Venture out of the scenic Monterey Peninsula for the woods, a hint of Tuscany, a peek into the future, reminiscing or learning about the past, and shopping like you have no credit limit. Here are the five best day trips to provide you with a taste of California’s diversity.
1. Limekiln State Park: Big Sur
This historic state park is perfect for a family day trip for an easy hike on the three trails, with a day rate of $10 (payable at the entry kiosk). The Limekiln Trail will lead you across three bridges that lead to the four kilns. The Fall Trail is a short, wet trail to the Limekiln Falls, starting from the Limekiln Trail for less than a quarter-mile from the parking lot, after which you will make a right turn after the second bridge. The Hare Creek Trail boasts redwoods and a creek. Underneath the highway is a small beach that is also part of this park. Do bring your own food, as the closest store is about five miles away.
2. Wine Country & Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL): Livermore
This place conjures a romantic Tuscan-like atmosphere, great for an adults-only day trip. Discover vineyards such as Wente Vineyards ( the oldest , continuously family-ran vineyard in the U.S.), Concannon Vineyard ( America’s first Petite Syrah ), award-winning McGrail Vineyards, and Steven Kent Winery.
If you are into science and technology and over 18 years old, schedule a tour at LLNL, where you can learn about its research program and facilities.
3. Beach Boardwalk: Santa Cruz
The Beach Boardwalk is perfect for a family trip that is reminiscent of the 1960s. Lounge at the beach, ride the wooden roller coaster, walk down the boardwalk with cotton candy in hand, and people watch. If you have a bit of flair for the creepy, visit one of the two Laffing Sal dolls (the other one is at the Musée Mécanique in San Francisco). An all-day ride wristband costs $31.95.
4. Silicon Valley
There are numerous high-tech historical sites scattered around the Bay Area, such as the Intel Museum, the NASA Ames Exploration Center, Moffett Field Historical Society Museum, the HP Garage, Tech Museum, Computer History Museum, and Stanford University.
5. Golden Gate Park and Union Square: San Francisco
You can spend a month’s worth of day trips to try and explore all of Golden Gate Park. There is the de Young Museum, California Academy of Sciences, Japanese Tea Garden, Conservatory of Flowers, Beach Chalet and Park Chalet, historic carousel, and more. There is a 2.5-hour Golden Gate Park Segway tour if you want to breeze through the sites. Within “The City,” drive towards Union Square for world-class shopping at Neiman Marcus, Saks, Bloomingdale’s, Agent Provocateur, Louis Vuitton, and the like.