If you’re moving to San Francisco, Oakland, or San Jose, get ready for a bigger and more diverse metropolitan area than you could have imagined. Not only does the Bay Area offer mild temperatures, it’s also home to distinct neighborhoods, Apple, and one of the coolest flea markets on the west coast.
That’s a lot to explore, but no matter how much you learn about San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose, the Bay Area always manages to surprise. Here are some places and experiences to discover as you become acquainted with your new surroundings.
Step back in time by visiting one of the world’s largest collections of arcade games. Located on Fisherman’s Wharf, this attraction is home to whimsical and unusual artifacts from penny arcades, mechanical fortune-tellers, automated peep shows, classic 80s arcade games, motorized dioramas, and more. Bring some change when moving to San Francisco, because you can play just about everything at Musée Mécanique.
The Crucible is a nonprofit art school in West Oakland that aims to make the arts accessible to people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities.
The Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory is an under-the-radar San Francisco institution, hand-folding 15,000 cookies a day. If you’ve ever wondered what sort of artistry goes into making a fortune cookie, you can see it for yourself by taking the tour. For a dollar, you can have a custom cookie made with your hand-written fortune inside.
San Francisco is known for being super dog friendly, with pooches literally outnumbering children. If you want to spend time with some feathered friends, head over to San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill to be surrounded by hundreds of wild parrots. In recent years, Telegraph Hill has expanded their territory to include much of the city, but most of the birds can be seen from the Filbert steps.
Treasure Island is an artificial island with a storied past. It was built for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition and has since served as a military base, a Hollywood sound stage, and nuclear training center. Positioned between San Francisco and Oakland, it’s easily accessible from either city, though surprisingly under-explored. Take a day trip to bike around the island, have lunch and visit a winery, go paddle-boarding, or play bocce.
The Crucible is a nonprofit art school in West Oakland that aims to make the arts accessible to people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities. The Crucible offers classes in ceramics, glassblowing, blacksmithing, stone carving, woodworking, and many other disciplines. Once you’re settled into your new home, taking classes in your spare time is the perfect way to nurture your interests and grow new skills.
Ready to put on your hiking boots and explore the foothills of Oakland? You should start with the Mazzariello Labyrinth, an unusual structure made of plants and volcanic rocks. The site was first created by Oakland native artist and shaman Helena Mazzariello, but is now an official part of the East Bay Regional Park District. If you make the trek, you can take part in a nature walk and tour led by Helena herself.
You may have already indulged in what felt like the world’s longest game of Monopoly, so why not try your hand at the largest? Just head over to Discover Meadow in San Jose to play the largest permanent version of America’s favorite board game. The board is made of enormous granite slabs and is home to a gigantic pair of dice. Best of all, you can book the board in advance to play a game with your friends.
Few true stories are quite as strange as the history of the Winchester Mystery House, a tale recently adapted as a horror movie starring Helen Mirren. Nestled in the west side of San Jose, this mansion was built by Sarah Winchester, heir to the Winchester rifle fortune. Over the course of 40 years, Sarah ordered almost continuous construction to her home, including doors and stairs leading nowhere, secret rooms, and a staggering 10,000 windows. Some say the construction was carried out to appease restless ghosts, and today skeptics and believers alike can tour the architectural oddity.
San Jose is home to the Iguanas chain of fast-food Mexican restaurants. A quick scan of the Iguanas menu, however, will tell you that this isn’t your average restaurant chain. One of their more legendary menu items is the five-pound Burritozilla, a culinary challenge available at any location. If you eat the whole thing, you win a T-shirt.
With so much to explore in the Bay Area’s beautiful, diverse cities, you’ll never get bored.