One of Sacramento’s biggest selling points is that it is centrally located. Day trips from Sacramento to the mountains, beach, Wine Country, and San Francisco are all within easy reach. As this region continues to grow rapidly, so do the opportunities to get out and explore.
I spent over a decade exploring Northern California from our home base in the Sacramento area, and it really is amazing how many different types of destinations are just a day trip away! Day trips from Sacramento often felt like mini vacations, re-energizing my spirit to face grind of the week ahead.
Here are my favorite Sacramento day trips. There really is tremendous variety awaiting you just a short drive from home.
Ready for a weekend escape? Here are our 25 favorite Northern California weekend getaways.
30 Great Day Trips from Sacramento
Distance from Downtown Sacramento: 88 miles (90 minutes)
San Francisco is a city with endless possibilities for a day trip. Whether you’re looking to take in the city’s iconic landmarks, indulge in some delicious food, or explore the unique neighborhoods, there’s something for everyone in the City by the Bay.
Start your day with a visit to the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco’s most famous landmark. You can walk or bike across the bridge and take in the breathtaking views of the city.
For the best photo opportunities, head to Fort Point, a historic military fort located directly under the bridge or the Marin Headlands on the north side of the bridge. Baker Beach is another great spot to enjoy Golden Gate views.
Next, explore the charming neighborhoods of San Francisco, each with its own distinct character. Head to the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood for a glimpse of the city’s hippie culture, or wander through the colorful houses of the Mission District. Be sure to grab a carnitas burrito at La Taqueria. It will be one of the best you will ever have.
The Castro neighborhood is known for its vibrant LGBTQ+ community and iconic movie theater. Chinatown is a great destination to eat dim sum and then stroll the interesting shops filled with everything you can imagine (and some things you never would). Delicious Dim Sum and Wing Sing are solid options.
San Francisco is also known for its seafood, so head to Fisherman’s Wharf for some clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl at Boudin’s. For a sweet treat, visit the world-famous Ghirardelli Square for a decadent chocolate sundae.
In the afternoon, visit one of San Francisco’s many museums or art galleries. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) is home to an impressive collection of contemporary art, while the Exploratorium is a hands-on science museum that’s fun for all ages.
In Golden Gate Park, the California Academy of Sciences features a planetariums, rainforest, and natural history displays like dinosaur skeletons. Golden Gate Park is also home to great playgrounds, swan boats on Stowe Lake, and the enchanting Japanese Tea Garden.
Another great experience is taking the ferry to Alcatraz Island, the former federal prison that’s now a popular tourist attraction. The audio tour takes you through the cells and gives a glimpse into what life was like for the prisoners who were housed there.
Distance from Downtown Sacramento: 62 miles (one hour)
One of the world’s premier wine regions is just an hour away from Sacramento. Napa Valley is the ultimate destination for wine lovers and foodies. The region is home to over 400 wineries, so the first thing on any itinerary should be a wine tasting. Many wineries offer tastings and tours, and there are several wine tour companies that can arrange transportation and tastings for a fee.
In addition to wine tasting, there are plenty of other activities to enjoy in Napa Valley. Take a hot air balloon ride for a bird’s-eye view of the vineyards and valley. Hot air balloon tours typically take off early in the morning and include a champagne brunch upon landing.
For a more relaxing experience, visit one of the many spas in the area. Several spas offer mineral-rich hot springs and mud baths, a popular activity in Calistoga. After a day of wine tasting, a soak in a hot spring followed by a massage is the perfect way to unwind.
For those looking for a more active day, there are numerous hiking trails in the area, including the popular Mount St. Helena Trail. The trail offers panoramic views of the valley and on a clear day, you can see all the way to San Francisco.
Finally, no trip to Napa Valley would be complete without indulging in the local cuisine. The region is known for its farm-to-table restaurants, offering fresh, seasonal ingredients. Many wineries also have their own restaurants, providing the perfect pairing of wine and food.
Grass Valley and Nevada City
Distance from Downtown Sacramento: 56 miles (one hour)
Grass Valley and Nevada City are charming historic towns located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. They offer a glimpse into California’s Gold Rush era, with preserved Victorian architecture and unique local shops and restaurants.
