Things to do in
Central Valley, California

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Our most recommended things to do in Central Valley, California

San Francisco to Yosemite Park Small Group Tour

1. San Francisco to Yosemite Park Small Group Tour

Escape the crowds of San Francisco on a full-day tour to Yosemite National Park. Travel by comfortable, responsible transportation in a bio-fueled mini-coach. Heading east across the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge offers great views of the San Francisco skyline, Alcatraz Island, Fisherman's Wharf, and the Golden Gate Bridge. En route to the park the tour crosses through the Central Valley, where you will stop at a fruit stand for some local produce. Famous for its rich volcanic soil, the Central Valley is the largest agricultural region in the United States. The section the tour drives through is best known for speciality fruits and nuts such as almonds, walnuts, cherries, and strawberries. After this quick rest stop, you will enter the rolling foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. Continuing into the mountains brings you to California gold country and the gold rush town of Groveland before the tour winds its way into Yosemite National Park. On your 1.5-hour narrated coach tour of Yosemite's glaciated valley, you will see famous waterfalls and rock formations including Yosemite Falls, the tallest waterfall in North America. Continue on past El Capitan, Half Dome, Bridalveil Falls, Sentinel Dome, and much more. During the tour you will see Yosemite Valley from a number of great vantage points, the best of which is perhaps Inspiration Point. After the tour, you will stop for the afternoon near the base of Yosemite Falls. If you have not already picked up picnic supplies, there are many options for getting lunch in the park. You will have 3-4 hours of free time to explore the valley as you choose. You can walk to the base of Yosemite Falls, check out the visitor center, visit the Ansel Adams Gallery, stop in at the Ahwahnee Hotel, rent a cruiser bike, or hike some of the trails that originate from the valley. Although you could easily spend 3 weeks in Yosemite, the 3 hours you get on your own is enough time to understand why Yosemite is one of America's most popular national parks.

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From San Francisco: Yosemite National Park

2. From San Francisco: Yosemite National Park

Travel through the Great Central Valley into the Sierra Foothills where Forty-Niners panned for Gold. Follow the beautiful Merced River to the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains. Glaciers cut through these mountains forming spectacular granite monuments you will see throughout the park. Spend a total of 4 hours within the Yosemite National Park: 1-hour on a guided tour and 3 hours to explore on your own. There is the option of selecting a Chinese-speaking guide on certain days. Take advantage of the photo opportunities at: • El Capitan • Bridalveil Falls • Vernal Falls • Yosemite Falls • Cathedral Spires • Half Dome

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Yosemite National Park: Valley Orientation Tour

3. Yosemite National Park: Valley Orientation Tour

Join an eco-friendly, small group guided tour and witness the stunning Yosemite National Park. Choose between three pickup locations covering hotels on Highway 41, 140 & 120. Then drive 30-60 minutes through Yosemite National Park to reach Yosemite Valley. On the way, your guide will explain the history and geology before stopping at El Capitan, the world’s largest granite monolith. Your guide will provide a park orientation and hiking briefing so you can wander around alone. Be dropped off either at Curry Village or Yosemite Valley Lodge in the park. During your 5 hours of free time, explore Yosemite either by hiking its most famous trails or biking your way around Yosemite Valley.  Marvel at views of Half Dome, a granite dome known for its distinct shape. Go for a swim in the nearby Merced River to cool down from Yosemite’s summer heat. Your expert guide can recommend the best trails and where to rent a bike.  After a day of exploration, meet your guide back at either Curry Village or Yosemite Valley Lodge to be dropped off back at your original point: Yosemite View Lodge.

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Monterey: 17-Mile Drive Self-Guided Audio Tour

4. Monterey: 17-Mile Drive Self-Guided Audio Tour

Experience one of the most famous scenic drives in the world with a live GPS route and auto-playing narration for a complete hands-free and fully guided driving experience along the 17-Mile Drive. Simply download the app and drive hands-free like Google maps. On approaching an attraction, it’s photo pops up and you will hear its audio story, just like having a local guide sitting with you. The tour is developed by local tour guides, curated by creative writers, narrated by professional voice artists and put together using an award-winning platform. Start your tour at Spanish Bay. It is recommended to enter the 17-Mile Drive from Pacific Grove, then follow the directions towards the Inn at Spanish Bay, where you can stop for refreshments at the beach before continuing along the sandy beach at Spanish Bay and Point Joe, enjoying the ocean's soothing music as you drive along. At Point Joe, stop and listen to the audio guide to learn about the European explorers that first came to this part of the coast. Later, drive past Bird Rock, where you can see Brandt's cormorants, pelicans, and California sea lions sharing the rock. At your next stop, get to see the harbor seals at Fanshell Overlook and learn about their pupping season from your guide. As you continue your drive, learn about the history of the 5000-acre Del Monte Forest of Monterey Cypress trees and listen to the intriguing story of a 250-year-old Lone Cypress that isn't entirely alone. Finally, stop at the Lodge at Pebble Beach and rest at one of the public areas or putter around in one of the many charming shops in the area. 

