32 Fun Day Trips From Sacramento (In Under 3 Hours!)

Northern California is home to so many fun coastal towns, scenic wonders, and opportunities for adventure. From the gold rush towns to the mountains, urban cities to redwood forests–and who can forget the beaches–there’s a lot of fun to be had!

Whether you’re a Sacramento local looking to take an exciting day trip or an out-of-state traveler planning out your California road trip, this list can certainly help you!

Now for this post, “day trip” is defined as a destination that is no further than 3 hours away from Sacramento. Any more than that and it might as well be considered an overnight stay.

Below are the 32 best day trips from Sacramento, California. The list is organized by distance from Sacramento, so if you have more time to spare, keep reading to the very end!

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32 Best Day Trips From Sacramento, California


Distance from Sacramento: 20 minutes

Davis CA - Best Day Trips From Sacramento CA
Courtesy of TripAdvisor

Less than a 30-minute drive from downtown Sacramento will bring you to Davis, CA. Davis is best known as a college town, built around the University of California, Davis. It’s a young and energetic town filled with many things to do!

Start your day trip with a visit to the Davis Farmer’s Market. Being one of the top tourist attractions of Davis, thousands of people flock to this market every week–do not miss it if you’re visiting on a Saturday. The tamales are a hit, as are the live musical performances by regional artists and bands.

From there, head to the UC Davis Arboretum, a 100-acre arboretum renowned for its picturesque manicured gardens. If you’re looking for more gardens even after that, check out Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, an outdoor museum that aims to conserve bees by growing plants that support them.

Another unique attraction in Davis is the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame, featuring a collection of vintage bicycles, photos, trophies, medals, and other memorabilia from biking history.

Traveling with kids? Make a stop at the Explorit Science Center, where kids can learn about the human body, solar system, animals, geography, and more while solving puzzles and performing fun experiments!

Lastly, don’t miss Downtown Davis, a delightful 32-block shopping, dining, and entertainment destination in the heart of the university town. There’s a lot to explore here, including 70 restaurants and cafes, 13 movie theaters, a few art galleries, hotels, and more.


Distance from Sacramento: 40 minutes

Winters CA - Best Day Trips From Sacramento CA
Courtesy of TripAdvisor

Winters, CA is a small but charming agriculture-centric town located just a 30-40-minute drive from Sacramento. Here, things slow down quite a bit–you’ll get to breathe in the fresh country air as you discover local farm flavors and enjoy refreshing countryside experiences.

The town’s streets are lined with majestic trees, Victorian homes, and beautiful parks that seem to always be populated with local families enjoying their day out.

Farm-to-fork culture runs deep here, so don’t miss the chance to try a few of the restaurants throughout Winters. From there, spend some time shopping at the unique stores, wine tasting and beer tasting, and just strolling around the picturesque Historic District (be sure to check out the opera house overlooking Main Street).

If you’d like to extend your day with some outdoor activities, you can visit the Monticello Dam, hike Stebbins Canyon Natural Reserve, or go kayaking or fishing at the nearby Putah Creek and Lake Berryessa.

Want to get some retail therapy after that? The Vacaville Premium Outlets are only a 15-min drive away.


Distance from Sacramento: 40 minutes

Lodi CA - Best Day Trips From Sacramento CA
Courtesy of TripAdvisor

If wine tasting or being outdoors is your thing, you cannot miss a visit to Lodi, CA. While Lodi was once the watermelon capital of the world, today, vineyards rule this region.

These days, Lodi is like a mini Napa Valley with its 85+ wineries— except better because it’s way less expensive and also less crowded. This up-and-coming wine area hosts lots of family-owned vineyards, so you’ll definitely have a wide variety of winery/tasting room options to choose from.

Looking for non-wine activities? With your time there, you could do a self-guided Walldogs Mural Tour, rent bikes and follow one of the bike routes in the area, or stroll around to take in all the art at various local galleries.

Lodi is also full of unique independent stores and gift shops, perfect for wandering in and out off all day!

You could also choose to spend the first part of your day outdoors! Lodi Lake Park is known for its beautiful picnic area as well as kayaking. You can also paddle or kayak the Mokelumne River.

If hiking is more your thing, take a hike around the Lodi Lake Wilderness Area. And for the disc golfers, there’s a great disc golf course at Micke Grove Disc Golf Course.

And for the kids? Look no further than the World of Wonders Science Museum, an educational hands-on science museum located in historic downtown Lodi.

If you’re traveling in the summertime, don’t miss A&W in Lodi, a free event featuring lots of vintage cars and sipping on root beer! A&W in Lodi takes place every Thursday of the summer. For another fun event, head to Lodi on the first Sunday of May and October, when the biannual Lodi Street Faire takes place.

