Day Trips, San Francisco
One of the northern missions, this was originally part of Mission Dolores in San Francisco. Founded in 1817 as a sanitarium for Indians afflicted with European diseases, it was named for the patron saint of healing. This is still an active church and school. The phone number is that of the gift shop.
Father Junipero Serra founded this and most of the other missions in California.
This often overlooked park is directly across the bay from San Francisco, just west of the Golden Gate. It offers stunning views of the city, as well as some great hiking. The lighthouse at Bonita Point is also worth a visit; guided tours are given daily.
For many years, coastal defense gun batteries guarded San Francisco bay. Later, Nike-Hercules surface-to-air missile (SAM) batteries were installed here. The weapons are all gone now, but the emplacements, barracks, and other historic Army buildings are still here, along with historical markers. The Headlands are also home to a variety of wildlife, and a stop-over for many species of migratory birds.
Marin Headlands are about half an hour north of the city across the Golden Gate Bridge. It's a great place to go for a hike or a bike ride. You can get some of the most amazing views of the city and the Pacific from the Marin. Make sure to check the weather forecast though, you don't want to waste your time on a foggy day!
More information, maps and directions can be found at the website below.
For those of us who are used to the ocean, the idea of traveling for access to water seems a silly idea. That was my thought when a family friend booked a day trip to the Central Valley to go rafting anyways. What I learned is that rivers are way different than oceans (duh!) and that rafting was a great way to get our whole family into the whole outdoor recreation thing.
Our trip started in Knights Ferry, CA, a small town that included ruins of old mills, an old ice cream shop, and other small historical monuments. After checking in, we got our paddles and life jackets, and got a safety talk from a young man about possible dangers on the river. While this talk freaked some of us out, it proved to be strictly cautionary, as the trip itself was very mellow.
The trip itself was self guided, and lasted about 4 hours. Sunshine Rafting told us to bring our own ice chest with food and drink, and we were glad we did. Halfway through the trip was a beautiful park that we had a picnic at (they had picnic tables and BBQ pits). Throughout the idea we swam, splashed around, talked with other rafters, and generally just enjoyed having access to a steady stream of sunshine as well as the cool water.
At the end of the trip the company shuttled us back to our cars and we explored Knights Ferry a bit more. All in all I felt tired but accomplished, and it was great to get the kids out and active in a way that they enjoyed. I would recommend this as a family trip for sure, as it provides an outlet to connect with your family in a semi-enclosed space while still being outside! Also it was only about $20 per person, which was reasonable for a full day activity.
When I was about 12 or 13 years old, I read an article about the Winchester Mystery House and I always thought it would be really neat to visit this rather eccentric mansion. My trip to San Francisco being my first time out in California, I did a bit of research online to see if it was possible to book a trip from SF to San Jose to visit the Winchester Mystery House and when I found out that Super Sightseeing Tours could take us there, I immediately decided to book it (http://www.supersightseeing.com).
The shuttle picked us up at our hotel - they showed up 40 minutes late, so I was glad the lady at our hotel's tourist info desk could call them to make sure they were coming. We left San Francisco at 2:30 pm and made our way down to San Jose aboard a not-so-comfy shuttle bus, but at least the scenery was very nice. Once we got to the Winchester Mystery House, we were given some time to visit the firearms museum, which features a large collection of Winchester rifles, "The Gun that Won the West". Our guide Dzimitry then took us on an amazing 1h tour of Sarah Winchester's fantastic mansion. The tour goes through 110 of the house's 160 rooms, which are filled with weird architectural details. Sarah Winchester, the widow of William Winchester and heiress to the rifle maker's fortune, believed her family was being haunted by the spirits of men and women killed by the famous rifles. In order to appease the spirits, a medium recommended she built a house for them - construction began in 1884, and for the next 38 years (until Sarah Winchester died at the age of 83) carpenters worked on the house 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Mrs. Winchester would hold "seances" at night and give instructions to the crew the following day, many of which were down right bizarre: staircases leading to the ceiling, windows and doors opening up on a wall, chimneys that stop a few feet short of the ceiling... it all makes for a very entertaining tour!
