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15 Top Spring Break Destinations near the San Francisco Bay Area

In California, spring unfolds beautifully. The mild temperature, the effusion of colors, and wildflowers everywhere whisper to explore the outdoors during spring break in California.

This time aptly coincides with my birthday and the spring break at my daughter’s school. I choose places that are beautiful, invigorating, and have plenty of learning opportunities and activities to keep our minds and muscles busy.

Sometimes though, we choose to relax and imbibe the vibrancy of our surroundings. Let me present you with a few beautiful places to celebrate spring in California.

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Table of Contents

Spring in California

Mendocino Botanical Gardens – One of the top Spring Break Getaways near the San Francisco Bay Area

After the winter rains, the valley in the San Francisco Bay Area turns green.

By the time spring arrives, the temperature starts getting warmer, and the blooming wildflowers in the valley, along the roads, and beside the lakes present a vibrant palette of yellow, orange, blue, and violet.

Spring is perhaps one of the best times to explore beautiful and diverse California. Endless possibilities to learn and understand the nuances of nature along the road await children and adults alike.

Spring is perhaps one of the best times to explore beautiful and diverse California. Endless possibilities to learn and understand the nuances of nature along the road await child and adult alike. #Travel #California Click To Tweet

Map of Top Spring Break Destinations Near Bay Area

California spring break destinations

California is diverse not just naturally but also in terms of people and culture.

No wonder California is a melting pot of new ideas and innovation and the mecca of the modern world, which is leading the world to a new age; the age of AI or Artificial Intelligence.

Every year, during springtime, when I explore California with my daughter, my choice of places becomes diverse too.

Nature, culture, history, religion, museums, science, and art all take their turn; quite a multi-dimensional approach like life itself.

Choose a destination that aptly goes with your mood, need, and intellect. I have collected a list of places that have been my favorite spring getaways near the San Francisco Bay Area, which I hope will inspire you too.

So without further delay, let’s explore!

I have collected a list of places that have been my favorite spring getaways in California, which I hope will inspire you too. So without further delay, let's explore! #Springbreak #California Click To Tweet

1. Fort Bragg in Mendocino – A spring weekend getaway

Life begins underground, especially when there’s a whiff of spring in the air, and slowly it unfurls into petals.

Inside the Mendocino Botanical Gardens at Fort Bragg, greet spring while meandering through the blooming flowers by the Pacific Ocean.

Fort Bragg in Mendocino is one of my favorite spring getaways. Other highlights include Point Cabrillo Lighthouse Museum and the world-famous Skunk Train.

In just 1 hr and 15 mins, you can also reach a bona fide redwood and a California icon, the 2400-year-old Chandelier Tree, or the well-known Drive-Thru Tree in Leggett, California.

Also, if you are in the mood to soak up some sun after a long winter, you can easily unwind and spend a day on the beach at Fort Bragg.

Imbibe the scents and scenes of spring in Mendocino. It’s a gem. Pack your bag and get going!

Where to stay  JD house – Inns of Mendocino (Read my detailed review) or Ocean View Lodge

Spring break in California - Best places to visit, Travel Realizations, Fort Bragg in Mendocino
A beautiful sculpture amidst the palette of spring in the Mendocino Botanical Gardens

READ MORE: 48 Top Things to Do in Fort Bragg, California

2. Redwood National Park – Perfect spring break destination for nature lovers

Spring is the best time to visit Redwood National Park and witness the tallest living things on Earth.

Craning your neck, when you will look up to see the redwood tree, you may also see migratory birds flit through the towering trees.

Rhododendrons and many wildflowers burst forth in spring. Drive through the Avenue of Giants for a lifetime memory unparalleled to any.

While hiking on the Drury-Chaney trail, one of the most popular Avenue of the Giants trails, my daughter found a banana slug which added a serendipitous spark to our journey.

Also, don’t miss hiking through the Fern Canyon in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, where the walls are completely covered by luxuriant ferns, lush and green, and mosses dripping with moisture.

Whenever my daughter found a log, she jumped on it, and she was happy to splash around. The most breathtaking escape in California is the great outdoors.

