The Bay Area

We’ve compiled the best of the best in The Bay Area - browse our top choices for the top things to see or do during your stay.

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  • 1. Año Nuevo State Park

    It's a seasonal ritual for California's elephant seals to come ashore here each winter—and a spectacular annual event for human visitors to watch these incredible...

    It's a seasonal ritual for California's elephant seals to come ashore here each winter—and a spectacular annual event for human visitors to watch these incredible marine mammals playing, flirting, breeding, and sometimes fighting in the chilly salt water and brisk sunshine. Guided tours (around three miles) are mandatory to keep the elephant seals safe and to protect this fragile ecosystem.

    1 New Years Creek Rd., Pescadero, California, 94060, USA
    650-879–2025

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Parking $10; tours $11, Reservations essential and book up quickly
  • 2. BAMPFA (Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive)

    This combined art museum, repertory movie theater, and film archive, known for its extensive collection of 28,000 works of art and 18,000 films and videos,...

    This combined art museum, repertory movie theater, and film archive, known for its extensive collection of 28,000 works of art and 18,000 films and videos, is also home to the world's largest collection of African American quilts. Artworks span five centuries and include modernist notables Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, David Smith, and Hans Hofmann. The Pacific Film Archive includes the largest selection of Japanese films outside Japan and specializes in international films, offering regular screenings and performances.

    2155 Center St., Berkeley, California, 94720, USA
    510-642–0808

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: $14; free 1st Thurs. of month, Closed Mon. and Tues.
  • 3. BAMPFA (Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive)

    Downtown | Museum/Gallery

    This combined art museum, repertory movie theater, and film archive, known for its extensive collection of some 28,000 works of art and 18,000...

    This combined art museum, repertory movie theater, and film archive, known for its extensive collection of some 28,000 works of art and 18,000 films and videos, is now also home to the world's largest collection of African American quilts, thanks to the bequest of art scholar Eli Leon. Artworks span five centuries and include modernist notables Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, David Smith, and Hans Hofmann. The Pacific Film Archive includes the largest selection of Japanese films outside Japan and specializes in international films, offering regular screenings, programs, and performances.

    2155 Center St., Berkeley, California, 94720, USA
    510-642–0808

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: $14; free 1st Thurs. of month, Closed Mon. and Tues.
  • 4. Berkeley Marina

    City Park

    Enjoy spectacular views of San Francisco and Angel Island, as well as grassy expanses that are perfect for a picnic. The marina houses three...

    Enjoy spectacular views of San Francisco and Angel Island, as well as grassy expanses that are perfect for a picnic. The marina houses three restaurants and connects to bike paths and running trails. On sunny days, the 90-acre César E. Chávez Park, at the marina's northern tip, fills with kite flyers, dog walkers, and families grilling and riding bikes.

    University Ave. , ½ mile west of I–80, Berkeley, California, 94704, USA
    510-981–6740
  • 5. Cooper-Garrod Vineyards at Garrod Farms

    Horseback riding and wine tasting makes a great combination for a day in the mountains; it’s that duo that draws visitors to this longtime farm...

    Horseback riding and wine tasting makes a great combination for a day in the mountains; it’s that duo that draws visitors to this longtime farm and winery above Saratoga. A former test pilot, George Cooper founded the winery in 1972 and all of the wine continues to be sourced exclusively from the 28 acres of vines on the estate. Don’t miss the unique Test Pilot red blends and the quiet specialty of the winery: Cabernet Franc.

    22645 Garrod Rd., California, 95070, USA
    408-867–7116

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Tastings from $22
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  • 6. Duxbury Reef

    Excellent tide-pooling can be had along the 3-mile shoreline of Duxbury Reef; it's one of the largest shale intertidal reefs in North America. Look for...

    Excellent tide-pooling can be had along the 3-mile shoreline of Duxbury Reef; it's one of the largest shale intertidal reefs in North America. Look for sea stars, barnacles, sea anemones, purple urchins, limpets, sea mussels, and the occasional abalone. But check a tide table ( usharbors.com) or the local papers if you plan to explore the reef—it's accessible only at low tide. The reef is a 30-minute drive from the Bear Valley Visitor Center. Take Highway 1 South from the center, turn right at Olema Bolinas Road (keep an eye peeled; the road is easy to miss), left on Horseshoe Hill Road, right on Mesa Road, left on Overlook Drive, and then right on Elm Road, which dead-ends at the Agate Beach County Park parking lot. Avoid areas rich with fragile Monterey shale, which are prone to erosion from human disturbance. It is illegal to collect anything from this protected marine area.

