San Francisco

Actually Cool Things You Can Do in Northern California

Hiking, boating, skiing, and more.

Joe Parks / Flickr
Joe Parks / Flickr
Joe Parks / Flickr

One of the best things about living in San Francisco is that our backyard is all of Northern California, one of the most stunning places on earth, with endless opportunities for adventure. And though we think you should explore all of the upper (and better) half of California, at the very least, you should check out these things, all of which are quintessentially NorCal and exceptionally cool. Given the stresses that the most recent bout of wide fires has put on the entire region, it never hurts to call ahead to make sure these activities are still open and operational.

Explore Yosemite National Park

There’s so much to see and do in this beautiful national park, which we happen to think/know is the most beautiful one in the United States, but you haven’t experienced the park to its fullest until you’ve put your fear of heights aside and hiked Half Dome.¬†

Hike to Alamere Falls

It’s one of just two tidefalls in California, but unlike McWay Falls in Big Sur, which you can see just by pulling your card to the side of the road, you’ll need to hike a minimum of 14-miles round-trip to see it. (In non-COVID times, you can do it in 13-miles — and pass a lake with a rope swing along the way — but that trailhead is currently closed.)

Adam Baker / Flickr
Adam Baker / Flickr
Adam Baker / Flickr

Go skiing in Tahoe

Tahoe has some of the best skiing in North America and the largest concentration of resorts, which means there’s something for everyone, including amazing weather. Or at least it’s amazing if the idea of a storm that dumps two feet of snow is followed by a sunny day with blue skies.

Go boating in Tahoe

Tahoe is glorious year-round, but if the most popular times are the winter (see above) and summer (keep reading). There are ample hiking trails, beaches, and waterfront restaurants, and we love all of those things, but there’s nothing quite like taking a boat out to the middle of Lake Tahoe, a dazzling blue alpine lake that’s one of the deepest in the world, on a glorious summer day.

Give General Sherman a hug

You won’t come close to fitting your arms around this giant sequoia since it’s the largest living single-stem tree on Earth with a circumference at the ground of 102 feet, but it’ll still feel good to try. Bonus points for also hugging a coastal redwood, the tallest living trees on Earth, which are only found in Northern California (okay, fine, and also the southwestern corner of coastal Oregon within the United States). Extra extra bonus points for driving through one.

Kevin Lanceplaine / Unsplash
Kevin Lanceplaine / Unsplash
Kevin Lanceplaine / Unsplash

Enjoy how nature turns lemons into lemonade at Glass Beach

This beach in Fort Bragg is covered with colorful sea glass due to years of dumping, and though we’d normally encourage you to pick up litter, in this case it’s meant to stay put so everyone can enjoy it.

Experience a majestic cathedral of redwoods

Yes, there’s a lot of stuff about trees on this list, but that’s what happens when you live in a region with the oldest and tallest trees in the world. And one of the best places to see the latter is at Muir Woods, a dense coastal redwood grove filled with towering old growth redwoods that are up to 1,200 years old and 260 feet high. Go during COVID when less than half of the normal volume of visitors is allowed, and you’ll really be able to appreciate the tranquility. And if all of THAT hasn’t convinced you, maybe the fact that its namesake John Muirs described it as “the best tree-lovers monument that could be possibly found in all the forests of the world” will.

Drive down the Avenue of the Giants

More trees? Don’t blame us; blame the fact that Northern California has the best trees! Including Avenue of the Giants, a 31-mile portion of old Highway 101 with over 50,000 acres of redwood groves.

Feel the mist of Burney Falls on your face

At 129 feet, Burney Falls is neither the largest or highest waterfall in California, but it is one of its most spectacular. So much so that President Theodore Roosevelt, called it “the eighth wonder of the world.”

R3li3nt / Flickr
R3li3nt / Flickr
R3li3nt / Flickr

Climb Mount Lassen

Make your way to the top of this active volcano that last erupted in 1915, and then check out some other cool spots around the park, including Bumpass Hell, a hydrothermal area with fumaroles, hot springs, and boiling mudpots, and the Subway Cave, a pitch dark lava tube that was created 20,000 years ago.