Steven Spielberg chose Fern Canyon as a location for Jurassic Park 2, The Lost World. No wonder the Redwood National and State Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Where to stay View Crest Lodge, Emerald Forest Cabins

Spring break in California - Best places to visit, Travel Realizations, Redwood National Park
Let yourself get fully immersed in the free-growing green, aka, forest bathing

READ MORE: 29 Best Things To Do In Redwood National and State Parks, California

3. Monterey – Celebrate spring along the coast

The laid-back charm of the beautiful city of Monterey goes perfectly with the spring break mood.

You can choose to drive along Highway 1 for an hour or two and get immersed in the cliff-hugging views of crashing waves.

Along the coast, enjoy the spring flowers and purple carpet, a magical spectacle. If you want to ditch the car for a day and go hiking, choose Point Lobos State Reserve.

When I hiked along the Cypress Grove Trail in Point Lobos, I was thrilled to realize that I was actually hiking amidst a rare Monterey Cypress Grove, one of the only two naturally growing groves of such trees remaining on earth.

One of my favorite places in Monterey is the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I love watching another world in slow motion through glasses.

The 28 feet kelp forest exhibit in the Monterey Bay Aquarium is unique and is one of the tallest aquarium exhibits in the world.

In the nearby town of Carmel-by-the-Sea, visit the beautiful Carmel Mission, part of California’s Spanish colonial history.

I especially love the carefully manicured garden behind the church. Monterey is indeed a charming choice for a wholesome spring break in California.

Where to stay Hofsas House Hotel (read a detailed review), Carmel Mission Inn 

Spring break in California - Best places to visit, Travel Realizations, Pacific Grove, Monterey, BigSur
Purple carpet in Pacific Grove – A magical spectacle
Spring break in California - Best places to visit, Travel Realizations, Big Sur
Ah the ocean air!

READ MORE: 50 Top things to do in Monterey, California – The Ultimate Bucket

4. San Simeon – A beautiful destination along the central coast

Spend a few days in one of the most beautiful destinations along the central coast. The beautiful Hearst Castle is a must-see here.

Another attraction is the Elephant Seal Vista Point, a delight for both parents and kids. You can see hundreds of northern elephant seals relaxing on the beach.

I learned that from the beginning of April, the molting season starts and lasts four to six weeks. There are lots to do and see in San Simeon. This cozy little town on the Pacific coast is a perfect spring getaway.

Where to stay Cavalier Oceanfront Resort, Coast Riders Inn

5. Morro Bay – A perfect beach destination

One of my favorite coastal landmarks along the California coastline is the Morro Rock, the extinct volcanic peak in Morro Bay, a cozy city in California.

Miles of beaches and the idyllic backdrop let you dream and relax and is a beautiful destination for a spring break in California.

Explore the Morro Bay State Park, located along the National Estuary, rich in wildlife and beautiful views. Choose to go biking, hiking, or surfing and then sit on the beach with your favorite cocktail and soak up the sun.

Let the kids play with the bucket and sand while you finish up reading an unfinished book.

The sound of crashing waves, the feel of sand between the toes, the smell of the briny ocean air – a day at the beach is a feast for the senses and gifts memories that linger amidst our busy urban lives.

Travel Tip: Right next to your sunscreen, pack some of your favorite books.

Right now if you ask me to recommend a book, then I would suggest, The Geography of Genius by  Eric Weiner, one of my favorite travel writers. Let it send your imagination soaring to places you never dreamed you’d go.

Where to stay Front Street Inn and Spa, 456 Embarcadero Inn & Suites

Spring break in California - Best places to visit, Travel Realizations, Morro Rock, Morro Bay
Morro Rock, the extinct volcanic peak in Morro Bay

6. Solvang – Enjoy a little slice of Denmark in your spring break

Solvang (Danish for “sunny field”), is modeled like a Danish village, akin to the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales, with half-timbered homes, palaces, towers, gabled roofs, clock towers, and windmills.

While exploring Solvang, I remembered my visit to Copenhagen and appreciated the Scandinavian traits that one can sometimes spot in California.

Take a stroll along Mission Drive, the main street in town, and collect a Danish-themed souvenir. For tasty traditional Danish treats, stop by a few local bakeries and cafes. 

Visit the old Santa Ines Mission and if you are lucky enough, you will get to see an authentic Spanish-style wedding.

