California’s Great America (credit: Randy Yagi)

For many college students, the idea of a dream spring break is to descend upon the white sandy beaches of Florida or Mexico. But not everyone wants to go to a destination where hard partying and loud music is expected, especially for families with younger children. For those looking to go someplace different for spring break, the Bay Area is it! Here’s a look at the top five of places to visit in the Bay Area over spring break, with a little something for students of all ages.

California’s Great America
4701 Great America Parkway
Santa Clara, CA 95054
(408) 988-1776

Students looking for a more affordable alternative to pricey Southern California amusement parks can look to places like Great America for a much better deal. In fact, online prices were so remarkable in January that customers could purchase a Gold Season Pass for unlimited visits and free parking for less than the price of a single admission to Disneyland and single daily passes were under $40. The 100-acre theme park has more than 40 rides, including eight roller coasters and 15 family rides, along with kiddie rides and live entertainment. At 108.2 feet high and 53.7 mph, the park’s Gold Striker is the tallest and fastest wooden roller coaster in Northern California and is ranked among the world’s best of its class. Other local attractions include Levi’s StadiumComputer History Museum and the Winchester Mystery House, not far from one of the area’s hottest spots for nightlife – Santana Row.

Golden Gate Bridge (credit: Randy Yagi)

Golden Gate Bridge
San Francisco, CA  94129
(415) 921-5858

The Golden Gate Bridge is just one of many attractions in San Francisco, but everyone who visits will want to capture a view, snap some photos or even get a few selfies. Visitors have many vantage points from which to enjoy this engineering marvel considered one of the Wonders of the Modern World. Among the best places to see the Golden Gate Bridge are Fort Point, Baker Beach, Crissy Field and Fisherman’s Wharf. Visiting college students staying overnight may also want to check out the hottest nightclubs in the city, like Temple SF and Matrix Fillmore.

Marin Headlands (credit: Randy Yagi)

Mount Tamalpais State Park
3801 Panoramic Highway
Mill Valley, CA  94941
(415) 388-2070

The Bay Area has a vast network of hiking trails and among the most popular spots is Mount Tamalpais State Park in the North Bay. Filled with vast redwood groves with a scattering of oak trees, the park has more than 50 miles of hiking trails and connects to a much larger trail system, including the famous Dipsea Trail from Mill Valley via Muir Woods to Stinson Beach and a hike up to the east peak for breathtaking views of the San Francisco Bay Area. Campgrounds are open over spring break but if reservations weren’t already made in advance, spaces may be limited. Other campgrounds nearby that may have availability include Bicentennial Camp, Hawk Camp, Haypress Camp in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, along with the Marin Headlands Hostel, with both shared and private rooms.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk (credit: Randy Yagi)

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
400 Beach St.
Santa Cruz, CA  95060
(831) 423-5590

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk has long been one of the best spring break destinations in the Bay Area. Named the world’s best seaside park for the past eight consecutive years, the admission-free Beach Boardwalk has several spring break events planned, including a major international cheer and dance competition, a battle of the bands competition, an ultimate frisbee tournament and a beach soccer tournament. Some of the Bay Area’s best hiking trails can also found in Santa Cruz, such as in Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, Wilder Ranch State Park and Pogonip near UC Santa Cruz. For nightlife, college students can visit places like Ideal Fish Restaurant near the Boardwalk and the Catalyst, Motiv and Rosie McCann’s all in downtown Santa Cruz.

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom (credit: Randy Yagi)

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
1001 Fairgrounds Drive
Vallejo, CA  94589
(707) 644-4000

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom is expected to be quite busy over spring break, especially between March 28 and April 12, when the park is open daily. The 135-acre theme park is the only combined marine life, wildlife and amusement rides theme park in Northern California and like Great America, is quite affordable in comparison to major Southern California attractions. Six Flags Discovery Kingdom is well known for its signature thrill rides like Medusa, V2 and SUPERMAN Ultimate Flight, but this year will open its ninth roller coaster – Dare Devil Chaos Coaster. Other top attractions to enjoy at this popular amusement park in Vallejo are the Shark Experience, Sea Lion Stadium and the dolphin shows at Toyota Stadium.

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