For the next time you step in some sidewalk poop and think to yourself, "Damn, I could really use 15 under-the-radar road trip options that are within driving distance of SF right about now," we present this. All are exceptionally beautiful trips and, as a bonus, all are "under-the-radar," because the last thing you want to do is drive a few hours and then bump into everyone you've ever met as soon as you get out of the car (looking at you, Tahoe).
France's Fête des Lumières Is a Light Festival Unlike Anything You've Ever Seen
Distance from SF: 46 miles; one-hour drive When people talk about spending a day by the seaside, this is what they mean. Plus, it’s a good excuse to stay in one of Costanoa’s Tent Bungalows.
Three things to do while you're there: 1. The 115-foot Pigeon Point Lighthouse has been guiding ships since 1872 and is one of the tallest in the country. This one’s easy to cross off your list, too, since it’s falling apart and they don’t let you go inside. 2.Harley Farms has goats, and llamas, and cheese, oh my! No seriously: they have more than 200 Alpine goats and make critically-acclaimed cheese. Book your tour in advance. They even have ones that are just for adults. 3. Get your drink on at Duarte’s Tavern, a family-run business that’s been around since 1894 and is the social hub of the one-traffic-light town. Order the insanely creamy artichoke soup and a piece of their famous olallieberry pie.
Distance from SF: 227 miles; three-and-a-half-hour drive It's a super mellow beach town known for its good waves and good food.
Three things to do while you're there: 1. Plan your trip for one of the two times a year the elephant seals migrate to the Piedras Blancas rookery. 2.Hearst Castle is right up the road in San Simeon. Take a tour through the 60,000sqft mansion (the indoor pool is insane) and forget about your tiny, expensive SF apartment for a day. 3. Stop by the Brown Butter Cookie Company (just follow the scent of delicious cookies) for freshly baked sea salt-topped cookies. Don’t forget to buy some to take home with you (even though you’ll finish them all off in the car).
Distance from SF: 30 miles; one-hour drive The locals love it so much that they tear down all road signs leading to the town. So yeah, it’s gotta be pretty special.
Three things to do while you're there: 1. Depending on the waves, Bolinas can be a great spot for beginner surfers. 2-Mile Surf Shop will set you up with everything you need. 2. You could stay at Stinson Beach just down the road, but embrace the Bolinas vibe and get a room at The Grand Hotel, which was never supposed to even be a hotel (the owner just found a sign and put it up on his house and eventually gave in when people started asking for rooms). 3.Smiley's Schooner Saloon has been around for over 160 years, making it one of the oldest bars in California (and one of the only bars in Bolinas). They have a pool table, darts, and the town's only check-cashing facility.
Lassen Volcanic National Park, California
Distance from SF: 236 miles; three-and-a-half-hour drive It’s like a mini Yellowstone right in your backyard.
Three things to do while you're there: 1. Climb Mount Lassen, duh. 2. Go to Subway Cave, an underground lava tube that’s pitch-dark (don’t forget a flashlight). 3. Go to hell -- Bumpass Hell, that is. It's the largest hydrothermal area in the park, with boiling pools and plopping mud pots. It's also home to the Big Boiler, a roaring stem vent.
Distance from SF: 143 miles; two-and-a-half-hour drive Grass Valley is like a little taste of what it might have been like in the wild, wild west. But without the gun fights.
Three things to do while you're there: 1. Eat at The Willo, a roadhouse 15 minutes out of town where you can cook your own steak on the grill in the dining room. Or they'll cook it for you, if you're too fancy for that (which you're not, right?). 2. Check out Empire Mine, the site of the oldest, largest, and richest gold mine in California. Pack a picnic and pour one out for the 44 mules who spent their lives deep in the mines, pulling ore cars and never seeing the light of day. 3. Stay at The Holbrooke, whose guest book was signed by Benjamin Harrison and Grover Cleveland (they were both presidents, in case you failed US history) and whose saloon downstairs is said to be the oldest continuously operating saloon west of the Mississippi (yup, they were even open during Prohibition).