Start your day trip in Grass Valley by visiting the Empire Mine State Historic Park, one of the oldest and richest gold mines in California. Take a guided tour of the mine and see the restored buildings and gardens, or explore the hiking trails and picnic areas.
Afterwards, head to the historic downtown area of Grass Valley, where you can wander through the unique shops and art galleries. Stop by the Grass Valley Brewing Company for a refreshing craft beer.
Next, head to Nevada City, a small town known for its beautiful architecture, including the Nevada Theatre, the oldest continuously operating theater in California. Take a guided tour of the theater or catch a live performance.
For lunch, try the New Moon Cafe, known for its organic and locally sourced ingredients. Or, head to Lefty’s Grill for some classic American fare and a wide selection of local wines.
In the afternoon, explore the South Yuba River State Park, located just outside Nevada City. The park offers hiking trails, swimming holes, and picnic areas, with stunning views of the Yuba River and the surrounding mountains.
You may also want to make time to visit the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum, located in Nevada City. The museum features a collection of historic locomotives and railroad artifacts, offering a glimpse into California’s transportation history.
Distance from Downtown Sacramento: 32 miles (40 minutes)
Folsom Lake is a reservoir located in the Sierra Nevada foothills, just a short drive from Sacramento. It’s a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, especially in the summer when those Sacramento temperatures climb up into the 90s or higher.
Start your day at the Folsom Lake State Recreation Area, where you can rent kayaks, paddleboards, and other watercraft. Spend the morning exploring the lake’s tranquil waters and scenic shoreline.
If you prefer to stay on land or visit during the cooler season, the recreation area also offers hiking and mountain biking trails.
For lunch, pack a picnic and head to one of the park’s many picnic areas, with views of the lake and the surrounding hills.
After lunch, head to the nearby Folsom Powerhouse State Historic Park. This historic hydroelectric power plant dates back to the late 1800s and offers a glimpse into California’s early energy industry. Take a guided tour of the plant and learn about the history of hydroelectric power in the region.
If you like to shop, head to the Folsom Historical District, a charming downtown area filled with local shops, restaurants, and museums. Folsom is also home to a large outlet mall.
The Folsom History Museum offers exhibits on the town’s history, while the Folsom Prison Museum showcases the history of California’s prison system.
If you want to extend your day trip to an overnight stay head to the Lake Natoma Inn, located just steps from the lake. Relax and unwind at the hotel’s spa or enjoy a delicious dinner at the on-site restaurant, offering a farm-to-fork menu featuring locally sourced ingredients.
Distance from Downtown Sacramento: 46 miles (55 minutes)
Coloma is a small town located in the Sierra foothills, about an hour’s drive from Sacramento. The town has great historic significance, as it was the site of the first discovery of gold in California. A day trip to Coloma offers the chance to explore this fascinating history, as well as to enjoy the natural beauty of the area.
Start your day at Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park, where you can take a guided tour of the historic gold discovery site and learn about the town’s history. The park also offers hiking trails, picnic areas, and a museum with exhibits on the Gold Rush era. Make time to explore the charming downtown area of Coloma, with its unique shops and galleries.
Marshall Gold Discovery SP made our list of the 30 best state parks in California. See what other special spots made the list!
For lunch, try the Sierra Rizing Cafe, a local favorite that offers delicious sandwiches, salads, and baked goods. Alternatively, head to the Argonaut Farm to Fork Cafe in the heart of the state park for a farm-to-table meal featuring locally sourced ingredients.
Another great option is to get out on the river where you can go rafting, kayaking, or tubing. Half day and full day Class III river rafting can be enjoyed on the South Fork of the American River. The river also offers great fishing opportunities, with rainbow and brown trout among the species found in its waters.
Distance from Downtown Sacramento: 103 miles (~2 hours)
Lake Tahoe is a breathtakingly beautiful alpine lake, straddling the border of California and Nevada. It’s a popular year-round destination, offering a wealth of outdoor activities, scenic beauty, and a lively dining and nightlife scene. A day trip to Lake Tahoe can be packed with adventure and relaxation, depending on your preferences.
Start your day by taking a scenic drive along the lake’s eastern shore, with stops at overlooks like the Inspiration Point Vista and the Emerald Bay Overlook. These viewpoints offer panoramic views of the lake and the surrounding mountains.
