One of the best things about travel is it’s often such a rich learning experience. Northern California offers so many cultural experiences and so many things to learn, starting with its world class museums and various ethnic neighborhoods. Whether you’re traveling with kids, or you’re just a curious mind yourself, the San Francisco Bay area provides so many opportunities to broaden your knowledge of the world.
1) A multitude of museums
We started in beautiful Golden Gate Park, full of sculptures and statues, a kind of “one stop shop” for museums. First we went to the De Young Museum to explore its collection of contemporary art. Then, we went to the California Academy of Sciences, where we enjoyed a fascinating show about the Hubble telescope at the planetarium. It was fun to see a colony of African penguins at play in the Stein hart Aquarium. After a visit to Cal Academy, we took a moment to rest and reflect at the Japanese Tea Garden in the park. We also took a short drive outside San Francisco, less than an hour, to San Jose, where the technology lovers in our group enjoyed the Intel Museum and the Tech Museum of Innovation.
The following day we were in for a treat back in San Francisco when we went to the Exploratorium, because we didn’t just observe the exhibits, but we got to interact as well. It’s a great option for kids! And, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art was just enormous, an awe-inspiring collection for lovers of 20th century art.
San Francisco’s Chinatown is the real deal, with lanterns suspended between the buildings for so many blocks you can hardly see where they end. Our first stop was for some dim sum. There were so many restaurants to choose from, and they were all busy so we knew we couldn’t go wrong with any of them. After our meal we went and experienced some authentic Chinese tea at one of the tea houses. And of course, there were multitudes of beautiful clothes, jade jewelry and art pieces to see as we walked past the stores over the massive 24 square blocks.
3) The Mission
Though I had an idea of what to expect when we visited Chinatown, I had no idea what awaited us at The Mission. As we cruised through the neighborhood in a convertible, we were able to experience the neighborhood’s murals in all their glory. It is said The Mission has the highest concentration of street art in the world! Be sure to take a drive through Balmy and Clarion Alley where bold images and bright colors greet you. We visited Mission Dolores, which dates back to the 1780s and is among the oldest buildings in all of San Francisco – beautiful architecture that makes you feel like you might be in Europe. Of course, our trip wasn’t complete without some Latin food – I loved the carne asada.
Whether you’re looking for a little culture without leaving the continent, or if you love learning and appreciate engaging museums, Northern California and the San Francisco Bay Area should be at the top of your “must visit” list.