    Bolinas, California, 94956, USA

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 7. Filoli

    The Bay Area’s definitive early-20-century mansion and gardens reside in a quiet area along the beautiful Crystal Springs Reservoir at the base of the Santa...

    The Bay Area’s definitive early-20-century mansion and gardens reside in a quiet area along the beautiful Crystal Springs Reservoir at the base of the Santa Cruz Mountains, just a short drive from Menlo Park on I–280. The East Coast has several of these lavish estates from the titans of the Gilded Age with all kinds of Rockefeller and Vanderbilt family homes on view today to the public. However, it’s very rare to find those in Northern California. Part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Filoli dates back to 1917 when it was built for the Bourn family based on a fortune from gold mining, along with investing in water and electricity (investing in Silicon Valley was much more humble back then). The estate was purchased by William Roth and Lurline Matson Roth, the latter the daughter of Captain William Matson, who founded the still-important namesake shipping company. The Roths continued maintaining the impeccable estate, both inside and outside, before handing it over to the public after William’s death in the 1970s. Across 654 acres, the estate features several beautiful gardens, farmland, different ecosystems, and even crosses the San Andreas Fault (the source of many Northern California earthquakes). A 1-mile trail gives a good general overview of the grounds. For most visitors, the enchanting gardens are the highlights, particularly in spring when the daffodils and myriad other flowers are in full bloom. Summer sees the rose garden at its stunning peak. The holiday season is also wonderful when the gardens include festive light displays, but it’s truly special any time of year. The house is quite spectacular, as well, with beautiful terraces facing the gardens, and the interior features 10 bedrooms for the family, 15 bathrooms, and 17 fireplaces. The Georgian Revival–style architecture is very impressive throughout the home, particularly in the grand ballroom with a mural of Ireland's Muckross House, the posh reception room, and the warm, mahogany-paneled library.

    86 Cañada Rd., Woodside, California, 94062, USA
    650-364–8300

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: $34
  • 8. Marin County Civic Center

    A wonder of arches, circles, skylights, and an eye-catching blue roof just 10 miles north of Mill Valley, the Civic Center was Frank Lloyd Wright's...

    A wonder of arches, circles, skylights, and an eye-catching blue roof just 10 miles north of Mill Valley, the Civic Center was Frank Lloyd Wright's largest public project (and his final commission) and has been designated a national and state historic landmark. It's a performance venue and is adjacent to where the always-fun Marin County Fair is held each summer. Ninety-minute docent-led tours begin Friday mornings at 10:30 am.

    3501 Civic Center Dr., San Rafael, California, 94903, USA
    415-473–6400-Cultural Services department

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free; tour $12, Closed weekends
  • 9. Mt. Tamalpais State Park

    The view of Mt. Tamalpais from all around the bay can be a beauty, but that’s nothing compared to the views from the mountain, which...

    The view of Mt. Tamalpais from all around the bay can be a beauty, but that’s nothing compared to the views from the mountain, which take in San Francisco, the East Bay, the coast, and beyond. Although the summit of Mt. Tamalpais is only 2,571 feet high, the mountain rises practically from sea level, dominating the topography of Marin County. For years the 6,300-acre park has been a favorite destination for hikers, with more than 200 miles of trails. The park's major thoroughfare, Panoramic Highway, snakes its way up from U.S. 101 to the Pantoll Ranger Station and down to Stinson Beach. Parking is free along the roadside, but there's an $8 fee (cash or check only) at the ranger station and additional charges for walk-in campsites and group use. The Mountain Theater, also known as the Cushing Memorial Amphitheatre, is a natural 3,750-seat amphitheater that has showcased summer Mountain Plays since 1913. The Rock Spring Trail starts at the Mountain Theater and gently climbs for 1½ miles to the West Point Inn, where you can relax at picnic tables before forging ahead via Old Railroad Grade Fire Road and the Miller Trail to Mt. Tam's Middle Peak. From the Pantoll Ranger Station, the precipitous Steep Ravine Trail brings you past stands of coastal redwoods. Hike the connecting Dipsea Trail to reach Stinson Beach. If you're too weary to make the 3½-mile trek back up, Marin Transit Bus 61 takes you from Stinson Beach back to the ranger station.

