With as mild a winter as we’ve had in San Francisco, it’s felt like spring for a while now. And—let’s face it—since spring here is really like our summer, it’s effectively the best time to enjoy the abundant outdoor offerings the City By the Bay has to offer. Here, eight great things to do in San Francisco in spring, all in quintessential, quirky SF style, from two of the city's craziest races to bonfires on the beach to enjoying a Giants game, via kayak.
1. Catch a Giants game—by kayak.
Forget about forking out mad cash to catch the hotter-than-ever San Francisco Giants take to the field this season. Instead, hop into a kayak and join the armada of eager fans who enjoy the game bobbing on the water at McCovey Cove. Must-brings: a cooler full of beer, snacks, sunscreen, and a radio to listen to the game on. If you really want to go all the way, bring a net to up your chances of snagging a "Splash Hit" home run, as well as a makeshift anchor (a rope tied to a cinderblock works well) so you don’t have to constantly paddle.
2. Celebrate Easter SF-style at the Bring Your Own Big Wheel race.
The organizers behind this fantastically zany event don’t encourage press, but we couldn’t resist sharing the glory of one of the city’s most unforgettable offerings: hundreds of costumed, crazy adults barreling down one of the city’s twistiest, steepest streets on Big Wheels.
Bring Your Own Big Wheel, which starts around 4 pm on April 5, takes place in Potrero Hill, on Vermont Street, Lombard’s lesser-known but equally twisted sister. Watch from the sidelines or join in the action, but be sure whatever you’re riding on is made of plastic, with no metal parts, lest you impale fellow riders. And leave the booze at home (or be very discreet with it), as cops have been aggressively busting drinking at this alcohol-free event. And be sure to ride your bike instead of driving, as parking is a nightmare.
3. Watch the pros fly by at the Amgen Tour of California.
This year’s race , which starts on May 10, doesn’t come through San Francisco, but you can easily head up to Sacramento for Stage 1 or down to San Jose for Stage 3. It marks the 10 th consecutive year that San Jose has hosted the race, and this one promises to be a great one for spectators, as cyclists will have to climb 4,216-foot Mount Hamilton, plus battle gradients of more than 10 percent in the final 0.25-mile climb to the finish.
4. Break out your best costume for Bay to Breakers.
Whether you actually run San Francisco’s most unforgettable race, bandit it, or just watch from the sidelines, it’s a guaranteed blast. Just like its name implies, the Bay to Breakers (held May 17) starts at the Bay and winds 12 kilometers across town to its finish near Ocean Beach. Tracing its roots all the way back to 1912, it’s the oldest consecutively run foot race in the world, and certainly one of the craziest. Ape Hashbury, the iconic pink gorilla mascot, leads the group of impressively costumed runners, as well as a few elite racers, through the hilly streets, cheered on by costumed (and well-lubricated) onlookers.
5. Rub elbows with elite chefs and cyclists at the Bottega Gran Fondo.
Disclaimer on this one: This bike ride has already sold out for 2015, but go ahead and get on the waitlist now for the 2016 event. What’s the big deal about the Bottega Gran Fondo , you ask? Let us count the ways: An epic ride (this year, the 40-mile distance includes an additional 15-mile add on; there's also a 75-mile option) through the rolling hills of stunning Northern California wine country. Riding alongside some of the top names in cycling, including former pro George Hincapie and rider-turned-announcer Bob Roll. Feasting on food and wine from some of the best restaurants and wineries in California. All of the awesomeness is exactly what you'd expect when the guy behind it, Bottega's Michael Chiarello, is an avid cyclist, hails from southern Italy, and is one of the most well-respected chefs in the country. As Gran Fondos go, this is one not to miss.
6. Raise a glass at the San Francisco International Beer Festival.
You gotta love a school coop that fundraises with beer, and the Telegraph Hill Cooperative Nursery School does it up right with the San Francisco International Beer Festival , which has been going strong for three decades (it's set for May 9 this year). You’ll get a bottomless mug, which volunteers will keep full of craft beers from local and international breweries, with noshes from local favorites like Pizza Orgasmica and Liverpool Lil's rounding out the goodies.
7. Go camping in wine country.
It’s one of the best-kept secrets in the Napa Valley: Bothe-Napa State Park , nestled right in the heart of some of the most beautiful wine country in Northern California. Campsites offer decent privacy (try to grab one right on the creek), as well as well-maintained restrooms with hot showers (be sure to bring quarters). Take advantage of 10 miles of fantastic trails in the state park (keeping an eye out for the poison oak that's everywhere), which wind through sequoia and redwood trees, secluded groves, a pioneer graveyard, and even an historic grist mill where flour is still made. As the sun sets, pop the cork on one of the bottles of wine you bought on the way in, sit by your campfire, and toast to the good life.
8. Hit the beach.** **
Since the next few months usually bring with them temperatures warm enough that you won’t have bundle up in several layers on the beach, take advantage of it. (If you’re feeling especially bold, you can even join the ranks of the totally bare beach-goers at Baker Beach.) This is also the perfect time of year to savor a bonfire on the sand at Ocean Beach or Muir Beach. Be sure to keep your fires inside the first-come, first-served fire rings, and your group to less than 25 people, and you won’t have to secure a permit .