San Francisco is smack dab in the middle of California, a perfect starting point for a weekend road trip. And what better way to maximize your road trip fun than to gather your besties on a San Francisco charter bus and head out in a single budget-friendly vehicle? Below you’ll find road trip suggestions to California’s most unique scenic areas and cultural hot spots. Each is designed to span a weekend, but you could string them all together into one California road trip of a lifetime.
Why you should Plan a Group San Francisco Road Trip
Any occasion can be a chance for a road trip, but here are a few suggestions. Bachelor and bachelorette parties are amazing opportunities to get out of town. Rent a minibus, load it up with your friends, and head out on the road. Are you a teacher educating your Cali students about their state? Rent a charter bus to transport them on a tour of California’s historic state parks. And if you’ve got a group of colleagues that are sick of the office, pile them onto a coach bus and take them on a corporate retreat by the sea.
Planning your San Francisco Charter Bus Road Trip
With Bus.com, organizing a road trip on a San Francisco bus rental is easy, but there are a few things you should keep in mind. First, you’ll need a head count. This is the first step to booking a bus because your guest list will determine the size of the bus you’ll rent. Use our “Quick Guide to Choosing a Bus” to select the best bus for your trip. Make sure you book at least six months in advance to avoid price surging. As you get closer to your departure, bus availability is going to decrease, so rent a charter bus early. Finally, if you’re traveling with minors, make sure you have at least two chaperones per bus and permission slips for all your passengers.
San Francisco Road Trip Suggestions
Head to the Northern Coast of California, about three hours from San Francisco. Around Mendocino County you’ll find quaint towns, towering bluffs, and the very best seaside hiking. Start in the town of Mendocino, an adorable cluster of historic homes by the ocean. Almost everything in town is built to take advantage of the ocean views. Sleep in a Mendocino inn or head out to Standish-Hickey Park for some great group camping. The area is famous for the Drive-Thru Tree Park, but don’t try to fit a bus through that tree! Standish-Hickey is a fantastic alternative vantage point to view the towering redwoods. Before you drive back to SF, stop in Gualala, once a logging town and now a beach destination. While you’re there, check out the Gualala Bluff Trail and the Gualala Arts Center.
North Inland Natural Wonders
For those who enjoy mountain landscapes and jaw-dropping natural features, a North Inland tour is a great way to spend a weekend. Start in Lassen Volcanic National Park. During the day, visit the bubbling mud pots at Bumpass Hell. Yes, that’s a real thing and not something out of Harry Potter. It’s best to spend the night at Lassen because the star gazing is truly exceptional. Get up early and head to Mount Shasta, 3600 feet above sea level. Depending on the time of year, Mount Shasta offers great skiing and snowboarding, lakes for family swimming, and sublime waterfalls to enjoy.
To Tahoe and Back!
Lake Tahoe is a famous freshwater lake in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Four hours east of San Francisco, Lake Tahoe offers outdoor adventure, casinos, and historic adventures. We recommend spending the night in an Empire Mine State Park campground or, if you’re one for more lux accommodations, book rooms at any of the Lake’s nearby spas and resorts. Wake up and enjoy a day in history with a visit to the 1929 Scandinavian mansion, Vikingsholm, then start your drive back to SF. Break up the ride with a stop in Sacramento. Continue the history theme by visiting the gold rush buildings in Old Sacramento, the Railroad Museum, the Sacramento History Museum, and Sutter’s Fort, a trade colony established in 1839.
Big Time National Park
California is known for its parks, with some of the most important historic moments for the national parks movement taking place in the state. In 1903 John Muir, aka “Father of National Parks,” took Roosevelt to Yosemite, an event that inspired American national park legislation. The Yosemite Valley has everything: waterfalls, meadows, redwoods, mountains, and freshwater lakes. If you’re quiet, you can catch a glimpse of the neighborhood bears, deer, coyotes, and the majestic Sierra Nevada BigHorn sheep. Climb the Half Dome, hike Glacier Point, and visit the Ansel Adams Gallery to see some of the most important landscape photographs in history. For accommodations, we recommend renting a lodge. There are many available that can double as venues for special events like weddings, corporate retreats, and family reunions. Yosemite is four hours from San Francisco, so rent a coach bus to enjoy a little extra comfort on the road.
Take advantage of having your own personal driver to dip into sipping. Plan a bachelor(ette) party or corporate retreat in California’s world famous wine country. The words Napa and Sonoma go hand in hand, drawing to mind images of sunny rows of grape trees, manicured gardens, and fine dining. A variety of accommodation styles are available for your group—from luxury resorts to group campgrounds. Spend one day in Sonoma, taking in the chic dining of the historic Sonoma plaza, visiting notable galleries like Mission San Francisco Solano (est. 1823), and tasting vino at Scribe, WALT, and Buena Vista. Spend another day in Napa Valley. It’s a major wine-lovers’ destination—Clos Pegase, Beringer, and Cade Estate are all there—and a big attraction for golfers. We’ve got your itinerary all ready to go right here in our Guide to Enjoying Napa & Sonoma’s Best Vineyards.
Do the Bay
Whether you’re an SF local or this is your first time in San Francisco, a bus tour of the Bay Area is a great way to get to know the area. Of course, you’ll want to hit the big landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge and the Palace of Fine Arts, but you should also take in some of the surrounding cities and attractions. There’s Palo Alto, famous for its ocean views and redwood forests. San Jose is close by, and the perfect place to take in a little Silicon Valley inspiration. Oakland is a vibrant cultural destination with many hip bars, music venues, and boutiques to enjoy. Head a little further to visit Monterey Bay for the Aquarium and the best chowder in California, or Gilroy for its world famous Garlic Festival.
Hit the strip!
What more is there to say??? The ultimate road trip destination is Vegas. Rent a coach bus, pile on 40 of your best friends, and head across state lines to Nevada. Party all night long, get back on the bus, sleep, and say no more. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, baby!