When it comes to finding things to do in the Bay Area, Melissa Severini is living the dream in San Francisco as a curator of eclectic life skills. By day she oversees business operations and event planning for a small startup, and by night she volunteers and organizes events with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, the largest nonprofit cycling advocacy organization in the country. She also spends her time working with kids, getting kids excited about the literary arts.
Please welcome Melissa, as she shares the best things to do in the Bay Area.
When you first came to the Bay Area, what were your favorite things to do?
I grew up just south of here, so I was somewhat familiar with the greater Bay Area. I only had a very vague understanding of the Bay Area itself, and I felt a pretty intense need to get to know it.
When I got to San Francisco I did a lot of walking - I'd just walk everywhere. I'd walk to the highest point I could see from somewhere, often getting impossibly lost or later realizing there was a much more direct route, or giving up and taking a bus back to somewhere I recognized. It's a cliche that San Francisco is an eclectic place with an eclectic history, but when you're on foot and looking at some of the homes and spaces that pepper this city, its easy to internalize that fact.
Lots of other places in the Bay Area allow for walking, too. I know that Sausalito has some great scenery that you can only see on foot, and so do areas like Oakland's Jack London Square and the South Bay's Old Town Campbell. The coast has countless small towns, like Half Moon Bay and Montera, that are perfect walking places. Sometimes the best way to get to know an area is to just walk around.
Say it's rainy and you've got friends coming into town. What would you do with them for the weekend?
There are a lot of indoor museums and entertainment to be had - the Exploratorium, Monterey Bay Aquarium, San Jose Museum of Art, as well as a mostly indoor Japantown mall in San Francisco. So, depending on what your guests are interested in, there are a lot of opportunities to see things even when its not beautiful out. Luckily the rain only tends to last a few hours or a day, so you don't have to wait too long to get back outside.
Can you recommend a few things to do in the Bay Area that won't break the bank?
Just wander! Take a walk. If you haven't done the tourist thing, walk around Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 39, Sausalito, Berkeley's Telegraph Avenue and San Mateo's Third Street Area. Treat yourself to some Blue Bottle coffee and stroll through the Ferry Building in San Francisco. Oh, you've done all that before? Grab a frisbee, get a picnic lunch from the Bi-Rite market and go experience the strangely popular phenomena of the beach-without-an-ocean, Dolores Park. My favorite resource for ongoing events is FunCheap.com's San Francisco page. It has ideas that run the gamut from the Filipino Festival to the Nuns in Flying Hats convention.
Can you talk about a few kid-friendly things to do?
There are a lot of fun things to do with children. One of my favorite memories of coming to the city as a kid was renting paddle boats at Stowe Lake in Golden Gate Park. While you're in the park you can go see the buffalo in their paddock or visit the California Academy of Sciences.
Other places to enjoy are the Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose and of course, the beaches of that run right along the Bay Area's coast.
If someone's never been to the area before, what are the top things they should check out?
If you've never been to the Bay Area before, go do a quick tour of the iconic stuff. Seriously, make it snappy because there are a lot of other things to do, but you know you'll be sad if you don't see that Golden Gate Bridge. There are a number of ways to do this: for the sporty, rent some bikes. Like to choose your own destiny? Grab one of those little yellow Go Cars.
Gotten enough exercise already? There's any number of tour busses, double-decker busses and duck-shaped busses that will take you around the Bay Area. There are even places you can go on a Segway tour.
For shopping, try Berkeley's Fourth Street area or head directly to Sausalito or Fillmore Street in San Francisco. Things can get pretty "boutique-y" in these areas; but, there are also a lot of great finds. Fillmore in particular has a pleasant combination of upscale shops and recycled fashion thrift.
What is your favorite thing to do in the Bay Area?
That's easy - biking! It's a commonly held misconception that the Bay Area is impossibly hilly and terrible for cycling. Not true at all. For every hilly mount there is (generally) a lush, green, bikeable valley.