Among the perks of leaving San Francisco over the 4th of July weekend: sunlight, fireworks that aren’t swallowed by fog, and bodies of water you actually want to swim in. Nothing says America like a good old-fashioned road trip. Here are some affordable options to satisfy your wanderlust.
Russian River, Guerneville
Distance from SF: 2.5 hours
Cheap lodging, great beer, and the weirdest hodgepodge of people outside Haight-Ashbury await in Guerneville. This eclectic town boasts a mixture of tourists, hippies and a vibrant LGBTQ community. While it’s tempting to spend the day people-watching at the town’s only Safeway, most people go there for the Russian River. Raft and swim all day for free, hike through the redwoods, and then head to the town plaza and iconic bridge to watch the fireworks show at night. If you’re really on a tight budget, find a designated driver and make it a day trip; it’s less than three hours from San Francisco.
Distance from SF: 3.5 hours
Don’t let the name fool you; Nevada City is not in Nevada. The former miners’ town is in California, about an hour closer than Tahoe and just as gorgeous. Better yet, it’s more affordable. Plenty of lodges, hotels, and Airbnb listings offer rooms for under $200. Though you can normally cool off at the South Yuba River, that’s not advised this year. But you can enjoy homemade ice cream at Treats, and stare in wonder as your bartender at the Mine Shaft Saloon informs you that one gin and tonic costs as much as a piece of toast back home.