Yuichi Sakuraba / Flickr
Yuichi Sakuraba / Flickr
Yuichi Sakuraba / Flickr

Eat oysters next to the bay where they’re grown

You can’t shuck your own oysters at Hog Island Oyster Co. in Marshall right now, but you can still feast on them on the waterfront patio restaurant.

Meet some ghosts (or at least visit an old ghost town)

There are lots of amazing ghost towns in California, but the most famous and well-preserved (and the one you must definitely check out) is Bodie.

Taste every single flavor of IT’S-IT

If you die before eating an IT’S-IT, you might as well not have lived.

Robert Shea / Flickr
Robert Shea / Flickr
Robert Shea / Flickr

Explore the Petrified Forest

Over three million years ago, a volcanic explosion knocked down this forest of redwood trees near Calistoga, and it’s now considered one of the finest examples in the world of a preserved ancient forest, which, despite its name, is not at all scared or scary.

Walk through the Cypress Tree Tunnel

We’ll leaf (sorry) you with one final tree excursion, a cypress tree archway in Point Reyes that’s even better first thing in the morning when it looks even more like something straight out of a fairytale. It will also be less crowded then so you can get the perfect shot for Instagram.

Mario S√°nchez Prada / Flickr
Mario S√°nchez Prada / Flickr
Mario S√°nchez Prada / Flickr

Wander the island where Al Capone was a prisoner

Unfortunately, you can’t go inside of the buildings on Alcatraz right now, but you can still explore everything outside of the historic penitentiary, including the prison yard.

Take in views of the Golden Gate Bridge from Lands End

The Lands End trails offer some of the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge you’ll ever see and have lots of hidden treasures to discover, like an almost-secret beach, a cliffside labyrinth, and an abandoned octagon house.Sign up here for our daily San Francisco email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun SF has to offer.

Daisy Barringer is a writer living in San Francisco. She’s climbed Mount Lassen over 10 times, and looks forward to doing it again soon. Tell her what she should add to this bucket list on Twitter @daisy.

San Francisco

How to Celebrate Black History Month in San Francisco

Support and celebrate SF's Black community.

Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade

Though it’s something we need to be doing every day of every month of every year, Black History Month encourages us to pay tribute to the struggles and oppression generations of Black Americans have faced, as well as their often-neglected triumphs and achievements that have helped shape this county and make it better. It’s a time to reflect on how we can do better to confront racism and oppression, which this year’s theme, “Black Resistance,” echoes. This is especially important in a town like San Francisco, where the Fillmore District was known as “the Harlem of the West” before the city displaced a vast portion of the neighbourhood’s Black community in the ’60s and ’70s. This displacement continues today, as the Black population is the only racial group that has declined in every census since 1970.

If you’re looking for ways to celebrate Black History Month, there are lots to do. Whether you want to educate yourself by attending films, performances, or conversations, share the joy at a parade or dance party, or do a little bit of it all at a drag show, here are just a few ways you can get involved and have a lot of fun while doing so:

Visit San Francisco Public Library branches for workshops, films, performances, and more

February (and throughout the year)
Library branches and online
SFPL’s “More Than a Month” celebration focuses on the theme of resistance this year. Family-friendly and adult events include film screenings, musical performances, book clubs, workshops, and more.
Cost: Free

Museum of African Diaspora
Museum of African Diaspora
Museum of African Diaspora

See art, poetry, films, talks, and more at MoAD

February (and throughout the year)
SoMa
Right now, at the Museum of African Diaspora, you can see the first and only West Coast exhibition of “The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion,” which highlights the work of 15 contemporary fashion designers “whose images present radically new perspectives on the medium of photography and art, race and beauty, and gender and power.” The museum, which has a robust year-round program and event calendar, has a slew of events to attend, including youth poetry readings, film screenings, open mic nights, book clubs, artist talks, and more.
Cost: Event prices vary; GA to visit the museum is $12 but free every second Saturday of the month

