Bay Area Insider

We are excited to welcome you to the San Francisco Bay Area and show you all it has to offer. 

Nine counties. 101 communities. And something for everyone. Just hover over a county to get a snapshot, as well as links to our Convention & Visitor Bureau partners who can give you more in-depth information on lodging and attractions. Want to dive a bit deeper? Scroll down to our Perfect 50 Hours stories that provide you with a full itinerary for a 50-hour getaway in various Bay Area cities.

 

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Alameda

Much of what is now considered an intensively urban region, Alameda County was developed as a trolley car suburb of San Francisco in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

Oakland, often referred to as the “Brooklyn of the West” is the largest city in Alameda County, located 12 minutes from San Francisco and 45 minutes from Levi’s Stadium. Oakland is conveniently located as the hub of the Bay Area and accessible by all means of transportation—Oakland International Airport (OAK), ferry service at Jack London Sq., and Amtrak and Greyhound stations. Oakland boasts top-notch restaurants, thriving music venues, gastropubs and urban wineries, and plenty of outdoor activities. And with 260 days of sun each year, it’s always a good time to meet on the sunny side of the Bay.

Set between Pacific foothills and the San Francisco Bay, Berkeley is a vibrant and spirited city that will surprise those who still see it as the counter-culture center of the Sixties.  Free speech and flower power are forever in the city’s “DNA,” but Berkeley has evolved into a culinary and cultural destination with a “green” soul. 

Located 30 miles east of Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, the Tri-Valley enjoys an average of 264 days of sunshine a year, making it “the sunny side of the Bay.” But it’s not just the weather that makes it a hotspot for Silicon Valley millionaires. The confluence of three valleys holds five cities: Pleasanton, Livermore, San Ramon, Dublin and Danville. After a visit to the award-winning wineries and charming downtowns, the Tri-Valley will leave you refreshed and inspired.

Learn more about lodging and travel information for Alameda County from Visit OaklandVisit Tri-Valley or Visit Berkeley

Contra Costa

Contra Costa County is home to more than one million residents, and was one of the original 27 counties established in California in 1850. Comprised of 19 cities and many established communities in the unincorporated area, it is the ninth most populous county in the state.

Contra Costa County is an outdoor enthusiast’s delight; it is home to more than 1,200 miles of hiking trails within dozens of parks spread across the county. 

Mt. Diablo State Park offers the most recognizable landmark in the middle of the county, rising more than 3,800 feet, and visible from nearly every vantage point.   The park offers a variety of recreational opportunities.

There are also a number of regional park districts, the largest being the East Bay Regional Park District, which spans more than 100,000 acres within 65 parks, including more than 1,200 miles of trails.  You can swim, bike, golf, fish, picnic and explore at venues around the county; there is truly something for everyone.

Learn more about lodging and travel information for Contra Costa County

Marin

Just minutes from San Francisco on the sunny side of the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin offers tourists and healthy-living enthusiasts a vacation destination like no other.

When it’s time to leave the stresses of the city life behind, there is no better place to explore the pristine beauty of the Bay Area than Marin County’s nature trails. For anyone looking for an outdoor adventure, or simply to connect with nature, this land is like a paradise.

Hiking on Marin’s nature trails is one of the best ways to transform walking into an extraordinary experience. Not only will hiking enable you to see, smell and touch the botanical beauty of Mother Nature, but it’s also an opportunity to take photographs you’ll cherish and want to share.

If you are obsessed with fresh farm-to-table bites and locally sourced meals, then organically oriented Marin is perfect for your inner chef. Planned events will cultivate the best in culinary tourism, whether being hosted at a brewery, winery or bar.

For families, vistas and healthy foods are not all that Marin offers. Marin has plenty of kid-friendly activities. Whales and elephant seals migrate by Point Reyes National Seashore annually offering even more fun and educational up close experiences for families to experience.

Whether you’re traveling from near or far, Marin County is that quick getaway you are looking for. Nomadic tourists and California natives alike agree that it is an idyllic destination for the entire family.