I enjoyed my time inside the mission with my family during one of the spring breaks in California.

The row of vintage cars (very Instagramable) in front of the mission for the newly-wed couple’s photo session looked lovely.

Also, don’t miss spending some time in the nearby Hans Christian Andersen Park. I found the juxtaposition of California and a Danish town quite offbeat and gives us the opportunity to escape the familiar.

Where to stay Hotel Corque, King Frederik Inn 

Spring break in California - Best places to visit, Travel Realizations, Solvang
Solvang – Enjoy a little slice of Denmark in spring

7. Wat Dhammararam Buddhist Temple – A perfect short day trip on a spring afternoon

Nature, art, culture, science, history, and religion are my favorite learning subjects when I travel.

Wat Dhammararam is a Cambodian Buddhist temple in Stockton, less than 2 hours from San Francisco. I loved exploring this exceptionally beautiful, well-organized, and well-maintained temple.

The peaceful atmosphere and the beautiful sculptures all around gifted me a contemplative spring afternoon.

One thing that I loved the most was the sculptures that depicted the scenes which Gautama Buddha witnessed when he was a prince.

I have read about those scenes and realizations of Buddha many times but seeing them in the form of sculptures was remarkable.

When I was explaining the meaning of these events to my daughter, I felt like I was reading her a storybook where the words were sculptures.

Visit Wat Dhammararam Buddhist Temple on the weekend and revel in spirituality, which is increasingly a rare thing in the modern digital age.

This temple features over 90 colorful and larger-than-life jewel-encrusted statues that celebrate the life and story of the Buddha in a Cambodian setting.

While exploring this place, I also remembered visiting Taungpulu Kaba-Aye Monastery – another Buddhist temple in California.

Spring break in California - Best places to visit, Travel Realizations, Wat Dhammararam Buddhist Temple, Stockton
The reclining Buddha at the Wat Dhammararam Buddhist Temple in Stockton, California
Spring break in California - Best places to visit, Travel Realizations, Wat Dhammararam Buddhist Temple, Stockton
Buddham saranam gacchami, Dhammam saranam gacchami, Sangham saranam gacchami
I go to the Buddha for refuge. I go to the Dhamma for refuge. I go to the Sangha for refuge.

8. San Francisco – Spring adds an extra charm to this world-famous city

San Francisco, the city which is changing and reinventing itself like a social media feed, becomes all the more beautiful during the spring.

A stroll along the Embarcadero, San Francisco’s quintessential bayside pedestrian promenade, is a must-do springtime activity if you live in and around the San Francisco bay area.

If you live far from the city, consider spending a few days here. Art, culture, science, and technology, no matter what you would like to indulge in, this city has them all.

An exhibition in SFMOMA during the day and spending a musical evening with San Francisco Symphony would definitely make your spring break full of variety.

The next day head to Exploratorium, one of the top 10 science museums in the United States, or to the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park and spend a rhythmic evening with the San Francisco Ballet.

No matter what you choose to do, there is no dearth of activities in this world-famous city.

Where to stay Handlery Union Square Hotel, Riu Plaza Fisherman’s Wharf

Spring break in California - Best places to visit, Travel Realizations, San Francisco
San Francisco – Spring adds an extra charm to this world-famous city

9. Pinnacles National Park – Winter rain makes it green. Spring air beckons the wilderness lover

Spring adds a verdant glow to the Salinas Valley, where the Pinnacles National Park is located.

Just a couple of hours’ drive from the San Francisco bay area, this park is ideal to unwind and escape the hustle and bustle and ever-busyness of city life.

Wilderness is medicinal, after all. Every time I visit Pinnacles, I meet lovely squirrels on the ground and California condors up in the sky.

They swiftly take me away into the wilderness, the extraordinary. Pinnacles National park is one of my favorite spring break destinations in California.

One of my favorite hiking trails is the one that goes to the reservoir. The caves and beautiful red rock formations look surreal – a unique landscape.

Those rocks are all that’s left of a 23,000,000-year-old volcano called Neenatch. If you love camping, then there are well-organized campgrounds accessible from the east side of the Park.

