November 25, 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.
As exciting as it is to live in San Francisco, each weekend presents a new opportunity to explore nearby iconic cities and must-visit attractions. Only a couple of hours away from the bustling streets of S.F., you’ll discover some of California’s most beautiful scenery. Broad beaches, beautiful vineyards, monumental mountains, and breathtaking national parks are all within easy reach. These top weekend getaways from San Francisco will cure even the pickiest traveler’s wanderlust.
8 Incredible Weekend Trips from San Francisco
1. Half Moon Bay
Distance: 29 miles, 37 minutes
A popular weekend getaway from San Francisco, Half Moon Bay is a charming coastal city that'll take your breath away. Cruise to Half Moon Bay State Beach where sandy beaches greet visitors with open arms. Perfect for sunbathing, fishing, and picnicking, the state beach is also home to the Coastal Trail, a 7.5-mile path that allows you to walk, jog, or ride bikes while viewing the crashing surf and local wildlife.
The laid-back town is also known for its seaside club Half Moon Bay Golf Links. Take a swing at this beautiful NorCal golf course while admiring the dramatic coast. For the evening, book a room at the luxurious Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, and soak in the vivid hues of the magnificent sunset.
2. San Jose
Distance: 48 miles, 48 minutes
Providing the perfect setting for your weekend getaway from San Francisco, San Jose is full of exciting attractions and stunning architectural landmarks. The largest city in Northern California is home to the haunted Winchester Mystery House, the science and technology center The Tech Interactive, and the incredible San Jose Museum of Art. San Jose is also abundant with Mission Revival, Queen Anne, and Prairie-style structures, making it a prime place to admire many examples of iconic California architecture.
Stop by Monopoly in the Park, which features a larger-than-life version of the world's most popular board game and the only Guinness Book of World Records attraction in San Jose. After an action-packed day, stay the night at Hotel Valencia Santana Row, where sweeping views of the European-inspired Santana Row neighborhood take your breath away.
Distance: 88 miles, one hour and 30 minutes
Been in California this whole time and still not visited the state capital? Well, now’s the time to experience a weekend in Sacramento. Visit the Neoclassical-style California State Capitol, which serves as both a museum and the state’s working seat of government., and learn about its fascinating history.
While exploring Midtown Sacramento, head over to Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park, a former agricultural and trade colony in the Mexican Alta California province. It’s now open for everyone to discover the 19th-century establishment while on self-guided tours. Make your weekend trip from San Francisco the best one yet and stop by the Sacramento Zoo for up-close encounters with exotic animals.
4. Santa Cruz
Distance: 73 miles, one hour and 17 minutes
Stunning coastline; perfect weather; gorgeous redwood forests; exciting wildlife encounters—does it get any better than that? Santa Cruz is a quintessential California seaside town that’s full of fun things to do, which is why you should head here for your next weekend getaway from San Francisco. The awesome year-round destination for a weekend trip has no shortage of entertainment options. With gorgeous beaches worth visiting even in the cold, Santa Cruz also offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy the laid-back city while catching some sun.
The Golden State’s oldest surviving amusement park is right here: The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is one of the few seaside parks on the West Coast. Natural Bridges State Beach is your next stop. The 65-acre state park features a natural bridge across a section of the beach and is a hot spot for monarch butterfly migrations. No trip to Santa Cruz is complete without visiting the famous wharf. Located between Main Beach and Cowell Beach, the Santa Cruz Wharf measures 2,745 feet, making it the longest pier on the West Coast. At the end of the day, check in to the waterfront Dream Inn Santa Cruz.
Romantic Getaways from San Francisco
5. Point Reyes National Seashore
Distance: 37 miles, one hour
A romantic coastal getaway to Point Reyes National Seashore might be just what you need. From expansive, pristine beaches and rugged cliffs to open grasslands and forested ridges, the national seashore extends across 70,000 acres of lush grounds and protects over 1,500 species of plants and animals. Visitors are welcome to trek some of the most picturesque hikes in California; dont miss out on the trail leading to the Point Reyes Lighthouse, an iconic structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Although it’s located on one of the windiest and foggiest points on the West Coast, Point Reyes National Seashore is one of the best places for whale and bird watching when the skies are clear. The preserve is also home to Alamere Falls—a dramatic spectacle of water cascading over a 30-foot tall cliff onto Wildcat Beach. The sight of the unique tide fall alone will make your romantic weekend getaway from San Francisco worthwhile, especially since there’s only two tide falls in all of California. Recharge at the luxurious Olema House or snuggle up with your special someone at one of the top Point Reyes National Seashore campgrounds.
Distance: 45 miles, one hour
The historic Northern California city of Sonoma is famed for its wineries and aesthetically pleasing art galleries. Some might argue that Napa is the ideal option for a romantic weekend getaway from San Francisco, but Sonoma is full of rich history and stunning scenery that’s just as beautiful.
The colonial-era Sonoma Plaza is the heart and soul of the city. A National Historic Landmark, the plaza is surrounded by wonderful buildings such as Captain Salvador Vallejo's Casa Grande, the Presidio of Sonoma, and the Blue Wing Inn. The latter is one of the first hotels built in California north of San Francisco. While you’re in the area, stop by Sonoma State Historic Park, the birthplace of the California State Flag. Don’t forget to visit the Sonoma TrainTown Railroad, either, where 10 acres of pure entertainment awaits you.
7. Big Sur
Distance: 146 miles, two hours and 30 minutes
The drive to Big Sur alone is enough for an intimate weekend getaway from San Francisco. Words cannot describe how exceptionally beautiful and panoramic this rugged stretch of the state is. One of the most photographed bridges in California—Bixby Creek Bridge Bridge—guides you towards the enviable mountain escape from S.F.
Head over to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and witness the allure of the landscapes yourself. The best feature of the park is the second tide fall in the Golden State: McWay Falls. Flowing year-round from McWay Creek, the fall drops over an 80-foot cliff into the Pacific Ocean. Don’t forget to stop by Pfeiffer Beach to admire the glowing purple sand and the large rock formations before spending the night at Glen Oaks Big Sur.
8. South Lake Tahoe
Distance: 188 miles, three hours and 10 minutes
El Dorado County’s most populous city, South Lake Tahoe, is the ultimate getaway destination for a weekend full of fun and relaxation. Sparkling waters and ancient forests take your breath away—this NorCal wonderland is abundant with unique outdoor activities. While on your weekend getaway from San Francisco, shower your S.O. with love and momentarily escape on a hot-air balloon ride for two. Lake Tahoe Balloons is the only one in the world where the entire ballooning process begins and ends on the deck of a boat.
The one-of-a-kind experience is an indescribable adventure that provides wonderful views of the lake’s depths. Next up on your epic Lake Tahoe getaway is a visit to the Tahoe National Forest. Boasting over 871,495 acres of rivers, snow-capped peaks, and alpine meadows, the national forest has countless natural wonders to provide visitors with entertainment. Before you head back to the City by the Bay, take in the scenic vistas of South Lake Tahoe on a 2.4-mile ride up a mountain in the Heavenly Mountain Gondola.