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We can bicker about the Bay Area’s changing landscape all day long, but we all agree that our swath of California has so much to offer. From inspiring natural scenery and classic institutions to new traditions and only-in-S.F. events, the Bay Area has something for everyone.
We’ve got you covered with fun activities, whether it’s a cold and rainy day and you’re stuck inside or if the weather warms up and you can shed your winter coat and enjoy the outdoors in all its glory.
We have some great off the beaten track restaurant suggestions to round off the day.
- Bruce Munro at Montalvo: Stories in Light (Ends March 17)
This is a stunning display as you enter another dimension, exploring the brilliant realms of British artist Bruce Munro’s light-based installations. London-born Bruce Munro is best known for large-scale light-based artworks inspired largely by his continuous study of natural light and his curiosity for shared human experiences. This exhibit features the largest number of works by Bruce Munro ever on public display at a single venue.
With 10 glittering, glowing, pulsating pieces scattered throughout Montalvo’s expansive grounds, Munro combined The Chronicles of Narnia themes with installations that feel intimate, utilizing hundreds of thousands of bespoke components to construct multi-hued waves, clusters, cascades, flocks, and seas of light.
My favorite was the “Reepicheep’s Wave,” a gigantic installation 20 feet high and 46 feet across with 18,000 plastic mussel shells clipped onto more than 1,200 fiber optic threads hung vertically, undulating in blues and greens. It’s supposed to evoke the huge, still wave on the Silver Sea that Munro says is a metaphor for what we all must do, moving through a portal at the end of one life and on to the next. It’s so meditative and peaceful, as it is accompanied by a steady concert of tones on an ascending scale like a thousand people gently humming. Sit on the theater seats and close your eyes and just listen to it, or gaze up at the stars.
Some of the exhibits include a sea of “lily pads” created from over 4,000 illuminated stems in an installation entitled Silver Sea. A flamboyance of 1,000 flamingos, densely clustered on Montalvo’s Garden Terrace and illuminated in sunset hues, pays tribute to Ramandu’s Table, while a metal tree of glowing lights alludes to the Parliament of Owls (the talking birds who met nightly to discuss the affairs of Narnia). Over the grand staircase in Montalvo’s Villa, a 106-year-old stained glass window depicting the three sailing ships of explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo is illuminated in constantly changing multi-prismed waves of color, offering an allusion to Prince Caspian’s galleon, the Dawn Treader, voyaging across mythological seas.
Pro Tip: Tickets are for timed entry, and takes about 1 hour.
Download the app for the audio guide, Bruce Munro explains the art and inspiration behind it, which enriches the experience.
Select evenings through March 17, Montalvo Arts Center, 15400 Montalvo Rd., Saratoga. Tickets must be reserved in advance for specific dates. For tickets ($15-27) and more info: www.montalvoarts.org
An interactive arts & entertainment venue offering two interactive experiences that merge art, story and technology.
Unreal Garden introduces you to a cool Augmented Reality experience where art comes to life all around you. Featuring the work of artists, and created by a team of technologists, innovators and storytellers, it merges multiple layers of perception of augmented reality, projection mapping, soundscapes, and even the physical space itself all work together to immerse you in a fantastical otherworld.
LMNL features 14 interactive rooms and installations like the “Kinetic Infinity Room,” a visually stunning LED mirrored room that appears to go on forever, while responding to movement with light and sound. The “Fluid Structures” installation allows participants to walk around walls made of digital water, appearing inside of the installation as a water version of themselves — even allowing for digital water fights with other people in the room. The “Funky Forest” is a digital forest ecosystem featuring a digital waterfall that’s path can be moved around the room with logs. Depending on where the water flows, the forest will conjure creatures from the forest and grow trees and flowers. “Prana” is a 12-foot LED sphere connecting humans to technology with one simple breath. With the viewer in the center, the sphere lights up with each inhalation, uniting the piece and the participant.
Open every day. Buy the combo ticket for the best deal: https://onedome.global. 1025 Market St., San Francisco, CA 94103
- The Walt Disney Family Museum
Find animation, innovation, and inspiration and discover this intimate museum as it tells the remarkable life story of Walt Disney. Curated by his daughter, Diane Disney Miller, it has some wonderful interactive galleries with exhibits narrated in Walt’s own voice alongside early drawings, cartoons, films, music, a spectacular model of Disneyland.
