Get off the couch! Four Bay Area destinations to check out over break

Gregory Block

For those who aren’t on a tropical island or racing down the ski slopes during winter break, the three weeks off of school can be full of boredom. With friends out of town and few people to hang out with, the biggest question often becomes what to do with three weeks of no homework, no stress, and a whole lot of family time. If this sounds like you, the Bark has your back! For those in the Bay Area this break, the Bark recommends exciting local places to check out.


Where To Eat: Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop

Hot chocolate, ice cream sundaes, freshly made chocolate bars––Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop is the place to go for the ideal holiday sweet, especially on a rainy winter day. Whether visitors order the world famous hot fudge sundae or a sea salt caramel hot cocoa, a trip to the original Ghirardelli ice cream and chocolate shop is an entertaining activity for the whole family. The Ice Cream Shop is a delicious holiday choice not only because of the quality of the desserts, but because of the quality of the experience. Visitors can watch the bakers make fresh chocolate, scoop ice cream, and sculpt elaborate sundaes. Luckily, they don’t just have to watch––they can eat as well!


Where to Tour: Winchester Mystery House

The Winchester Mystery House is more than a Victorian-style mansion: it is a look inside a true haunted house. Visitors can take guided tours of the eccentric house and see everything from a staircase that leads into the ceiling to a ballroom with impressive stained glass windows. Many say the house has a connection with the supernatural, and many of the strange rooms and characteristics are a result of the owner’s strange affinity for the extraordinary. While a day spent at the house is pricey––a Grand Estate tour is $44 for adults––the experience is well worth the cost. And, through the month of December, the house is offering special “Spirit of Christmas” tours for a cheaper price: only $36 for adults and $26 for children. Also, the proximity to the downtown San Jose area––across the street from the Santana Row shopping district–– gives visitors a chance to plan a fun day trip for the whole family.

Where to Explore: Kirby Cove

Hidden beneath the Golden Gate Bridge, Kirby Cove is a little known Bay Area gem. The cove consists of a small beach, public picnic tables and restrooms, and a rope swing that swings out over the ocean. Located off the main road on the way to the Marin Headlands, Kirby Cove is not easy to find. Beachgoers have to walk for about 20 minutes down a dirt road, making it unappealing to many, but the trek is worth the reward. Panoramic views of the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco and the sparkling blue of the Pacific Ocean make for ideal Instagram opportunities as well as a relaxing afternoon hangout with friends. Kirby Cove is a campground, so those who are able to brave the December cold can spend the night. For the less adventurous, an afternoon at the beach in mid-December will still provide visitors with breathtaking views,  making Kirby Cove a must-see winter destination.


Where to Enjoy the Season: Tea at the Fairmont Hotel

The iconic Fairmont Hotel, a San Francisco landmark for over a century, offers the ideal holiday atmosphere. Upon entrance into the hotel’s grand lobby, festive decorations stand out, such as the tall Christmas tree decorated with an array of ornaments and tinsel. However, it is the gingerbread that makes a day at the Fairmont most special. The Fairmont has a two-story gingerbread house display that visitors can walk through and look at every meticulously placed gumdrop and candy cane. The hotel offers a gingerbread holiday tea from 1:30-3:30 p.m. until Dec. 30, with entertainment for children, at a price of $89 for adults and $59 for children under 12. For visitors looking to avoid the lofty prices and wanting to get in the holiday mood, a leisurely walk through the lobby will more than suffice. Smells of gingerbread coupled with cheerful holiday chatter make for the quintessential winter break experience.