Spring Fling: 18 Great Reasons to Head Outside

1. Visit a Vineyard

Hold off on the two-hour drive to Napa because you can have a bacchanal in our own backyard at the Thomas Fogarty Winery, located off of Skyline Boulevard in the hills of Woodside. Since 1981, the winery has specialized in producing quality Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the rocky soils of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The winery practices organic and sustainable farming while employing traditional winemaking techniques to remain true to the craft. Check out the Thomas Fogarty website for a blend of offerings ranging from wine tasting flights to vineyard/cellar tours. 

2. Smell the Flowers 

What’s that floral fragrance in the air? It’s spring on the Peninsula, which means a bounty of scents. Home gardeners rejoice as their annuals begin budding and public gardens are blooming with blossoms too. Filoli Historic House & Garden in Woodside and the Japanese Garden in San Mateo open their gates for the full visual/nasal celebration. Gamble Gardens in Palo Alto goes an extra step by offering a creative outdoor class to design a nest centerpiece specifically for Mother’s Day. Visit gamblegarden.org to register for the course on May 8.

3. Farm Frolic 

The website for Harley Farms in Pescadero has a unique tally that fluctuates throughout the year and it currently reads: “Baby goat count: 134.” It’s a preview to the abundance of softness you can expect during a tour or picnic that you book in advance at the lively goat farm. In addition to seeing newborn baby goats, a spring peek at farm life includes the milking herd, guardian llamas, Anatolian shepherds and Rosie the donkey. Tour spots go fast, so consider booking a private tour or just pop by between 11AM and 4PM any day to say hello to the goats and donkeys over the fence.

4. Canvases in Color

To know Mitchell Johnson’s art is to immerse yourself in a reality shaped by color. The Peninsula painter covers his canvases in primary, secondary and tertiary hues, sometimes depicting a New England coastal still life or perhaps a display of abstract blocks to evoke a patchwork of soul. Celebrating three decades of Johnson’s colorful exploration, the Pamela Walsh Gallery in Palo Alto presents Color Continuum: Selected Works 1988-2021. On view from May 15 to June 26, the collection charts Mitchell’s evolution from Parsons to Palo Alto while celebrating his lifetime discussion with color. 

Photography: Paulette Phlipot

5. Fresh Off the Dock

If farm-to-table is the hot option for produce, then nothing beats dock-to-table for seafood. Fortunately, the Peninsula is home to two bustling options for purchasing fresh fish. Pull up to Pillar Point in Half Moon Bay to buy fish directly off the boat, but before you go, check out the Fishline App website, which updates the types of fish you can purchase. On the other side of the Peninsula at the Port of Redwood City is Pioneer Seafood, which provides rockfish, sole, sablefish and more straight from its ship tied up to the F Dock. As the folks at Pioneer like to say, good salty spray and one halibut of a day!

6. Starlight Paddle

Starting an excursion with the setting sun is a solid indicator for unusual fun. The Half Moon Bay Kayak Company offers a three-hour Night Paddle that begins at sunset at Pillar Point Harbor. Take out a double kayak and glide past harbor seals and sea birds in the fading light. If the moon is hidden behind the clouds, chances are enhanced to view bioluminescence, a natural wonder when aquatic species produce and emit glowing underwater light. Visit the outdoor company’s website to schedule a reservation and they will take care of the rest. 

7. Berries Galore 

They grow ’em so you can pick ’em. Providers of fresh veggies, fruits and flowers, Blue House Farm returns with its seasonal strawberry U-Pick in May. The farmstand is located at 950 La Honda Road in San Gregorio and the U-Picks happen on weekends starting at noon. The strawberries are grown on over 70 acres between their farms in Pescadero and San Gregorio, and their red, ripe juiciness tends to attract admirers from all corners of the Bay. The farmstand is an ideal lure to get you over the hill and spend the day exploring the coast with a container of berries within reach. 

8. Get Curious  

Curiosity doesn’t have a height limit. The anatomy of the world’s smallest creatures captured with a digital camera and confocal microscope are on display in CuriOdyssey’s latest outdoor exhibit, Creature
. The San Mateo science museum showcases photography from Dr. Igor Siwanowicz, a biochemist and neurobiologist who specializes in zooming deep into the lives of the tiniest insects. The super-accessible foot-operated exhibit also includes life-sized castings of animal tracks. Creature FEETures is open Wednesday to Sunday from 10AM to 5PM.

9. Climb Peninsula Peaks 

Among the wondrous bounty of hikes and sights on the Penunsula, a hike up Montara Mountain stands out for the unique chance to straddle the peak between the Pacific and the Bay. Park your car near the San Pedro Valley Park Visitor Center located at 600 Oddstad Boulevard in Pacifica and begin your ascent to the mountaintop. Meandering through the coastal oaks and native brush leads to the North Peak Access Road that you can take to the summit where the ocean breeze cools you down.

