Here’s what to do with your free time in the Bay Area this summer

May 8, 2023 — by Sarah Zhou
Graphic by Annie Liu
@MinsuiTang July 21, 2023… be there.
While not necessarily wallet-friendly (but when is anything in the Bay Area?), these activities will definitely create some great memories!

Immediately after AP exams ended last year, my friend, Class of `22 alumna Nicole Lu, and I began planning activities for the summer. However, Nicole, having lost her pink Driver’s Ed slip from freshman year, and I, not being 16 yet, realized that neither of us could get our licenses or drive anywhere. This left us with the options: A.) drag along a licensed friend (thanks, Cary!), B.) beg a parent or C.) take an Uber and risk being kidnapped. 

So, this brings me to my first point: if you can’t drive already, get your license ASAP. With the exception of junior Victoria Hu, by the start of junior year, every single member of my friend group already had their permit or license. Don’t be like Hu. A license is something you must pursue. Your parents will (hopefully) not be able to follow you to college to chauffeur you around in their 2006 Honda Minivan. If you don’t get your license in high school, it won’t be easy to find the time to learn to drive.

Once you actually manage to find your form of transportation, this story will give you a few recommendations for activities to do around the Bay Area this summer that my friends and I enjoyed last year.

Last summer, “Minions: The Rise of Gru” wowed audiences and even prompted a nationwide TikTok trend of dressing up in formal attire to see the movie. Obviously, Nicole and I had to jump on the bandwagon and rounded up a few of our friends to get our IHOP minion meals and toss bananas at the screen at AMC Saratoga 14. 

This summer, we — and all other self-respecting Barbie fans — will be decked out in pink on July 21 for the release of the “Barbie” live-action movie. (Yes, I am aware I wrote a story criticizing every possible aspect of the trailer, but sometimes movies are so bad, they become good). Alternatively, if you’re more of a history buff, Oppenheimer — which is about the Manhattan Project — also hits theaters the same day. 

If staring at a vinyl screen for hours on end isn’t your thing, stop by Glow Candle Lounge or Petroglyph in Willow Glen for some hands-on fun. Both stores are owned by the same person, so purchasing a studio pass allows you to both make your own candle and paint a ceramic piece (similar to in Color Me Mine). 

Neither activity requires much concentration, leaving you and your friends plenty of time to gossip with the privacy of being surrounded by people from downtown San Jose — no one will know you, so feel free to drop as many full names and talk as loud as you want. 

While both stores can be rather expensive, costing upwards of $40+ per medium-sized, decorated candle or ceramic piece, you’ll definitely leave Glow Candle Lounge smelling REALLY good after sniffing all the sample candle scents.

When you’re hungry or ever feeling like you’re ready to start your foodie blogger, mukbanger or TikToker era, visiting popular restaurants such as Eataly, Din Tai Fung and Hero Ranch Kitchen in Valley Fair and downtown Saratoga can also be a fun experience. 

On the other hand, if you’re looking to have a fine dining experience to cap off a monumental night after watching “Barbie,” visit one of the multiple Michelin-starred restaurants in the Bay Area such as Chez TJ in Mountain View or the Plumed Horse in downtown Saratoga. After all, if you’re going to have a once-in-a-lifetime meal, might as well do it while your parents are still paying!

If you’re willing to drive a bit further to San Francisco, you can play tourist for the day. Hike Twin Peaks or visit iconic sights such as Alcatraz, Coit Tower, Ghirardelli Square and Pier 39. 

A surprising number of people from the Bay Area have never actually been to SF Bay Area landmarks, and visiting these tourist attractions and others before leaving for college is definitely worthwhile. I would also recommend taking a trip to amusement parks like Great America or the Santa Cruz Boardwalk so that you can skip the phase that turns you into a Disneyland adult.

Lastly, activities that will keep you outside for a while every day to photosynthesize — such as mini golfing at Golfland, kayaking by Shoreline, horseback riding at Pagemill Pastures or Garrod Farms and getting into hiking or walking in the morning — are great ways to stay active while soaking up too much sun. Stay safe!

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