The Ultimate Guide to Weekend Getaways For Bay Area Families - 510 Families
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The Ultimate Guide to Weekend Getaways For Bay Area Families

Let’s be real: not all hotels are equipped to handle kids. As a travel writer, I have visited my fair share of hotels in the area with my two toddlers and had experiences at all ends of the spectrum. On one end are the high-end posh properties where you can’t help but feel all eyes on you as you hover over your kids like a hawk. On the other are the ultra-kid-focused places, like the Great Wolf Lodges of the world, where your children have a blast but you might end up with a migraine from the sensory overload.

The rare gems are the ones that strike a balance: the ones who go above and beyond to welcome children while primarily catering to the adults. Here are six family-friendly hotels — from near to far — within driving distance of the East Bay that the whole family will be excited to visit.

The Meritage Resort and Spa | Napa

Napa may seem like more of an adult getaway, but thanks to the Meritage, the kids will be ecstatic for a Wine Country getaway. Located just five minutes from downtown Napa, the Meritage is a huge property with plenty of space to roam, play, eat, and yes, drink some wine (or juice). Features include a bocce ball court, on-site bowling alley, fire pits, an expansive lawn to run through, on-site restaurants with kids’ menus, and a large family pool with a hot tub, kids’ pool, and splash pad. The property also almost always has something going on, from yoga classes to live music.

fire with people making s'mores
The fire tables and s’more kits were a highlight for our family | Photo: Julie Herson

Distance from Oakland: 38 miles, about a 60 to 90-minute drive
Location: 875 Bordeaux Way, Napa
Phone: (866) 370-6272
Get rates for the Meritage >

The Sandman | Santa Rosa

Santa Rosa has a ton of kids’ activities, from Safari West to the Sonoma County Children’s Museum to spotting Snoopy around town. It also has a crop of trendy, mid-century-esque hotels that have become go-to’s for families, including the Flamingo Resort & Spa and the Sandman, which both have pools and very affordable rates. The Sandman recently underwent a $4 million renovation to spruce up the look while holding on to its retro vibe. Family suites here are a huge perk, with bunk beds, a king bed, and a kitchenette. The heated pool is the main attraction, with a pool with an attached Pool House & bar that serves cocktails and tasty fare.

3 kids in hotel bunk beds
Bunk beds make this retro hotel kid-friendly & budget-friendly | Photo: The Sandman

Distance from Oakland: 65 miles, about a 90-minute drive
Location: 3421 Cleveland Ave, Santa Rosa
Phone: (707) 293-2100
Get rates for the Sandman >

Nick’s Cove | Tomales Bay

Imagine waking up in a luxurious, fluffy bed with views of Tomales Bay, your kids excited to stand at the window and watch the boats of oyster farmers going out for the day. Then, you step out onto your private deck directly over the water and let them spot birds and turtles while you sip your coffee in peace. That’s the luxurious reality of a stay at Nick’s Cove, an historic property that dates back to the 1930s that offers twelve colorful cottages, many of which sleep up 4-6 people.

Nick's Cove Tomales Bay villa overlooking the water with mom and two kids
Our room at Nick’s Cove overlooking Tomales Bay | Photo: Clara Hogan

Play games by the wood-burning fireplace, grab food at the on-site casual restaurant, and enjoy the activities of the area including beach play, paddleboarding, and kayaking. Rates at Nick’s Cove are on the higher end, but for such a unique experience, it’s worth the splurge if you can swing it.

Distance from Oakland: 66 miles, about a 90-minute drive
Location: 23240 Highway One, Marshall
Phone: (415) 663-1033
Get rates for Nicks Cove >

Portola Hotel & Spa | Monterey

A trip down to Monterey is quick enough to feel doable any weekend, but at the same time, feels like a world away from the East Bay. You can take in marine life, play on the beach, and head to the world-class Monterey Aquarium. Our favorite home base for any trip here with kids is the Portola Hotel & Spa, an expansive property that recently underwent major renovations. Kids will love the “Pirate Program,” which involves receiving a treasure map at check-in that will take them on a scavenger hunt around the hotel.

portola hotel and spa lobby with trees, chairs, and sparkle lights
Portola Hotel lobby is twinkling with magical trees at dusk | Photo: Portola Hotel & Spa

Once they find the secret pirate password, they can collect their loot (a choice of some goodies from the front desk) as well as a free root beer float at on-site restaurant Peter B’s. Parents won’t only appreciate the fun for their treasure-loving kids, but other perks like complimentary beer on tap at check-in, super modern rooms, an on-site spa, and the proximity to the water and other attractions.

Distance from Oakland: 115 miles, about a 2.5-hour drive
Location: Two Portola Plaza, Monterey
Phone: (831) 649-4511
Get rates for the Portola Hotel >

Carmel Valley Ranch | Carmel Valley

Let me start by saying this: Carmel Valley Ranch is pricey. That’s for a reason: it is a true luxury. And yet, it’s also incredibly kid-friendly. The 500-acre property is a pristine playground for the whole family with endless activities, including hanging at the pool, booking a treatment at the spa, and playing a Pete Dye-designed golf course — in addition to daily programming.

child holding chicken in a garden with a view at carmel valley ranch
Sign your children up for garden or ranch chores | Photo: Carmel Valley Ranch

Enroll the kids in pee-wee tennis, send them off on a QR scavenger hunt, or enroll them in the “Junior Ranch Hands” program where they’ll get to spend a morning tending to the on-site animals, learning to lasso and getting an intro to ranch chores (like caring for chickens, goats, alpacas or furry Highland cows). One of the most unique amenities is the daily kids camp, which is open from 9 am to 2 pm every day and open to kids ages 2-12 with archery. They’ll have a blast, and you’ll have some solo time. Magic? Yes.

Distance from Oakland: 122 miles, about a 2.5 to 3-hour drive
Location: One Old Ranch Road, Carmel
Phone: (855) 687-7262
Get rates for the Carmel Valley Ranch >

Rush Creek Lodge & Spa | Yosemite

Yosemite is a classic family destination, and hands down, Rush Creek Lodge is one of the most family-friendly hotels near the national park (and, honestly, even the state of California). Kids will love the large playroom (which has a large climbing structure and games), outdoor playground (featuring slides and swings), on-site trails, kids’ activity programming, and heated pool year-round. The hotel even lets families use the spa during the morning hours—something I’ve never heard of before.

children and adults near a fire pit and a swimming pool
Year-round access to fire pits and swimming add to the welcoming Yosemite vibes | Photo: Rush Creek Lodge

Parents will love how convenient everything feels, from the proximity to the park entrance to the spacious rooms to the variety of on-site food options and the gear rentals. Rush Creek’s sister property Evergreen Lodge is another great choice, and keep an eye out for the brand’s newest property, Firefall Ranch, which is opening in May.

Distance from Oakland: 166 miles, about a 4-hour drive
34001 CA-120, Groveland
Phone: (209) 379-2373
Get rates for Rush Creek Lodge >

Further Reading

Have a little longer than a weekend? Our Spring Break Guide offers loads of ideas for a four-to-seven day trip.


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