When city life becomes overwhelming, families in San Francisco often find solace in seeking refreshing weekend getaways nearby. With its picturesque landscapes, diverse attractions, and abundant outdoor activities, the Bay Area offers an array of options perfectly suited for family adventures. Whether it’s exploring charming coastal towns along Route 1 or immersing in nature’s wonders amid towering redwoods, there is something to captivate every family member. These getaways also provide an opportunity to escape the constant buzz of urban living and create memories together as a family unit. We’ve put together some of the best weekend getaways from San Francisco, including where to stay, eat, and do more. Keep reading to plan your next California getaway!
As the State Capital, Sacramento should make the list of “places to visit in California” for families. Around an hour and a half from San Francisco, the city lies between two rivers which means there is a lot of outdoor fun around town. Nature lovers will appreciate the Effie Yeaw Nature Center, coupled with a walk along the American River.
The Sac State Aquatic Center has watersport rentals on Lake Natoma. You can also float the American River on a raft with River Rat. Then, the American River Bike Trail hugs the river for 32 miles for those wanting exercise. Thrill-seeking visitors will have a blast at Wake Island. Kids on a Bay Area weekend getaway can try wakeboarding on a wire (to get lots of air!), play on an inflatable obstacle course, and zip-line over the water. Additionally, there’s Quarry Park, an adventure park built in an old rock quarry, and horseback riding along Folsom Lake with Boarding by the Lake. Your trip should also include a free Capitol building tour.
Not to mention, a stop in Old Sacramento Waterfront, where you’ll be transported to the Gold Rush era. Family-friendly Sacramento museums include California State Railroad Museum (take a train ride along the river), Sacramento History Museum (they offer a cool underground tour), California Museum, California Automobile Museum, and a self-guided tour of the region’s first settlement, Sutter’s Fort State Park.
Where To Stay In Sacramento With Kids
Obviously, the Sacramento region provides lots of fun things to do in Northern California with kids! But if you’re looking for somewhere to stay, check out the Kimpton Sawyer Hotel. While it has an awesome rooftop swimming pool and bar, its best feature is that it’s located in the heart of the downtown action. Other downtown hotels with outdoor pools include The Citizen Hotel, Hyatt Regency Sacramento, and Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel.
Weekend getaways are a perfect opportunity for families in San Francisco to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, and one destination that stands out is Capitola Beach. Just an hour and a half drive from the city, this picturesque seaside town offers an array of activities suitable for all ages.
The main highlight here is the sandy beach, where kids can build sandcastles or play in the shallow waters while parents relax under colorful umbrellas. Families will also enjoy exploring Capitola’s Esplanade with its vibrant Mediterranean-style buildings housing quaint shops, boutiques, and seafood restaurants. Or, take the 3.4-mile Grand Avenue Walking Trail along the beach, which runs along the top of the Capitola Bluffs.
A short drive away, families can also visit the city of Santa Cruz. Walk along the boardwalk and check out the amusement rides right on the beach! Kids will also get a kick out of the Mystery Spot, a famous destination that claims to defy the laws of physics and gravity through awesome optical illusions! Looking for more things to do? Hike through giant redwoods in Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, hop on a vintage locomotive with Roaring Camp Big Trees and Pacific Railroad Station, or rent electric boats at Loch Lomond Recreation Area.
Where To Stay In Capitola Beach With Kids
Need somewhere to stay in Capitola Beach with kids on your weekend getaways from San Francisco? Check out the Capitola Venetian Hotel, featuring brightly colored buildings, ocean views, and suites with kitchens. Families also love the suites with ocean views at Capitola Beach Suites or the quaint vibes at the Monarch Cove Inn – Bed & Breakfast. For more options, check out Vrbo or nearby Santa Cruz.
Every Northern California family vacation with kids should include North Lake Tahoe. Kids of all ages will love the many activities in this alpine playground. Located just under four hours away from San Francisco, Lake Tahoe presents a perfect weekend getaway option with its pristine blue waters and breathtaking views.
In the winter, families can go skiing at famous resorts like Palisades Tahoe or Northstar California Resort. In the summer, float the Truckee River with Truckee River Raft Company. For beach fun, visit Sand Harbor State Park, which has the most incredible turquoise water. Hikers will enjoy the Five Lakes Trail. It has a steep elevation gain but the spectacular views are worth the climb. During your stay be sure to ride your bike along the scenic trail that wraps around the lake. Also, Piping Rock Horses gives trail rides for those who prefer to sightsee on horseback. Adrenaline junkies can tackle bike jumps at the Truckee bike park or Woodward Tahoe. Additionally, for those wanting a different view try zip-lining through the trees with Tahoe Tree Top Adventure Parks.
