Day trips from San Jose take visitors through the valley and beyond into San Francisco’s Bay Area and Marin County to the North, or south along the Pacific Coast. Enjoy the wine growing regions of Napa and Livermore, breathtaking beach and mountain landscapes, the contemporary bustle of San Francisco, or smaller rural towns such as Gilroy, the Garlic Capitol of the World.
1. Half Moon Bay
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California’s Half Moon Bay is a destination for those who love nature and the outdoors.
Located in San Mateo County, the town offers great accommodations and miles of coastal frontage and sandy beaches surrounded by countryside and redwood forests.
Enjoy hiking and wildlife viewing along the beach, or on the trails through open spaces, ranch lands, and wetlands. Visit Miramar Beach for swimming or sunbathing, and head north to Surfer’s Beach for the surf.
Shop the historic Main Street or the Pillar Point Harbor Shops. Enjoy chowder overlooking the ocean at Sam’s Chowder House, or find fresh seafood at any local eatery. Things to Do in Half Moon Bay
Half Moon Bay, CA 94019
Alameda is a city on Alameda Island, located just south of Oakland in the San Francisco Bay. The town offers restaurants, shopping and an extensive parks system with plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation.
Museums include the USS Hornet Sea, Air and Space Museum, which is located on a retired aircraft carrier. The Pacific Pinball Museum inspires interest in science and American culture through games.
Visit Spirit’s Alley, once a Naval Air Station and now home to several tasting rooms and artisan distilleries.
The island’s Crown Memorial Beach has been rated among the best spots in the United States for kite boarding and windsurfing. Take a lesson, or enjoy watching. More things to do in Alameda
3. Ano Nuevo State Park
California’s Ano Nuevo State Park is a wildlife sanctuary where over 10,000 elephant seals return to breed and raise their young each December through March. California sea lions, otters, terns, cormorants and coyotes are among the animals that make the park their home. Those who wish to view the elephant seals in their natural habitat should be prepared to hike up to four miles across varied terrain, as driving to their breeding site is not possible. Learn more about the park’s history, migratory and permanent residents at the on-site Marine Education Center, located inside a historic dairy ranch from the 1800’s. Nearby are the remains of a 19th century lighthouse and keeper’s headquarters.
1 New Years Creek Rd, Pescadero, CA 94060, Phone: 650-879-2025
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4. Day Trips from San Jose: Berkeley
Berkeley, California is a destination for visitors from all over the world who come to enjoy the restaurants, shopping, culture and of the small town near San Francisco’s bay. UC Berkeley is the world’s top public university. Known as Berkeley’s “central park,” the campus was designed in part by famed landscape architect Frederick Olmstead. The 178-acre campus spans Redwood Forests, connects downtown Berkeley to several other districts, and offers historic architecture. Visit the University’s Botanical Garden, a 34-acre oasis. More than 100 arts organizations include the Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive and the Aurora Theatre Company. Enjoy the best food and wine along Fourth Street. (website link)
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5. Day Trips from San Jose, CA: Bodega Bay
California’s Bodega Bay is a small town on the coast of Sonoma County. Here you’ll find locally owned boutiques, farm-to-table restaurants and a lively artist’s community alongside commercial fisheries. Take a barefoot walk along one of the area’s many picturesque beaches. Participate in a cruise of the bay to get up close and personal to the resident harbor seals. Enjoy some local chowder at a casual seaside luncheonette, or opt for a Michelin rated meal. Local shops and galleries offer handmade goods and locally sourced souvenirs. The bay is a popular port for area fishing, sailing and kayak tours.
Bodega Bay, CA 94923
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6. Bodega Dunes
Bodega Bay’s Bodega Dunes beach is located within the Sonoma Coast State Park. The quiet, vast beach is buffered by coastal dunes and is the perfect beach-combing destination. Take a long walk to the remote Mussels Point or head north to the South Salmon Creek Beach. Enjoy the many trails throughout the dunes, some of which are open to horseback riding. Facilities include a day use parking lot, overnight campground, restrooms, BBQs and picnic tables. From the parking lot, an accessible boardwalk leads to a viewing platform over the ocean. The dunes are a refuge for the Western Snowy Plover, listed as federally threatened due to loss of habitat.
