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The San Francisco Bay Area offers a nearly endless list of attractions – even while we’re all social distancing, you’re sure to find some good options. Whether you want to enjoy the outdoors, sip wine, explore cultural attractions, or just take in a spectacular view, there’s enough on this list to keep you busy for quite a while. These are just some of the top things to do in this Northern California region.
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Enjoy the View from Baker Beach
What Is It? Baker Beach is a mile-long stretch of sand at the foot of rugged cliffs west of the Golden Gate.
Why Do It? It’s one of the best spots for views and photos of the Golden Gate Bridge and the longest, sandiest stretch of shoreline in the city. It’s also one of the top budget-friendly activities in San Francisco.
Good to Know: During the pandemic shutdowns, the beach is only open to those on a bike or on foot as the parking lot is closed. Bikes are available to rent throughout the city.
Walk or Bike Across the Golden Gate Bridge
What Is It? One of the most iconic landmarks in the world, the Golden Gate Bridge opened in 1937.
Why Do It? While it’s fun to take in the view from afar, visitors should also walk or bike the 1.7-mile span that stretches from San Francisco to the Marine headlands. From there, you’ll be able to see the Pacific and Alcatraz Island too.
Good to Know: Access to the bridge sidewalks is still in place during COVID-19 for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Take a Walk Through the Woods
What Is It? Muir Woods is a national monument just north of San Francisco known for its towering old-growth redwood trees.
Why Do It? Scenic walking trails will bring you to some of the oldest and tallest trees in the country here, including giants that are more than a thousand years old. It’s one of the city’s best spots for nature lovers.
Good to Know: Cathedral Grove features a 1.5-mile paved trail with educational exhibits along the way. Signs lead to longer trails where you can watch for black-tailed deer, butterflies, bats, jays and Northern spotted owls.
Watch the Surfers in Half Moon Bay
What Is It? Just 40 minutes south of San Francisco along the coast, Half Moon Bay is a popular day trip from the city with beautiful beaches and famously powerful waves.
Why Do It? Watch surfers from the bluffs who challenge themselves to ride some of the biggest waves on the planet, particularly at Mavericks where there are huge rocks known as the “graveyard.” You can also fish from the pier and enjoy fresh seafood at the marina.
Good to Know: San Mateo County is following social distancing guidelines and some places require a mask to be worn but almost everything is open.
Hike and Enjoy the Amazing Views at Tilden Park
What Is It? Tilden Regional Park us a 2,079-acre regional park in the East Bay between the Berkeley Hills and San Pablo Ridge.
Why Do It? From Grizzly Peak, you’ll get one of the best views of the Bay Area. After dark, you’ll be mesmerized by the dazzling lights that seem to stretch forever.
Good to Know: The park’s attractions, including the merry-go-round, picnic and swimming areas are closed, but it’s still worth coming to walk the trails.
What Is It? Located in the Oakland Hills, the Oakland Zoo showcases around 440 animals and is nationally renowned for its elephant exhibit.
Why Do It? It offers a great time for all ages, with many interactive displays and educational programs for visitors to learn about the zoo’s inhabitants. It also hosts the popular Valley Children’s Zoo with interactive play structures for the kids along with animals like ring-tailed lemurs, over 100-year-old Aldabra tortoises, pot-bellied pigs, and bats.
Good to Know: The zoo is reopening to the public in July, with social distancing measures in place. Tickets must be reserved in advance as there will be a limited number available.
Wine Tasting in Sonoma Wine Country
What is It: Sonoma Wine Country is just 45 minutes north of the Golden Gate Bridge, home to over 425 wineries for touring and tasting.
Why Do It: Crowded tasting rooms with bar service are now a thing of the past, but you can enjoy sipping while keeping a safe distance from others. There’s also plenty of other exciting things to do while you’re in Sonoma.
Good to Know: You will have to book a reservation in advance before visiting, which helps the wineries monitor capacity. Don’t forget your mask!
Picnic in Golden Gate Park
What Is It? One of San Francisco’s top attractions, Golden Gate Park offers miles of vast green lawns, walking paths, lakes, and 7,000 kinds of plants right in the heart of the city.
Why Do It? The park is a picturesque oasis that provides the perfect setting for a picnic, while many of the city’s top attractions are within walking distance.
