With so much to do on campus, you might never get around to leaving. However there are some seriously cool things to do in Bay Area when you need a break from college campus life. Below we’ve put together just enough to get you started – if anything piques your interest, ask around, get googling or just step off campus and discover for yourself.
Arastradero Preserve (Palo Alto) – Grasslands, forests, six miles of hiking/biking trails and a lake.
Edgewood Park and Preserve (Redwood City) – An abundant array of wildflowers each spring for lucky hikers.
Hidden Villa Farms (Los Altos Hills) – At the base of the Santa Cruz Mountain Foothills, this 5-6 mile hike provides views of rabbits, deer, and banana slugs. A trail along a clear creek leads to “Josephine’s Retreat,” where cabins are let for overnight stay.
Point Reyes (Marin County) – Awesome views of the coast, wild and rugged, with a quaint lighthouse and miles of empty beaches, this is pure transcendence two hours away from campus.
Windy Hill Open Space Preserve (Portola Valley) – As its name implies, Windy Hill is an excellent location for wind-related activities, such as kite flying, paragliding, and turbining. A great afternoon escape, only ten minutes from campus!
Año Nuevo State Beach – Located in San Mateo, this park is the world’s largest mainland breeding colony for elephant seals. You must reserve a guided walk to visit during breeding season, which occurs between December and March.
Half Moon Bay – Half Moon Bay is probably the closest beach to Stanford. The drive in through the trees is gorgeous, as are the cliffs and sandy beaches. The Pacific waters are perfect for surfers during the annual Mavericks Surf Contest, but the average person will find the beach chilly and windy.
Ocean Beach – This beach goes from the famous Cliff House to Fort Funston and is popular with surfers who can handle its strong waves. If you haven’t seen the Cliff House or this beach, it’s worth it to go for the view.
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk - Probably Northern California’s best beach. There are shops, arcades, roller coasters, restaurants and more. While you’re down there, walk around the downtown area as well for all sorts of specialty shops, from bead stores to independent bookstores.
Stinson Beach – This is a popular spot only about an hour and twenty minutes from campus. The beach has some pretty cool rock formations for those interested in climbing. Check the weather before you go!
The Fillmore - The Fillmore is the quintessential San Francisco music venue, steeped in tradition and vital to the city’s identity. You can see it in the endless posters that line the auditorium or taste it when you take a bite out of the free apples they hand out before every show. In its heyday, the venue was the home of free love and counterculture, graced by the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. Concerts regularly sell out, with artists usually booking for more than one appearance to appease demand. For venue info visit www.thefillmore.com.
The Fox Theater - A quick hop across the bay, The Fox Theater is located in the heart of a revitalized Downtown Oakland. The theater is a throwback to an extravagant ’20s movie theater, complete with a giant red curtain, gold trim facades and ceilings covered in Victorian murals. For upcoming acts check www.thefoxoakland.com.
The Great American Music Hall - A very respected, intimate venue for live music and entertainment in San Francisco. This hall is often a great place to catch rising stars. Be sure to check out its sister venue, the live music club Slim’s.
The Greek Theatre - Venturing into enemy territory has its risks, but just bear in mind that you’re doing it for the music. Berkeley’s Greek Theatre, home to Cal’s graduation ceremonies and a certain Big Game bonfire is nestled in the Berkeley foothills. The stone amphitheatre has something for everyone, with a spacious pit area for the passionate music fan to the steps and grass area where you can stretch your legs and enjoy audio bliss. www.apeconcerts.com/ venue_greekTheatre.com for concert information.
Shoreline Amphitheater - A large outdoor amphitheatre only 7.5 miles from Stanford that features the biggest acts coming through the Peninsula. Keep up with them on LiveNation, http://www.livenation.com.
Yoshi’s- If you like jazz, you have to go to Yoshi’s. There are two locations, one in Oakland and one in SF. Both get great artists. Be sure to buy tickets well in advance for the bigger acts, since they will inevitably sell out.
In addition to these venues, big names will sometimes play at athletic stadiums, like the HP Pavilion in San Jose or AT&T Park in San Francisco.
Tech Museum in San Jose - You can play with mini windmills to learn about renewable energy, look at the structure and culture of the internet by arm-wrestling someone in Alaska, and see what innovations have come out of Silicon Valley by walking through a clean room where microchips are made. The museum is definitely oriented towards kids, but sometimes you need that perspective.
Exploratorium in the Marina District in SF - It’s a little bit of a trip to get there and likely involves some use of the MUNI after getting to the city, but you’ll love it. The museum is entirely hands-on (the exhibits) and pairs learning with experiences. You’ll learn about the limits of the human senses, how arches stay up, optical illusions, and all the mistakes of invention.
Walt Disney Family Museum in the Presidio - It might look small, but there’s an unbelievable amount of material in it. You start with Disney’s childhood, then wind through Steamboat Willie, Snow White, and the creation of Disney World. The exhibits take a hard look at the details and difficulties of making movies through strikes, wars, and tough economic times. The museum is laid out in a very particular order, and it should only take you about two or three hours to finish it.
de Young Museum in the Golden Gate Park - It’s a fairly traditional fine arts museum, with American art, ancient pottery, and African masks. They bring in a variety of exhibitions, so keep an eye on their website for what’s new and interesting. The de Young is also an exhibit from the outside: it was redesigned in 2005 and is clad in copper. Bring your SUID and get in for a discount! The park grounds also feature the Academy of Sciences, beautiful botanical gardens, and Conservatory of Flowers.
SF MOMA (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) - currently located everywhere. MOMA is undergoing construction, so they have moved their exhibits all over the Bay Area. Check out their website for more details http://www.sfmoma.org/
Computer History Museum in Mountain View - Their hours are somewhat limited, but that’s what you get when admission is free. There’s a fully functional Charles Babbage Difference Engine in the lobby, and another room houses old mainframes. It’s certainly a unique collection.
The Cantor Arts Center + Anderson Collection on campus - Part of Stanford’s spanking new Arts district, these two museums are likely a stone’s throw away from your residence. Cantor boasts an impressive art collection, as well as touring exhibits and some great outdoor pieces. The museum hosts special nights for students and has a variety of Stanford-related and non-Stanford related pieces of art. The Anderson Collection has a 121 modern and contemporary pieces of American painting and sculpture and docent led tours.