Our Favorite Ways to Spend the Holidays Around San Francisco, CA

San Francisco. This city needs no introduction, across storied and unique neighborhoods, charming corners, cool weather, and the center of the Bay Area, it comes as no surprise that there is always something happening here. Whether you’ve made San Francisco your holiday season travel destination, visiting friends and family, or a local who’s curious to see what’s around home- read on for some of our favorite holiday season festivals and events, and get ready to explore!

Holiday Season at Westin St. Francis

Around San Francisco, there is one attraction of the holiday season that keeps on giving, the Westin St. Francis! This iconic San Francisco hotel is renowned for its beauty and commitment to the holiday spirit, providing a number of activities for family outings, date nights, group activities, and solo travelers alike to enjoy. The most famous of these is the Tea Room, where visitors can enjoy the pleasures of holiday tea, pastries, finger sandwiches, and delectable treats along with generous pots of tea. For other travelers, there are also wine tastings also held throughout the winter here at the Westin. Accompanying the Westin is also an outdoor ice skating rink providing an outlet in the cool nighttime air and a flagship Macy’s where visitors can get holiday shopping done in one go. No matter your holiday season plans around San Francisco this year, be sure to keep an eye out for the events happening near the Westin St. Francis.

https://www.marriott.com/hotels/hotel-deals/sfouw-the-westin-st-francis-san-francisco-on-union-square/

The Merry Ferry Building

The Ferry Building is a staple for foodies, shoppers, and anyone looking for a fun (and delicious) outing year-round in San Francisco. During the holiday season, however, watch San Francisco don the lights and colors of the holidays, and bring a bit of festive joy to its grounds. The familiar open aircraft, farmers, and food market takes a turn for the holidays, and is a great stop for visitors to pick up Christmas gifts, souvenirs, treats to share, and is a great photo opportunity given the central location. Bring your Christmas list, cameras, and appetite to this part of San Francisco, and enjoy some of the best in small business all in one spot.

Renegade Craft Fair

For those visitors looking for a truly one-of-a-kind gift or souvenir, the Renegade Craft Fair is a great experience. Some of the nation’s best independent artists, craftsmen, and studios come to display and showcase their wares, providing shopping as far as the eye can see. Also present are the many closer, in-depth looks and explanations of the work by the artists themselves, as well as live music, food trucks, and opportunities to really get to know small businesses here in the Bay. Bring the whole party to the Renegade Craft Fair and enjoy shopping for truly unique soaps, clothing, jewelry, coffee, tea, beverages, pastries, plants, and artwork all in one place!

https://www.renegadecraft.com

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Our Favorite Festivals Around San Francisco, CA

San Francisco. This city needs no introduction, across storied and unique neighborhoods, charming corners, cool weather, and the center of the Bay Area, it comes as no surprise that there is always something happening here. Whether you’ve made San Francisco your autumn travel destination, visiting friends and family, or a local who’s curious to see what’s around home, read on for some of our favorite festivals and events, and get ready to explore!

Castro Street Fair

One of San Francisco’s most famous neighborhoods shines in the annual Castro Street Fair, where the creative and eclectic activities of the city come together in this welcoming display of the arts. Street performers, magicians, vendors, craftsmen, musicians, and DJs team up with the small businesses and artisans of the Castro neighborhood in a street festival of pure fun. Visitors of all backgrounds are very welcome to join in the festivities with the Castro, including delicious eats (Hot Cookie!), areas of the street literally dedicated to just dancing, costumes, and plenty to do! All visitors will enjoy the festive character of the city here in the Castro during the Castro Street Fair. 

https://castrostreetfair.org

Leap’s Sandcastle Classic

Ocean Beach and its gorgeous views are already reasons to visit this end of San Francisco, but Leap’s Sandcastle Classic really brings a sense of community to this beautiful beach. Each year, schools, companies, teams of architects and engineers, friends, family, and neighbors come together to craft outlandish and jaw-dropping sandcastles! These creations are not strictly sandcastles, however, and visitors can see the full range of sand art from imposing sand sculptures of Jabba the Hut to giant turtles, octopi, and virtually anything else that can be imagined. The open nature of this event means it is welcoming of participants of all backgrounds and skill levels, so don’t hesitate to join your group even if you may not be an engineer. Come out to Ocean Beach and enjoy the wonders of sand sculptures with the city!

