5 Scenic Hotels Less than Two Hours from the East Bay - 510 Families
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5 Scenic Hotels Less than Two Hours from the East Bay

Our guest writer today is Natalie Nicolson, an Oakland-based communications professional and a mom who has lived in the East Bay most of her life. We LOVE her take on five incredible family getaways within a two-hour drive of home.

It’s hard to find the time and money to go on vacation. There are lots of reasons we put off making trip plans: busy schedules, money, and anxiety about flying and driving with kids. When my son was born, I had no idea how much we would want to travel. We got in the habit of doing one-night hotel stays close to home in lieu of longer trips.

While there are tons of hotel options within two hours of the East Bay, it’s rare to find a place that makes you feel transported–like you hopped on a plane to get there. Here are the five most unique places we have stayed and how to experience them with kids.

Flamingo Resort & Spa (Santa Rosa)

I cannot recommend the Flamingo in Santa Rosa enough. Built in 1957, the resort is a mid-century modern circular compound surrounding a huge pool area. We have stayed there three times with kids five and under, out-of-town visitors, and friends, and everyone always has a good time. There is nothing else like it in Northern California.

small child hiding behind a hotel room curtain
Flamingo suites have lots of space for the whole family | Photo: Natalie Nicolson

We like to book the two-room, 625 square feet King Suites, which have pullout couches and can comfortably fit at least two kids and two adults. My sister has gotten the Poolside Patio suite and the only downside is kiddos begging to go swimming a little too early in the morning when it’s right outside their room.

Pro tip: We almost always book during the week, when room rates are almost half the price of weekends.

Distance from Oakland: 60 miles, about an hour drive
Location: 2777 4th Street, Santa Rosa
Phone: 707.545.8530
Get rates for the Flamingo Resort >

Monterey Tides

The Tides has been a family favorite for years. It’s often overlooked because it’s not within walking distance of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, but the location can’t be beat. It’s only a 10-minute drive across the bay if the aquarium is part of your plan.

Sitting right on Monterey State Beach, the lobby is serene, with a cozy fire and chairs looking out over the stunning view. There is a modest-sized pool and hot tub, but honestly, we spend most of our time on the beach. It’s a great spot in winter months too, since we like to take bundled-up walks on the beach and huddle by the fire.

We have splurged on ocean view and beachfront rooms, but all the room locations are amazing since the beach is steps away.

sunset baby dog happy
The lobby of the Tides has breathtaking sunset views of the Monterey Bay | Photo: Natalie Nicolson

Distance from Oakland: 110 miles, about a 2-hour drive
Location: 2600 Sand Dunes Drive, Monterey
Phone: 831.394.3321
Get rates for the Tides >

Lafayette Park Hotel & Spa

Less than 20 minutes from Oakland, right next door to the (510), is a French-style hotel that absolutely made us forget we were so close to home. Quiet, mature, and traditional, the Lafayette Park Hotel might not be the best fit for lots of energetic, older kids, but it was a nice, peaceful escape for two parents and a 9-month-old.

baby on a hotel room bed
Lafayette Park Hotel & Spa was a relaxing getaway for baby and parents | Photo: Natalie Nicolson

There is a picturesque patio, pool, sauna, and an outdoor fireplace. The rooms are spacious and classic, and room service was the best choice for us since the hotel restaurant is on the formal side and kid-friendly restaurants are a car ride away.

Distance from Oakland: 14 miles, about a 20-minute drive
Location: 287 Mount Diablo Boulevard, Lafayette
Phone: 855.382.8632
Get Rates for Lafayette Park Hotel >

Timber Cove (Jenner)

Timber Cove is a romantic and remote hotel about a two-hour drive north of the East Bay on a beautiful stretch of Highway 1. It’s located in Jenner next to a hard-to-miss 93-foot obelisk (or, as my toddler called it, a “rocket ship”).

On the grounds, the cliffs and rocks were fun to explore (carefully) and the outdoor deck had a foosball table, a lifesize chessboard and Jenga, and plenty of heating. Inside the lodge-style lobby, a game corner had plenty of games to keep a preschooler occupied while we listened to a musician play acoustic cover songs by an oversized fire.

timber cove hotel on the rocky cliffs
There is beautiful hiking on the cliffs of Timber Cove, best for older kids. | Photo: Natalie Nicolson

This is the farthest destination hotel on this list, and the priciest, perhaps in part because there are no basic room options. We stayed in a loft with a skylight, balcony, spiral staircase, record player (records can be “rented” at the front desk), fireplace, and an electric tea kettle—features that were not young kid-friendly, but amazing nonetheless.

Distance from Oakland: 95 miles, about a 2-hour drive
Location: 21780 Highway 1, Jenner
Phone: 707.847.3231
Get Rates for Timber Cove >

Claremont Club & Spa (Berkeley)

Closest to home, The Claremont is a Berkeley icon with unparalleled views of the Bay Area that we wanted to experience at least once. The pool area can be crowded in the summer months in the afternoon since it doubles as a country club, but we went again early in the morning and practically had the pool to ourselves.

small child floating in a wide open swimming pool
Floating in the Claremont pool in the morning before the crowds | Photo: Natalie Nicolson

Around 300 square feet, the traditional rooms didn’t feel big enough for us so we upgraded to a suite when we got there. We were lucky to have a relative who babysat for us while we had dinner on College Avenue. In the morning, East Bay Provisions was a great casual spot to grab breakfast and walk around the grounds together.

Location: 41 Tunnel Road, Berkeley a few minutes walk to North Oakland
Phone: 510.843.3000
Get Rates for the Claremont >

Money-Saving Pro Tips for Parents

Hotel stays in California are not cheap. We try to book on weeknights instead of weekends, use travel points, and pack endless snacks instead of dining out, and we find it’s possible to have an affordable staycation everyone enjoys.

Huge thanks again to our guest writer, Natalie Nicolson.

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2 thoughts on “5 Scenic Hotels Less than Two Hours from the East Bay”

  1. Many of these great local stops have been our go to also .. but going to try the Flamingo sound perfect !!
    Do you have ant place in southern CA that you suggest
    Bay Area local

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