San Francisco is beautiful, but the Bay Area has so much more to offer. Cross the bridge in either direction to find a trove of half-hidden cities that don't always get as much love. You might even discover your new California getaway.
Sausalito Offers Seaside Serenity
Sausalito gets its name from the small willow trees that used to dot its creek banks. It perches on a hillside harbor, nestled snugly between the Marin Headlands and the San Francisco Bay. Known for the houseboats that bob along the shore, it's a one-of-a-kind community that attracts both transplants and tourists. It's little wonder since you have panoramic views of the Bay and Angel Island from nearly any point. From its harborside location, it seems like a magical spot, if only because it rarely gets any of that famous Frisco fog.
After you cross the Golden Gate bridge coming from San Francisco, Sausalito is the first town to welcome you. In addition to taking the ferryboat into the city or enjoying various water sports, you can shop the boutiques, explore Richardson Bay and attend a local Artwalk.
Berkeley Is a Renaissance Town
You've heard of the Renaissance man, correct? Berkeley has that same spirit, but the entire town is in a constant state of Renaissance. It has a little bit of everything, and all of it is rather awesome. For example, the town is famous for many things, including:
- Diverse cultural pursuits
- Cutting-edge culinary experimentation
- Liberal politics
- The presence of University of California, Berkeley
- Its roots in the Free Speech Movement of the 1960s
There's no shortage of things to do in town. It just depends on what you want to see. The Berkeley Art Museum is a must-visit for art lovers, while visitors with an aquatic bent will love the Berkeley Marina and Pier. The city boasts numerous parks, and thanks to the presence of the university, you'll find an abundance of restaurants, bars and clubs.
Half Moon Bay Is Close to Everything
From where it sits on the Peninsula jutting out into the San Francisco Bay, Half Moon Bay is just an hour away from practically every other town in the Bay Area. It's only 30 miles away from San Francisco itself. But you certainly won't want to leave once you arrive.
The seaside community of Half Moon Bay Coastside is largely considered rural, but you'd never know it from the number of places to see. You can't walk 2 feet without tripping over a beach, the most popular of which are Dunes Beach, Gray Whale Cove State Beach, which is also known as Devil's Slide and is clothing optional, and Montara State Beach. From December to May, you have excellent chances of spotting a gray whale.
Sonoma County Has Simpler Pleasures
Looking for a spot that's more provincial than other cities in the Bay Area? Sonoma County is all rustic charm. Its main towns, Santa Rosa and Petaluma, are appealingly small. The area exudes a certain 60s flair not unlike what you experience in Marin County, and its wine-making skills are as legit as what you find in Napa Valley. It's not nearly as crowded, however, and there's still a ruggedness to the landscape. It's also more than just Sonoma. Visit Windsor, Boyes Hot Springs and Bodega Bay, as well.
San Jose Is All About Tech
Some people call San Jose “the Capital of Silicon Valley,” which gives you a truthful idea of the vibe there. The city is enormous, so it's easy to find something that piques your interest. In San Jose, it all comes down to the neighborhood.
Downtown is where you go for excitement and luxe opportunities for shopping and dining. In Santana Row, you'll find restaurants galore to satiate your cravings for any cuisine you can imagine, along with boutique shopping. Explore Rose Garden and Willow Glen to satisfy your love for all things vintage.
Oakland Deals in Diversity
Oakland strikes a happy medium between the tourist crowds in San Francisco and the sheer size of San Jose. It's becoming known as a liberal Mecca and is enjoying a cultural rejuvenation. You can't miss observing its up-and-coming arts scene, nor should you resist sampling food at as many restaurants as possible, since the city is also undergoing a foodie explosion.
Each neighborhood echoes the diversity of Oakland's population. You can get started downtown or head to Old Oakland. The Chinatown there is often said to feel more authentic than the community in San Francisco. Finally, Jack London Square hides a variety of culinary surprises among its warehouses.
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