Once we were done touring around the house, we were invited to do the garden tour on our own, and we also had a bit of time to visit the giftshop before it was time to head back to San Francisco (we got back at around 6:30 pm). I thought the price ($60) was fairly reasonable, especially considering that it costs $26 just to visit the house. For me, visiting the Winchester Mystery House was a bit of a dream come true and it definitely lived up to my expectations!
Uvas Canyon County Park is a fantastic getaway just 90 minutes south of The City. It’s great for camping any time of the year, but really shines in the spring when the park’s many waterfalls are at their fullest and the forest is covered in a lush carpet of moss and ferns.
Another nice thing about the place is the last 30 minutes of the drive to get there. After you get past San Jose (make sure to take 280 – not 101), the route goes along some beautiful roads through mercifully undeveloped ranch land and then through stands of redwoods before culminating in a single lane road to the park entrance.
POint Reyes National Park is a great daytrip from SF. There are a number of different activities to particiapte in including horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking, birdwatching and when in-season: whale watching. There are also a number of historical sites in the park including an old lighthouse.
The Point Reyes Lighthouse, built in 1870, was operational until 1975 when the U.S. Coast Guard installed an automated light.
Point Reyes is the windiest place on the Pacific Coast and the second foggiest place on the North American continent so make sure you bring a jacket as the fog can roll in unexpectedly.
Just 30 minutes north of the city is Muir Woods. Named for John Muir, the founder of the Sierra Club, the Woods are one of the few remaining groves of coastal redwoods. Coastal redwoods are taller than sequoias but not as large around. Walking through the woods is an awe-inspiring experience. There are a number of different trails within the park (which is a US National Park) and you can select your hike based on your ability and time available. The easiest trail is paved so even those with limited mobility can get into see these magnificent trees. If you're able to take the time and go off on one of the less crowded trails, you will be rewarded with great scenery.
The Park Service charges $5 for those 16 and above; free from those 15 and below. There is no picnicing in the park. The greatest challenge may be finding parking. The two parking lots are of limited size so you're well advised to try and arrive before noon. Obviously, week days are less crowded.
Muni Passports are good for unlimited rides on Muni, including cable cars (plus pcc street cars, , hybrid trains, regular buses, trolley buses). 3-day and 7-day Passports are good for three or seven consecutive days. Passports may be purchased in advance. So if your on a Budget and Have all the time to Tour around San Francisco, I suggest you take this type of Passport as a budget tour!
Buy Your 1, 3, or 7 day Muni Passports at the following locations:
* SFMTA Customer Service Center, 11 South Van Ness Avenue at Market
* Muni Ticket Sales Location at Market & Powell Streets
* Muni Ticket Sales Location at Hyde & Beach Streets (near Ghirardelli Square)
* Muni Ticket Sales Location at Bay & Taylor Streets (near Fisherman's Wharf)
* Montgomery Station Sales Location at Montgomery Station (Mezzanine Level)
* Passports are also sold every day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the information booths in the baggage claim areas at the San Francisco International Airport.
Cost: 1-day Passport $11
3-day Passport $18
7-day Passport $24
An amusent park and wild animal park all in one. My absolute favorite is the Orca (Killer Whale) Show. They only have one killer whale now named Shouka. I also really enjoy the dolphin show. They also have a dolphin feeding which costs money. If you want to do it, I suggest lining up early because they only have a specific number of spots per scheduled feeding. But when you feed the dolphins, they also take pictures, let you pet them, and let you play with them. The elephant show is really neat as well, it is a two part show. One part each with an Asian and African elephant. After one of them, you can feed the elephant. They have a tiger show, but don't sit too close in the spray zone because the tiger may pee on you. They warn you about the signs to look out for prior to the start of the show and one of the lions definitely sprayed while we were there (but luckily not on us). They also have a sea lion show which is really cute because it tells an actual story rather than just doing tricks. They also have a viewing area for baby animals just born there, and they are cute. Not all the animals are in shows, some are just there like the zoo. The roller coasters are pretty fun. They even have a small area for kiddie rides. And while I was there, they were building another area. Walking throughout the park, they have superheroes and other characters in costumes which is always fun for the kids (and some adults too).
