For those of us who live in the San Francisco Bay Area, we are used to having an amazing variety of things to do in our free time. The abundant options for culture, dining, shopping and nature helps to justify our insane cost of living… Of course, no matter where YOU may live, your hometown probably has fantastic gems that you probably haven’t visited in years.
The current COVID-19 situation has gifted some of us with more time than usual… others not so much (especially if your kids are home). Californians have pretty much stared at the same interior walls of our home and hanging out with our immediate family 24/7 for +13weeks. Some report that the abundance of togetherness and the lack of variety has added strain in relationships.
My husband and I currently share our home office. In February this was just MY home office… we’ve made it this far thanks to generous pours of Cab and frequent walks on the beach.
The point is, if you’re in a couple, its COMPLETELY understandable to feel a bit frayed right now. Sharing household responsibilities and childcare can be a strain on the best relationships— throw a global pandemic in the mix and its frankly impressive if you AREN’T feeling aggravated.
Here’s the good news.
Restrictions are easing around the Bay Area and the weather is blossoming. NOW is the perfect time to spend some quality time outside with your favorite person… it may just do WONDERS for your relationship. Carpe diem y’all!
So go get some fresh air, remember why you like that person, and hopefully buy you two another few months of semi-lockdown sanity. 😉
One last aside— While this list is geared to couples, its certainly adaptable for families with a bit of extra planning (because kids are ALWAYS more planning).
If you have a car, this is a no-brainer. Just fuel up and GO! Head north or south from wherever you live and be awestruck by the gorgeous scenery. Chances are you haven’t done this for a while and forgot just how spectacular the CA coast really is.
If you head north, cross the Golden Gate Bridge, be sure to stop for a breezy romantic-kiss photo at Fort Baker’s Point Cavallo. Then get back on the Hwy, follow the signs for Stinson Beach and Muir Woods. Let the more brave driver handle the windy mountain roads to keep it fun. Go as far north as you feel like and be sure to breathe in the fresh, salty-air! For the ultimate truly other-worldly experience, continue into Point Reyes National Seashore— just keep in mind the park restrooms might not be open just yet, so be prepared for that. 😉 Nothing says “we’re in this together” like your spouse standing watch while you sneak behind a bush. For something more civilized, stop in Point Reyes Station or Bodega Bay for some to-go coffee or sandwiches.
If you drive south, cut over to Hwy 1 at the Great Highway, drive through Pacifica to Half Moon Bay. If you’re up to it, drive along the sea cliffs (or through the Big Basin Redwoods if you’re staring in Silicon Valley) all the way to Carmel-by-the-Sea. I personally noticed most things in Monterrey are still closed right now, but the beach in Carmel at the bottom of Ocean is ALWAYS stunning. My favorite stop along the way is in WhaleCity Bakery in Davenport, but if you don’t mind a small detour, Arcangeli Grocery/Norm’s Market in Pescadero has to-die-for artichoke bread. Have a romantic moment indulging in carbs together, it’ll be your little secret…
SPONTENEITY FACTOR: This is as easy as it gets. This really doesn’t require any planning and is easily accomplished in a leisurely day. Just decide how far you want to go so you don’t wind up driving home tired. If you have an electric car, just make sure you charge 100% the night before, and monitor your range relative to available charging stops. Also— be sure to bring enough snacks and maybe grab a to-go sandwich on your way out of town. Small coastal times are mostly family businesses and while they NEED/WANT your business, they might have to vary their hours. Just please wash the windshield first. That dried bird poop centered in your partner’s view is not going to help your relationship.
BONUS POINTS: Rent a fun car! This ALONE can make feel like an exciting mini-vacation, even if you can’t stay away overnight. Especially if you are, or have, a “car-guy.” Hertz just declared bankruptcy, and car rental agencies are suffering— thus offering amazing deals. Do a quick search online (I personally use Costco Travel), or call your local branch office and ask for a good deal on whatever sexy thing is sitting idle on the lot. Ask for “premium luxury” vehicles or “exotics” to find offers for convertibles, jeeps and fun sportscars at a fraction of their normal price. ALWAYS use a credit card. I also buy the insurance and pick it up just before closing the night before— just to make sure the adventure stays hassle free.
This one is also pretty easy. If you have your own bikes and a rack for your car— mount them up bright and early and take them somewhere new!