Wharf Fest

If the famous Fisherman’s Wharf didn’t already have enough going on a regular day, the action dials up to eleven during the annual Wharf Fest! Among the charming Musee Mecanique, numerous stalls, and eateries, a fierce chowder cook-off competition comes to the Wharf, as well as live music and games. If there wasn’t enough to do at this end of San Francisco, this is easily a day’s worth of activity for groups, families, couples, and solo travelers alike. No matter who ultimately claims the crown for best chowder, we all win. Aside from the various landmarks in this area, the walkability and public transport to other waterside destinations of San Francisco also make this a great addition to any itinerary. We recommend taking a leisurely ride on the streetcars if you can to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market as a delicious way to wind down after the excitement of this event. 

https://sfport.com/event/wharf-fest-0

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4 Fun Things to do with Kids in San Francisco

If you’re looking for your next great family adventure, or someplace different to take the kids, we have you covered. Spending a day out with the kids is a great way to recapture your own childlike curiosity and love of play, so we’ve included plenty of options that will make the adults as happy as the kids. Below are some of the best, most unique, and most beloved things to do with your kids in San Francisco.

Exploratorium

The Exploratorium describes itself as both a museum and a public laboratory of science, art, and human perception. On-site they offer several unique exhibits that the whole family will love. You can get hands-on and creative with soap film painting or sun painting. Attempting to balance a ball in a stream of air at the Balancing Ball exhibit tends to create a lot of laughter. The Exploratorium is not your typical museum – it is a wonderland for curiosity, imagination, play, and just the right amount of strangeness. The whole family will enjoy it.

House of Air

House of Air is a fun-filled, adrenaline rush – a large-scale trampoline and adventure park that is the perfect place to take the kids when everyone’s filled with a ton of energy. You can go bounce crazy on the open jump trampolines, climb the rock wall, or learn incredible aerial skills. They even have a ninja obstacle course and a trampoline basketball zone. Perhaps the most fun for families, though, is trampoline dodgeball. No matter which activity you choose (maybe all of them?), you and the kids are sure to leave smiling.  

Seward Slides

If you’re looking for a new park/playground to take the kids, then Seward Slides is the place for you. The slides are located in a tiny, tucked away park near Kite Hill, but this hidden gem is worth discovering. The main attraction are the huge (and very steep) slides that will have everyone screaming on the way down. When you get to the top of the slides, you’ll see a sign that says, “No Adults Unless Accompanied by a Child”, so definitely bring the kids along so you can all slide down one of San Francisco’s big, steep hills and have a blast doing so.

Mission Dolores Park

Mission Dolores Park is one of San Francisco’s most beloved parks. Families, couples, and friends can often be seen picnicking and relaxing on the large, green spaces of the park. But it is also a great place to take the kids, because of the Helen Diller Playground. The playground has everything you could want – huge slides, swings, plenty of equipment to climb, a boat in which kids can play make-believe, and more. The best part is that the playground is located in one of the greatest parks to have a picnic.

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Aquariums around San Francisco, CA

San Francisco. Between its unique, varied neighborhoods, never-ending events, and unique proximity to a number of inspiring landscapes, this city seems to have a bit of everything. Thankfully, this is also true for a stunning number of aquatic life, native to the Bay Area and from around the world, resident in a number of aquariums. Whether you’re a tourist drafting a travel itinerary, visiting family and friends, or just looking for something to do around home, read on for some of our favorite aquariums around San Francisco.

Aquarium of the Bay

Located at vibrant and historic Pier 39, the Aquarium of the Bay is a great attraction to see the wonders and intricacies of aquatic life, local and exotic. Over 20,000 animals live in some 2.9 million liters of water, including famous faces such as the garibaldi, green moray eel, rockfish, giant Pacific octopus, leopard shark, bat ray, seven-gill shark, and the river otter. These species and more reside in an immersive series of exhibits, including the ‘Discover The Bay’ gallery, showcasing the native diversity of San Francisco Bay’s aquatic wildlife, the enchanting ‘Go With The Flow’ gallery with over 1400 gallons of dazzling jellyfish and the series of tunnels in the ‘Under the Bay’ gallery giving visitors a literal walk through the waters of the bay. Aside from these great exhibits, there are also a number of touch-oops where visitors can feel tidal aquatic life, observe the conservation efforts of the Aquarium of the Bay at the Bay Lab, and watch the adorable river otters and their lovable antics at the ‘River Otters’ gallery. 

