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When it comes to things to do in Northern California, it’s truly endless. Whether it’s national parks or visiting gems in the Bay Area, there is something for everyone. Since I’m an avid weekend warrior, when I am home, I like to take full advantage of exploring the area.

Things To Do in Northern California This Summer

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Northern California has so much on offer and if you’re looking to do more this summer, then take a look at this list of incredible things to do. (If you’re looking to make a week-long itinerary out of these locations, then head here).

Things To Do in Northern California This Summer

Things To Do in Northern California This Summer

Things To Do in Northern California This Summer

Spend a day in San Francisco

If you’re looking to visit San Francisco, start with a scenic drive over the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s certainly a highlight of the Bay Area and one incredible view to start your time in the city. San Francisco has so much to do, whether it’s visiting the museums like the MOMA or De Young, or exploring neighborhoods. You could even coffee shop hop your way through the city! If you’re looking to photograph the city, be sure to take a look at these 5 photography locations.

Things To Do in Northern California This Summer

Spend a night in Yosemite National Park

One of my favorite things to do is to visit Yosemite National Park. The valley is full of adventure, with hikes to waterfalls and views. You could spend a day here or opt to rent a cabin in one of the villages. Take a look at this post for my full guide for how to stay in Yosemite National Park.

Explore Lassen Volcanic National Park

In the more northern part of California is Lassen National Park. A trip here would probably require a day or two to really see it in full, but it would be worth it. This geothermal area has a lot to see like the Bumpass Hell site and tons of old lava flow sites.

Tour the Winchester Mystery House

If you’re looking for one of the biggest thrills in the state, then head to the Winchester Mystery House. I’d recommend booking your tickets in advance to guarantee entry here.

Things To Do in Northern California This Summer

Hike in Muir Woods National Park

One of our best parks in the area, Muir Woods is full of redwoods and winding trails. You’ll need to reserve either a parking spot in advance or book their shuttle service to gain access. I’d avoid weekends here as well and aim to go mid-week for fewer crowds.

Things To Do in Northern California This Summer

Swim in Lake Tahoe

My ultimate summer state park is certainly Lake Tahoe as it’s the best place to go for a swim. The colder waters and milder temperatures are where I like to head to cool off. Some of my favorite summer memories is renting a cabin on the lake with friends and spending a relaxing weekend here. Take a look at these Airbnbs in Tahoe and this summer guide for your visit.

Things To Do in Northern California This Summer

Experience Wine Country in Napa Valley

Napa is always a favorite for wine tasting and cuisine. We love to head out for the day on a weekend, pick a winery like Peju or Domaine Carneros, and hang out for the afternoon. If you’re looking to stay overnight, I love the Meadowood or Auberge de Soleil.

Surf the waves in Santa Cruz

If you’re making your way from Southern California up the coast, then you’ll make your way through Santa Cruz. It’s a top spot for surfing in California and a fan favorite for a seaside escape. 

Things To Do in Northern California This Summer

Get outside in Sonoma County

My personal favorite place to go to is Sonoma County. North of San Francisco and about an hour’s drive, it’s a great weekend away. We love to explore areas like Sebastopol, Guerneville, and Healdsburg when we are out in the area. The restaurants are incredible and you’re never too far from the coast if you want to get those ocean views. Here’s a list of some awesome Airbnbs in Sonoma.

Things To Do in Northern California This Summer

Learn about history in Gold Country

North of Sacramento, is California’s center for gold rush history. My favorite town (and hometown!) is Auburn, California in Placer County. It’s home to the golden era and has so much charm. Situated by the river, you can easily get outdoors here and have a charming town experience. Here’s my ultimate weekend guide to Auburn.

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Things To Do in Northern California This Summer

PS — Are You Booking a Trip Soon? Use My Booking Checklist!

These are the sites I use most to book my own trips. Using the links below is a great way to support Bon Traveler’s travel journalism at no extra cost to you. If you need help organizing your itinerary, get my free travel itinerary template here.

1. Book Your Flights

Use Skyscanner to find the best flights. It searches 100s of airlines and websites across the globe to ensure you’re not missing out on any route options or deals.

2. Book Your Accommodations

Use for hotels and guest houses. They have the biggest inventory and consistently offer the best rates.

3. Book Your Tours & Experiences

Use Viator or Get Your Guide to find the best tours and experiences. They are my favorite tour search engines. I always check both as their inventory varies depending on the destination.

4. Book Your Car

Use Discover Cars or to find the best car rental deals. I recommend comparing rental agency reviews on Google to ensure you are booking with the best company in that destination, as the reviews are often more accurate than the car rental search engines.

5. Don’t Forget Airport Lounge Access

Get a Priority Pass membership to gain access to 1,400+ VIP lounges and airport experiences worldwide. The Priority Pass app is the first thing I check when I have a layover. I’ve been a member for over a decade, and having a comfortable place to relax before and between flights makes air travel so much more enjoyable.

6. Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

I never leave the country without travel insurance. It provides comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong (ie. illness, injury, theft, and cancelations, etc.). I use it frequently for my travels to stay protected.

My favorite companies that offer the best coverage and rates are:


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