If you are visiting in the warmer season, head to one of the lake’s many beaches for some water sports and relaxation. The most popular beaches include Kings Beach, Sand Harbor, and Zephyr Cove, where you can rent kayaks, paddleboards, or jet skis.
You can also explore the lake’s many hiking trails, such as the Tahoe Rim Trail which offers some of the tremendous views of the lake and the Rubicon Trail which is a moderate hike with plenty of photo opportunities.
If you are visiting in the winter, you will definitely want to head to the slopes and enjoy a ski day at a local resort like Heavenly or Sierra-at-Tahoe.
You might want to end your day trip with a sunset cruise on the lake, enjoying the colorful skies and peaceful surroundings. Tahoe Gal and Cruise Tahoe are two popular companies that offer lake cruises.
Distance from Downtown Sacramento: 165 miles (3 1/2 hours)
Yosemite is a destination that would take weeks to fully explore but if you live in Sacramento, a long day trip is a fun option as well. The key is to arrive at the park early to make sure you can pack in as much fun as possible.
The best time of year to visit Yosemite and see its waterfalls at peak flow is late spring and early summer. In addition to flowing falls, you will also be able to enjoy longer days, so you will get the most out of your Yosemite day trip.
Possible destinations inside the park include the sequoia groves of Merced and Tuolumne Grove, exploration of the Yosemite Valley and its many meadows and cascading waterfalls, or even a trip to Hetch Hetchy, a valley that was filled with water to become a reservoir for the city of San Francisco and a lovely place to hike.
Distance from Downtown Sacramento: 147 miles (2 1/2 hours)
When the weather heats up, one of the most popular day trips from Sacramento is the pilgrimage to cool temps and beachside fun in Santa Cruz.
Start your day by heading to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, a historic amusement park that dates back to 1907. Take a ride on the Giant Dipper, the park’s classic wooden roller coaster, or try your luck at the arcade games. The carousel is another classic favorite. The boardwalk also offers several beach access points.
If you are a shopper you will want to head to the downtown area, where you can explore the many eclectic shops, galleries, and cafes. The Pacific Garden Mall is a pedestrian-friendly street filled with unique boutiques, vintage shops, and street performers.
For a bit of nature, head to Natural Bridges State Beach, a beautiful beach known for its unique rock formations and tide pools. The beach also offers great birdwatching opportunities, with several species of seabirds and shorebirds in the area.
End your day with a sunset stroll along West Cliff Drive, a scenic drive that offers panoramic views of the coastline and the Pacific Ocean.
The Marin Headlands & Sausalito
Distance from Downtown Sacramento: 92 miles (90 minutes)
Just across the Golden Gate Bridge from bustling San Francisco life slows down a bit and sky scrapers are traded in for houseboats and bluff tops. A day trip to Sausalito and the Marin Headlands is a great way to enjoy the natural beauty of the Bay Area.
Start your day in Sausalito by enjoying a leisurely breakfast at one of the many cafes or restaurants that line the waterfront. Take a stroll through the town’s narrow streets, filled with galleries, boutiques, and cafes, and enjoy the views of the bay and the San Francisco skyline.
Next, head up into the Marin Headlands, a hilly region located just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. The headlands offer wonderful views of the bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the surrounding hillsides, as well as several hiking trails that wind through the area. The Point Bonita Lighthouse is a popular destination in the headlands, offering panoramic views of the coastline and the ocean.
For lunch, head back down into Sausalito and enjoy some fresh seafood at one of the town’s many restaurants. Fish is a popular spot, serving up fish and chips, clam chowder, and other seafood favorites.
In the afternoon, you may want work off lunch and rent a kayak or paddleboard to explore the waters of the bay.
Distance from Downtown Sacramento: 68 miles (75 minutes)
A day trip to Sonoma is the perfect way to explore California’s wine country and enjoy a day filled with delicious food, beautiful scenery, and award-winning wines.
Start your day by visiting a winery, such as the Buena Vista Winery, which is the oldest winery in Sonoma County, or the Chateau St. Jean, which is known for its elegant tasting room and stunning gardens. Both wineries offer tastings and tours, providing an opportunity to learn about the history of winemaking in the region and sample some of the best wines in California.
