Have just a day or two to escape from the city and do something really special? There are many special destinations in the surrounding area that provide a perfect getaway for romance. Rent a luxury car, head out of town and enjoy time with your partner. Here are our top seven picks for dreamy day trips and whimsical weekends:
1. Mud Baths and Wine Castles in Calistoga
Calistoga is a city in Napa County, the romantic wine country north of San Francisco. It’s filled with things to see but isn’t quite the tourist trap that Napa proper is. Located about two hours drive from the city this is one that you can do in a day or with one overnight stay. If your time in Calistoga is limited then start with a wine tasting tour at Castello di Amorosa and end with a couples mud bath.
Castello di Amorosa (which translates to Castle of Love) is a stunning castle winery built in this century but designed to be a perfect replica of an Old World castle from seven or eight centuries ago. When you take the tour you’ll learn that old bricks from historic buildings were brought over from Europe along with custom masons skilled in working on old buildings in order to make sure that this castle feels truly real and not like a cheesy Disneyland version of a castle. Tour through the many layers of caves and end with a wine tasting. Add a chocolate pairing to your wine tasting for an extra aphrodisiac.
As for the mud baths, Calistoga is home to natural hot springs that are put to use in several spas in the area. Couples can sit side-by-side in their own mud tubs, relaxing into the healing heat in a private room, ending with a shower, relaxation in a Jacuzzi and a warm body wrap rest. Of course, there are other couples’ spa treatments as well for those who don’t find mud baths romantic.
If you have more time during your trip, it’s worth it to check out the Petrified Forest of California, the downtown shopping on Calistoga’s main road and some of the other vineyards and wineries.
Enjoy a stunning scenic drive south along the coast to this overnight getaway destination. Big Sur is located just past the tourist hot spots of Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea. Those locations are also popular couples’ destinations but if you go just half an hour further from Carmel you can get a more intimate experience. That’s about 3 hours drive from San Francisco. Stay in a cabin in the redwoods, picnic on the beach and stoke the fires of your relationship.
The main thing to do in Big Sur is to enjoy the wilderness (and each other of course). There are a number of state parks where you can go hiking. You’ll also want to spend time on the beaches. While you’re there, keep an eye out for the beautiful semi-precious jade stone, which can be found naturally on many of the Big Sur Beaches. Also make sure to check out McWay Falls, a short drive south of the main village of Big Sur, where you can see stunning waterfalls drop eighty feet into the Pacific Ocean. There is only one other spot on the entire US Pacific Coast where a waterfall drops into the ocean (at Alamere Falls, north of San Francisco).
3. A Day in Half Moon Bay
Also located south of San Francisco on the coast but not as far of a drive as Big Sur, Half Moon Bay makes for a great romantic day trip. Enjoy a meal at the beautiful Moss Beach Distillery (but hold each other close because this destination is reportedly haunted!) Take a horseback ride on the beach at sunset. Look for grey whales off of the coast of Gray Whale Cove State Beach (or even book a whale watching tour.) Cap off the evening with a drink at one of the local wineries or breweries. And if you can’t bring yourself to head back home at the end of the day, there are plenty of romantic bed-and-breakfasts to choose from here.
4. Art and Nature in Mendocino
Another coastal town that has some great bed-and-breakfast options is Medocino, but this one is north of San Francisco instead of South and it’s far enough away that you should plan an overnight stay. You have the option of driving the four-hour route up the coast or taking Highway 128 through the majestic redwoods.
Medocino is known as an artsy town so if you enjoy art galleries and studio tours then it’s a particularly favorite spot. Sprinkle your day with stops at the cute local cafes, bistros and intimate restaurants. There’s a lot of beautiful nature here as well, including gray whale sightings off of the coast during the months of February- April. And make sure to spend some time together at Mendocino Botanical Gardens, offering more than 40 acres of gardens on the seaside.
5. Thunder Valley Casino
If you’d love a romantic getaway to Last Vegas but can’t steal away for quite that long then your next best bet is a stay at Thunder Valley Casino. Stay up all night partying with your partner playing slots and table games at this 24/7 casino. Like any good casino you can enjoy dining, lodging, entertainment and spa services all on site. There are nine restaurants to choose from as well as five additional bars and lounges. And if you need to get out of the casino hubbub for a bit consider golfing at Whitney Oaks Golf Club just fifteen minutes down the road.
6. Wine Tasting and White Water Rafting
Enjoy the thrill of an adrenaline rush with your lover by going white water rafting together in nearby Auburn, located about two and a half hours away from San Francisco in the Greater Sacramento Area. Rafting takes place on the American River. There are many different guided tour options available, including at least one that combines rafting with wine tasting!
Auburn is a small town, the highlight of which (other than rafting) is Old Town Auburn. You’ll find cute shopping options, seasonal street fairs and farmers markets, and several restaurants to enjoy with your sweetie. There are a few lodges and inns. Auburn is located on the Placer County Wine Trail, a series of family-run boutique wineries. You can find lodging in any of the other small towns on the trail as well.
7. Harbin Hot Springs
Seeking an experience in nature that’s a little bit more on the lowkey side? Look no further than the Harbin Hot Springs retreat center. This clothing optional center has natural hot springs pools, sunbathing, yoga sessions, massage and other bodywork and a variety of different workshop options including sensual couples’ workshops. (Plan in advance for workshops as schedules vary.) Harbin is located in the midst of beautiful nature, with meadows and groves and hilly hikes all around. Lodging includes rooms, cottages, cabins, and camping so there is something for everyone. There’s an on-site restaurant that offers romantic fireplace meals prepared with local organic foods. Harbin Hot Springs is located about two hours drive north of San Francisco (inland, not coastal).