Must Visit Tourist Sites in Northern California

northern California sights

Here is a great list of must-visit tourist sites in Northern California for you to see!

If you are planning a vacation to Northern California, it’s time to start planning what sites you are going to see while you are there.  There are so many sites to see that you undoubtedly won’t be able to visit it all, but here is a great list of must-visit sites in Northern California for you to see while you are on your adventure. 

This list will include sites in the city, along the beach, in wine country, and more so you are sure to find something for everyone along for the ride!

San Francisco Bay Area

northern California sights

The San Francisco Bay Area is a fantastic place to visit and there are so many fun things to do; especially with kids!

northern California sights

Here are some must-visit sites and must-do activities in the Bay area that you don’t want to miss out on while you are there. 

  • Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge 
  • Go sailing on the San Francisco Bay
  • Spend some time wandering through Golden Gate Park
  • Visit Alcatraz, and check out the history of the rock
  • Hang out at Pier 39. Visit the aquarium, ride the carousel, and see the harbor seals!
  • Pacific Heights neighborhood (made popular by Full House and other movies and TV shows)
  • Ride the Trolley
  • Catch a sports game (when in season, of course).  The bay area is home to popular professional sports teams like the Golden State Warriors, the 49ers, the Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco Giants
  • Take the trolley to Ghirardelli Square and indulge in a hot fudge sundae!

San Francisco fun for kids!

Really, everything listed above would be great fun for kids! but these attractions and activities are specifically great for kids!

northern California sights
  • California Academy of Natural Sciences
  • Exploratorium
  • Bay Area Discovery Center
  • San Jose Tech Museum

Northern Coast and Pacific Coast Highway

If you decide to head north along the Pacific Coast Highway, you are in for a treat!  There aren’t many drives that are better than this one.  Along this drive, you can visit some of the most beautiful countryside that you will ever lay your eye on.  These include the following beautiful coastal areas.

  • Point Reyes National Seashore
  • Sea Ranch
  • Mendocino

Make sure to schedule in plenty of time for a stop on this drive to the North. You will want to stop and take photos of the views and simply enjoy the beautiful landscape around you. There are also plenty of fun, pretty, and quirky towns and attractions along the way. 

You also might want to take a little detour through the Avenue of the Giants. This stretch of highway is a scenic corridor that ventures off of highway 101 and gives you the experience of seeing the towering redwoods hovering over the road as you drive.  It is well worth the detour. 

Napa Valley

Just a little northeast of San Francisco, you will find Napa Valley.  This world-famous area is known for its amazing wines, charming lodging options, and more.  Wine enthusiasts will find this to be a wonderful vacation destination. It is here where you can find yourself stomping grapes, discovering new wine and food pairings, enjoying some of the top-rated restaurants in the world, hopping on a wine train, enjoying wine in a cave, and more.  

Redwoods National Forest

northern California sights

While on your awesome trip to Northern California, be sure to take the time to stop along the drive and visit the Redwood National Forest.  The trees here are among the oldest and largest in the world, and everyone should see them at least once in their life.  The Redwood National Forest is quite large and there are quite a few different entrances to the park so there will be lots of opportunities along the way.

If you are looking for a way to experience the Redwoods in a little different way, check out Trees of Mystery in Klamath.  Trees of Mystery is considered a “theme park” and is a very fun way to experience the Redwoods.  You can ride through several miles of trails, ride a skytrail and get a birds-eye view of the massive trees, and you can even see a 49-foot statue of Paul Bunyan and a 35-foot statue of his Blue Ox, Babe. This is a great place to take those Instagram selfies!

Lava Beds National Monument

Have you ever wondered what our planet may have is where you can imagine what our planet might have looked like in ancient times? The Lava Beds National Monument was formed tens of thousands of years ago and is now home to a vast lava bed, pit craters, lava tubes, caves, and more geological gems.  If you are at all into geology, you need to make the trip here. 

Have you ever taken a vacation to Northern California?  Did you love it?  What place would you recommend to others who are planning a trip there?

Monterey and the Big Sur Area

northern California sights

Monterey, CA is only about an hour south of the Bay Area and the views are just spectacular! Just like the coastal highway to the north, Highway 1 hugs the coastline with dramatic cliffs on one side and the vast Pacific Ocean on the other.

northern California sights

Monterey and the Monterey Peninsula are very popular for a day and weekend trip. Visit Fisherman’s Wharf, go shopping in Pacific Grove, or check out one of the gourmet cafe’s in Carmel-on-the-Sea.

Our favorite attraction though is Monterey Bay Aquarium. This aquarium is one of the best in the country and you can spend all day taking in the aquatic wildlife.

Yosemite National Park

northern California sights

No Northern California travel bucket list without adding Yosemite National Park. Yosemite is 3-4 hours from the Bay Area and it an outdoor lover’s paradise. Highlights in Yosemite include:

  • Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls
  • El Capitan
  • Bridalveil Falls
  • Half Dome
  • Glacier Point
  • Mariposa Grove
  • Vernal Falls

Want more travel tips? Check out these other great posts!

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