Next, head to the Sonoma Plaza, a charming town square surrounded by historic buildings and boutique shops. The plaza is also home to several excellent restaurants, such as The Girl & The Fig, which is known for its French-influenced, farm-to-table cuisine and extensive wine list.
Also on the plaza, make time to visit Figones Olive Oil Company where you can taste and purchase artisanal olive oils and vinegars made from locally grown olives.
Distance from Downtown Sacramento: 78 miles (75 minutes)
A day trip to Berkeley is a great way to explore the vibrant cultural scene and eclectic atmosphere of this university town, located just across the bay from San Francisco.
Start your day by visiting the UC Berkeley campus, which is known for its Beaux-Arts architecture and beautiful gardens. Take a stroll through the campus, and visit the famous Sather Tower, also known as the Campanile, which offers panoramic views of the bay and the surrounding hills.
Next, head to the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, which showcases an impressive collection of contemporary art and classic films from around the world.
In the afternoon, explore the famous “Gourmet Ghetto” neighborhood, which is home to several excellent restaurants and cafes, such as Alice Water’s Chez Panisse, which is known for its farm-to-table cuisine and commitment to sustainability. You can also visit one of three different Farmers’ Markets in Berkeley, which offers fresh produce, artisanal cheeses, and other local specialties.
There is great shopping to be had in Berkeley, including old record stores, thrift shops, and chic furnishings. Telegraph Avenue and 4th Street are popular shop-til-you-drop destinations.
Distance from Downtown Sacramento: 82 miles (80 minutes)
A day trip to Oakland is a great way to explore the vibrant culture and diverse neighborhoods of this bustling city that often sits in San Francisco’s shadow.
The Oakland Museum of California showcases the state’s history, art, and culture through a variety of exhibits and programs and is housed in a building that features beautiful gardens and outdoor spaces, making it a great spot for a morning stroll.
Next, head to the Lake Merritt area, which is home to several excellent restaurants, cafes, and shops. You can also rent a kayak or paddleboat and explore the lake, which is surrounded by beautiful parks and walking trails.
In the afternoon, visit Jack London Square, which is named after the famous American author who spent time in Oakland. The area features several historic buildings, including the Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon, which is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike. It opened in 1884 and its decor reflects its colorful past.
The Oakland Zoo, which is home to over 700 animals from around the world, is well worth a day trip visit as well The zoo features several unique exhibits, such as the African Savanna, which allows visitors to see giraffes, zebras, and other animals up close. The Oakland Zoo is one of the best zoos in California.
Distance from Downtown Sacramento: 50 miles (55 minutes)
During the fall, a day trip to Apple Hill is almost a requirement for many living in the Sacramento area who love to celebrate the season.
Start your day by visiting one of the many apple orchards that dot the hillsides. Head to the Apple Hill Growers website to view a map of the area and what each farm has to offer.
You can pick your own apples, take a tractor ride through the orchard, and sample fresh apple cider and other treats. You can also pick up fresh-baked pies, pastries, and other treats made from local apples and other seasonal ingredients.
During the weekend, many of the apple orchards also host craft fairs and have live music to enjoy. We always love to visit several different orchards to see what they have to offer.
During October, you will want to head to one of the many pumpkin patches in the area, where you can pick your own pumpkins, go on a hayride, and enjoy other fall activities such as corn mazes and petting zoos.
There are also several different wineries in the area, which offer tastings of local wines on patios and decks with views of the surrounding hillsides. You can also visit one of the many artisan shops and boutiques in the area, which offer unique gifts, crafts, and other items.
Distance from Downtown Sacramento: 33 miles (35 minutes)
A day trip to Auburn is a great way to enjoy the scenic foothills of the Sierra Nevada while discovering the town’s rich Gold Rush history.
First head to Old Town Auburn, which features a charming collection of shops, cafes, and historic buildings. Take tmie to visit the historic Aubrun Firehouse and Bell which begs to be photographed.
The Placer County Museum is housed in the historic Courthouse Building and features exhibits on the history of the region.
Dine at Josephine’s, a French bistro located in the historic Odd Fellows No. 7 Lodge which was built in 1894 at the peak of the area’s gold rush. There close to two dozen winieries in Placer County and many of them have tasting room in Old Town Auburn.
