Summer camp, cancelled. Museums closed. Planes are scary. But you have time you want to take off and kids to entertain. How do you enjoy a safe summer staycation in the San Francisco Bay Area? We have been working to enjoy our summer and I have a few ideas that are safe and help you bring some adventure back in your life.
Sure, the Bay Area aren’t known for its warm beaches. But if you go in the afternoon, the fog cover usually goes back and you can get some sun, or at least a little bit of warmth. And the further south you are willing to go, the chances of a warm beach day are better.
- Pack a warm layer. If the fog layer is still set in, you will need it
- Bring extra towels for your kids who will be chattering after they enter the water, but insisting they are “not cold”
- Most beaches don’t have food near by, so make sure to pack snacks and/or a picnic lunch
- Bring masks for the walk to and from the beach, and if the parking lot is full, move on and go to another beach.
- Give people plenty of space. And ask your kids to be respectful as well.
- Stinson Beach – A popular beach north of San Francisco in Marin. It has a large parking lot and a cute restaurant on the beach that has Mexican food, beer and margaritas.
- Muir Beach – A less popular beach just south of Stinson. It has a smaller parking lot, and about a ¼ mile walk to the beach. Frequented by locals and not as popular, so you are more likely to be less crowded. There is no food or shops near by so be sure to bring everything you need with you. And note, the parking lot has zero cell service, but oddly you can get some on the beach.
- Half Moon Bay – Popular with surfers and for its beautiful hiking nearby, there is 6 miles of beach, and shops and restaurants nearby for takeout.
- Santa Cruz – This is THE famous beach town in the the Bay Area. While the boardwalk amusement rides are closed, the restaurants are open, and the private lots are all open so you can go to Main Beach. There are lifeguards on duty making you feel safe as your kids try their hand at wave jumping and body boarding. Note they have a very strict no mask, no service policy on the boardwalk, and it is completely cashless. So, come prepared with a credit card and mask.
Hiking and Rock Climbing
There are some great trails around here that have rocks and dead trees to climb and give your kids more options than just looking at trees and complaining that they are board. These trips will provide you at least an hour without complaints, though you will likely bring some very dirty kids home.
- Make sure you are not attached to the clothing they are wearing. Expect a lot of dirt, dust, and maybe even a few rips for extra rambunctious kids.
- I always carry bandaids and some alcohol wipes, or a mini first aid kit for the unexpected owie
- Bring a mask. While you are likely spending most of the time on your own, when the trail gets narrow and you need to pass people, it’s respectful to put on a mask. Usually we require the front leader to yell “Masks!” When they see someone ahead on the trail.
- If you are in a forested area, make sure to wear long sleeves and light clothing to look for ticks afterwards.
- Wildcat Canyon Regional Park: This has a lot of easy, fun loops and trails. But near the Elderberry picnic site, is a staircase down to Wildcat Creek, and a fun place to climb rocks and explore.
- Rock City, Mount Diablo State Park: As the name suggests, this area of the state park, which can be accessed from the southern entrance, has lot of flat trails with large rocks that were main for climbing. Just a word of warning, that red clay dust gets everywhere!
- Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline, Franklin Ridge Loop: The first ½ mile is uphill and super steep. While the adults don’t like this, the kids love the challenge and exploring. And up at the top, it’s a short 2 mile loop where you can see views for miles in the East Bay
Easy Bike Rides
The kids are finally on two wheels! Awesome, that means it’s time to do family bike and scooter rides. If you are not quite in the shape that you want to be (cough, cough, darn you quarantine baking) you will want to take some easy, mostly flat bike rides to make it pleasant for all skill levels.
- Water and snacks are what makes everyone happy on a ride. Make sure you are carrying both somehow.
- You don’t have to wear a mask when riding your bike but be sure to shout out that you are arriving, allowing people to give you space. Also, when off your bike and in a crowded area, you will want the mask
- Again, bandaids and alcohol wipes for those unexpected but likely to happen falls.
- Point Pinole Regional Park – This park has a pleasant and mostly flat 3.5-mile round trip paved path from the parking lot to the end of the pier at the point. It’s beautiful, it’s easy, and it’s a great way to spend an afternoon.
- Pinole Creek Trail – Part of the San Francisco Bay Trail, it’s a popular local trail that goes along the Pinole Creek to the Bay, then goes up along the bay and joins the popular trail system. It’s mostly shaded, it’s paved, and there are great bridges you cross and ducks that you see along the way. Plus, you get to see the bay AND the trains that pass. Win for everyone.
- Bay Bridge Bike Path – This is a seriously long ride, but it’s a cool one. You can ride four miles across the San Francisco Bay Bridge to Treasure Island. On Treasure Island you are rewarded with gorgeous views of the city of San Francisco. Don’t want to do the eight miles round trip? Check out the website for one-way public transit options.
Restaurants are doing take out or outdoor dining, so you can enjoy eating out once again! One of the things we like to do is to get some takeout and take it for a picnic in a local park. It’s great to have a meal that you didn’t’ cook and minimal cleanup.
- As for plates, silverware, napkins, etc. Most places are only giving that at request because so many people were taking the food home.
- Have a blanket in the back of your car for this occasion
- Remember to have disinfecting wipes if you plan to use public picnic tables, benches, or even outdoor tables.
My biggest suggestion is to support a local small business. The big chains have some cash flow and resources to last the crisis. The smaller shops that you want to stay open are the ones to support.
- Mexican – Tacos, Burritos and quesadillas are a fan favorite with everyone, and easy to eat while out. In the East Bay we love Que Onda Tacobar in Pinole, a new shop that opens that lets you customize your order. In San Francisco and Berkeley, we love Gordo Taqueria.
- Pizza – Pizza is easy doesn’t really require silverware, and you can even get by without plates in a pinch. I’m from the New York area, so my recommendations will always be partial to New York Style pizza. We love Rotten City in Emeryville, and Warriors New York Pizza in Rodeo. Escape from New York in San Francisco also has a pretty authentic slice. If you are in mood for a nicer meal with a unique pizza, try Hot Italian in Emeryville which does authentic Italian pizzas in a wood fired oven.
- Sandwiches – The portable meal that everyone loves. If you want a really good Italian sub, with prosciutto, salami, capicola, or all of is, piled on fresh bread, then check out Genova Delicatessen in Walnut Creek. Want some good Vietnamese sandwiches? Try Pho Craze in Pinole.
Just because you are foregoing far flung adventures this summer doesn’t mean there aren’t great places locally to have an adventure. So, get in the car, grab some local takeout to support a small business, and check out a park, beach, or bike path. You won’t regret it. And your kids will remember this and the fun time you had much more than you imagine.
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