104 Montgomery Street in the Presidio, San Francisco, CA 94129
Wildlife Hikes for Winter
- Baylands Nature Preserve is considered one of the best birding spots on the West Coast with one of the largest tracts of undisturbed marshland in the San Francisco Bay Area. So go see some seriously cool birds (and art installations) via 15 miles of interconnected trails between Baylands Nature Preserve and neighboring Byxbee Park. We’re talking over 100 different species of birds to spot. As you wander the marshland trails, keep an eye out for a prize sighting: glimpsing the endangered clapper rail.
From San Francisco, take Hwy. 101 south, exiting east at Embarcadero Rd. in Palo Alto. Follow signs for Embarcadero Rd. and continue on Embarcadero about a mile and a half until it dead-ends at a stop sign. A left turn will lead you to the free Baylands Nature Preserve parking lot next to the park ranger station. Dog friendly!
- San Gregorio State Beach has a large cave to explore if the tides are okay, check out the cave (north of the beach estuary) and more than a mile of nice walking and just north of the parking area is the ideal spot for a whale watching. A short walk up the trail on the bluff leads to a large promontory—ideal for spying gray whales making their migration. Bring some easy-sit chairs or a blanket and spend a little time with yourself and the vast ocean.
Pro Tip: Stop at San Gregorio General Store, just off Highway 1 on the San Mateo coast. Eclectic and charming describes this former stagecoach stop, which offers everything from Levi’s to literary novels to all kinds of different tequilas. On Saturday and Sunday afternoons, warm up next to the fire and enjoy live music.
San Gregorio State Beach is located 10.5 miles south of Half Moon Bay on Hwy. 1. Parking $8. No dogs on the beach. San Gregorio General Store, Hwy. 84 and Stage Rd., San Gregorio; 650-726-0565. San Gregorio is 11 miles south of Half Moon Bay, off Hwy. 84.
- Butano State Park is a great winter wander among coastal redwoods without encountering many other people. Get an early start for the 9.5-mile Canyon Loop hike, one of the park’s classics.
1500 Cloverdale Rd, Pescadero, CA 94060. From the visitor center take the Jackson Flats Trail to Canyon Trail. The park has a $10 day-use fee which can also be used at neighboring parks if you choose to visit multiple parks in one day. No dogs.
What day trip is complete without some Indian food, which is definitely having a bit of a renaissance in the Bay Area. Here are some cool new joints that are a bit unique or as they say in Hindi “hatke.”
- Viva Goa Indian Cuisine: specializes in Goan cuisine, which features a lot of seafood, coconut, and kokum. 2420 Lombard St., San Francisco.
- Besharam: chef Heena Patel channels flavors from her native Gujarat, Don’t miss her fish moilee or, at brunch, her handvo. 3407, 1275 Minnesota St., San Francisco.
- Ritu Indian Soul Food: started as popular food truck DUM (the chicken biryani is the stuff of legend), this brick and mortar location has California twists like kale chaat (with yogurt, tamarind, and “Mumbai trail mix”), great kebabs, or a feast-worthy four-course menu for $45 per person. 3111 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110
Splurge worthy and special occasion:
- Campton Place: Earned a Michelin star for innovative Cal-Indian cuisine. chef Srijith (Sri) Gopinathan blends traditional American and European fine dining with Indian spices and influences: Think black cod with tamarind jaggery and guinea hen two ways, roasted with tomato tokku, kohlrabi and lime yogurt, and slow cooked with root vegetables and kallappam. 340 Stockton St, San Francisco.
- ROOH: A very polished setting featuring dishes like pumpkin mulligatawny with parmesan mousse and curry oil, or green pea kulcha with goat cheese and truffle. 333 Brannan St., San Francisco.
- August 1 Five: a new interpretation of traditional Indian cuisine. Small plates, tandoor, and boozy cocktails. 525 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco.
Mona Shah is a multi-platform storyteller with expertise in digital communications, social media strategy, and content curation for Twitter, Facebook for C-suite executives. A journalist and editor, her experience spans television, cable news and magazines.