Good to Know: While the major attractions like the de Young Museum are closed, picnics are allowed while social distancing. Put together your own picnic basket, or perhaps order a wine, cheese, and charcuterie survival kit/box from Board at Home, which will deliver curated boxes with wine to you the same day you order.
Walk the Lands End Trail
What Is It? The Lands End Trail will bring you to San Francisco artist Eduardo Aguilera’s labyrinth which lies along a rocky a windswept shoreline.
Why Do It? The walk offers spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin Headlands, and the coast along with the labyrinth that makes for an outstanding photo-op.
Good to Know: The trail leading to the promontory is unmaintained, so you’ll need to be extra careful in this frequently windy and slippery location.
Enjoy Drinks Overlooking the Pacific at Moss Beach Distillery
What Is It? The Moss Beach Distillery is a restaurant with an outdoor patio along the coast a Moss Beach, about a half-hour’s drive south of San Francisco.
Why Do It? The outdoor patio is open for dining and drinking, with everything spaced apart for social distancing. If it’s chilly out you can snuggle up to a natural gas fire pit or get cozy under warm blankets on wooden benches while enjoying the jaw-dropping view.
Good to Know: To make room for more while still social distancing, additional outdoor seating has been added in the parking lot, which also comes with an ocean view.
Take a Scenic Drive Down the Coast to Big Sur
What Is It? Enjoy a scenic drive from San Francisco to Big Sur following the Pacific Coast Highway.
Why Do It? This stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway, is one of the most spectacular in the country, covering approximately 150 miles. Enjoy endless photo-ops along the way, with opportunities for strolls on the beach too.
Good to Know: It’s worth waking up early for a more enjoyable, leisurely drive as it will take about three hours each way.
Explore the Sutro Bath Ruins
What Is It? The Sutro Baths were designed by self-made millionaire Adolph Sutro in 1894 as the world’s largest indoor swimming pool. During the high tide, the Pacific Ocean would fill the pools with 1.7 million gallons of saltwater in just an hour. They were part of a lavish swimming facility that had over 500 private dressing rooms, restaurants and arcades that were enclosed by 100,000 square feet of glass. After Sutro died, his family maintained the baths for several decades, but it was closed down during the Great Depression.
Why Do It? The remaining structure still exists as interesting architectural ruins in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area at the north end of Ocean Beach near the Cliff House restaurant.
Good to Know: You can walk around the fascinating and somewhat eerie ruins – they’re rumored to be haunted.
Climb the 16th Avenue Mosaic Steps
What Is It? Located at 16th and Moraga, this unique staircase was created by more than 300 area residents, covering 163 precipitous steps with beautiful mosaic tiles that portray a shimmering path from the sea to the sky.
Why Do It? Most tourists know nothing about it, making it fairly easy to maintain distance from others. Gazing up at it from the below, the staircase truly looks like a stairway to heaven.
Good to Know: Climbing the steps will take you to Grand View Park, and from there you can take in an awe-inspiring panorama of the city, the Golden Gate Bridge and beyond.
Take a Self-Guided Tour of Winchester Mystery House
What Is It? A 160-room Victorian mansion that was designed by Winchester Rifle heiress Sarah Winchester, featured on many travel-related and “most haunted” shows.
Why Do It? In 1884, the wealthy widow of William Winchester began this massive construction project that occupied the lives of craftsmen and carpenters for nearly 40 years, until 1922 when Sarah died. The home is filled with so many unexplained oddities that it became known as the Winchester Mystery House. With the strange design of the house and rumors of her ghost still residing, the mansion has drawn visitors from across the globe to try and understand the bizarre architecture and the reasons behind it.
Good to Know: While self-guided mansion tours are temporarily suspended, a new outdoor evening experience is now offered from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. The Walk With Spirits Tour allows guests to roam the expansive grounds while hearing tales of its former and (possibly current!) inhabitants in addition to exploring the supernatural lore of the legendary estate.
Hike Mount Sutro
What Is It? Mount Sutro is a century-old temperature cloud forest of eucalyptus trees, some as high as 200 feet that grow on an 80-acre mountainside.
Why Do It? Hiking, especially on a foggy day, with the mist surrounding the treetops that tower overhead, is absolutely magical.
Good to Know: If you’re here on a weekday, there’s a good chance that you’ll be one of just a few walking the peaceful trails.