Favorite Spring Excursions in the San Francisco Bay Area

Granted, there is not the same energy and bliss in the Bay Area when spring arrives — versus say Chicago — given that our winters are mild. That said, I have a few favorite local excursions that are best experienced over these next few months (in some cases fall is great too).
Rodeo Beach

Summer can be cold at the beach in the Bay Area because of the persistent fog on the ocean. Spring and fall are great times of the year to explore the coast. Rodeo Beach in Marin County is a favorite spot for me – the sand is soft and the surf is gorgeous (although the undertow is strong and young kids need to be watched closely). There are short-but-rewarding hikes from the beach that are good for kids with fantastic coastal views.
If you want to make a day of it, Rodeo Beach is a 10-minute drive from the Bay Area Discovery Museum with excellent hands-on exhibits for young children. The views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco from here are to die for. Don’t miss the opportunity to check out Cavallo Point and have a meal at Farley Bar—lucky families will snag a seat on the deck overlooking the bay and headlands.
Napa Valley
We spend a weekend in Napa or Sonoma every spring — it’s a great time to visit this area because the weather is not hideously hot yet, but still warm enough enjoy a heated swimming pool. We just got back from The Carneros Inn (3rd night free promotion through August 31st). The highlight for us at this hotel is the lounge at their restaurant Farm — the covered outdoor seating area is ideally located next to bocce courts, and there is just enough grass to kick a ball around. Kids run around like monkeys while the adults drink wine and appreciate the good fortune of enjoying the great set-up. We were amused to discover this past Saturday that the cocktail hour at Farm may have had more kids than adults enjoying the glorious evening. Part of enjoying Napa for us includes adult downtime; on this trip we fit it a road ride through Carneros, a yoga class, and a spa visit.  Otherwise, the three of us relaxed at Otto’s, the family pool with an array of rafts and toys.
Last year’s trip to Napa was spent at Solage Calistoga (offering a 25% discount through June 30th). I like that property equally as much as The Carneros Inn — the mountain/valley setting is spectacular and the food is phenomenal. Again, there’s a dedicated family pool and it’s fun to walk around the laid-back town of Calistoga.
Nimitz Trail
There are wonderful multi-use trails in the East Bay. Many of these trails are perfect for walking or biking with kids. My favorite trail is the Nimitz Trail in Tilden Park with jaw-dropping views of San Francisco and the North Bay on a clear day. The paved trail has mild rolling hills and is great for biking with a trailer or older kids can ride on their own. Many families are on the trail at any point in time and walking is fun too.
Head for lunch or dinner at the Claremont Resort in Berkeley. The Paragon is the casual restaurant and we love the deck with panoramic views — a perfect place to catch sunset.
Half Moon Bay
The beaches along Highway 1 in Half Moon Bay can be bone-numbing cold in the summer — even when the weather is amazing inland. Check the weather before you go, but if the coast is clear, there are miles of sandy beaches to explore. Yolanda Edwards from Cookie Magazine just did a post on Going Places about Harley Farms in Pescadero — I’ve never been there, but it sounds like a fun place for kids to see a farm in action.
If you are near Pescadero, head to Duartes Tavern for dinner. This locals favorite is over 100 years old and the artichoke soup is not to be missed!
It’s brutally hot in outer East Bay over the summer months making the spring much better for visits. We checked out the wineries in Livermore last year and couldn’t believe all the gorgeous spring foliage, plus the hills are still lush and green this time of year from the winter rains. The region is now well known for its wineries and is much lower key than Napa. The best part for families is that many wineries are picnic-friendly. On our last visit there were tons of young kids running around. Wente is my favorite for the ambiance and setting, but there are many wineries to choose from. Check out this directory from Crazy About Wine for options.
I must mention that the Cataract Falls in Marin on Mt. Tamapais is incredible in the spring — the trail follows a river and hikers enjoy waterfalls and rushing water. The caveat is that this is not a good hike with young kids — the trail is very steep and rocky. If you have older kids that like to hike (and want a challenge) — this is an amazing spot.

Relevant Links:

Ciao Bambino recommended San Francisco family hotels

Favorite San Francisco attractions with kids

Favorite San Francisco Spring activities with kids

San Francisco Bay Area summer camps

Fleet Week in San Francisco

Visiting Mount Diablo with kids

San Francisco with kids – Ciao Bambino guest post on Two Kids and a Map

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