This is another scenic drive, a close second to Hwy 1.
Connecting from Hwy 92, the road passes through several Open Space Reserves sprinkled with residential houses in park like settings. The Open Space Reserves are lined with extensive webs of hiking trails, trailheads right off of the road. After about an hour on this road, you will see junction to Hwy 9 where it takes you to Boulder Creek, a town that has an ancient history of mountain retreat destination for San Franciscans in the past. This town is a good point to grab a bite or coffee before deciding whether to continue down on hwy 35 which ends at Santa Cruz, a college beach town.
***This trip can be done in a loop is you return to San Francisco from Santa Cruz via Hwy 1. See my other Day Trip tip "Scenic Drive Along the Coast - Hwy 1".
Or wonder off from Boulder Creek on Hwy 236 towards Big Basin State Park to see redwoods.
When I do not have time to go too far away, my most favorite way get a mini vacation would be taking a drive on this windy coastal highway. Both south and north bounds are very scenic. It passes through many lay back towns where you can taste home made breads, freshly picked fruits and vegetables, see local artwork, and enjoy a cup coffee in simple comfort. Just rent a car and start from San Francisco.
If you go south on hwy 1 for about 30 minutes there is Half Moon Bay. On the coastal side of hwy 1 is a bustling fishing town where you can get seafood and watch amateur fishers in action. On the inland side of hwy 1, there is a quaint strip of main street full of coffee shops, art and crafts, bakeries, and restaurants, all very characterically northern california small
***If you continue down on Hwy 1, you will reach Santa Cruz. From this town you can return via the route on my other Day Trip tip "Driving Hwy 35" to make it a loop back to San Francisco.
If you go north on hwy 1 for about 45 minutes, there is Stinson Beach. This town is less busy compared Half Moon Bay, less out of town visitors, having more of a local community feel to it.
Half Moon Bay is located about 20 miles south of San Francisco along the coast. While entering the town of Half Moon Bay from the south on Highway 1, we spotted something large in a grassy field along the side of the road. After a few U-turns we were back in the same area and sure enough, a large cat was sitting in the grass, probably looking for mice or rabbits. He posed for a few pictures, then looking kind of upset that we spoiled his dinner, wandered off into the woods. Our first thought was that it might be a mountain lion, but its short, stubby tail got us thinking bobcat or lynx. After getting home and pulling up some photos on the internet, we decided it was indeed a bobcat, probably a male due to its size. I was amazed to see any wild cat such as this in broad daylight along a road as busy as Highway 1.
Bobcats (Lynx rufus) are found in the US, southern Canada, and northern Mexico. These felines are distinguishable by their unique tufts of fur on their ears and cheeks as well as its short "bobbed" tail, and its coloring is a shade of brown, often with black spots. The bobcat is one of the smallest of the big cats with adult males being two to three feet long and around 20 to 30 pounds, not a whole lot larger than a big house cat.
This unique organization was founded to save, rehabilitate, and ultimately release marine mammals who've been injured, poisoned, or sickened. It was set up at what was once a Cold War-era Nike-Hercules missile site. Marine mammals are protected by law. If you see one in distress, in the Bay area, contact the hotline below.
1065 Fort Cronkhite
Sausalito, CA 94965
Rescue hotline: 415-289-SEAL (7325)
San Rafael is the seat of Marin County. It make a good day trip, with regular ferry service to San Francisco. It's also the best place to stay in Marin County, with plenty of hotels, restaurants, bars, and cinemas.