Get outside at the Auburn State Recreation Area where you can go hiking and biking as well as swimming or fishing in the American River, which flows through the park. You will also want to make your way over to the Foresthill Bridge which is the highest bridge in California, standing 730 feet above the North Fork of the American River.
Distance from Downtown Sacramento: 120 miles (Two hours)
San Jose is the third largest city in California and a hub for technology companies so it makes send to start your day trip by visiting the Tech Interactive. It features interactive exhibits on science and technology, including a hands-on robotics exhibit and a virtual reality experience.
Art enthusiasts will want to visit the San Jose Museum of Art, which features a collection of modern and contemporary art from around the world. After ou get cultured head to Santana Row which is filled with shops and restaurants.
If you have young children, make your way to Happy Hollow Park and Zoo which sits on 15 acres in Kelley Park. It has rides that are geared towards young children, a puppet theater, and plenty of animals. Expect to see exotic creatures like lemurs, birds, capybaras, and fossa as well as barnyard animals.
One of the most popular destinations in San Jose is the Winchester Mystery House, a historic mansion that is rumored to be haunted. The house was built 100 years ago and underwent continuous construction for 36 years! The house features a variety of architectural oddities and secret passageways and touring this unusual residence is definitely a “must do”.
Sacramento River Delta
Distance from Downtown Sacramento: 68 miles (80 minutes)
The Sacramento River Delta is a great place to enjoy outdoor recreation, especially during the summer. It is a popular spot for boating, jet skiing, and fishing. Many of the small towns, like Bethel Island and Discovery Bay, that sit along the Delta have watercraft available.
The Delta Discovery Experience at Big Break Shoreline in Oakley features interactive exhibits on the ecology and history of the Delta. The center also offers guided kayak tours of the nearby waterways, which provide a close-up look at the area’s abundant wildlife and scenic vistas. Fishing off the park’s pier is very popular as well.
The Delta town of Locke, which was established in the early 20th century by Chinese immigrants who came to the area to work in the local rice fields. Today, the town is a National Historic Landmark and features a variety of shops, restaurants, and museums that showcase the town’s unique history and culture.
Distance from Downtown Sacramento: 95 miles (Two hours)
A visit to Point Reyes National Seashore is one of my favorite day trips from Sacramento. Everything about this stretch of land feels rugged and wild, and gives us a glimps at what California’s coast once was before all the development.
Point Reyes National Seashore, which features miles of hiking trails that wind through a variety of ecosystems, including beaches, forests, and grasslands. Elephant seals, whales, and even elk are common sights, as are the cows the still pasture here.
The park’s Bear Valley visitor centerhas a recreated Miwok Village and the 0.6-mile Earthquake Trail which highlights the 16 feet of land displacement that occurred as a result of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake along the San Andreas Fault.
At the westernmost edge of Point Reyes is the Point Reyes Lighthouse, which offers sprawling views of the coastline and the Pacific Ocean. The lighthouse also features exhibits on the history of the area and the local marine life.
On the other end of the park is Tomales Bay which is a great place to go kayaking, especially in the evening when there is bioluminescence occuring. The trails in this area are also common places to spot the elk.
Visit the nearby Hog Island Oyster Company, which offers tours and tastings of their fresh and delicious oysters. You can also visit the Heidrun Meadery which makes sparkling honey wines and offers tasting flights.
Distance from Downtown Sacramento: 85 miles (Two Hours)
You have likely seen Mount Diablo looming on the horizon many times, but have you ever paid it a visit? A day trip to Mount Diablo offers visitors breathtaking views of the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond, as well as a variety of recreational activities to enjoy.
Begin your trip with a drive or hike up to the summit of Mount Diablo, which reaches an elevation of over 3,800 feet. From the summit, you can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding area, including the Golden Gate Bridge, the Farallon Islands, and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. On a clear day, you can even see as far as Mount Shasta, over 200 miles away.
After taking in the views, explore the Mount Diablo State Park, which offers over 20,000 acres of wilderness and a variety of hiking trails for all skill levels. Be sure to visit the Rock City area of the park, which features unique rock formations and picnic areas. The rocks are so much fun to climb around on and explore.
Jackson and Sutter Creek
Distance from Downtown Sacramento: 50 miles (One hour)
A day trip to Jackson and Sutter Creek is a journey through California’s Gold Country and a glimpse into the state’s rich history.