To extend your trip with a healthy dose of history, take a 30-minute drive Northwest to Locke Historic District, a historic town known as the only town in the USA built by Chinese for Chinese. Even today, this National Historic Landmark maintains its charm and authenticity.


Distance from Sacramento: 45 minutes

Apple Hill CA - Best Day Trips From Sacramento California

The Apple Hill area is a whole lot of fun. Being just 45 minutes away from Sacramento, it’s a very easy day trip that will get you out and back in under half a day if you’re limited on time!

Apple Hill features berry farms, u-pick apple ranches, and kid-friendly activities. And not only can you pick apples, but you can also treat your belly to apple cider donuts or pies and go wine tasting as well. Enjoy fruit picking during the summer season and pumpkin patches during the fall season.

If you can swing by on a Friday, it’ll be much less crowded than a visit on the weekend.


Distance from Sacramento: 55 minutes

If you didn’t know this already, Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park is one of the most significant historic sites in the United States today.

Why? Because back in 1848, this man named James W. Marshall discovered gold, in a valley on the South Fork of the American River. This event led to the greatest mass movement of people in the Western Hemisphere and was the spark of the Gold Rush boom. This is that gold discovery site!

During your day trip here, you’ll be able to see a replica of the original sawmill and over 20 historic buildings including a mining exhibit, Chinese store exhibits, and schoolhouse exhibit.

Twice a day visitors can take the Gold Discovery Tour, where you’ll hear stories and visit the sites of the Coloma Valley before the discovery of gold by James Marshall. Learn about the events leading up to the discovery, the history of the California Gold Rush, and the town of Coloma.

Visitors also have the opportunity to pan for gold in the American River and enjoy hikes around the area. You can even pack a picnic and enjoy your meal at the picnicking area under the riparian oak woodlands.

Throughout the year, visitors can also participate in special events, exhibits, and Live History Days.


Distance from Sacramento: 1 hour

Nevada City, CA - Lake Tahoe Road Trip From SF - TravelsWithElle

Down to visit an old-timey, historic town near Sacramento? You’re in luck because Nevada City is a whole lot of fun and just an hour away!

Founded in 1849, Nevada City quickly became a successful mining camp. While those days are long gone, the town today contains many charming structures and buildings that were constructed after a fire in 1863 destroyed the business district.

Some notable things to do in Nevada City include checking out the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum, doing a wine tasting at a nearby winery, and strolling through some of the art galleries in town.

If the downtown area wasn’t enough and you want to get more of a feel for life in the 1870s, take a driving tour to view some of the best-preserved homes in the Gold Country! You will see tons of towering Victorians built for mine owners and lumber barons. A good place to start is around East Broad and Broad (past downtown). Then head to Nevada and Boulder Streets. Don’t forget the side streets!

Film buffs need to check out the summer Nevada City Film Festival or the winter Wild & Scenic Film Festival. There’s also the Sunday night film series at the Nevada Theatre and Movies Under The Pines at Pioneer Park.

Nevada City Historic Downtown

One of our favorite things to do in Nevada City? Simply walking around downtown! There’s something to see or experience at every turn, from various shops to wineries, and museums to art galleries. We particularly enjoy all the lifestyle shops, tea shops, and vintage shops.

Read More: 16 Unmissable Things To Do In Nevada City, California


Distance from Sacramento: 1 hour

Empire Mine State Historic Park - Best Things To Do In Grass Valley CA

Empire Mine State Historic Park is one of the oldest and richest hard rock gold mines in California. Being Gold Country’s best-preserved gold-quartz-mining operation, Empire Mine is totally worth a day of exploration!

Operating from 1850 to 1956, it produced billions of dollars in gold by today’s standards. To say the least, there’s a lot of important mining history to learn here.

During a day trip to Empire Mine State Historic Park, visitors will find restored buildings, lushly landscaped areas, a Cotswold-style cottage, exhibits, an illuminated mine shaft, and a blacksmith shop.

Start at the visitor center, where you can pick up maps or join a guided tour. It also houses an intricate scale model of the Empire-Star Mine from 1938, detailing all the tunnels and connections of the place.


Distance from Sacramento: 1 hour

Grass Valley CA - Lake Tahoe Road Trip From SF - TravelsWithElle

Grass Valley used to be another thriving gold mining town. Mining for free gold in creeks and gravel was the norm here, until 1850 when gold was discovered in quartz. In a matter of a few months, the town’s growth exploded from just 20 cabins to 150 buildings!

The downtown that you see today isn’t all just historical and mining-related. A stroll down Main Street is a grand old time! You’ll find so many vintage shops and antique shops, as well as modern fashion boutiques and home decor stores. Don’t miss The Shops at the Nevada County Bank.

While you’re here, don’t miss Lazy Dog Chololateria, an adorable old-fashioned candy shop. Whenever we road trip, we always have this need to buy sour belts, so we were happy to have discovered this place!