Check out films, art, reading, talks, and more at BAMPFA

February (and throughout the year)
Berkeley
There is always something interesting to discover at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA). During Black History Month, you can see films by Pratibha Parmar, “Felwine Sarr: Music, Freedom, Africa,” a conversation through music with the Senegalese writer, scholar, composer, musician, and more.
Cost: Varies

Old Skool Cafe
Old Skool Cafe
Old Skool Cafe

Enjoy menu specials honoring Black community members at Old Skool Cafe

February (and throughout the year)
Bayview
For Black History Month, Old Skool Cafe is adding the favourite meals of notable Black community members to the menu each weekend. The nonprofit, youth-run supper club helps at-risk, formerly incarcerated, and foster care youth ages 16-22 gain the skills and experience they need to succeed in various front and back-of-house restaurant roles. Bayview hero/community advocate Mrs. Dorris Vincent is first up, followed by Judge Trina Thompson, Delroy Lindo, and Mayor London Breed.

Yerba Buena Gardens
Yerba Buena Gardens
Yerba Buena Gardens

Walk beneath the Marting Luther King, Jr. Memorial waterfall

February (and ongoing)
Yerba Buena Gardens
Did you know that Yerba Buena Gardens is home to the country’s second-largest memorial to Dr. King? Visit the sculptural waterfall featuring glass panels inscribed with his inspiring words at 750 Howard Street.
Cost: Free

Attend the Commonwealth’s “Dreaming Forward: A Celebration of Black Joy, Power, and Excellence” conference

Thursday, February 9
Embarcadero
On behalf of Dr. Sheryl Evans Davis and the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, the Commonwealth Club is hosting its second annual Dream Keeper Initiative, a day-long conference/celebration/call-to-action featuring special guests, including April Ryan of TheGrio and CNN.
Cost: Free

Courtesy of Oakland First Fridays
Courtesy of Oakland First Fridays
Courtesy of Oakland First Fridays

Celebrate Black Love at Oakland First Fridays

Friday, February 10
Telegraph Avenue from West Grand to 27th Street
Telegraph Avenue transforms into a dining, shopping, and art-appreciating party on Friday, February 10, from 5 pm to 9 pm. There will be food, artist, and retail vendors and a host of Black artists, authors, and entertainment. Please note: This event was rescheduled from February 3 because of potential rain.
Cost: Free

Have a ball at an all-Black drag show at Oasis

Friday, February 10
SoMa
“Reparations with Latrice Royale” is an all-Black drag show hosted by Latrice Royale, the beloved Drag Race star who also happens to be celebrating her birthday.
Cost: $15 to $60

Dance all night and shop all day at the Afro Soca Love carnival and marketplace

Friday, February 10 ‚Äď Saturday, February 11
341 13th Street, Oakland
Afro Soca Love creates experiences that act as a “gateway to building bonds and strengthen relationships-between communities, individuals, and Africa and its diaspora.” See for yourself at the all-ages marketplace (Saturday), where you’ll find food and drink, fashion, beauty and wellness, home decor, and more. But before the shopping comes the dancing at the 21+ Friday Night Carnival, a culturally immersive music experience with music from all over the world.
Cost: The marketplace is free; tickets to the Friday Night Carnival start at $20

See a live performance of “Words That Made the Difference: Brown vs. the Board of Education”

Saturday, February 11
Unity Palo Alto
See a live theatrical performance based on the true events that occurred in the fight to end school segregation. The script draws from trial transcripts of the five cases brought together in front of the Supreme Court and Chief Justice Earl Warren’s memoirs, and the play is set in the courtrooms where it all happened. There will be a Q&A with the playwright before the performance and the cast afterward.
Cost: Free

Courtesy of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company
Courtesy of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company
Courtesy of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company