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From San Francisco: Yosemite National Park Full-Day Trip

5. From San Francisco: Yosemite National Park Full-Day Trip

Spend an active, fun-filled day learning why Yosemite is one of America’s most popular national parks. Hike through the park with an experienced guide and immerse yourself in the beauty of nature on this small group tour. Start off by making your way east from San Francisco and heading across the Bay Bridge. You’ll continue toward the Sierras and make your way into the mountains. There, you’ll learn about California’s rich history as you pass through some of the first settlements built during the Gold Rush. Once you arrive in Yosemite National Park, it’s time to stretch your legs. Your first stop in Yosemite will include a 2.5-mile round trip hike to see the Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias. Be prepared for this strenuous hike, where you’ll descend 400 feet into the grove, before turning around and walking back up. Next, you’ll cruise into the famous Yosemite Valley to take in views of Bridalveil Falls, El Capitan, Half Dome, and more. Capture breathtaking photos at Tunnel View and take in the eastern expanse of Yosemite Valley. Once inside the valley, you’ll have 1.5 hours of free time to explore on your own. Your guide will help you decide what to do: you can meander down paved paths, hike around Yosemite Falls, engage further with the park’s history at the visitor’s center, or visit the Ansel Adams Gallery. In the late afternoon, you’ll depart for San Francisco, stopping for a short break before arriving back in the city. You’ll arrive back at your hotel around 8:30 to 9:00 PM to sleep off the day’s adventures.

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Giant Sequoia Snowshoe & Yosemite Valley Tour

6. Giant Sequoia Snowshoe & Yosemite Valley Tour

Experience the best that winter in Yosemite National Park has to offer in just one day. Enjoy snow-topped Yosemite Valley and a picturesque snowshoe hike to the Merced Grove of Giant Sequoias. Get picked up and go straight to Tunnel View, one of the best panoramas in all of Yosemite National Park. While here, grab some photos and take in the beauty of this glacially-carved valley in winter.  Next, travel to another area of the park to reach the trailhead to the Giant Sequoias. Once at the trailhead, it's time to layer up and strap on your snowshoes. If appropriate snow conditions do not exist, you will complete the hike in your regular hiking boots. On this 3-mile round-trip hike, make your way down the serene trail to reach the cluster of ancient Giant Sequoias. Find around 20 mature trees in one of Yosemite's most peaceful groves. Once you've worked up an appetite, enjoy your provided picnic lunch surrounded by the towering trees. Next, make the gradual uphill return of 600 feet elevation back to the trailhead. Change out of your layers, get comfortable, and relax on the scenic drive back to your hotel.

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Groveland: Yosemite National Park's Giant Sequoia Trees Tour

7. Groveland: Yosemite National Park's Giant Sequoia Trees Tour

Discover the towering granite cliffs and giant Sequoias of Yosemite National Park on this full-day tour. Learn about the history, geology and wildlife that make Yosemite Valley the jewel of the U.S. National Parks. Your tour begins with a pickup in Groveland, CA. Soon after entering Yosemite, you will experience the solitude of the Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias. You won’t doubt for a second that these are the largest living creatures on the planet. No picture does them justice, due to their immense height.  In winter, when conditions on the Tuolumne Grove trail are snow-covered or unsafe, the Giant Sequoias experience will be substituted with other attractions. Your heart will be racing as you enter Yosemite Valley and enjoy a stop at Inspiration Point, also known as Tunnel View. Take some selfies with El Capitan, Half Dome and Bridalveil Falls as your backdrop. During your free time in the valley, grab a bite to eat at the Valley Lodge food court, check out the souvenirs at the gift shop, take a quick hike around Sentinel Meadow, or see the towering Yosemite Falls.

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LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Bay Area

8. LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Bay Area

Explore the ultimate indoor LEGO playground at LEGOLAND Discovery Center Bay Area, located inside the Great Mall in Milpitas, California. Inspire the imaginations of children aged 3-10 with over 1.5 million LEGO bricks in one location. Discover a 2-3 hour play experience with a LEGO-themed ride, a 4D cinema where you can see all of your favorite LEGO characters come to life with special effects, and MINILAND™, a LEGO re-creation of the Bay Area’s most popular landmarks. Kids can get tips and tricks from the Master Model Builder in the Creative Workshop, design their own LEGO car and test it out in LEGO Racers: Build & Test. They can imagine and create their very own LEGO world in LEGO Friends: Heartlake City, and more. Create, build and play with the whole family.