Where To Stay In Lake Tahoe With Kids
North Lake Tahoe offers various accommodation options in Tahoe for families. Firstly, VRBO offers many cabins for Bay Area weekend getaways with kids in communities all around the lake. Tahoe Vista includes motels with a view, such as the Franciscan Lakeside Lodge, offering lakeside cabins and suites. Visitors choosing to anchor in Tahoe City will enjoy Granlibakken for its proximity to town and old-world feel. Also in Tahoe City, The Inn at Boatworks has renovated rooms and provides guests with complimentary bikes and paddleboards. Across the lake, in Incline Village, the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa And Casino has rooms and cottages available at its waterfront resort. Adjacent is the Hyatt Residence Club Lake Tahoe, High Sierra Lodge.
Grass Valley offers an idyllic retreat that combines natural beauty, rich history, and family-friendly activities. Located in the Sierra Nevada Foothills around 2 and a half hours from San Francisco, this charming mountain town boasts scenic beauty and numerous recreational activities that cater to all ages.
Travel back in time by visiting the Empire Mine State Historic Park, where kids can explore an authentic gold mine and learn about life during California’s gold rush era. Another must-visit spot on your weekend getaways from San Francisco is the North Star Mining Museum. Hiking trails also wind through scenic landscapes, like the 2.3-mile Rattlesnake Trail. One way to cool off in the summer is to access various hidden swimming holes such as Bridgeport or Emerald Pools. And, for fishing enthusiasts, there are plenty of local lakes and streams for fishing. The Reel Anglers Fly Shop can get you set up and pointed in the right direction. Plus, there are plenty of U-pick farms in the area, so depending on the time of year, you can pick mandarin oranges, berries, pumpkins, or Christmas Trees.
Parents can also check out the Placer Wine Trail. Or, check out some of the great restaurants in town like Pete’s Pizza and Tap House or the on-site restaurant at the Holbrooke Hotel. For dessert, don’t miss the huge scoop of ice cream at Lazy Dog Chocolateria!
Where To Stay In Grass Valley With Kids
Families looking for somewhere to stay on their weekend getaways from San Francisco in Grass Valley with kids can check out the Holbrooke Hotel, located in the heart of downtown. Or, visit Vrbo to find rentals.
Mendocino, a charming and picturesque coastal town, is one of the best weekend getaways from San Francisco for families. Located around three hours away along California’s rugged North Coast, this hidden gem offers an abundance of outdoor activities suitable for all ages.
Photo Courtesy: Visit Mendocino County
From hiking through towering redwood forests in Jackson State Forest to exploring rocky cliffs and sandy beaches at Glass Beach or Van Damme State Park, there is no shortage of opportunities to reconnect with nature. Check out the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens to see more local plants. You’ll also find beaches in Russian Gultch State Park or Big River Beach, but the weather is usually cool, so pack layers. Take a whale-watching tour, rent a boat to explore, or go sea kayaking. Families can also stroll through Mendocino Village, admiring Victorian-style buildings housing charming shops and art galleries. Don’t forget about The Skunk Train—a historic railway that travels through majestic redwood groves while providing kids with an incredible opportunity to learn about local history and nature conservation efforts.
Animal lovers can’t miss the B Bryan Preserve, which recreated an African savannah on the southern Mendocino coast. Adults can visit a local brewery or take a vineyard tour along Highway 128 Wine Road.
Where To Stay In Mendocino With Kids
Most people searching for places to stay in Mendocino check out local B&Bs or search for rentals on Vrbo.
Napa Valley/Sonoma County
Wine lovers near San Francisco can unite in Napa and Sonoma! Around two hours away, these northern California destinations are the center of wine production, making them perfect for a kid-free weekend getaway.
Though they’re both nearby, they offer slightly different vibes. There’s downtown Napa/Sonoma and also the surrounding regions, also known as The Napa Valley and Sonoma County. In Napa Valley, start your day at the Boon Fly Cafe, famous for its mini donuts. Brunch at Auberge du Soleil is a must. Or, take a sunrise hot air balloon ride with Napa Valley Balloons, ending at Domaine Chandon for a champagne brunch! For wine tasting in Napa Valley, visit Far Niente in Oakville, Venge Vineyards in Calistoga, or Cakebread Cellars in Rutherford. You can also visit Yountville and eat at the RH Restaurant, then grab dessert from Bouchon Bakery. The Napa Valley Wine Train is also a cool way to see the entire area.
In Sonoma County, you can visit Healdsburg, a picturesque town filled with cute restaurants and smaller wineries. Pangloss Cellars, Muscardini Cellars, and Tasca Tasca are great options too. If you want to avoid all the complicated planning, you can even book a wine-tasting tour with Platypus Tours. It’ll be like bringing along an extra friend who knows all the best spots around!