Begin your trip in Jackson, known as the “Gem of the Mother Lode.” The town is home to many historic buildings, including the Amador County Museum, which tells the story of the town’s mining past. Visit the Kennedy Gold Mine, where you can take a tour of the underground mine and learn about the life of a gold miner in the 1800s.
Next, head to Sutter Creek, a charming town that retains its historic charm. The Main Street is lined with antique shops, galleries, and restaurants. Take a stroll and admire the beautifully preserved 19th-century buildings, many of which are now home to unique shops and restaurants.
There are a few wineries in the area that are worth visiting as well, including Avio Vineyards, Bella Grace Vineyards, and Miller Wine Works which also has a gourmet cheese shop.
Distance from Downtown Sacramento: 52 miles (55 minutes)
Foresthill is a small town in the Sierra Nevada foothills that is a quick escape from life in the flat lands and a great way to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the region. The town is known for the historic Foresthill Bridge, which spans over 700 feet across the American River Canyon and offers jaw-dropping views of the surrounding landscape.
Start your day trip with a hike on one of the many trails in the area. The Foresthill Divide Loop Trail offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and the American River Canyon. This trail is also very popular with mountain bikers so bring yours along if you have one.
If you’re looking for a more adrenaline-pumping activity, head to the nearby North Fork American River, where you can enjoy whitewater rafting. This stretch of river is the only fork of the American River is not dam controlled, so water levels and length of rafting season are dependent on snowpack.
After all that outdoor adventure, head to Brew Masters Deli, a casual joint serving up hot sandwiches, Bavarian pretzeks, and craft beers that locals swear by.
Distance from Downtown Sacramento: 60 miles (75 minutes)
Lake Berryessa is a popular destination for boating, fishing, and water sports in Napa County. It is well-known for its famous “Glory Hole,” a unique spillway that allows excess water to flow into Putah Creek below the Monticello Dam.
When you are ready to get out on the water, head to Markley Cove, where you can rent a ski boat, patio boat, or jet ski to explore the lake. The resort also offers a variety of other water sports activities, including kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. If you’re more interested in fishing, Lake Berryessa has bass, catfish, and trout.
For a more relaxed activity, head to one of the many picnic areas around the lake, where you can enjoy a delicious lunch while taking in the stunning views of the surrounding hills and the lake.
End your day with a stop at Berryessa Brewing Company in Winters, a local craft brewery that offers a variety of beers that you can take home and enjoy.
Distance from Downtown Sacramento: 110 miles (Two hours)
Bodega Bay is a picturesque coastal town located in Sonoma County that is great or enjoying salty air, seafood, and outdoor adventure.
Bodega Bay is one of the best land-based whale watching destinations in Northern California, thanks to Bodega Head, a peninsula that is four miles long and one mile wide. Gray whales migrate past this spot November through April on there journey from Alaska to their Baja birthing waters and vice versa.
You can also get out on the water by renting a kayak. Bodega Bay Kayaks offers guided tours as well as rental options for those who prefer to go it alone. If you would rather stick to the beach, head to Doran Regional Park, which is a great place to fly a kite or sunbathe.
For lunch, head to one of the many seafood restaurants in the area, such as The Tides Wharf & Restaurant, which serves fresh seafood and offers stunning views of the bay. Alfred Hitchcock filmed The Birds in Bodega and some scenes were filmed at this restaurant. You can also visit the famous Potter schoolhouse and the St. Teresa of Avila Church which were both featured in the film.
Distance from Downtown Sacramento: 82 miles (90 minutes)
Petaluma is cute town in Sonoma County, California, with a nice little dowtown and lots of interesting history.
Start your day by visiting the Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park which was the site of Rancho de Petaluma and home of General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, who helped rule back when California was a part of Mexico in the 1800s.
Today this national landmark showcases the life and culture of the early Spanish and Mexican settlers in California. The park offers guided tours, hiking trails, and picnic areas.
After, head to the downtown are which features many well-preserved Victorian-era buildings. Explore the unique shops, galleries, and antique stores. Be sure to stop by the Petaluma Seed Bank, a unique and charming store that offers a huge variety of heirloom seeds and gardening supplies.
When you start to get hungry, visit to the Lagunitas Brewing Company, a local brewery that offers a variety of craft beers and live music. Take a tour of the brewery, sample some of their delicious beers, and enjoy a meal in the relaxed atmsophere.
