While San Francisco is the crown jewel of Northern California, beyond the city limits lays a collection of distinctive attractions that no visitor should miss out on. The surrounding Bay Area counties each offer their own exciting points of interest, from charming seaside small towns to picturesque parks and famed universities to renowned wineries that all combine to enhance the region’s allure. Since most are less than an hour away and accessible by public transportation or even by bicycle, be sure to dedicate a few extra days on your itinerary for day tripping across the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges as well as down the Peninsula in order to fully experience all the best of the Bay.
Hop a ferry at the San Francisco Ferry Building or ride a bike across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge that leads north out of San Francisco to the quaint village of Sausalito in Marin County. Enjoy a meal of local Dungeness crab on the shores of the Bay at a waterfront restaurant complete with a panoramic view of the stunning San Francisco skyline then shop the chic boutiques along Bridgeway Boulevard where you’ll find an array of merchants selling everything from clothing to fine art.
If you’re traveling by car, continue north approximately half an hour on Highway 101 then Highway 1 to Muir Woods National Monument, an enchanting 560-acre grove of redwood trees that rise to almost 300-feet tall and are up to 1,200 years old. Drive another hour north along Highway 101 to reach the celebrated Napa Valley, heart of California’s fine wine country and home to more than 450 wineries most of which are open for tours and tastings.
Ride the BART subway under the Bay or cross the Bay Bridge by car to Berkeley, site of the famed University of California, the finest public university in the world. Take the daily 10 a.m. student lead tour of noted campus sites like the Bancroft Library, Sproul Plaza and the Esplanade towered over by the Campanile, the planet’s third largest clock tower then wind it all up with a stroll down Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley’s main drag where a collection of quirky boutiques, bookstores and cafes beckons.
Hop the Cal Train or motor south an hour along Highway 101 or Interstate 280 to reach the innovative Silicon Valley where the personal computer became a reality and which now serves as home to international tech giants from Apple to Google to HP. Tour the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Stanford University in Palo Alto then follow Highway 92 over the hills to Half Moon Bay a tiny town set on the Pacific Ocean where you can end the day with a fresh seafood dinner. Return to San Francisco along scenic Highway 1 that follows the rocky coastline and provides breathtaking vistas at every turn.
Part of what makes San Francisco such an exciting destination is the riches that reside in the cities and towns along its fringes. There’s no better way to make that visit to the City by the Bay even more unforgettable than by saving time for these side trips.