fun where the wild things are
Safari Tour. Safari West, Santa Rosa
- Though a far cry from Africa, Safari West is about the most wild you can get this side of the bay. The tour is pretty tame, though the lonesome chill of the North Bay affords some gorgeous views in the dead of Winter. I hear a "Night in the Sonoma Serengeti" is worthwhile if you can do an overnight.
fun at the peaks of san francisco
Twin Peaks. San Francisco
- Follow Market Street south until it changes into Portola. You'll start driving uphill into neighborhoods, but turn right when you hit Twin Peaks Drive. You can park at the viewpoint, but make sure you climb up the hills for awesome photos ops.
fun during a weekend in wine country
Sensory Experience. Cakebread Cellars, Oakville
- Though you have to make reservations in advance, I highly recommend the personal and intimate tastings and tours held at Cakebread Cellars. Then, head to Oakville Grocery for picnic at Rutherford Winery and a short bike ride in St Helena.
fun getting ghetto with gourmands
Gourmet Ghetto. Based in Oakland, but coming soon to a city near you
- Improvisational dinners, secret locations, surprise performers, and dinner with your 11 new best friends. After being sent the address the day of, we arrived at an artists loft for our five-course dinner complete with a balloon guitarist and folk singer intermission. It's BYOB, you bring your own floor cushions, and can take place at a moment's notice.
fun stretching your mind
The Mind Exhibit. Exploratorium San Francisco
- Just as much fun at age 22 as it was at age 17. The new Mind exhbit implores you to think outside the traditional four-square box with interactive exhibits galore.
fun at 30,000 feet
Skydive Lodi. Lodi, CA
- Probably the most efficient skydiving operation you'll come across, as well as the most inexpensive. At $100 per tandem jump, you'll in and out of the hangar in under an hour.
fun go karting on the hills of san francisco
Go Car. San Francisco (additional locations in San Diego and Miami)
- You don't have to be a tourist to hop into one of these tiny Go Cars, which are armed with a GPS and equipped to handle even the toughest hills of San Francisco. It's a lot more fun than you'd expect, though recognize that the car's horsepower can leave you struggling to get up Lombard Street.
fun at the end of the windy road
Mt. Tamalpais: Matt Davis-Steep Ravine Loop. Mount Tamalpais State Park
- If you manage to find your way there using the very misguided directions from the website, you're in for a very pleasant surprise.
fun challenging newton and gravity
Mystery Spot. Santa Cruz
- I can't think of many things that you could do for under $10 and be entertained for a whole 45 minutes. Tours of the Mystery Spot are often booked out hours in advance, so make reservations online before tackling the mysteries of gravity that you'll find in this forest shack.
fun at the best of times and the worst of times
The Great Dickens Christmas Fair. Cow Palace, San Francisco
- If you're in town for the holidays and are looking for some old-fashioned Christmas fun, head over to the transformed Cow Palace, where you can walk the streets of London, accompanied by chimney sweeps, sailors, and aristocrats in full costume and character. If you go after 4pm, tickets are half off.
fun channeling your inner kid
The Tech Museum of Innovation. San Jose
- I've been to my share of science museums, but The Tech definitely tops my list.
Balclutha Sea Chanteys 8:00 pm to 12:00 am at Hyde Street Pier
- Held on the first Saturday of every month. An older crowd enjoying themselves in a very low-key way. The best part is having the opportunity and freedom to explore the pier and the ships without supervision. The views from the pier are amazing and it is just chilly enough to cuddle up with your play buddy for the night over hot chocolate, tea, and cider. And the best part is that it's all free.
Moaning Caverns Adventure Tour Vallejo off of HWY 49
- This three-hour introduction to spelunking begins with a rappel into the cave. Suspended by ropes, you kick off the walls while maneuvering through the tiny opening that leads to the cavernous opening of the cave system. From this point on, you will be squeezing, crawling, and shimmying through the various caves with names likes Godzilla's Nostril and The Guillotine.
fun in pairs on noah's ark
Noah's Ark Exhibit. The Skirball Cultural Center
- The Noah's Ark exhibit is the latest permanent exhibit at the Skirball. The ark and its inhabitants are made of recyclable materials and its a blast if you are brave enough to roll up your sleeves and get down and dirty with the kiddies.
fun channeling your asianess
Sticker Pictures. Life Plaza, Rowland Heights
- Put on your cutest expression and chic-est poses for the myriad of sticker photo machines in Life Plaza. They are large enough to have sex in and offer many contraptions for your photo-taking pleasure. If you're cheap like me, take photos of the preview screens...they're almost as good as the real thing.
fun with rock and roll sushi
Tokyo Delves. Studio City
- Celebrity impersonators, sake bombs, and dancing on chairs all make regular appearances at Studio City's Tokyo Delves. The sushi is better than expected, but its free-flowing kegs of Asahi and bottles of sake that keep 'em coming back. Come for a guranteed 2-hours of a good time, but account for an additional half-hour of sobering up in the parking lot before your next plans.
fun at the cusp of death by river
San Gabriel River - East Fork Hike Angeles National Forest
- The hike is 10 miles round-trip and dead ends into the Bridge to Nowhere, where a bungee jump company operates. It's the classic jump off of a bridge down into the rocks and river below. The trails are primitive and overgrown with brush and cacti, but the views are amazing. The trail zig-zags across the waist-deep river, whose current can easily sweep you away. There are lots of opportunities to just sit and relax in the various swimming holes located in the river. Look for turtle rock and "Gilligan's Island."
fun drinking and being merry for charity
Legendary Bingo 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm at Hamburger Mary's
- Games are held every Wednesday for the benefit of charity. "O-69, dinner for two, sauce on the side." Drag queen and celebrity ball callers galore. $20 will get you an ass-load of bingo cards for the night and if you're on the mailing list, you get double. Arrive by 7:30 pm if you're looking to sit down. O-bar is across the street and offers a dessert menu into the wee hours of the night starting after 10:30 pm.
central coast california
Santa Barbara French Festival 11:00 am to 7:00 pm at Oak Park
- Held on a weekend during summer. A small-scale neighborhood affair. Surprisingly "authentic" compared to most other ethnic fairs. Come for the entertainment where the three stages feature musicians, singers, and dancers. A few booths serve and sell French food and wares, but other than that, there is not much to do. Enjoyable if you are there with someone who can just sit and appreciate doing nothing while listening to music.
Bill Denneen's Farm Hostel Oceano
Sycamore Mineral Springs San Luis Obispo
Santa Cruz Sea Caves Oxnard, CA
Rancho-Oso Cabin and covered-wagon lodging near Santa Barbara
Meditation Mount Ojai
links to california resources
A collection of websites and resources that I have found reliable and helpful for outing planning.
Los Angeles Dot Com
San Diego Neighborhood Guide
Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce Guide
Los Angeles CityBeat
South Bay's The Wave Magazine
SF Chronicle: 96 Hours, Bay Area Traveler, Dining
Berkeley Parent's Network