Most weekend trips in and around the Bay Area aren’t necessarily cheap. With gas prices consistently near $4 a gallon, sold-out campsites and summer lodging at peak rates, it might take some investigating to find reasonably priced lodging. Still, there’s nothing quite better than enjoying one of America’s favorite pastimes – the summer vacation – and the Bay Area is one of the nation’s favorite playgrounds. Saving you a bit of investigating on your own, here are five of the best cheap long weekend trips in the Bay Area.
Covering about 1,100 square miles, the California Delta is an excellent destination for boating, fishing, swimming and affordable lodging. The easternmost portion of the Delta in Stockton is a bit of a drive from the Bay Area, but offers the most budget-friendly rooms currently available, like the Knights Inn Stockton North. Closer to the Delta in Rio Vista, another good choice is the Rio Sands Lodge. Expedia also currently offers a 40-percent discount on quality hotels in the Rio Vista area.
Despite bearing an average hotel price of about $250 a night, San Francisco actually can be affordable for a long weekend trip. For starters, Bay Area residents can leave the car at home and take public transportation like BART into the city. The absence of a car means no expenses towards gas or parking fees. And don’t forget, San Francisco has many free attractions, such as Golden Gate Park, Golden Gate Bridge and Ocean Beach. Of course, the cheapest way to stay the weekend in San Francisco is at one of the hostels, such as the Green Tortoise or Fisherman’s Wharf Hostel. However, there are a number of low-cost motels along Lombard Street or near Ocean Beach, with rates under $100, such as the Robert’s at the Beach Motel.
With the free Beach Boardwalk and miles of gorgeous California coastline, a weekend in Santa Cruz can be surprisingly affordable. Dorm rooms are still available at the city’s highly rated Hosteling International Santa Cruz and there are some unlisted motels in the Beach Boardwalk area with reasonable rates, even in summer. According to Reserve America, campsites are still available with dates through August at Henry Cowell State Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains above Santa Cruz and New Brighton State Beach, just south of Santa Cruz.
Because it’s located less than 60 miles from San Francisco, Santa Rosa is a smart choice for a cheap weekend. Cheap rates are still being offered at Santa Rosa motels like America’s Best Value and Super 8. Just two campsites at Spring Lake Regional Park are available on a first-come, first-served basis, but reservations may also be available through SonomaCountyCamping.org. Spring Lake is also a popular, low-cost destination for swimming, hiking and other outdoor activities. A short distance away in Healdsburg is Veterans Memorial Beach, another very popular spot for water recreation. The Charles Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa is well worth a visit and general admission is just $10.
Because Vallejo is home to one of the Bay Area’s few amusement parks, there is a great collection of budget motels nearby. Good choices include America’s Best Value Inn Vallejo and Regency Inn. The top attraction in Vallejo is, of course, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, but there are other attractions nearby with little or no cost. In fact, one attraction is the San Francisco Ferry with connections to Vallejo from Oakland and San Francisco, making the ferry ride an opportunity to leave the car at home. Others may require a personal vehicle, such as Mare Island Museum and perhaps a visit to the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front in Richmond, with free parking and admission.
Related: Tips For Your Next Road Trip
Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com Examiner.com.