15 Ways to Celebrate the Bay's Best Season

It was a cruel, cruel summer. You barely survived those 59 degree cold snaps, wearing a coat in August, and wading through foggy days that should only belong in the Sunset. Apparently, it’s the price you pay to live in the Bay. The good news? Your rugged survivorship won’t go unrewarded because second summer is here. Aka Indian Summer, it’s that special time when September, October, and deep into November all offer sweet days of sunshine for your Vitamin D-deficient soul. Take advantage of the precious golden rays with these 15 ways to celebrate the coming of warmer weather.

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass
Flickr/Dave R

Sway to music in the sun all day at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival

Golden Gate Park
This free, three-day festival of feel-good music (that’s hardly relegated to the bluegrass genre) is held Sept 30th-Oct 2nd, thanks to the late Warren Hellman. The weather’s typically fabulous, so bring your blanket, a picnic, and be prepared for families, revelers, park weirdos, and everyone else the Bay has to offer. Parking’s a drag, so hop over on public transit. Claim a spot at one of six stages and camp there all day or join the throngs stage hopping, but get amped listening to lineup medleys while you plan your festival must-sees.

Coast on thrill rides at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

1001 Fairgrounds Dr SW, Vallejo
Go on, play like it’s summer break and you’re a kid again. Speeding down a huge drop with the wind in your screaming face is the perfect way to cool off on a hot summer day. Grab an even number of friends (because roller coaster seating, duh), buy tickets online for a $20 discount, and go crazy for a day. The real kids are just starting school, so the park will be yours for the riding. Arrive when the park opens, sprint through lines that would normally be two hours long, and be done by midday when the weekend warriors arrive.

Lake Chalet Seafood Bar & Grill
Lake Chalet Seafood Bar & Grill

Drink outdoors without a sweater (except always bring a sweater)

Lake Merritt, Oakland/Mission
Fresh air, Vitamin D, tacos, and happy hour refreshments are high on the hierarchy of second summer needs. El Techo is on cloud nine of taco heaven in the Mission, and serves panoramic city views alongside its Mexican street food on a glorious rooftop patio. In Oakland, soak up the late afternoon sun on the Lake Chalet patio. Situated on the edge of Lake Merritt, this waterfront bar/restaurant has a special Taco Tuesday menu from 3pm onward. If you’re feeling real frisky, cruise the Lake on an Italian gondola afterwards.

Take a no-car day trip to Angel Island

The Embarcadero
Round up the gang and take the short ferry ride to Angel Island to enjoy a less visited, less land-locked location with a cool breeze. The Bay views are stunning, you get a no-car-required daycation from the city, and you’ll feel like you’re one with nature. There’s food and a cafe near the island’s ferry stop, but the trails and secluded BBQ pits mean you can pack a picnic, bring a cooler of beer, and rock that jambox all day long. Buy tickets online or onboard the ferry, and revel at not having to wear a heavy windbreaker.  

Cal Sailing Club
Flickr/Doug Letterman

Go sailing for free at Cal Sailing Open House

Berkeley Marina
Real summer on the Bay is freezing, but second summer on the Bay is A-OK. Put on your fanciest captain hat and head on over to this volunteer-run sailing club for a free ride on warmer waters. Boats set sail between 1 to 4pm on Sunday, Oct 2nd and Sunday, Nov 6th but rides are first come first serve, so arrive before 3:45pm. If you fall in love with sailing, you can sign up to take classes. If you get seasick over the side of the boat, your date probably won’t even notice. Either way, it’s a win. Besides, you’ve always looked great in nautical stripes.

Dance like everyone’s watching during SF’s music bonanza

628 Divisadero, San Francisco
Second summer in the city is full of fabulous calendar fun, so if you’ve been too cold to dance your ass off, now is the time. Hit up indie and alternative shows at The Independent on Divis after grabbing a drink at the ultra low-key dive Mini Bar SF. Or boogie down at the historic Fillmore where everyone from Ziggy Marley to Blind Pilot will make an appearance this fall. You might even be able to go out without a scarf.

Ardenwood Historical Farms
Flickr/PROCharlie Day Follow

Spend an afternoon in the 1850s at Ardenwood Historic Farm

Play hooky on the next sunny day and head over to this working farm that's historically accurate to the 1850s. Sure, it’s a little nerdy, but Ardenwood has baby animals, a pumpkin patch, train rides, and a produce stand selling veggies from the farm. You can also take a tour of the Patterson Ranch house, which is beautifully true to back in the day. Ardenwood will host a Harvest Festival on Oct 8th and 9th, complete with old-time music and magic shows for the youngins. 