Go to the I, Too, Sing America album release party

Saturday, February 11
Mission
Head to the Brava Theater Center to celebrate the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company’s album release of the music created for I, Too, Sing America, a soulful and uplifting performance that moved audiences when it debuted last year. The night includes an album-listening and sing-along party, DJs, dancing, an open bar, and more.
Cost: $40

Go on the Black Liberation Walking Tour of West Oakland

Saturday, February 18
West Oakland
Take a walk with David Peters, founder of the West Oakland Cultural Action Network, and Gene Anderson, the author of Legendary Locals of Oakland, to learn about resident voices and document sites of cultural and historical significance in the neighbourhood. Peters is a local native, and Anderson is an Oakland historian whose family has historical roots in West Oakland.
Cost: $50 ($30 for West Oakland residents)

See a screening of The Black Kung Fu Experience followed by in-person demonstrations

Sunday, February 19
Great Star Theater, Chinatown
The Chinese Historical Society of America is celebrating Black History Month and social unity with a screening of this film about how a group of African American pioneers became respected in a subculture dominated by Chinese and white men. Afterward, there will be demonstrations and talks with Sifu Donald Hamby and Sifu Troy Dunwood, who “will speak about their success as internationally recognized martial arts masters, their Chinese Kung Fu teachers, and what this practice means in relation to diversity, race and inclusion issues.”
Cost: $15

Sip wine made by Black winemakers at a free tasting event at STEM Kitchen + Garden

Thursday, February 23
Dogpatch
STEM Kitchen + Garden is hosting an afternoon wine tasting celebrating Black-owned wineries in its gorgeous indoor/outdoor space, and best of all, and it’s free to the public!
Cost: Free

Bayview Opera House
Bayview Opera House
Bayview Opera House

Attend the San Francisco African American Arts & Cultural District Gala Fundraiser

Saturday, February 25
Bayview Opera House
Enjoy an evening of talent, fashion, and community inspiration at SFAAACD’s 1st Annual Gala Fundraiser. Carla Duke, Television News Director at CBS-KPIX Chanel 5, will host the event, which includes inspiring words from keynote speaker Aniyia Williams, an artist, tech creator, and system-preneur.
Cost: $100

Attend a Black History Month & Chinese New Year Poetry Reading on Angel Island

Saturday, February 25
Angel Island
There is so much history in poetry at the Angel Island Detention Barracks Museum, which makes it a fitting location for poets Chun Yu and Michael Warr. The co-founders of Two Languages/One Community will share their poems and stories in English and Chinese, accompanied by projected images of text and photographs.
Cost: $10 to $21

Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade

Feel the joy at the Black Joy Parade

Sunday, February 26
Downtown Oakland
This parade and festival celebrate the “Black experience past, present, and future.” Be prepared to experience “more Black joy than you ever imagined,” starting with the parade (beginning at 14th and Franklin) at 12:30 pm. The family-friendly festival follows (main entrance is at 19th and Franklin) will include 200-plus Black-owned small businesses selling food, drinks, clothing, art, and more. There will also be two stages with Black performers, including The Black Joy Choir.
Cost: Free

Take a sound bath at Grace Cathedral in honor of Black History Month

Monday, February 27
Nob Hill
Take an immersive sound bath featuring Fractals of Sound, a collective of top Bay Area musicians Egemen Sanli, Phoenix Song, and Sam Jackson, with special guest Destiny Muhammad. Together, they will create a “soundscape deeply rooted in world music,” allowing you to take a meditative journey in one of the most beautiful places in San Francisco.
Cost: $25 to $75

See Tsitsi Dangarembga and Angela Davis at City Arts & Lectures

Tuesday, February 28
Civic Center
Co-presented with MoAd, City Arts & Lectures is hosting novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga and scholar and activist Angela Davis for what’s sure to be a riveting conversation.
Cost: $36

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Daisy Barringer¬†is an SF-based freelance writer who spent many childhood days wandering around the Exploratorium. Follow her on¬†Instagram¬†to see what she’s up to now.

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