Steinhart Aquarium at the California Academy of Sciences

Located in lush Golden Gate Park, the Steinhart Aquarium is a corner of the California Academy of Sciences that transports visitors in an educational journey across the aquatic biomes of the world, feeding curiosities and imaginations of generations. Tour the Coast of the Golden State, the Amazonian Rainforest, a Philippine Coral Reef, the Swamps of the Southeast, a mysterious Mesophotic reef among other settings in a series of tunnels, imposing tanks, and open gardens. Some of the aquatic icons you might see here include the weedy seadragon, paddlefish, African penguin, cowfish, blue-spotted ribbontail ray, and the American alligator. 

https://www.calacademy.org/exhibits/steinhart-aquarium

San Francisco Zoo and Gardens

While not specifically an aquarium, the attention the San Francisco Zoo and Gardens has devoted towards the conservation and education surrounding aquatic species earns it a spot on our list (It’s also gorgeous). Magellanic penguins, North American river otters, Nile hippopotamus, and the giant water bug are just some of those that you’ll meet here, among a larger cast of land and sea animals. Aside from the animals, the gardens and displays of flora from California to the notably rare provide visitors with a tranquil space to step away from the action (or the perfect place to spend an afternoon, if you’re a botany enthusiast). Groups of all interests and ages will enjoy the exhibits of land and sea at the San Francisco Zoo and Gardens. 

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5 Quirky Date Night Destinations in San Francisco

Date night doesn’t have to be the same each time. While we all love cuddling up at the movies or trying new restaurants or embracing a bit of high culture at museums, every once in a while, date night needs to be shaken up. Each city has a hidden world of strange, quirky, and delightful things to do. Try any one of these on your next date night and embrace the weird, whimsical part of life.

Swing Hunting

Locals know that throughout the city of San Francisco are dozens of rope swings, hidden atop hills, in canyons, at the end of labyrinths, and in coves. Hunting for all of the rope swings in the city can be a wonderful adventurous date. You’ll see some of the best spots in San Francisco, embrace your inner-child who loves to swing, and have plenty of opportunities for cute, couple photos. Kirby Cove Panorama Swing, Bernal Heights Park Swing, and Land’s End Swing are some of the most popular and satisfying swings to discover.

Berber

Dinner and a show is a classic date night idea, but Berber puts its own spin on that. Berber is a North African supper club, featuring incredible Moroccan eats, and live cirque performances. Yes, a circus. The Dinner Show has aerialists, dancers, acrobats, and more. The show and the food are sure to dazzle you and, perhaps, inspire you and your date to run away to the circus. 

Dandelion Chocolate Factory Tour

Chocolate and date night go hand-in-hand, but what if you both could become a chocolatier for a time, become Willy Wonka himself, so to speak? That is exactly what Dandelion Chocolate Factory offers. Set aside an hour and a half for a fun date making your own truffles, indulging in the rich, delicious chocolate at Dandelion. This Chocolate Factory is especially unique because they are a bean-to-bar factory. The cocoa beans are transformed into chocolate onsite. 

Church of 8 Wheels

An original way to spend an evening – roller skating. This roller rink is set in an old church with high ceilings, beautiful architecture, neon lights, and disco balls when it’s time for “Roller Disco”. The 8 wheels celebrated in this church are those found at the bottom of your roller skates. The great thing about the Church of 8 Wheels is its size – there is always plenty of room to skate and maybe try a trick or two. Live DJ’s play all the disco hits of the 70’s, making the entire space feel like a disco time capsule.

SeaTrek’s Paddle the Gate

Kayaking is a wonderful, active date idea that will get you both outside and exploring the world around you. Sea Trek’s Paddle the Gate Tours start at Horseshoe Cove taking you along the Coast and underneath the famed Golden Gate Bridge. And, for a truly special, unforgettable experience, take the Starlight Kayak Tour. You’ll kayak through waters as the sun sets and the moon rises and will be treated to dinner at Salsalito Taco Shop. At the end of the date, you’ll have experienced San Francisco in an entirely new way.

