Things To Do And See in the Bay Area/California

I will be adding to this blog frequently!  I absolutely love my state and want everyone to see the best of it while they are here.  Photos will be added as I find the time.  Enjoy!


Local Hiking/Outdoor Attractions Worth Seeing


Big Basin State Park, Boulder Creek (Santa Cruz Mountains): While not the largest trees in CA (CA has the largest trees in the world, mostly in Yosemite and Humboldt area), they have bigger trees in this park than you are likely to have ever seen in your life
(see below photos). Boulder Creek is also a very cute little mountain town where Graham and I used to live. 



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Castle Rock State Park, Los Gatos: You can do a long hike through the Santa Cruz Mountains, dipping into very mossy, green areas and popping out into dry and sandy. Or you can do a very short hike (1/4-1/2 mile) to see the actual “castle” rock. These big stones have been blown with dirt and sand for thousands of years and have little holes and caves carved out of them. My boys love climbing around in the caves. 

Castle Rock Original JPEGSyymmdd (date) --100


Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve, Los Gatos: Moderate to difficult hiking with great views of Silicon Valley in the dry foothills (rain shadow) of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Lots of pacific madrone trees and thistle brush. 


Almaden Quicksilver County Park, San Jose: Easy to difficult hikes. Mostly open and dry/hot. Beautiful in Spring. This used to be a mercury mining town, so there are old artifacts all over the place, including old mines, weird/creepy structures, and even an old “town” with a dilapidated schoolhouse. This is where I hike with with my dog when I have time. 


Villa Montalvo, Saratoga: An old mansion that is now an arts center. Entrance and trails are completely free! They have short, very well-shaded redwood hiking trails with a point where you can see all of Silicon Valley. There are art installations everywhere and a beautiful garden with lots of statues. This is a neat place for children too and the hikes are all pretty easy. 


Los Gatos Creek Trail, San Jose, Campbell, and Los GatosThis is a beautiful trail for walking, cycling, and rollerblading!


Pinnacles:Trails at Pinnacles National Park have a very distinctive look. They are surrounded by Rhyolitic Breccia a very unique rock that combines volcanic and Sedimentary rock. The giant boulders you see at Pinnacles today were formed as a result of volcanic activity that occurred over 23 million years ago, and it makes the perfect habitat for the California Condor.” 


For The Kids


Happy Hollow Park & Zoo, San Jose: They have a zoo and some kids roller coasters. Good fun! “Happy Hollow Park & Zoo connects people to nature through play!” 


Oak Meadow Park, Los Gatos: Probably the coolest park for young kids in the area. As called by the website, “The gem of the Los Gatos parks.” 


History Park, San Jose: Old buildings pulled together into an historic town. You can see what an old dentist office looks like and even ride a very old train through the town.  I believe this place is free


Children’s Discovery Museum, San Jose: Basically exactly what it sounds like.  Really cool place, but can also get really, really crowded.  Worth seeing at least once. 


Morgan Hill Aquatic Center, Morgan Hill: The coolest pool around for kids.  Actually, there are several pools.  The main pool is no more than two feet deep with water slides and climbing structures.  They also have a saltwater pool and splash pad area.  This is a great place for small children (even the older ones like it!). 


Silliman Aquatic Center, Newark: Much like the Morgan Hill Aquatics Center, except it is indoor, making it a pool you can go to any time of the year! 


Campbell Park, Campbell: This really isn’t the coolest parks in the area, but my kids always loved it when they were under about 8 years old.  There are two parks, one for big kids, and one that has a gated entrance for toddlers.  There is also a lot of lawn for picnics and it is right along the Los Gatos Creek Trail. 


Rancho San Antonio Park/Deer Hollow Farm, Los Altos: Rancho San Antonio offers a lot of hiking, but what makes it best for families is it’s short trail (I think half a mile) to Deer Hollow Farm which is a very small, working farm in the middle of the park.  Kids can see pigs, sheep, cows, chickens, ducks, rabbits, etc. FREE! 


Gilroy Gardens, Gilroy: Theme park designed specifically with small children in mind. Rides, exhibits, and two separate splash pad areas. 


Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, Half Moon Bay (see below in Beaches/Ocean Related)


The Exploratorium, San Francisco: Wonderful science-based museum in the city! 


California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco: Science, exhibits, and this amazing “rainforest” in the middle where you walk amongst butterflies! 