    3801 Panoramic Hwy., Mill Valley, California, 94941, USA
    415-388–2070
  • 10. Muir Woods National Monument

    One of the last old-growth stands of redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) giants, Muir Woods is nature's cathedral: awe-inspiring and not to be missed. The nearly 560...

    One of the last old-growth stands of redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) giants, Muir Woods is nature's cathedral: awe-inspiring and not to be missed. The nearly 560 acres of Muir Woods National Monument contain some of the most majestic redwoods in the world—some more than 250 feet tall. Part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Muir Woods is a pedestrian's park. The popular 2-mile main trail begins at the park headquarters and provides easy access to streams, ferns, azaleas, and redwood groves. Summer weekends can prove busy, so consider taking a more challenging route, such as the Dipsea Trail, which climbs west from the forest floor to soothing views of the ocean and the Golden Gate Bridge. Picnicking and camping aren't allowed, and neither are pets. Crowds can be large, especially from May through October, so come early in the morning or late in the afternoon. The Muir Woods Visitor Center has books and exhibits about redwood trees and the woods' history as well as the latest info on trail conditions; the Muir Woods Trading Company serves hot food, organic pastries, and other tasty snacks, and the gift shop offers plenty of souvenirs. Muir Woods has no cell service or Wi-Fi, so plan directions and communication ahead of time. For parking reservations (required) and shuttle information, visit  gomuirwoods.com. To drive directly from San Francisco, take U.S. 101 North across the Golden Gate Bridge to Exit 445B for Mill Valley/Stinson Beach, then follow signs for Highway 1 North and Muir Woods.

    1 Muir Woods Rd., Mill Valley, California, 94941, USA
    415-561–2850-park reservations

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: $15
    View Tours and Activities
  • 11. Nike Missile Site SF-88

    Historic District/Site

    The only fully restored site of its kind in the United States, the museum at SF-88 provides a firsthand view of menacing Cold War–era Hercules...

    The only fully restored site of its kind in the United States, the museum at SF-88 provides a firsthand view of menacing Cold War–era Hercules and Ajax missiles and missile-tracking radar, the country's last line of defense against Soviet nuclear bombers. It's worth timing your visit to take the guided tour, which features period uniforms and vehicles and includes a visit to the missile-launching bunker. On the first Saturday of the month the site holds an open house during which Nike veterans describe their experiences.

    Field Rd., off Bunker Hill Rd., , California, 94941, USA
    415-331–1453

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Sun.–Wed.
  • 12. Oakland Museum of California

    Downtown

    Designed by Kevin Roche, this museum is a quintessential example of mid-century modern architecture and home to a capacious collection of nearly 2 million objects...

    Designed by Kevin Roche, this museum is a quintessential example of mid-century modern architecture and home to a capacious collection of nearly 2 million objects in three distinct galleries celebrating California's history, natural sciences, and art. Listen to native species and environmental soundscapes in the Library of Natural Sounds and engage in stories of the state's past and future, from Ohlone basket making to emerging technologies. Don't miss the photographs from Dorothea Lange's personal archive and a worthy collection of Bay Area figurative painters, including David Park and Joan Brown. Stay for lunch at the Town Fare café, where chef Michele McQueen serves California-soul food dishes like Low Country shrimp and cheddar grits. On Friday evening, the museum bustles with live music, food trucks, and after-hours gallery access.

    1000 Oak St., Oakland, California, 94607, USA
    510-318–8400

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: $19; free 1st Sun. of month, Closed Mon. and Tues.
  • 13. Palm Drive and the Oval

    Few streets in the Bay Area can match the dramatic scenery of Stanford’s entrance from downtown Palo Alto. For about ⅔ mile, palm trees line...

    Few streets in the Bay Area can match the dramatic scenery of Stanford’s entrance from downtown Palo Alto. For about ⅔ mile, palm trees line the street, which runs in a direct straight line towards Memorial Church. The Santa Cruz Mountains emerge on the horizon, and it all looks as if it was framed intentionally for postcards. Palm Drive runs into a giant grass area called the Oval, named for its distinct shape, which revolves around flower plantings shaped as an "S" for Stanford. On sunny days, Stanford students are always out in force studying on the grass or playing Frisbee. It can appear like a university admissions brochure in real life.

