In just a few days, summer will officially arrive—a time of relaxation, exploration, and maybe even a vacation! Young or old, we know our Girl Scouts are always on the move, which can make planning a big far-off trip a little more challenging. Luckily we have the perfect solution—a staycation! No one ever said you had to travel a long distance to have fun, so why not take a step away from the busy city life and spend a weekend exploring some unfamiliar territory just a few hours north. Or if you would rather spend your summer months visiting a bustling Bay Area city, check out some of our favorite things to do in San Francisco.
Unlike the bustling Bay Area cities, the North Coast and North Central regions of California are home to some of the most breathtaking nature destinations and historical landmarks around. And with so many exciting options to choose from, we’ve put together this list to help you get started:
1. Scout out on a hike (or stroll) through nature
Whether you want to meander on a peaceful stroll or gear up for an intense hike, the northern parts of California are covered in hiking trails and state parks for explorers of all-levels. If you’re like me and love the sound of the crashing waves, stick to the coast—Point Reyes (especially Alamere Falls) and the Marin Headlands provide the most picturesque panoramic views that will give you a whole new appreciation for Northern California.
If the water isn’t your scene, maybe the shade of the towering redwood trees will be more to your liking. In Northern California, we’re lucky to be surrounded by majestic redwood forests. Both Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park in Crescent City and Samuel P. Taylor State Park in Lagunitas have a variety of hiking trails as well as some of the most ancient redwoods in the state.
For something really special, don’t forget to stop by some of Northern California’s naturally-formed wonders, like the oxidized volcanic ash pits of Cinder Cone in Lassen or the echoing Lake Shasta Caverns in Shasta County.
2. Jump in the water or relax on the beach
What better way to celebrate National Oceans Month than with an afternoon alongside the Pacific Ocean. From southern Marin County to northern Humboldt County, there are miles of beaches perfect for kayaking, surfing, sight-seeing, relaxing, and more. With this expansive coastline, you’ll definitely be able to find your new favorite spot!
If you’re looking for a more contained body of water, check out Redding’s exciting WaterWorks Park for a day packed with water slides and inner tubes that will satisfy any water lover.
3. Learn about local animals and their habitats from the people who know them best
Both in the water and on land, Northern California is home to lots of animals, so get to know the environment by learning about the creatures that live there. Visit an animal center for guided tours or educational programs where experts will teach you everything you need to know about our neighbors.
From the sea lion and seal lovers at the Marine Mammal Center to the land and bird specialists at nature preserves like Audubon Canyon Ranch, these passionate people will definitely inspire you to conserve and preserve the habitats around you.
4. Take a step back in time and immerse yourself in history
Northern California has a rich and complex history, so experience the region like the people who came before us. From early English settlements like the Ford House in Mendocino to the Gold Rush mining experience at Plumas-Eureka State Park, there’s a charming town or museum dedicated to every piece of history!
For a real immersive experience, book an overnight trip in one of these small towns. In 5th grade, I took an overnight trip to Fort Ross in Sonoma County with my class where we dressed up and pretended we were in the Russian fur trade era.
5. Unleash your creative side at an interactive museum
Whether you’re a fan of classic newspaper comics or state-of-the-art digital fabrication technology, there are a variety of museums in Northern California where guests can enjoy hands-on learning exhibits. Spend the day sketching comics of Snoopy and the Peanuts at the Charles M. Schulz Museum or building sculptures with a 3D printer at the Bay Area Discovery Museum.
Can’t decide between an interactive learning experience and a nature walk, then Turtle Bay Exploration Park might be the place for you! From exciting multimedia exhibits and an outdoor playhouse to educational animal programs and botanical gardens, this non-profit center manages to fit everything a kid can dream of under one roof!
6. Satisfy your need for speed up in Sonoma
For those of you who think the North Coast and North Central regions of California are just a collection of quaint towns, check again! Get your blood pumping with some adrenaline-filled zip lines and sky bridges high up in the trees at Sonoma Canopy Tours.
Not quite ready to jump out of a tree? Buckle up and witness some exhilarating races and motor tricks at the Sonoma Raceway. Zoom over for a chance to build and race your own gravity-powered cars with your fellow Girl Scouts!
7. Indulge on some fresh, locally-sourced food
Cater to your sophisticated palate with a platter of oysters, fish, and more. Marshall oyster farm on Tomales Bay has been supplying this area with fresh seafood since the 1800s, so visit Nick’s Cove or Hog Island Oyster Company for an evening full of oysters on the half shell!
Craving something sweet? Try out Shubert’s Ice Cream in Chico for a chilly treat made with local ingredients. This family-owned shop has been around for over 75 years, supplying customers with seasonal flavors like boysenberry, watermelon, and pumpkin.
8. Visit GSNorCal’s very own Camp Bothin
Located in Marin County just 30 minutes north of the Golden Gate Bridge, Camp Bothin is one of our council’s most popular properties. From ropes courses and archery to a performance stage and Art Barn, Bothin has something for every camper. Sign up for one of their summer camp sessions or start planning a troop trip for the fall today!
As you can see, there are plenty of fun things to do in the far northern parts of California. So whether you’re ready for an afternoon of hands-on learning, a day trip through the great outdoors, or a weekend full of food, the North Coast and North Central regions of California will surely win you over!
Did I miss one of your favorite spots in the North Coast or North Central California regions? Let us know your suggestions in the comments section!
Leah Takahashi—Leah is the Digital Marketing Specialist for Girl Scouts of Northern California, where she creates content, plans blog posts, and promotes all things Girl Scouts in all formats digital. Leah joined Girl Scouts at the age of 5 and has been a part of the organization ever since (shout out to Troop 31213 – woot woot). During her younger Girl Scout days, Leah did everything from selling thousands of Girl Scout Cookies to serving as a National Delegate at the 2011 Convention and even earning her Gold Award in 2012. She may be young, but she’s got plenty of Girl Scout experience under her belt and is excited to share it with you!