5 Best Day Trips from San Francisco
There’s a lot to see in San Francisco, there’s no doubt. Hilton San Francisco Union Square and Hilton San Francisco Financial District can also be a great home bases from which to take some quick and easy day trips. When making any plans, though, there is one term your family needs to become familiar with: “microclimate.” The San Francisco Bay Area is full of these atmospheric zones where the climate differs from an area that is just a few miles away. A little preparation will go a long way in achieving a successful day trip.
Should you decide to venture outside the City by the Bay, here are five of the best day trips from San Francisco to consider.
Point Reyes National Seashore
Point Reyes National Seashore includes more than 70,000 acres with more than 70 miles of hiking and horseback riding trails as well as numerous campgrounds. Is any further proof needed to confirm that this national park exists for sole purpose of getting people out into nature?
Wild coastal beaches and headlands, estuaries, and uplands make up the peninsula of this preserve. It also offers plenty of opportunities to watch the gray whale migration, observe the raptors, shorebirds, and other animals. Kids can set off on searches for oyster shells and sand dollars. There are also opportunities to learn about the San Andreas Fault and 16th century maritime history.
Microclimate Tip: Summers in Point Reyes are often cold and foggy while winters are generally clear. Your family can prepare themselves for this microclimate by bringing a jacket or sweat shirt that can be tied around the waist should the day warm up.
This majestic collection of redwood trees ranges in age from 400 to nearly 1,000 years old and each tree stands more than 250 feet tall. Just a hop across the Golden Gate Bridge, Muir Woods feels magical in many ways. Douglas fir, maples, tanoaks, and red alders sprout up in the sprays of light that squeeze in between the redwoods’ huge trunks and wildlife like owls, deer, chipmunks, and woodpeckers play and live among their branches and roots.
Flat easy trails loop through the park and several of them include ways to cross Redwood Creek, which flows all year long. Read more about Exploring Muir Woods National Monument with Kids.
Microclimate Tip: Daytime temperatures in Muir Woods rarely pass the 70°s because ocean moisture from the San Francisco Bay creeps up over the headlands and into the valley where Muir Woods is located, often becoming trapped under the massive trees. If you visit in the summer months, be sure everyone in the family has a sweatshirt or light jacket handy; a visit during the winter months may require a warm jacket or an umbrella.
Get a different perspective of San Francisco’s cityscape by visiting the quaint little village of Sausalito. Located just across the bay, it also offers fun educational opportunities to explore like the Bay Model, a working hydraulic scale model of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta System. Families with young ones particularly enjoy the Bay Area Discovery Museum’s exhibits, play areas, and educational activities.
Picturesque Tiburon is just down the road and that island that you can spot off the coast of both towns is Angel Island State Park, where sweeping views and ample hiking and biking trails are a mere 10-minute sail away.
Leave the car behind! If you really want to drive to Sausalito and Tiburon, be aware that Bay Area traffic can be a challenge. All three of these spots are accessible by ferry boat. Getting out on the San Francisco Bay not only brings visitors closer to the marine life in the area, it offers a closer look at iconic landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz.
Microclimate Tip: It can be breezy on the bay then warmer in any of these locations once you arrive. But then again, you may be lucky enough to get a day where the weather is warm on the bay and even warmer on land. Dress in layers so that clothing can be shed or a layer added according to what the weather may dish out.
Located on the eastern part of the bay, Berkeley has a long history of activism because it is where the University of California Berkeley is located. It is also home to some high caliber and highly unusual family friendly attractions. The Lawrence Hall of Science has been offering hands on experiences in math and science for more than more than 45 years. Located in the Berkeley Hills, they haven’t taught just kids a thing or two about science; parents find that they come away with a better understanding as well.
If your crew likes getting dirty, then you’ll want to check out the Adventure Playground. Adjacent to the Berkeley Marina, it is a playground built by other kids. All of the materials are recycled. There is a zipline and a lot of other surprises in the place. If your kids are handy with a saw, hammer or paint brush, they are welcome to add onto or alter what it is already there.
Not far from this attraction, in nearby Richmond, Playland-Not-At-The-Beach pays homage to the beachside amusement park. Challenge the kids to the arcade games of your youth and revel in the fact that you lived to tell the tale of taking on thrill rides that would be considered a liability these days.
Microclimate Tip: Berkeley may only be about 30 minutes from San Francisco, but it is often more than just a few degrees warmer than the city. Be prepared to shed a layer of clothing here and be sure to have sunscreen in your bag. Afternoons in particular can get comfortably balmy in this part of the Bay Area.
Fine wine and culinary arts may be the first things that come to mind when folks think about the Napa Valley, but there are also family-friendly attractions to enjoy in this bucolic area one hour north of San Francisco! Take the kids love to see the Old Faithful Geyser erupt; conduct a geological study in the Petrified Forest, and get a look at Napa’s rural heritage at the Bale Grist Mill, a restored water-powered grist mill. About 78 wineries also offer family-friendly features on their tours that include grape juice and coloring books for the kids.
Microclimate Tip: You are most likely in for a clear comfortable day in the Napa Valley. The climate is considerably warmer than San Francisco’s, often by as much as 10 to 15 degrees. Bring sunscreen!
You may also enjoy:
- Day Trips from San Francisco – Muir Woods and Sausalito
- San Francisco Travel Tips
- Visit Civil War-Era Fort Point in San Francisco
- Must-See San Francisco Attractions – A Two-Day Itinerary
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Kristine lives in Mountain View, California, where she is the mother of a gifted girl athlete and a special needs charmer. Like almost everything in her house,…