10. Do Prison Time 

If top tourist attraction Alcatraz is your “I’ve lived here my whole life but never visited” guilty confession, there’s no better time to plan a day trip. After a lengthy closure, the infamous penitentiary is opening its jail cells again. Purchase your tickets through the Alcatraz Cruises website, the official concessionaire to the National Park Service, and then head to Pier 33 Alcatraz Landing. A short ferry ride brings you to the former home of some of America’s most notorious criminals like Al “Scarface” Capone and the “Birdman of Alcatraz” Robert Stroud. The award-winning “Doing Time: The Alcatraz Cellhouse Tour” audio takes you back in time as you poke into the Cellhouse, the Recreation Yard and the Sally Port.

Photography: Irene Searles

11. Commune with Sea Critters

Hear ye, hermit crabs, chitons, sea stars and urchins: Get ready for visitors! On May 3, Fitzgerald Marine Reserve officially reopens, bringing back a front-row seat to the Peninsula’s underwater sealife. The Moss Beach tide pooling nirvana is the place to observe marine life up close. Don’t forget to check the tide charts before you go. The lower the tide, the more exposed the reef, which means a better chance to fully explore the spectacular secret world of the intertidal zone. 

12. Soar Above the Bay

The most exciting moment of any flight into or out of SFO is the fleeting glimpse of our Bay Area home from the sky. Stretching this experience out to an hour or more is the flying tour company Epic Aer, which takes off from either San Carlos or Palo Alto airport. The company offers up-close-and-personal perspectives of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Half Moon Bay, Stanford and the City from the seat of a single-engine Cirrus SR22. There’s a variety of tours, so good luck choosing between San Francisco at night or a Half Moon Bay sunrise.

Photography: Paulette Phlipot

13. Make that a Martini  

As eateries ease back into the swing, now is the time to reserve a table. Take the Village Pub in Woodside, for instance. This Michelin Star classic offers a three-course dinner celebrating contemporary Californian cuisine with a tribute to the culinary traditions of France and the Mediterranean. The menu is always changing due to their partnership with a nearby 17-acre farm that supplies their harvest exclusively for use at the restaurant.

14. Get a Grip 

The first lesson of the sport is that we don’t golf—we play golf. The second lesson is that a hole-in-one buys a round at the clubhouse. But for any more insights you’ll have to consult a professional. The Stanford Golf Course hosts a roster of certified pros who teach every level from beginners to scratch players. They’re veterans on the green, such as Herman McKee who has teed up there since 1983. At the Crystal Springs Golf Club, you can enroll at the Greg Coplin Golf School, named after Golf Digest’s top teacher in California. Group lessons are available but a one-on-one is your best chance for working on your swing mechanics and short game. 

Photography: Courtesy of Pedego Electric Bikes

15. e-Bike Exploring

The newest road warriors to appear are the legion of whip-fast and smooth e-bike riders tapping into battery power for longer pedaling across the Peninsula. To get a taste of the latest advancement in two wheels, check out Pedego Electric Bikes in Menlo Park where e-bike rentals are available to take on journeys that reach beyond city limits. Ride up Sand Hill Road into the hills of Woodside to see your community from a fresh perspective. No need to fret the climbs—the e-bike provides that little boost of encouragement along the way.

Photography: Courtesy of Pinstripes

16. Pin Down Fun

It’s a game of precision. Are you a heavy roller who can knock ’em down with clout or a smooth calculator maneuvering the slim alley using a graceful touch? However you spin it, bowling unites us in casual competition and easygoing leisure. San Mateo’s Bel Mateo Bowl offers the classic bowling experience with neon lighting, arcade games and 24 lanes to choose from. The newer Pinstripes at the Hillsdale Mall updates the play with two levels of bowling, bocce and a bistro serving pizzas and flatbreads from a wood-burning oven.

Photography: Courtesy of Devil’s Canyon Brewing Company

17. Beer Fridays

Every Friday at 4PM is the official bell ringer into the weekend at Devil’s Canyon Brewing Company in San Carlos. That’s when the neighborhood block party begins with music in the taproom, food trucks in the back outside and ever-flowing fills of craft beer. The weekly event has become a tradition amongst locals and if you become a member of the brewery, you can rent a locker to store your favorite reusable mug. And the celebration doesn’t have an age limit with their signature DCBC Root Beer Floats made with ice cream from nearby neighbor, Tin Pot Creamery.

18. Movie Magic

Whether you’re a blockbuster buff or an Oscar-winner devotee, movie theaters are reopening their doors to usher in a new season of cinema. Redwood City’s Cinemark and Century 12 San Mateo are showing the latest flicks along with Cinépolis at the Hillsdale Mall, which also offers classic films such as Thelma and Louise and The Iron Giant for only $5 a seat. Each of these theaters has its own protocol for socially-distanced movie-watching or you can also arrange for a private watch party. Cruella and A Quiet Place Part II are a couple of the bigger titles coming out in May to welcome viewers back to the big silver screen.