    20 Palm Dr., Stanford, California, 94305, USA
  • 14. Point Reyes Lighthouse & Visitor Center

    In operation since 1870, this lighthouse—which was decommissioned in 1975—occupies the tip of Point Reyes, 21 miles from the Bear Valley Visitor Center, a scenic...

    In operation since 1870, this lighthouse—which was decommissioned in 1975—occupies the tip of Point Reyes, 21 miles from the Bear Valley Visitor Center, a scenic 40-minute drive over hills scattered with longtime dairy farms. The lighthouse originally cast a rotating beam lighted by four concentric wicks that burned lard oil. Keeping the wicks lighted and the 6,000-pound Fresnel lens soot-free in Point Reyes's perpetually foggy climate was a constant struggle that reputedly drove a few attendants to madness. The lighthouse is one of the best spots on the coast for watching gray whales. On both legs of their annual migration, the magnificent animals pass close enough to see with the naked eye. Southern migration peaks in mid-January, and the whales head back north in March; see the slower mothers and calves in late April and early May. Humpback whales can be spotted feeding in the summer months. Parking is limited, and there's a quarter-mile one-way path from the parking lot to the visitor center. Once there, it's time to decide if you have it in you to walk down—and, more importantly, up—the 308 steps to the lighthouse. The view from the bottom is worth the effort, but the whales are also visible from the cliffs above the lighthouse. Keep in mind that the lighthouse steps are open only during visitor center hours. Winds can be chilly, and food, water, gas, and other resources are scarce, so be sure to come prepared.

    27000 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Inverness, California, 94937, USA
    415-669–1534-visitor center

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Mon.–Thurs.
  • 15. Point Reyes National Seashore

    One of the Bay Area's most spectacular treasures and the only national seashore on the West Coast, the 71,000-acre Point Reyes National Seashore encompasses hiking...

    One of the Bay Area's most spectacular treasures and the only national seashore on the West Coast, the 71,000-acre Point Reyes National Seashore encompasses hiking trails, secluded beaches, and rugged grasslands, as well as Point Reyes itself, a triangular peninsula that juts into the Pacific. The Point Reyes Lighthouse occupies the peninsula's tip and is a scenic 21-mile drive from Bear Valley Visitor Center. When Sir Francis Drake sailed along the California coast in 1579, he allegedly missed the Golden Gate Strait and San Francisco Bay, but he did land at what he described as a convenient harbor. In 2012 the federal government recognized Drake's Bay, which flanks the point on the east, as that harbor, designating the spot a National Historic Landmark. The infamous San Andreas Fault runs along the park's eastern edge; take the Earthquake Trail from the visitor center to see the impact near the epicenter of the 1906 earthquake that devastated San Francisco. A half-mile path from the visitor center leads to Kule Loklo, a reconstructed Miwok village of the region's first known inhabitants. You can experience the diversity of Point Reyes's ecosystems on the scenic Coast Trail through eucalyptus groves and pine forests and along seaside cliffs to beautiful and tiny Bass Lake. The 4.7-mile-long (one-way) Tomales Point Trail follows the spine of the park's northernmost finger of land through the Tule Elk Preserve, providing spectacular ocean views from high bluffs.

    1 Bear Valley Rd., Point Reyes Station, California, 94956, USA
    415-464–5100

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 16. Ridge Vineyards

    One of the most iconic names in American wine, Ridge’s 1971 Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon participated in the famous 1976 Judgement of Paris tasting between...

    One of the most iconic names in American wine, Ridge’s 1971 Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon participated in the famous 1976 Judgement of Paris tasting between French and Californian wines. See that celebrated Monte Bello Vineyard here, a stunning hillside of wine royalty with a mesmerizing view over the South Bay. Longtime winemaker Paul Draper was a visionary for prioritizing single-vineyard expressions and a minimal-intervention approach to crafting wines, and the winery continues that tradition. Visitors can usually purchase a taste of Ridge’s signature Monte Bello wine (a red Bordeaux-style blend), but fair warning, it’s one of the country’s most expensive wines.

    17100 Montebello Rd., Cupertino, California, 95014, USA
    408-868–1320

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Tastings $30
  • 17. Shattuck & Vine Street Neighborhood

    The success of Alice Waters's Chez Panisse defined California cuisine and attracted countless food-related enterprises to a stretch of Shattuck Avenue. Foodies will do well...

