Vallejo is a city of about 120,000 residents that’s located 45 kilometers northeast of downtown San Francisco.
Though day trips to Fisherman’s Wharf and other San Francisco attractions are popular with visitors to Vallejo, for those who’d rather not fight the Bay Area’s notorious traffic, there are plenty of things to do within city limits as well.
The area is full of cultural, historical, and art-related attractions. It’s also home to some of the Golden State’s most beautiful state and national parks and undeveloped beaches.
Below are 15 things to do in and around Vallejo that warrant a closer look when in the area.
1. San Francisco Bay Ferry
The San Francisco Bay Ferry runs between Vallejo and the city’s ferry terminal on the west side of the bay.
It’s among the most popular tourist activities in the area, and the sights between the two cities are nothing short of breathtaking.
Ferry’s run throughout the day, so if you decide to hop off and explore San Francisco, you won’t need to worry about getting left behind.
The Vallejo side ferry port is located on Mare Island Way. Depending on the weather and headwinds, the trip usually takes about an hour each way. Schedules may vary on holidays, so check beforehand it that’s when you’ll be visiting.
2. Alden Park
Located on the former naval base site on Mare Island in Vallejo, Alden Park is a popular outdoor recreation destination most well-known for its scenic coastal location and the massive ballistic missile on display that harkens back to the tense years during the Cold War.
The Navy officially left the base more than two decades ago. Now, the quiet park doesn’t get much foot traffic, which makes it a good fit for those looking to distance themselves from the crowds.
The park features an impressive collection of military hardware from the past, including artillery pieces and torpedoes from the Civil War, and a German sub from the Second World War.
3. Mare Island Museum
For those visiting Vallejo looking for interesting things to do, there’s really no better place to spend a few days than Mare Island.
It’s the city’s biggest historical attraction, and the museum is just one of many sites worth checking out.
In addition to its indoor exhibits, the museum features expansive grounds that include gardens, historic mansions, a chapel, and seamen’s quarters – all of which are left over from when the island was an active naval base.
The museum is located on Railroad Avenue in Vallejo. You can show yourself around if you’d like, but docent-led tours are regularly available.
4. Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
California sports an impressive number of amusement parks. For those visiting the Bay Area, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom is one of the most popular.
With so much to see and do on-site, it’s one of those places that occupies large chunks of vacation time for those traveling with kids.
Full of exhilarating rides for nearly all ages, its amenities include abundant dining options, live entertainment, and plenty of activities geared toward little ones who aren’t quite old enough to ride the big rides.
The park is located on Fairgrounds Drive in Vallejo, about five kilometers northeast of downtown.
5. Sunshine Smoothies and Coffee
Located on Wilson Avenue in Vallejo, Sunshine Smoothies and Coffee is a must-visit attraction for those looking to fill their tanks before spending a long day on their feet taking in the area’s sights.
Sunshine prides itself on high-quality coffee, freshly pressed juices, and vegan smoothies. They also serve baked goods like bagels and muffins.
Previous guests have commented on their bubbly staff, extensive menu, and the efficient manner in which customers got their drinks at the walk-up and drive-thru windows.
Sunshine probably isn’t a good fit for those looking to relax with their drink for a few hours, because most of their business is takeaway.
6. The Alibi Clock
Of Vallejo’s historic attractions, the Alibi Clock probably has the most unique story.
Though it may look like just another city clock to the untrained eye, it was once used as an alibi for a pair of political malcontents wrongly accused of detonating a bomb at a public event in San Francisco in the early years of the 20th century.
Despite having a photograph of the clock to prove they were nowhere near the bomb site at the time of the explosion, the two were convicted of the heinous crime that killed ten.
Both were pardoned more than a decade later, however, and the clock was moved from its original location to its current one on Georgia Street in Vallejo.
7. Empress Theater
Vallejo’s Empress Theater has been one of the city’s most notable landmarks since it was built more than a century ago.
It’s still one of Vallejo’s premier performing arts venues and offers a year-round schedule with productions ranging from dramatic theater and contemporary music to private events, children’s shows, and even boxing matches.
The theater also features impressive architecture, high-tech light and sound systems, and a classy lounge-style bar that often hosts smaller, more intimate events.
It’s located downtown on Virginia Street just a few blocks inland from the Napa River, and consistently receives high marks from guests.
