In a recent count, I realized that I’ve been to the bay area a whopping 7 times, mostly to visit my amazing sister and brother-in-law. Having seen most of the major tourist attractions already, the mission was to find a handful of unique activities for our quality time. I think we were successful! Here were five of my favorites…
The Exploratorium After Dark at Pier 15
The Exploratorium is more than just a science museum; it houses a ridiculous amount of interactive exhibits to be enjoyed either independently, in pairs, or in small groups. My favorite was the social psychology section, complete with a “Prisoner’s Dilemma” exhibit (my sister was mad because I “snitched”) and booths illustrating implicit bias. If this doesn’t sound up your alley, there are a TON of other sections to explore. The amount of content is so great that someone can visit multiple times and still make each a unique experience.
Families can buy tickets for $30/apiece for adults and 20-25/apiece for children depending on their age. Kids 3 and under get in free. For those traveling without children, I highly recommend experiencing The Exploratorium “After Dark,” which happens every Thursday night from 6:00-10:00. After Dark is adults only (18+), and thus you don’t have to feel that you’re robbing a child of a learning experience when you’re monopolizing an exhibit. As a bonus, there are also drinks available at After Dark. I had a local Golden State cider and I saw some local wine options too. As you might expect, the exhibits are even more enjoyable after a beverage. The cost of After Dark is $15, plus whatever you choose to spend on drinks ($8-12 per drink).
Each week also has a theme, such as the universe, sound, or cannabis (it is California after all). Live presentations and some interactive exhibits are specifically related to each theme. To find out what theme is being covered each week, check here.
Plank Oakland and Souley Vegan
Plank is an arcade bar located in the Jack London Square area of Oakland. Just load a Plank card with about $20 and enjoy games like air hockey, ski ball, Deal or No Deal (don’t judge until you try it), and giant Fruit Ninja. You might also end up riding the roller coaster simulator several times. Bowling and bocce ball are available as well for an added cost. Because I won so many tickets, I got a pair of cheesy hipster sunglasses.
After finishing up at Plank, you can walk to the nearby restaurant, Souley Vegan. Souley Vegan is a purveyor of comfort food that you may not even notice doesn’t contain animal products. I had a combination plate with BBQ tofu, red beans & rice, potato salad, and salad greens. The cost wasn’t bad as far as the bay area goes (about $15 including tip) and the portions were huge. Don’t tell me that this platter doesn’t look amazing:
Jack London Square is also a destination in and of itself, with its proximity to the bay and a number of shops, restaurants, and activities. You could easily spend an afternoon here.
Comedy in a Mattress Shop
The series, “Chillarious” combines two of my favorite things: laughing and comfortable beds. Every third Friday of the month, the Saavy Rest Natural Bedroom in Berkeley transforms into a comedy club with mattresses as the seating. Free drinks are provided, which is almost unheard of in the bay area, and when I went they even raffled off a set of organic sheets. Make sure to get there early to snag a good spot; otherwise you might have to sit in a regular old chair or on the floor in the back.
Riggers Wine Loft Company
I thought Serey was steering us awry when she brought us to a warehouse at a former shipyard, but then I saw the small “Riggers Wine Loft Company” sign outside. This hidden gem is a cooperative of three wineries (Carica Wines, R&B Cellars, Irish Monkey Cellars) and one cider company (Far West Cider) with gorgeous views of the bay. Wine or cider tastings are $10 for several pours, and every one I sampled was high quality. The service was excellent and the staff were friendly; be prepared to be greeted with a handshake if the place isn’t busy. A food truck is on-site as well, which was pricey but seemed to include a range of options, including some vegetarian and vegan ones. If you’re lucky, you may also get to hear some live music or meet the winery dog, Loki.
Wildcat Canyon Regional Park
Wildcat Canyon in the East Bay offers 25 miles of trails, many of which offer views of the East Bay Hills and even the Golden Gate Bridge far in the distance. My sister and I spent our time hiking, though you can also bike, ride a horse, or enjoy a meal in one of the four sizable picnic areas. Make sure to check the website ahead of time for trail updates; when I went there were some that were closed as a result of flooding: http://www.ebparks.org/parks/wildcat
What should I make sure to check out on my 8th visit? Post your recommendations below!