Rock climbing, bird watching, hiking, or choosing to sit beside a flowing stream, especially during the spring. No matter what you chose, you will step into silence and stillness.

Where to stay Keefers Inn King City

Spring break in California - Best places to visit, Travel Realizations, Pinnacles National Park
After the hike in Pinnacles National Park

10. Napa Valley – Celebrate Spring with a riot of brilliant yellow mustard flowers. Bonus – A Cabernet Sauvignon or Napa Valley Chardonnay

Cheers to Napa Valley, be it fall, winter or spring. The lure of this picturesque valley is evergreen.

Explore the stunning wineries and beautiful vineyards in Napa Valley, especially along the Silverado Trail, my favorite.

Also, don’t miss the miles and miles of mustard, as far as the eye can see in Calistoga. The valley comes alive in a bright carpet of mustard flowers.

Indulge in pet-friendly gourmet picnic experiences in stunning locations, explore the hidden gems of Napa Valley, or simply sip the wine and unwind and let your kids play in a garden full of tulips.

If you love playing with your camera, then also explore Instagram-Worthy spots for spring.

Also read: 55 Top things to do in Napa Valley Besides Wine Tasting

Where to stay A list of 11 Best Bed and Breakfasts in Napa Valley

Spring break in California - Best places to visit, Travel Realizations, Napa Valley
Cheers to Napa valley!

11. Clear Lake in Lake County – America’s oldest lake and a hidden gem

I have seen unforgettable sunrises and sunsets over Clear Lake while staying at the Skylark Shores Resort in Lakeport.

The golden hour is perhaps our most universally adored sky show, yet it never ceases to amaze us and dazzle us in so many different ways.

The soothing calmness of the full moon night that I spent here always beckons me for another visit to this wayfarer’s paradise.

Drive to Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument and feel how the dense press of civilization lifts and the open wilderness weaves itself into the landscape.

The Berryessa Snow Mountain was only designated in 2015 as a national monument. The entire area is rich in the history of the Native Americans and the gold rush era.

Explore the pristine wilderness and discover range after range of forested mountains and lakes nestling in deep valleys, rivers, creeks, and bubbling hot springs.

If you love off-beat places away from well-known touristy spots, then this place is for you.

Take in the panoramic views and the fragrance of spring wildflowers in bloom. Since nature is our best teacher and healer, you and your kids will be in good company.

Where to stay Skylark Shores Resort

12. Lake Almanor – One of the Golden State’s best-kept secrets and an off-beat spring break destination

Instead of going to Lake Tahoe, visit Lake Almanor Basin, for a change.

Nestled in the northeastern corner of California, near Lassen Volcanic National Park, Lake Almanor is one of the Golden State’s best-kept secrets.

If you visit here for once, you will want to return again in your next spring break in California for sure. Be it spring, summer, or fall, Lake Almanor offers lots of opportunities for outdoor recreation.

When I visited Lake Almanor, away from crowds, I loved the tranquil atmosphere here the most.

A laid-back morning by the lake, watching birds, and a gorgeous sunset in the evening, followed by a delicious dinner at Plumas Pines Resort, gifted me an ideal leisure holiday.

Play a round of golf among towering pines, encounter black-tailed deer munching on breakfast during a sunrise hike, coast over the reservoir’s glassy waters on a kayak or boat, or soak in the sunset’s fiery aspen glow over Lassen Peak, an active volcano that measures 10,457 feet. It’s this volcano, plus all of the neighboring Lassen Volcanic National Park, that make the Lake Almanor region so unique.

Visit california

Where to stay Lake Almanor Country Club Home with Peak View and Kayaks!

13. Burney Falls – One of the most spectacular waterfalls in California and a perfect spring destination

I love spending time near a waterfall. The sublime roar and the splashes all over gladden the heart.

Burney Falls beckon those visitors who find quietude amidst the thundering wonder. Burney Falls in the McArthur Burney Falls State Park looks like several waterfalls gushing side-by-side, with even more rivulets of water running down the cliffside nearby. 

Burney Falls loop trail is the one I love. Spring is the best time to witness the 129-foot Burney falls at their most intense when snowmelt is at its peak.

Also, drive to the Lava Bed National monument, another surreal landscape sculpted by molten earth.