My personal favorite secret bike-route-gem is the ride through Alameda from the Base, through Crab Cove, Shoreline Drive, across the estuary to the Harbor Isle ferry terminal. There’s free parking, its very flat, pleasant and mostly protected paths. For the return trip you can ride through town, stopping for Coffee on Park Street and admiring charming residential Victorian neighborhoods (*cough…. Way cuter than the Painted Ladies… cough*). Take advantage of Alameda’s bicycle boulevard and “slow-streets” initiative on Pacific Santa Clara Avenue. In Alameda it IS legal to ride on the sidewalks, and there are lots of families, so just watch out for training wheels and dogs.
Right now the popular SF Embarcadero is much less congested than usual- so if you haven’t “biked the bridge” in a while (or EVER), NOW IS THE TIME!!! Park downtown, bike all the way from the Ferry Building, through Fisherman’s Wharf and Fort Mason, the Marina, and the Golden Gate Bridge. There’s currently ONE ferry back from Sausalito at 5pm, so check the schedule for updates and plan accordingly if you want to cross the bridge. Otherwise, pack enough water and ride back the way you came or plan to order an UBER SUV – something big enough to fit your bikes.
If you DON’T have a bike rack, your town probably has cute neighborhoods or parks accessible by bike direct from your home. Just pop an address of your choice in Google maps, choose directions and the “bicycle” icon. Let Google recommend a route for you based on designated routes, topography, etc.
If you DON’T OWN A BIKE at all, its easy to rent one! Many bike tour companies are still open and thrilled to help. They’ll make sure its tuned up and recommend nice routes. Google “Bike rentals near me”.
PRO-TIP: Make sure you have been on a bike in the last 15 years and still remember how to do it. Hospitals are no fun. ALWAYS WEAR YOUR HELMET. Its dorky, but its your brain.
To prevent any bickering before it starts, check each bike is pumped up and dusted off the night before, bring your fix-a-flat kit, bell, and smartphone mount for your handlebars. Bring PLENTY of water, and a picnic lunch for whichever beach you choose to stop at. Plan to ride in a loop, or how you’ll get back in advance. RIDE at a pace that feels good for BOTH of you (no one feeling left behind) and STOP often to share a refreshment and enjoy each other’s company. Ride side by side WHERE SAFE to do so. Bring masks, as many areas (ie- SF) are now requiring the during outdoor exercise.
Research shows that the couples who sweat together tend to be happiest, and are more likely to stay together. Moderate exercise releases feel good chemicals in the brain, as does time out in nature (“forest bathing”). So, for a budget friendly, waist-friendly, and relationship boosting outing—share a hike! There are SOOOO many trails in the Bay Area, we have entire books about it.
Start by Googling “hiking trails near me” or try your local Regional Park network to see what they offer. This one requires a little effort to see the trail difficulty rating is and what parking lots are open. Even if the lots are still closed due to COVID, the parks are usually still accessible. Just arrive by rideshare service or have your teenager drop you off. Keep in mind if the parking lot is closed, the facilities may be too, so pack your gear, water and snacks accordingly. Also remember the sun hat, sunscreen and band-aids.
BONUS POINTS: Get frisky! Hike someplace where you can enjoy a fabulous view at the end of the day. Some of my most romantic memories are of exploring Tilden park, then canoodling with my guy at sunset on Grizzly Peak Road. This is hands down of the most stunning views EVER. Sit in the front (or back…) seat with your partner like a teenager and watch the stars come out!
More than forty wineries have recently opened for sit-down outdoor tastings in Sonoma Wine Country. Many wonderful properties either have in-house chefs, or have started partnering with wonderful local caterers and food trucks. We recommend booking experiences at no more than 2 properties for the most leisurely experience. If you are doing simple counter-only tastings, 3 is a good number.
Napa Valley is also opening up, first restaurants, and now wineries themselves. There will of course be physical distancing requirements in place, though they vary by location.
Livermore Valley and wineries in Alameda County are still closed for the time being. Check the website before you go or call ahead to make reservations.
Pro-Tip: Make reservations in advance and pack your layers, hat and sunscreen, as you may be seated outdoors. Due to COVID, properties are operating with new rules around physical distancing, so seating may be limited. Also— Make sure to agree in advance who will stay sober, or hire a safe, sober driver. Safety first!
This definitely takes all the stress out of the day and allows you to focus on what really matters— each other!
There are a multitude of tour operators available to plan a custom experience for you, based on your personal style and budget. For more info about the benefits of private tours, read our article 10 Reasons to Hire a Private Guide in Your Own City.