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Top San Francisco Bay Area Attractions

Top Attractions in the San Francisco Bay Area & Beyond

And the winners are…

Here is a list of some of the most popular travel categories for San Francisco Bay Area and Beyond! These regional top picks are selected from California's and Nevada's most popular travel destinations.

To refine your search and focus exclusively on a specific travel destination, e.g., Santa Cruz or Lake Tahoe, please select the desired vacation location from our Destination Explorer and search away!

Top Public Golf Courses

Pebble Beach Golf Links

Pebble Beach, CA (Public Course) – Pebble Beach Resorts, host of the 2010 U.S. Open, is comprised of three hotels: The Lodge at Pebble Beach, The Inn at Spanish Bay, and Casa Palmero; four golf courses: Pebble Beach Golf Links, Spyglass Hill Golf Course, The Links at Spanish Bay, and Del Monte Golf Course; and the recently opened Spa at Pebble Beach. Pebble Beach Golf Links has played host to 10 USGA championships since opening in 1919 and hosts the annual AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am tournament. U.S. Open Champions at Pebble Beach are among the biggest names in golf, including Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Tom Kite and Tiger Woods. Pebble Beach Resorts is proud to announce Pebble Beach Golf Links, site of Tiger Woods' historic win at the 2000 U.S. Open Championship, will once again host the championship in 2010.

Spyglass Hill Golf Course

Pebble Beach, CA   (Public Course)  – Pebble Beach Resorts, host of the 2010 U.S. Open, is comprised of three hotels: The Lodge at Pebble Beach, The Inn at Spanish Bay, and Casa Palmero; four golf courses: Pebble Beach Golf Links, Spyglass Hill Golf Course, The Links at Spanish Bay, and Del Monte Golf Course; and the recently opened Spa at Pebble Beach. Pebble Beach Golf Links has played host to 10 USGA championships since opening in 1919 and hosts the annual AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am tournament. U.S. Open Champions at Pebble Beach are among the biggest names in golf, including Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Tom Kite and Tiger Woods. Pebble Beach Resorts is proud to announce Pebble Beach Golf Links, site of Tiger Woods' historic win at the 2000 U.S. Open Championship, will once again host the championship in 2010.  More >>

Coyote Creek Golf Course

Morgan Hill, CA (Public Course) – Coyote Creek Golf Club is a spectacular 18 hole Jack Nicklaus Signature Course. Located south of San Francisco and just minutes from the Silicon Valley and downtown San Jose, California, Coyote Creek is home to the Siebel Classic, an annual Senior PGA Tour tournament.  More >>

CordeValle Golf Course

San Martin, California (30 minutes south of San Jose) –  Players of every skill level will enjoy the California championship golf course at CordeValle. This Northern California golf resort incorporates the picturesque surroundings of Wine Country to create an unmatched golf experience.  More >>

Shadow Creek Golf Course

Las Vegas, NV (Public Course) – Shadow Creek in Las Vegas is a legendary golf course sculpted from the Nevada desert by renowned architect Tom Fazio.

Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course

Lake Tahoe, NV (Public Course) – Set along the south shore of beautiful Lake Tahoe, Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course is arguably one of the most scenic golf courses in the world. Designed by George Fazio and opened in 1968, Edgewood is rated by Golf Digest Magazine as one of "America's Top Golf Courses."

Lake Ridge Golf Course

Reno, NV (Public Course) – Great golf, excellent food and terrific service- a proven winning combination found at LakeRidge Golf Course since our opening in 1969.  Designed by famed golf architect, Robert Trent Jones, Sr., it has been voted “Best of Reno” year after year.

Pasatiempo Golf Club

Santa Cruz, CA (Semi-private) – Pasatiempo Golf Club. An Alister MacKenzie design — since 1929.

Half Moon Bay Links

Half Moon Bay, CA (Public Course) – Half Moon Bay Golf Links is an award-winning 18-hole championship golf course with lush greens and ocean views.

Top Breweries and Pubs

Sierra Nevada Brewery

Chico, CA – Sierra Nevada Brewing Company has a proud history as one of the pioneers of the craft brewing industry and as a brewer of award-winning beers since 1981.

Anchor Steam Brewery

San Francisco, CA – San Francisco's original Anchor Steam Beer is virtually handmade in Anchor Brewing's handcrafted copper brewhouse. Its rich flavor, deep amber color, and thick creamy head all testify to the noble brewing tradition that has made Anchor Steam America's classic craft-brewed beer since 1896.

Los Gatos Brewing Company

Los Gatos, CA – Serving quality food and beers.

