Here in the Bay Area, we are accustomed to the major metropolitan areas being empty on the weekends during “ski season”. The entire Bay Area population seems to migrate north-east to Tahoe. Some of my friends I don’t see for a good 6 months out of the year. Well, we haven’t had much (if any) snow, so I’m going to put my money on you spending your weekends wondering what the heck to do with all this free time and abundant sunshine.
I’ve put together this list of fun, local daytime activities to keep you entertained while you quietly pray for snow.
1. Visit a California State Park. Your hard-earned tax dollars help fund one of the country’s most prized park systems. Many of the parks are open year-round, and there’s no excuse not to go with all this great weather. Some of my favorites include:
- Point Lobos State Reserve (above). About 2.5 hours south of San Francisco just past Monterey, this park is considered the “Crown Jewel” of the State park system. Azure waters, abundant wildlife, tidal pools, and stunning sunsets await you.
- Redwood Regional Park. While this is not technically a State Park, it’s convenient to get to and beautiful. Did you know that you could hike through a shady redwood forest without leaving the East Bay? The main trailheads are located on Skyline Blvd. in the Oakland hills. There are tons of great day-hikes and many of the trails are dog-friendly.
- San Bruno Mountain State Park. Just 5 minutes south of San Francisco, this practically unknown park has some of the most amazing views of San Francisco you’ve ever seen. Gorgeous wildflowers, sweeping views, picnic areas, and rare plants and animals are abundant here. There are about 8 miles of single-track and fire trails to hike and some of them (but not all) are bicycle-friendly.
- Montara Mountain State Park. Climb a mountain in Pacifica and find yourself above the fogline. It’s just a few minutes down Highway 1 from San Francisco. Lots of mountain bikers and trail runners enjoy these trails as well. This 1800′ climb will get your blood pumping and show you some amazing ocean views.
2. Ride your bike across the Golden Gate Bridge with a friend, get lunch at Fish., and take a ferry back from Sausalito. Normally this route is completely overrun with tourists, but the off season should give you some respite from the sea of rental bicycles. Fish has some of the best sustainable seafood in the Bay Area, and their outdoor seating will give you an opportunity to enjoy some delicious craft beers the sunshine. I recommend ordering the Crab Roll. If you’re on a budget, order the grilled cheese sandwich off the kid’s menu (it’s really good and comes with a huge pile of fries). Then, take the ferry back to SF from Sausalito.
3. Take a trip to Wine Country, using our handy Tasting Room Guide. Right now wine country is pretty quiet and it’s a great time to check out the local producers while they have time to spend with you. Most of the fermentations are over (while others are sleeping) and pretty much all that’s happening is pruning in the vineyards. Chat with the local farmers about the drought, and be sure to stop at Rosso Pizzeria in Petaluma for some delicious burrata and pizza on your way home.
4. Rent a paddle-boat and enjoy a picnic on your local reservoir before it disappears. Lots of places rent them. You can find them on Lake Merritt in Oakland, the Lafayette Reservoir in Lafayette (above), the San Pablo Reservoir in San Pablo… you get the picture. This is a great way to enjoy some sunshine, munch on some delicious food & wine, and get a little exercise all without creating any carbon emissions.
5. Since we’re talking about boats, why not rent a charter boat and go sailing on the San Francisco Bay? There are tons of companies that will sell you a ticket for a “sunset cruise” for about $40. The water has been pretty calm lately, so it would be a great time to grab a ticket to cruise the bay on the Adventure Cat (my personal favorite), or any of the other various boats selling tickets along Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. Don’t forget to bring a jacket, it gets windy out there.
6. Head down to Pinnacles National Park. It’s east of Salinas and easy to get to for a day-trip. In the summer, this place is dangerously hot (temperatures can climb to 120F), but in the winter and spring it’s one of the coolest places I’ve ever been. An ancient volcano, the Pinnacles have been slowly moving up a major fault line over the last 3 million years. Giant spires of rock jut up out of the ground like fingers. You can hike all the way around the park in a day, and it’s about 9 miles total. Bring a flashlight because part of the hike requires you navigate through a series of pitch-black caves. There are also lots of California Condors, which have been brought back from the brink of extinction. If you decide you want to stay the night, there are camping options as well as The Inn at the Pinnacles – a wonderful bed & breakfast owned by the lovely Brosseau family. The B&B is on an organic vineyard that produces some really great Chardonnay from the Chalone AVA, and lies atop one of the largest limestone swaths in California.
7. Head north to Hog Island Oyster Farm. This place is usually crawling with people, and I can’t guarantee it won’t be this time of year, either. Go anyway; pack up a picnic, a cooler, & your shucking knife. If they have tables available, hang out at the farm and shuck to your heart’s content (if you don’t know how, watch a youtube video and start practicing). If there are no tables, pack your cooler with oysters, then head to Point Reyes where you will find endless picnic areas waiting for you to use for free.
Yeah, it sucks we are in a major drought. Who knows what that means for our great state in the long run. I say, enjoy the sunshine while it’s here, because tomorrow it might be gone. Let’s all make the best of the situation. Take advantage of what our great state has to offer!
What are your favorite dry-season activities? Let us know in the comments!