If you are not yet sure of where to go for your next travel assignment, consider the California Bay Area! Whatever your speciality and whatever your interests, you can find it in the bay and while you are there, you will be anything but bored! The Bay Area is large and each region within it has its own appeal and distinct flair.
The Southern Bay Area extends down into Silicon Valley from Fremont to San Jose. This area is home to tech giants Apple, Google, and Facebook alongside many other tech start ups. In recognition of the area’s impact on computer technology, Silicon Valley is also home to the Computer History Museum where you can go see firsthand how immense the advancement of computer technology has been and how it will progress next. It is pretty amazing to stand next to a room-size computer that did very basic functions when we now have incredibly complex and advanced computers small enough to fit in our pocket! Not to mention the huge advantages that computers have provided for the medical industry.
While in the San Jose area, one of the most famous tourist attractions is the infamous Winchester House; a twisting and turning labyrinth of hallways and stairs that lead to nowhere. The House was owned and obsessively built onto by Sarah Winchester, the heiress to the Winchester Repeating Arms Company fortune who believed she was haunted by the souls of those killed by Winchester rifles. She thought that the only way to calm the spirits that cursed her was to keep building endless rooms and corridors onto her home which is exactly what she did for 38 years. The result is definitely a spectacle and is available for guided tours.
Just about one hour North of San Jose is San Francisco itself. There is no shortage of things to see and do in the city of San Francisco. Even though it is not really large in actual size, only about 49 square miles, this city is compact and full of culture, entertainment, and food options! San Francisco has so many independent restaurants that you could go to a different restaurant for every meal every day for over 4 years and never have to visit the same one twice. San Francisco’s Chinatown is a particularly great place to find some truly delicious dim sum. Not only delicious but also deliciously affordable, it’s easy to pick up a whole feast of dim sum and feed a family without breaking the bank.
Among all the tons of options of food to eat, you should also make sure not to miss trying a loaf of fresh sourdough bread from the Boudin bakery at Fisherman’s Wharf. Something about the salty sea air of the peninsula just makes the perfect sourdough.
Fisherman’s Wharf, though it is absolutely the most tourist-trap part of the city, is not to be missed! There are amazing views of both the Golden Gate and Bay bridges, shops, and ferries to Alcatraz. Touring Alcatraz is fun and memorable but also frequently sells out so be sure to plan ahead and get there early!
One of the most fun and quirky attractions at Fisherman’s Wharf is slightly off the beaten path and a little bit of a hidden secret. Musée Mécanique is an interactive museum of 20th-century penny arcade games and artifacts. The museum has a collection of over 300 mechanical games and amusement devices including music boxes, coin-operated fortune tellers, video games, player pianos, peep shows, photo booths, dioramas, and pinball machines.
The museum has many rare and historical pieces including what is believed to be the only steam-powered motorcycle in the world, built in Sacramento in 1912. The museum also owns a collection of machines made of toothpicks by prisoners at San Quentin. The best part? Musèe Mèchanique is free to visit and only costs as much as the coins you choose to put into the machines.
If you are wanting to get some fresh air and a walk amongst some trees instead of skyscrapers, make a visit to Golden Gate Park, the 1000+ acre park that stretches from the Haight-Ashbury district and all the way to the beach. The park itself is lovely to just walk through and see the diverse variety of plants and trees, and also features attractions like the deYoung art museum, the Botanical garden, and the Japanese Tea Garden.
If you head North past the Golden Gate bridge towards Marin, you will discover the beautiful wine country of Napa and Sonoma. With literally hundreds of vineyards, this region is known for its wineries but is a wonderful destination whether you are a wine connoisseur or not. The North bay region is a great place to find lovely views and natural scenery as well as several small towns to visit for shopping. The Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa is 40,000 square feet of specialty, top quality food vendors. It offers the perfect spot where you can get a tasty cup of espresso or coffee, grab a casual meal or snack at the market, or indulge in some serious food shopping by visiting a cheese and vine vendor, butcher shop, and authentic spice boutique. At Oxbow, each member of a hungry group with varying tastes can find their own gourmet choice.
The East bay, including Oakland, Berkeley, and Contra Costa county, is often under appreciated. With incredibly easy access to San Francisco, the East bay offers the ability to be near San Francisco without being directly in the city and has a little more of a laid-back culture. Be sure to visit Oakland’s Jack London Square for exceptional dining and shopping options as well as picture-perfect views of San Francisco from across the bay.
In just barely scratching the surface of all that this region has to offer, it is clear that there is always something to see and do in the bay. Whether you accept a job in the heart of San Francisco itself or in the hills of Sonoma, you will be able to find plenty to make your time in this part of California enriching, enjoyable, and unforgettable.