The mysterious "East Bay Walls."  Dan Brekke/KQED
The mysterious "East Bay Walls."  (Dan Brekke/KQED)

5 Unexpected Things to Do in the Bay Area This Weekend

5 Unexpected Things to Do in the Bay Area This Weekend

Looking for things to do in the Bay Area this weekend? After all, it’s September and the sunny warmth of the Bay Area summer (i.e., everyone else’s fall) is finally here.

If — like us — you’ve already used up all your vacation time, fear not. We’ve mined the Bay Curious archives to bring you ideas for your September weekends, from foodie itineraries to secret hidden spots. Forward this to the friend you want to go adventuring with ...

Be a Tasting Tourist on Fisherman’s Wharf (No, Seriously)

San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf is the birthplace of cioppino. (Wikimedia: Nicholas A. Chadwick)

San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf gets a bad rap from Bay Area residents, on account of the number of tourists who clog its streets, antagonizing sea lions at Pier 39 and waiting in the hundreds for the cable car. But on a lazy weekend, it can be tons of fun to be a tourist in your own home — especially if there’s food involved.

Take a tip from this 2018 Bay Curious episode and treat yourself to a quintessential Wharf dish: cioppino. The exact origin story of this rich fish stew is much debated, but one thing’s for certain: Cioppino was invented by Italian fishermen in San Francisco over a century ago. Head to (where else?) Cioppino’s restaurant on Jefferson Street, where the episode was recorded, and enjoy a steaming bowl within a stone’s throw of the water.

Cioppino is commonly mistaken to be from Italy, when in reality it was invented by Italian fishermen who had emigrated to San Francisco. (Bianca Taylor/KQED)

Once you’ve feasted on cioppino, you’ll need a bracing pick-me-up. So walk west along the water toward Aquatic Park and into the Buena Vista Cafe, home of the iconic Irish Coffee and the subject of this 2017 Bay Curious episode. On a regular day, they serve around 2,000 of these coffees (always with Tullamore D.E.W. whiskey.) And if you don’t make it to Buena Vista after all that cioppino, make it at home with this recipe here.

An Irish coffee at the Buena Vista. (Kelly O'Mara/KQED)

Team Tip: While on the Wharf, be sure to stop by the Musee Mecanique and enjoy its aisles of vintage games, machines and photo booths. If you forget to bring quarters, they have a change machine.

See Wild Waters — and a Hidden Cemetery — in Point Reyes

The 12-mile stretch of coastline known as the Great Beach, where Point Reyes' first-ever Life-Saving Station was built. (Carly Severn/KQED)

Point Reyes National Seashore, 50 miles north of San Francisco, is justly famous for its windswept, rugged beauty and sweeping ocean views. Thousands of visitors are drawn here every year to hike these scenic trails and see incredible wildlife, including the tule elk that roam seasonally. That means these hills and beaches can become a little crowded during the warmer months — so take a cue from this 2018 Bay Curious episode and get off the beaten path.

The graves of the four "surfmen" in Point Reyes at the Historic Life-Saving Station Cemetery. (Carly Severn/KQED)

The tiny Historic Life-Saving Station Cemetery is one of Point Reyes’ true hidden gems: A collection of simple headstones, concealed within a knoll of cypress and eucalyptus trees on the road to the Point Reyes Lighthouse. This graveyard is the resting place of four young immigrants from Sweden, Finland and Germany who died working as “surfmen” (what we’d now call members of the Coast Guard) in the treacherous waters off Point Reyes in the 1890s. If you climb the hill up from the cemetery, you can just see the exact stretch of coastline on which those surfmen spent their last months at Point Reyes’ very first Life-Saving Station: An area known as the Great Beach. Learn their full story here.

A sign off the highway points to the knoll of trees that hides the Historic Life-Saving Station Cemetery. (Carly Severn/KQED)

Team tip: Stop for snacks in the lovely town of Point Reyes Station, where you’ll even find a Cowgirl Creamery cheese outlet. Make sure to get gas, too — it’ll be your only opportunity for miles.

