or pay a visit to Sutter’s Fort. Take a guided tour of the California State Capitol building to get an in-depth view of California history. Other museums in the area include the Crocker Art Museum and the California State Railroad Museum. There are lots to learn in the capital of California!
Pro Traveler Tip: This gorgeous city is nothing short of marvelous. While you’re there, we’d say it’s practically obligatory to hit up Old Sacramento. This waterfront haven is chock-full of great shopping opportunities as well as amazing restaurants and some killer events to boot.
Drive Time From The Bay: You’re only about an hour and a half away from the Bay by car. Why not consider spending a day in the Bay and another in Sacramento?
If you don’t want to choose between culture and an outdoor adventure, look no further than Mendocino. The town is packed with galleries like the Mendocino Art Center and performing arts venues, so you’ll have plenty of options for seeing shows and exhibitions. It also offers easy access to stunning coastlines and beautiful forests so that you can enjoy some fresh air during your weekend away.
Pro Traveler Tip: While there’s no shortage of fun and excitement in this energetic town, we think a best-kept secret is a lovely little place called Ross Ranch. Ride horse down the beach as the sun sets in this literal paradise.
Take a trip back in time and take in the Victorian charm of Eureka. This town offers postcard-perfect buildings and a picturesque harbor, so there’s plenty of scenery to take in. See the intricate details of the Carson Mansion which dates back to the 1880s and has transformed into a local landmark. Some notable restaurants in the area include Cafe Waterfront and Restaurant 301. You can also visit Lost Coast Brewery for a refreshing beer that comes in flavors like watermelon and tangerine.
Pro Traveler Tip: When considering what spot you want to take your California weekend getaway, put Eureka at the top of your list for a great summer option. Try to visit between June and September. The weather is at its best and won’t leave you panting for breath. You also won’t have to worry about spring showers.
Redwood National & State Parks
One hour north of Eureka is the Redwood National & State Parks. With trees that surpass 350 feet tall, a visit to the Redwoods truly makes you feel like you’re in the company of giants. Spend a weekend hiking through some of the oldest and tallest trees in the world or go for a scenic drive down Howland Hill Road.
Pro Traveler Tip: Be sure to look out for closures and changes in the parks. As they are massive, there are generally cancellations of various activities and other normally scheduled things to do. In addition, portions of the parks might be closed due to natural disasters or other unforeseeable things. Click here for all the latest updates on the status of your chosen park.
This coastal city is about as far north as you can go in California. If you drive just 20 miles further, you’ll hit the Oregon border. With its historic lighthouses and beautiful waterfront, this is a terrific place for a West Coast getaway. Enjoy a picnic on Crescent Beach or see the historic Battery Point Lighthouse.
Pro Traveler Tip: If you’d like your getaway to include camping, you won’t be disappointed with Jedediah Smith Campground. This beautiful site is right in heart of the Redwoods and makes for a memorable experience.
Whether you’re searching for elegance in nature while enjoying a glass of wine in Napa or Sonoma, easy, breezy fun on the coast, or a full-on outdoorsman’s adventure, our pick for weekend getaways won’t disappoint.
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