Learn more about lodging and travel information from the Marin Convention & Visitors Bureau and Film Resource Center

Napa

The Napa Valley is home to North America’s premier wine, food, arts and wellness capital, prized for its natural beauty, culinary scene, world-class lodging, thriving arts community, therapeutic geothermal spring waters and spas, and legendary hospitality.

The Napa Valley, which is internationally recognized as one of only eight “Great Wine Capitals,” is home to more than 125 restaurants, which have earned more Michelin Stars per capita (11 total) than any other wine region in the world.  The Napa Valley, conveniently located just an hour from the San Francisco Bay Area, stretches approximately 35 miles (56 km) in a northwesterly direction and its width varies from approximately five miles (8 km) wide at its widest point near the City of Napa in the south to approximately one mile wide near the northern-most town of Calistoga.  The Napa Valley consists of the following distinctive towns, including, from north to south, Calistoga, St. Helena, Rutherford/Oakville, Yountville, the city of Napa, American Canyon, and the outdoor recreation area of Lake Berryessa.   

The Napa Valley is an American Viticultural Area (AVA) and within it exists 16 additional AVA’s, each producing wines with unique characteristics based on their varied soils, climates and topography.  There are more than 400 wineries in the Napa Valley and 95 percent of these are family owned.

The Napa Valley Welcome Center, located at 600 Main St. along the riverfront in downtown Napa, provides visitors with expert Concierge services from Napa Valley Ambassadors who offer complimentary Napa Valley Guidebooks, maps, brochures and winery tasting passes. The Welcome Center, open daily 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., also offers complimentary Wi-Fi and a mercantile shop featuring locally sourced gift items.

Learn more about lodging and traveling information from Visit Napa Valley

San Francisco

San Francisco is known for its scenic beauty, cultural attractions, diverse communities, and world-class cuisine. Measuring 49 square miles, this walk-able city includes landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, Alcatraz and the largest Chinatown in the United States. A stroll of the City’s streets can lead from Union Square to North Beach to Fisherman’s Wharf, Japantown and the Mission District, with intriguing neighborhoods to explore at every turn. Views of the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay are often laced with fog, creating a romantic mood in this most European of American cities.

The City has a colorful past, growing from a small village to a major city nearly overnight as a result of the 1849 Gold Rush. The writers of the “beat” generation, the hippies of the 1967 Summer of Love and the large gay/lesbian population have all contributed to making San Francisco the fascinating place it is today. The City is home to world-class theatre, opera, symphony and ballet companies and often boasts premieres of Broadway-bound plays and culture-changing performing arts.

San Francisco is one of America’s greatest dining cities. The diverse cultural influences, proximity of the freshest ingredients and competitive creativity of the chefs result in unforgettable dining experiences throughout the City. San Francisco has well over 32,000 hotel rooms, from first-class hotels and ultra-chic boutique hotels to familiar names in lodging and budget friendly inns.

Learn more about lodging and visitor information from San Francisco Travel

San Mateo

Just a stone’s throw from San Francisco, with San Francisco International Airport conveniently located in its midst, is the incredibly beautiful and scenic San Mateo County/Silicon Valley region. Located immediately south of San Francisco, bordered on the east by 30 miles of San Francisco Bay front and on the west by nearly 60 miles of Pacific Ocean beaches, the region is renowned for its pleasant year round temperatures. Stanford University, numerous high tech and biotech companies and endless parks and bodies of water add to the area’s allure of having “beauty and brains.”   From wineries to whale watching, microbreweries to museums, the area abounds with attractions of all kinds.

With working harbors and a small agricultural area on its Pacific side, the food here is nothing short of astounding. Numerous award winning restaurants are located here, all proud to be serving the freshest local products.

The heart of Silicon Valley lies here. As a bonus, it is just a 20 minute transit ride to San Francisco to the north or Levi’s stadium to the south, with each stop offering great food, shopping and entertainment. Imagine touring Stanford in the morning and catching a San Francisco Giants game in the afternoon.

It’s the perfect destination for outdoor enthusiasts, foodies and fun seekers. Kayaking, deep sea fishing, windsurfing, paddle boarding, horseback riding, surfing, biking and hiking are all here and photography buffs (and selfie takers) love being able to snap pics of everything from the giant Redwoods to the Facebook sign at their corporate headquarters.

