Whether your a tourist or a seasoned local, Northern California holds a lot of fun if you know where to look. If you’re in the area, you must check out these local attractions.
1. Monterey, CA
The City of Monterey is famous for being featured in John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row. Any American literature fan will be obligated to take a trip south along the coast to Monterey to see the famous location for themselves. Monterey is about a two hour drive south from the city.
Along Cannery Row, you’ll find ample parking in a nearby garage with decent rates – just follow the signs. Along the famous corridor, there are an assortment of small shops where you can get great gifts for loved ones and friends. At the end of it all, there’s the Monterey Bay Aquarium which features colorful schools of fish and informative displays about local aquatic life. If you’re coming on the weekend, it’s better to order your tickets online to avoid the crowds.
For food, this author suggests you take a 10 minute drive to nearby Carmel, CA to try the Fish Wife – if you’re a fan of seafood. The quality of food is matched only by the service, and while this author has enjoyed the Fish Wife many a time, he has not received any compensation for suggesting the restaurant.
2. Old Town Sacramento
Most visitors and some locals assume that the state’s capital is far away from the city. While true it’s about as far as Monterey, it’s easily doable for a day trip. And since most people wouldn’t think to take the trip there, you can avoid a lot of crowds on weekends.
Old Town is a famous district of Sacramento that features several historical building from the 1800’s. The area has local shops, great food, and good prices.
Parking can be an interesting challenge, however. This author one time made the mistake of parking in the mall and attempting to walk – bad move, unless you’re ok with trouncing through other, more convenient parking garages to get to your destination. There is a garage near the transit area under the freeway as well as parking meters all throughout Old Town.
Kid-friendly, Old Town has a candy store and a kite shop if you’re interested in taking a look.
Depending on the time of year you visit, you might want to check out some local festivals. Here’s a website that lists festivals in the Bay Area by month.
This author also suggests the Gilroy Garlic Festival, which is held in Gilroy every last weekend in July. Just be sure to check the weather, since Gilroy can get a little toasty during the festival. Excessive heat coupled with the smell of garlic might not make for a fun trip.
4. The Winchester Mystery House
A local landmark, the Winchester Mystery House was built by the late Sarah Winchester (the same Winchester family that made the rifles). She was said to be either crazy or a genius; she continued construction on the estate up to her death.
The place is a lot of fun. There are stairs to nowhere, doors that open to two story drops, and some really interesting architecture. But don’t worry, the tour guides are pretty good about keeping people from falling or getting lost.
Ticket information can be found here. The location makes a good trip during the day, but it’s even better at night since sometimes they offer flashlight tours.
5. Great America
If the kids are old enough, you may want to take a trip to Great America. While Southern California is known for fun for all ages with Disneyland and Knotsberry Farm, we in Nor Cal take our roller coasters seriously. More intrepid adventurers will want to try Flight Deck.
While Great America advertises a lot of kid friendly rides, it’s not as much fun for the entire family as other parks. This author’s family always went down south when they wanted a park that accommodated everyone, but yours might be different. Check out their website for ticket and ride information.
If you take a trip to San Francisco and try any of these places, be sure to leave a comment below.