Sadly, we were too preoccupied with all the cafes, hobby shops, fashion boutiques, thrift stores (Hospice Gift Thrift Store and Cancer Aid Thrift Store were great) and vintage shops (Sunchild’s Parlor) that we didn’t have the time to do some of the larger attractions Grass Valley has to offer!


Distance from Sacramento: 1 hour 20 minutes

If you’re looking for something to do on a pleasant sunny day, consider a day outdoors at the South Yuba River State Park. This state park has a little something for everyone.

South Yuba River State Park covers nearly 20 miles from Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park to the banks of the Yuba River. Visitors can enjoy a wide array of outdoor activities including gold panning, swimming, mountain biking, bird-watching, and exploring the trails leading to historic mining sites.

During the springtime, the park is known for its gorgeous wildflowers as well as the swift-moving water carving the canyon. During the late summer, you absolutely cannot miss a dip in one (or a few) of the refreshing swimming holes that dot the 20-mile length of the Yuba River.

South Yuba River State Park is open from sunrise to sunset. Parking is $5.


Distance from Sacramento: 1 hour

About 1 hour away from Sacramento sits Sutter Creek, a gold rush town ideally situated in the heart of the Sierra Foothill Wine Country. You know what that means–you can take a break from your day of exploration with some wine tasting!

Sutter Creek is pure enjoyment to walk around, with its many picturesque B&Bs, restaurants, and shops all along the main street. You can also catch some live music at the Sutter Creek Theater!

For history buffs, you can take a fascinating tour of one of the most famous mines of the Mother Lode, the historic Kennedy Gold Mine. For a tour around town, this walking map will guide you around the town streets to make sure you hit all the main historical attractions.

Sutter Creek is the perfect hub to explore the Sierra Foothill Wine regions (Amador Valley’s Shenandoah Valley, El Dorado County’s Fairplay region and Calaveras County’s wine region). Seriously, if you love wine just as much as Gold Rush towns, or aren’t interested in Gold Rush towns at all, you can distract yourself with a whole day of wine tasting.


Distance from Sacramento: 1.5 to 2 hours

Truckee CA - Best Day Trips From Sacramento CA
Courtesy of Truckee.com

Truckee, named after the nearby river, is a cute little mountain town known as the gateway to the Sierra Nevada. The town, located just 2 hours away from Sac, packs a ton of history regarding the Donner Party.

Truckee makes a great base for year-round outdoor activities–think cozy cabins and epic hiking trails! With the Truckee River flowing in the warmer season and the snowcapped mountains in view in the colder season, this historic town is worth visiting at least once in your life.

Donner Lake is a great place to ski and snowshoe in the wintertime. It’s also a great place to camp, picnic, fish, and hike in the spring and summertime! Just a five-minute drive from Truckee sits Donner Memorial State Park, a National Historic Landmark (where the members of the tragic Donner Party set up camp in the winter of 1846-1847).

After you get your fill of nature and history, it’s time to head to Old Town! This place is probably super cool to wander around–while enjoying the shops and art galleries, you might even hear a few trains whistling in the background. We recommend grabbing lunch at Morgan’s Lobster Shack.

Got more time to spare? For those of you looking to fit a hike in, head to Johnson Canyon, where portions of the area provide incredible views of Donner Lake as well as an array of colorful wildflowers.

Rather hit the water in the summertime? Look no further than the Truckee River, a popular rafting and tubing area during high water.


Distance from Sacramento: 1.5 hours

Sausalito CA - Best Day Trips From Sacramento CA

Sausalito is just a hop and a skip away from San Francisco, CA, yet it feels nothing like SF. In a nutshell, Sausalito is a beautiful seaside Mediterranean-style town (it actually does slightly remind us of Italy)!

People usually come here to kayak around the bay or bike along the shores. If you’re not into kayaking, you can easily be entertained simply by walking around the downtown area and enjoying the relaxed, slow-paced atmosphere.

After exploring the more bustling part of town, spend some time sitting by the rocks and enjoy the sailboats gliding by in the distance. Follow up your adventures with a hearty meal at one of the wonderful seafood restaurants in town!

And after your meal, there’s only one ice cream stop worth considering–Lappert’s!

Sausalito - Best Things To Do In San Francisco CA - Travels With Elle

If you’re looking to extend your day trip, take the quick drive over to Battery Spencer, the best lookout of the Golden Gate Bridge, and then stop by Marin Headlands if you’d like to get a relaxing coastal hike in.

Looking to visit both Sausalito and Muir Woods in one go? Check out this combo tour, combining both iconic areas into one exciting day trip.


Distance from Sacramento: 1.5 hours

Golden Gate Bridge - Free Things to Do in San Francisco

SF really needs no introduction. If you like nature, stunning architecture, shopping, museums, marine animals, and/or exceptional food in a bustling city with a laidback vibe, San Francisco is a must.

