Places To Visit In Northern California
There are so many beautiful places to visit in Northern California especially this time of year, it’s hard to pick just one favorite. This is the time of year when the vineyards are filled with colors, the weather is perfect for a brisk walk through the redwoods
and it’s the perfect weekend getaway. Being a NorCal native I can personally attest to the fact that it is an amazing place to visit, with everything from beaches to wine country. With so many must-see destinations in one state, it can be hard to decide where you want to go first when you’re looking for places to visit in Northern California. All of Northern California has something beautiful and unique to offer visitors – from the redwoods in the North Bay Area all the way down past Big Sur on the Central Coast. There’s a lot of ground between those two regions, but each area offers something special for families that will make your vacation memories last a lifetime. You’ll see soaring cliffs along Highway 1 as you head south towards Big Sur; explore San Francisco’s landmarks like Alcatraz Island or Golden Gate Bridge; hike among giant sequoias at Yosemite National Park, and more. Are you ready? Buckle up because here are just a few of the breathtaking places to visit in Northern California.
Muir Woods and Jedediah State Park are both amazing options for enjoying the serenity of the redwoods. Some of the redwoods in the Bay Area are nearly 1,000 years old. Their majestic nature draws you in and you’ll feel like staying forever and ever.
Stare up at the trees, some of which are more than 250 feet tall, and it’s easy to see how small we are in the grand scheme of things. Muir Woods gets busier with tourists because of its location, so if you can make it out to Jedediah State Park, it’s worth it. Muir Woods is a quick drive over the Golden Gate Bridge, just a few miles north of San Francisco; it would be easy to make a day of your adventures in this area. Both parks have stroller-accessible, kid-friendly hikes available. If you plan on driving and parking there, make sure you make parking reservations ahead of time online. You won’t want to miss out on any of the glory of this beautiful part of the world.
Sequoias at Yosemite
People come from all over the world just to visit Yosemite’s Giant Grove of Sequoias. These majestic giants are sure to take your breath away and you may not ever want to leave the peace and solitude that help to make Yosemite what it is. The. Giant
sequoia groves are portions of Sierra Nevada mixed conifer forest that contain giant sequoias. In most groves, giant sequoias are fewer in number than other tree species but are the most visually striking and dominant in size. Did you know that Giant Giant sequoias grow only on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada in California, between 4,000 and 8,000 feet in elevation? Within Yosemite’s Giant Grove of Sequoias, you will find 40 different giant sequoia groves! Numerous groves can be reached by road, while others are remote and involve an arduous hike to visit. In all the groves – from heavily visited remote – these majestic trees and sunlight filtered through their mighty branches bring a sense of peace and wonder.
With more than 800 caves created by flows of lava more than 10,000 years ago, Lava Beds National Monument is a must-see attraction in Northern California. The monument also includes historic battlefields and campsites. Plan ahead and add camping and caving to your trip’s itinerary!
When thinking of places to visit in Northern California, worth the drive is the little town of Fort Bragg. Fort Bragg offers the perfect place to hike, bike, kayak, and walk the beach while visiting this historic town. This beautiful town is the hamlet of rich
history and after a day of exploring, there are beautiful Bed and Breakfast places to stay. Did you know that during the earthquake of 1906, Fort Bragg was damaged severely.? Most brick buildings collapsed as fire ravaged the town. From the first salmon fishery back in 1898 to the redwood power poles that still stand to this day, these things remind us of days of the past. Visiting Fort Bragg is like taking a step back in time. Locals and tourists alike say there’s a spirit of community that you don’t find in many other places. You’ll find that Fort Bragg has everything from tidepools and surfing to hiking and sunbathing, a stop sure to keep everyone in the family happy all day long. I definitely recommend checking out Glass Beach.
Bodie Historic State Park is known as the best ghost town in the West and the perfect opportunity to take a step back in time Though it is located more towards Central California than the northern portion, if you’re driving in, it’s worth a stop. In 1859, William Waterman Bodey discovered gold near what is now referred to as Bodie Bluff. In 1861, a mill was established and the town started to grow.
An estimated 10,000 people had landed in Bodie by 1880. A town is literally frozen in time, Bodie has been a State Historic Park since the 1960s. Bodie does not restore the buildings from the 1800s, they simply preserve them. Be sure you take the time to print this fun Bodie word search for the kids to work on before your visit.
The mesmerizing turquoise waters of Lake Tahoe are world-renowned. With so much to do, it’s difficult to choose between hiking the trails, chilling on the lake, or taking all the pictures your fingers can snap!