Three things to do while you're there: 1. You definitely want to stay at the Madonna Inn. It has 110 themed rooms (Love Nest, Golfer’s Room, and Rock Bottom are just three to choose from), world-famous cakes, and a urinal that activates a waterfall when you break a beam of light with your pee. 2. San Luis Obispo is home to a dozen craft breweries, and the Hop on Beer Tour will bus you around in their "pub on wheels" to all of them. 3.Bishop's Peak is the most popular hike in SLO, and it's only one-and-a-half hours to the top (depending on if you do it before or after you visit all of those breweries).
Distance from SF: 126 miles; two-and-a-half-hour drive A chill, coastal town that whales pass by every year.
Three things to do while you're there: 1. Depending on water levels (stupid drought), the Gualala River is fun to kayak or float on. 2. Bring your dog. Stay at Sea Ranch Lodge, and they’ll pamper you and your pooch. 3. Eat at Bones Roadhouse, "a BBQ restaurant with Brews & Blues" and kick-ass views of the ocean.
Distance from SF: 122 miles; two-and-a-half-hour drive Two words: Hot. Springs.
Three things to do while you're there: 1. The only reason you’re going to Williams is to stay at Wilbur Hot Springs Resort and get totally blissed out, which is an expression you’ll actually be using by the end of your weekend. 2. The bathing area has natural, mineral hot springs complete with three different temperatures, a dry sauna, a cold pool, and a multi-tiered redwood deck where you can lounge. 3. There’s also yoga, massages, and everything else you’d expect of a retreat located in a nature preserve. It's BYO food and booze, which means, yes, you’ll be cooking dinner next to the people you just saw butt naked an hour ago.
Distance from SF: 182 miles; three-hour drive In Leggett, there’s a big-ass tree you can drive through. AMERICA!
Three things to do while you're there: 1. Stay at the Big Bend Lodge, a 1940s "resort" on the Eel River with awesome cabins, a swimming hole, and a big campfire that everyone gathers around at night. 2. Pay five bucks to drive through the Drive-Thru Tree. 3. "Never Don’t Stop at The Peg House", a popular stop for truckers and tourists. Grab a seriously delicious burger and listen to some live music.
Distance from SF: 57 miles; one-and-a-half-hour drive This tiny Napa Valley town is the perfect way to experience the charm that is Napa, but without the annoying crowds and tourists. Plus, there’s really good food (Bouchon, Ad Hoc, Redd Wood), so you won’t even care that The French Laundry is out of your budget.
Three things to do while you’re there: 1. Soar above Napa Valley in a hot air balloon with Napa Valley Balloons ‘cause (fun fact!) ballooning is not only statistically the safest form of flight, it’s also the most amazing way to take in panoramic views of the valley and vineyards. Scared of heights? Do it for the Instagram. 2. Sip wine, swing in a hammock, and play bocce ball poolside at the Tuscan-style Napa Valley Lodge where you’ll be staying because it’s relatively affordable, within walking distance to everything, and has a killer continental breakfast with complimentary champagne. 3.Hop on a bike and ride the 6-mile bike trail that stretches from Napa to Yountville and do some wine-tasting at Laird Family Estate, Silenus, and Domaine Chandon.
Distance from SF: 217 miles; three-and-a-half-hour drive Why Redding? Because waterfalls, ghost towns, and crazy cool caverns that are almost as old as dinosaurs.
Three things to do while you’re there: 1. Visit Whiskeytown National Recreation Area (sadly, it’s BYO whiskey) and take the “Whiskeytown Waterfall Challenge,” which requires you to do all four waterfall hikes in one day. Or do one waterfall hike and then spend the day swimming in and lounging by the lake. (Pro tip: You can also camp there.) 2. Take a catamaran cruise to the Lake Shasta Caverns that are almost 200 million years old and home to massive rooms full of stalactites, stalagmites, columns, and flowstone. 3. Check out Shasta State Historic Park, a ghost town that was once a booming mining told during the Gold Rush and is now full of crumbling brick buildings and a Courthouse museum that has been restored to its original appearance.
Virginia City, Nevada
Distance from SF: 244 miles; four-and-a-half-hour drive This legendary mining town is cheesy, charming, and totally colorful. Plus, you can gamble. And if you go in September, you can watch the Camel & Ostrich Races.