If you only have a few hours to a day to explore, get some good food and see some iconic spots like Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39, and The Golden Gate Bridge.

If you have a weekend to spare, you can slow down a bit and really get to know some of our iconic neighborhoods such as The Mission DistrictHaight-Ashbury District, or North Beach / Chinatown. 

Plan for a visit to the ferry building (houses a bunch of artisan shops and restaurants, as well as an awesome farmer’s market on Saturday mornings), a trip to Alcatraz or a sunset bay cruise, and a visit to Golden Gate Park and Sutro Baths.

Looking for more family-friendly activities? Consider the San Francisco Zoo, Aquarium of the Bay, Exploratorium, Walt Disney Family Museum, or the Cal Academy of Sciences.

No matter what you decide to do here, you’re sure to have a wonderful time. Just be sure to bring layers and prepare for some unpredictable wind and fog!

Read More: 55+ Free and Affordable Things To Do In San Francisco, California


Distance from Sacramento: 2 hours

Point Reyes Tomales Bay CA

Point Reyes, CA is the perfect spot to take a day trip from Sacramento, especially if you’re traveling with people who love coastal views, animals, or the outdoors in general!

Hiking, horseback riding, kayaking, and clamming are just some of the activities that attract local day-trippers, as well as checking out restaurants and browsing bookstores in the sleepy town center.

Start your day trip to Point Reyes National Seashore at Point Reyes Lighthouse, perched on the western headlands. If you want to get up close and personal, climb down a few hundred steps to check it out, then climb right back up.

Next, catch a glimpse of the many California elephant seals over the sea cliffs literally anywhere along the seashore. Want to see herds of elk in their natural habitat? Take a hike to the Tule Elk Reserve beginning at the Tomales Point Trailhead.

In the summer to early fall, you can catch the Point Reyes Farmers’ Market, running on Saturdays from 9 am to 1 pm at Toby’s Feed Barn. It’s not the largest farmer’s market in the Bay Area, but it sure is a great opportunity to check out the local artisans, dairy farm products (cheeses and butters), and bakeries.

Read More: Point Reyes Day Trip Itinerary: The Perfect Weekend Adventure


Distance from Sacramento: 2 hours

bodega bay california

Bodega Bay is another coastal destination jam-packed with hiking and biking trails that offer those stunning Pacific Coast views.

It’s also one of the West Coast’s premier whale-watching spots. The whales can be spotted almost all year long, but the best chances will be during primary migrations (October through April). Interested in horseback riding? Well, this activity is a no-brainer, as the coastal views of Bodega Bay make for a wonderful backdrop!

Bodega Bay and the surrounding area is also a foodie’s paradise, so come with an appetite! Fresh oysters and seafood are not to be missed here. Make sure to stop at Bodega Bay Oyster Company on your way in/out of town to try some of the freshest oysters in the area.

If you’re not looking for anything fancy (or fishy), check out Drakes Sonoma Coast Kitchen for breakfast, or head to Spud Point Crab Company for their famous crab chowder.


Distance from Sacramento: 2 to 2.5 hours

Guerneville California

Situated in Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley lies a little town named Guerneville. Guerneville is a rustic and quirky town, popular for summer weekend getaways and river activities. It’s had a long history; due to its proximity to San Francisco and easy railway access, the Russian River Valley (where Guerneville is situated) became a popular vacation spot in the 1920’s. This laidback area has been entertaining local vacationers since!

One of the best things about Guerneville is that it’s far quieter and more rugged than Healdsburg, Sonoma or Napa nearby. This makes it the perfect spot to enjoy the outdoors and truly unplug from the rest of the world!

Case in point: Johnson’s Beach, the popular beach that grants you access to float in the Russian River! Johnson’s Beach not only features the beach but also has a snack bar and watercraft rental service.

After your river float, head to Main Street, dotted with a variety of trendy coffee shops, boutiques, art galleries, dive bars, and diners. Don’t miss Guerneville 5 & 10, where you’ll find old-fashioned candy, vintage toys, and other fun gifts. If you’re into vintage and thrift finds, take the opportunity to peek into the various secondhand shops in town.

For lunch, we recommend boon eat+ drink (a cozy little spot offering California comfort foods with seasonal ingredients) or Brot (a modern german concept serving delicious classics in a warm Bavarian atmosphere). Looking for something significantly more filling? Order the prime rib at Main Street Bistro & Caberet–where you come for the prime rib and stay for the live music!

Follow up your meal with a quick visit to Guerneville Bank Club, a collective retail and art gallery space featuring art shows, handcrafted pies, homemade ice cream, and curated goods. Experience Chile Pies Baking CompanyNimble & Finn’s handmade ice cream, and the Russian River Historical Society all under one roof.