Hike the Mysterious East Bay Walls

Segments of stone walls, like these on Monument Peak, in Ed Levin County Park near Milpitas, can be found throughout the hills of the East Bay. (Dan Brekke/KQED)

As the weather gets even nicer this month, strap on your hiking shoes and head to the East Bay hills to see the enigmatic structures that baffled Bay Area residents for more than a century: the “East Bay mystery walls.” These stone walls are scattered on ridges from near San Jose north through the Berkeley Hills, sometimes built in long straight lines, sometimes forming angles, and occasionally rectangular or circular constructions. The mystery of them: Who built them, when and why? The theories can get pretty wild, from voyagers from a lost continent to extraterrestrials.

The stone walls wind through the landscape on Monument Peak. (Dan Brekke/KQED)

We’ve been getting “what’s with the mystery walls?” questions since the early days of Bay Curious, so we delved in deep with this 2018 episode that explores the various theories surrounding them (we won’t spoil what we found.) If you’d like to trace the walls themselves as you listen, our reporter Dan Brekke recommends his favorite way to see them: Hiking Monument Peak in Ed Levin County Park, on the outskirts of Milpitas. This fairly long walk of around 3.5 miles offers an elevation gain of roughly 2,200 feet elevation via the Tularcitos, Agua Caliente and Monument Peak trails — so bring water! And of course, respect the walls themselves.

Downtown San Jose rises in the distance behind a small collection of stones seen from Monument Peak. (Dan Brekke/KQED)

Team tip: Ed Levin County Park is home to the Wings of Rogallo hang gliding club, so don’t forget to look above you and watch hang gliders and paragliders soaring in the skies.

Take a Road Trip to a Sierra Ghost Town

A building in the ghost town of Bodie, California. (Carly Severn/KQED)

Want a real getaway? Drive over the Sierra, and you’ll find the eerie Gold Rush ghost town of Bodie hidden in the hills just north of Mono Lake. Established in 1859, and now a California State Park, this otherworldly place was once an archetypal Gold Rush boomtown, home to almost 10,000 people. The National Park Service maintains Bodie in what it calls “arrested decay,” and many of its homes and stores have astonishingly well-preserved interiors for you to peek into.

Park interpreter Catherine Jones approaches Bodie's Methodist Church, built in 1882, and the only church left standing in the town. (Carly Severn/KQED)

Superstitious folks might already know about the so-called curse of Bodie: a legend that anyone who dares to remove anything from the town will be swiftly struck by terrible misfortune. The truth about this curse, as explored in this 2018 Bay Curious episode, is even stranger than fiction. It turns out the Park Service itself invented the myth to deter light-fingered souvenir hunters … but soon found it had created an entirely new problem — frightened people mailing things back. Listen to the episode on the long drive over, and steel yourself to enter Bodie’s silent streets.

Interior of the Miller House on Green Street in Bodie. (Carly Severn/KQED)

Team Tip: Stay in the nearby town of Bridgeport, where the Bodie Hotel on Main Street was reportedly built with materials from the ghost town itself.

Get Up Close With Ancient Mummies … in San Jose

A visitor to the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum. (Bert Johnson/KQED)

Even if you’re a certified museum-lover, you still might not know that the largest collection of ancient Egyptian antiquities on public display anywhere west of the Mississippi is right here on your doorstep.

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The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose boasts a vast collection of artifacts: sculpture, jewelry, tools, ritual objects and, yes ... mummies, both human and animal. There are also several high-quality replicas on display, including a cast of King Tutankhamun’s golden sarcophagus and the Rosetta Stone. As you’ll hear in our 2017 Bay Curious episode on the museum, many visitors say their highlight is the life-size tomb that is a composite replica of several real tombs in Egypt.

Peggy Tran-Le regards the baboon mummy at the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose. (Bert Johnson/KQED)

If, during your visit, your thoughts turn to wondering why such a huge collection of Egyptian antiquities is in San Jose, you can thank the Rosicrucians for whom the Egyptian Museum is named. They are a philosophical society dating back to 17th century Europe that believes there’s a spiritual, transformative value to studying ancient Egypt. There are around 250,000 Rosicrucians worldwide, but the New Yorker who started the U.S. chapter landed in San Jose in the early 20th century because land was cheap here. (How times change.)

The entrance to the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose. (Courtesy of the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum)

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Team tip: After working up an appetite with antiquities, grab a tasty lunch from nearby Park Station Hashery. KQED’s Rachael Myrow, who reported this episode, says the burgers there are “delightful.”

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