Five Favorite Bay Area Activities

Big Sur
The coastline near Bixby Bridge.

If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, then you may know that I was in California a few weeks ago. The trip was planned partly on a whim, but had good intentions: Darren and I wanted to make sure California was as good as we remembered, and that we were still set on moving back to the San Francisco Bay Area. The good news was that California completely exceeded my expectations; the bad news was that I had to come back at the end of it (which, hasn’t been bad at all–all that vitamin D cheered me right up!).

Today’s post is a run down of some of our favorite Bay Area activities.

1. Take a Drive Along Highway 1

I love long drives along Highway 1, and I don’t think it matters whether you start your drive in San Francisco and head north, or at Half Moon Bay and head south toward Santa Cruz. Either way, you will be guaranteed beautiful, lush scenery, beaches, and great places to stop and take photos along the way. On this trip, we drove south from Half Moon Bay, stopped for lunch in Santa Cruz, and kept driving to Bixby Bridge just before Big Sur. It was gorgeous. To get the best out of this trip, try to go on a day when the coast is clear–literally. We’ve taken a few trips along Highway 1 when it’s foggy at the coast, and while it is magical in a completely different way, it cannot beat the scenery in the sunshine.

2. Stuff Yourself Silly

The Bay Area has no shortage of restaurants, and compared to London prices, food is a bargain. Restaurants utilize their local food resources well, and take full advantage of all the fresh fruit and veg that is available. There also isn’t a shortage in different cuisines, so whether you like Mexican, Chinese, Thai, Ethiopian, or comfort food from the American South, the Bay Area has you covered.

3. Visit San Francisco

SF from Twin Peaks
The view from Twin Peaks.

Go to San Francisco. I don’t care where you go (as long as it isn’t Fisherman’s Warf or Pier 39–unless you’re going to Ghirardelli Square, I can forgive that one), just go. San Francisco has a certain je ne sais quoi about it. Sure, the people can be a bit different at times, but that’s what makes The City unique. If you’re dying for suggestions, take in the hippy spirit on the Haight (if you love music, you must visit Amoeba Records), see the beauty of San Francisco from the top of Twin Peaks, go shopping at Union Square, or have a meal in North Beach. Really, just walk around–you’ll get a great workout from all those hills, and I’m sure you’ll have plenty of fun along the way. Just beware that San Francisco can be shockingly cold in summertime. If you have flexibility in your planning, go in September! Otherwise, be sure to wear layers.

4. Grab Some Snaps in the Marin Headlands

Carrie at the Headlands
Posing in front of the Golden Gate at the Marin Headlands.

Want some photos of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge? The Marin Headlands are the best place to get these. The Headlands are a short jaunt over the bridge (which is totally worth driving over–the scale of it makes you appreciate what an engineering feat it must have been). Take the first exit, and follow the signs. There are designated parking places along the way–if the first lot is full, there is another one that’s just a five minute’s walk further up the hill. But make sure you go to the viewing area where the first parking lot is–that’s where you’ll get the best photos of the Golden Gate’s glory, and get spectacular views of San Francisco. Instead of driving back to Highway 101 the way you went, keep driving along the road toward the coast. At the summit, it becomes a one-way road that spirals down the hillside and gives some beautiful views of the coast line.

5. Go to a Farmer’s Market

Tulips

One of the best things about California is the selection of fresh fruit and vegetables available all year round. When I moved to California in 2005, farmer’s markets were one of my favorite things from the outset. They were a fun way to spend a Sunday morning, and a great way to get the freshest produce California had to offer, all at a bargain price. But it wasn’t until 2008, when I moved to Mountain View, that I discovered my favorite market. Mountain View’s market is held each Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Caltrain Parking lot. They have a huge selection of not only fresh produce, but vibrant flowers, fresh eggs and meats, coffee and honey. After you’ve finished at the market, there are plenty of brunch options just a short walk away. Even if you’re just visiting, it’s worth a stop for a quart of fresh strawberries, or a fresh apple cider.

I hope you enjoy some of these activities as much as we do, and please share your favorites!