September 27, 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.
There are so many things to do in 24 hours—recharge, reconnect, rejuvenate—the perks of day trips are countless. Whether you’re breaking free from your everyday routine or you’ve crossed off all of your Sacramento to-dos, diverse destinations await just a stone’s throw away. From Sacramento, you can arrive in the world’s hub for high-tech innovation, America’s very first national park, or North America’s largest alpine lake in less than three hours. Choose from one of our favorite day trips from Sacramento and discover a whole new world.
The Best Day Trips From Sacramento
Visit the charming town of Napa, located just one hour south-west along Interstate 80, and explore all of its hidden gems. While many choose to visit this region for its vineyards, wineries, and fine wines, the real treasures aren’t what you think they are. Venture off to one of the most romantic day trips from Sacramento and discover what falling head over heels means in NorCal. Make your way to Napa's Oxbow Public Market to indulge in a fantastic dining experience before embarking on an aerial adventure.
A short drive takes you to one of the hot-air balloon launch sites of Balloons Above the Valley. See the lush vineyards you were driving through just minutes ago from a bird’s eye perspective. Breathe in the fresh morning air and lose yourself in the moment. Spot the many small towns and cities of Napa Valley while soaring high above the ground. Before you know it, the flight is over and it’s time for more on-the-ground exploration.
Discover the historic downtown. Admire the Napa Valley Opera House, Historic Goodman Library, and Noyes Mansion. Dig into a scrumptious steak salad with caramelized onion, arugula, blue cheese crumbles, crispy shallots, and blue cheese vinaigrette while overlooking the Napa River on the rooftop of AVOW Napa before continuing your romantic getaway.
After discovering Napa on foot and high above the ground, get a riverfront view. Be European momentarily, and embark on a romantic gondola ride for two with Napa Valley Gondola. Let your day trip come to an end while listening to fine tunes at Blue Note Napa, and savor thyme-basted chicken breast with brussels sprout leaves, poached Tokyo turnips, bacon lardons, cauliflower purée, and brandy poultry jus as you enjoy high-brow jazz.
If you’re not ready to leave yet, check in to the Napa River Inn to celebrate your love with dreamy spa products, treatments, and chocolate-dipped strawberries. The inn boasting a modern design and enviable amenities is erected inside the Historic Napa Mill complex—Napa’s oldest large brick industrial buildings, which were constructed between 1884 and 1887. These buildings are believed to be amongst the most spooky places in all of Napa County.
Get excited as you drive along Route 80 into San Francisco. One of the most fun day trips from Sacramento begins with a one-and-a-half-hour drive through Wine Country to the global city. You can even leave your car at home and explore the city like a local—in under two hours, the Amtrak Capitol Corridor Train takes you from Sacramento to Oakland, where you can hop on public transit and reach San Francisco in about 20 minutes. Bring your California-made bicycle and use public transportation (bus, metro, ferry) to fully immerse yourself in the S.F. lifestyle.
There are some attractions that you just can’t pass up when in San Francisco—taking memorable pictures at the Golden Gate Bridge, having a picnic in front of the iconic Painted Ladies (just like the cast of Full House), taking a tour of the infamous Alcatraz Island, and riding cable cars along steep hills—but what should you do once the tourist destinations are ticked off the bucket list?
Take a free gondola ride to the rooftop Salesforce Park and explore the 5.4-acre utopia complete with botanical gardens, art installations, and views of the Bay. Participate in salsa, bachata, Zumba, and yoga classes or browse through the reading room to see what’s trending in the city. Venture off to Golden Gate Park—the urban oasis that has it all—and discover a rainforest, an aquarium, baby bison, a botanical garden, Dutch windmills from the early 20th century, and art exhibitions from the 17th century. You can bike, skate, and segway to your heart’s desire here, too.
End your San Francisco adventure with dinner at Pier Market, situated on Pier 39, to savor seafood and scenic views of the Bay (plus its adorable colony of California sea lions). If the day gets away from you, stay at one of the many SoMa, North Beach, and Embarcadero hotels.
Half Moon Bay and San Jose
While the Shasta Cascade and Yosemite are some of the most popular day trips from Sacramento, Half Moon Bay and San Jose are a must yet are often overlooked. Bike the 4.7-mile Half Moon Bay Coastside Trail and absorb the sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean. Take a breather at any of the eight beaches, and bask in the sun before heading to downtown Half Moon Bay. Stroll along the historic Main Street of the charming coastal city, then nourish your soul and body with a bowl of artichoke soup and steamed manila clams at the Flying Fish before heading off to nearby San Jose and continuing your South Bay adventure.
The center of Silicon Valley and the largest city in Northern California is not only an international hub for innovative technologies, but also for culture. Crack the San Jose Semaphore code above Adobe’s headquarters, get inspired at the San Jose Museum of Art, learn and innovate at Tech Interactive, and zip-line through the mighty redwoods at Mount Hermon Adventures.
What’s an October weekend trip from Sacramento without a bit of chilling history and goosebumps? Walk through the corridors of the mysterious Winchester Mystery House and figure out the enigma behind the world’s most unusual construction. With all its exciting activities, San Jose is a top destination for family day trips from Sacramento.
Venture off along El Dorado Freeway (same as Route 50) on a day trip to Lake Tahoe from Sacramento, and connect to nature like never before. For an epic getaway in South Lake Tahoe, drive under two hours to experience what an outdoors enthusiast’s dreams are all about. Hiking, rock climbing, biking, horseback riding, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, fishing, boating, parasailing, wildlife watching, camping, and skiing—there’s a lot on the menu to keep you in seventh heaven.
Prepare for your great adventure at Lake Tahoe by first stopping by The Social House for breakfast. Make your way up to the Observation Deck of Heavenly Ski Resort via a scenic gondola ride for panoramic views of Lake Tahoe and to access one of the many hiking trails around the lake.
After exploring South Lake Tahoe and its surrounding natural wonders, head north towards Truckee for history, art, culture, and relaxation on your day trip. Stroll through the quaint downtown established in 1863 and let its authenticity mesmerize you. Visit the Truckee Donner Railroad Museum and view artifacts, exhibits, and documentary films for a better understanding of the town’s true spirit.
Thanks to its passion for the arts, Truckee was named a premier California cultural district by the California Art Council. (Can you spot all of the public art displays?) Find your perfect Truckee souvenir at one of the art galleries before ending this inspiring day trip with dinner and blues at Moody’s Bistro. If you just can't get enough of this quaint town, stay the night at the historic Truckee Hotel to witness the sunrise over the lake the following morning before returning home from this wonderland.
You may also like
Celebrate the season by exploring the best places to see the stunning fall foliage in Southern California....Read more
Admire everything from purple sands to grand rock formations on this road trip to the best Central Coast beaches....Read more