For a true California dreamin’ experience, hit the open road and explore the Golden State in all its sun-soaked, scenic glory. Our curated guide to the best weekend trips from San Francisco promises to inspire West Coast wanderlust.
Northern California’s famed wine region is less than an hour’s drive from San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. The scenic road trip will take you deep into the countryside – the Mayacamas and Sonoma Mountain ranges bookend the Sonoma valley – to the sweet scent of fermenting grapes. Sonoma’s Mediterranean climate is what makes it one of the world’s finest grape-growing regions. Beyond the tasting tours (take your pick from 500 plus wineries), Sonoma is beloved for its rustic charm, quaint boutiques, and high-end farm-to-table restaurants (make a reservation at The Girl & The Fig). There’s also plenty of history to explore as you meander through the cobblestone alleyways to the town’s crown jewel, the landmark Sonoma Plaza, home to a pond, amphitheater, rose garden, cafes, restaurants and farmers markets.
Where to Stay in Sonoma County
Located in the heart of the valley, The Lodge at Sonoma Renaissance Resort & Spa is a rustic luxury retreat. Stay in one of their newly renovated cottages and enjoy a Pinot Noir from Bacigalupi Vineyards (voted one of the best) by the fireplace in your private sitting room. If you need a break from all that wine tasting, laze by the outdoor heated pool or check into the resort’s Radiance Spa for a massage or steam room session. The Lodge is also walking distance to Sonoma Plaza and the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art.
HALF MOON BAY
Beach and nature lovers will enjoy the best of both worlds at Half Moon Bay, the oldest settlement in San Mateo county beloved for its pristine coastline, rugged cliff faces, and deep sense of history that dates back to the 1840s. The sleepy seaside town feels a world away from San Francisco, even though it’s just a short 45-minute drive south toward Silicon Valley. With it’s New England-style charm, scenic beaches, surfing swells, hiking trails at Redwood forest, and horseback riding ranches, Half Moon Bay is the perfect weekend escape for outdoor adventure and relaxation. The local cuisine is an eclectic mix of farm-to-table, old-world tradition and fresh seafood (make a reservation at The Barn) there’s plenty of local wineries and breweries to be explored.
Where to Stay in Half Moon Bay
The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay looks more like an old-world majestic estate perched above a clifftop overlooking the ocean. Stroll the expansive grounds, hang at the bay, or pull up an Adirondack chair by the outdoor firepit to sample some of the local wines. If you’re feeling active, there are tennis courts and championship golf courses or if you prefer a more pampered approach book into the on-site Spa to experience the Redwood Forest Ritual or a seasonally created facial or body treatment using local farm ingredients.
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK
Yosemite National Park is on everyone’s bucket list. The UNESCO World Heritage Site, a four-hour drive from San Francisco, is a nature enthusiasts dream with its plunging waterfalls, giant sequoia trees, gigantic granite cliffs, and famed hike Mist Trail. You could spend weeks exploring the over 1,100 square miles of Yosemite Valley, but for a weekend, go for a hike, float down the lazy Merced River and capture the sunset over one of the world’s most photographed landmarks – the Half Dome.
Where to Stay in Yosemite National Park
Stay in splendor at The Ahwahnee Hotel, a 1920s landmark that has hosted the likes of John F. Kennedy, Greta Garbo, Queen Elizabeth II, and Winston Churchill. The main hotel is an exercise in old-world glamour and grandeur but if you seek rustic nature and seclusion, Ahwahnee’s cottages are nestled into the forest a short walk from the property. Do not miss Sunday Brunch in The Ahwahnee Dining Room – you can sense the history in the epic 35-foot high beamed ceilings and opulent chandeliers.
If a trip to LA LA Land is your idea of the perfect weekend getaway, the cruise down California’s iconic Highway One to the City of Angels is an experience in itself. Once you hit Hollywood, explore it through a locals-lens, rather than the imagery portrayed in movie sets. The LA of today has a burgeoning art, culture, culinary and entertainment scene to rival New York City. Head to Abbot Kinney, just off Venice Beach to explore the mile-long strip of boho boutiques, art galleries, and hip restaurants. Explore Culver City’s exploding restaurant scene and re-discover LA’s history and artistic past in the heart of Downtown LA (DTLA) and Koreatown.
Where to Stay in Los Angeles
Located in the heart of Downtown’s Historic Core, Hotel Indigo Los Angeles Downtown features design elements that pay homage to early 20th century Los Angeles with playful nods to historic Chinatown, Hollywood’s Golden Age, La Fiesta de las Flores (Downtown’s precursor to Pasadena’s now-famed Rose Parade), and the underground speakeasies of the Prohibition Era. It’s walking distance to the slew of trendy breweries and restaurants revolutionizing the craft beer and dining scene in DTLA, as well as many other Tinseltown attractions: LA Live Entertainment District; Staples Center; GRAMMY Museum; Grand Central Market, Walt Disney Concert Hall.