Campbell Percolation Ponds, Campbell: Along the Los Gatos Creek Trail south of Campbell Park (you can park on Dell Avenue near the intersection of Winchester Blvd. and Hacienda).  These are simply ponds, but you will see fish, lots of turtles, and  beautiful/unusual birds.  It’s just a nice place to walk around with kids.  There are picnic benches, so you can sit and have lunch and relax. 


Petroglyph, Los Gatos: Pick and paint pottery.


The Art Beat, Campbell: Another pick and paint clay place. 




West Cliff Drive/Natural Bridges State Beach in Santa Cruz: Beautiful cliff sides covered in hottentot fig. Natural bridges has natural bridges (shocking) made out of rock carved out by waves. 

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Any beaches between Santa Cruz and San Francisco, particularly Davenport and Scott Creek Beach. Driving along Hwy 1 gives you access to any of them and you can just stop wherever you feel like (something we like to do with the boys). Hwy 1 is also known as Pacific Coast Hwy and runs most of the California coastline. 



Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in Half Moon Bay: Tide pools!! See starfish, jellyfish, and all sorts of shellfish in the wild! 


The beach boardwalk and the beach at Capitola are not very pretty. Keep in mind that there are hundreds of miles of less populated beaches that are simply stunning! The town of Capitola is really cute though, with lots of little shops, colorful house rentals, and beautiful decks to have a glass of wine and watch the sun set.


Tourist Attractions


Santana Row, San Jose: Silicon Valley’s answer to Rodeo Drive in L.A. Super duper high-end stores, cars you could never afford to buy on display, great restaurants, wine bars, tequila bar, a cigar shop, and a massive chess set you can play with (if it’s still there – it’s been awhile since I’ve been down). The people watching is fantastic if you like that sort of thing. There is a hotel there called the Valencia that has a bar on every floor and they are all over-the-top. They have this awesome outdoor seating area with fire pits in the mid-section of the hotel by one of the bars. 


The Tech Museum, San Jose: A tech museum 😉. 


Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey: AMAZING aquarium. 


Winchester Mystery House, San Jose: An old, peculiar mansion that was owned by the wife of the creator of the Winchester rifle.  She was told that in order to keep away the spirits of those who had been killed by the rifles, she had to continually build on her house, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. I’ve been many, many times, including a flashlight tour on Friday the 13th. I find it interesting. My husband finds it boring/mediocre. Ha! 


The Mystery Spot, Santa Cruz: Tucked away in the Santa Cruz Mountains, a spot that “defies the laws of physics.” It’s really a trick, although your brain will not think that way as you are standing on a table sideways. It’s very cheap to tour (I think $5.00).  Great fun for kids! 


Stanford University, Palo Alto: The campus is just really beautiful. There is also a free art museum there that is quite impressive and also beautiful. 


California’s Great America, Santa Clara: Amusement park. 


Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk: Exactly what it sounds like. 


Santa Cruz Surf Museum, Santa Cruz: Believe it or not, I’ve never been. It is right on West Cliff Drive which I have driven down more times than I can count, but I’ve never popped in! I think it is supposed to be cool, but also one of those museums that really only takes a very short amount of time to walk through.


Gilroy Gardens, Gilroy (see above in For The Kids)




Valley Fair Mall (best mall around here), West San Jose


Oakridge Mall, West San Jose burgeoning on South San Jose


Stanford Mall, Palo Alto


Great Mall, Milpitas




Downtown Campbell is our favorite night spot because it doesn’t get too crazy and there are lots of bars and restaurants to choose from. Our second favorite is Downtown Los Gatos. Downtown Sunnyvale, Mountain View, and Palo Alto are great also and can be accessed via Light Rail if needed. Unfortunately, I don’t really like Downtown San Jose, but they do have a speakeasy bar that is really cool, but not sure it is worth it just for that one bar. There may be new bars and restaurants opening up that I don’t know about, so it might be worth looking into.  Go see a San Jose Sharks game down there for sure though – SO FUN!


Awesome Places to Visit in California


Yosemite National Park (really, this is a MUST SEE – particularly Glacier Point)


Calaveras Big Trees State Park


Lassen Volcanic State Park


Mendocino/Fort Bragg


Death Valley National Park


Joshua Tree National Park


Lake Tahoe


Hearst Castle


Disneyland (of course!)


Saturday, 27 August 2016 5:59 AM


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