Burney Falls doesn’t cascade—it explodes. Each day, 100 million gallons of spring water burst from a 129-foot basalt cliff face and spill into a cerulean pool flanked by ponderosa pines.

National Geographic

Where to stay Strawberry Valley Inn, Shasta Inn

Spring break in California - Best places to visit, Travel Realizations, Burney Falls
Burney Falls – One of the most spectacular waterfalls in California

14. Death Valley National Park – Spring sprinkles life into this waterless wonder

If you are lucky enough, you will witness the carpets of wildflowers known as the Super Bloom in one of the hottest and driest places on earth, a very rare but amazing sight! 

Nevertheless, spring is the ideal time to explore Death Valley National Park – the waterless wonder.

Even in normal bloom years, early spring can bring smaller pockets of flowers to the desert floor and later to the mid-and high elevations.

Before you drive to Death Valley National Park, check out the wildflower season update since the timing varies depending on the weather conditions.

Dante’s View, Zabriskie Point, Artist’s Palette, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, and Bad water Basin are the must-see stops in Death Valley National Park.

I was lucky to witness the beauty of this barren land on a full moon night.

The tones and the textures of the shifting sand dunes under the moonlight when the colors and complexity were sweeping away under the blanket of darkness remains one of my cherished travel moments.

Where to stay The Inn at Death Valley, The Ranch At Death Valley

Spring break in California - Best places to visit, Travel Realizations, Death Valley National Park
Death Valley – A waterless wonder!

15. Columbia State Historic Park – Get immersed in California’s gold rush history

When I visited Columbia State Historic Park, I felt like traveling back in time to the sights, smells, and sounds of a nineteenth-century mining town – merchants dressed in 1850s attire, a blacksmith shop, and women wearing long gowns!

Columbia State Historic Park is a living gold rush town featuring the largest single collection of existing gold rush-era structures in the state. 

It includes almost 30 buildings built during the California Gold Rush, most of which remain today. If you want to witness a different era, visit Columbia State, Historic Park. Also, visit the Moaning Caverns adventure park nearby.

Pinecrest Lake, which is around 45 minutes drive from Columbia State Historic Park, is also a beautiful place to unwind.

Where to stay Murphys Suites, Courtwood Inn

Travel Realizations, Columbia State Historic Park
Columbia State Historic Park – Get immersed in California’s Gold Rush history

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Beautiful places to visit in California. Endless possibilities to learn and understand the nuances of nature along the road await child and adult alike. #California #VisitCalifornia #Travel Click To Tweet

Travel Realizations

I explore popular destinations and unfamiliar ones with equal curiosity and wanderlust. I hope some or all the places which I mentioned in this post have struck a chord with you too.

Let me know which one you chose to explore and why. The open road is the best book and gives us endless possibilities to enrich ourselves. So, dream, discover, explore, and realize!

The world is a complicated one but no less pretty. Enjoy the spring break in California. Happy journey!

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I hope you’ve enjoyed my guide to Top Spring Break Getaways near the San Francisco Bay Area. You may also enjoy these California and Bay Area travel guides.

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Chirasree Banerjee

Hello. My name is Chirasree. I have been traveling for almost 11 years to places all over the world. I enter into a separate reality during my travels and enjoy the allure of escape from the mundane. I seek beauty through nature and human-made creations. Because beauty is powerful. I seek knowledge. I observe, absorb, and write about the places I visit and the profound realizations and inspirations that each place has to offer.


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  1. It looks like there are a lot of beautiful places to visit here during the spring time! I love all of the freshly bloomed flowers everywhere.

  2. California has so many beautiful spots! cant wait to explore more!

  3. Julie

    As a Californian, I love this list! There are even a few places I’ve never been – I’m headed to Lassen this summer, so I will definitely check out Lake Almanor. And Morro Bay is one of my all time favorite spots. Great post!

  4. We are really blessed in California with some of the most beautiful places in the world. I’ve lived here all my life and there are still places on this list that I have not been. I didn’t know about the Cambodian temple for example! Great ideas here!

  5. Taylor

    There are so many amazing spring break destinations in California. From the mountains to the beach there is seriously something for everyone. I also really loved Catalina Island when I visited in 2016. It felt like another world. 🙂

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