If you did want to stay the night, we’ve got a really fun recommendation for you! See if you can snag a night or two at Autocamp, hosting a stylish and fun collection of hipster Airstream trailers and glamping tents.


Distance from Sacramento: 2 hours

Winchester Mystery House -- Best Things To Do In South Bay San Francisco

If you’re done with the San Francisco scene, why not venture a little further to the South Bay Area? One region of the Bay Area that’s often overlooked is San Jose, CA in the South Bay. Ever heard of Silicon Valley? Yeah, this iconic region sits right here in California’s South Bay!

Down here, there’s a whole world of premier shopping, live music, tech museums, unmissable bars/restaurants, children’s parks, and other fun things to do in the South Bay. Due to its proximity to Sac, you can explore San Jose without even needing to book an overnight stay.

While you’re here, check out some tech-related museums such as The Tech Interactive, IBM Museum, or Computer History Museum. For some more fun, explore the Winchester Mystery House. Finally, wind down your day with some good eats at San Pedro Square Market before making the drive back to Sacramento!

Looking for the best things to do in the South Bay? Check out our dedicated South Bay post here.


Distance from Sacramento: 2 to 2.5 hours

Roaring Camp Steam Train - Felton, CA - Travels With Elle

Santa Cruz, California is no doubt one of the best beach/surf towns in the USA. If you’re coming from Sacramento, you will feel a world away here!

With fresh coastal air, Mediterranean-like weather, and a killer surf culture, Santa Cruz equates to a wonderful day trip or even a weekend trip. Kids and adults alike will love Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, one of the best old-school amusement parks. It just oozes nostalgia!

The city of Santa Cruz is not only home to the boardwalk, but it’s also the epitome of laidback vibes, featuring surf, redwood forests, mountains, and all-around happy outdoor culture. In fact, one of the coolest outdoor things to do is to ride the Roaring Camp steam train through the towering redwoods.

When you’re on the beachier side of Santa Cruz, you need to hit the beach at least once. The two most popular (and busiest) beaches in Santa Cruz are Main Beach and Cowell Beach. You might even embrace the surf culture and consider taking a surf lesson!

From there, head on over to a more hip part of town, downtown Santa Cruz. This is Pacific Avenue to be exact, and here you will find a variety of vintage shops as well as modern apparel and gift stores, eateries, bars, and coffee shops.

For nature lovers, the surrounding parks near Santa Cruz has got some good stuff for you! The best hiking trails in Santa Cruz can be found at Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Last but not least, stop by Natural Bridges State Beach to have a lunch picnic or watch the sun go down behind the iconic rock formation here.

With so many terrains to explore all in one place, it’s no wonder there are so many cool things to do in Santa Cruz. Discover the 30+ best things to do in Santa Cruz in this post!


Distance from Sacramento: 2 to 2.5 hours

Capitola, CA - San Francisco To Santa Cruz Road Trip - TravelswithElle

As the West Coast’s oldest beach resort, Capitola, CA sure is worth a visit. Especially if you’ve already committed to visiting Santa Cruz. This little resort town located just minutes from Santa Cruz offers a wide variety of trendy beachfront stores, restaurants, and museums.

Aside from taking selfies with the colorful houses and enjoying the warm sand and sun at Capitola Beach, take some time to stroll through Capitola Village. Be sure to enjoy the ambiance, stop at a few bars/eateries, and peruse the adorable shops.

Planning a visit in the summer? Be sure to check the city’s event calendar! During the summer months, a variety of special events are hosted at the beach, including free family movies, art shows, and a twilight concert series.


Distance from Sacramento: 3 hours

Cannery Row - 32+ Exciting Things To Do In Monterey CA - TravelsWithElle

If you’re looking for a more family-friendly day trip from Sacramento, you really can’t get more family-friendly than Monterey, CA. And while Monterey is great for families, it’s also great for couples! This seaside town may look sleepy, but that might just be due to the overcast skies that frequent the area. Don’t fret because they’re actually a lot to do here!

Travelers of all ages will love what Monterey has to offer, from the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium to the ample tidepooling opportunities.

Highlights include the Monterey Bay Aquarium (often considered as one of the best aquariums in the world), Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, and Old Fisherman’s Wharf. If you are yearning for that quintessential scenic drive, the 17-Mile-Drive has got you covered on epic coastal views. Don’t miss iconic spots like Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove, boasting some of the best coastal views in the area.

While in Monterey, you definitely cannot miss walking down Cannery Row, the setting of two John Steinbeck novels. Here, you’ll notice many warehouses that used to be sardine canneries now serve as home to popular restaurants, shops, and hotels.

Whether it’s just the town of Monterey you plan to see, or the entire Monterey Peninsula, get ready for a jam-packed itinerary of fun, food, and flora, and fauna. This is truly an ideal California destination perfect for all types of travelers.


