The 7 Best Road Trips From San Francisco

|May 31, 2017

Let’s be real — it’s not like we’re ever going to get tired of the scenery in the Bay Area. San Francisco, North Bay, East Bay and South Bay offer enough culture, food and entertainment to last a lifetime. But it’s normal to want to escape the city every once in awhile. We may live in a world-class vacation destination (and an even more sought after real estate market) but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty more sights to see within driving distance!

Whether you’re looking for some mountain air, craving a beachside getaway or just need a glass of one of the world’s best wines, there’s a destination on our list that fits the bill. And they’re all within six hours of the city!

So pack up the kids or hit the road with your friends or significant other! But first, find out what to do, what to see, where to eat, and where to get the best local libations when you reach one of these seven road trip destinations.

California’s Wine Country

Driving time: 1 hour

Wine Country Road Trips

Photo courtesy of HopMonk Tavern

Why | If the name “Wine Country” hasn’t convinced you yet, then we’re not sure what will. But we’ll start with the immaculate views. No matter where you go — in the city, in the country, at a vineyard — there’s a scene to take your breath away.

What to see | Summer Concert Series at Robert Mondavi Winery, Oxbow Public Market, The Gardens at Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery, and Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve.

What to do | Create your own blend at Dry Creek Vineyard, zipline with Sonoma Canopy Tours, take a bike tour with Velo Vino, soak at Golden Haven Hot Springs, rent a boat and cruise around Lake Sonoma, and ride in a hot air balloon with Napa Valley Aloft.

Where to eat | The French Laundry, Sunflower Caffe, Morimoto, 1313 Main, Grace’s Table, and Kollar Chocolates.

Where to sip | Goose and Gander, Landmark Vineyards, Domaine Chandon, The Restaurant at Meadowood Bar and HopMonk Tavern.

Bonus tip | Make this trip more than once! There’s enough to experience in wine country to fill a year’s worth of road trips. Be sure to check out our guide to Napa for even more info!


Driving time: 1.5 hours

Sacramento Road Trips

Photos courtesy of Sac Brew Bike + Revolution Wines

Why | If you don’t like charming towns filled with farm-to-table fare, craft beer, famous wineries, friendly locals and near perfect weather, maybe you shouldn’t go to Sacramento.

What to see | Old Sacramento, Leland Stanford Mansion State Historic Park, Sacramento Zoo + California State Railroad Museum

What to do | Visit the California State Capitol Museum, take a Local Roots Food Tour, ride Sac Brew Bike, peruse art at Crocker Art Museum + play all day at Funderland Amusement Park

Where to eat | The Kitchen, Ella Dining Room and Bar, Paragary’s, Cafeteria 15L, Empress Tavern + The Firehouse Restaurant

Where to sip | Revolution Wines, Red Rabbit Kitchen and Bar, The Shady Lady Saloon, Hook and Ladder Manufacturing Company + Dive Bar

Bonus tip | For all the insider tips — including late night eats, speakeasies and lunches under $10 — check out Sacramento blog The Lyon Local.

Yosemite National Park

Driving time: 3 hours

Yosemite National Park Road Trip

Why | First things first, Yosemite National Park is known for its waterfalls. So if you prefer your outdoor recreation with unforgettable views, choose this nearby destination. Within its 1200 square miles, you’ll find deep valleys, grand meadows, ancient giant sequoias, a vast wilderness area and even places to grab an upscale meal with a cocktail!

What to see | Horsetail Fall and other waterfalls, Glacier Point, Half Dome, Ansel Adams Gallery + Tuolumne Meadows

What to do | Guided backpacking trips, overnight camping, fishing, rock climbing and lessons, horseback and mule riding, Bracebridge Dinner in December + Taste of Yosemite in January

Where to eat | Degnan’s Kitchen in Yosemite Village, The Majestic Yosemite Hotel, Yosemite Valley Lodge + Half Dome Village

Where to sip | The Mountain Room Lounge, The Majestic Yosemite Hotel Bar + The Grand Grape Celebration in November

Bonus tip | Millions of people visit Yosemite during the summer season so travel to or from the park before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m. And feel free to bring your own food, just follow correct bear safety procedures.

Mendocino County

Driving time: 3.5 hours

Road Trips to Mendocino California

Photo courtesy of The Westport Hotel and Abalone Pub

Why | You mean besides the fact that Frommer’s put it on their list of the best places to visit last year? The city of Mendocino is the ideal charming coastal town — and the county as a whole enhances the peaceful atmosphere even more. If you’ve ever wanted to lounge by the sea with a glass of wine or a plate of farm to table fare, make this your next road trip!

