Updated: Apr 8
Most travelers coming to Northern California typically make San Francisco their first stop. Understandably so, as San Francisco is an amazing place to visit, but the outer Bay Area also has so much to offer! If you are looking for the best attractions in San Francisco, check out our previous article, because you won't find that here. Those who are willing to wander outside SF’s city limits, keep scrolling! Below is our guide to spots to visit in NorCal.
Marin Country Mart -
If it’s a Sunday, head over to the Marin Country Mart for a lovely farmer’s market. Local vendors and food trucks are parked in the shopping center’s parking lot. It's also another great place to shop if you are looking for high-end retail goods.
Sausalito Boardwalks -
On a nice day, take a stroll down the Bridgeway Promenade and Sausalito Boardwalk. You'll not only find local shops and restaurants but also the land of houseboats, so be sure to check them out as you walk by the waterfront.
Lappert’s Ice Cream ($$) -
If you’re looking for a sweet treat, be sure to visit this Hawaiian-inspired ice cream shop. They serve unique flavors on rotation, such as ube, macadamia nut, and Kona mocha chip.
Farmshop ($$) -
Brunch-lovers look no further—Farmshop is your spot!. Originating in Los Angeles, Farmshop is an acclaimed restaurant and artisan market that opened in the Brentwood Country Mart in 2010. Farmshop Marin has a full bar, an outdoor patio, and a wood-burning pizza oven.
SunLife Organics ($$) -
Located in the Marin Country Mart, SunLife has a great juice bar selection. This is definitely a must-visit for any health nut or lover of smoothies, acai bowls, and juices!
RH Rooftop Restaurant Marin ($$$) -
If you are looking for fine wine and dining, RH is an amazing place to visit. Located on top of a high-end furniture store, RH comes with lavish furniture, tasteful American food, and some serious sticker shock.
Sushi Ran ($$$) -
Sushi Ran is a popular spot in Sausalito that serves fresh fish delivered from Tokyo daily and features a casual, family-friendly dining atmosphere. Sushi Ran has an extensive menu offering moriawase, maki, nigiri, sashimi, vegetables, soup, cool plates, and hot plates.
Fourth Street -
Visit Fourth Street, a beautiful shopping area filled with great restaurants, outdoor cafes, and shops. Popular stores like Lululemon, Vuori, Madewell, Warby Parker, Sephora, and Aesop are located here, so if you find yourself in need of a shopping spree, this is definitely the place to check out.
Located in South Berkeley and close to Oakland, Elmwood is home to independent stores galore, including several clothing stores, a bookshop, and some vintage stores. It even has an adorable old-school movie theater that beckons passerby inside with the tantalizing smell of popcorn.
GlobeSisters has also covered several other hiking spots around the Bay Area, but Berkeley has some of the best ones.
Clark Kerr Fire Trails -
The Fire Trails is a popular hiking route among students and Berkeley locals. The view overlooking Oakland and San Francisco is well worth the steep walk up to the top! On a clear day, you’ll be able to see the Golden Gate and San Francisco’s skyline. Be sure to check out GlobeSister’s article on hikes around the Bay Area!
Grizzly Peak -
If hiking isn’t for you, you will still get amazing views from the parking lot at Grizzly Peak! Drive up past the UC Berkeley Lawrence Hall of Science to the open parking lot. This place is super popular for sunset and a great way to overlook Berkeley’s campus!
Raleigh’s Pub ($) –
If you are 21+ and want to experience a little bit of weekday fun in this college town, stop by Raleigh’s Pub on Taco Tuesday, where tacos are $2.50 and margaritas are $6. Taco Tuesdays are a UC Berkeley staple, so you will definitely get the opportunity to interact with college students.
Boichik Bagels ($$) –
Rated some of the best bagels in the nation, be sure to check out Boichik for some delicious bagels. Some local advice – make sure to go early in the morning! Boichik closes at 1 pm or earlier if they sell out!
Italian Homemade ($$) –
If you love fresh pasta, Italian Homemade is an amazing place to visit
Fourth Street –
If you have time and are curious about UC Berkeley, check out the iconic campus! Visit all the iconic spots of Cal such as the Campanile, Sather Gate, Sproul Hall, and the Hearst Mining Building.
HALF MOON BAY
You'll find beautiful beaches all along the coast of Half Moon Bay. We recommend Montara State Beach, Grey Whale Cove State Beach, Pacifica State Beach, and Rockaway Beach.
Dad’s Luncheonette ($) –
If you’re looking for a quick bite, the luncheonette serves burgers, salads, and mac & cheese. Come for the delicious food served by a former three Michelin star chef, but stay for the views and the fact that the restaurant is located in a historic train caboose!
Taco Bell by the Sea ($) –
This might sound like a bizarre suggestion, but this Taco Bell is known for being one of the best because of its prime location right on the sands of the Pacifica Linda Mar State Beach and its posher interior.
Sam’s Chowder House ($$) –
Sam’s Chowder House is a popular spot along Highway 1 and was voted one of the best seafood places in the Bay Area. Overlook the ocean as you try the many seafood dishes the restaurant offers. The Lobster Roll is Sam’s staple!
S’mores at the Ritz Carlton ($$$) –
The Ritz is a great place to watch the sunset in Half Moon Bay, as it overlooks beautiful views of the ocean. Gather around the warm outdoor fireplace as you roast some marshmallows for a yummy treat.
STANFORD / PALO ALTO
Stanford Shopping Center -
A very popular spot for shopping, the Stanford Shopping Center has all the great staple department stores and other high-end retailers. This outdoor mall also has a great variety of restaurants.
If you are looking to do a fun hike, the Stanford Dish and Windy Hill Preserve are both great places to visit. Windy Hill has amazing views overlooking the peninsula, definitely a great place to watch the sunset!
University Ave -
In the heart of downtown Palo Alto, you’ll find most locals eating at University Ave. This area has pretty much every option you could imagine. Check out this article from Eater SF that covers every restaurant worth visiting on this street!
Town & Country Village -
This small shopping center features a lot of great restaurants that are definitely worth checking out, like Telefèric Barcelona ($$) for some tapas and paellas or Boba Guys ($$) for a fun rendition of the famous milk tea drinks.
California Ave. -
A bit further south of downtown Palo Alto, you’ll find California Ave. The street is lined with a wide variety of cuisines. Visit Terún ($$) for delicious Italian or if you’re visiting on a Sunday, check out the farmer’s market. It’s where TikTok star Emily Mariko finds her farmer’s market treasures.
Verve Coffee ($) -
Verve is a great place to be for some hand-roasted craft coffees or teas.
The Picnic Basket ($) -
For a quick bite, pick up the Picnic Basket and head over to the beach!
Marianne’s Ice Cream ($) -
You might have seen it in the grocery stores, but Marianne’s is much better in person! It's a must-visit if this is your first trip to Santa Cruz to try one of their 105 different flavors!
Known for its natural beauty, you’ll definitely want to do some outdoor exploring. !
Pleasure Point –
Check out the surfers from the safety of the sand or find a nearby rental place and catch some waves yourself! The bluffs are also lined with a walking path if you want to take a stroll outdoors.
Santa Cruz Boardwalk –
The Santa Cruz Boardwalk is a fun attraction for all! Ride fun roller coasters and play carnival games on the pier overlooking the beach, or stroll along the shore.
The Greater Bay Area has so much to offer so these are just a few favorite recommendations from a local. If you are also looking to find things to do in San Francisco, visit our suggestions for top SF attractions and places to avoid in the city.