5 Ways to Spend Spring in California

Laura Parker

From family getaways throughout California to activities up and down the peninsula, there are plenty of ways to enjoy spring near the San Francisco Bay Area.

Tour San Francisco

With a rich collection of neighborhoods, landmarks, restaurants, and fun activities, San Francisco offers residents and visitors a lifetime of recreational opportunities in the city.

Start in Mission Dolores Park, where you can work up an appetite volleying with the kids at one of the park's six tennis courts. Afterward, try the nearby Dolores Park Café or Pizza Delfina for a relaxed post-game lunch. The Bi-Rite Creamery and its organic ice cream make for the perfect spring day treat if you're craving something sweet.

Continue your tour with a trip to the Exploratorium at Pier 15 in the Embarcadero. A public learning lab with many science exhibits, the Exploratorium is a hit for kids and adults. It’s also a great option to keep in your back pocket for an unexpected rainy day.
Photo courtesy of IAI Top Ten
No San Francisco tour is complete without a trip to the iconic Golden Gate Park. You could easily spend a whole day exploring this 1,000-acre park, but for a quick stop, head first to the California Academy of Sciences near the park's eastern entrance. With everything from an art studio to a Japanese tea garden, you’re sure to find something to excite you and your entourage at Golden Gate Park. Conclude your tour of San Francisco with a quick bite to eat at the Stow Lake Boathouse and a cruise around Stow Lake via a paddleboat.

Explore California wine country

With Napa located 50 miles north of San Francisco, wine country serves as the perfect spring getaway from the city. Similar to San Francisco, there are many ways for both kids and adults to enjoy their spring break in Napa and hit all the major wine cities along the way.
Photo courtesy of Charles M. Schultz Museum
The largest city in wine county, Santa Rosa is an excellent place for families. You can visit the Children's Museum of Sonoma County, the Charles M. Schultz museum (the creator of Charlie Brown), and ice skate with Snoopy on his home ice at the Redwood Empire Ice Area.

From Santa Rosa, the remainder of wine county is at arm's length. Head northwest and its open prairie and rugged coastline in Sonoma Coast State Park. You can also visit Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve. The 805-acre park is a California rainforest filled with beautiful and stoic redwood trees.

Suppose you opt for an overnight stay, head east, and eschew the hotels in favor of roughing it at the 400-acre Safari West animal preserve. The camping adverse need not worry as Safari West offers guests a glamping experience in a luxury tent with a viewing deck, hardwood floors, and an en-suite bathroom. Other packages include dining in the wild or a simple safari.

The key to experiencing wine country with the kids is finding the many wineries that cater to families. A few of them go out of their way to accommodate the family dynamic and make for an enjoyable spring break outing. The best family-friendly wineries include the Francis Ford Coppola Winery, Castello di Amorosa, and Sterling Vineyards.

Hike Yosemite National Park

About a four-hour drive from Menlo Park, Yosemite National Park is a must-see destination during the spring. The 760,000-acre park is at its best when one season is winding down, and another emerges—welcome spring with the blooming wildflowers and stunning Yosemite Waterfall.

Many of the park's popular waterfalls have reached or are nearing their prime by April, including Bridalveil Falls and Ribbon Fall. The remaining snowpack makes for a gorgeous photo op. And you won't have to crowd in with too many others to get the best shots, as most visitors wait for the summer or fall to stop by.

If you and your family want to get in a few more turns on the slopes, you’re just in time. Though it's at the end of the season, the Badger Pass Ski Area remains open through April 3. Alpine skies, cross-country skiers, and snowboarders should get in their final runs of the season with few issues. Be sure to check conditions before you go.

If you’re interested in an overnight trip, stay at Tenaya Lodge. Just two miles from the park's south entrance, the Tenaya Lodge offers diverse accommodations to suit families of any size. If you’re feeling hungry, grab a bite at Smokehouse 41 Barbecue or Southgate Brewing Company, both of which are located in nearby Oakhurst.

Visit San Luis Obispo

If you’re looking to escape the North Bay this spring break, turn your gaze south and check out nearby San Luis Obispo.
Photo courtesy of California Beaches
Situated in the foothills of the Santa Lucia Mountains, San Luis Obispo is an ideal spring break destination. There's plenty to do in San Luis Obispo, like shopping at the weekly downtown farmers market, touring the 1770s era San Luis Obispo de Tolosa mission, and visiting the Railroad Museum or Children's Museum of San Luis.

San Luis Obispo’s location along California's central coast provides near-perfect weather and many diverse landscapes to explore. There are many exciting ways to get to know the city for the adventurous family. You can visit the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes, hike Bishop Peak, or head to one of the many pristine beaches. Hiking and biking are favorite pastimes when the sun is up, and when it's down, San Luis Obispo has a lively bar and restaurant scene.

If you decide on an extended stay, it's a worthwhile endeavor to take a day and visit Santa Barbara. An hour and 45-minute drive from San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara is one of California's most opulent and vivacious seaside enclaves. They call it the American Rivera for a reason, and it's every bit as spectacular as residents suggest. If only to grab a bite to eat and capture a few photos, Santa Barbara is a fun spring break side trip.

Plan a road trip!

Two hours west of Los Angeles, Palm Springs requires a nearly eight-hour drive from Menlo Park or a 90-minute flight from San Francisco. The latter feels like a genuine vacation, but there’s serious road trip potential by bookending your trip with a drive through central California.

Palm Springs' primary draw is its constant sunshine and endless outdoor pursuits. Palm Springs boasts a vast array of golf courses, resort pools, and an incredible collection of outdoor art. Not including the city's architecturally significant roster of Mid-Century homes. A driving or walking tour of the houses and neighborhoods alone is worth the trip.
Photo courtesy of The Guardian
Palm Springs also sits adjacent to several national state parks, including Joshua Tree National Park, San Bernardino National Forest, and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument. All three are ideal for hiking, biking, and horseback riding.

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*Header photo courtesy of The Mercury News, Safari West

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