Gorden Biersh

San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, and San Jose, CA – The Gordon Biersch heritage of superior beer, great food and good times are now served up fresh daily in locations stretching coast to coast and across the Pacific to Honolulu.

Mendocino Brewing Company

Hopland, CA – Mendocino Brewing Company is renowned for brewing a range of full-bodied beers.

Seabright Brewery

Santa Cruz, CA – Located on Seabright Ave., the Seabright Brewery is a favorite local spot equipped with outdoor seating, live music, and award-winning beers.

Steelhead Brewery

Burlingame, CA – For nearly a century, The Claremont Resort & Spa has drawn its knowledge and expertise from the millions of individuals who have sought their destiny in the Bay Area. Nowhere is that more apparent than in Spa Claremont itself.

Top Wineries

Napa Valley

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Sonoma Valley

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Santa Cruz

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Top Scenic and Dinner Train Rides

Roaring Camp Railroad

Santa Cruz Mountains – The Santa Cruz, Big Trees & Pacific Railway Company operates the train between the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and Roaring Camp.  Although, the beach train ride is enjoyable, our favorite train is the narrow-gage steam locomotive that operates from Roaring Camp and travels into towering redwood groves, over trestles, and up a winding narrow-gauger grade to the summit of Bear Mountain.  More >>

Skunk Train

Fort Bragg , CA – One of the most scenic railroads in North America. Trips are offered from two stations located at opposite ends of our railroad in Fort Bragg and Willits.

Niles Canyon Railway

Fremont to Sunol, CA – The short six mile trip is a beautiful as it travels through Niles Canyon.  The train has a limited schedule and only operates Sunday executions.

Sacramento River Train

Woodland , CA (15 minutes from Sacramento) –  Enjoy dinner, brunch or lunch aboard the Sacramento RiverTrain. The train's 32 mile route travels through Sacrament Valley from Woodland, CA.  While you roll along, enjoy a great combination of scenery, food & entertainment.

Sierra Railroad

Oakdale, CA – Sierra Railroad now hosts the Sierra Dinner Train – one of the five best dinner trains in the West where delicious food, luxurious cars, unspoiled scenery and some of the best on-train entertainment may be enjoyed.

Napa Valley Wine Train

Napa, CA – The Napa Valley Wine Train is a leisurely 3-hour journey through the beautiful wine country of Napa Valley in meticulously restored vintage rail cars. Not just a train ride, but Napa Valley's most unique restaurant..  More >>

Shasta Sunset Dinner Train

McCloud, CA – Enjoy fine dining and exquisite scenery while traveling aboard the Shasta Sunset Dinner Train.. More >>

Top Mountain Biking

The following are serious off-road rides; although, most can be broken up into smaller – more manageable – segments.

The Flume Trail

Lake Tahoe, CA – One of Lake Tahoe's premier mountain bike trails, it has amazing views of the Tahoe Basin and the surrounding Sierra Nevada mountains.

Rubicon Trail

Lake Tahoe, CA –  This nationally known, difficult, 4X4 route leads from Loon Lake to Lake Tahoe, a distance of approximately 22 miles. The narrow passages, rocky climbs and an occasional mud hole keep the trail rated as Most Difficult. The trail is recommended for short wheelbase vehicles with all skid plates in place, and even then, you can expect scratches and/or dents.

There are restrooms located at the trailhead. Good fishing and camping are found at Miller, Buck, and Richardson Lakes. A world class OHV road with a variety of Mountain Biking opportunities from loop rides to difficult peak climbs.

Forest of Nisene Marks State Park

Aptos, CA Aptos Creek Road, Soquel Drive, Aptos, CA   831-763-7062

The park offers rugged semi-wilderness, rising from sea level to steep coastal mountains of more than 2,600 feet.  It has over 30 miles of hiking, jogging and biking trails.  More >>

Soquel Demonstration State Park

Soquel, CA –  California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
4750 Old San Jose Road, Soquel, CA  (831) 475-8643

Offering almost 5 miles (out and back) trails, this preserve is extremely popular with mountain bikers.   More >>

University of California Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz, CA – 1156 High Street, Santa Cruz, CA  Campus Police at (831) 459-2231

UCSC has many excellent bike trails on campus lands adjacent to the Campus Natural Reserve. Use of the campus trails, are encouraged. Riding bicycles in the reserve, on the trails or elsewhere, is prohibited.  More >>

Wilder Ranch State Park

Santa Cruz, CA – Located north of Santa Cruz, immediately west of Hwy 1  (831) 423-9703

The Park has 4,505 acres, with 34 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails winding through coastal terraces and valleys.

