A Guide to the Best Day Trips from San Francisco

Having grown up in the San Francisco, California area, I’ve spent lots of time visiting the many beautiful towns that make for a perfect day trip from the city. Here are five of my favorite day trips from San Francisco.

1. Sausalito

Take the ferry from San Francisco to Sausalito. The ferry ride itself is ranked second best in the world. Seeing the Golden Gate from the water is an incredible, picturesque experience. Fares are $8.25 for adults each way. After arriving in Sausalito, rent a bike from Mike’s Bikes and tour the town. You might take the Wooden Boat Tour and visit historic houseboats or experience the Bay Area Discovery Museum, or just bring a picnic and bike all day!

For ferry schedules visit www.goldengateferry.org.

2. Point Reyes National Seashore

Point Reyes is located about an hour north of San Francisco, but it feels like you’ve entered another world. The spectacularly scenic drive up Highway One winds along the west coast and offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. After about an hour (although you’ll probably want to stop and take pictures along the way), you’ll reach the National Seashore. Stop by the Bear Valley Visitor Center to pick up a map and get information on trails and the natural history of the Point Reyes area. You won’t want to miss the historic Point Reyes lighthouse. It is located on the western most point of the Point Reyes Headlands. The Lighthouse Visitor Center is open from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Thursday through Monday. Here you can touch whale baleen, view historic photographs as well as a display of local birds.

For more information, go to: www.nps.gov.

3. Muir Woods National Monument

Muir Woods is just 12 miles north of San Francisco. When entering the park, you’ll feel you’ve found a special hidden secret with mist circling the trees, and moss and ferns covering the ground. Its 559 acres are part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and includes 240 acres of old growth Coast Redwoods. Here you’ll find six miles of beautiful trails, including a half hour loop, an hour loop and several longer hikes. View thousands of these giant trees, the largest living things in the world. This place will take your breath away.

Entrance fees to the park are $5.00 for ages 16 and over, and free for children 15 and under. For more information, including directions, visit: www.nps.gov.

4. Sonoma Valley Wine Country

If you enjoy wine tasting, the Sonoma Valley is a wonderful place to visit, and only an hour from San Francisco. The town of Sonoma has two of the oldest wineries in California, the Buena Vista Winery and the Gundlach Bundshu Winery. The Valley itself has over 40 wineries to visit! There are also numerous hiking, horseback and bike riding trails in Sonoma Valley, as well as jazz festivals held throughout the year. Adventurous types might want to take a hot air balloon ride over wine country, offered by Wine Country Balloons (www.balloontours.com).

For directions and details, go to www.sonomavalley.com.

5. Winchester Mystery House

If you enjoy history, or are fascinated by the paranormal, you might want to visit the famous Winchester Mystery House. Located just an hour south of San Francisco, in San Jose, the house is a well-known mansion that was under construction for 38 years. It is a beautiful and bizarre Queen Anne Style Victorian, that is supposedly haunted by ghosts of people who were killed by the Winchester rifle, or one of many people employed by Sarah Winchester to run and continue the building of her house. Take a guided tour, and walk up staircases that lead to nowhere, a window built into the floor, and maybe even experience a spirit or two. The tour lasts for 2 1/2 hours and includes the Grand Estate and Historic Firearms Museum.

Information can be found at www.winchestermysteryhouse.com.