If you are preparing to ‘escape the everyday’, you may have already noticed that the job of planning an outing has become more challenging. Since responses to the pandemic have been wildly inconsistent, sorting through what’s open (and not) and what’s restricted (and not) takes a lot of patience.
Our staff at Extranomical Tours works closely with the community of San Francisco Bay Area tour and attractions operators, so hopefully, we can save you some time if you are ready to venture out this fall and looking for some fun things to do.
To protect yourself and prevent any last-minute disappointment, before you go:
- Check local COVID-19 positivity and new cases here
- Check the website of your destination for changes to hours or rules
- Make sure everyone has their mask and plenty of hand sanitizer
Here are our top 12 ideas for enjoying the San Francisco Bay Area right now.
1. Zip Through Giant Redwoods
Sonoma Canopy Tours
While flying through deep ravines and a redwood forest, take a step into high adventure unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. This two-and-a-half hour guided eco tour includes zip lines, sky bridges, a majestic spiral staircase, and a rappel into a grove of California Coastal Redwoods.
More than that, Sonoma Canopy Tours offers its overnight or day use guests educational and spiritual experiences. One thing is certain, you’ll end your experience with a deeper appreciation for the forest and for our planet.
Sonoma Canopy Tours is located in the heart of Sonoma County, just 30 minutes west of Santa Rosa. Reservations required. Find out more at: https://www.sonomacanopytours.com.
2. Stand-Up and Sit-Down Water Sports
Sea Trek Sausalito
Whatever your skill level, you will find the Sea Trek staff ready to help make your adventure safe and enjoyable. Sea Trek, who has been connecting people to water for 37 years, is currently offering classes, trips, and rentals for both ocean kayaks and stand up paddleboards.
Choose a half-day introduction in the vibrant protected waters of Richardson Bay or a weeklong excursion on the Sea of Cortez. Sea Trek is committed to preserving these areas’ natural beauty, and employs environmentally-conscious practices to ensure that our impact on local ecosystems is minimal.
Reservations are required. Find out more at: https://www.seatrek.com/
3. Take a Culture Bath on the Streets of the Mission District
Extranomical Tours’ Mission Street Art and Food Walking Tour
On this outdoor walking tour of San Francisco’s Mission District, your small group will explore the murals, handicrafts, and the emerging food scene that defines this neighborhood’s streets and alleys. Gain an appreciation for the diversity of peoples that make San Francisco one of the most intriguing cities in the world.
Among other stories, you will learn the history and significance of Misión San Francisco de Asís, established in 1776 and still San Francisco’s oldest structure, the dramatic murals of Clarion Alley, and The Women’s Building, an anchor institution in this ever-changing neighborhood. After working up an appetite, we’ll wander over to Dandelion Chocolate where the art of chocolate making is on display.
Reservations required. Learn more here.
4. Jump for Joy
Skydiving is exhilarating, empowering and soul nourishing. One of the best places to give it a try is in the COVID-free sky at Skydive California, just a short drive from San Francisco. Skydive California is a premier member of the United States Parachutist Association and proud to be the home drop zone to some of the most elite skydivers in the world.
Is it safe? Skydive California takes the job of hosting life-altering experiences seriously and engages only USPA-certified and highly experienced instructors, utilizes skydiving equipment of the highest caliber, and maintains its own aircraft, runway and facilities.
Reservations required. Learn more at: https://skydivecalifornia.com
5. Peddle Tip to Tip on the Golden Gate Bridge
Bay City Bike
Pedaling along the mostly-level City waterfront and then over the bay to Sausalito really gets the blood moving! Begin in San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf when you pick up your standard or electric-powered bike and follow the self-guided course past Pier 39’s sea lions and other waterfront attractions. You’ll have plenty of time to take in views of Alcatraz Island, Fort Mason and the Palace of Fine Arts as you pedal up to and over the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.
After a stop for pictures mid-way across the bridge, it’s all downhill into sunny Sausalito. Relax over lunch and browsing in Sausalito’s charming shops. Take selfies galore against the city skyline. Don’t care to ride back? No worries. Bay City will pick it up so you can return by ferry back to the City.
Reservations recommended but not required. Learn at https://baycitybike.com/ .
6. Fill Your Sails with Evening Air
Adventure Cat Sailing
Iconic! San Francisco Bay as the sun sets over the Pacific Ocean. This 1.5-hour Sunset Sail is a serene, even romantic experience. For sure, you will have an unforgettable experience as you glide past San Francisco’s seven hills and world-famous landmarks on a luxurious open-air deck.
There, you will be treated to twilight views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island and waterfront landmarks like Coit Tower, Presidio, Transamerica Building and the Salesforce Tower. Keep your eyes peeled and you might see whales or sea lions cruising in the bay waters!
Reservations required and limited to 12 passengers on a 47-pax catamaran. Dress in layers and arrive 30 minutes early at Pier 39, Dock J. Learn more https://www.adventurecat.com/.
7. Experience ‘Crush’ at the Most Elite Wineries in Napa Valley
Extranomical Tours’ Small Group Napa Reserve Tour
Napa weekends in September and October will feature celebrations of the grape harvest. On our Napa Valley Reserve Wine Tour you will tour and taste at three of the best-loved wineries in California’s Napa Valley at “crush” time. Your group will be amazed by the history, architecture, gardens and views to be had on this all-highlights wine tour.
