Exploring the Bay Area

The San Francisco Bay Area is made up of 9 different counties across 5 distinct regions, as seen in the image to the right (via Wikipedia CC-SA 4.0): the North Bay, the South Bay, the East Bay, and the Peninsula, all surrounding San Francisco.

We've gathered some information about each region so you can make the most of your trip to California!

In general, you'll find that many big names in tech have their HQs here, so look 'em up on the map and head on over if you are interested. Most allow photos outside and a few offer tours (usually need to pre-arrange).

San Francisco

San Francisco is just awesome. The Legion of Honor Museum are not to be missed. Yerba Buena Gardens (South of Market neighborhood) is also awesome and next door is the Metreon theater, which is shiny and offers IMAX movies.

The California Academy of Sciences is a great place to explore with a rainforest, huge aquarium, planetarium shows and is inside Golden Gate Park. You can also walk over to the de Young Museum and can go inside and take the elevator to the roof (all for free) where you are greeted with a beautiful 360 degree view of San Francisco and the bay. You can also find the Japanese Tea Garden inside the park.

Ferry Building marketplace on the Embarcadero has many local, well known restaurants and shops. It is a great place to walk through if you have a chance and is only about 1 km from the Marriott Union Square.

  • Blue Bottle Coffee - one of San Francisco’s most beloved coffee spots
  • Peet’s Coffee & Tea - a popular local chain that started in Berkeley (another location is located about one block west of the Hyatt on California St)
  • Acme Bread Company
  • Recchiuti Confections - chocolatier, high end dark chocolate
  • Mariposa Baking Company - gluten free bakery (try the cinnamon rolls)
  • Humphry Slocombe - popular ice cream shop
  • Slanted Door - upscale restaurant, Asian Fusion, very good and one of the best restaurants in SF
  • Out the Door - a takeaway option from the same chef as Slanted Door - excellent food
  • Gott’s Roadside - tasty burger, popular diner spot

Note: Golden Gate Park is not next to the Golden Gate Bridge. If you want to walk from one to the other it is a good 3 mile walk from the CA Academy of Sciences north through a neighborhood and then through the Presidio. If you have the time, you can walk along Ocean Beach and take the Lands End Trail along the coast then continue walking to the Bridge through neighborhoods and ultimately the Batteries to Bluff Trail to the south side of the Golden Gate Bridge (this is a 7 mile walk).

Cool things to check out in SF:


South Bay

Mountain View (home of Google headquarters)

Culture and Museums

    • Computer History Museum: An amazing museum, 15-20 minute walk from main Google campus, open 10-5 Wed-Sun. They have a Babbage Difference Engine and a PDP-1!

Shopping

    • Downtown Mountain View: Castro street is a nice place to walk around and stop in restaurants, cafes, bars, and shops.
    • Fry's Electronics: This is a great place to buy your electronics and is only 5 miles from the San Jose Marriott. The prices are among the lowest for electronics you’ll find in the area.
    • Best Buy: Electronics store that is a bit more expensive than Fry's, but very close to the Google campus.
    • BookBuyers Bookstore: Great if you like books; they also carry really old software and other media.

Outdoor Activities

Miscellaneous

    • Shoreline Movie Theatre If you need a break from reality or the heat, this is a nice place to get away.
    • Public Library: This is a good place to visit if for some reason you need a place to sit and do work.

Palo Alto

Shopping

    • University Avenue: Good food and lots of selection, near Stanford. Take Caltrain to the University Avenue stop.
    • Stanford Mall: More expensive shopping. They have an Apple store.
    • Best hot chocolate in South bay area: Timothy Adams Chocolates (just off University Ave at Bryant St)

Tourist Attractions

    • Stanford: University with very beautiful campus. Rodin Sculpture Garden is free and open 24 hours. Stanford Museum has nice Egyptology collection and the Golden Spike.

San Jose

Culture and Museums

Shopping

    • Santana Row: High end shopping with 60 stores, 25+ restaurants and cafes.
    • Westfield Valley Fair: one of California’s largest shopping malls, 175 stores (including Apple, Bose, Disney Store, Lego, Macy’s, The North Face) and 34 food outlets.

Outdoor Activities

Tourist Attractions

    • Winchester Mystery House: $26 entry fee. There is a garden and odd architecture. (It’s worth it to see the Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass windows, but only once.)

Sunnyvale

Culture and Museums

    • Intel Museum: Chip fabrication demos. Love hardware? Go here.

Shopping

Physical Activities

    • Planet Granite Rock Climbing Gym: Nice indoor rock climbing Gym; the routes are marked too easy though; about 25 bucks for a day pass and gear. Their Sunnyvale gym is about 10 minutes by car from Google's Mountain View office.

The Penninsula

The North Bay

This region is best known for its vast expanses of parks and natural beauty. While public transit does connect the North Bay with the rest of the Bay Area (buses and ferries), much of it is only accessible if you have a car to drive.

Outdoor Activities

Visiting Local Universities

Stanford is in Palo Alto which is about a 18 minute to 30 minutes drive (a $130 cab ride each way) from San Francisco or you can take the CalTrain for $16.50 round-trip per person.

The University of California at Berkeley (Cal) is very easy to get to via the BART subway system right out the front door of the hotel and it drops you off within a few blocks of the Cal campus. Round-trip would be less than $8.90 a person (even cheaper for youth). The Cal campus is very beautiful and quite an experience.