The city of Fresno is nestled in the San Joaquin Valley in central California, with the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the east and the vast Pacific Ocean to the west. This prominent city is within easy driving distance of a few of the most relaxing and scenic getaway spots in the state. Situated near many beautiful Fresno vacation rentals, the cities and towns of the San Joaquin Valley and beyond offer magnificent scenery, thrilling recreational activities, unique attractions, and plenty of opportunities for fine dining. Here are the best weekend getaway spots in proximity to Fresno.

1. Sausalito

sausalito ca

Sausalito is a charming town in Marin County on the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge, less than four hours from Fresno. The town is built on a hillside, and a walking tour over the numerous steps provides spectacular views of the houseboats on the waterfront, Richardson Bay, and the San Francisco skyline in the distance. Sausalito hosts the Marine Mammal Center, which offers tours of its exhibits and rescued animals, and the Bay Area Discovery Museum, an interactive facility with educational activities for children. Join an exciting kayak tour of San Francisco Bay with Sea Trek, or thrill to an aerial tour of the Bay Area with Seaplane Adventures. The town is renowned as an artist’s colony, so browse the many unique and fascinating studios and galleries, such as Gallery Sausalito, Scrimshaw Gallery, and Sausalito Pottery. When you’re hungry, try the Trident, a seafood restaurant with magnificent vistas of the Bay, Alcatraz, and the city of San Francisco.

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2. Carmel-by-the-Sea

pebble beach

The incomparably beautiful town of Carmel-by-the-Sea lies on the Monterrey Peninsula just over three hours from Fresno. Carmel hosts numerous art galleries and art events. Carmel Art Tours takes you on a guided excursion to catch the highlights. For a luxurious and eclectic shopping experience, head for three-level Carmel Plaza in the heart of the town. Feast on a delicious seafood meal at Flaherty’s Seafood Grill and Oyster Bar, and then enjoy dessert at the charming Cottage of Sweets. Play 18 holes at one of the area’s world-famous golf courses such as Pebble Beach Golf Links or Spyglass Hill Golf Course. Don’t miss the spectacularly beautiful 17 Mile Drive in Pebble Beach, with its magnificent vistas of Spanish Bay, Fanshell Beach, and the Lone Cypress.

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3. Paso Robles

a vegetable garden at paso robles
Source: Flickr/Chad Scott

Located at the southern end of the Salinas Valley in the lovely eastern foothills of the Santa Lucia Mountains, Paso Robles is less than three hours from Fresno. The town is famous for its beautiful scenery, relaxing hot springs, and fine wineries. River Oaks Hot Springs Spa has indoor and outdoor tubs that allow you to soak all your cares away. Take a cycling tour of the wine region with Paso Bike Tours, or enjoy the comfort of a deluxe shuttle coach for wine tasting with Grapeland Wine Tours. Ride horseback through rolling grassy hills interspersed with oak groves at Work Family Ranch. Visit the fascinating Conservation Ambassadors Zoo, which houses displaced or injured exotic and wild animals. After your adventures, have a superlative steak at McPhee’s Grill in nearby Templeton.

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4. Morro Bay

morro rock
Source: Flickr/Sandra Foyt

Located just over three hours southwest of Fresno on California’s beautiful Central Coast, the town of Morro Bay offers stunning views and abundant outdoor activities. Dominating the seaside landscape is awesome Morro Rock, a volcanic dome at the entrance to Morro Harbor. Explore the coastal waters on a kayak tour with Central Coast Outdoors. Head out onto the open ocean, and angle for salmon, halibut, rock cod, and tuna with Full On Fishing Charters. Rent a bicycle and grab a map at The Bike Shop, and enjoy the beautiful scenery along the local roads and trails. The Abri Waterfront Restaurant offers patio dining with a magnificent view of Morro Rock. For dessert, try Embarcadero Fudge and Ice Cream. Instead of taking drinks indoors, have an elegant experience on the water with a Morro on the Rocks Cocktail Cruise.

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5. Mammoth Lakes

convict lake

The town of Mammoth Lakes lies less than a five-hour drive northeast of Fresno in the midst of spectacularly beautiful scenery. To the town’s west is Mammoth Mountain, to the north is Yosemite National Park, and to the south is the rugged Sherwin Range. In summer, rent a canoe or kayak from Mammoth Kayaks and Paddleboards, and explore June Lake, Mono Lake, Lake Mary, and other local waterways. Join the expert guides at Kevin Peterson’s Fly Fishing Adventures, and angle for rainbow trout, brook trout, and golden trout. Footloose Sports offers rentals of mountain bikes so you can ply the numerous trails in the area. In winter, grab rental skis or a snowboard at P3 Freeride Shop, and head for the world-class slopes at Mammoth Mountain or nearby June Mountain. Alternatively, explore the gorgeous snowy terrain on snowshoes.

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6. Ojai

ojai valley museum

The town of Ojai, nicknamed Shangri La by its inhabitants, is just over four hours south of Fresno in a lovely valley surrounded by the Topatopa Mountains. Renowned for its laid-back atmosphere, cultural sophistication, and recreational activities, the town offers abundant opportunities for both relaxation and play. The Ojai Valley Museum provides fascinating insight into local history and culture. View local artwork at the Primavera Gallery, the Human Arts Gallery, and the Firestick Pottery Studio. Play 18 holes at the famous Ojai Valley Inn Golf Course. When you’re hungry, feast on some fresh California cuisine and cool draft beer at Azu Restaurant and Bar, which features local brew from Ojai Valley Brewery.

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7. Solvang

copenhagen drive in solvang ca
Source: Flickr/Prayitno

Located about four hours from Fresno, the unique and fascinating town of Solvang has roots in Danish culture and architecture. When you stroll through downtown and check out the charming boutiques and shops, you feel as if you’ve been transported to a European village. Rent a bicycle at Wheel Fun Rentals, and explore the town and the local wineries, several of which were featured in the hit movie Sideways. Tour the city in a unique way with guided Segway Tours of Solvang. Enjoy an adventurous ride through the hills of Estelle Vineyards with Vino Vaqueros Horseback Riding. Don’t miss Solvang’s eclectic museums, including the Hans Christian Anderson Museum, the Wildling Museum of Art and Nature, and the Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum.

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