A summer road trip is an American tradition. The idea of the wind blowing in your hair, the beckoning of the distant horizon, the kids squabbling in the back seat, and bad road food has a romantic attraction of sorts. But long days over hot asphalt may not have quite the appeal that the old Chevy commercials tried to give it.

This article looks at some options for shrinking those long drives and your environmental footprint at the same time. These destinations will promote a fun yet relaxing time for you and your travel companions while keeping greenhouse gas emissions in check. Consider staying in the Davis/Sacramento area for a true staycation, or just sticking relatively close, exploring some of the beautiful sites and great entertainment options available within 100 miles of home.

You can stay at home and still have a great vacation that will certainly be cheaper and probably more relaxing than the standard variety.

Cool Davis UC Davis Arboretum
The now iconic Arboretum shovel gateway sculpture frames the beginning of a yellowbrick lined getaway. Photo credit Johan Verink.

Davis and Sacramento as vacation destinations

Plan a “staycation” just as you would a regular getaway. Set dates to start and end and generally what you are going to do each day, but there is no need to be rigid. One of the benefits of a staycation is that you can follow spontaneous inspiration more easily than if you were on the road.

You can still plan to eat out every day or at least more often than you normally would. Try out a new restaurant or enjoy an old favorite. If you do eat at home some of the time, think about preparing meals ahead so that you don’t spend your vacation cooking.

Davis offers a lot of fun activities and you can get to all of them on a bicycle. In fact, you can start by touring the Davis Bike Loop, a 12-mile ride designed to be leisurely. Other options include:

Cool Davis UC Davis Raptor Center
Courtesy photo.
Cool Davis UC Davis Design Museum
The UC Davis Design Museum explores how design shapes, improves and makes economically viable the objects, technology and environments we use, inhabit and experience every day. Courtesy photo.

The UC Davis Design Museum is a founding adopter of the Green Museums Accord. The Accord is a set of five principles that propel museums to become environmental leaders, and is administered by the California Association of Museums and the Green Museums Initiative.

To learn more about green museums and the Accord, visit:



Sacramento is just across the causeway and opens up almost unlimited possibilities. Take Amtrak or Yolo Bus into town to avoid parking hassles. Better yet, jump on a JUMP bike here in town for your outbound leg and leave it behind as you breeze home on the train. When you’re in Sacramento, you can take light rail, city buses, a cab, or Uber/Lyft to get around. Here is a small sample of the activities you can look forward to:

  • Learn about all things train at the California Railroad Museum.
  • Spend a day or two in Old Town Sacramento where historical buildings, stores, and restaurants abound.
  • Descend into some of Sacramento’s earliest buildings, below street level, built before the entire town was raised in the 1860s and 70s to avoid flooding. If you go after dark, the guided tour delves into the history of murders, mischief, and madames. It all starts at the Sacramento History Museum.
  • Tour the State Capitol building and grounds, including the State Capitol Museum.
  • Visit the Crocker Art Museum.
  • Check out the Leland Stanford Mansion State Historic Park.
  • Spend a day in William Land Park featuring Fairtytale Town and the Sacramento Zoo.
  • Take in a Kings game or a show at the Golden One Center.
  • See a River Cats game or a concert at Raley Field.
  • Take a river boat cruise on the Sacramento.
  • Sample restaurants, bars, and music in Mid-Town.

There is enough to do in Davis and Sacramento for a memorable vacation. But if you want to travel a little, there is a whole lot within 100 miles of home, too.

Bay Area bounty without battling traffic

If  your small, fuel efficient car doesn’t accommodate the whole crew, consider renting something bigger for your vacation instead of purchasing a van or SUV. You can have a big comfortable vehicle on your road trip that you and the kids can spread out in but stick with something more practical the rest of the year. A smaller car, a hybrid or electric vehicle, will generally be cheaper to purchase than a larger vehicle, save you a bunch on gas, and be a whole lot easier to drive around town. (See the Cool Davis Drive Electric page for more!)

People come from all over the world to visit the Bay Area. For us, it’s right next door. You can always drive but taking Amtrak to Oakland and a ferry from Jack London Square to San Francisco is way more of an adventure! In the Bay Area, public transit will get you anywhere you want to go. Here are just a few choices:

  • Oakland: Lake Merritt, Oakland Museum of California, Jack London Square, Fox Theater, Chabot Space and Science Center, Tilden Regional Park, Redwood Regional Park
  • Berkeley: Lawrence Hall of Science, University Avenue, Telegraph Avenue, the “Bulb” for kite flying, Solano Avenue (great restaurants, interesting shops, and plenty of counter culture).
  • San Francisco: Golden Gate Park, Embarcadero, Mission Dolores, Columbus Avenue, Union Square, Chrissy Field, Baker’s Beach, Ocean Beach, ferry to Sausalito or Angel’s Island (enjoy art, music, and historic hotels).
  • Stinson Beach: Enjoy this wonderful long beach and some of the best hiking trails in the world at close by Mt. Tamalpais.
  • Dillon Beach: If you want to walk up the beach a bit, there are some great little coves to the north that are accessible at low tide. It can be popular on the weekends, but Dillon Beach offers great beach walks and is dog friendly.
  • Bodega Bay: Interesting harbor with opportunities to rent a kayak or explore Bodega Dunes State Park.
  • Auburn, Grass Valley, Nevada City, and the Northern Gold Country: Tons of history, music, small wineries, and mine tours.
  • Napa and Sonoma: Internationally renowned wine country offers hot air balloon rides and zipline adventures in the redwoods in addition to the obvious.

    Cool Davis Chabot Center
    Chabot’s giant, historic telescopes offer a unique way to experience the awe and wonder of the Universe. Check out celestial viewing day and night. Our observatory deck offers breathtaking views 1,500 feet above the Bay. Courtesy photo.
  • Pt. Reyes National Seashore: Go camping or skip the hard ground and stay in a B&B in Inverness.
  • Hiking: Loch Leven Lakes trail has three beautiful alpine lakes and parking right off Interstate 80.
  • Consumnes River Preserve: Hike, kayak or canoe.
  • Rent a houseboat in Stockton and explore the Delta.
  • Camp at the Sand Flat or Lovers Leap campgrounds in the El Dorado National Forest or rent a vacation cabin near Pollock Pines.
  • Visit the Luther Burbank Experimental Farm in Sebastopol.
  • Float the Russian River from Guerneville to the mouth.

The sky’s the limit and it’s all close by. Enjoy your summer stay-cation! (Unless you’ve already stopped reading this and started making your vacation plans!)


Norman Rockwell Going and Coming “Outing” image © SEPS. Used with permission