As I grow older, I realize that giving presents is something I’ve really grown to dislike. I don’t want to give stuff anymore. We all have too much stuff. My parents have too much stuff. I have too much stuff. Stuff doesn’t last. Stuff breaks. Stuff gets thrown away. Experiences are better.
Get out there and make some unforgettable memories with this list of five awesome Bay Area experiences to gift your friend, your mother, or whomever.
Soar through the redwoods
Photo courtesy of Sonoma Canopy Tours
Feel the wind whipping through your hair as you fly through some of the world’s tallest trees. This is a Bay Area experience that you won’t forget. We’re lucky to have not one, but two, zip line facilities open to the public.
Mount Hermon Adventures in Santa Cruz offers Redwood Canopy Tours or or Sequoia Aerial Adventures for people of all ages. In the winter, explore the Sequoia aerial course by twinkle lights. For younger thrill-seekers, there’s the Discovery Grove.
Sonoma Canopy Tours in the North Bay also runs zip line experiences through a redwood forest with day and night packages. You can make it a heart stopping day by signing up for a package that combines both. For each tour booked, Sonoma Canopy Tours donates a dollar to outdoor non-profits that get at-risk youth outdoors.
Packages run about $90 per person, give or take, depending on the tour.
Paddle Elkhorn Slough
Photo by Michael Accorsi for Monterey Bay Kayaks
If heights aren’t really your thing, take it to the ocean and kayak Elkhorn Slough, another unique Bay Area experience. Monterey Bay is home to the Monterey Submarine Canyon, one of the deepest submarine canyons on the West Coast. Upwelling brings cold, nutrient-rich waters to the ocean surface, making it extremely biodiverse (in a nutshell). The canyon terminates at Elkhorn Slough.
Paddlers at Elkhorn Slough are often treated to the sight of lounging sea otters, shy harbor seals bobbing about, and the occasional curious California sea lion.
Monterey Bay Kayaks runs SUP and kayak tours out into the slough, including kid and family friendly excursions. Tours run between $45 and $85.
Chill out at Vichy Springs Resort
Photo by Max Whittaker for Visit California
Head north to Mendocino County for a unique hot spring experience. This gem in Ukiah is the only spot in North America with carbonated “Vichy” mineral baths. Sink into the tub and let your worries melt away. Vichy Springs Resort also includes 700 acres of pristine hiking and a waterfall.
Staying the night starts at $175 and includes use of the baths, swimming pool, trails and more. Day rates start at $35 for 2 hours, or $65 for a full day.
Float over Napa
Photo courtesy of Napa Valley Aloft
Up, up and away! Impress your family or friends and see Napa and the Bay Area differently from aboard a hot air balloon. With rolling hills as far as the eye can see, you’ll find out why California is nicknamed the Golden State. Plus it will look awesome for the ‘gram.
Napa Valley Aloft offers flights beginning at $200 or $220, depending on the season. You can also add on a post-flight champagne breakfast for an extra $25.
Camp in wine country
Staying in a Napa hotel is so overrated. Instead, stake down your tent at Odin Wines, centrally located in Sonoma County.
Odin Wines got a little toasted in the North Bay fires back in October, but plan on reopening early 2018. They offer several different sites from tent camping to safari tents to yurts. Tent camping starts at $70 per night. Safari tents and yurts are a little pricier, starting at $150.
If going off the beaten path is more your thing, head down the central coast to Paso Robles and stay at Pianetta Ranch and Winery Camp pictured above.
Pianetta Ranch and Winery Camp starts at $80 per night.
And there you have it, my picks for the best Bay Area experiences to give your loved ones this holiday season. Did I miss something? What would you add to the list?
Last updated on November 13, 2018.