Three things to do while you’re there: 1. All aboard the scenic V&T Railroad for a quick 4-mile train ride that includes a fully narrated tour to Gold Hill where the Comstock Era gold strikes began. 2. Grab a stool at any of the numerous Old West saloons. There used to be 115 saloons for the 25,000 residents at the city’s peak population (in the 1870s); now there are about 15 within walking distance of each other. The Bonanza Saloon has a “100-mile view” overlooking the valley, Mark Twain hung out at the (now) haunted Gold Hill Saloon, and the Delta Saloon is probably the oldest watering hole in Virginia City (1865) and is home to the famous Suicide Table. 3. Take an “Old Time” photo at any of the stores in this “one street” town. Hey, when in a kitschy Gold Rush town...
Distance from SF: 190 miles; four-hour drive You like mountain biking? They’ve got mountain biking. And, for the creepier people: historic gallows that were built in 1885 and only used once, but are still standing.
Three things to do while you’re there: 1. Downieville is a mountain biking mecca. Stop by Downieville Outfitters to rent a bike or just chat with the folks who work there about which trails to hit. 2. Jump in a lake. There are tons of hidden lakes all around Downieville. If fishing and canoeing is your thing, Packer Lake Lodge can hook you up. Terrible hook pun intended. 3. Hike to Love’s Falls. This hike is super short, super easy, and ends with a waterfall, which is pretty much all anyone has ever wanted from a hike.
Distance from SF: 97 miles; two-hour drive If you’re into California history (or antiquing), this quaint small town is a must-visit.
Three things to do while you’re there: 1. Visit Old Mission San Juan Bautista. This historic Spanish mission (founded in 1797) is what this agricultural town was named after, so definitely take the $4 self-guided tour. 2. See the sea otters at Elkhorn Slough. Rent a kayak and paddle near harbor seals, baby otters, and all sort of other wildlife and birds. 3. Enjoy Mexican food outside on the patio at Jardines and then head to Mom and Pop’s Saloon, a biker-friendly dive bar, for a drink.
Patrick's Point State Park, California
Distance from SF: 300 miles; five-and-a-half-hour drive It’s a long drive, but the redwood trees, meadows covered in wildflowers, and staggering shoreline make it all worth it.
Three things to do while you’re there: 1. Find your campground tucked away in a spruce forest, and pitch your tent because Patrick’s Point is home for the next couple of nights. 2. Check out the tide pools at Palmer’s Point. Go at low tide to see ochre sea stars, giant green Pacific anemone, nudibranchs, and more. 3. Visit Sumêg Village, a reconstructed Yurok village, where you’ll see traditional family houses, a sweathouse, changing houses, a redwood canoe, a native plant garden, and more.
Sign up here for our daily San Francisco email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun SF has to offer.
Daisy Barringer is Thrillist's SF Editor and she enjoys singing Taylor Swift's entire discography very loudly on all road trips. Let her know where she should go next on Twitter @daisy.
San Francisco’s beaches aren’t exactly somewhere you go to swim or sunbathe, since the water is extremely frigid and the fog shows up way more than the sun. Still, they’re some of the most beautiful beaches in the world thanks to their stunning views and staggering cliffs. There’s also an odd amount of nudity on a bunch of them considering the low temps, but hey, this is SF and this is who we are.
The strange thing about our beaches is that even though the city is surrounded by water on three sides, residents tend to forget they even exist at all. We figured if we shared our favorites, it might inspire people to go feel the sand between their toes for a change. Just don’t forget a jacket. But, you knew that already.
From Los Angeles to San Diego: Every Pit Stop You Need To Make Along The Way
With zero humidity and palm trees in the rearview mirror, cruising down the Pacific coast to San Diego from Los Angeles is summer. Of course, LA traffic can make it less cruiseworthy and more bumper-to-bumper. But with authentic taquerias, whale watching, and iconic surf breaks, there’s a quintessential SoCal pit stop just about every mile of the ride to distract you. Here’s seven summer getaways you can easily hit on the way to San Diego -- just don’t forget the sunscreen and a swimsuit.
Now that weed is open to recreational use in SF -- meaning no medical recommendation needed -- you’re probably wondering where to go to LEGALLY cop some dank flowers (or oils or vapes or edibles or... you get the point). Well, we’ve got ya covered. From farm-to-bowl boutiques and sleek pharmacy experiences to high-tech speakeasy-like lounges, these seven dispensaries epitomize the recreational cannabis scene in San Francisco and will make sure you leave a very satisfied customer.