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Point Reyes Station: Food and Farm Tour with Lunch

9. Point Reyes Station: Food and Farm Tour with Lunch

Discover the coastal farms of West Marin and Sonoma County which offer an unrivaled collection of epicurean delights for any hungry traveler. Nestled between the edges of the famed California wine country and the protected Pt. Reyes National Seashore, this unique region offers an incredible variety of high-quality produce, artisan cheeses, wine, local oyster beds, grass-fed beef, and more.  This exclusive, 5-hour food tour offers a unique opportunity to sample some of the best the region has to offer and learn the fascinating history that makes the area so unique. Starting at the small town Pt. Reyes Station, home to a locally-loved weekly farmers market, meet your guide and any additional members of your group over pastries from the renowned Bovine Bakery. Receive a quick overview of the tour and region before heading to the Cowgirl Creamery for 7 to 8 samples of award-winning cheeses. From there, meet a local bread maker and go into the bakery (not open to the general public) to see how they use their wood-fired brick oven to make naturally leavened bread and meet the awesome women who built the business. Next, set off to lunch where you can either visit the acclaimed Marin Sun Farms for grass-fed beef burgers (vegetarian options available) and buffalo-milk gelato or head to the shore of Tomales Bay for a mouth-watering (and informative) lunch of sustainable seafood. After lunch, visit a meadery where you can try local honey and toast with samples of champagne-style sparkling mead (honey wine) and sit down, picnic-style, at the famous Hog Island Oyster Company to savor locally grown oysters on the half-shell. The day concludes with a walking farm tour of an organic micro-farm that grows fruits, veggies, and flowers for the local community. Depending on the season, there may even be stuff to pick and enjoy right on the farm!

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From San Francisco: Alcatraz And Yosemite 2-Day Combo Tour

10. From San Francisco: Alcatraz And Yosemite 2-Day Combo Tour

Discover the notorious former federal prison of Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay and enjoy the award winning audio tour. Then, spend the next day in the glorious surroundings of Yosemite Park. First, enjoy a narrated boat tour around Alcatraz Island before docking. Then, take the guided “Doing Time: The Alcatraz Cellhouse Tour” from the dock to the main prison building.  The next day, escape the crowds of the city center, and drive to Yosemite National Park. Head east across the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, and enjoy great views of the San Francisco skyline, Alcatraz Island, Fisherman's Wharf, and the Golden Gate Bridge. Drive through Central Valley, stopping at a fruit stand to try some local produce. Pass fruit orchards and nut farms, before entering the rolling foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. Continue into the mountains to California’s gold rush town of Groveland. Once inside Yosemite National Park, take a 1.5-hour narrated tour of the glaciated valley in c coach. See waterfalls and rock formations, including Yosemite Falls, North America’s tallest waterfall. Continue past El Capitan, Half Dome, Bridalveil Falls, and Sentinel Dome, pausing at great vantage points, such as Inspiration Point, for panoramic views. Stop for the afternoon near the base of Yosemite Falls. If you have not already picked up picnic supplies, there are many options for getting lunch in the park. You will have 3-4 hours of free time to explore the valley as you choose. Walk to the base of Yosemite Falls, visit the Ansel Adams Gallery, stop in at the Ahwahnee Hotel, or rent a cruiser bike. Alternatively, hike some of the trails that originate from the valley. Your tour includes entrance to The Aquarium of the Bay which you may use at a time of your choosing.

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Frequently asked questions about Central Valley, California

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What people are saying about Central Valley, California

Overall rating

4.5 / 5

based on 446 reviews

Our tour guide was funny, extremely knowledgeable and punctual. We only had a day and a half at Yosemite and this tour was the perfect way to see the major sites. We were able to hike down to see the giant sequoias and hike all the Yosemite Falls trails. Ample time at stops for pictures and also 2 hikes.

Amazing experience. This is the first guided tour my husband and I have ever done and very well worth it. The guide was very knowledgeable and made us feel safe especially through all the fog. Will definitely book again.

Yosemite is absolutely beautiful. Take your time, drive, walk, hike and enjoy as much as you can. Every vista has a view to remember. Mariposa Grove has trees like no other in the world.

Well organized tour with adequate rest and bathroom breaks

The tour was really really nice, we were in a small bus,