3095 California 1, Bodega Bay, CA 94923, Phone: 707-875-3483, (website link)
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Santa Cruz’s Capitola Village is a quaint seaside town that began as a 19th century tent camp on the shores of Monterey Bay. California’s first beach resort, Camp Capitola was founded in the 1870’s. And while the original wood framed Hotel Capitola burned down in 1929, the charm of the seaside enclave remains. Visit the Capitola Historical Museum to learn more about the area’s history. Enjoy dining at the ocean side Paradise Beach Grill overlooking the Soquel Creek. Shop the colorful seaside village and the beachfront boardwalk. For outdoor recreation, visit Capitola State Beach and enjoy the water, or watch the action from the sea wall decorated with handmade tiles painted by local residents.
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
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8. Carmel by the Sea
Carmel by the Sea is among the top destinations in California. The charming and walkable European-style village overlooking white sand beaches is located less than two hours south of San Jose. Founded in the 1700’s around the historic Carmel Mission, the town is now home to a vibrant artist’s community. Enjoy the visual or performing arts, shopping, dining, hiking or relaxing along the shores of California’s Monterey Peninsula. Pick up a map of local wine tasting rooms and restaurants at the Visitor’s Center. Walk or run the Scenic Bluff Path overlooking Carmel Beach, and visit the whaling museum at the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.
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9. Day Trips from San Jose, CA: Gilroy
Gilroy is affectionately referred to as the garlic capitol of the world. The California agricultural town is just 30 miles south of San Jose. In Gilroy’s historic downtown you’ll find shops that span the old and new, including antique shops, unique boutiques with local and handmade goods, and restaurants serving garlic-flavored favorites. Free concerts take place on Thursday nights. Self-guided walking tours explore Gilroy’s history, which is painted in mural form along the Historic Paseo between fifth and sixth streets. The Road to Garlic Map highlights everything garlic. The Gilroy Garlic Festival takes place each year the last weekend of July. Things to Do in Gilroy
10. Jack London State Historic Park
Jack London was a writer, public speaker and rugged individualist who became an icon of the California dream in the early 1900’s. At the Jack London State Historic Park visitors explore his legacy through tours of historic sites, hiking, horseback riding or cycling, wildlife and bird watching and relaxing immersion in nature. Historic structures within the park include the ruins of London’s Wolf House, which burned down in 1913, London’s cottage, ranch, a small lake he created with a stone dam and his gravesite. Outdoor adventures include hiking historic and backcountry trails. Docent led tours take place on weekends.
2400 London Ranch Rd, Glen Ellen, CA 95442, Phone: 707-938-5216, (website link)
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Jenner is a coastal California city located at the junction of the Russian River and Pacific Ocean. The small town has a year round population of under 200 and offers locally-owned restaurants, businesses and lodging tucked away along a 20-mile stretch of coastline. Explore the rural community, its breathtaking views and wildlife from the ocean by renting a kayak during seal pupping season or taking a guided eco tour. View migrating whales and birds from the wild bluffs overlooking the sea, or hike high up into the hills along the historic Pomo Canyon Trail. The Jenner Visitor’s Center, located in a repurposed boathouse, offers an overview of the area’s natural and cultural history.
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12. Day Trips from San Jose, CA: Livermore
Livermore Valley is a picturesque wine growing region just east of the San Francisco Bay area and one third of the tri-valley region alongside Pleasanton and Dublin. Over 50 local wineries make up this historic valley, which is among the earliest to grow wine grapes in California. Take a guided wine tasting tour through the rural countryside to stop at lush gardens and contemporary tasting rooms. A 27-mile self-guided cycling tour stops at several tasting rooms as it winds through the rural valley. The family-friendly town offers frequent summer festivals, a weekly farmer’s market and the popular Livermore Rodeo, held every June. Things to Do in Livermore.
13. Mission San Juan Bautista
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The 18th century Mission San Juan Bautista was founded in 1797 and named in honor of Saint John the Baptist. The Spanish mission was the 15th to be established it what is now California. The mission has operated continuously since its founding, and still offers regular services to this day. The church is surrounded by a complex that includes a barracks, nunnery, and historic colonial adobe home. The unique church has three aisles rather than the traditional one. The three bell wall, or campanario, contains two of the original bells, which were salvaged in 2009. The third was destroyed in the San Francisco earthquake of 1909.