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Our favourite ways to spend summer in San Francisco, CA

San Francisco. Among the cool weather, dramatic views, quirky neighbourhoods and never-ending excitement, San Francisco is a great summer destination. With so much to do in San Francisco, it can be hard to compile an itinerary. Read on for some of our favourite things to do in San Francisco.

Golden Gate Park

A beautiful, expansive urban park with connections to gems all over the city, the Golden Gate Park is one of San Francisco’s best treasures. Stroll through the numerous meadows and curated gardens, or grab a bite from one of the many nearby eateries and have a picnic. Aside from these, there’s also the California Academy of Science and the de Young Museum inside the park, for visitors seeking a more educational experience. The park’s western end terminates at the Great Highway, where you can view the sunset at Ocean Beach.

Muir Woods National Monument

Over the Golden Gate Bridge, are the majestic Redwoods, towering relics of a younger Earth that remain for all to see. If you’re in Northern California, you must visit, because words truly fail to describe the otherworldly and primordial atmosphere among the Redwoods, ferns and fallen trees of Muir Woods. Trek with these thousand-year-old giants of California, and witness a natural beauty exclusive to this corner of the world. 

San Francisco Ferry Building at The Embarcadero

Browse a surprising selection of foods and fresh produce at The Embarcadero, with its own shopping centre inside the Ferry Building and the Farmer’s Market that runs regularly. The Embarcadero and its interior also double for a great photo opportunity and are within walking distance to a number of parks and other dining options. The number of routes also make the Ferry Building a good intermediate itinerary addition if travelling to the East Bay. 

KalayaanSF

Celebrate the Declaration of Philippine Independence with San Francisco’s strong Filipino-American community! Each 14 June and 22 June, Union Square fills with Pinoy Pride, and crowds enjoy Filipino dance, music, crafts and cuisine. Immerse yourself in the Filipino American community and dine on Pancit, Adobo, Lumpia and Lechon, and enjoy musicians such as Erik Santos, Jessica Sanchez and Ryan Cayabyab.

Nihonmachi Street Fair

Visit San Francisco’s Japantown and enjoy a street fair celebrating Japanese culture and the many who embrace it in the city. Martial Arts demonstration, Taiko Drums, Anime enthusiasts and the delicious Japanese street fare including Okonomiyaki, Takoyaki, Onigiri and Karaage. Aside from the fair itself, Japantown is truly another gem of San Francisco, featuring a strong collection of family businesses, documentation of the Japanese-American history in the city, a Japanese Bookstore, two Japanese supermarkets and a number of absolutely amazing restaurants. If you get the chance, pick up a Japanese cookbook from Kinokuniya, stop for a bowl of Ramen at Marufuku and absolutely do not miss the chance to try the rare bottles of Coca Cola Apple inside Nijiya. 

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The Best Parks of #SanFran

Don’t have a lot of money but you want to get out of the house? See nature? Have fun? Go on a walk? Have a picnic? Let’s check out the best parks in San Francisco. This city is known for the Golden Gate Bridge and cable cars, however, there are also some gems of nature in this city and you’ll be happy to visit them all.

Golden Gate Park

If you’re in San Francisco for any length of time, it’s pretty much a given that you must come and see Golden Gate Park. This park is a staple and a landmark of San Francisco and is one of the most visited parks in the U.S. This park has several spectacular sights to see, such as the San Francisco Botanical Garden, the Conservatory of Flowers, the Japanese Tea Garden, the de Young Museum, or the California Academy of Sciences. You might also enjoy getting an eyeful of some American bison. Not to mention all the photo ops you’ll have with friends and family! You absolutely must visit the Golden Gate Park if you find yourself in the city.

The Presidio

This park is a huge expanse of green amid the hustle and bustle of city life. Located in the northwest corner of San Francisco, it used to be a U.S. Army base in 1846. In fact, the Golden Gate Bridge crosses through the Presidio in order to enter San Francisco. If you want to visit the Walt Disney Family Museum, it is located here within the Presidio. Crissy Field, a former military airstrip converted into a public square, is within the park as well. This park also boasts a beachfront, grassy fields, various paths for walking or biking, various cafes, and views guaranteed to take your breath away.