Distance from Sacramento: 3 hours

Carmel By The Sea - Travels With Elle

Carmel will be one of the cutest little towns you’ll ever lay eyes on–it’s a quaint and romantic seaside village with a great selection of shops, galleries, cafes, wine bars, and restaurants. You will not be able to resist the charm that the town of Carmel carries, evident the minute you step out of your car.

To start, I’d highly recommend slowing down to explore the hidden courtyards and passageways in this picturesque village!

With it being just 3 hours away from Sacramento, you will feel worlds away. Take advantage of the wine tasting opportunities by spending a night or two here.

For wine, check out Talbott Vineyards in Carmel or Folktale Winery in Carmel Valley. For food, explore the culinary delights of the area on this food and wine walking tour. With a knowledgeable foodie guide, you’ll learn about the history and gourmet culture of Carmel as you visit local eateries to sample regional favorites as well as ethnic dishes.

This romantic getaway destination is a great place for adults to unwind and relax.


Distance from Sacramento: 2 hours

Half Moon Bay CA - San Francisco To Santa Cruz Road Trip

The quaint little seaside town of Half Moon Bay, CA may sit only a few miles from San Francisco, yet has a completely different feel from what the big city offers. Once you get past the winding two-lane road, you’ll be greeted by a variety of nurseries, charming shops, restaurants, world-class golf courses, and quaint bed-and-breakfasts.

When in HMB, you can’t ignore the pristine beaches. The Half Moon Bay coastline is made up of multiple state beaches, including Surfers’ Beach, Dunes Beach, Venice Beach, and Francis Beach. Perfect for sunbathing, picnicking, frolicking, or building sandcastles!

For dining and shopping, Main Street is where it’s at. Take a few moments to browse through all the local gift shops, clothing boutiques, bookstores, and home decor shops.

Then, it’s time to eat! Get in line for Barbara’s Fishtrap (serving up the freshest fish in the area) or Sam’s Chowder House (known for their lobster rolls and creamy clam chowder). For another great meal, head to Pasta Moon Ristorante, serving up delicious Italian fare.

If you’re traveling with younger children, Lemos Farm in Half Moon Bay, CA is a popular attraction that families can’t miss. Lemos Farm is a family-run farm featuring resident pigs, goats, sheep, and bunnies, which kids can meet and greet in the petting zoo. There are also little ponies here, serving up fun pony rides to small children.

Pro Tip: Got more time? Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in Moss Beach, CA is an epic, local-favorite spot to go tide pooling!


Distance from Sacramento: 1 to 1.5 hours

Bistro Jeanty Yountville - Best Things To Do In Napa Valley Besides Wine - Travels With Elle

It’s no secret that Napa Valley is a world-class destination for wine. If you’re in the mood for a more sophisticated day trip filled with fine wine and even finer dining, Napa is a great option.

Despite the fact that Napa Valley is a world-class wine region, there are actually a ton of other things to do here other than wine taste. The sunny weather, relaxed atmosphere, foodie culture, and extremely friendly people are what keeps families and non-drinkers coming back year after year.

From mud baths to geysers, epic bike rides to Michelin-star dining, Napa sure can be a lot of fun. To see Napa Valley from a different perspective, you can even hop onto horseback, hop on a wine train, or hop aboard a hot air balloon!

Check out our Napa Valley travel guide to discover all that Napa Valley has to offer!


Distance from Sacramento: 1 to 1.5 hours

Wine Tasting Viansa Winery - Things To Do In Sonoma, CA - Travels With Elle

Sonoma, Napa’s more laid-back little sister, is a treat to explore. The best part is that it’s really only 1 hour away from Sacramento, making it a super quick and convenient day trip.

Sonoma County is home to 60,000 acres of vineyards and more than 400 wineries, spread over 18 distinct wine regions all catering to different tastes.

Spend a few hours exploring the different wineries near Sonoma, including the picturesque Viansa Winery (pictured above and below), Robledo Family Winery, and Roche Winery & Vineyards. There are obviously hundreds of other wineries worth checking out, but these are some of our top recommendations.

The historic Sonoma Plaza offers a postcard-perfect start to your adventures. It’s a pedestrian paradise, so park your car and get to exploring!

There are so many local boutiques, tasting rooms, hotels, bars, restaurants, home decor shops, olive oil shops, and more dotted along the square. Our favorite stores include Figone’s Olive Oil, Sign of the Bear, Chateau Sonoma, and The Corner Store.

For an unmissable lunch/dinner spot, look no further than El Molino Central, the best restaurant for Mexican food. If you’re stuck on what to order, get the chicken mole tamales, pork tamales, the chile relleno plate, or the fish tacos. Better yet, get all of it.

