What does one do when visiting San Francisco after already doing all the tourist things? This question haunted me for a quick weekend getaway. I did most of the touristy things you do in San Francisco as part of my last college spring break years ago. Wine tours, cable car rides, Lombard Street, museums, Chinatown, Pier 39, biking across the Golden Gate bridge, Alcatraz Island, etc. PHEW that was a fun filled week!
This time I had a rental car with more access and flexibility for some San Francisco day trips. Andy, being a microbrew lover, wanted to head north to Santa Rosa to experience the Russian River Brewery.
Waking up early on Saturday morning, we started our way towards the Golden Gate Bridge and avoided the 101 as much as possible. Without hitting much traffic, we crossed the fog-covered Golden Gate Bridge and drove on some windy Highway 1 roads into Muir Woods.
Muir Woods National Monument
With fog still lingering, we were welcomed by a mystic view of these primeval trees. Even though they are not the largest known redwoods, Andy still wanted to see the tree species while in California. Even though I was not in my normal hiking attire, we decided to take in what the National Monument and area had to offer. The Muir Woods National Monument costs $7 per adult (it is free if you remember your National Park Pass which we forgot). William and Elizabeth Kent named the park after John Muir for his efforts of natural conservation for the United States.
With its close proximity, it is a great day of exploring and enjoying nature. The dusty trails wind through the various species of trees. I enjoyed taking photos of the foggy day. We took the Ocean View Trail but were not able to get the lookout over the coast. Instead of continuing for panoramic views, we headed down the Lost Trail to the Cathedral Grove.
After walking most of the park, we headed towards Santa Rosa for a lunch and beer. Again, the fog limited the usual beautiful Highway 1 coastal views, and we were only able to see the Pacific Ocean and sandy beach briefly.
Russian River Brewery
A great alternative to Napa and Sonoma wineries, check out Russian River Brewery for some great tasting microbrews. With its newly renovated brewery, Russian River does not staff tours at the moment. Fortunately, the Seahawks playoff game was on, so we rooted quietly while sipping on our pints for our turn to be seated. As we took in the atmosphere and studied the beer list, we decided not to drink much while waiting and get a full sampler.
The beer tasting and food did not disappoint. We split a full sampler. Unfortunately, we ended with the sours. I did not care much for them even if they are highly rated!
After the beer sampling, we decided to walk off some of the alcohol before returning to San Jose for the night. We stumbled upon some Charles M. Schulz’s peanuts characters as we walked around. I couldn’t resist getting my pictures with them.
We stopped at the Santa Rosa Convention and Visitors Bureau and played with some train displays. Unfortunately, we had a couple hours of driving ahead of us and dinner plans, so we did not make it to the Railway Museum or the Charles M. Schulz Museum.
The second day was spent at some tech companies, along with driving back out to the coast. Day 2 was definitely a lot less driving since we stayed in the Bay Area the first half of the day, but we were still outside of San Francisco. These options may not be as great on the weekend, but I had to work with the time I had. I also added in a stop to In-n-Out Burger and ordered off the menu (even though this was my first experience).
Located between San Francisco and San Jose, is Mountain View and Palo Alto that hosts some excellent tech companies. I spent Sunday morning hanging out at the Facebook campus after being invited by an employee to see the campus. Since it was a Sunday, the campus was empty. I was able walk across Hacker Square and ride bikes down Hacker Way. Their campus was very impressive and even includes an arcade!
Next stop was the Google campus just down the street. Even though this was not as much of a campus feel as Facebook, it was cool to see the different Android version statues and Google bikes. This was the main area I wanted to see, so we did not try to see more of the campus.
Lastly, if you have time, check out the NASA Ames Research Center. NASA ARC’s operating hours are Tuesday – Friday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday noon – 4 p.m and closed Mondays and federal holidays. Learn more about space exploration and NASA’s mission. Even though I did not have time on this visit, I was able to in the past–they have a pretty cool hangar!
Half Moon Bay/ Fitzgerald Marine Reserve
Even though this day trip requires some driving time, it is a great way to see more of the Bay Area without a large city feel. While visiting the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, I was able to join in an Instagram meetup (#fitzymeet). The wooded area of this reserve is absolutely gorgeous with views of the tide pools and waves crashing below. There is a trail you can take that will loop through the wooded area down to the coastline.
Keep an eye out for harbor seals sun bathing or other small sea creatures in the tidal pools. The rocking coastline offers some drastic landscape views.
After enjoying some of the natural beauty, stop by the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company for a microbrew and some fresh seafood or stop along the coast and watch the local surfers catch some waves.
What other San Francisco day trips do you suggest?
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