Where To Stay In Napa/Sonoma
For somewhere to stay in Napa, consider Poetry Inn Napa Valley, Carneros Resort and Spa, and Auberge du Soleil. We also have more options on our list of Best Hotels In Napa Valley For A Romantic Getaway or Girls’ Weekend!
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is truly one of the best weekend getaways from San Francisco! Located among the Sierra Nevada Mountains, it’s around 3 and a half hours from San Francisco, offering endless opportunities for outdoor activities.
Kids will particularly love gazing up at towering sequoia trees, a staple feature within Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove. Or, hike to Glacier Point to overlook a 3,000-foot drop to Valley Floor, a beautiful excursion for older kids. There, you’ll also get a glimpse at Yosemite’s most impressive landmark: its 8,800-foot granite Half-Dome! Tuolumne Meadows also offers a ton of flat trails for little ones, perfect for an awe-inspiring stroll along streams, glaciers, and more Yosemite scenery. El Capitan, the park’s iconic summit, is another must-see, alongside its cascading Bridal Veil Falls. Families can also spend summer days along the Merced River, a calm and tranquil area perfect for toddlers or babies. In the meantime, teens can kayak, white-water raft, and more while visiting Yosemite National Park!
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park offers a magical playground for families amidst the natural beauty of Big Sur! Around 3 hours south of San Francisco, it’s definitely one of the best weekend getaways for families who love nature.
Hiking is a great way to explore the park. The 1.1-mile River Gorge Trail is an excellent option for families, offering a gentle stroll along the Big Sur River with opportunities for wildlife spotting. Kids will love exploring the captivating redwood groves, some of which feature fallen trees. For a more immersive experience, consider joining one of the park’s guided nature walks, where knowledgeable rangers share insights about the local flora and fauna. Approximately 1 mile south of the park’s entrance along Highway 1, you’ll find Pfeiffer Beach, where families can cool off in the summer. Additionally, the park has well-maintained picnic areas, ideal for a relaxing lunch. Don’t forget to check the park’s schedule for any ranger-led programs or special events!
More Places To Visit In Big Sur
Spanning Carmel to San Simeon, Big Sur features the state’s most dazzling natural attractions. Take in Big Sur via car down the Old Coast Road, passing through jagged seaside cliffs clouded by mist. Give kids a brief history lesson by reminding them the roadway was once used by early American settlers! Then, head to the uniquely-shaped Bixby Bridge, which was eventually built to replace the Old Coast Road. Big Sur can also be explored through various kid-friendly trails in the area, like McWay Falls Trail, which ends at an 80-foot-tall waterfall. Point Lobos, another great natural reserve for hiking, also features abundant wildlife to spot: otters, sea lions, and even hermit crabs!
For a kid-free romantic getaway in Big Sur, parents can also consider staying at the Post Ranch Inn. Perched on a cliff overlooking the coastline, this romantic retreat has a great spa, yoga, and other activities couples can enjoy together.
If you’re planning a family trip to Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea, you’re in for a delightful coastal experience! Located within 10-15 minutes of one another, these two California cities offer families plenty of things to do on a weekend getaway from San Francisco. They’re around 2 hours south of the Bay Area.
Visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where your kids can marvel at fascinating marine life, from playful sea otters to mesmerizing sharks. Then, stroll along Cannery Row, enjoying the picturesque waterfront and exploring family-friendly shops. Plus, at Monterey State Historic Park, kids can learn about California’s early history by visiting the historic buildings and museums. Little ones can also burn some energy at the adorable Dennis the Menace Park. Located in El Estero Park, it features unique play structures, a maze, and open spaces for picnics.
Families can also drive down to Carmel-by-the-Sea and spend a day at the iconic Carmel Beach. Or, wander through the enchanting streets of Carmel, discovering fairytale-like cottages and possibly stumbling upon hidden treasures. Don’t miss the chance to visit Carmel Mission, offering a mix of history and serene gardens for a cultural and tranquil experience. Round off your trip with a stop at Devendorf Park and Carmel Plaza, both offering pleasant spaces for family time and, depending on the schedule, hosting events that might add an extra layer of fun to your coastal getaway.
We hope you liked this list of the Best Weekend Getaways From San Francisco For Families! From local hikes to national parks, there are so many fantastic trips within a few hours of the city. Enjoy your weekend getaway from San Francisco!
*This post may contain affiliate links that may earn us a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Affiliate links in no way inform the hotels, sights, products, or other recommendations included in our articles. All opinions and recommendations expressed here are compiled from submissions submitted by the generous members of our Families Who Love To Travel community.
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