Read More: 27+ Unforgettable Things To Do In Sonoma County, California


Distance from Sacramento: 1.5 to 2 hours

Giraffes - Safari West Review - Is Safari West Worth The Money - TravelsWithElle

Surrounded by various state parks and wineries, Santa Rosa attracts both nature lovers and wine lovers. The diverse culture and local cuisine also attracts art/history lovers as well as foodies.

Start with downtown Santa Rosa where you’ll find lots of coffee shops, restaurants, and breweries. This area is also a hotspot for antique, thrift, and vintage shoppers. In fact, popping into the various secondhand shops ended up being one of our favorite things to do in Santa Rosa!

While you’re here, pay attention to the Historic Railroad Square, located in the heart of downtown Santa Rosa. The square is home to various restaurants, shops, hotels, as well as the West End Farmer’s Market.

Santa Rosa is also home to Safari West, a 400-acre wildlife reservation where visitors can actually experience a slice of Africa without the steep safari tour prices or a plane ticket! In my opinion, this is the best-kept secret of Sonoma County!


Distance from Sacramento: 2 hours

Healdsburg, CA - Travels With Elle

From Sacramento, consider a chill drive over to Healdsburg, CA, a town offering a less touristy but equally memorable wine country experience.

Healdsburg is a small, charming town filled with modern amenities as well as an abundance of world-class wineries and farm-to-table restaurants. It’s the perfect base for exploring the countryside of lush valleys and redwood forests that surround Lake Sonoma and the Russian River.

It’s structured similarly to the city of Sonoma, with its historic downtown dotted with art galleries, tasting rooms, eateries ranging from super-casual to fine dining, boutiques, and kitschy antique shops.

For wine lovers, Healdsburg is surrounded by an array of great wineries within the Alexander Valley and Dry Creek Valley wine regions. If you’re looking for something more conveniently located in the city, check out the tasting rooms Banshee or La Crema.

To start your day off, stop in to Flying Goat Coffee in downtown Healdsburg for some of the best coffee in town. Hungry? Grab a table at the New Orleans-inspired breakfast spot, The New Parish, serving up beignets overloaded with powdered sugar…as they should be.

Other recommended options for eats include Chalkboard (small plates), Bravas (tapas), and Madrona Manor (for that special occasion fine dining meal).


Distance from Sacramento: 2 hours

Columbia State Historic Park - Travels With Elle

Just like Sac, Columbia is a Gold Rush town with fun remnants to explore. During the Gold Rush in the 1850s, Columbia grew to become the second-largest city in California behind San Francisco.

Lucky for us, unlike most mining towns that flourished in the era and then evolved into ghost towns, this one is still a fully functional town. It’s brimming with tons of fun, family-friendly things to do!

Columbia State Historic Park is the main landmark to visit here. Not only is admission to the park free, but there are also free guided tours led by docents dressed up in period costumes. There are also free booklets for you to lead your own self-guided tour of the town.

Upon laying your eyes on your surroundings, you’ll notice this town is living history. It hosts a collection of mid-19th-century buildings that now house restaurants, saloons, various shops (leather goods, candles, books), an ice cream parlor, and even a theater.

Of course, what would a historic western town be without a gold-panning shack and stagecoach rides? Yes, you can enjoy these activities at Columbia State Historic Park!

Columbia is located four miles north of Sonora, CA, so it’s a no-brainer to stop by after visiting Sonora. Read more about all the things you can do at Columbia State Historic Park.

Local Tip: Not many people know that you can also stay the night at one of the few historic hotels here. This could be really fun for kids who like being transported back in time!


Distance from Sacramento: 2 hours

A few miles southwest of Sonora and Columbia lies Jamestown, CA, another historic California gold rush town. Jamestown features a few blocks of historic buildings strung along their main street, which is now home to various shops, restaurants, and attractions. While you’re here, try your hand at gold panning at California Gold Company and Jamestown Gold Panning.

By far, the best attraction here is Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, which is the perfect place to spend a part of your day if you love trains and locomotives. At Railtown, you absolutely cannot miss Sierra No. 3, a circa 1891 steam locomotive that’s made appearances in big-time movies such as Back to the Future Part IIILittle House on the Prairie, and High Noon.

You can also Stroll along the local Walk of Fame, a walkway stretching between Rocca Park, downtown, and Railtown 1897, dotted with medallions featuring artists of many of the movies and TV shows filmed in the area. When you need an afternoon pick-me-up coffee or ice cream, make sure to stop by the half-coffeeshop, half-antique shop on the main street!

Read More: 11 Lively California Gold Rush Towns You Must Visit


Distance from Sacramento: 2 hours

Lake Tahoe Road Trip Stops - TravelsWithElle

South Lake Tahoe is a gorgeous place that you must see for yourself. It’s one of California’s most family-friendly destinations, and it’s only 2 hours away from Sacramento.