What to see | Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, City of 10,000 Buddhas, Glass Beach + B. Bryan Preserve

What to do | Ride the Skunk Train, drive Highway 128 (also called Wine Road), enjoy a day hike in Van Damme State Park, rent a kayak at Albion River Campground and Marina + watch the whales at Point Arena Lighthouse

Where to eat | Café Beaujolais, Flow Restaurant and Lounge, Goodlife and Bakery and Cafe, Trillium Cafe + Old Abalone Pub

Where to sip | North Coast Brewing Co., Mariah Vineyards + Pacific Star Winery

Bonus tip | We suggest driving up Highway One for one of the most beautiful coastal drives in the country. But if you take State Route 128 for the 3.5-hour drive, make a stop at Anderson Valley Brewing Company!

San Luis Obispo

Driving time: 4 hours

San Luis Obispo Road Trip

Photos courtesy of Thomas Hill Organics, Barry Goyette, Sidecar Cocktail Co. and Drew Barefoot

Why | We know the Bay Area and Southern California are well-established food and culture centers, but people are slowly discovering the epic destinations in Central Coast as well. Right in the coastal town of San Luis Obispo, affectionately referred to as SLO, you’ll find a burgeoning food and craft beverage hot spot — and it’s right on the water!

What to see | Bubblegum Alley, San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden, Point San Luis Lighthouse + Hearst Castle

What to do | Eat and shop at Downtown San Luis Obispo Farmers’ Market, see a movie at Historic Fremont Theater or Sunset Drive-in, experience farm life at Avila Valley Barn + go surfing at a nearby beach

Where to eat | Thomas Hill Organics, SLO Brewing Co., Luna Red, The Naked Fish + Mother’s Tavern

Where to sip | Barrelhouse Speakeasy, Bang the Drum Brewery, Bristols Cider House, Tap It Brewing Co., Whiskey and June + Sidecar Cocktail Co.

Bonus tip | San Luis Obispo, or SLO, is called “Slow” Cal for a reason; the atmosphere is beachy and peaceful so get ready to relax and enjoy the sights.

Santa Barbara

Driving time: 5.5 hours

Road Trip to Santa Barbara

Photos courtesy of Loquita Santa Barbara, Rob Stark Photography and Pure Order Brewing Co.

Why | Endless recreation, a vibrant arts scene, stunning views for miles combined with an award-winning food and wine culture. Need we say more? Well, we will. Whether you want to practice sea kayaking, lounge on a beach, taste mouth-watering foods and drinks, it’s all just five hours from SF.

What to see | Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara Zoo, Funk Zone, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden + Santa Barbara Public Market

What to do | Surf at El Capitan State Beach, stroll along Arroyo Burro Beach, see a concert at The Arlington Theatre or outside at Santa Barbara Bowl + take a walk down the Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail

Where to eat | Loquita Santa Barbara, On the Alley, Sambo’s, Paradise Cafe, The Dining Room at Belmond El Encanto, The Lark + Intermezzo Bar + Cafe

Where to sip | Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant, Hollister Brewing Company, Pure Order Brewing Co., Cutler’s Artisan Spirits + Sandbar

Bonus tip | Check out Santa Barbara’s best places to stay because you’re definitely going to want to be here for a while…

Los Angeles

Driving time: 6-8 hours

Road Trip to Los Angeles

Photos courtesy of The Mar Vista + Here’s Looking at You and Jenn Emerling

Why | If you’ve lived in the Bay Area for very long, you’ve probably already made a trip to LA. If you’re new to the area, honestly, we’re still pretty surprised you haven’t been yet. The big city is home to Hollywood, Universal Studios and it’s just forty minutes to Disneyland.

What to see | Grand Central Market, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Griffith Observatory, The Getty Center + Venice Beach

What to do | Explore Thai Town, be a tourist at the Chinese Theatre, hike in Griffith Park or Runyon Canyon Park, shop at The Grove + learn something new at The Broad

Where to eat | Langer’s, Animal, Sqirl, In-N-Out Burger, Bestia, Joan’s on Third, Malibu Farm Restaurant, The Mar Vista + Gjelina

Where to sip | Mumford Brewing, Button Mash, Arts District Brewing Co., Here’s Looking at You, The Venue + Perch

Bonus tip | Plan ahead, make reservations and assume there’s going to be traffic. If you allow for enough time, you’ll be able to see everything on your itinerary!

Happy road tripping!  

Let us know where you decide to go, what you see and the restaurants and sights you fall in love with.

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McGuire Real Estate

McGuire Real Estate

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