Top 5: Places to take Your Guests in the Bay Area

Chances are you haven’t been in the Bay Area long before you find yourself hosting a guest. We all feel pressure to make sure our visitors have an enjoyable and memorable time. Hopefully this list of the top five places, not including San Francisco, to visit will be a helpful guide.  I surveyed people,  who have had guests, about the places they enjoyed the most.  These five were overwhelmingly the most popular.

Carmel

This place has everything.  Wine tasting, beach, art, shopping and plenty of exploration to be had.  The official web guide for the City offers great itinerary suggestions for everyone: Girlfriend getaways, best for kids, winos, romantics, etc.  With or without guests, this is a must visit for everyone.  In 2014, the magazine Conde Nast Traveler voted Carmel #2 Best Small City in the US, #7 Best Resturants for US Cities and #6 for Travel Destination in the US.

China Cove, Point Lobos State Reserve in Carmel. Photo by John Evans.

China Cove, Point Lobos State Reserve in Carmel.

Half Moon Bay

Half Moon Bay, Ca, the oldest settlement in San Mateo County, was called Spanish Town in the 1840s. On the coast, Half Moon Bay is full of outdoor activities to be had and the drive on the 1 is gorgeous in it’s self.  Along the 1,  you will find beaches to stop at and tide pools to explore.  The town of Half Moon Bay has a host of events, and is famous for the Pumpkin Festival which is always the weekend (Saturday & Sunday) following Columbus Day. My favorite part, often overlooked, are the nurseries.

When planning your visit please be aware that there will most likely be traffic.  If possible, get there early though to avoid as much as possible coming over Hwy 92 and check the tide chart as some activities are only at low or high tide.

This site focuses on kid friendly activities but I found it gives really good tips about and practicalities to think about like – it’s easy to miss the sign for Fitzgerald Marine.  It also includes a great list of things to do.

Half Moon Bay.  Picture by Miri Leigh.

Half Moon Bay. Picture by Miri Leigh.

Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is an outdoor paradise.   You can stroll on the boardwalk and participate in water sports.  Wildlife adventures include whale watching, butterflies and birds.  I found this site the most helpful for planning.

Santa Cruz board walk.

Santa Cruz board walk.

If you have a few days  be sure to take a drive to Monterey Bay Nation Marine Sanctuary and Monterey Bay Aquarium.  Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is one of our nation’s largest marine sanctuaries, larger than Yellowstone National Park.  Monterey Bay Aquarium, is an unforgettable experience and was mentioned frequently by people I surveyed for this list so head over there too!

Muir Woods

Open every day of the year Muir Woods is a magical place.   No wonder part of Return of the Jedi and Vertigo were filmed here. Get there early or you will find yourself parking along side of the road and having to walk back to the park. It’s not so bad, it’s a gorgeous walk and great intro to the park.

The magic of the giant trees.

The magic of the giant trees.

The main attractions are the Coastal Redwoods. Most of the redwoods in the Monument are between 500 and 800 years old. The oldest is at least 1,200 years old!  I found this site to be the most helpful for planning.   If you are a nature lover AND a fact lover you must take Tom Martell’s famous tour.

If you can, drive over to Sausalito for a waterfront dining experience and stay night.  The next day you can visit Point Bonita Lighthouse and if you’re an art person, visit the galleries and if you’re not, drink the wine.

Alcatraz Island

As soon as you find out you will be having visitors get your tickets to visit Alcatraz.   This is the one recommendation that you really need to plan in advance as tickets can be hard to come by.  The first fort and lighthouse on the West Coast, Alcatraz has history and amazing views.   If you go before April 26th, 2015, you have the opportunity to experience seven art installations by Chinese contemporary artist, Ai Weiwei.

Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island

I don’t think there is a bad time to visit the Bay Area, but if you want the low down on seasonal temps and tourist season, you can find information here.  What would be really helpful is to create a post for each season, guess I better get started on Spring….  What are your recommendations?

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One Response to Top 5: Places to take Your Guests in the Bay Area

  1. Ren says:

    Those are great places. I want to visit them but I’m still trying to learn spanish with skype at http://preply.com/en/spanish-by-skype.

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