A Day in the Bay Area
We live in a diverse section of California. There are many places to explore within a few hours drive. Here are just a few things to do.
Spending time in the outdoors is a treat with so many beautiful places nearby. One popular spot is Big Basin State Park (the first state park in California), which boasts a large collection of redwoods along the Waddell Creek watershed. The park offers activities for all ages, from simple hikes to longer more strenuous day hikes. The Berry Creek Falls hike is considered one of the best in the area. Similar, yet different, is Castle Rock State Park. This park is popular for its unique rock formations, which are popular with climbers. A large portion of the main trek overlooks the Santa Cruz mountains. In addition to state parks, the bay area is also home to a large collection of open spaces–a collection of private lands opened for public enjoyment. They offer many places to explore in style.
A zoological visit is always a highlight for a child. They can learn about the world around them and see cute animals at the same time. The Bay Area offers a few nice zoos to visit. The first is the San Francisco Zoo. If you are on the peninsula, this is your nearest zoo. They offer a large expanse with many animals to learn about, including grizzly bears, penguins and more. Across the bay is the Oakland Zoo, another quality park. Both offer plenty of space to walk around, and both offer unique experiences for children. Be sure to look at the animal encounters each zoo offers. For those in the south bay, Happy Hollow is a neat little park specifically designed for youngsters. The zoo is easy to walk through, and includes children's rides as well. Its easy to make a day out of Happy Hollow.
Some say the California coast is where you go in your dreams, and no section better expresses that than Big Sur. It's a truly amazing drive between Monterey and Big Sur. There are countless opportunities for physical activity and sightseeing. Garrapata State Park, while small, offers a punch. It has easy hiking opportunities and the coastline turns golden during the sunset. Point Lobos has long been considered the “crown jewel” of the California State Parks. Artists and photographers flock to the park, as do families looking for a nice trail. If you are interested in an indoor adventure, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is always a great place to visit. Children love the aquarium, which offers plenty of activities for those with high energy.
Whale watching is a fun excursion. It provides an opportunity to take a ride on a boat, see sea lions in the harbor, and usually get some whale action as well. During the summer, the usual fare are the Humpback and Blue Whales. Blue Whales are the largest animal on earth, and are a sight to see in person–especially if you are in a small craft. Humpback Whales are active on the surface, as they are the most graceful of breachers (where they leap out of the water). If you whale watch in the winter months, you are most likely to see Grey Whales as they migrate to Baja California. Dolphins of various kinds are in the waters off the Bay year round. While there is no guarentee of seeing whales on a whale watching excursion, they are lots of fun. Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Francisco are locations where tours depart from various companies.
Santa Cruz is the quintessential beach town in northern California. The city is known for its moderate climate thoughout the year, the natural coastlines, good places to eat and much more. The Beach Boardwalk is a staple during a Santa Cruz summer. It is the place to take in rides of all kinds, and then catch the sunset on the water. For young ones interested in oceanography, the Marine Discover Center is the place to see a blue whale skeleton, get up close to a shark, and learn about the coastal environment. One of the most breathtaking beaches in the city is Natural Bridges State Beach. If you want to see the sunset, this is a great place. In the late fall, you can also witness the Monarch Butterfly migration.
San Francisco is the place where there is too much to do. You can't go wrong with beginning your journey at the Golden Gate Bridge. The Marin Headlands offer an amazing view of the bridge with the city as a backdrop, and hiking with views most people only dream of. The city is not short on museums either. You can visit the Academy of Sciences for an aquarium (and more), the Walt Disney Family Museum, the Exploratorium and many more. A ride on the Cable Car is a memorable activity for any age. You can grab a nice Ghirardelli treat at the end-of-the-line. The city is also rich in history, from the Sutro Baths to Alcatraz to Coit Tower to Fort Point.
Filoli is a classic country estate on a 16 acre piece of land. If flowers and color are your thing, you can do no better in the Bay Area. While every flower doesn't bloom year round, the team at Filoli make sure there is always something to see. During the spring and summer months, bees are ever present–pollinating as much they can. Aside from horticulture, the home is also open for a self tour. Be sure to arrive early, parking can fill up quickly.
Some things can take your breath away, literally. Mission Peak is a popular location in the Bay Area for many activities, but most of all it is a testing hike. There are many ways up the peak, some are easier than others. You might also run into a cow or two–be sure to give them space. Further south, take a drive up to the top of Mount Hamilton, the location of the Lick Observatory. Here, you can take a tour and see the Great Lick Refractor. Just don’t visit at night as there are no services after dark. In San Francisco, you can summit Twin Peaks with ease for a stunning view of the city and down Market Street.
Sometimes the best place isn’t the furthest. In the Bay Area, we have thousands of local parks available to enjoy. You might have more then one local park. Your park might be a few blocks away, or just across the street.
Even though we have some amazing activities and excursions in the Bay Area, the state of California offers much more. There are National Parks within a few hours drive, national seashores, wine country and much more. One of the jewels of California is Yosemite National Park. Tourists come from all over the world, and it's in our backyard. If you are a hiker, photographer, nature lover or anything else, Yosemite is for you. It can be relaxing to leave the hustle and bustle of the city for a quiet valley made of granite. If you are into water sports, and a high alpine lake, then Lake Tahoe is for you. Tahoe offers snow sports during the winter, and a multitude of recreational activities during the summer. Emerald Bay is a must-see at South Lake Tahoe.