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Best Day Trips From San Francisco

The Lone Cypress, 17-Mile Drive, Monterey Peninsula (credit: Laurie Jo Miller Farr)

Right at San Francisco's doorstep, we've got good-looking roadways like 101 North over the Golden Gate Bridge, the Great Highway along Ocean Beach at the Pacific shore, and Highway 1 down the coast. Where else could the drive be as stunning as the destination? Of course, nobody objects that temperatures rise and sunshine increases as we travel beyond city borders. Day trips from San Francisco are just one more thing we love about living in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Monterey Bay Peninsula
See Monterey
(888) 221-1010

Carmel-by-the-Sea, Monterey and Pacific Grove are perched at the edge of one of the largest underwater canyons on earth. One place that many consider to be worth the hype for taking in the views is the 17-Mile Drive. Enter the drive through the Del Monte Forest at either end of the loop. The self-guided drive passes mega-mansions and world-famous Pebble Beach, providing drivers with 21 turnouts for Instagram moments. America's most photographed tree provides the money shot at this do-not-miss stop. The Lone Cypress has withstood the elements atop its granite outcrop for a good 250 years. If you spend the night, restaurants and lodging are everywhere, ranging from big splurge to big hotels and from small, dog-friendly inns to small B&Bs with quarter boards hanging by the flower boxes.

Shell Beach at Point Reyes National Seashore

Point Reyes
National Park Service
(415) 464-5100

Tomales Bay produces more than fresh farmed oysters, clams and mussels. It produces a place to swim at Hearts Desire Beach, a historic lighthouse, elephant seal, elk and maybe whale, sightings, a virgin grove of Bishop pine at the end of Jepson Memorial trail one mile from the lovely, sheltered Shell Beach and the long stretches of Limantour Beach sand. Just 40 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge, historians believe this was explorer Francis Drake's landfall while circumnavigating the globe in 1579. On exceptionally quiet days on the Point Reyes National Seashore, it's entirely possible to imagine that you've left the 21st century for a little while. If you're planning to stay overnight, the Point Reyes Lodging Association is one place to look for listings of inns and cottages. Boat-in campsites and backpack campsites are also available.

Santa Cruz
Visit Santa Cruz
(831) 425-1234

The boardwalk's vintage Giant Dipper roller coaster is 91 years old, the hand-carved Looff Carousel is 104, and Marini's salt water taffy is an even 100 this summer. What's new in Santa Cruz? Microbrewery tours aboard a vintage 1989 Thomas International school bus, retrofitted with a fresh, living-room-inspired interior giving off a cool, mid-century vibe. The Brews Cruz vehicle is nicknamed Betty Jane and can accommodate 15 passengers to visit several of the 14 nearby microbreweries. Charter for you and your friends, or join the public tours, including sIngles Thursdays and college Fridays. If you decide to stay longer, Rio Vista Suites is a 19th century residence newly restored as a boutique hotel in Beach Hill. Adobe on Green St. is the perfect B&B walking distance to downtown and Hotel Paradox is bang up-to-date with an outdoor pool, bar, fire pits and great sunsets.

Tastings at Pasolivo, in Paso Robles, Calif.

Paso Robles
Travel Paso
(805) 227-7236

Newlyweds Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio made for Paso Robles in a dark blue Cadillac following a civil ceremony at San Francisco City Hall in January 1954. They may not have had wine in mind, but these days, it's a wine lover's paradise. Many boutique and family wineries with visiting hours are included among the 200-plus in California's fastest growing, and largest, wine region. An impressive collection of standout restaurants are sprinkled around downtown's pretty square, where chefs and sommeliers are supported by local farmers, ranchers, fisherman and winemakers. Stay a little longer at SummerWood Winery & Inn for an experience that can best be described as sublime. While you're around, visit Monroe and DiMaggio's choice, the Clifton Motel, which is now residential apartments.

Mendocino Music Festival Big Band performing with Kim Nalley

Mendocino Music Festival
(707) 937-2044

Summer and Mendocino mean great music. Mendocino Music Festival executive director, Barbara Faulkner says, "Nearly all of the Festival Orchestra and Festival Big Band players are professional musicians, playing in the San Francisco Symphony, Opera and Ballet, as well as other excellent orchestras, bands and chamber music ensembles, from as far away as Boston." As ever, the Mendocino Music Festival rocks the place for two midsummer weeks. The 29th annual festival in Mendocino Headlands State Park is on July 11 through July 25, 2015, so it's best to be quick for tickets to the big events in the Tent Concert Hall and for seats at Preston Hall. Besides music, a brand new wine tasting room is open daily at Lulu Cellars. If you stay to experience more of the festival, check out The Inn at Newport Ranch, a luxury resort on the rugged coast north of Mendocino Village opening in July. This is the first completely new property to open in Mendocino in years. Little River Inn has been operating for five generations, now featuring an exclusive two-day abalone freediving experience with certified diving and dining professionals from June 24 through June 26, 2015.

Wente Golf Course, Livermore, CAlif.

Wente Vineyards
(925) 456-2424

At the nation's oldest continuously-operated, family-owned winery, what's old is new. The 29th Wente Vineyards Concert Series has lined up a summer of eight major acts, concluding with Rock and Roll Hall of Fame legend, Smokey Robinson on September 3, 2015. Wente Guest Chef Dinner Series brings Bay Area culinary stars to the estate's kitchens, with Chef Tanya Holland and Chef Joanne Weir dates coming up later this season. Wine served by the glass next to the patio's fire pits is the newest happy hour venue. A Greg Norman-designed golf course and clubhouse grill are set within the working vineyards. More than a dozen vineyards around Livermore make for a wine country weekend with frills. For an extended stay, look into Purple Orchid Resort & Spa, a log cabin-style lodge with a spa, fire pit and an outdoor pool. Surrounded by rose gardens at the foot of its own olive orchard, it's small and delivers the personal touch.

Laurie Jo Miller Farr loves walkable cities. A tourism industry professional and transplanted New Yorker by way of half-a-lifetime in London, she's writing about the best of the bay and beyond for Yahoo, USA Today, eHow, and on


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