Day Trips & Getaways

Lots of swimming holes in the Yuba River up near Nevada City. You like swimmin’ holes, don’t ya?

Lots of swimming holes in the Yuba River up near Nevada City. You like swimmin’ holes, don’t ya?

Photo courtesy of

Zac Efron approved

Hollywood Heartthrob Zac Efron has “YOLO” tattooed on his hand. Allegedly, it is an acronym for “you only live once,” but insiders know it’s for his love of Yolo County, and Winters in particular. Winters typifies an older Western town. It’s cute, historic downtown is home to the famous Palms Playhouse, which inhabits the grand yet snug Winters Opera House. The best practice is to arrive at 4 or 5 p.m., proceed directly to Berryessa Brewing Co. for a few pints and the laid-back vibe that epitomizes the town and its residents. If you are lucky (or know how to check the Internet), there will be music. Tear yourself away (with a growler in hand) before dark, and head into downtown Winters, eat well at nearly any restaurant you see and check out a show. Heaven. Palms Playhouse, 13 Main Street in Winters; (530) 795-1825; Berryessa Brewing Co., 27260 Highway 128 in Winters; (530) 795-3526; G.G.

Sandy, gorgeous—almost punk

It’s not the same Rockaway Beach the Ramones immortalized in song (that beach is in Queens, New York), but it’s still pretty rock ’n’ roll. Located about 20 miles south of San Francisco, this cozy stretch of sandy oceanfront is free to access for the public (with free parking, too!), tucked away from view from passersby on Highway 1. Good thing, too, because even though it’s not officially designated as a nude beach, there seems to be plenty of unclothed flesh on display. Oh, yeah, and there’s that gorgeous Pacific Ocean—the sunsets here are exceptional. It’s also popular with fishing and surfing. Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the view. Rockaway Beach Avenue in Pacifica. R.L.

You like to frolic in rivers, right?

There really is nothing as delightful as frolicking in the Yuba River on a hot summer day. Protected under the Wild & Scenic River Act, the Yuba’s clear water and natural waterslides and luges are exactly what the doctor ordered on a broiler in the Valley. Access the “Yube” near the South Yuba State Park near Nevada City, or find a favorite spot of your own. I like to grab a pasty or two in Grass Valley on my way in for lunch. Just note that some river-access points are in canyons, so the sun goes down early and makes for a short day. Near Auburn and Nevada City. G.G.

Do it for the doggy

With laws preventing off-leash dogs at many of the sandy river beaches in the Sacramento area, local dog owners are stuck with a hourlong or more drive to the nearest dog-friendly beach. Here are my favorites: Point Isabel Regional Shoreline in Richmond (a 23-acre park that features views of the San Francisco Bay and Golden Gate Bridge, hiking trails and a dog-swimming area); Fort Funston in San Francisco (featuring scenic cliff views, soft sand and abandoned military-defense structures); and Carmel Beach City Park (technically, all city-owned beaches in Carmel-by-the-Sea are legally off leash). Make sure to pack some water and towels. Point Isabel Regional Shoreline, 2701 Isabel Street in Richmond;; Fort Funston, Fort Funston Road in San Francisco;; Carmel Beach City Park, Ocean Avenue and Scenic Road in Carmel-by-the-Sea; J.M.

Wanna get away, away, away?

In Pacific Grove lives a place that is the happiest coming together of elements: a silky-sand beach, a native-plant-rehabilitation and protected area, groves of Monterey cypress, and a handful of gorgeous buildings designed by Julia Morgan, who also designed Hearst Castle and many buildings on the UC Berkeley campus. The Asilomar State Beach & Conference Grounds boasts special quirks—there are buildings named “Stuck-Up Inn” and “Pirates’ Den” (it was formerly a summer camp)—and breakfasts are served family style, and there are fire pits to gather around in the evening (s’mores and hot chocolate are available for big groups). Use only if you need to get all the way away. On the southern tip of Monterey Bay. G.G.