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Northern California
Destinations Within Northern California

Northern California Trip Itineraries

Family Fun in San Francisco

Destination(s): San Francisco

San Francisco has plenty of fun-filled family adventures in store, ranging from the cultural to the natural to the nighttime entertainment variety. And the best part? These family-friendly attractions are guaranteed to delight people of all ages. read more about Family Fun in San Francisco

Cable Cars

Cable Cars

  • 401 Van Ness
  • (between Golden Gate and Grove Sts) Admin Offices
  • tel:(415) 673-6864
  • Visit website
  • San Francisco, 94102

You just might not be able to stop yourself from singing the old Rice-a-Roni jingle each time you ride a gleaming, red San Francisco Cable Car. Although it's mostly tourists who ride these iconic streetcars, even locals who live near the cable lines get in on the action just because it's the most fun way to experience the hilly, roller-coaster ride that is San Francisco topography. Hold on tight and boldly lean outside the Cable Car for unparalleled views of the cityscape and the Bay rising and fading. For the best Cable Car ride the city has to offer, brave the line at Powell and Market and take the Powell Street line up some of the city's steepest hills, all the way to its terminus at Fisherman's Wharf. For an alternative, take the Hyde Street line to the top of twisty-turny Lombard Street. The California Street line takes you through the Financial District to the more elegant residential turf of the Nob Hill district, home to some of the city's most luxurious hotels. read more about Cable Cars

The Exploratorium

The Exploratorium

  • 3601 Lyon Street
  • In the Palace of Fine Arts (at Marina Blvd.)
  • tel:(415) 561-0360 / (415) 397-5673
  • Visit website
  • San Francisco, 94123

We couldn't think of a better name for a museum that invites visitors of all ages to explore the world and how we perceive it. Yes, science takes center stage at the Exploratorium, but in such innovative, interactive ways that kids of all ages—including us grown-up kids—will hardly notice time go by (how's that for playing with human perception?). Among the Exploratorium's 650 exhibits are a completely darkened tactile dome, a miscroscopic imaging station in which visitors can check out microorganism's embryos and more, an exhibit that explores the mind and how we think, feel, and make decisions, and one that plays with how humans interpret sound. The Exploratorium is housed inside the Palace of Fine Arts, whose scenic grounds are the perfect place for a post-museum breath of fresh air. read more about The Exploratorium

Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park

  • Stanyan & Fulton Sts
  • (Great Highway at Fulton St)
  • tel:(415) 831-2700
  • Visit website
  • San Francisco, 94118

Spanning three miles from the edge of Haight-Ashbury all the way to the Pacific Ocean, Golden Gate Park contains so many mini-universes and attractions you'll want to (literally) stop and smell the roses on several occasions. Die-hard nature lovers can check out the Rose Garden, the Conservatory of Flowers, or the famous Japanese Tea Garden, featuring a classic pagoda, cherry blossoms, and landscaping straight out of the Land of the Rising Sun. Golden Gate Park's natural highlight, however, is the San Francisco Botanical Garden, which features a horticultural trip around the world (don't miss the redwood grove and succulents section).
Don't miss Golden Gate Park's two world-class museums, the California Academy of Sciences and the De Young Museum. Both were completely rebuilt in their original locations in the past decade, and are worth a visit for their architecture alone. The park is also the perfect place to get active. There are tons of walking paths, several public tennis courts, an affordable pitch and put nine-hole golf course, sport fields, and picnic grounds. You can even rent a boat and head out for a delightful row on Stow Lake. Spring, summer, and fall bring a number of events to Golden Gate Park, including bluegrass, rock, and hip-hop concerts and Shakespeare in the Park performances. read more about Golden Gate Park

Muir Woods National Monument

Muir Woods National Monument

  • Muir Woods Rd and Camino Del Cyn
  • (Follow signs from Hwy 101 N)
  • tel:(415) 388-2595
  • Visit website
  • Mill Valley, 94941

Commissioned by President Teddy Roosevelt and named for conservationist John Muir, these woods are a tribute to the enchantment of redwood trees. For anyone who's encountered California redwoods, you know of what we speak. For those who haven't, Muir Woods National Monument is the perfect place to experience these majestic wonders for the first time. When you enter the park, you're treated to flat, paved walking paths that meander through the lush grove of towering redwoods, spiraling ferns, and other native plants, complete with historic and scientific explanations of the forest's features. We recommend taking this classic Muir Woods route and then ascending higher towards where you can choose from a variety of dirt hiking paths; that's where the magic truly happens. As most visitors stick to the easy ground-level path, hikers are treated to a truly serene experience the higher they climb, sometimes hearing almost nothing but delicate birdsong. Some trails originating in Muir Woods go all the way to Stinson Beach or to gorgeous parts of Mount Tamalpais State Park, or lead to very special local secrets, such as the Tourist Club, a German beer tavern. (Because what's better than a refreshing brew after some hearty physical exertion?) read more about Muir Woods National Monument

Fisherman's Wharf

Fisherman's Wharf

  • The Embarcadero
  • Fisherman's Wharf
  • tel:(415) 956-3493
  • Visit website
  • San Francisco, 94133

Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco's historic waterfront, is at the top of every visitor's muse-see list—and we mean every visitor (locals tend to avoid it). Despite abundant souvenir shops, Fisherman's Wharf still has plenty of appeal. Families shouldn't miss the aquarium and sea lions sunning outdoors at Pier 39, nor Fisherman's Wharf's novelty museums, including Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum, the Musee Mecanique, and the Wax Museum at Fisherman's Wharf. History lovers can explore the area's maritime past at an anchored submarine, a WWII ship, and an array of old-time vessels. Shopaholics can find more than just souvenirs on Jefferson Street and at Ghiradelli Square, an outdoor mall featuring (you guessed it!) the city's signature chocolate. Fisherman's Wharf is also an unbeatable dining destination, whether you prefer only-in-Cali burgers at In-n-Out or premium fish and seafood. If you're in town during November through February, you're in store for a harvest of Dungeness crab, a local specialty. Try clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl for a year-round Fisherman's Wharf culinary delight. read more about Fisherman's Wharf

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

  • Lincoln Blvd & Hwy 1
  • Hwy. 101 N
  • tel:(415) 921-5858
  • Visit website
  • San Francisco, 94129

Perhaps the most iconic bridge in the country, if not in the world, the rusted-orange expanse of the Golden Gate Bridge is a not-to-miss sight while in San Francisco. Connecting the city and neighboring Marin County to the north, the Golden Gate Bridge also serves as a gateway between the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Although you'll be treated to glimpses of the bridge throughout the city, the best way to experience it is to walk or bike across, starting in the Presidio. You can then spend a serene afternoon strolling around the quaint Marin seaside city of Sausalito. If you prefer a gentler route, you can take a ferry from the San Francisco Ferry Building or from Fisherman's Wharf to Sausalito or Tiburon (another beautiful Marin town full of great restaurants and nearby walking paths), gazing at the majestic Golden Gate Bridge, plus sailboats, kite-surfers, and the gorgeous Bay views along the way. read more about Golden Gate Bridge

Strybing Arboretum & Botanical Gardens

Strybing Arboretum & Botanical Gardens

  • 9th Avenue at Lincoln Way
  • tel:(415) 661-1316
  • Visit website
  • San Francisco, 94122
Point Reyes Lighthouse Visitor Center

Point Reyes Lighthouse Visitor Center

  • Muir Woods Rd and Camino Del Cyn
  • (Follow signs from Hwy 101 N)
  • tel:(415) 464-5100
  • Visit website
  • Point Reyes Station, 94956

This visitor center contains exhibits on lighthouses, wild flowers,geology and marine life. It is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. read more about Point Reyes Lighthouse Visitor Center

Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island

  • Embarcadero and Powell St
  • (Pier 39)
  • tel:(415) 705-5555
  • Visit website
  • San Francisco, 94133

"The Rock," as Alcatraz is known locally, has a formidable past. Most people don't know it served as a lighthouse, military outpost, and military prison before becoming the notorious federal prison that held the likes of Al Capone, George "Machine Gun" Kelly, and Robert Stroud, a.k.a. "The Birdman of Alcatraz." The tiny island only miles from the San Francisco shore was considered the perfect detainment spot due to the surrounding shark-infested, frigid waters. Today visitors can safely enjoy guided tours of Alcatraz, including various cells, the mess hall, the exercise yard, and the surprisingly beautiful natural features of the island. Tour guides are extremely knowledgeable and relish regaling visitors with quirky stories of prisoners past. The truly brave can get locked up in a darkened cell for several minutes—all the more exhilarating considering the penitentiary's claim that all 14 escape attempts in the prison's 29 years of operation failed! read more about Alcatraz Island

Conservatory of Flowers

Conservatory of Flowers

  • JFK Drive, Golden Gate Park
  • Golden Gate Park
  • tel:(415) 666-7001
  • Visit website
  • San Francisco, 94117

Built in the late 1870s, the oldest building in the park is the last remaining wood-frame Victorian conservatory in the country. It's also a copy of the conservatory in the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew, England, with a spectacular, 14-ton glass dome atop its perch. The gardens in front of the conservatory are planted seasonally, with the flowers often fashioned like billboards depicting the Golden Gate Bridge or other city sights. On the east side of the conservatory (to the right as you face the building), cypress, pine, and redwood trees surround the Dahlia Garden, which blooms in summer and fall. To the west several hundred feet on John F. Kennedy Drive is the Rhododendron Dell. The dell contains the most varieties -- 850 in all -- of any garden in the country. It's especially beautiful in March, when many of the flowers bloom, and is a favorite spot of locals for Mother's Day picnics. read more about Conservatory of Flowers

Metreon Entertainment Center

Metreon Entertainment Center

  • 101 Fourth Street
  • (at the corner of Mission Street)
  • tel:(800) 638-7366
  • Visit website
  • San Francisco, 94104
Buca di Beppo - San Francisco

Buca di Beppo - San Francisco

  • 855 Howard Street
  • tel:(415) 543-7673
  • Visit website
  • San Francisco, 94103