Mammoth Mountain and Lakes

Mammoth Lakes, CA – 1 Minaret Road, Mammoth Lakes, CA  (760) 934-2571

From expansive vistas to pine tree corridors, Mammoth Mountain and Lake offer over 100 miles of dirt single-track!

Henry Coe State Park

South of San Jose, CA – Coe Park is the largest state park in northern California of wild open spaces. The terrain of the park is rugged, varied, and beautiful, with lofty ridges and steep canyons. The park has 100 miles of roads and trails that are open to mountain bikes. The rugged terrain offers a variety of riding options ranging from moderately difficult to extremely difficult. There are practically no easy trails for bikes.

The following are some shorter, lower-key or family rides:

Waddell Creek, Big Basin

Santa Cruz County, CA – Six miles of Canyon Road (a graded dirt fire road) meanders along the course of Waddell Creek. It is almost level for the entire length, so even younger bicycle riders can be found pedaling along.   We recommend only fat tire bicycles be used, as it is dirt and ruts will cause problems for a narrow tired "road bike". Helmets are required for young riders and recommended for ALL! There are NO through trails to Big Basin, and NO single track trails are open to bicycles at Rancho del Oso or the main portions of Big Basin State Park.

Fern Canyon, Van Damme State Park, Little River

Mendocino County, CA – The park features the lush Fern Canyon scenic trail system; the Pygmy Forest where mature, cone-bearing cypress and pine trees stand six inches to eight feet tall; and the bog, or Cabbage Patch, where skunk cabbage grows in abundance. The park’s ten miles of trail go along the fern-carpeted canyon of Little River. A paved road is used by joggers and bicyclists. The beach is popular with abalone divers.

Russian Gulch State Park

Mendocino County, CA – This park is known for the heavily forested Russian Gulch Creek Canyon, a headland that features the Devil’s Punch Bowl (a large, collapsed sea cave with churning water), and a beach that offers swimming, tide pool exploring, skin diving and rock fishing. Inland, there is a 36-foot high waterfall. Hikers enjoy miles of hiking trails. The park also has a paved three-mile bicycle trail.

Top Surf Locations

Steamer Lane

Santa Cruz' Most Famous Surf Spot – Steamer Lane (also known as Steamer's Lane or Steamer's) is probably the most famous surf spot in Santa Cruz.  It's definitely for the more skilled and adventurous surfer.

Because this is such a prized surf location, use caution because the local surfers can be a little possessive and tend to apply a very strict code of conduct for those that use the waves.

Steamer Lane is home to the O'Neill Cold Water Classic surfing competition.  It is also where Jack O'Neill developed the modern wet suit  for surfing.

Pleasure Point

Santa Cruz, CA – Although it's still a very popular spot for surfing, the area has gone through a major transformation over the last decade or so.  Like much of Santa Cruz, it's moved away from being a local surf Mecca lined with small beach cottages to something much more affluent with large multimillion dollar homes.  But because its rocky bottom point break creates some fantastic surf, it is and probably always will be one of the most popular surfing areas in Santa Cruz.


Half Mon Bay, CA – Just north of Half Moon Bay in Princeton, CA, the famous Mavericks can be found a ½ mile off of the Pillar Point Marsh shoreline.

During the winter months the perfect set of environmental conditions can come together to create some of the biggest waves on the planet!  Although spectacular to look at, the waves at Mavericks should only be negotiated by professionals.  Less experienced surfers can find more appropriate waves along the local beach beaks.

Top Hikes & Backpacking

Tuolomne Meadows

Yosemite, CA – Tuolumne Meadows serves as a hub for summer backpacking opportunities in the park. Temperatures average 15 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than in Yosemite Valley, and, at 8,600 feet in elevation, the air is crisp, invigorating, and thin! Tuolumne hikers enjoy a variety of popular routes and many of the trailheads are within a short distance of each other. Trails range from just a few miles to Sunrise Lakes to thousands of miles on the Pacific Crest Trail. Remember, any blue sky day can quickly turn ominous and gray. The Sierra are well known for their magnificent afternoon thundershowers; enjoy these from a safe location in good rain gear. (The Tioga Road closes due to snow, usually from sometime in November through late May or early June. There is no overnight parking on the Tioga Road after October 15, please plan accordingly.)

Trailhead Information   Trailhead Descriptions    Descriptions and Mileage

Hike to the top of Half Dome

Yosemite, CA – The 14- to 16-mile round-trip hike to Half Dome is not for you if you're out of shape or unprepared. You will be gaining elevation (for a total of 4,800 feet) most of your way to the top of Half Dome. Most would say the reward is worth the effort. Along the way, you'll see outstanding views of Vernal and Nevada Falls, Liberty Cap, Half Dome, and–from the shoulder and summit–panoramic views of Yosemite Valley and the High Sierra.