Have you heard of the Hellman-Ehrman Mansion? The kids especially love this one. You can take an hour-long tour through this mansion, which was built in 1903. Bring your own bike (or rent one) to enjoy the bike trails that run along the highway. If you’re looking for a serene trip, it’s less crowded in the winter and some of the best skiing around can be found right here. Try your skill on the outdoor ice skating rinks or just ride the tram to the top of the mountains. The view from up there is spectacular. Another point worth visiting during your trip to Lake Tahoe is the Balancing Rock Trail in D.L. Bliss State Park. The trail is about half of a mile long, and it takes you to Balancing Rock (stacked boulders) and down to a beautiful stream. I don’t know if it’s just me, but the rocks kinda look like a dinosaur. The drive to Lake Tahoe is about 4 hours from the San Francisco Bay Area but definitely one of the best places to visit in Northern California.
Highway 1 really deserves its own post entirely. You can make a week (or more) out of the trip up this coastal highway. If you’ve never had the opportunity to drive the Pacific Coast Highway, it’s a MUST for any Bucket List.
“Sunny beaches. Foggy coastline. Swaying palm trees. Towering redwoods. Playful otters. .. Driving the Pacific Coast Highway is not only one of the best California road trips: it’s one of the best road trips in the world!” – Practical Wanderlust
One of the things you need to know before embarking on your Highway 1 adventure is the damp, windy weather even during the summer along the northern part of Highway 1. Also, be away that some parts of the route have no (or very poor) cell phone service. Should you head up the coast, or down the coast? If it were up to me, I’d drive north inland and south down the coast. That’s how you’ll get the best views. Depending on when you visit, you may want to pack a jacket or coat. The weather can get chilly, especially if you’re from warmer states (or even Southern California). Another item to pack: binoculars! There are so many breathtaking views, I guarantee you’re going to wish you had binoculars, especially when you’re trying to spot whales, seals, and other wildlife! Don’t forget your camera, obviously, as well as hiking shoes. And dress in layers, because the temperature changes frequently. When the sun comes out, it can warm up quickly.
Located practically in my backyard and located non the west coast of Sonoma County you’ll find the small town and inlet of Bodega Bay. Just an hour north of San Francisco, this beautiful part of the world was originally caused by erosion. Throughout
the small town of Bodega, you’ll find artisans of every kind with one-of-a-kind treasures. While visiting you’ll be able to take in the beauty of the sea stacks overlooking the coast, fishing and crabbing boats, and whale watching during the winter as they head south during the migration. Make sure to bring your jacket as Bodega Bay is chilly throughout most of the year but the beauty of the area is worth it. Alfred Hitchcock’s famous film, “The Birds”, was actually filmed in parts of Bodega Bay but insiders know that the schoolhouse used is actually about 10 miles away. Don’t miss eating at The Tides Restaurant and be sure to pick up some saltwater taffy for the trip home.
A few hours up the road from Bodega Bay is historic Fort Ross. Fort Ross was actually built and Russian-owned and operated from 1812 to 184 and is an important reminder of an era long ago. .Today Fort Ross is a State Historic Park with trails, beaches,
a book shop, and a museum, and a favorite field trip location for school groups that come to spend the night, reacting the early 1800’s and living the history that was Fort Ross at that time. With plenty to see and do, the view alone is worth the drive. If you’re inclined to explore the area some more, take the 30-minute walk up to Fort Ross Road which will land you in an orchard. If it’s under the sea adventures that you seek, Fort Ross gives you the opportunity to actually scuba dive a shipwreck, or walk across the San Andreas Fault.
No list of places to visit in Northern California would be complete without mentioning the wineries that you’ll find scattered throughout the area. Known throughout the world as Wine County, Northern California is actually home to over 1700 different
wineries just in the North San Francisco Bay Area, mostly located in the area’s valleys, including Napa Valley in Napa County, and the Sonoma Valley, Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Bennett Valley, and Russian River Valley in Sonoma County. From small family-owned vineyards to some of the biggest names around, the wineries of Northern California are perfect for a Segway, bike ride, or horseback ride through the vineyards, or a leisurely picnic. Northern California offers a beautiful climate for growing wine grapes, inviting visitors to enjoy a diverse selection of high-quality wines in the lush vineyards and rolling hills. . For something fun for the entire family be sure to take a ride on the Napa Wine Train, which during the holidays transforms into the Polar Express.
With so much to see and do, whether it’s just a weekend getaway or planning the perfect vacation for the entire family, there are so many places to visit in Northern California you’ll be glad you made the trip. What’s your favorite thing to do here in this wondrous part of the world?