Bay Area Trips That Will Cure Your Winter Blues

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Photo: Wiki Commons

Let’s be honest: even with the excessively hyped #hellastorm (remember that?), our California winter this year has  been mild compared to the Polar Vortex hitting the rest of the country.

But even Californians need a break from the dull, dreary days of winter with a weekend away or a local fun-day – whether indoors or outdoors. Without much real snow this year to be had on the mountains, what are Bay Area folks to do? You’d be surprised at the options…

For those long rainy days:

800px-Palace_Legion_Honor_SF (1)
Legion of Honor. Photo: Wiki Commons

For me, there’s nothing better on a rainy day than to spend it at home, curled up with a blanket and warm beverage, watching a movie. But for multiple rainy days? It’s time to head to some local museums, which are thankfully in abundance in the Bay Area. Personal favorites of mine are the Legion of Honor and the de Young, but this exhaustive list might give you some new ideas.


If museums are not your speed, try a local planetarium show like the one at De Anza College or the Chabot Space and Science Center, the Aquarium of the Bay, classic films at the Stanford Theatre, or an outing to a local play, opera, or symphony performance.

For those rare sunny days:

Monterey Coastline. Photo: Wiki Commons

There’s a reason John Steinbeck wrote so much about Monterey (and his hometown of Salinas). In my humble opinion, the “Circle of Enchantment” – from Morro Bay to Monterey – actually is better to visit in the winter. Why? Fewer tourists = fewer people out enjoying the days of nice weather.

Other fun day trips in the winter are Half Moon Bay – especially when the Mavericks date is announced – or Point Reyes in the North Bay.

Of course, beyond Monterey, there’s literally thousands of hiking options in every part of the Bay Area, like this list shows you. But more than just hiking, there’s a ton of gardens, farms, zoos, and observatories to visit (especially if you have kids or can borrow some from friends)!

For those tourist–like days:

Photo: Wiki Commons
Angel Island. Photo: Wiki Commons

Tourism never stops in the Bay Area. Just ask owners of those San Francisco sweatshirt shops who make a brisk business in the winter for all those people who assume sunny California never gets chilly. But, even without houseguests, there are plenty of tourist destinations that I still visit in the Bay Area. Why? Because as a local I never really bothered to check them out!

So, dust off the old family photo albums to see all the places your elementary school teachers thought would be a good idea for you to visit and try seeing them all again as an adult. A few from my list include: San Jose’s Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, the Tech Museum of Innovation, Pescadero’s Ano Nuevo, Mission San Juan Bautista, SF’s Coit Tower, and Angel Island. For extra fun, see if you can replicate the outfits you wore the first time you visited. (Here's hoping Claire’s still sells headbands with big sparkly bows on them!)

For those “need to get away” weekends:

Solvang. Photo: Wiki Commons
Solvang. Photo: Wiki Commons

One of the best things about winters in the Bay Area is being able to travel and see plenty of things beyond the Bay Area without having to a) worry about snowy roads, b) worry about freezing cold temperatures, c) deal with icy conditions, and d) all of the above.

A few quick trips include going over to Sutter Creek and Gold Country for some history, wine, and a charming stay in a B&B (2 hours, 20 minutes from SF) or the Mendocino / Fort Bragg area for hikes, hot springs, and nature (3 hours, 5 minutes). Those wanting to head further south could check out Cambria, home to Hearst Castle, elephant seals, and some wineries (3 hours, 46 minutes); the Danish charm of Solvang (4 hours, 37 minutes); or Ojai (5 hours, 54 minutes) a “haven for artists, musicians, and health enthusiasts.” Those wishing for a bit more of an adventurous weekend with even some snow could consider the classic National Park choices of Yosemite (3 hours, 32 minutes), Mt. Lassen (3 hours, 57 minutes), or Joshua Tree (7 hours, 44 minutes).

Now, kiss those winter blues goodbye and get going!