Butano State Park

between Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay – A 2,200-acre redwood park in the Santa Cruz Mountains, featuring excellent hiking through the redwood groves. Only three miles from the Pacific coast, the park's trails offer views of the Pacific Ocean and the Año Nuevo islands.

Florence Lake / Lake Thomas Edison (Evolution Valley)

Sierra National Forest – Lake Thomas Edison – Edison Lake is surrounded by the John Muir and Ansel Adams Wildernesses. One-mile east of the Lake are the popular John Muir and Pacific Crest hiking trails. Wilderness permits are required for overnight stay. Shuttle Service is provided by the Vermillion Valley Resort for hikers who wish to cross the lake and start their journey into the wilderness at the east end of lake.

Florence Lake – Four miles east of the lake hikers and equestrian users can connect to the popular Pacific Crest Trail in the John Muir Wilderness. Permits are required for overnight stay. Ferry service is available for hikers who wish to cross the lake by boat.

Horseback riding and guided pack services are available nearby.

South Sister Peak

29 miles west of Bend, Oregon – About the Hike: Oregon's third-tallest mountain has a path to its top. Admittedly, the trail up 10,358-foot South Sister is exceedingly steep, long and rugged, but no technical climbing skills are required and the rewards are great.

The Desolation Wilderness

Lake Tahoe, CA – The Desolation Wilderness is made up of 63,960 acres of subalpine and alpine forest, granite peaks, and glacially-formed valleys and lakes. Located west of Lake Tahoe and north of Highway 50 in El Dorado County, the  Desolation Wilderness is jointly administered by both the Eldorado National Forest and Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.

Big Basin Redwoods State Park

Santa Cruz County – Rancho Del Oso, Hwy 1   831-338-8860

Located 25 miles south of Half Moon Bay on Hwy. 1, the park has miles of trails, which serves hikers and equestrians, links Big Basin to Castle Rock State Park and the eastern reaches of the Santa Cruz range.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns California State Park

Big Sur, CA – The park stretches from the Big Sur coastline into nearby 3,000-foot ridges. The park features redwood, tan oak, madrone, chaparral, and an 80-foot waterfall that drops from granite cliffs into the ocean from the Overlook Trail.  A panoramic view of the ocean and miles of rugged coastline is available from the higher elevations along the trails east of Highway 1.

The park offers Environmental Camping only. Located west of the highway a little over 1/4 mile from the parking lot, Saddle rock (No 1) and South Garden (No. 2) are the park's only campsites. Visit their Web site for additional information.  More >>

The Tahoe Rim Trail

Lake Tahoe, CA & NV – The Tahoe Rim Trail is one of the world’s premier trails. It passes through two states (California and Nevada), six counties, one state park, three National Forests, and three Wilderness areas. This spectacular trail is 165 miles of single-track multiuse trail, winding peak to peak around Lake Tahoe. It is a trail that offers something for everyone! Hiking and horseback riding are allowed on all portions of the trail, while mountain biking is allowed on the trail with the exception of the wilderness areas, the section that is in the Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park, and on the sections of trail that overlap with the Pacific Crest Trail.

Top Ski Resorts

Diamond Peak Ski Resort

Incline Village, NV (North Lake Tahoe) – Diamond Peak Ski Resort at Incline Village, Lake Tahoe offers great ski package deals, affordable lift ticket prices, uncrowded skiing and beautiful view of Lake Tahoe!    More >>

Heavenly Ski Resort –  South Lake Tahoe, CA –

Lake Tahoe's premier mountain resort.  It  is located on the south shore of Lake Tahoe, with inspiring scenic beauty and exhilarating experience ski runs.

Kirkwood Mountain Ski Resort

Kirkwood, CA (South of South Lake Tahoe) – In 2005, Ski Magazine ranked Kirkwood in the top 20 for snow, terrain variety and challenge.

Mount Rose Ski Resort

Reno, NV –  With spectacular Lake Tahoe to the west, the entire state of Nevada to the east, Mount Rose ski resort has nearly 1800 vertical feet across 1,200 acres of some of the Sierra's best powder to ski.

