With the days getting longer and summer fast approaching, it's a great time to fit in short day or weekend trips! We have the perfect suggestions for family-friendly destinations that appeal to both adults and children of all ages.
Santa Cruz: Only about an hour away from the SF Peninsula, Santa Cruz's world famous pier and beach are major family attractions. But many people overlook its charming, pedestrian-friendly downtown area with lots of little shops and restaurants, and the smaller, quieter local beaches. We personally adore the Seabright and Twin Lakes Beaches; both are calmer and less crowded than the Main Beach, and especially great for toddlers and young families. Treat yourself to pastries at The Buttery, and lunch with a view at the local favorite The Crow's Nest (the casual upstairs section is perfect for restless kids). In nearby Aptos, bring crisp, new $1 bills for the unique egg vending machine at Glaum Egg Ranch--sure to delight young and old!
Capitola: This quaint beach town is right next to Santa Cruz. It has a pretty sheltered beach great for pleasant strolling. Grab delicious coffee from Mr Toots Coffeehouse, then savor your latte on their patio so you can enjoy the stunning views of colorful beach cottages. You'll feel like you're on the Mediterranean beachfront! For a unique dining experience, make reservations at Shadowbrook Restaurant (it has its own cable car!). We Bay Area locals also appreciate the fact that Capitola is not an international tourist destination like Carmel. It’s a local secret. :) You can park right at the beach itself (bring plenty of change – parking meters in Capitola run until 8 pm including weekends).
Muir Woods: Muir Woods National Monument is about a 1.5 hr drive from the Peninsula. Take gorgeous hikes through old growth redwoods and see some of the most giant specimens of redwood trees known to man. It does get crowded there on the weekends, so try to get there very early. Stop by Muir Beach Overlook for additional views. If you can, coordinate your schedule so your hike ends at the German Tourist Club on a guest or festival day for beer and snacks. We recommend staying at Mountain Home Inn or Mill Valley Inn for the wonderful food and relaxing atmosphere.
Point Reyes Lighthouse: It takes about 2.5 hrs to get to the historic Point Reyes Lighthouse. At the Visitor Center, you can learn about its history and take a guided tour. On the way to the lighthouse, you can stop by the charming, small town of Point Reyes Station for local seafood like fresh oysters at the Station House Cafe. Children will love sampling world-renowned cheeses at Cowgirl Creamery or tasting delicious pastries at Bovine Bakery.
Angel Island: Riding the ferry to Angel Island from San Francisco or Tiburon is an adventure in itself! On the Blue & Gold Ferry fleet, there are amazing views and a snack bar stocked with drinks and snacks. Once you step off the ferry, there's great hiking, bicycles for rent, and even more beautiful views. If the seasonal Angel Island Cafe is open, grab a picnic lunch before you head off to explore! There's also a renovated Immigration Station Museum that will give you deep insight into the fascinating history of the island.
We're very lucky to live in the San Francisco Bay Area with all its interesting local towns and sights. And there's no bad time to start your next family adventure in our Bay Area "backyard"!
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