In the Bay Area, pockets of paradise surround us — little-known venues to visit, meals to eat and sights to see that are so perfect that you forgive real estate prices, Google buses and yet another drought. These are uniquely Northern California experiences that catch your breath and remind you: “That’s why I live here.” These 18 quirky adventures are from the Bay Area News Group’s special issue Eureka, which details 101 places to go, things to do and ways to celebrate where we live.
Free weekly jazz concert in the Mission
What’s the best free weekly jazz concert on a sidewalk in front of a Salvation Army store next to a taco truck, you ask? Easy: That’s Hipsteria, a band that sprawls out along Valencia Street at the otherwise charmless corner of Cesar Chavez Street every Saturday in the Mission, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. The relative absence of foot traffic only makes it even more fun to stumble upon. Funkiness might be vanishing from the neighborhood, but Hipsteria proves it’s not all gone.
Fire dancers in Santa Cruz
Want to add fire to your life? If you’re in Santa Cruz any Sunday evening around dark, go to the lighthouse, where fire dancers (with batons and hula hoops) cavort to the rhythm of whatever drummers show up. BYO drum, if you want. It’s a Santa Cruz happening that has been going on for years. No need to bring weed, just wander in and breathe deeply.
Hiking to plane debris in El Corte de Madera Creek Open Space Preserve
Go on a treasure hunt for a bit of Bay Area and trans-Pacific aviation history with a hike in El Corte de Madera Creek Open Space Preserve. The background: On Oct. 29, 1953, a plane in the last leg of a flight from Sydney, Australia, to San Francisco crashed in the Santa Cruz Mountains, killing a total of 19 people. The hike to the debris left by San Mateo County’s worst aviation accident is a moderate trek about 2 miles into the mountains. For details and a story about an Australian man’s trek to the site of the crash, which killed the father he never knew, go to http://bayareane.ws/1ER5TH1.
Rock City on Mount Diablo
It’s not Detroit, but it’s still pretty cool. Kids love to climb on the unique rock formations at Rock City, on Mount Diablo. Formed by erosion, the area has unusually large sandstone formations and small caves. You must hike there from the south entrance to the state park and follow the Summit Trail past the Live Oak camping area, and it’s just a short walk away. It can get hot the hike during summer months, so make sure you bring water. For details, call 925-837-2525.
Fairy Door at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco
For a surreal experience in the city, head to Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, and search for the fantastical Fairy Door, put there by actual fairies (people say). Kids bring trinkets to leave for the fairies, and the search, similar to a treasure hunt, is fun but challenging. While you’re in the park, hit the Japanese Tea Garden (75 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive). And if you go on a Sunday, bring bikes, and you can tool all around the park when it’s closed to cars. Then, at the end of it all grab a bite and a beer at Park Chalet (1000 Great Highway), at the western edge of the park, near Ocean Beach. The kids can climb trees while you lounge on the grass with a cold beverage. For details on the Fairy Door, go to http://bayareane.ws/1JCeQFi.