Hidden Gems of the Bay Area – Part One

The San Francisco Bay Area is an iconic place to live. Before we even relocate here most of us leave the airport knowing what we want to see first. However, amongst the top rated tourist attractions are many wonderful hidden gems – regular haunts for those of us who call this place home.

Hidden Gems: The Golden Gate Bridge

There’s more to the Bay Area than this iconic bridge

Whether you’re fresh off the plane, looking to try new things or need to compile a list of activities for visitors here is Life in the Bay’s line up of some of our favorite Bay Area Hidden Gems. We’d love to hear yours!

Don’t forget to check back on Thursday for the second half of our Bay Area Hidden Gems.

  1. If it’s a bird’s eye view of your new home that you’re after then check out the Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  There are over 10 miles of trails to choose from, with some stroller friendly and less daunting than you might imagine!

  2. There are three small independent movie theatres worth checking out on the Peninsula. The Guild and Aquarius (Landmark) Theatres in Menlo Park and Palo Alto show diverse, avant-garde, independent films. If you’re in Palo Alto be sure to follow a screening with the best hummus in the Bay Area at Oren’s! If you love art deco, red velvet seats and normal sized popcorn then head back to 1925 by visiting the Stanford Theatre to watch black and white classics in style.

  3. You can drive to the top of Mount Tamalpais in Marin County for unrivalled North Bay views. Head to the Pantoll Ranger Station and follow signs for the Steep Ravine trail to earn your thirst quenching beer at the Tudor Pelican Inn.Hidden Gems: The Tudor Pelican Inn

  4. A family-friendly afternoon can be had at Shoreline Lake in Mountain View, which offers a café, playground, boating lake and beautiful flat trails for running and cycling. It’s often windier than you might imagine so take a sweater, although the café serves alcohol so you can warm up with a pinot as the sun goes down.

    Hidden Gems: Shoreline

    At the shoreline…at Shoreline!

  5. If you love the ocean then check out Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in Half Moon Bay. Be sure to time your visit when there is a low tide so you can also explore the tide pools, which are the most accessible and beautiful in Northern California. Afterwards head a few miles south for some fresh crab at Sam’s Chowder House overlooking the beautiful coastline.
  6. Further south is the eco-adventure resort Costaona, a beautiful camping/hotel retreat right alongside the ocean. This family-friendly resort offers comfortable camping experiences and is 20 minutes away from the charming town of Pescadero with its famous artichoke bread and working farms that include and Harley Farms and Pie Ranch. The latter organizes farm workdays you can volunteer for followed by their potluck Barn Dance!

    Hidden Gems: Costanoa Shoreline

    The sweeping coastline at Costanoa

  7. There’s a dense concentration of live music in the Bay Area with our favorite venues being the 1,200 capacity world renowned Fillmore, the splendorous Warfield and the iconic Masonic in Nob Hill. Sign up for news and updates from all three venues so you don’t miss out! – If you like your music with a side of sunshine, check out our picks for outdoor music spots – here.

  8. Step inside a tornado, turn upside down in a curved mirror and walk on a fog bridge at the Exploratorium at Pier 15 before wandering down to the Ferry Building for a blue bottle coffee (use the restrooms upstairs where there is rarely a long line). You can grab the best brunch in the city at Perry’s where you should make a reservation if it’s the weekend.

  9. Check out the Sutro Baths at Lands End, offering great views of the Golden Gate Bridge, and then back to Cliff House for a hot chocolate and dessert watching the sunset.

  10. Further south the redwood trees at Huddart Park rival those in Muir Woods offering a less touristy experience – you may even have them all to yourself! Take $6 cash for the parking lot and head for lunch afterwards at the world famous stop for motorcyclists, hikers and tourists, Alice’s restaurant. Set in the rustic beauty of the redwoods outside of Woodside you can enjoy the best burger on the peninsula here.

Hidden Gems: Redwoods at Huddart Park

Explore the Redwoods away from tourists at Huddart Park

If you’re looking for some local hikes check out our recommendations here.

Have we missed any of your favorite Bay Area hidden gems? Check out part two coming on Thursday, or let us know below!


About Louise Griffin

Originally from the UK Louise became a Bay Area native five years ago when a corporate move gave her the chance to see if she might enjoy a different kind of life. The sun, friendships, food, landscape and lifestyle make it a no brainer but she still misses the UK and loves contrasting the differences between the two countries because it gives her a yardstick to reflect on how she might be changing through this experience. Her new life is based on the essence of community – sharing, supporting and learning. As a professional fundraiser she is always keen to sniff out community need and use her skills to make a difference. She lives in San Mateo with her husband and two young children.

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