Family vacations are the perfect opportunity to explore new places and experiences, so why not seek out a unique place to stay on your next break? If you’ve ever dreamed of staying in a treehouse, on a farm or in a lighthouse, we’ve found the sweetest spots to do just that. All these locations are within three hours’ driving distance of the Bay Area, so they’re ideal for a quick weekend getaway or a fun spring break escape.
Stay the night in Mark Twain’s room
Immerse yourselves in gold rush history by booking the very room once occupied by literary legend Mark Twain in the historic Murphys Hotel. Located just over two hours east of the Bay Area in the Sierra foothills, Murphys is the perfect base for snow play in the winter or for a wine country getaway in the summer and kids of all ages will love the toy shop and ice cream parlor.
For a fun day out, head to Mercer Caverns for a tour of the mysterious caves. At night, return to the Murphys Hotel, where you can fill up on comforting pub food at the saloon before retiring to your historic room, where Samuel Clemens stayed in 1877.
Lay your Head in a Lighthouse
Take a staycation at East Brother Light Station, a restored Victorian lighthouse on an island in the San Francisco Bay. The fully operational lighthouse also functions as a B&B, where guests can enjoy a unique getaway without leaving the city.
While children aren’t welcome on the island, the lighthouse is perfect for a secluded romantic break without the kids when the grandparents are in town. After the ten-minute boat ride to the islands, guests are greeted with champagne. Check out the gorgeous views of Mt. Tam and the city, before gathering for a multi-course dinner with the other guests while a gourmet breakfast is served the following morning.
Snooze in a Sonoma Treehouse
Fall asleep to the sound of the wind rustling through the trees, snug in your own treehouse at this Sonoma Treehouse Adventures. Each domed hut is nestled in the redwood canopy, connected by sky bridges and zip lines. Treehouses can accommodate up to four people, aged ten and up.
A stay includes a nature hike through the forest to your tree, gourmet dinner delivered to your door, a night in the forest, in-room breakfast and a two-and-a-half-hour zipline tour. After your forest adventure, explore the charming coastal towns of Jenner and Bodega Bay, or head inland to the vineyards of Guenerville.
Go on Safari at Vision Quest Ranch
Is an African safari high on your family’s bucket list? How about this weekend? Vision Quest Ranch in Salinas is a zoo with canvas tents for overnight guests. Doze off to the sound of roaring tigers and wake up to eat breakfast with the animals. The 51-acre ranch is home to 100 exotic animals, many of them rescued from less than ideal circumstances.
Guests can take part in exclusive experiences like feeding the elephants, or have some animals brought right to their room. Admission to the zoo is included in the room rate. Rooms can accommodate up to four guests and there is a minimum age of four years old to stay.
Greet the Goats on a Big Sur Farm Stay
Stay on a goat farm in the heart of Big Sur in a secluded cabin, with views over the ocean. Enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep in the forest before giving your kids their morning chores—helping to milk the goats, collect eggs and feed the animals with ranch owner Sequoia often sharing the goods. And while the cabin feels remote, Big Sur Bakery and hikes in the beautiful Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park are only a short drive away.
Cozy up in a Caboose in Napa Valley
Stay in a 100-year-old railway carriage in Yountville, the culinary capital of Napa Valley. Napa Valley Railway Inn has converted six rail cars into comfortable and unique hotel rooms along with a caboose converted into a bakery, Mini Model, where you can grab coffee and muffins for breakfast. Nearby Ad Hoc offers family-style helpings of fried chicken, barbecue and other comfort food favorites. Be sure to check out the geological wonder that is California’s Old Faithful Geyser, pet the fainting goats at the animal farm and rent bikes to cycle the popular Vine Trail.
Go Glamping in an Airstream in Yosemite
30 minutes outside Yosemite in Midpines, you'll find iconic silver travel trailers at the AutoCamp Yosemite, each stylishly outfitted with a kitchen, bathroom and sleeping up to four. Every suite includes a fire pit with a grill and offers barbecue dinner kits, giving you all the best parts of camping without the hassle. Autocamp has a heated pool onsite, complimentary mountain bikes for exploring the nearby trails and board games in the club house. A shuttle takes you directly into Yosemite, where you can hike through forests to breathtaking lakes, waterfalls and meadows.
Relax in a Vineyard
Sleep among the vines and olive trees at Terra Savia’s cozy guesthouse in the town of Hopland, 90 minutes north of San Francisco. Located in Mendocino County, the small town is surrounded by vineyards and forest, ideal for a rural getaway from the city. Sip coffee on the peaceful deck with views of the vineyard and the mountains beyond, take a dip in the pool or a soak in the hot tub.
Take the kids to nearby Solar Living Center, a renewable energy and sustainability hub, where you can learn about the latest in green living. Then swing by Bluebird Cafe, which serves up amazing cinnamon bread and delicious pies.
Cuddle an Alpaca
Farm stays are a great way for animal-loving kids to experience country life so amp up the cuteness levels with an alpaca farm stay! Bar 5S Ranch near Paso Robles on the Central Coast would make a great base for a multi-generational family vacay, with four bedrooms and three bathrooms.
Visit the adorable alpacas, take a wagon tour of the ranch and splash in the gated pool. The peaceful ranch is located five miles from the small town of San Miguel, where you can visit the San Miguel Mission. With Paso Robles nearby, plan to book tickets to see Sensorio, the incredible illuminated art installation.
Hang out on a Houseboat in Sausalito
Originally launched in 1888, the SS City of Seattle is the oldest surviving ferry on the West Coast and you can doze off to the sounds of water lapping against the side of this historic houseboat in Sausalito’s harbor. The cheerful yellow boat has three bedrooms and all the amenities you would expect, including kayaks and stand-up paddle boards. A ten-minute walk takes you to the restaurants and shops of Sausalito’s marina or catch a ferry over to San Francisco. When ready for some dry land time, Muir Woods National Monument and Mount Tamalpais are but a short 20 minute drive away.
Step Back in Time at a 1920s Inn
Benbow Inn is a historic, 1920s hotel deep in the heart of the old-growth redwood forests of Humboldt. The hotel is located a little over three hours north of San Francisco, but the redwoods alone are worth the drive. Benbow Inn gained fame for attracting a slew of stars during Hollywood’s golden age, due to its seclusion and stunning setting.
Take hikes in the redwoods, drive down the Avenue of the Giants—or through a tree—and hunt for Bigfoot. You could also drive to the King Range Wilderness, an incredible stretch of rugged coastline with few visitors.