Frolicking sea lions, cable cars, world-class museums, and the Golden Gate Bridge are just some of the many kid-friendly attractions in San Francisco. But while you could easily spend all of your vacation days in the city, you’d be missing out on much of what makes the Bay Area so appealing. With the beach, wine country, and glorious mountains all within an hour’s drive, here are five family day trips from San Francisco the whole family will love.
1. Shake it Up at the Point Reyes National Seashore
An hour north of San Francisco along Highway 1, the scenic 71,000-acre Point Reyes National Seashore is home to 1,500 different plant and animal species and a world-famous fault line. Pick up trail maps at the Bear Valley Visitor Center, where kids can also sign up for the self-guided Junior Ranger program. From there, it’s an easy, half-mile walk on the paved Earthquake Trail to view the famous San Andreas Fault. Lighthouse buffs can continue another 45 minutes north along the coast to for a chance to see the Point Reyes Lighthouse, the second foggiest spot in North America.
2. Breathe Deep in Marin County
When San Franciscans need a breath of fresh air, they head to the Marin County hinterlands. Just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Marin Headlands offers hiking trails with stunning views of the bridge and city. Make a morning stop at the Marin Headlands Visitor Center for trail maps and information on Fort Cronkhite, a former WWII military post. Grab lunch in nearby Sausalito, where kids will love visiting the Bay Area Discovery Museum, Point Bonita Lighthouse, and the Marine Mammal Center, which rescues and rehabilitates sea lions.
3. Hug a Tree in Muir Woods National Monument
The wondrous Muir Woods is just 12 miles north of San Francisco but worlds away from the hustle and bustle of city life. The 45-minute drive is picturesque as you wind your way toward this grove of Redwoods whose tallest tree is 258 feet tall and the average age is 600 to 800 years old. Six miles of paved paths and dirt trails provide a multitude of strolling and hiking options. Arrive early to secure a parking spot and bring jackets because it’s chilly in the shade of the giant trees.
4. Savor the Good Life in Sonoma Wine Country
Just under an hour north of San Francisco, the rolling hills of Sonoma County cover nearly eight times as much ground as the city. You can visit several kid-friendly vineyards or make a single stop at the Francis Ford Coppola Winery with its pool, museum, restaurants and, of course, wine tastings. Kids getting restless? Bring them kayaking on the Russian River or viewing big-game wildlife at Safari West.
5. Chill at the Beach in Half Moon Bay
In October, the self-proclaimed World Pumpkin Capital may be all about the edible vegetable, but there’s never a bad time to make the 30-minute drive south of San Francisco to this California seaside retreat. Your family can go horseback riding along the beach with Sea Horse Ranch or glide along the cliffs on a 90-minute Segway tour out of the luxurious Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay. Visiting in the winter? Just a few miles to the north at Pillar Point Harbor is a prime viewpoint for the big waves at the world-famous surfing spot, Mavericks.