Mammoth Mountain

Mammoth Lakes, CA –  Vacation at Mammoth Mountain in California's premier winter resort. Mammoth Mountain offers skiing, snowboarding, cross country skiing, snowmobiling, ski school, kids programs, day care, rentals, demos and much more. Book your lodging, lift tickets and passes. Check the latest weather, conditions, packages and deals. Come explore the magic and beauty of the Eastern Sierras. Mammoth Mountain offers fun and adventures for the whole family.

Top Theme & Water Parks

Six Flags – Vallejo

The park is a 135-acre park featuring awesome rides, great shows, and incredible attractions.   More >>

Great America – San Jose

Great America was recently voted the Bay Area's most exciting theme park!   More >>

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk – Santa Cruz

Voted the world’s Best Seaside Amusement Park in 2007 and 2008, the historic Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk features both modern and classic thrill rides, restaurants, miniature golf, video game arcades, and family bowling, all located on a mile-long sandy beach. The admission-free Boardwalk offers affordable ticket options and free summer entertainment. A truly unique California experience!   More >>

Gilroy Gardens – Gilroy

(formally Bonfante Gardens) 

The family oriented theme park has over 40 rides, gardens and exhibits.  The Park's mission is to entertain and educate families — especially children — making it the most family friendly theme park in the region.   More >>

Raging Waters –  Sacramento

Sacramento’s largest water park, features signature thrill rides for a full day of fun for the entire family.   More >>

Raging Water – San Jose

Northern California’s largest water park, features signature thrill rides for a full day of fun for the entire family.   More >>


Do you know something that we should include on one of our lists? Would you like us to add another "Special Interest Topic"? Please let us know! We just may add it! Send in a name/description by clicking here.

What’s on Tap


San Francisco Bay Area & Beyond Festivals & Events:
Thunderbirds on the Santa Cruz Wharf! Sept. 30th at 9am to 3pm.
Featuring the classic 1955-1957, the 1958-1965 vintage and the retro, 2002-2005 Thunderbirds.
Welcome Back Monarchs Day – Oct. 8, 2017 11am – 4pm.
Natural Bridges SB in Santa Cruz
San Francisco Fleet Week – Oct. 1 – 9, 2017
Airshow, ships and much more!
Sonoma County Harvest Fair Oct. 6 – 8, 2017.
This festival is all about grapes and celebrating the local wineries, with more than 150 local wines, artisanal crafts and foods on offer from October 6 to October 8, 2017.
Giant Pumpkin Patch at Guadalupe River Park – Oct. 14, 2017
San Jose—Fun activities and lots of pumpkins
Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Patches – October 2017
Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival Oct. 14 & 15, 2017
Santa Cruz Pumpkin Patches – October 2017
Haunted Halloween on The Embarcadero at Crystal Jade – Oct 28, 2017
San Francisco
SF Japantown Halloween Carnival – Oct. 27, 2017
Pleasanton Harvest Festival – Oct. 27-29, 2017
17th Annual Halloween Hoopla  – Oct. 29, 2017
Event features interactive performances and games for kids under 10 and their adults and the return of the Yerba Buena Pumpkin Patch!
Dia de los Muertos – Day Of The Dead Procession and Festival of Altars – Nov. 2, 2017 at 7:00 PM
San Francisco – The annual procession, November 2nd at 7:00 PM at 24th & Bryant, in the Mission District of San Francisco. The procession ends in Garfield Park at the Festival of Altars 8:30 PM at 26th & Harrison.
Please bring flowers, candles, and remembrances of your loved ones for our community altar.
For more “top” events, click on our Festivals & Events page or select a specific travel destination from our City Selector.


Top Winter Attractions:
Snow Skiing in the Sierras
Lake Tahoe is home to 15 snow ski resorts and some of the best alpine and cross county snow skiing in the world. You’re sure to find a ski resort and hotel that will meet your expectations.
Whale Watching – Dec. through May
California grey whales migrate down the coast
Elephant Seal Watching – December through March is breeding season. Año Nuevo State Reserve has a large colony of northern elephant seals that assemble there each winter. Watch 5,000 pould males fight for breeding rights!


The Region’s Fall Advisories:
Yes, it’s still water, water, water! California is undergoing an extreme drought. If you are planning a lake vacation be sure to check about water levels. That rafting trip, fishing, or skiing can be impacted.
EXTREME fire danger. The drought has created a very dangerous combination of dry vegetation and no moisture in the air to help contain any fire. Please use extreme caution during your trip.
Traffic Conditions. Traffic through major cities and extremely popular travel destinations can be challenging. Plan ahead to drive before and after commute hours. Go to to learn about road conditions. As a special note, Highway 92 in to and out of Half Moon Bay can be very difficult during the pumpkin season. Plan ahead and arrive early and leave late!