Fly high at SF Fleet Week

The Marina
SF Fleet Week culminates Oct 7th-9th with trick-packed air shows by the Blue Angels (putting Maverick and Goose to shame), tours aboard US Naval ships, an interactive humanitarian village, and a slew of patriotic activities. Walk, bike, or take public transit to the festivities and bring a blanket, cold drinks, sunscreen, and (aviator) shades to post up on Marina Green like it’s Dolores Park for the day. You can buy (but don’t need) tickets for waterfront seating, and can also catch glimpses of the Blue Angels from all over the city.

Baker Beach

Be a beach baby on both sides of the Bay

Pack a picnic, bring a book, and lounge it up while the weather’s actually warm enough to wear a bathing suit. Crown Memorial State Beach in Alameda will likely be the warmest local beach, and offers kiteboarding and windsurfing lessons. Head to Baker Beach in SF if a bathing suit is too much clothing during these hot months, or take the bus to gorgeous (and damn windy) Ocean Beach. Whatever you decide to do on the Pacific side during a super sunny day, grab a ride or bike -- parking is a beast.

Eat street food at Off the Grid

Various locations
Warm weather deserves lazy afternoons and gourmet food from a truck. Get your fancy street snackin’ on with Off the Grid, each Thursday in Oakland’s Temescal from 5-9pm. The eight food trucks rotate each week, keeping the selection fresh. There’s live music, more plaid shirts than you can shake a stick at, and plenty of people watching. Off the Grid happens all over the Bay from El Cerrito to SF’s Presidio, so don’t be shy about doin’ it truck style each night of the week.

Mission District Murals

Take to the streets with Oakland Urban Paths and SF City Guides

Various meeting points in Oakland and SF
San Francisco is the second most walkable large city in the US and Oakland is the ninth, so you might as well put those snazzy sneakers to work. Get nerdy about local history, geology, and geography on these free urban walking adventures. There are Mission District mural tours, historical explorations of Chinatown, and expeditions up Oakland’s secret stairs. You can explore the Hayward Fault on Oct. 8th and get excited about the fact you’re in earthquake country. Go ahead, be a tourist in your own town. It’s good for you.

Eat the world’s best ice cream: Ici Ice Cream

College Ave, Berkeley
Eating ice cream when you’re cold is about as fun as being sick on a beautiful second summer day,  but people still line up year ‘round for the organic, house-made daily treats at this Berkeley ice cream house. It’s worth the wait during any season, but so much more satisfying when you’re hot enough to leave the hoodie at home. Salted maple, candied Meyer lemon, and gourmet flavor classics will melt your brain. Their cones are also made in-house daily from all organic ingredients and sealed with chocolate. Don’t skip the homemade fudge sauce! Good thing you worked out all summer/winter.

Ride the Bay Trail during Bay Day Bike Ride

Various locations
Bike East Bay is your source for all things two wheels, from bicycle education classes to events. Their Facebook and online calendar are up-to-date with East Bay’s free social rides, including the Bay Day Bike Ride on Saturday, Oct 1st. This 11 mile round trip will likely have the perfect weather for a leisurely ride, snack time, and fabulous Bay views.


Drink beer in the sun at Oaktoberfest

Dimond District, Oakland
Enjoy the glorious combination of Oakland + Oktoberfest at this day party on Oct 1st from 11am-6 pm at the intersection of Fruitvale Ave and MacArthur Blvd. Order up a mug or two and enjoy DJs, local samba and Cuban music, blues, dancers, and the Oakland Raiderettes. There’s even competitions for homebrewing and stein art. It’s like you’ve died and gone to Dimond District beer heaven. Oaktoberfest also has a Root Biergarten for non-drinkers, because the East Bay’s thoughtful like that. If you're gonna miss Oaktoberfest but love local microbrews, scope the East Bay’s best breweries and indulge your inner hop head.

Savor pure Oakland: Hella Vegan Eats + Street Art Patio + Classic Cars West Showroom

Uptown Oakland
This is why Oakland is so dreamy: a vegan taco joint does a food pop-up in a classic car showroom and features such delicacies as chocolate-covered unicorn donuts with rainbow frosting hair. Most of the seating is outdoors and surrounded by graffiti murals, and there couldn’t be better weather for crispy cauliflower tacos on homemade tortillas. Insta-stalk Hella Vegan Eats for eye-popping food glory. Oh yeah, there’s beer, too.

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Annie Crawford is an Oakland-based freelance writer who barely functions when the weather drops below 68 degrees. Follow the search for the sun at @ReinaAnnie.