406 2nd St, San Juan Bautista, CA 95045, Phone: Phone: 831-623-2127, (website link)
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14. Day Trips for Couples: Monterey
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Monterey is a seaside town in Northern California. The naturally beautiful city has been a tourist destination since the 1700’s. The 20th century American author John Steinbeck and partner Ed Ricketts were frequent visitors, and made famous sights like Cannery Row and the Old Fisherman’s Wharf. Today, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is among the area’s biggest draws. The award winning aquarium is a leader in conservation and marine research, and has overtaken a former cannery with more than 35,000 creatures representing over 550 marine species. Enjoy a whale watch or sail on Monterey Bay, explore the area beaches, and enjoy the local food and wine.
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15. Day Trips from San Jose, CA: Muir Woods
Named for the “father of the National Parks,” John Muir, Muir Woods is a National Monument in California that has protected old growth redwoods since 1908. One of the last old growth forests in the world, it is the only one in the San Francisco Bay area. Activities within the forest include hiking along 6 miles of loop trails, or longer trails that extend into the adjacent Mount Tamalpais State Park. 15 minute ranger talks and guided one-hour tours are available as staffing allows. To protect the fragile ecosystem, there are limits on the number of daily guests and reservations are required.
1 Muir Woods Rd, Mill Valley, CA 94941, Phone: 415-561-2850
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16. Day Trips from San Jose, CA: Napa
California’s Napa Valley is legendary for its climate, which is ideal for growing wine grapes. The region is home to over 400 wineries, and wine tasting tours are foremost on the list of attractions. Downtown Napa is home to several taprooms and craft breweries, and some wineries now offer small-batch spirits. The historic downtown is where you’ll find art galleries, outdoor sculpture, shopping, and live music. Enjoy hiking and cycling trails, or experience the valley from high above in a hot air balloon. Annual events include autumn’s harvest season celebrations, winter’s Napa Truffle Festival, and several summer music festivals.
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Marin County’s Nicasio was once known as Rancho Nicasio, a 19th century Spanish land grant that spanned the region from San Geronimo to Tomales Bay. Today, Nicasio is marked by the four ridges and drainages of Nicasio Creek. The beautiful Nicasio Reservoir is among the area’s main attractions. The man-made body of water was created in 1961 via the Seeger Dam and spans close to 900 acres. It’s open to the public for fishing and hiking. Mostly still rural farmland, Nicasio is home to fewer than 900 people. A small main street offers a post office, general store, and St. Mary's Church, founded in 1867. The filmmaker George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch is located in Nicasio, perhaps the most significant non-agricultural business in the area.
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Pescadero is a small rural town in Northern California just 2 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Visitors go to enjoy the slow place, browse unique shops, and dine at locally owned restaurants. Duarte’s Tavern, open since 1934 offers a famous artichoke soup. Find locally grown artichokes and more at Norm’s Market, serving locally grown produce, meats and specialty breads. Homemade pies, farm-fresh eggs and local fruits and vegetables are also available at the Roadside Barn and Foodstand. For entertainment, visit the Pescadero Country Store to enjoy live music on the weekends. (website link)
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19. Day Trip Near Me: Pinnacles
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California’s Pinnacles National Park preserves volcanic geological formations that date back over 23 million years. The unique landscape offers canyon bottoms, chaparral, and oak woodlands. The hiker’s paradise is a prime spot for viewing golden eagles, falcons, and the California condor. Over 30 miles of trails cross the varied terrain. Maps and information are available at any of the three Visitor’s Centers. Bring a flashlight to visit the park’s caves and local bat population. Rock climbing is popular throughout the volcanic, jagged terrain. Ranger programs include condor talks, star parties and guided hikes and vary seasonally.
