What should I do with a day and a half in the Bay Area?
September 21, 2022 7:13 AM   Subscribe

Traveling for the first time in 2 1/2 years, and heading to the Bay Area for the first time in 3 1/2 years. I'll have most of a weekend solo to sightsee, relax, and be pampered. Since it's been so long since I've been, what are the things that are on your can't miss list?

I'll be in the East Bay but will have a car, so I'm not worried about getting around. I have a basic familiarity with the entire area from the 2010s when I worked in the South Bay. I'll be in town during the week for work but will have Friday through Sunday to myself. Open to ideas as I plan what I do.


* Relax. I like having a schedule of stuff to do but also dig just hanging out in neighborhoods and enjoying a nice coffee or beer. (I'm a snob on both.)
* Be pampered. Wouldn't mind a mani/pedi at all.
* See the ocean and/or sightsee. It's been too long due to COVID, obviously, and I live in a landlocked state. I will want and need time outside to enjoy the fresh air (assuming it's not raining) and just walk around.


* Queer-friendly spaces, especially good with non-binary people.
* Will be masking everywhere indoors, so places that are good with that are helpful. Outdoor dining/beverages strongly preferred.
* Open to a museum if timing works out.
* If there are any special events or things happening next weekend (last weekend of the month) that are a can't miss, would really consider that.

Not looking to do high-action sports or anything like that – low-key but interesting is the vibe. I'll do my best not to threadsit... thank you in advance, folks.
posted by hijinx to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The Mission district is a good place to wander around, check out Valencia between 14th and 24th. The Castro is the old school gay neighborhood but it's SF, it's all queer friendly. If you want and extra queer-friendly space, check out Wicked Grounds coffee shop at 8th and Folsom. No one will care if you wear a mask anywhere, they will probably be quietly grateful.

Sutro Baths is a good place to see the ocean, and there is an easy hiking trail on the north side that takes you to a lookout point where you can see the Golden Gate Bridge.
posted by ananci at 7:41 AM on September 21, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Sept. 30 to Oct. 2 is Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, our incredible free music festival in Golden Gate Park. It can get crowded - and this year they have designated entry points (no more aimless wandering in and out) so use your judgement as to your covid comfort level. And I wouldn't even try to drive on the West side of the city that weekend.
posted by niicholas at 8:14 AM on September 21, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Well I'm always gonna suggest a drive out to Stinson Beach, or Pt. Reyes if you're up for going farther.
posted by BlahLaLa at 8:23 AM on September 21, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Head south from the city and visit Pigeon Point Lighthouse, go to the beach in Pacifica and eat fish tacos? There's a great goat farm with excellent cheese in Pescadero.

If you want to stay in the East Bay, book a massage at Piedmont Springs, have lunch at Cesar, window-shop on College Ave, visit the Oakland Museum of California, walk in the redwoods in Redwood Regional Park or Tilden. Rent a kayak in Jack London Square and kayak in the estuary!
posted by suelac at 8:41 AM on September 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you want to toodle around and taste beers and spirits and food and see the water, plus beautiful views of both the city and Oakland, drive over to Alameda or Treasure Island from the East Bay. There's no beach on TI but there is in Alameda!

If you do go to a museum, OMCA is fun and has redwoods growing right in it! They have nice gardens as well, and have parties every Friday night. You can visit the gardens on the weekend without having to pay admission to the museum.

I would strongly discourage you from trying to do anything on the west side of the city, like Ocean Beach or even as far as the Mission. On a weekend the traffic getting across the city takes a lot of the magic out of any experience you have in the middle. This goes double if there is any sportsball happening and times infinity if you happen to be here during Hardly Strictly weekend.
posted by assenav at 8:54 AM on September 21, 2022

Best answer: My #1 recommendation is to catch sunset on Land's End in SF (site of the Sutro Baths). I realize this cuts against the advice to avoid the west side, but my experience suggests it's the leading contender for the place most likely to make you fall in love with the Bay Area.

I second the recommendation to see some of the redwoods if you're in the East Bay. Grizzly Peak is very accessible, and is also a lovely place to catch the sunset.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 9:01 AM on September 21, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Friends & Family in Oakland: great outdoor patio, great food & cocktails, woman/queer-owned. Definitely has the kind of vibe you're looking for.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 9:12 AM on September 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Oakland Museum (OMCA) is doing an exhibit called Hella Feminist that might be up your alley, plus the gardens have been completely redone. Agree with visiting the east bay redwoods at Reinhardt Redwood Regional, for example from the Main Entrance to Redwood Regional (for a fairly flat and easy trail) or from Skyline Gate for something with a little more varied terrain.

In SF, you could explore the Andy Goldsworthy installations in the Presidio and then walk out toward the beaches. There are lots of interesting trails to follow and I feel like a lot of locals overlook the area.

This scents archive in Berkeley is something really unusual. I went before Covid, but I understand they have moved some of the portions out into the garden.

If you wanted to try something kind of unusual for dining, you could go to Soba Ichi, where they make their own soba by hand. It's in a nice garden in a semi-industrial neighborhood. You'll likely stand in line to wait. We particularly liked the homemade tofu, the tempura and the dessert. There's a lot of dining options everywhere though, of course.
posted by vunder at 9:32 AM on September 21, 2022

Best answer: oh my god my favorite suggestion I tell everyone, especially East Bay-based...

Take the ferry to SF!!! It's gorgeous, you get to lounge on the open-air deck, AND the ferry has a bar. The route from Jack London to SF crosses under the Bay Bridge too. You can even take another ferry to Angel Island or Tiburon from SF.
The ferry drops you off right by the Ferry Building which is an excellent jumping off point for many more activities in the city.
Not knowing you at all lol, I'd recommend grabbing a Lyft e-bike (requires very little physical exertion, but such an excellent way to see the city), ride up Market St., make your way to Bi-Rite Market on Divisadero to grab some picnic items, and have yourself a little picnic at Alamo Square Park to do some people / dog watching and admire the views from the heart of the city.

Hope you catch some good weather!
posted by blueberrypuffin at 9:41 AM on September 21, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Fleet Week is October 3-10
Expect crowds at north beach, fisherman’s wharf, etc. Taking the ferry while jets fly overhead is impressive. Also, Alcatraz Island Is right in the middle of the bay, and is a good observation point.
posted by blob at 4:23 PM on September 21, 2022

Best answer: If you have a car, a good location for fleet week air shows is on the old Naval Base on Alameda, where there are multiple wineries and breweries where you can hang out and watch the planes fly over.
posted by suelac at 9:21 PM on September 21, 2022

Response by poster: This is full of awesome ideas - thank you all!
posted by hijinx at 5:17 AM on September 22, 2022

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