Washington Square Park

Washington Square Park is actually a rectangular-shaped park within San Francisco’s Italian district. Plenty of grass allows you and the family to come and have a picnic or fancy a game of tag on the lawn. It can get rather crowded at the park so you might want to arrive sooner rather than later. Summer evenings are often when movies are played to the delight of the locals and offered free of charge to one and all. You’ll also enjoy a huge statue of Benjamin Franklin smack-dab in the middle of the park!

Pioneer Park

If you find yourself on Filbert Street, you’ll eventually come to a dead end with a set of steps going up. This grand staircase ends at the glorious Pioneer Park. You will not be at a loss for photo ops and sweeping vistas with which to fill your eyes. Directly in the middle of this park is the famed Coit Tower, one of the most recognized buildings of San Francisco’s skyline. In the distance on a clear day, you’ll be able to see both the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz on Telegraph Hill. It is absolutely worth it to climb those stairs for the views alone! Make sure Pioneer Park is on the agenda when visiting San Fran!

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5 Great Places to Have a Picnic in San Francisco, CA

When the weather cooperates, we all love to get outside and explore the world around us. There is nothing more refreshing and soothing to the soul than a picnic in the sun, surrounded by the beauty of nature. Every city in the United States has incredible locations for picnicking. Below are 5 Great Places to Picnic in San Francisco.

Golden Gate Park

One of the best known parks in San Francisco, it is also one of the largest at over 1,000 acres. However, even though the park is extremely popular and can be crowded with visitors and locals, it is also a fabulous place for a picnic. Hellman Hollow (in the center of the park, just off John F Kennedy Drive) is a beautiful open field with picnic tables and trees of all varieties surrounding it. I also recommend Strawberry Hill, Stow Lake, and Mother’s Meadow if you’re looking to picnic in Golden Gate Park.

Fort Funston

A park spread across the 200-ft bluffs on the Gulf of the Farallones. Visitors to this park enjoy hang-gliding, hiking or horseback riding over the trails, and lounging on the beach. Picnicking on the top of the bluff (in the grassy areas or on the sand) is an unforgettable experience. The views of the ocean beyond and the coastline to the North and South are all you could want while enjoying a good meal.

Mission Dolores Park

A neighborhood hotspot with large expanses of green grass and some of the best views of the San Francisco skyline. There are tennis courts and a playground in the park as well, and a center oasis lined with palm trees and a picturesque bridge. But the best part of Dolores Park is how much space there is for picnicking on the rolling hills of the park.  

Bernal Heights Park

In a city famous for steep hills, it comes as no surprise that the best parks in the city are hillside parks. Walk to the top of Bernal Heights for overwhelming, panoramic views of San Francisco. A city park should feel like an escape into nature and Bernal Heights Park provides that by taking you high above the city. And at the top of the hill is my favorite part of the park – a tree swing hung from the largest tree overlooking the city. In between bites from your picnic basket, you can take a swing over the city.

Yerba Buena Gardens

Two blocks of city park in the cultural heart of San Francisco, Yerba Buena Gardens is a special place. The lawns are well cared for with a large waterfall at one end of the park and colorful gardens throughout it. Public art pieces are on display and rotated constantly. The East Garden is home to a cascading fountain perfect for a waterside picnic, while the shaded trees near the Reflection Garden make for a fantastic, peaceful picnic.

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Fun Summer Things To Do In San Francisco, CA

Summer is finally here!  The kids are out of school, and backyard barbecues are taking place all over the nation.  After the year we had in 2020, and most people having chosen not to take a vacation, you can almost rest assured that families will be out in full force this year.

With this in mind, we thought we would offer a few great vacation ideas to help you plan, as well as some places that would be great for just a few days away.  We all need time to recharge and some well-deserved play in the sunshine.

Here are some of the best places to check out this summer!

Alcatraz Island

Golden Gate National Recreation Area, B201 Fort Mason, San Francisco, CA 94123

Alcatraz Island is located in San Francisco Bay, 1.25 miles offshore from San Francisco, California, United States. The small island was developed with facilities for a lighthouse, a military fortification, a military prison, and a federal prison; the latter operated from August 11, 1934, until March 21, 1963. The strong currents around the island and cold water temperatures made escape all but impossible. Since the late 20th century, it has become a major tourist attraction. Beginning in November 1969, the island was occupied for more than 19 months by a group of Native Americans, initially primarily from San Francisco, who were later joined by AIM and other urban Indians from other parts of the country, who were part of a wave of Native American activists organizing public protests across the US through the 1970s.

