5 Great Family-Friendly Summer Time Day Trips from San Francisco

by: LiLing Pang



Last weekend, we took our two boys (3 and 6 years old) up to Sacramento for a day trip. We had a wonderful time exploring Old Town, visiting the train museum, and walking down the Sacramento River.  Best of all, we were able to make it home for bedtime (a little late) and sleep in our own beds. As the default organizer and suitcase packer, I love the fact that day trips are Samsonite free.

 

Here are some of our family’s favorite day trips from San Francisco.  If you have other ideas of great day trips for families, add it to the list as a comment. We’re always looking for new ideas on where to take the kids..


Clam Digging at Lawson’s Landing
Dillon Beach, CA (at the mouth of Tomales Bay)
Distance from San Francisco: 1 hr 30 min

 

If you’re looking for a messy day that promises great memories for years to come, then head out to Lawson's Landing to dig out some horseshoe clams.  The best time to hunt for these little critters is when the mudflats are exposed (tide level 0.5 or lower).  Wear clothes you don’t mind getting dirty and bring a bucket and shovels because you’ll definitely get dirty which my boys love.  If you forget to bring some clam digging tools, you’ll find everything that you need at Lawson’s Landing. Once you’re equipped with all the right gear, you can walk out to the mudflats when the tide is really low or rent a boat and motor for $125.  Younger kids really enjoy the boat ride and digging around in the mudflats, looking at random shells, rocks and crabs.  Older kids can help to dig out these huge crabs.  

View Nearby Things to See and Do in Point Reyes National Seashore


The Town of Capitola
Capitola, CA (just south of Santa Cruz)
Distance from San Francisco: 1 hr 20min

 

Capitola is a such a cute little “quaint beach town” just south of Santa Cruz.  The beach isn’t as big as Santa Cruz, but the kids will enjoy the gentle waves.  You can rent boogie boards on the beach and just laze around.  The downtown area has some cute little shops to peruse when your kids need a change of scenery.  You’ll also want to walk up the river and gaze at the cool bridge.  You’ll feel so relaxed after spending a day in Capitola.

 

View Nearby Things to See and Do in Santa Cruz

 

Pinnacles National Monument
San Juan Bautista
Distance from San Francisco: 2.5 hours

 

Spires and crags offer a stunning landscape at Pinnacles National Monument that will wow both you and your kids.  In the summer, Pinnacles can get unbearably hot, but in the winter, spring, and fall, the weather is perfect.  In the spring, the wild flowers are quite a spectacle.  There are some easy hikes that are stroller friendly.

 

View Nearby Things to See and Do in San Juan Bautista


Safari West
Santa Rosa, CA
Distance from San Francisco: 1 hr 20min

 

If you’re looking for an African adventure without the 20 hour plane ride, head over to Safari West for an African safari complete with an open top jeep.  This is a zoo without fences.  There are about 600 different exotic animals that you can catch a glimpse of throughout the Californian savannah.  It is pretty expensive, but not as expensive as going to Africa.  ($65 per adult and $30 per child)  In the winter (until March 7, 2009), safari tours start at 10am or 2pm.  During the spring, summer and fall (March 8 to November 2, 2009) tours start at 9am, 1pm and 4pm.  The ride is quite bumpy, so children under 3 and pregnant women might be uncomfortable.

View Nearby Things to See and Do in Santa Rosa

 

Jedediah Smith Memorial Bicycle Trail/American River Parkway
Sacramento, CA
Distance from San Francisco: 1 hr 45 min

 

On hot days between April and October, kids will enjoy rafting down the gentle Lower American River.  For a self-guided rafting trip, you can easily rent a raft from the River Rat and Raft & Bike. Prices typically start at $45/raft . You’ll usually start west of Folsom and Natoma Lake. On average, you’ll spend about 3-4 hours in the water.  There is very little white water, and moderate currents on this section of the American River.  But do be careful of the under currents.  Kids must be 5 and up to participate in rafting if you’re renting. If you’ve got your own tubes, you can launch them without paying a fee and float down the river together.  Be sure to bring life jackets for children who aren’t water safe.

 

View Nearby Things to See and Do in the Sacramento Area

 

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updated: December 09 2009 by LiLing Pang

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Jedediah Smith Memorial Bicycle Trail/American River Parkway

Sacramento, CA

Lawson's Landing at Dillon Beach

Dillon Beach, CA

Capitola Beach

Capitola, CA

Pinnacles National Monument

Paicines, CA

Safari West

Santa Rosa, CA

Sacramento and the Gold Country

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Point Reyes Station

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