    The success of Alice Waters's Chez Panisse defined California cuisine and attracted countless food-related enterprises to a stretch of Shattuck Avenue. Foodies will do well here poking around the shops, grabbing a quick bite, or indulging in a feast. Tigerlily ( 1513 Shattuck Ave.) dishes up authentic modern Indian cuisine along with signature cocktails and light fare on the patio. Neighboring Epicurious Garden ( 1511 Shattuck Ave.) food stands sell everything from sushi to gelato. Across Vine Street, the Vintage Berkeley ( 2113 Vine St.) wine shop offers tastings and reasonably priced bottles within a historic former pump house. Coffee lovers can head to the original Peet's Coffee & Tea at the corner of Walnut and Vine ( 2124 Vine St.). South of Cedar Street, The Local Butcher Shop ( 1600 Cedar St.) sells locally sourced meat and hearty sandwiches of the day. For high-end food at takeout prices, try the salads, sandwiches, and signature potato puffs at Grégoire ( 2109 Cedar St.). Masse's Pastries ( 1469 Shattuck Ave.) is a museum of edible artwork. We could go on, but you get the idea.

    Shattuck Ave. between Delaware and Rose Sts., Berkeley, California, 94709, USA
  • 18. Stanford University Main Quad

    The heart of the Stanford University campus is its distinct Richardsonian Romanesque quad. Stanford’s signature look revolves around red-tiled roofs and palm trees. The focal...

    The heart of the Stanford University campus is its distinct Richardsonian Romanesque quad. Stanford’s signature look revolves around red-tiled roofs and palm trees. The focal point of the quad is Memorial Church, a striking memorial built by Jane Stanford to her late husband Leland. The interior boasts stunning mosaics and stained-glass windows. There was originally a bell and clock tower, but that was destroyed by the powerful 1906 earthquake, just three years after the church completed construction. Docent-led tours of the church are held Friday mornings at 11.

    450 Jane Stanford Way, Stanford, California, 94305, USA
    650-723–1762

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 19. Temescal

    Temescal

    Centering on Telegraph Avenue between 40th and 51st Streets, Temescal (the Aztec term for "sweat house") is a low-pretension, moneyed-hipster hood with young families and...

    Centering on Telegraph Avenue between 40th and 51st Streets, Temescal (the Aztec term for "sweat house") is a low-pretension, moneyed-hipster hood with young families and middle-aged folks in the mix. Protected bike lanes, bus islands, and a pedestrian plaza add to the vibrancy of this neighborhood. A critical mass of excellent eateries draws diners from around the Bay Area; there are newer favorites like excellent Filipino eats at FOB Kitchen ( 5179 Telegraph Ave.) and Smokin Woods BBQ ( 4307 Telegraph Ave.), as well as standbys like the fantastic fish tacos of Cholita Linda ( 4923 Telegraph Ave.) and the unusually refined café-brewery Rose's Taproom ( 4930 Telegraph Ave.). Old-timey dive bars and smog-check stations share space with public art installations of murals, sculptures, and mosaic trash cans. Temescal Alley ( Off 49th St.), a tucked-away lane of tiny storefronts, crackles with creative energy. Get an old-fashioned straight-edge shave at Temescal Alley Barber Shop ( 470 49th St., Suite B). Don't miss grabbing a sweet scoop at Curbside Creamery ( 482 49th St.).

    Telegraph Ave. between 40th and 51st Sts., Oakland, California, 94609, USA
  • 20. Tilden Regional Park

    Stunning bay views, a scaled-down steam train, and a botanical garden with the nation's most complete collection of California plant life are the hallmarks of...

    Stunning bay views, a scaled-down steam train, and a botanical garden with the nation's most complete collection of California plant life are the hallmarks of this 2,077-acre park in the hills just east of the UC Berkeley campus. The garden's visitor center offers weekend lectures about its plants and information about Tilden's other attractions, including its picnic spots, Lake Anza swimming site, golf course, and hiking trails (the paved Nimitz Way, at Inspiration Point, is a popular hike with wonderful sunset views). Children love Tilden's interactive Little Farm and vintage carousel.

    2501 Grizzly Peak Blvd., Berkeley, California, 94563, USA
    510-544–2747

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free parking and botanic garden

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