With the economy continuing to slump, people are choosing to stay closer to home for vacation. But a “stay-cation” in the Bay Area is not necessarily a bad thing. Here are four off the beaten path travel spots worth considering for an affordable getaway.
There’s a lot more to this seven square mile Peninsula community than just rows of box-shaped houses. The coast side community is home to Thornton Beach State Park.
The park is a scenic overlook with sweeping views and benches to bring a picnic. But, only the brave or the 4-legged shimmy down the cliff side on narrow paths posted with warnings. Thornton Beach State Park is not the place to plan a day on a sandy beach.
Gold Rush settlers found the terrain of Daly City too tough for growing crops so they set up businesses to lure in visitors. And many do come from San Francisco and the Peninsula to take advantage of a unique family friendly movie theatre. It’s the Century Theatre off John Daly Boulevard. There’s a multi-story parking garage where you take a ticket, but you don’t have to pay, parking is free.
Parent Darlene Pepino lets CBS 5 readers in on a secret. “It says no food, but a lot of people bring in their own food,” she said. “It’s pretty relaxed.” On top of that, the signs say tickets for toddlers are $7.25. But Darlene also said, “They don’t make you pay if your child is small enough to sit on your lap. And if there are available seats, you can just put him in one.”
For a post-movie meal there’s Joe’s of Westlake, a restaurant that’s been around since 1956. The late Bruno Scatena opened the restaurant, featuring homemade ravioli and a filet mignon that regular Robert Dossee calls the best in the area.
“I’m fearful to say this because I have friends in the restaurant business in San Francisco,” Dossee said. “But, this place has one of the best filet mignon’s in San Francisco or nearby. It’s a great filet.”
It’s not fancy and it’s rather loud, but if you’ve got a family to feed on your Bay-Cation Joes of Westlake welcomes children. John Coakes will greet you in a tuxedo as he has done every day for 42 years. “Of course, it’s a restaurant. It’s a tuxedo. But, I don’t wear the same one every day,” Coakes said.
This Bay-Cation takes us to the Southeast corner of the Bay Area and back in time. Chris St. Germain’s father opened Cal Skate of Milpitas back in 1977. She and her brother own it now.
“You’ve gotta have that taste of the 70’s and the 80’s to have that real feel for roller skating. The Bay Area really doesn’t have a lot of skating rinks. When we first opened our business in 1977 we had 17 rinks and now were down to about 6 in the greater Bay Area. So we attract the whole Bay Area. People from San Francisco, Oakland, and even Sacramento come all the way down to our facility to skate.”
Entry and skate rentals cost about $10 bucks a person. But, if you’re “Bay-Cationing” with a family St. Germain says, “A family of four can skate for $39.00 dollars and that gets you four admissions, four skate rentals, a pitcher of soda, and a pizza.”
For a traditional sit-down meal a few miles away, there is a restaurant serving up Chinese food with a Muslim twist. Aisa Bivi says her relatives drive all the way from Sacramento to dine at Darda Seafood, one of the Bay Area’s few Chinese Muslim restaurants. Dishes average around $10-dollars. And the food is prepared according to Muslim religion or “Halal.”
Darda is located in the Bay Area’s largest Asian mall. Half of the city’s 60,000 person population is of Asian descent. These newer residents are fueling development. But, tradition and history run deep, with the area’s Native American roots.
Francisco Guzman teaches a summer camp program for children in a 200-year old adobe ranch house built by Native Americans and Spanish settlers. It’s a museum located in Jose Higuera Adobe Park. “The Ohlone tribe was spread from Hayward to Fremont and Milpitas. This is like a little National Park in Milpitas. It’s a piece of history in your backyard.”
Spanish settlers picked this bucolic land as an ideal location for Mission San Rafael. The mission offers tours and a unique child-friendly museum. San Rafael’s quaint mom-and-pop shops also cater to diverse tates.
Line up with the locals at Three Twins ice cream shop where they serve small batches of specialties made with locally-grown ingredients.
Enjoy your ice cream at China Camp State Park for a great view of the bay. The park is full of trails, and a great place to camp if you are thinking of an overnight stay.
Before the suburban families in their SUV’s arrived, San Ramon’s residents were farmers and sheep.
Forest Home Farm hosts regular sheep herding demonstrations and tours of the farm’s historical buildings.
“In 1849 during the time of the Gold Rush the gold miners needed food and the herders started driving their flocks from New Mexico to California and the San Ramon Valley,” said Pat Macsata, a sheep herding expert and docent at Forest Home Farm.
On a Tuesday or Thursday, the barn is busy with volunteers. They restore old tractors that once ploughed the local fields and now rest in a one-of-a-kind tractor museum.
“Our goal is to try to preserve the agricultural heritage of this valley and that’s why we do this. I grew up in this business with my dad as a boy down in the Central Valley,” said Volunteer Dale Barker. “And this brings back so many memories. We have 34 tractors in our museum.”
The farm is technically a city park, so anyone can take a guided tour for just $3 or enjoy a picnic on the grounds for free.
About a mile away, Baycationers can cool off from the hot San Ramon summer sun at The Olympic Pool and Aquatic Park. It’s like a theme park at public pool prices.
“It’s only $4 a child – it’s cheap,” said resident Elizabeth Larson. “They have an ice cream stand. There are lots of lifeguards so it’s safe.”
San Ramon, with its wide streets and rolling hills, feels like a slice of Americana. But here you can get a slice of a popular Hungarian cake – made at a Paris-style bakery called City of D’Lights where Lynne Kawakami and Attila Gogos impress the locals with the Hungarian Rigo Jancsi.
“It’s a traditional Hungarian cake with a twist. It has chocolate Devil’s food, a lighter mousse and white chocolate on top,” Kawakami said.
City of D’lights is also light on the pocketbook. Sweets cost about 10-20 percent less than big city prices. So take one for the road.
If you have other destinations worth a stay-cation in the Bay Area, be sure to let us know in your comments below.