Winter Break Outdoor Inspiration

So… your kids are out of school and there’s a whole bunch of days ahead of you. You want to get outside but you’re not sure exactly where to go.

Fortunately, we’re surrounded by lots of amazing possibilities here in the Bay Area. I try to plan out a couple of day-long adventures and then create a list of other, shorter possible explorations so the time doesn’t feel excessively planned but if we’re looking for something to do, I have a list!

Here, in no particular order, are some ideas to get you inspired to get outside in the Bay Area over Winter Break:

  1. See the Salmon Spawning.
  2. Go see the Monarch butterflies in Pacific Grove, Ardenwood Farms (EBRPD) or, currently, UC Berkeley. (Ardenwood even has kids’ programs that involve puppets!)
  3. Get everyone up early to watch the sunrise. Bring some hot chocolate and breakfast fixins’, or take everyone out to brunch afterwards. (Try going up Marincello out of Tennessee Valley in Marin; or up Sea View, off Inspiration Point in Tilden; the summit of Mt. Tamalpais, if you don’t want to get everyone out of the car in the dark.)
  4. IMG_2085Conversely, find somewhere to watch the sunset. Be sure to take flashlights if you hike somewhere to watch it. (Suggestions: any trails out of Tennessee Valley– take any trail that goes up to the top of a hill– Fox or Coastal up to Coyote Ridge; or you could get all crazy and go up Wolf Ridge (probably for more hardy hikers).)
  5. Walk the newest section of the Golden Gate Bridge– just opened a few days ago!
  6. Go find some newts. While most organized newt hikes take place at the end of January through February, you can still find them. Find your local creek and start looking hard. (I saw one in Wildcat Canyon two weeks ago at dawn, so they’re out there!) Post-rain, Pirates’ Cove trail (out of Muir Beach) is a great place– it’s a bit of a hike, but Pirates Cove trail is one of the most amazing in Marin. Kent Trail, out of Lake Lagunitas, is also a good bet.
  7. Head up to the snow for a day of snowshoeing, or just playing in the snow. (Stay tuned for our favorite one-day-in-the-snow locations, coming up later this week.)
  8. Go on a mud hike! Or, if we have a fully rainy day, find some puddles to jump in.
  9. Visit an East Bay Regional Park you have never visited.
  10. Go see the ladybugs in Redwood Regional Park.
  11. Find a Land Trust near you and explore a new trail. (John Muir Land Trust, Solano Land Trust, Peninsula Open Space Trust, as examples.)
  12. See the King Tide at the end of December (biggest day is supposed to be December 23rd). (Link provided to Rush Ranch, but you have many options.)
  13. Check out the elephant seals at Año Nuevo. (Note: these sell out fast– if you are trying to go over break, act now!)
  14. Choose a location with a couple of options and make a big day of it: last year, we made a brilliant day of the Marine Mammal Center, a picnic on Rodeo Beach, and then an exploration of the Pt Bonita Lighthouse.
  15. Find at least two new playgrounds to visit.
  16. Hit up the East Bay Regional Parks’ activities website and find a new activity to try. The East Bay Regional Parks has so many activities, it can frankly be a little overwhelming. Crab Cove Visitor’s Center (Alameda’s Crown Beach) is having a Holiday Open House on the 27th; Coyote Hills Visitor’s Center has several different programs constantly running, including Family Fun Hours on Sunday (2-3pm); and the Big Break Visitor’s Center has hands-on arts & crafts activities on Saturdays from 11:30-2:00. There are many, many options.
  17. Take a drawing-in-nature class! While this might be more for older kids, the Nature Journal Club has a January 3rd outing, with many others offered in later January & February.

Whatever you do, I encourage you to try something new. Whether it’s packing hot chocolate for a morning stroll, or wandering a whole new trail– what can you do with your family this holiday season that is a wee bit of an adventure? I am convinced that we can nourish the adventurous spirit in our children without ever needing to leave the Bay Area. Go forth and explore! IMG_4087Find us on Facebook: Bay Area Families Outside or on Twitter, @bafamilyoutside

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