South Lake Tahoe has a lot of really great beaches, which is something a lot of other lakes lack. That means not only can you partake in a bunch of usual watersports, but you can even beach, picnic and sunbathe.

No matter the season, Lake Tahoe offers up a ton of fun. During the warmer seasons, you and your family/friends can get your fill of swimming, water sports, golfing, cycling, mountain biking, and hiking.

During the winter season, there’s snowshoeing, snowboarding, cross country skiing, and world-class downhill skiing.

All year round, visitors can enjoy several touristy, fun towns dotted all around the lake, perfect for exploring after a day of outdoor recreation. Check out our latest Lake Tahoe/Reno road trip from Sacramento. This itinerary is packed with many other fun stops as well!

30. RENO, NV

Distance from Sacramento: 2.5 to 3 hours

Reno and Lake Tahoe Road Trip - TravelsWithElle

Reno may look a little rough around the edges these days, but I assure you there are some really cool spots here if you’re willing to explore past its surface!

Midtown Reno is a neighborhood we recommend checking out–it sure has character and soul. This neighborhood, conveniently located between South Virginia Street and Holcomb Ave, features an eclectic range of businesses from one-of-a-kind restaurants to mom-and-pop shops. Some of Reno’s best-kept secrets are in Midtown!

While you’re here, be sure to grab a tiki drink or two at Rum Sugar Lime (RSL). They have such eclectic tropical drinks! Next door is Melting Pot World Emporium, Reno’s coolest counter-culture store since 1996.

Back towards the downtown area, be sure to grab dinner at Liberty Food and Wine Exchange followed by cocktail drinks at Blind Dog Tavern. Looking to grab a pint instead? Head to The Eddy, a super lively beer garden in downtown Reno.

And you definitely cannot leave the area without trying your luck at the midway games inside of Circus Circus! We won so many stuffed animals that we absolutely didn’t need or want (it’s a good thing we know of a toddler who would love our prizes).

And if you’re an outdoor lover like myself, you’ll be happy to know that there’s also a Patagonia Outlet here. For art lovers, The Nevada Museum of Art is a must (it’s the only accredited art museum not just in Reno, but in the whole state).


Distance from Sacramento: 3 to 3.5 hours

Lassen Volcanic National Park - TravelsWithElle

Lassen Volcanic National Park is one of California’s lesser-known national parks, due mainly to its obscure location in Northern California, but it is also one of its most fascinating!

Lassen belongs to the Cascade Mountain Range and is considered one of the largest plug dome volcanoes in the world, last erupting in 1921.

Despite its name, Lassen doesn’t only feature bubbling pits of lava and volcanos—it has some awesome water attractions, too. This park has everything from volcanic summits to geothermal areas and stellar waterfalls.

It is a must-visit when passing through this part of California, especially if you happen to be driving by during the warmer season where everything is still accessible (June/July to October).

While Lassen is open year-round, 24 hours a day, many facilities are only open for the summer season and road access is limited in the winter months. Notable landmarks worth stopping by here are Bumpass Hell (3-4 mile roundtrip hike), Kings Creek Falls (2.4-mile roundtrip hike), and Sulphur Works.


Distance from Sacramento: 3.5 hours

Things To See At Yosemite - Travels With Elle

Alright, Yosemite is a bit further away than 3 hours, but we had to add it to this list because of how epic this place is!

California is so lucky to be the home of this iconic National Park. You’ve probably already heard of Yosemite, known for its majestic rushing waterfalls, giant sequoia trees, and granite cliffs more massive than one could imagine. This is a very family-friendly park, with tons of activities to do, including hiking, rock-climbing, biking, and swimming.

Yosemite holds many natural wonders such as Yosemite Falls, Vernal Fall, Half Dome, and El Capitan. Here, you can take a hike among ancient sequoia trees, ride bikes with incredible rock formations as your backdrop, soak in the Merced River, and even catch glimpses of baby bear cubs.

I’ve been going to Yosemite since I was a kid myself and to this day I keep going back, so I know you are going to have a wonderful time here. Check out our 1-day Yosemite National Park itinerary here!

What are some of your favorite day trips from Sacramento, CA? If it’s missing from this list, drop it in the comments section–we’d love to know about it!

Looking for more Northern California travel tips? Read More:

15 Best Things To Do In Old Town Sacramento, California

45 Must-Have Road Trip Essentials For Your Next Road Trip

10 Best California Road Trips Ideas From San Francisco and Los Angeles

21 Best Family Vacations In California

17 Best Hot Springs In Northern California For Soaking and Relaxation

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Elle Leung

My name is Elle and I'm a travel blogger and adventurer based in California. I love helping people plan trips and create unique itineraries based on their interests and their budgets. I'm a huge fan of outdoor adventures and doing off-the-beaten-path things in my state (and all around the world too)!

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