Golden Gate Park

San Francisco, CA 94123

Golden Gate Park is a large urban park consisting of 1,017 acres of public grounds. It is administered by the San Francisco Recreation & Parks Department, which began in 1871 to oversee the development of Golden Gate Park. Configured as a rectangle, it is similar in shape to but 20 percent larger than Central Park in New York City, to which it is often compared. It is over three miles long east to west and about half a mile north to south. With 24 million visitors annually, Golden Gate is the third most-visited city park in the United States after Central Park and the Lincoln Memorial.

Muir Woods National Monument

1 Muir Woods Rd, Mill Valley, CA 94941

Muir Woods National Monument is a United States National Monument managed by the National Park Service, named after naturalist John Muir. It is located on Mount Tamalpais near the Pacific coast in southwestern Marin County, California. It is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and is 12 miles north of San Francisco. It protects 554 acres, of which 240 acres are old-growth coast redwood forests, one of a few such stands remaining in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Pier 39

Pier 39, San Francisco, CA 94941

Pier 39 is a shopping center and popular tourist attraction built on a pier in San Francisco, California. At Pier 39, there are shops, restaurants, a video arcade, street performances, the Aquarium of the Bay, virtual 3D rides, and views of California sea lions hauled out on docks on Pier 39’s marina. A two-story carousel is one of the pier’s more dominant features, although it is not directly visible from the street and sits towards the end of the pier. The family-oriented entertainment and presence of marine mammals make this a popular tourist location for families with kids.

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Things to Do for the Fourth of July in San Francisco

Everyone’s favorite summer holiday is quickly approaching! Nothing says July 4th like BBQs, pool days, parades, and fireworks! But with the country beginning to emerge from the worst of it, some celebrations are returning in the area. Read on to see what’s happening around San Francisco this Independence Day and gather up some ideas for your Fourth of July weekend.

Go to a Baseball Game

As the ultimate American pastime, baseball pairs perfectly with Independence Day! And while the San Francisco Giants don’t have a home game on the Fourth, you can get your baseball fix right next door in Oakland where the Athletics are playing the Boston Red Sox. The afternoon game starts at 1:07 pm and you can get seats starting around $38. Oakland Coliseum is operating at limited capacity and following other COVID precautions. Concession stands will still be open so you can get that classic Independence Day hot dog, just know that they’re currently cashless.

Pier 39

San Francisco’s fun tourist hub, Pier 39, normally has a Fourth of July Celebration and Fireworks. It’s not been announced yet if that will be back on this year after being canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, but you’ll want to check back as the date approaches and see. Even if the festivities can’t happen, the Pier is back open is a fun place to spend the day shopping, eating out, and watching the famous sea lions.

Take a Beach Day

Cooling off at the beach is the perfect way to spend a sweltering Fourth of July, and luckily, San Francisco’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean means there are plenty of beaches around. If you love city beaches where there’s all kinds of life happening, go to Ocean Beach right in town. This is one of the most visited beaches in the area and is a great place for people-watching. You’ll see surfers, parasailers, kiteboarders, and kite-flyers. If you’re sensing a theme here, you’re probably right – the beach is windy. It’s not a top place to picnic or swim, but you’ll still enjoy strolling the mile-and-a-half long stretch of beach and feeling that cool, salty breeze.

If you’d prefer to get away from the holiday crowds, try Half Moon Bay State Beach instead. The state park is made up of four different beaches and a campground so you can get your outdoor fix and even make a full Fourth of July Weekend out of it. Activities include:

·   There are four miles of coastline at the park, perfect for long walks on the beach.

·   The waves are good enough that these beaches are popular with surfers.

·   There’s a horseback riding trail and on nearby Poplar Beach, you can ride horses along the water’s edge.

·   Some areas are designated to allow fishing.

·   There are lots of picnicking and grilling stations at Francis Beach.

·   The campground has 52 campsites for tents and RVs, coin-operated public showers, and some stations have electrical hookup available. Reserve a spot here.

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