5000 Highway 146, Paicines, CA 95043, Phone: 831-389-4486
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20. Point Reyes National Seashore
California’s Point Reyes National Seashore is home to over 1500 specials of animals and plants. The Marin County sanctuary spans over 71,000 acres from the ocean to grassy rolling hills and forests. Visit the 1870 Point Reyes Lighthouse, a prime location from which to view migrating grey whales. Hike to the peak of Mount Wittenberg through the Philip Burton Wilderness. Visit Wildcat Beach to catch a view of the Alamere Falls. A replica Coast Miwok village teaches guests about life before Europeans arrived in California. Events include the annual Sand Sculpture Contest, held every August and now in its 39th year. To volunteer, join in on Coastal Cleanup Day, or remove invasive plants with the Third Thursday Weeders.
1 Bear Valley Visitor Center Access Road, Point Reyes Station, CA 94956, Phone: 415-464-5100
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21. Day Trips from San Jose, CA: San Anselmo
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San Anselmo is a small town north of San Francisco, with fewer than 13,000 residents, that refers to itself as the antiques capitol of Northern California. The town was established in the late 1800’s around the San Francisco Theological Seminary, but quickly grew after the infamous San Francisco earthquake and fires of 1906, when many part-time residents made their permanent home there. Enjoy strolling through charming neighborhoods with architecture spanning the early 20th century. Shop or browse the town’s antique stores, vintage shops, bookstores and cafes on San Anselmo Avenue downtown. Several art galleries and a playhouse add to the area’s culture. The small town is surrounded by outdoor recreation opportunities, state parks and national seashore. (website link)
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22. Day Trips from San Jose, CA: San Francisco
There’s something for everyone in San Francisco, with a variety of neighborhoods and public outdoor spaces. Most visited attractions include Alcatraz, the former island prison turned National Park, the photogenic Golden Gate Bridge, and Fisherman’s Wharf, home to a colony of resident sea lions. Visit the Painted Ladies, a row of Victorian era homes best viewed from the grassy Alamo Square. Ride through town on a cable car, named a National Historic Landmark in 1964. On a sunny day, take a sailboat tour of the bay, or explore Golden Gate Park, over 1,000 acres of trails, cycling paths, botanical gardens, stables and ponds.
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23. Day Trips Near Me: Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz is a relaxing beach town on the Pacific Coast, just 40 minutes south of San Jose. Take a walk back in time along the Santa Cruz Boardwalk where you’ll find an historic carousel, roller coasters, arcade and all kinds of American carnival fare, such as corn dogs and ice cream. Youthful downtown Santa Cruz is influenced by the presence of UC Santa Cruz, and is an excellent destination for shopping vintage and contemporary trends, and finding restaurants focused on organic, local foods. Don’t miss a chance to surf, or watch some of the world’s best surfers at Steamer Lane, just one of many local surf spots that Santa Cruz is known for.
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24. Romantic Day Trips from San Jose, CA: Sausalito
Not too far north from San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge is the town of Sausalito. The steep hillside facing the Bay with a two mile long shoreline can be reached by ferry, or by hiking or cycling over the bridge. Bridgeway is Sausalito’s main street. Shop Heath Ceramics in the industrial zone for discounts on tile, and visit the building that once housed the Record Plant where Fleetwood Mac, Metallica, and Prince all recorded songs. Walk along here to find unique independently owned shops, cafes, and restaurants. Stroll down to the waterfront to see the houseboats, one of which hosted Otis Redding while he wrote the famous “(Sitting on the) Dock of the Bay.”
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25. Silicon Valley
California’s Silicon Valley encompasses several metropolitan areas from Gilroy in the south, through San Jose to Milipitas and Palo Alto in the north. It’s most famous as the home to several technology companies, including smaller start-ups and giants such as Apple, Google and Intel. While on the map for high tech, Silicon Valley includes some of California’s most picturesque outdoor vistas, from the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve to the Morgan Hill’s Henry W. Coe State Park, surrounded by the Diablo Mountain Range and the Santa Cruz Mountains. For shopping, visit The Village in Saratoga. For history, visit historic downtown Campbell or Santa Clara’s Mission Santa Clara de Asis and Mission Gardens. For culture, enjoy the performing arts and museum at Stanford University in Palo Alto. Things to do in Silicon Valley
The 25 Best Day Trips from San Jose, CA near me today according to local experts are: