Via readers share their favorite spots to experience what makes the Bay Area so special.
With its legendary attractions and sublime beauty, the San Francisco Bay Area can feel like a bottomless treasure chest. So many options, so little time to prioritize them. Until one morning you wake up and realize you’ve missed the boat ride . . . or the bridge walk . . . or the baseball game that could be the best of your life. The antidote? A regret-proof checklist of amazing Bay Area experiences—created by Via readers. Add your personal dreams, place in your front pocket, and start making room in your everyday life for something extraordinary.
“Tops forever: Walk out onto the Golden Gate Bridge. Go to the second tower at least, breathe deeply, and absorb the incredible vistas.” — Enid Costa Williams, Woodland, California
“My top bucket list item is a San Francisco Giants game at Oracle Park. The Bay Area is a diverse place full of distinctive people, and the Giants bring us all together. If I could catch a ball, that would make the experience even more special.” — Jung Chen, Cupertino, California
“Recently, a friend of mine took me on a flight over San Francisco. As I was musing over the view, I remembered that as a child I had longed to visit the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. Now that the Tea House is refurbished, it tops my bucket list.” — Jane Waln, Lincoln, California
“The scenery along California’s Highway 1 from Santa Cruz north to Half Moon Bay is our favorite. Along the way, we stop and visit Wilder Ranch, Año Nuevo to see the elephant seals, Pescadero, and the best beaches.” — Margaret Husband, San Jose
“The view from Grizzly Peak Boulevard, bordering the East Bay’s Tilden Park, includes the Golden Gate, San Francisco, the Berkeley campus, and all that lies between. The daytime vista is surpassed only by the panorama on a clear night.” — Victor Ryerson, Orinda, California
“Six miles northwest of the Golden Gate Bridge lies the relatively unknown Tennessee Valley, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It is a treasure to behold. Trails ranging from easy to difficult offer a plethora of wildlife, flora, and spectacular views from the Pacific to the East Bay hills.” — Harriet Brewer, San Francisco
“Visitors to Sonoma County can ride hot air balloons over hills covered in vineyards. Growing up here, my sisters and I would always see the balloons on the way to school. Thirty years later, we take our children to school and share the same happy sightings.” — Becky Ennis Green, Santa Rosa, California
“Mount Diablo, east of Walnut Creek, California, provides a peak experience, especially on a clear day: The eight-bridge view includes San Francisco, the Farallon Islands, the Sacramento Delta, and the Sierra mountaintops. This year-round favorite features a dusting of snow in winter, spring wildflowers, oaks and grassland in summer, and autumn hikes to see male tarantulas emerging to find mates.” — Sally Leveille, Oakland
“I lived within five miles of San Jose’s Winchester Mystery House for my first 25 years. I’d better get back to see it again soon, before I can’t reach all those stairs that go nowhere!” — Gail Chapin, Kenwood, California
“I love taking a ferry ride from Tiburon to San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, including passing Alcatraz Island. I realize commuters do this every day, but for travelers it’s exhilarating.” — Dee Myshrall, Mokelumne Hill, California
This article was first published in Summer 2016 and updated in February 2019. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.