Afterward, work off all those carbs and head to the Petaluma River, where you can rent a kayak or a paddleboard and explore the waterways. The river is home to a variety of wildlife, including otters, herons, and eagles.
Distance from Downtown Sacramento: 98 miles (105 minutes)
Santa Rosa is another great Sonoma County city with plenty of things to do on your day trip from Sacramento.
Start your day by visiting the Charles M. Schulz Museum, which celebrates the life and work of the famous cartoonist who created Peanuts. The museum features a collection of Schulz’s original comic strips, as well as interactive exhibits that are fun for all ages. Then walk over to Snoopy’s Home Ice and ice skate your troubles away.
Next, head to the Luther Burbank Home and Gardens, which showcases the work of the famous horticulturist who developed many new plant varieties, including the Burbank potato and the Shasta daisy. The gardens are a peaceful oasis in the heart of the city, and offer a beautiful place to relax and enjoy nature.
Experience an African Safari at Safari West, where animals roam free on a wildlife preserve. You will encounter rhinos, giraffes, zebras, and numerous other animals of the savannah while on a guided tour of this private facility. There are also luxury glamping tens for those who wish to stay the night and listen to the lions roar at night.
If you are visiting on a Saturday, stop by the Santa Rosa Farmers Market, which offers a wide variety of fresh produce, baked goods, and artisanal products from local farmers and food makers. The market is a great place to taste the flavors of Sonoma County and pick up some unique souvenirs.
After lunch, explore the Railroad Square Historic District, which features many well-preserved buildings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The area is home to a variety of shops, restaurants, and galleries.
End your day with a visit to the Russian River Brewing Company, a local brewery that is famous for its Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger beers. Take a tour of the brewery, sample some of their delicious beers, and enjoy the lively atmosphere.
Distance from Downtown Sacramento: 64 miles (75 minutes)
Some of my favorite memories have been made on a patio boat in the middle of Englebright Lake. This lake was created when a dam was constructed in the late 1930’s to control the debris from hydraulic mining happening along the river in the steep Yuba River Gorge.
Today, Englebright is a recreation area, with boat-in campsites and houseboats, speed boats, patio boats, and small watercraft available for rent at Skippers Cove Marina.
I suggest grabbing a few friends, packing a big lunch, and then cruising around the lake on a patio boat. Jump into the refreshing cool water when things heat up. Keep your eyes open for wildlife, as well as local cattle that graze near the lake’s edge.
Distance from Downtown Sacramento: 86 miles (105 minutes)
Calistoga is known for its wine, its water and its spas.
Start your day by visiting the Old Faithful Geyser, which is one of the three geysers in the world with the name “Old Faithful.” Calistoga’s version erupts regularly every 30 minutes.
Next, head to Calistoga’s Petrified Forest where more than two dozen petrified redwood trees that were knocked over and covered with ash during a violent volcanic eruption, turning them to stone. Take a self-guided tour on the easy trails of Calistoga’s Petrified Forest and see these ancient beauties for yourself.
Then, head to the Calistoga Spa Hot Springs, where you can relax and rejuvenate in the natural hot springs pools. The spa offers a variety of treatments, including massages and mud baths, which are a great way to unwind and pamper yourself.
For lunch, stop by the Solbar Restaurant, which offers delicious farm-to-table cuisine and a great selection of local wines. The restaurant is known for its beautiful setting and outdoor seating, which offer lovely views of the surrounding vineyards.
Finally, end your day with a visit to the Castello di Amorosa, a medieval-inspired castle and winery. Take a tour of the castle and the winery, sample some of their delicious wines, and enjoy the views of the surrounding vineyards.
Distance from Downtown Sacramento: 15 miles (20 minutes)
Davis, California is a funky college town that offers a variety of fun activities for a day trip.
Start your day by visiting the UC Davis Arboretum which spans over 100 acres and offers beautiful gardens and walking trails along Putah Creek. The Arboretum has 2,400 kinds of trees and plants which can be enjoyed along a 3.5-mile loop trail which you can walk or ride your bike alone.
Next, bike (this is Davis after all) your way over to the Davis Farmers Market, which is held every Wednesday afternoon and Saturday morning. The market offers a variety of fresh produce, artisanal foods, and handmade crafts from local vendors. There is usually a musical performance happening as well.
