The Day Tripper’s Guide to the Bay

Los Altos is considered by many to be a “bedroom community.” It exudes quiet, peacefulness and for many of the high schoolers in the area, sheer and utter boredom. Though cruising the high-end boutiques and specialty shops downtown can be fun once in a while, teenagers typically need to hop to at least the town over to find anything new and interesting to do. Fortunately, Los Altos is located in the Bay Area, one of the most diverse and dynamic locations in the world. For anybody with a car and a day to kill, there is an infinite universe of possibility waiting to be discovered and experienced. Here are two locales that might be worth a look-see over an extended break or on a weekend.

San Francisco: The Metropolis
San Francisco is the big city in the Bay Area, the number one tourist attraction, and concurrently a place where there is something of any interest.

How to get there: There are two main ways to get into San Francisco. Depending on traffic, driving into the city can take 45. Like any major city, however, parking is an entirely different animal. It’s nearly impossible to find free parking unless you like in the city, and metered or public parking rates are typically very high.

A much more viable option is Caltrain. The train travels from downtown Mountain View into San Francisco, saving money among other things money for gas and time trying to find parking.

What to do there: A better question is what is there not to do in San Francisco? Rather than having a set activity before arriving in San Francisco, it’s sometimes more fun to cruise down the streets and take in the hustle and bustle. There are a number of shops and restaurants down Market Street and in the Union Square area that cater towards the tourist crowd. Some highlights include the Virgin Record Megastore (has three stories’ worth of music, DVDs and video games), Westfield San Francisco Centre (includes Bloomingdales, Nordstroms and within walking distance of stores like Abercrombie and Fitch), the Ferry Building (houses a gourmet food emporium as well as a killer view of the Bay Bridge) and the Sony Metreon (has the Playstation store, an Imax Theatre and a full arcade among other entertainment options).

For the adventurous who want to get away from the tourist traps, there are a number of different neighborhoods to be explored and can be reached by public transportation like Chinatown or North Beach.

There are a number of events happening in San Francisco as well. AT&T Park is just a block away from the Caltrain station for anyone wanting to go watch a Giant’s game. There are a number of concert halls and theatres like the Warfield, Fillmore and the Orpheum filled with musical and stage productions every week of the ear.

Half Moon Bay/Santa Cruz: The Coastal Beach Tour
If you’re more interested in a day at the beach, heading south along the coast is the best option, with a plethora of seaside towns along the way.

How to get there: Getting down to the beach can be a little tricky as the coastal drive is quite windy. There are few options for public transportation to get down towards the coast. On the plus side, parking is rarely an issue and it is fairly easy to navigate since there is only one road.

What to do there: Driving along Highway 1, there are signs almost every few feet for beaches. Some are private and some are too polluted to be frequented, but for the most part, it won’t take long to find a nice spot. The Pacific Ocean is quite cold and unpleasant, so most beach activities will stay firmly in the sand. The beaches vary in character. Some are better for sunbathing and lounging while others are better for exploring and searching for marine life. Many beaches have extensive tide pools that are great to frolic through when the tide goes out.

The coastal tour doesn’t have to be all about the beaches. If you are able to make it down to Santa Cruz, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk has a decently sized amusement park in addition to its well-cleansed beaches. Coastal towns also offer interesting places to shop and eat at, plus a more laidback environment away from the constantly moving Silicon Valley.