September 19, 2020
As California mitigates health risks during the COVID-19 pandemic, some travel restrictions may remain in certain communities. Call the local and regional tourism offices to learn more about the restrictions in your intended destination. Thank you for reading, and stay safe.
From Sacramento to Sonoma, Northern California's vibrant, diverse cities are visited by locals and globetrotters alike—and it's easy to see why. Thanks to its majestic mysticism and historical significance, NorCal was made for weekend getaways. Whether you're a local looking for a staycation or a visitor from a land far away, these are the best Northern California getaways to add to your bucket list.
At the top of the list for Northern California vacation spots is the world-famous city of San Francisco. With iconic landmarks, unique restaurants, and numerous attractions to explore, it's easy to spend a long weekend in S.F. Visitors can walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, indulge in a photo sesh on the beach, hike through the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and savor the views at Crissy Field.
Another free, bucket-list activity in the city is enjoying a picnic at the Palace of Fine Arts. Located minutes away from the Golden Gate Bridge, this expanse boasts refined beauty and elegance with a Greco-Roman rotunda, immaculately planted grounds, and a serene lagoon. If you crave something a bit more adventurous, take a 15-minute ferry ride from the Embarcadero to the famed Alcatraz Island. Now a California Historical Landmark, the island used to serve as a federal penitentiary that housed prominent prisoners such as Al Capone.
After a day of adventure, relax and recharge at your home away from home. While there are countless places to stay in San Francisco, lay your head at Hotel Zetta, where trend and culture meet in the hub of downtown. Or, book a neighborhood Airbnb for an extended trip.
This charming town offers endless Wine Country adventures, from hot-air balloon rides to olive oil tastings. Art lovers don’t have to look too hard to find the best Napa Valley art installations or public displays. Found on Main Street, the Napa Art Walk boasts impressive sculptures by artists from the West. Don’t miss the Napa Valley Museum, either, which is currently presenting the Land and People of the Valley. Napa also features a remarkable farmers market, so make sure to stop by the Oxbow Public Market. Shoppers can indulge in locally grown produce, gourmet food, and eye-catching handmade crafts.
Napa also features a remarkable farmers market. At the Oxbow Public Market, shoppers can indulge in locally grown produce, gourmet food, and eye-catching handmade crafts. After a day of admiring art, shopping, and dining, check in to the Archer Hotel—a chic sanctuary with a rooftop eatery. For an elegant evening, dress up and dine at one of downtown Napa's world-renowned restaurants such as Carpe Diem. Then, make your way to the Napa Valley Opera House or take a stroll along the scenic riverfront.
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Tucked in the northeastern corner of California, Lassen Volcanic National Park is a perfect getaway for outdoor enthusiasts and is home to the largest lava dome volcano in the world: Lassen Peak. The active landscape of Lassen features four types of volcanoes—shield, composite, cinder cone, and plug dome—resulting in bubbling pools of water, mud pots, and steam vents that give visitors a show. For an up-close view of Lassen’s hydrothermal action, stop by Sulphur Works to see the roaring steam and volcanic gas vents.
Despite its volcanic activity, the park provides a quiet side as well. The crystalline lakes and fields of wildflowers create the ultimate environment for relaxation. Unwind by the majestic Manzanita Lake. For an easy hike around the lake, hike a 1.5-mile loop for an unparalleled view of the park. Then, cool off by kayaking or paddleboarding across the lake; if you need to rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard, the Manzanita Lake Camper Store has you covered. For hikers looking for a more challenging workout, take the Ridge Lakes Trail and climb over 1,000 feet.
After action-packed days in the park, rejuvenate at Drakesbad Guest Ranch. The ranch is hidden in Warner Valley, offering rustic rooms and cabins perfect for autumn stays. The property has amenities such as a naturally heated swimming pool, massage services, and horseback rides.
Mendocino is one of the best weekend getaways in Northern California. The quaint coastal village is dotted with charming cottages, white-picket fences, wildflower fields, and lush forests, with a picture-perfect lighthouse tying the scene together. Mendocino is also home to several artists and writers and is full of world-class art galleries.
Pay a visit to Mendocino Headlands State Park. Its spectacular coastline, scenic trails, and beaches are perfect for fall romantic getaways in Northern California. Hikers can take the path along the bluffs to enjoy breathtaking views of rock arches and hidden grottos. Next, visit the 47-acre Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens to admire canyons, wetlands, cliffs, and forests. The garden also boasts a beautiful rhododendron collection with more than 125 species of flowering shrubs. Since no trip to Mendocino is complete without a visit to the Point Arena Lighthouse, make sure to stop by this iconic landmark, too. The lighthouse was built after an earthquake in 1906, which destroyed the original structure.
To wrap up your coastal adventure, head to the Harbor House Inn and dine at the on-site Michelin-starred restaurant. If that isn't enough to entice you, the inn is surrounded by a majestic redwood forest and boasts sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean. Additionally, the family-owned and -operated boutique hotel is mere steps away from West Beach, where you can enjoy dramatic California coast vistas.
Situated along the Northern California coast, Point Reyes is full of adventure. Kick off your trip with a visit to the stunning Point Reyes National Seashore; check in at the Bear Valley Visitor Center for advice on how to plan your day. For lovers of historical sights, make sure to stop the Point Reyes Lighthouse, which was in operation from 1870 until 1975. Get in a mini-workout and take on the 300-some steps to reach the lighthouse—marvel at the breathtaking views and photo-worthy shots while you're there.
Point Reyes also features deltas, wetlands, lagoons, and swamps. This environmental diversity makes the area perfect for hiking, so trek along the Earthquake Trail to reach the Alamere Falls Trail, which leads to the namesake 40-foot-tall waterfall that cascades down onto the sand. After a long day of hiking and exploring, The Marshall Store is a wonderful stop for delicious, satisfying seafood.
For weekend stays in nature, pitch your tent at the Coast Campground found in Point Reyes National Seashore. This Northern California beach camping destination is accessible via a 1.9-mile trail, serving as a secluded and scenic haven.
Timber Cove is a small town in Sonoma County and is one of the best Northern California vacation spots. Due to its remote location, the landscape is largely untouched but is packed with activities ranging from inland adventures to water explorations.
Timber Cove boasts a wide collection of parks with majestic wildlife, but the top spot to visit is Fort Ross State Historic Park. From 1812 to 1841, Fort Ross was a prominent Russian settlement and still features California’s first windmills and shipyards. Hikers can choose to trek on one of the six trails at Sea Ranch, found at the northern end of Fort Ross, for picturesque views of the sea, the sky, and everything else in between.
From there, make your way about five miles north of Fort Ross to explore California’s first underwater park: Salt Point State Park. The park presents a close-up view of exceptionally rad waves crashing against the cliffs and dramatic sandstone formations. Take a tour with Watertreks Eco-Tours or rent a kayak to explore the waters on your own. If you have time after your maritime adventures, stop by the Gualala Arts Center to see interesting exhibitions.
For a luxurious overnight stay, look no further than Timber Cove Resort, the coastal escape you don't know about yet—but should. Savor an exceptional dinner at the on-site Coast Kitchen, then end the evening by the fireplace with a nightcap.