While you could spend a lifetime in San Francisco and still never experience everything the city has to offer, it can still be nice to get away from home sometimes. Fortunately, the Bay Area has no shortage of unique towns and sprawling cities to pique anyone’s interest. Here are some of our favorite places to explore—all easily accessible within an hour’s drive or ride.
Marin County—home to towns like Sausalito, which has a population of less than 10,000—offers a nice contrast from the everyday bustle of the city. Take a ferry or cross the Golden Gate Bridge (drive or ride your bike to skip the tolls) over to Marin County to enjoy this resident-favorite day trip locale.
Explore the Bay Area Discovery Museum with your kids in Sausalito.
Traveling to Sausalito with children? The Bay Area Discovery Museum will be a huge hit. The museum offers daily STEM and art classes for kids under 10, included with admission.
Attend a concert on the water at Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael.
With live music seven days a week, Terrapin Crossroads is always worth a visit for dinner and a show, cocktails or just a few songs and dances.
Just across the Bay Bridge, you’ll find lively cities with distinct cultures, atmospheres and offerings. Here are just a couple of ideas of what to do while across the bay.
Go hiking in the redwoods in Oakland.
While Joaquin Miller Park won’t give you a taste of Oakland’s personality, it will allow you to escape into nature for a couple of hours by hiking its 4-mile loop through the redwoods.
Stroll and shop along Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley.
It’ll feel like a trip back to the 1960s, with longstanding stores like Amoeba Music, Rasputin Music and Moe’s Books lining this historic street.
The heart of Silicon Valley, the South Bay is composed of cities like San Jose (Adobe Inc.), Sunnyvale (NetApp) and Cupertino (Apple). While these are anything but sleepy towns, they have a unique vibe from San Francisco.
Reminisce about the good ol’ days at a drive-in theater in San Jose.
Yes, these still exist! And admission to the West Wind Capitol Drive-In Movie Theater—which shows select new releases and double-features—is under $10.
Ride all the roller coasters at California’s Great America in Santa Clara. Highlights of the Great America amusement park include the 220-foot Drop Tower and the steel roller coaster Flight Deck, which offers views of the nearby 49ers stadium during the incline.