10 ways to explore the San Francisco Bay area while social distancing

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A list of hidden treasures inside the city and just outside for you to explore safely.

San Francisco is unlike any other city in the world. There are always new places to visit with views to appreciate. Unfortunately, this area is in Phase 2B until further notice. This means that the requirement to wear a mask is in full sail and there are still some places that haven’t reopened, thus limiting options for adventure. Though you will not find yourself on the eerie Alcatraz Island, cheering at a Giants baseball game or watching the sea lions at Pier 39, there are still plenty of activities to enjoy.


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Outside of San Francisco

1. Napa Valley and Sonoma County

If you like sipping wine with your friends, then this is the area for you. With over 850 wineries between Napa and Sonoma, you will never run out of wine to taste, restaurants to enjoy, places to stay, and shopping/museums to explore. Whether old or new, each winery will bring their own unique taste and experience. Due to COVID-19, only wineries, restaurants, and tasting rooms that are able to operate outdoors will remain open for the time being.

2. Corning, California

Though Corning is a small town of only about 7,500 people, it is the olive capital of the United States and the largest olive processing plant in the nation. The Olive Pit is still operating under COVID-19 restrictions, so the café (to-go orders only) and store are open but the option to pick-up is available as well. The Olive Pit has expanded their products beyond just olives to olive oil, craft beer, wine, nuts, flavored balsamic vinegar, mustards, and gift items. This local shop is the perfect way to introduce you and your family to the new exciting olive flavors.

3. Tiburon, California

Just across the Golden Gate Bridge north of San Francisco lies the beautiful city of Tiburon. Life there includes lovely family bike rides, landmarks, shops, wineries and restaurants and many opportunities to get out in nature. One of the hidden gems within Tiburon is Hippie Tree. All you have to do is park near 100 Gilmartin Drive and take a little hike up the fire road. Once you have reached the top, you will find a secluded area with a breathtaking view of the Golden Gate Bridge with a huge eucalyptus tree and a swing.

4. Half Moon Bay

If you’re looking for a place to go surfing, spend time on a pier, launch a boat for a morning on the water or even fish off-the-dock, Half Moon is the place for you and it’s only about 40 minutes from San Francisco. There is also endless sea food calling your name. San Mateo County is following social distancing guidelines and some places require a mask to be worn but almost everything remains open. Half Moon Bay and Pillar Point Harbor are ready to give you a day of fun.

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5. Carmel, California

Point Lobos State Reserve has a little bit of everything for everyone. It has even been called “the greatest meeting of land and sea in the world.” There are plenty of opportunities to see wildlife such as sea lions, harbor seals, elephant seals, sea otters, orcas and in the winter, grey whales seen from the shore. Point Lobos is also very well-known for birding and hiking. It is a birders paradise and offers hikers several trails ranging from beginner to challenging. One of the most unique parts of Point Lobo is what lies under the water. The undisturbed aquatic life is one of the most varied in the world and is one of the top preferred diving and snorkeling spots. The reserve has closed and/or changed the hours of operation throughout the pandemic so make sure to check before hopping in the car.


Hidden Treasures Within the City

6. Mosaic Stairways

One of the reasons San Francisco is adored by so many is because of the culture and art scattered all through the city in the most unique ways. The staircases started as average concrete stairs but were transformed with gorgeous, colorful, and bright handmade tiles arranged in patterns that all flow together. There are three locations. One at 16th Ave, one in the Hidden Garden and the last in Lincoln Park.

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7. Beaches

Two of the most popular beaches in San Francisco are Baker beach, known for the northwestern view of the Golden Gate Bridge and Ocean Beach on the west coast, though foggy and a bit chilly, is the city’s longest and sandiest stretch of shoreline. These beaches are only open to those on foot or bike (still available for rent throughout the city and perfect for a trip across the bridge) as the parking lots are still closed due to the Coronavirus.

8. Sutro Bath Ruins

This architectural landmark in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, on the western side of San Francisco, is from 1894 when millionaire Adolph Sutro designed the largest saltwater pool that was filled by the ocean during high tide. The baths have not been in operation since before the Great Depression, but this piece of history remains and is intriguing to check out. Right near Sutro Baths is the well-known restaurant, Cliffhouse (open for takeout Thursday-Monday.)

Normally there are tons of other activities in the park to enjoy, but unfortunately, any facilities that don’t make social distancing possible remain closed until the state of California can find a way to open them safely. When they do open again, one of the main attractions are all of the historical sites. For a jump back in time there are locations like Fort Mason, a Cold War Museum called Nike Missile Site, or a lesson on homeland security in the 1930’s with a 16-inch gun at Battery Townsley. Once there is a plan in place, the park will open in phases.

This doesn’t include a long list of beaches, some campgrounds and other outdoor activities that visitors are still welcome to explore.

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9. Haight- Ashbury

This district of San Francisco has always been a hotspot in the city, especially during the 50’s and 60’s. It is a lively and funky place with shops, restaurants, and historical sites. The most magical part of the area is that most of the people who work or live there have been able to keep the flower power and hippie vibe alive over the years. Haight-Ashbury is also known for the brightly colored Victorian style homes that survived the 1906 earthquake and fire. (For another hidden gem within the city, search for the golden fire hydrant which is said to be the only functioning hydrant during the fire!)

10. Seward Street Slides

For a quick adventure, these slides are always a blast! They were created by a 14-year-old girl in a “design the park” contest in the 1960’s. The slides are still in use today. All you have to do is bring a piece of cardboard with you to sit on!


Haley Beyer is a Budget Travel intern for Summer 2020. She is a Senior at the University of Nevada, Reno.

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