Written by Bill Zavestoski
Sure, we all want to be home for the holidays. But if home is here in the Bay Area and you just want to get away for a day as 2013 winds down, try one or more of these budget-friendly trips around the North Bay that anyone from kids to empty-nesters will enjoy. The best part? Each one is just a tank of gas (or less) away.
Headlands State Park / Ford House
735 Main St.
Go? Enjoy the
beauty of a small New England-style coastal town (it served as the
fictional Cabot Cove in the TV series Murder She Wrote) that's
enveloped on three sides by this scenic state park.
Tip: Start your visit at
the Ford House, a museum on Main Street that serves as the Visitors
Center for the park. Find out about the history of the area, the
docent-led interpretive walks and weekend lectures on area wildlife.
Do: Hike the Mendocino Headlands Trail, which stretches 2 to 5
miles round-trip depending on your starting point. The trail has
bluff-top benches to soak in the scenery and even a frothy blowhole.
Dress warmly this time of year.
Fine Print: There is no
cost to enter Mendocino
Headlands State Park, which is a day-use facility, so camping is not
allowed. The Ford House is open daily from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and can
be reached at (707) 937-5397.
801 Panoramic Hwy.
Go? Three things: the hiking
trails, and the views from them and the 2,571-foot peak. As one
regular puts it: “Mt. Tam is my all-time favorite place to hike. I
think I've covered just about every trail in this park by now. I can
confirm that you can't pick a bad trail here.”
Tip: You don't have to be a
mountain climber to get through the redwood
groves and oak woodlands to the
top. Motorists can drive to
within three-tenths of the summit, which can often lead to a traffic
jam, so go early in the day when the crowds aren't as big.
Do: Especially if you're a
first-timer and go on a weekend, visit the
East Peak Summit, where a Visitor
Center and the Gravity
Car Barn, a small museum on the history of the railroad that once
climbed the mountain, can get you acclimated.
The Fine Print: The park is open from 7 a.m. to sunset daily. As with many state parks, the day use fee is $8 per vehicle. The East Peak Visitor Center (11 a.m.-4 p.m.) and Gravity Car Barn (12 p.m.-4 p.m.) are open on Saturdays and Sundays only.
655 Mission St.
Why Go? The permanent collection contains 6,000 pieces including animation cels, comic books and early newspaper comic strips.
Insider Tip: The first Tuesday of every month is pay as you wish.
Must Do: Take an art class. There's a variety on offer, from Parent and Child Cartooning Workshops to Graphic Memoir Workshops. See the full schedule here.
The Fine Print: Tuesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. $8 for adults, $6 students and seniors, $4 children 6 to 12 years old, children under 6 get in free.