Learn more about lodging and travel information from the San Mateo/Silicon Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau

Santa Clara

The County of Santa Clara, also referred to as “Silicon Valley”, is unique because of its combination of physical attractiveness and economic diversity. With its numerous natural amenities and one of the highest standards of living in the country, the County has long been considered one of the best areas in the United States in which to live and work.

The Mediterranean climate of the region remains temperate year round due to the area’s geography and its proximity to the Pacific Ocean. The area is warm and dry much of the year. Rarely is the humidity uncomfortable, and the thermometer seldom drops below freezing. Rain generally confines itself to the winter and snow to the tops of the local mountains, the Mt. Hamilton Range lining the eastern border of the County and the Santa Cruz Mountains to the west.

The County’s population of nearly 1.8 million is one of the largest in the state, following Los Angeles, San Diego and Orange Counties, and the largest of the nine Bay Area counties. Its population constitutes about one fourth of the Bay Area’s total population. There are 15 cities (see list below) ranging from Palo Alto in the north, to Gilroy in the south. San Jose is the largest city in the County, with a population of nearly one million, and is the administrative site of County Government. Santa Clara is at the heart of Silicon Valley, and is home to the Levi’s Stadium, the home of the San Francisco 49ers.

The County of Santa Clara has a culture rich in its history, ethnic diversity (over 100 languages and dialects are spoken), artistic endeavors, sports venues and academic institutions.

Learn more about lodging and travel information from the Santa Clara Convention & Visitors Bureau, and Team San Jose

Solano

Solano County is a special place, with its inviting mix of rural and suburban lifestyles and easy access to all of the urban amenities associated with two of the nation’s most dynamic metropolitan regions.  Situated midway between San Francisco and Sacramento, Solano County is home to rolling hillsides, waterfronts and fertile farmland. County residents can enjoy day trips to the San Francisco Bay area, Lake Tahoe region and the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Thanks to a mild climate, plenty of open space, proximity to lakes, rivers and mountains, residents can enjoy year round outdoor recreational activities like fishing, boating, skiing, hiking and biking.

Solano County is a growing community that reaps the benefits of its ideal location for those who live and work here. The blend of agriculture, corporate business and pleasant lifestyle enhance the attraction of Solano County. The County limits residential and commercial development outside of cities, thus preserving approximately 80 percent of the land for open space or agricultural uses. Blessed with a thriving agricultural economy, the county is also home to biotechnology and other growth industries.

Learn more about lodging and travel information from Solano County Visitor’s Bureaus Vacaville Conference & Visitors Bureau, Vallejo Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Fairfield Conference & Visitors Bureau

Sonoma

Located 45 minutes north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, Sonoma County is the perfect addition to a Super Bowl 50 experience.

Here are the top reasons to visit Sonoma County:

Wine, Beer, and Spirits
Wine tasting in Sonoma County is a casual, friendly affair. The area boasts 400 wineries within 17 distinct wine-growing areas. Sonoma County also has 25-plus breweries, distilleries, and cider houses to round out the area’s libations.

Food
Whether grown from the fertile earth of more than 100 local farms or harvested fresh from the sea, Sonoma County’s eateries embrace an eat-fresh philosophy that offers visitors a true taste of Wine Country.

Nature
Sonoma County has more than 50 regional and state parks, enticing travelers to hike through redwood forests, paddle down a river, cycle scenic roads, or just sit down and enjoy the sounds of nature.

Stay
Choose from luxury and full-service resorts, B&Bs tucked among the vines, to charming seaside lodges, or cabins, campgrounds, and vacation homes throughout the area. Sonoma County has a room to suit your taste.

Diversions
Sonoma County can be nonstop relaxation with 40-plus spas. Hit the links at some 20 golf courses. Discover the tops of the redwoods by zip lining. Go on an African-style safari. Experience fast action at Sonoma Raceway’s road course. Celebrate all things Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang at the Schulz Museum.

Sonoma County beckons travelers seeking a mid-winter break. 

Learn more about lodging and travel information from Sonoma County Tourism

 

Click on a region to get more information.