Ready for something new? Here's a list of distinctive Bay Area activities that appeal to all ages, whether your group is looking for an outdoorsy excursion, offbeat entertainment or an internationally approved tourist attraction.
Mini Golf in the Mission
Urban Putt, San Francisco’s first and only miniature golf course, arrived to the city’s Mission District in spring 2014. A team of local designers, robotics engineers, welders and artists designed the indoor, 14-hole course, which features imaginative handmade marvels and interactive, kinetic sculptures inspired by San Francisco’s landmarks and architecture. Two bars pour drafts from local breweries, wines and low-proof cocktails that are served in custom-designed “adult sippy cups” so that players can drink on the mini-golf green. The full-service restaurant upstairs, called UP @ Urban Putt, serves up California comfort food like burgers and deep dish pizzas with an emphasis on organic and locally sourced ingredients. —ZC
1096 South Van Ness Ave., San Francisco, 415.341.1080
Fisherman’s Wharf welcomed Madame Tussauds in summer 2014. At the San Francisco outpost of the famous, two-century-old London-based wax museum, about one third of the figures depict Bay Area locals, including a barefoot, cross-legged Mark Zuckerburg. The new location also features scenes from “Bullitt” and “Dirt Harry” and houses sculptures of George Clooney, Bruce Lee, Rihanna and Barack Obama. Each figure takes about four months to make.
145 Jefferson St., San Francisco
Terror on the Wharf
Enter the San Francisco Dungeon, and a cast of animated actors will lead you on a tour of the city’s historic seedy underbelly. Similar attractions are popular throughout Europe, and the company's producers chose San Francisco for the U.S. debut, finding the city’s dark history ripe for storytelling. Along with elaborate, locally made period costumes and sets from a local artisan who incorporated reclaimed wood, the experience features live rats from nearby rescue centers.
145 Jefferson St., San Francisco
City Kayak’s location at Pier 40 is the perfect launching point for trips west toward the Golden Gate Bridge or east to McCovey Cove, where you might catch a splash hit home run during Giants games. You’ll get spectacular views of the city skyline and the Golden Gate and Bay bridges, Alcatraz, Cupid’s Arrow and the Ferry Building. Harbor seal sightings are common, and the advanced trip to Treasure Island includes a stop at Yerba Buena Island where countless harbor seals haul out on the beach. “They’re just as curious about us as we are about them,” says owner Ted Choi. Many porpoise have been spotted this summer, and pelicans, bat rays, herons and egrets also frequent the area. The twilight trip offers great views of “The Bay Lights,” a light sculpture that might not be around much longer.
Pier 40 on the Embarcadero, 415.294.1050
Hop aboard the Blue and Gold Ferry and set sail for a day trip to Angel Island State Park. Begin your adventure with a hike, bike or tram ride up to the United States Immigration Station. Rich with history, the Immigration Station was the main stop for hundreds of thousands of people immigrating to America on the West Coast from 1910-1940. Today, visitors can tour the living quarters and learn about the immigrants’ daily lives on the island. Take a lunch break at one of the many scenic spots offering breathtaking views of the city skyline, or grab a picnic at the cafe down by the docks and take it to the quaint beach, a perfect spot to lounge. —JV
Ferry departs from Pier 41, 415.435.5390