The Big Chill

It's summertime in Sacramento and the living is easy—except when Mother Nature cranks up our city's thermostat. If you can't stand the heat, it's time to get out of town. From clear-bottom kayaking in Tahoe to a waterfall-filled hike in Marin and an ocean safari in Monterey, we've got 18 ways to keep your cool right now.

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San Francisco Bay Area

Shuck and slurp your way through Tomales Bay with Food & Farm Tours’ oyster outings. (Photo courtesy of Food & Farm Tours)


Every summer, the breezy shores of Tomales Bay are packed with San Franciscans in search of a sunny shuck-and-slurp. The historic Tony’s Seafood (, newly renovated and reopened by Hog Island Oyster Company, is upholding its 71-year reputation as the go-to spot for the barbecued variety, in which the delicate brininess of the fresh oyster enhances a house-made smoky-sweet sauce. At the Nick’s Cove boat shack (, perched mid-inlet at the end of a long pier, you can use its landline phone—there’s no cell service—to order and bring back a dozen of Tomales Bay’s best from the main restaurant and indulge amid a collection of maritime kitsch. Who knows, maybe West Marin resident Tom Waits and his buddy, actor Bill Pullman, will stop in for some shellfish too. (They did when we were there.) Fancy yourself beyond the standard mollusk fan? Consider the Oyster Lover’s excursion from the locally based Food & Farm Tours ($195;, where owner and sustainable ag expert Alexandra Fox leads guests on a four-hour jaunt through regional oyster farms, venturing into restricted areas to see the filtration tanks and harvesting facilities, and then to different seafood shacks along the shore to sample their best half shells. The company’s new chartered Deep Dive boat tour, which is expected to launch in July, is for the oyster obsessed: Pull on your waders, because you and your friends will be harvesting your own mollusks at low tide, hauling them to a secluded beach for a picnic that also includes bread, meats, and cheeses made by West Marin food artisans. —Leilani Marie Labong

Walk under the shade of tall cypress trees at Lands End. (Photo by Will Elder/NPS)


The easygoing, 3.5-mile out-and-back trail at Lands End hugs San Francisco’s craggy coast, in full sight of the Golden Gate Bridge, the iconic landmark that beckons tourists to the famous bluff-top path and keeps locals coming back for their inspiring-vista fix. Here on the Western brim of the continent, the ocean breezes are a little gustier and the fog a little soupier, especially in summer, so prepare to bundle up as you mosey along the cliff edge, lined in wind-sculpted cypress trees. Pick up a warm drink to take with you on the hike at the American Institute of Architects Award-winning Lands End Lookout visitor center. From there, you can see the hauntingly atmospheric ruins of Sutro Baths—in its 1890s heyday, it was the world’s largest indoor swimming complex housed inside a beautiful glass atrium. The USS San Francisco Memorial, just a few minutes’ walk from the Lands End trailhead, gives you the first view of the bridge, so be sure to bring your selfie stick. Continuing on, Mile Rock is a steep spur that ultimately leads down to a rocky beach—if you get that far, that is: the mystical Eagle Point Labyrinth proves to be a more popular stop along the short tangent. And near the end of the main track, you can often get a bird’s-eye view of surfers braving the swell at Deadman’s, a hard-to-reach break that entices the city’s most die-hard shredders. But don’t peer too closely—just remember, the brink is closer than you think.

In July, the San Francisco Botanical Garden will transform into a lush outdoor concert hall. (Photo by Travis Lange)


For 12 days this summer, unchained melodies will waft on the fragrant breeze as the annual Flower Piano festival takes over the San Francisco Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park. From July 11-22, a dozen grand and upright pianos will dot the 55-acre landscape—some in intimate glades, some on sprawling lawns, some in pavilions. On weekends, they will be eclectically programmed with virtuosos playing everything from jazz to classical and pop, and between scheduled concerts (including all day on weekdays), the public is invited to channel their inner Rachmaninoff—in fact, many of the event’s featured performers were “discovered” by the organizers while playing impromptu. Watch the East Bay’s Awesöme Orchestra start with sheet music and build from rehearsal to performance in an afternoon, or catch the feverish action on the duo piano stage, or see local stars like composer Allison Lovejoy and avant-gardist Sarah Cahill tickle the ivories. And for a midsummer night’s dream, the music continues from 8-11 p.m. on the final weekend (visit for the full schedule). $9-$55. 1199 9th Ave. San Francisco. sfbg.orgHillary Louise Johnson


The historic Fort Baker Parade Ground in Sausalito, site of early 1900s military drills and marches, has been restored to a grassy, seaside recreation lawn for those who want to run their dogs, fly kites or kick around a soccer ball at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge. We prefer a lazier, grazier pursuit: a picnic with oh-so-Californian provisions from nearby Driver’s Market—think avocado-and-tahini brown rice bowls, white truffle potato chips and Russian River Brewing Company’s almost mythical double IPA, Pliny the Elder. You don’t need to be a guest at Cavallo Point Lodge (, the luxury resort that inhabits the National Park Service site’s heritage military structures, to descend upon the 10-acre green. However, the hotel’s popular Farley Bar is a great place to warm up when the shadows of the Marin Headlands grow long on the oval, fortuitously timed to the happy hour. Request a table on the covered porch and don’t forget to do as the Bay Area locals around you will be doing—raising a sunset toast to pinch-me moments like these. nps.govL.M.L.



If you’re a fan of @KarlTheFog, you can get up close and personal with him just about any day of the week by taking out a rowboat or pedal boat and plying the misty morning waters of the doughnut-shaped Stow Lake, which has been a recreational haven for San Franciscans since 1893. With charming elements like arched stone bridges and tumbling waterfalls, and even a century-old ghost locals know as the White Lady, this area in the middle of Golden Gate Park is best to visit early in the day to beat the afternoon crowds. You can rent a vessel from the Stow Lake Boathouse ($22.50-$38.50 per hour) and glide alongside the resident ducklings, turtles and koi on exceptionally calm waters, take a half-hour stroll around the lake or hike up the middle island known as Strawberry Hill to catch a view of Twin Peaks and feel the mist coming off of nearby Huntington Falls. After your morning adventure, head back to the boathouse cafe and sit back with an It’s-It ice cream sandwich or a Lagunitas pale ale. Stow Lake Boathouse. 50 Stow Lake Drive East. San Francisco. 415-386-2531. stowlakeboathouse.comTori Masucci Cummins

Go with the flows at Cataract Falls. (Photo by Justino Diaz)


Cataract Falls, located deep in the shady foothills of Marin County near Bolinas, thankfully isn’t one of those destinations where you have to swelter and slog for miles in order to reach a spectacular waterfall. The hike consists of a nearly continuous series of nine cascades that flow alongside the entire length of the 3.3-mile round-trip trail, which hops from bank to bank over picturesque hewn-log bridges. Along the way, you’re cooled by the mist and by the leafy canopy that covers virtually every step of the route. You’ll want to stop every few feet and snap a picture—and to pace yourself, as this perfectly groomed trail can be steep going, although the footing is sure, with many stone and wooden steps to navigate. Bring the dog and the kids, as you can dial in your level of exertion: the hike’s prettiest pool comes a mere mile in, although the shady grove of picnic tables at the end makes for a perfect lunch stop. Hearty adventurers can press on by connecting to Marin’s 500 miles of trails and making a loop through ever more varied terrain with glimpses of the Pacific and the Bay.