The day begins at Castello di Amorosa, a medieval-styled Tuscan castle winery constructed using more than 200 containers of European castle furnishings. After a lunch break in charming Calistoga, California, you will board an aerial tram with panoramic views of Napa Valley on your way to Sterling Vineyard’s perch above the valley. Your winery experiences will finish on a high note at Beringer Vineyards, the oldest continuously operated winery in Napa Valley and a National Historic site.
Care to make this into a relaxing two- or three-day trip to Napa and Sonoma? Our private tours department can take care of that for you. Reach them at (415) 357-0700 or submit a request form online here.
8. Try Something Uplifting!
Wine Country Balloons
From an open-air gondola, see undulating valleys, the winding Russian River, Geyser mountains, Giant Redwood groves, and on clear days, glimpses of the Pacific coast. A hot air balloon piloted by Wine Country Balloons is the perfect way to experience the wineries, vineyards pastures, orchards of Napa and Sonoma Valleys.
Relax and enjoy the flight. Your balloon features secure, high-sided compartments and the most advanced safety systems. Designed for groups from 2 to 6 passengers, your small group can stay confidently safe. Although Northern California offers excellent ballooning conditions year round, there are still conditions, like rain and fog, that can delay or cancel a flight. Be sure to check in with Wine Country Balloons the day before reservation. Learn more at https://winecountryballoons.com/.
9. Enjoy a Modified Sausalito Art Festival
Sausalito is a much-loved seaside community with charm to spare. It is the ideal place to linger after lunch and browse its eclectic shops. A selfie of the group against the city skyline across the bay could become your next profile pic.
Due to the pandemic, Sausalito will not have its normal Labor Day celebration, but all is not lost. Following the recommendations of local public health officials, the art studios, restaurants and ice cream stands will all be inviting visitors to enjoy their charming bay-side community. From this perch at the northern span of the Golden Gate Bridge, you will have a front-row seat to join the outpouring of love by The Heart of San Francisco, a grand outdoor theatrical production that will include planes, drones, boats, windsurfers and sky-writers drawing a mile-high heart above the City by the Bay. Learn more about the Sausalito Art Festival.
10. Visit Some of the Best Places in GGP
Golden Gate Park
The center of San Francisco’s cultural center of gravity is welcoming visitors to its outdoor attractions. You can enjoy them now with winter-like crowds. If you go, don’t miss these inspired places.
The Japanese Tea Garden reopened on July 22, 2020 with modifications to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Visitors can still enjoy classic elements such as an arched drum bridge, pagodas, native Japanese plants, koi ponds and a zen garden. While there, acquaint yourself with 1942 when approximately 120,000 Japanese Americans were forced to evacuate their homes and move into internment camps.
Visitors, once again, have the chance to escape to a unique urban oasis of extraordinary beauty at San Francisco Botanical Garden, showcasing more than 9,000 different kinds of plants from around the world. Last admission in September is 6:00 pm. Live in San Francisco Country? Admission is FREE with proof of residency. Advance tickets are recommended.
Still closed to the public: de Young Fine Arts Museum and California Academy of Sciences.
11. Yosemite is Wide Open and Beckoning
Extranomical Tours’ One Day Yosemite tour
Nothing is quite like the satisfaction felt when you ascend the final switchback and reach the wide-open vistas overlooking Yosemite Valley from Glacier Point, Olmstead Point and Tunnel View. If there is a positive face to the pandemic it is that visitors have been restricted by park officials and you can enjoy Yosemite’s natural beauty in relative solitude.
This inspiring one-day tour to Yosemite National Park from San Francisco is available without needing to acquire your own one-day permit. Towering granite cliffs, waterfalls, Giant Sequoias and miles of forest trails headline this tour and its expert guides will make sure you don’t miss the history, geology and wildlife that make Yosemite Valley the jewel of the U.S. National Parks.
Extended stay? Hotels normally sold out six to twelve months in advance can still be had. So, take advantage and book a 2- or 3-day stay to enjoy the monuments, waterfalls, starry skies and giant trees until your heart’s content. You will find a guide to your hotel options here and a map to all the best things to do in this blog.
12. Check out “The Rock” at Alcatraz!
To see one of history’s notorious prisons up close, see the stunning views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge from the water, and hear the harrowing accounts of failed prison breaks, people line up as early as 5 am for a chance to score Alcatraz tickets. Since Alcatraz re-opened on August 15th, that’s no longer the case.
Normally, Alcatraz tours are in demand and getting tickets is not easy. Alcatraz Cruises is authorized to ferry people to the island. Since they have re-initiated the service, they are offering a restricted number of passages to “The Rock”.
Advance tickets are required. Get the latest on visiting Alcatraz Island and choosing the tour that’s best for your group at https://www.alcatrazcruises.com/. This is just a small sample of the best things to do in San Francisco during these unprecedented times.
For more ideas and the latest, check with San Francisco Travel. We also have travel consultants available to help with planning your visit to the City by the Bay.