Baker Beach, San Francisco (credit: Laurie Jo Miller Farr)
It’s great news that we’re starting the new year off right with a long weekend, as Jan. 1, 2016 falls on a Friday. Visit iconic places like Baker Beach — always free and always open — or other famous spots you’ve been meaning to get back to for years. Make a great view part of your new year, from the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge to the pagodas in Golden Gate Park.
390 Capistrano Road
Half Moon Bay, CA 94019
How perfect…chilling over brunch on the dog-friendly patio overlooking the Pacific, hand-crafted, award-winning winter brew in hand. For one of those “it doesn’t get any better than this” quintessential Bay Area moments, head for Half Moon Bay. Live music begins at 7 p.m. on the first day of 2016. Don’t worry about the weather — there’s a silver lining if dark clouds should appear. Back by popular demand at Half Moon Bay Brewing Co., the “When it Rains, We Pour” event runs from New Year’s Eve through the Mavericks season at the end of March 2016. Translation: “If there is an 80 percent or more chance of rain in the Half Moon Bay area, simply show the bartender the forecast on your smartphone and receive happy hour pricing on all drinks,” explains the establishment.
Japanese Tea Garden
Golden Gate Park
75 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive
San Francisco, CA 94118
Tea and contemplation are on offer in the tranquil setting surrounded by Golden Gate Park. Learn about the origins of the fortune cookie, a San Francisco story which actually has its beginnings as a Japanese recipe. There’s one tucked inside every bowl of Japanese rice crackers or arare snack ordered at the Tea House. No holiday closures occur at the oldest Japanese public garden in the nation, where the ceremonial Tea House overlooks the picture-perfect landscape and pond. Arrive before 10 a.m. on a Friday and admission is waived. Meet inside the main entrance at 1 p.m. to join a free guided walking tour led by San Francisco City Guides.
Presidio of San Francisco
Near Fort Point National Historic Site
San Francisco, CA 94129
Admire the jewel of a pocket park that opened in November, offering a spectacular new look out onto the Golden Gate Bridge. Newly revitalized features include a picnic area with seating, bicycle parking and interpretive signage, improved way-finding information and a revamped parking area designed to enhance visitor connections to the Presidio “Trails Forever” project. The restoration and enhancement of the iconic landscape connecting to both the San Francisco Bay Trail and California Coastal Trail was made possible through a $1 million grant from The Tiffany & Co. Foundation to the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.
Sloat Blvd. at The Great Highway
San Francisco, CA 94132
The reindeer may look exhausted from their legendary global journey in the week prior. The zoo is open 365 days a year, where Rudolph and friends are hanging out through Jan. 2, 2016. Find out how the zoo is embracing conservation action and education throughout its 100-acre open air campus, home to 1,000 exotic, endangered and rescued animals. Kids enjoy getting around on the Little Puffer Miniature Steam Train, taking a spin on the antique 1921 Dentzel Carousel and swinging like a monkey on the 30-foot Rockin’ Ropes Adventure. Bring proof of San Francisco residency for a discount.
Muir Woods National Monument
Mill Valley, CA 94941
The giant coastal redwoods don’t look a day older than their 700-plus years as they greet 2016. Open 365 days a year, New Year’s Day is one of the best days for a walk in the shady woods as the National Park Service gears up for their own centennial, turning 100 on Aug. 25, 2016. The park is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., but remember — on Jan. 1, 2016, the Muir Woods entrance fee (for those 16 years of age and older) will increase to $10 for adults, while those 15 and younger will continue to be free. Frequent visitors will save with a $20 annual pass, which admits the pass holder and three adults throughout a 12-month period.