This list has everything from amusement parks to train rides to beach days
Life has been a lot lately—and planning an epic summer vacation may have taken a back seat. We get it—between tracking down the must-dos in any given area, and finding the just-right hotel that both kids and parents will adore (plus the cost of flights), it’s all overwhelming…until now that is.
For those that want to get out of town (or check out a new part of town) without much planning, we’ve vetted 16 easy road trips that promise to deliver big-time family fun. From a town that offers roller coasters and sea lions to hikes along the coast that even your toddler will love, these stress-free mini-vacations will help you rediscover our area’s wonders and adventures.
Bay Area Day Trip Idea #1: Pass Time in Pescadero
Between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz along Highway 1, you will find the tiny town of Pescadero tucked in off the road. It offers beaches for sunbathing and wooded state parks for hiking. Get a history lesson at the Pigeon Point Light Station and then swing by the town for some artichoke garlic bread from Arcangeli Grocery. On your way out of town, stop at Harley Goat Farm for a farm tour and meet some animals. Don’t miss the taco stand in the town’s one gas station!
Bay Area Day Trip Idea #2: Play in the Presidio
Whether you are there to spend time checking out views of the Bay, or to play in the new Presidio Tunnel Tops, the Presidio has tons to offer families who want a day in the city. There are old military batteries to explore and a fun Storywalk for the summer. Kids events like free bike riding lessons are offered all summer long so plan your day and head over!
Bay Area Day Trip Idea #3: Swim & Ride in Concord
This East Bay town is the perfect spot for a summer visit with gorgeous hiking and amusement park afternoons. Little ones will love the rides at Pixieland and you can don your swimsuits for a day of fun at Hurricane Harbor. Spend some time parked by the play structure at The Veranda and then eat your hearts out at Puesto. Todos Santos Plaza is a fun place to run around—there are family-friendly breweries, restaurants, and even an arcade in the blocks surrounding the park.
Bay Area Day Trip Idea #4: Adventure in Wine Country
Wine Country may sound like a parents’ perfect destination, but it also has a lot to offer families who want to bring the little ones. Some of our favorites? TrainTown in Sonoma and the Epicenter Sports and Entertainment Complex in Santa Rosa. Got an animal-obsessed kid? Sign up for a safari and, if you have the time, spend the night at Safari West. Hungry? Eat some delicious grub at these kid-friendly restaurants: Lou’s Luncheonette in Sonoma and Boon Fly Café in Napa.
Bay Area Day Trip Idea #5: Back to Berkeley
The super-chill East Bay city of Berkeley offers college-town charm and cool funky stores to explore. If you visit the UC Berkeley campus, head to the Campanile (clock tower) where you can go to the top for an epic view. Kids can run around and play at Tilden Park and see animals on the little farm.
Bay Area Day Trip Idea #6: Zip Line in Rocklin
This massive ziplining park is worth a visit and is the perfect day trip from the Bay Area. While you must be at least 70 lbs. to take on the zipline course, little ones will have a blast on the Quarry Kidz Kove—a huge net, swing, and climbing structure.
Bay Area Day Trip Idea #7: Day of Fun in Santa Cruz
A day trip to walk the boardwalk is a summer tradition so if you haven’t made your way there yet this summer, now’s the time. There are sea lions to be seen, clam chowder to be eaten, and tie-dye shirts for everyone. For something a little more chill, go on a nature walk through Henry Cowell and be one with nature.
Bay Area Day Trip Idea #8: Time Travel in San Juan Bautista
Gather up your mini history buffs and road trip to California’s oldest city! Visitors to this cool little town are treated to up-close views of stars, tasty treats as well as historic museums and a state park where the grounds include an early settler’s cabin, a jail, and a blacksmith shop.
Bay Area Day Trip Idea #9: Head to the South Bay
The South Bay city of San Jose is packed with kid adventures. Check out Bill’s Backyard at the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose and then run around in the Municipal Rose Garden chasing the butterflies. The Rosicrucian Museum is a must-visit if you want to check out some mummies.
Bay Area Day Trip Idea #10: Hang Out in Fairfield
Nestled between San Francisco and Sacramento, Fairfield is a great destination for a day trip. Visit the famous Jelly Belly Factory and check out a local winery overlooking beautiful vineyards while the kids play. Head over to Two60 Kitchen + Bar to counterbalance all that sugar and try the homemade lumpia—a spring roll whose recipe has been passed down for generations.
Bay Area Day Trip Idea #11: Santa Rosa Beckons
Santa Rosa is home to the awesome Bay Area Discovery Museum where it’s easy to spend an entire day. A day trip delivers outdoor adventure, delicious eats, and maybe even some wine-tasting time for the parents.
Bay Area Day Trip Idea #12: Sweet Sacramento
If visiting the state capital was on your bucket list, now you have good reason to go. Sacramento offers lots of family-friendly adventures for folks who’ve got train lovers (thanks to the California Railroad Museum), plane flyers, and fairy catchers in the family. And the perfect way to end the day? At one of the many confectionery shops. Aww, sweet Sacramento.
Bay Area Day Trip Idea #13: Monterey, Carmel & Pacific Grove
This summer destination is a great spot for a day of fun or even a long weekend. Sandy beaches, Nemo at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and a quaint downtown with shopping and eating options for everyone are just a few of the draws. If you have some time, head over to Pacific Grove for a scenic walk through the butterfly garden and dinner before heading back.
Bay Area Day Trip Idea #14: Get Giddy in Gilroy
Just under 45 minutes from San Jose, Gilroy is home to several fun adventures for families—none of which have to do with garlic. Parents will love wandering the beautiful botanical garden while kids will adore searching for petroglyphs and other Indian artifacts as well as the rides at Gilroy Gardens.
Bay Area Day Trip Idea #15: Explore Half Moon Bay
This coastal Bay Area town is a great spot for a beach day. Spend some time at the tide pools at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve and then grab lunch downtown at our favorite sandwich shop at the San Benito House.
Insider Tip: Don’t pass up the s’mores experience at the Ritz Carlton!
Bay Area Day Trip Idea #16: Discover Culture in Japantown
Spend your day exploring a new culture in Japantown. Start your day at Peace Plaza, shop for Hello Kitty gear at the Japantown Mall, and then have lunch at Marufuku Ramen. Summer brings a ton of cultural events to the area so check online to see what’s coming up before you visit.
Additional reporting by Sandra Lee