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Best Bay Area One-Day 'Staycations' On A Budget

Stanford Memorial Church (credit: Randy Yagi)

Looking for a great day trip that's within your budget? If you can, try leaving the car at home, then take advantage of alternative forms of transportation such as BART, Caltrain and ferry boats to visit some of the best destinations across the Bay Area. Complemented with free or low-cost attractions, an entire day can be enjoyed that's very affordable, even if you insist on taking the car. Here are five of the best day trips on a budget near the Bay Area.

Angel Island State Park
Angel Island State Park (credit: Randy Yagi)

Angel Island State Park
Tiburon, CA 94920
(415) 435-5390

One particular day trip often overlooked is a visit to Angel Island State Park. That's because the majority of visitors will head over to its more famous neighbor, Alcatraz Island. But San Francisco Bay's largest island is well worth a visit, if only for its historical significance and spectacular views of the San Francisco skyline. A round-trip ferry ride is just $17 and includes admission to the park. Many visitors will take their bikes along for the trip but there are other transportation options on the island, including a tram tour and scooter rentals. Beginning in November, ferry service to Angel Island is limited to weekends except for group reservations, but the park is open year round.

Stanford Museum (Credit, Randy Yagi)

Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University
328 Lomita Drive
Stanford, CA 94305
(650) 723-4177

If you haven't yet visited the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University, perhaps it's take time take a train down to Palo Alto. Also known as the Stanford Museum, the center is renowned for having one of the world's largest collections of works from famed French sculptor Auguste Rodin. Among the museum's permanent collection are artifacts from the Leland Stanford family, photographs from Dorothea Lange and Eadweard Muybridge, paintings from European masters such as Renoir and Monet and Rodin's masterpiece, "The Thinker." A round-trip ticket on Caltrain is just $14 and a transfer on the Stanford Shuttle is free, as is admission to the Cantor Arts Center.

USS Hornet (Credit, Randy Yagi)
USS Hornet. (Photo: Randy Yagi)

Jack London Square/USS Hornet
55 Harrison St.
Oakland, CA 94607
(510) 645-9292

What's not to like in taking a ferry ride on the San Francisco Bay? Of course it's a little windy, but a round trip from San Francisco to Jack London Square is just $12.50 for adults. There are plenty of things to see at Jack London Square, including regularly scheduled live events, bike rentals and a tour of the USS Potomac, once known as the "Floating White House." Ferries depart from the Ferry Building and ATT Park to Jack London Square and Alameda. Visitors can also consider continuing on to the historic USS Hornet by taking AC Transit's Route 31 to Main and Pacific in Alameda, then walking about 15 minutes to Old Alameda Point. The aircraft carrier is considered a national treasure and is well known as the ship responsible for the recovery of the Apollo 11.

Ferry to Sausalito (Credit, Randy Yagi)
Blue and Gold ferry fleet (Credit, Randy Yagi)

(415) 331-7262

A ferry ride to Sausalito is one of the most favorite day excursions from San Francisco. The cost to take the ferry is slightly higher than a trip to Angel Island, but visitors can avoid the $7 toll fee from the Golden Gate Bridge and the drive just to get there, in addition to eliminating the hassle of finding a place to park in Sausalito. From the ferry terminal, visitors can take in the magnificent views of San Francisco along the Sausalito marina and then perhaps grab a bite to eat at places like Venice Gourmet or Sausalito Gourmet Delicatessen. Other attractions include the Bay Model Visitors Center and the Bay Area Discovery Museum.

Sather Tower, UC Berkeley (Credit, Randy Yagi)

University of California Berkeley
101 Sproul Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
(510) 642-5215

A trip to the UC Berkeley is one of the best reasons to leave the car at home. Visitors can take a BART ride from San Francisco to the Downtown Berkeley station, before exploring some of the best attractions on campus. Tour highlights include a visit to Sather Tower, the UC Museum of Paleontology, featuring the world's largest paleontological collection at a university, and the Berkeley Art Museum. Lastly, a trip to Berkeley should include a visit to Telegraph Avenue, for street performers, arts and crafts and cheap eats. A round-trip BART ride from San Francisco is just $7.80 and more importantly, will help visitors avoid the often heavy traffic on the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge.

Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on


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