Then explore downtown with its eclectic shops, art galleries, cafes, and boutiques. I love stopping at A Better Place to Bead to check out their impressive bead collection, Tibet Nepal which has a great collection of good and jewelery from that part of the world, The Avid Reader bookstore, and the UC Davis store when I visit.
For lunch, head to Woodstock’s for pizza, Cafe Bernardo for comfort food with flaire, Mikuni for sushi, and Sophia’s for Thai food.
End your day with a visit to the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, which hosts a variety of music, dance, and theater performances throughout the year. Check their schedule to find a performance or workshop that interests you.
Distance from Downtown Sacramento: 100 miles (Two hours)
Truckee is a small mountain town located just outside of Lake Tahoe. It offers a charming, rustic atmosphere, and a wide range of outdoor activities that make it the perfect destination for a day trip.
If you arrive earyl the day enjoy breakfast at Squeeze Inn, a beloved cafe that is well-known for serving up 60 different specialty omelettes.
During the winter, there are several snow play and ski resorts in the area. Tahoe Donner, Boreal, Sugar Bowl, Soda Springs, Northstar, Palisades Tahoe, and Alpine Meadows are all within 30 minutes.
If you visit outside of ski season or don’t feel like hitting the slopes, take a stroll through historic downtown Truckee, which is filled with quaint shops, galleries, and restaurants. Check out the Truckee River Legacy Trail, a paved path that follows the Truckee River.
You will also want to visit Donner Memorial State Park, which is located just outside of town. Here, you can learn about the history of the infamous Donner Party and enjoy hiking trails, picnic areas, and a museum that tells the story of the ill-fated journey.
In the summer, Donner Lake becomes the main attraction for vacationers enjoying fishing, boating, and water sports. You can also rent rafts and float down the Truckee River for a different take on outdoor fun.
If you are looking to take a unique hike, check out the Donner Summit Tunnels. They were built by Chinese laborers in the 1800s and abandoned in 1993 when a new route was established. It is really cool to walk through the tunnels as part of an easy, 4.5-mile round-trip hike. Be sure to bring a flashlight!
Muir Woods National Monument
Distance from Downtown Sacramento: 95 miles (105 minutes)
Muir Woods National Monument is a nature reserve located just 30 minutes north of San Francisco. It is famous for its breathtaking coast redwoods, the tallest trees in the world which can reach heights of over 250 feet
CTL Tip: Muir Woods does require advanced reservations for parking. Make your reservation well in advance, especially if you are visiting on a weeked.
The main trail is a flat, easy stroll that takes visitors through the heart of the forest, passing by trees that are over a thousand years old. The park also offers several longer hikes for those looking for more of a challenge.
For those interested in learning more about the park’s ecology and history, the Muir Woods Visitor Center is a must-visit. The center features interactive exhibits on the redwood forest ecosystem, the flora and fauna that call it home, and the history of the park and its namesake, John Muir.
Make time to take a short drive to nearby Muir Beach. This beach is an excellent representation of the rugged and beautiful beaches along the Northern California Coast.
Healdsburg, located in the heart of Sonoma County, is a charming town known for its vineyards and rich history. There is no shortage of things to do on a day trip to Healdsburg, making it the perfect destination for wine enthusiasts, outdoor enthusiasts, and anyone looking for a peaceful escape from the city.
One of the most popular things to do in Healdsburg is to explore the many vineyards and wineries that surround the town. Healdsburg is located in the center of three major wine regions – the Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, and Russian River Valley – and is home to some of the most acclaimed wineries in the world. Visitors can take a guided tour of the vineyards, learn about the winemaking process, and, of course, sample some of the area’s best wines.
For those who prefer to spend time outdoors, Healdsburg offers plenty of opportunities for hiking, biking, and kayaking. The town is located near the Russian River, which is a popular spot for kayaking and canoeing.
Visitors can also hike or bike through the rolling hills and redwood forests that surround the town, taking in the beautiful scenery along the way.
Another popular attraction in Healdsburg is the Healdsburg Plaza. This historic town square is home to a variety of shops, cafes, and restaurants, making it the perfect place to spend a lazy afternoon browsing and people watching.