San Francisco is known for its beautiful parks, luscious landscapes, unique architecture, and fine wine. Its mild climate and proximity to the ocean make it a wonderful place to visit all year long, but when the fog burns off and the summer heat arrives, this city and its parks really come alive! So, start planning your trip to the Pacific Coast with our three-day itinerary filled with outdoor adventure, unique culinary experiences in Sonoma’s wine country, and more must-do activities.
DAY 1 – GOLDEN GATE PARK
Start your journey at Golden Gate Park, one of the most visited parks in the United States, with an estimated 6.5 million visitors each year. It was built in the 1850s and then expanded in 1912 to an impressive 1,800 acres, making it 20% larger than Central Park in New York City and the largest park in the Western Hemisphere.
One of the most breathtaking parts to explore is the Japanese Tea Garden. More than two million visitors cross over the Tea Bridge each year to admire traditional Japanese landscapes, waterfalls, streams and stone bridges. The bridge is covered in thousands of hand-painted tiles, and each one represents a different tea plant from all over the world.
If you’re looking to expand your knowledge of the world, visit the California Academy of Sciences. Founded in 1853, it’s one of the oldest scientific societies in the country and home to over 35 million specimens, making it the largest natural history museum in the Western Hemisphere. The museum is filled with fascinating exhibits, including the Rainforest Dome, which is the world’s largest indoor rainforest, and the Biodiversity Theater, which showcases kid-friendly nature documentaries.
Lastly, you can’t leave Golden Gate Park without visiting the Bison Paddock! This is a beautiful open-air exhibit in the park where visitors can watch buffalo roam free. It is home to several different buffalo species, including the American Bison, the largest land mammal in the country.
Where to Stay Near Golden Gate Park
Book a room at the My Rose Garden Guest Rooms for a warm and charming stay in the center of a bustling city. This intimate bed and breakfast features four rooms to choose from, with breakfast included! It’s conveniently located near Golden Gate Park and within walking distance of nearby shops and restaurants.
DAY 2 – MUIR WOODS NATIONAL MONUMENT
Day two of your San Francisco journey includes crossing over the famous Golden Gate Bridge to explore the magical beauty of Muir Woods National Monument. It was named in honor of John Muir, an American botanist dubbed the “father of National Parks.”
Muir Woods is known for its beautiful redwoods that grow to be more than 250 feet tall and are 600-800 years old. The oldest one documented in this forest is more than 1,200 years old! There are six miles of trails and hikes that take you to some of the most unique and beautiful areas in the entire state. You can choose from 30-minute loops, one-hour loops, or one-and-a-half-hour loops extending out to Mount Tamalpais State Park.
Hike the Canopy View Trail to skip the crowds and connect with nature. Start at the visitor center and hike along the boardwalk, also known as the Main Trail. You’ll soon start a gentle climb that eventually takes you 1,000 feet above sea level.
After you reach the highest point, descend on the Lost Trail, spotting deer and other wildlife along the way. Then dive into an array of Douglas-firs and redwoods when connecting with Fern Creek Trail. You’ll also see part of the Muir Woods Railway, remnants of what used to be a bustling tourist destination in the early 1900s until the rail line closed in 1929. The entire loop is about three miles and takes about two hours to complete.
If you’re looking for amazing views, the four-mile Ben Johnson Trail is perfect. You’ll see breathtaking views of Mount Tamalpais, the Pacific Ocean, and San Francisco. But, no matter what trail you choose to explore, once you loop back to the main entrance, you can replenish at the cafe located inside Muir Woods Trading Company or visit one of the various restaurants in the Golden Gate area.
DAY 3 – SONOMA COUNTY
The final day takes you out of the city and deep into Sonoma County, also known as wine country. Sonoma is home to many of the best vineyards and wineries in California. The mild climate allows for winemaking year-round, and the area is home to many different varietals, including the famed Zinfandel. Enjoy the scenery and taste the beautiful wines while also discovering the unique culture and history of the area.
Healdsburg is known as Sonoma County’s small-town gem. This charming town is nestled at the juncture of the Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley and Dry Creek Valley—three premier wine-growing regions. This makes Healdsburg the prime location for wine tasting adventures, featuring plazas filled with restaurants, shops and bars to explore. For lunch, join a Healdsburg Wine and Food Walking Tour so you can indulge in a walk-around feast and explore this quaint village at the same time.
Since you’re so close, you’ll want to make a stop in Alexander Valley, which is home to some of the most picturesque views in Sonoma County. One of the most unique places is Jordan Vineyard and Winery, an estate with a stone and stucco castle that specializes in wine and food pairings. They’ll provide you with an in-depth overview of Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay during a one-hour immersion tour enhanced with small-bite delicacies.
For the last stop on your Sonoma wine tour, we’re switching it up. Trade in your wine glasses for pints at the award-winning Russian River Brewing Company. The 85,000-square-foot brewpub in Windsor serves a variety of signature and limited-release beers only available on-site. Local wines are also available for those who want to stick to wine!
Where to Stay Near Sonoma County
If you’re looking for a place to stay while still exploring your palate, there are plenty of hotels in Sonoma County that deliver. The ultra-luxurious Madrona Hotel, a restored 1881 mansion-turned bed and breakfast, is surrounded by English gardens. Guests can enjoy complimentary receptions with wine and hors d’oeuvres.
The Raford Inn, located in the Russian River Valley, is another excellent pick, offering wide-open spaces and sipping wine under the stars. Both places offer opportunities to explore vineyards and take in meticulously manicured gardens.