6 great day trips from San Jose, California

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With Macintosh computers slowly replacing the apple orchards that once filled the region, San José has grown steadily over the past few decades to become the largest city in the Bay Area. While there are plenty of fun things to do in sunny San Jose, California, these great day trips will allow you to experience more of Northern California.

While everyone can agree that a day trip is a short trip that allows you to fall asleep in the same bed you woke up that morning, the more precise definition of a day trip day may vary depending on the traveler. As someone who doesn’t like to get up too early, doesn’t want to spend all day in the car and definitely wants enough time to really enjoy the day trip destination, my recommendations are all unless two hour drive from downtown. San José. But, depending on when you start and end your day trip, the traffic in the Bay Area can quickly turn an hour’s drive into a seemingly all-day affair, so take that into account when planning your trip. planning your excursions.

(Photo credit: Gillis Jones)

1. Santa-Cruz

As a teenager in the Bay Area, Santa Cruz has always been a favorite summer day trip, because when you travel south from San Francisco’s fairly constant 60-degree Fahrenheit climate, it’s l one of the first beaches where it is warm enough to enter the water without a wetsuit.

Located about an hour south of downtown San Jose, I recommend heading straight for the beach. Stroll along the sands and watch surfers ride the waves, then explore the shops and restaurants at Santa Cruz Wharf. Get out on the water by renting a boat or leave the driving to someone else by booking a fishing excursion, a whale and dolphin watching excursion, or a scenic bay cruise.

And before you go, be sure to take a ride on the Giant Dipper roller coaster. Now a National Historic Landmark, this nearly 100-year-old wooden roller coaster has appeared in several films, including Brutal shock, Dangerous spirits, and The lost boys.

Before heading back to San José, be sure to stock up on fresh seafood with dinner at Johnny’s Harborside or Rivera Fish House.

Sea otters near the Monterey Peninsula, CA.
(Photo credit: Sage Scott)

2. Monterey Peninsula

Another great day trip to the coast from San José is the Monterey Peninsula. About 90 minutes south of San Jose, the 12-square-mile land jutting out into the Pacific is home to the towns of Monterey, Pacific Grove, and Carmel-by-the-Sea, among others.

Start your day trip to Monterey at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Once a sardine cannery, you can observe galloping sea otters, throbbing jellyfish and over 500 other species in this world-famous aquarium located on the coast. Then explore the shops along Cannery Row and grab a bite to eat at Lalla Oceanside Grill or Chart House (and be sure to try abalone, if available).

Sea anemone at the Monterey Aquarium, California.
Anemone at the Monterey Aquarium (Photo credit: Sage Scott)

Pro tip: If you can’t get enough of the cute sea otters at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, here are six great places to see them in the wild, including along the coast adjacent to Cannery Row.

Don’t leave the Monterey Peninsula without circling 17-Mile Drive. Starting near the aquarium and passing Instagram worthy spots like Spanish Bay, China Rock, and Lone Cypress before approaching the Pebble Beach Golf Links, it’s easy to see why the road is one of the busiest routes. most picturesque of the United States.

The tallest lighthouse on the west coast, Pigeon Point Light Station, Pescadero, CA.
Pigeon Point Lighthouse (Photo credit: Sage Scott)

3. Pescadero

To tour the mountains topped with redwoods, visiting this coastal town west of San José requires traveling a fair distance north or south. So, on a day trip to Pescadero from San Jose, I recommend a circular path that goes through Los Gatos, Santa Cruz, and Half Moon Bay before returning to San Jose on I-280. The total journey time is around two and a half hours, giving you plenty of time to explore.

Start your day trip to Pescadero at the Pigeon Point Lighthouse Station. Standing 115 feet tall on a steep cliff overlooking the ocean, it is the tallest lighthouse on the West Coast. Stretch your legs, watch for wildlife, and breathe in the fresh, salty air as you take a scenic walk along the trails that surround the lighthouse.

Blueberry Pie at the Duarte Tavern, Pescadero, CA.
Blueberry Pie at Tavern Duarte (Photo credit: Sage Scott)

Make sure to stop by the Duarte Tavern for lunch. A Pescadero establishment dating back to 1894, the Tavern is now a James Beard Award winning restaurant focused on creating mouthwatering dishes from freshly caught fish and locally grown produce. In fact, many ingredients come straight from the restaurant’s garden! No matter what you choose for your main meal, be sure to start with a bowl of artichoke soup and end with a slice of olive pie. (If you’ve never tried an olallieberry before, it’s a bit like a blackberry.)