8. Mare Island Naval Cemetery
Beginning in the mid-1850s, naval officers, crewmen, and soldiers were laid to rest at Mare Island Naval Cemetery.
Though it reached maximum capacity in the ‘20s, the cemetery’s residents include more than a few famous characters with interesting pasts, making it a truly unique attraction for those interested in delving into the macabre side of the area’s history.
The cemetery is tucked away in a quiet corner of Mare Island and has been included on the National Register of Historic Places since 1975.
Most visitors spend about an hour looking around before heading off to other Mare Island attractions.
9. Vallejo Farmers’ Market
Whether it’s June or January, cold and windy or hot and sunny, the Vallejo Farmers’ Market is a weekend tradition that takes place at the corner of Main and Georgia streets in the downtown area.
The market features dozens of vendors selling everything from fresh seasonal produce and arts and crafts to baked goods, prepared food items, and locally made health and body products.
Many guests choose to enjoy lunch or breakfast on-site before making their rounds. Despite its city location, previous visitors reported that parking wasn’t a problem.
Most vendors are locals, so don’t be shy about asking for recommendations for things to see and do around town.
10. Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum
The Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum is another of the city’s attractions conveniently located on Mare Island.
The museum includes more than 20,000 square feet of exhibits that preserve and promote the area’s rich naval and shipbuilding history.
The museum is housed in the former City Hall building, which was built in the ‘20s. Its collection includes historic photos, model ships, maritime memorabilia, and first-hand accounts of those who served and worked on the base in years past.
Over the years, the facility has served a number of roles, including police station and government building. There’s a gallery dedicated to works by local artists as well.
11. S.S. Garden City Wreckage
At more than 200 feet long and displacing more than 1,000 tons of water, the S.S. Garden City paddle-wheel steamer was a sight to behold when it was built in the late 1800s.
Due to a fire in the 1980s, the once-proud vessel is now little more than rusting boilers and a slowly deteriorating paddle-wheel, but for lovers of nautical history, it’s definitely an attraction worth checking out.
It now sits quietly along a quiet stretch of water near the city’s ferry terminal, where it once plied its trade carrying passengers and automobiles between Vallejo and San Francisco until it was mothballed in the ’70s.
12. Mare Island Brewing Company
Though Vallejo’s Mare Island is most well-known for its abundant historical attractions, it’s also a great place to relax with a cold beer for those in need of liquid refreshment.
The brewing company and taproom are located on Mare Island Way in Vallejo. They were the brainchild of two California winemakers, who decided to try their hand in the brewing business.
Mare Island’s handcrafted beers run the gamut from crisp ales and dark stouts to hearty porters and hoppy IPAs. Their scenic waterfront location offers visitors amazing views of the San Francisco Bay that make for a truly memorable experience.
13. Mare Island Naval Shipyard
When it was established in the mid-1850s, Mare Island Naval Shipyard was the first facility of its kind on the West Coast.
Over the years, its workforce churned out an astonishing number of naval vessels that would serve the country for decades. According to legend, its dedicated workers once built a destroyer from stem to stern in less than 20 days.
Guided tours are the best way to see the site in its entirety. In addition to getting up close and personal with the dry docks, gantry cranes, and slips, guests will visit other attractions like St. Peter’s Chapel and the mansion that once housed the base’s commander.
14. Napa Valley Wine Train
Napa Valley is California’s premier grape growing and wine-producing region. It’s set amidst some of the state’s most beautiful natural areas, about 25 kilometers north of downtown Vallejo.
The Napa Valley Wine Train runs for nearly 60 kilometers of prime real estate that’s characterized by rolling hills, large tracts of scenic vineyards, and some of the state’s most renowned wineries.
The train is largely comprised of vintage railcars that have been restored to near original condition. They feature a number of seating areas, lounges, and dining rooms that make for truly unforgettable experiences.
Tours depart from McKinley Street in Napa.
Though it’s most well-known for the infamous prison that housed some of the country’s most dangerous convicts in past decades, Alcatraz Island is also home to the West Coast’s oldest lighthouse and a Civil War-era fort.
One of the Bay Area’s premier attractions, it’s accessible by private ferry from the San Francisco side of the bay.
Many guests choose to sign-up for a guided tour to make the most of their time, but audio guides are available for those who’d rather see things on their own.
From Vallejo, catch the San Francisco Bay Ferry, then take public transportation to the Fisherman’s Wharf departure area.
The island’s hours vary by season, so check their website before making a special trip.