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San Francisco might be the coolest city on the entire planet. Just look at everything SF has going on: the Haight-Ashbury, which is still as artistic and progressive as ever, the famous culinary scene, with one fantastic restaurant popping up after another, and Fisherman’s Wharf, which is a tourist’s dream.

But we understand that the big city can be a little much and sometimes you need a time out from the hustle and bustle. Taking that into consideration, we’ve compiled the 5 best trips from SF you need to take right now. If you are looking for even more inspiration check out our 11 day trips from San Francisco as well!

Santa Cruz

Top Left Via Flickr/Dale
Top Middle Via Yelp/Xu Z.
Top Right Via Flickr/Richard Masoner
Bottom Right Via Yelp/Harold W.

Located a short 73-mile drive south of the bustling streets of San Francisco, the town of Santa Cruz is the perfect place for a recess from the city. From the thrill rides of the boardwalk and perfect waves at Steamer Lane to the nearby redwood forests, you won’t have a problem finding something fun to do.

3 Must-Dos

  • The Mystery Spot – Locally described as a “gravitational anomaly,” this place is the definition of freaky.
  • Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk – You can expect everything from carnival games and fried foods to a roller coaster and Ferris wheel at Northern California’s favorite beachfront amusement park.
  • University of California Santa Cruz Seymour Marine Discovery Center – Ever wonder what lurks below the ocean’s surface? Head to the Seymour Marine Discovery Center and find out. 

Half Moon Bay

Top Left Via Yelp/Elaine R.
Left Bottom Via Yelp/Angela B.
Top Right Via Flickr/DouglassClem
Bottom Right Via Flickr/David Abercrombie

Why should you make the drive from San Francisco to Half Moon Bay? Well, for one, it’s only 30 miles south. Two, driving down California State Route 1 along the rugged and beautiful Pacific Ocean is something you’ll want to write home about. The scenery is second to none and will provide you with some of the greatest Instagram opportunities you’ll ever come across. But what should you do once you arrive in this splendid town? Here are a few suggestions:

3 Must-Dos

  • Gray whale watching with the Oceanic Society – Every year, gray whales migrate from the cold waters of Alaska to the warm waters of Baja. Getting a glimpse of these massive beauties in their natural habitat is one of the coolest sights on earth.
  • Fitzgerald Marine Reserve – Make your way to this nearby natural wonder during low tide and check out the other-worldly-looking star fish and anemones. You may even find a few seals hanging out nearby.

Ocean Terrace Bar at the Ritz – Enjoying West Coast oysters paired with Northern California white wine while the sun sets over the Pacific Ocean is the perfect way to end the day. 

Sonoma

Right Middle Top Yelp/Kristen R.
Right Middle Bottom Via Flickr/Alejandro De La Cruz
Right Bottom Via Flickr/Elaine with Grey Cats

How far outside of San Francisco do you have to go for a glass of Gloria Ferrer pinot noir? Only 44 miles to Sonoma courtesy of that lovely rental car of yours. This picturesque town is a center of California’s wine industry and a must-do day trip when you come to San Francisco. But it’s not just wineries in this town; be sure to explore the historic town plaza and the Presidio of Sonoma.

3 Must-Dos

  • Sonoma Valley Bike Tours – Trade four wheels for two and choose between a half-day or full-day tour. You’ll tour local wineries, sample the products, and compile the most epic Insta story ever.
  • Sonoma Coast State Park – People who think picnics are a thing of the past have never had one at Sonoma Coast State Park. Just pick any spot off of the 17-mile stretch California Route 1 that makes up the state park and enjoy the picnic of your life.

Cooking classes at Ramekins – You’ll be ready to throw down with Bobby Flay after a private cooking class with the talented chefs at Ramekins. Their class calendar offers everything from Italian and Japanese comfort food to French stocks and sauces. 

Muir Woods National Monument

Top Left Via Flickr/ daveynin
Top Right Via Flickr/Mitchel Jones
Bottom Middle Via Flickr/Caleb Gomer
Bottom Right Via Yelp/ Michaela S.

When you’re wandering the streets of San Francisco, it’s hard to imagine that a mere 16 miles north sits one of the most stunning natural settings in the country. Muir Woods National Monument in Mount Tamalpais State Park is 554 acres—240 of which are redwood forests—of thick, green woodlands and a visit here should be on your bucket list. As you hike along the trails, you’ll feel like you’re with the Rebel Alliance cruising around the forest moon of Endor. Sorry to say there’s no Ewoks here, though.

3 Must-Dos

  • The Sun Trail – This scenic 5-mile loop rises high above the tree tops of Muir National Monument and offers insane views of the surrounding area.
  • The Ben Johnson Trail – This is another 5-mile trail hike that weaves through old-growth redwoods that probably date back to the dinosaurs.
  • Buckeye Roadhouse – Hiking through redwood forests for hours on end will make you feel like you could eat a horse. Maybe not a horse, but at least a nice rack of barbequed baby back ribs from Buckeye Roadhouse. 

Monterey

Left Top Via Flickr/Tom Thai
Right Bottom Via Flickr/ Philip Kahn

When you’re ready to explore a little further outside of the city, an easy 119-mile drive south along the California coast to the town of Monterey should be in order. Located on California’s Central Coast on the southern edge of Monterey Bay, California’s “First City” is one of the finest nuggets of the Golden State. The downtown district is loaded with shopping and dining options, there’s nearby golf courses that rival anything the Scots can offer you, and the natural beauty of the place is ridiculously awesome.

3 Must-Dos

  • Monterey Bay Aquarium – This might be the most famous aquarium in the world and for good reason. Take a behind-the-scenes tour and learn the ins and outs of running this fantastic place. There’s even an Underwater Explorers activity you can do, which allows you dive in the aquarium’s Great Tide Pool.
  • Cannery Row – Once the home to several sardine canning factories, these abandoned spaces have transformed from unused, empty warehouses into chic shopping and dining options.
  • 17-Mile Drive – Sit down behind the wheel of your rental car. Buckle your seatbelt. Start the engine. You’re now ready to go on the 17-mile drive. This scenic loop starts in Pacific Grove and will weave you along the coastal cliffs past the Links at Spanish Bay, the Lone Cypress, and Pebble Beach. And that’s just for starters. 

There it is. Five unbelievable day trips from San Francisco during your next rendezvous to The City by the Bay. All you need is a car, a map, and a need to explore.

 

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