Then, burn off some of those delicious calories as you head inland for a forest swim under a canopy of ancient redwoods at Butano State Park. With 40 miles of trails, you can enjoy everything from a guided nature walk to a 1.5 mile hike on the Little Butano Creek Trail to a 5 mile hike on the Jackson Flats Loop. Make sure you pack a good pair of hiking shoes, like these Regatta walking shoes, to be comfortable.

Pro tip: To cure a craving for Duarte’s artichoke soup after you get home, try making a batch yourself with this recipe.

Hanging grapes at Livermore Valley Vineyard, Livermore, CA.
Livermore Valley Vineyard (Photo credit: Sage Scott)

4. Livermore

While Napa is popular with wine lovers (and a recommendation you can find on other San José day trip listings), you won’t see it on mine. Not only does this push my limit by two hours from San José (especially with traffic), but once in Napa you’ll want to slow down, enjoy the incredible scenery, taste the world-class wine, and savor the delicious food without having to go back upstairs. in the car for the long drive back to San José.

But fear not, wine-loving friends. I have another recommendation!

Home to over 45 amazing wineries, Livermore is just 45 minutes north of San Jose, so you can relax with a Chardonnay or sip a Syrah in Livermore long before you even get to Napa. And the award-winning wines produced in the Livermore Valley are fantastic.

Travelers can typically visit around four wineries in a day of wine tasting. If you only have one day to spend in the Livermore wine country, I recommend visiting McGrail Vineyards and Murrieta’s Well, where delicious wines are accompanied by breathtaking views; Wood Family Vineyards, where wines are produced by one of the region’s few winemakers; and Mitchell Katz, where tawny port is better than any dessert you’ll ever eat.

Pro tip: Before heading to wine country, be sure to review your wine tasting etiquette!

Keep up with a midday bite at Garre Cafe, where the menu is packed with delicious options, from small bites to salads and sandwiches to full entrees. And refuel with dinner at Uncle Yu’s at the Vineyard or First Street Ale House before returning to San José.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California.
(Photo credit: Sage Scott)

5. San Francisco

With its famous Golden Gate Bridge and sonorous cable cars, it’s easy to see why San Francisco attracts millions of visitors a year. Just an hour north of San José (when the traffic gods smile at you), there is so much to see and do in San Francisco that it’s impossible to tackle in a day. However, The Golden City is a fantastic day trip from San José for people who have visited before and want to cross a few specific activities off their travel list.

From touring Alcatraz to using the cable cars and free activities at Hidden Gems, you’re sure to find day trip activities that pique your interest with these amazing articles posted on The journey awaits you. And whether you pick a spot in Chinatown San Francisco or grab a bowl of sourdough bread chowder on Fisherman’s Wharf, be sure to savor the local flavors before spending a day in the city by the bay. .

Campanile at UC Berkeley.
Campanile at UC Berkeley (Photo credit: Sally Mason)

6. Berkeley

Another city day trip from San Jose is the college town of Berkeley, about 90 minutes north of San Jose. I recommend that you start your day by visiting the Cal campus, strolling through the school’s botanical garden, and taking in the panoramic views from the Campanile (officially named Sather Tower).

Then head to the marina where you can see the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco skyline in a whole new light from across the bay on a clear day. Take in the views while tasting delicious seafood at Skates on the Bay or strolling along the waterfront trails.

UC Berkeley Botanical Garden.
UC Berkeley Botanical Garden (Photo credit: Sally Mason)

Or head to Fourth Street where you might get the best pancakes on the planet at Bette’s Oceanview Diner. Whether you order a small stack of buttermilk pancakes or an apple brandy souffle pancake, your taste buds will tell you to buy a copy of The pancake manual before you leave.

In the surrounding Fourth Street shopping district, you’ll find everything from fashion and beauty products to housewares and specialty stores. One unique experience that may not be available where you live is the 4 Star Amazon Store, a retail space with a selection of highly rated items (you know, like at least four stars on Amazon.com) that you can explore to discover products you will like.

Pro tip: Here are several other fun things to do in eclectic Berkeley, California.

From quaint coastal towns to wine country and bustling urban areas, here are some of the best day trips from San Jose, California.


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