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Things To Do

Activities in and around the Bay Area

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We've curated a list of things to do at Stanford University and the Bay Area.  Check out the YouTube video further down this page for a brief overview of popular San Francisco destinations!  Although this is California, we recommend planning to wear layers.  We have some crazy microclimates here and the coast especially can be brisk.

Stanford Campus

Self-Guided Campus Tours: This is a fantastic resource for first-time visitors!  There are a lot self-guided walking tours for various points of interest around campus.

Main Quad: This is an iconic Stanford space that is a hop, skip, and a jump away from the conference.  It was designed by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead and features the non-sectarian Memorial Church. (The church is open 9am-4pm Mon-Thur, and 9am-4pm Fri).

Stanford Bookstore:  A campus visit isn't complete without scoring some Stanford swag!  Stop by the bookstore for some Cardinal souvenirs! (Open 9am - 7pm).

Cantor Arts Center:  The Cantor’s collection spans 5,000 years and includes more than 38,000 works of art, including an extensive selection of Rodin bronze sculptures. Many of the Rodins are on the museum lawn, and can be viewed at your leisure.  (Open 11am-5pm, Wed-Fri).

Hoover Tower: This building houses the Hoover Institution Library & Archives and provides panoramic views of campus.  If you are interested in visiting the observation deck, you can stop in between 10AM and 3:30PM.  The cost is $5 for non-Stanford guests, unless you make arrangements with a Stanford staff member.  Staff can take up to four guests to the observation deck for free.

Arizona Garden: The Arizona Garden dates back to the early 1880s and features an extensive collection of cacti and succulent plants.  It was even featured on!

Papua New Guinea Sculpture Garden: This outdoor art installation is nestled in a peaceful grove, and you might miss it if you don't know where to look!  It showcases sculptures made by the Iatmul people and the Kwoma people of Papua New Guinea.

The Lost Bird Project:  This art installation, by Todd McGrain, is a memorial to five extinct bird species and a statement on humankind's impact on biodiversity.  The Lost Bird Sculptures are scattered around Stanford and you can find them by following the map in the hyperlinked webpage.  This could be a neat way to explore part of campus.

Performing Arts:  Stanford brings in lots of amazing live performances, and the Stanford Live website has a calendar of the many events happening on campus.


Santa Clara County

NFL, 49ers:  The San Francisco 49ers actually play nearby in Santa Clara at Levi's Stadium and it looks like there is a home game against the Bengals on Sunday 10/29, 1:25 PM PDT!

Computer History Museum: This museum in Mountain View houses the world’s leading collection and archive chronicling the history and impact of computing and technological innovation on the human experience. (Open Wed - Sunday: 10am-5pm).

The Tech Interactive: The Tech is a museum in San Jose with extensive, interactive exhibits on science and technology. (Open Tues-Fri: 10am–3 pm, Sat: 10am–5 pm, Sun: 11am–5pm).

Googleplex:  Google is headquartered in Mountain View and its campus is pretty fun to visit.  You can take selfies with quirky outdoor statues, explore the grounds, or visit the merchandise store (only open on weekdays).

NHL, San Jose Sharks: Are you a hockey fan?  The NHL team around here is the San Jose Sharks, who have home games at the SAP Center.  

Performing Arts:  Several popular performance venues in the county include Shoreline Amphitheatre,  the SAP CenterMountain Winery, and Broadway San Jose.

San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge: What's a visit to San Francisco without seeing this iconic landmark?!?  You can drive, bike, or walk across the bridge and fairly close by on the other side is the lovely bayside town of Sausalito.  Ferries regularly shuttle back and forth between SF and Sausalito.  

Golden Gate Park:  Inside this extensive park you can find several exciting attractions including the De Young Art Museum, the California Academy of Sciences, the Japanese Tea Garden, and the Botanical Garden, to name just a few!

Alcatraz: This small island was once a lighthouse, a fort, a military prison, and a federal prison. In 1969, the Indians of All Tribes occupied Alcatraz for 19 months in the name of freedom and Native American civil rights. Famous inmates included Al Capone, Robert Franklin Stroud (aka "the Birdman of Alcatraz"), and George "Machine Gun" Kelly. It is possible to tour Alcatraz, but we recommend that you purchase tickets in advance.

Cable Cars: Ride on a historic cable car!  The Powell / Hyde route is the most iconic and will take you between Market St and Fisherman's Wharf. If you are a chocolate lover, Ghiradelli Square is nearby too.  Pro tip: if you are boarding from Powell St, try to nab an outside seat on the right.  You'll have the best views of the Bay and Lombard St from that side.  If you're pressed for time and don't want to wait in the long line, try hopping on one stop further up/down from the end of the line.

Pier 39:  This is pretty much a tourist trap, but you can find all your SF souvenirs here and enjoy views of sea lions, Alcatraz, and the Golden Gate Bridge.  It's within walking distance of Fisherman's Wharf.

Performing Arts:  There are many places to catch performances and concerts of all types in SF!  Some popular options include the SF Symphony, the Fillmore, the SF Opera, SF Broadway, and the Chase Center.

NBA, The Golden State Warriors:  If you want to catch a sporting event while you're here, check out the Warriors schedule.  Their home games are played at the Chase Center which is a ~20min walk from the SF Caltrain station. The Warriors have a home game on Tuesday October 24, the opening night of the regular season.

And Beyond

Napa, Sonoma, and Santa Cruz Mountains:  Northern California has many picturesque wine regions that are within a 1-3 hour drive from Stanford.

Muir Woods and Big Basin:  These two parks offer beginner-to-advanced hikes through forests of giant redwoods.

Scenic Coastal Drive:  Route 1 hugs the Pacific Ocean and provides majestic coastline views.  The leg between Pacifica and Santa Cruz has some interesting stops along the way, such as breweries, wineries, lighthouses, and elephant seal habitats (if you're into stinky, ugly sea mammals).

Half Moon Bay: For beautiful coastline views and a quaint downtown area, visit Half Moon Bay.  Just north of town is Mavericks, a popular destination for some of the world's best surfers and can have 25-60ft waves in the winter. 

Santa Cruz:  This is a laid back beach town with attractions including a boardwalk amusement park and surfing.  Monarch butterfly migration occurs in October and a great place to see them is Natural Bridges State Park.  

Great video highlight some of San Francisco's main attractions