Bay Area (California)
Ringing the San Francisco Bay in northern California, the Bay Area is a home to 5 million people. Once the site of Spanish missions and Gold Rush prospectors, the Bay Area is best known now for its liberal politics and its high-tech industry.
Although it doesn't have any firm boundaries, the Bay Area is composed of several counties: Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Alameda, and Contra Costa. The southern parts of Sonoma and Napa counties are considered part of the Bay Area for this guide, since their culture and economies face towards the Bay.
Temperate in summer and mild in the winter, the Bay Area is an excellent place to visit year-round.
A small region of its own, the Bay Area still has distinct areas with their own attractions and cultures.
There are scores of cities that surround the Bay; these are some of the most famous.
The Bay Area is well served by a network of freeways. Highways 280 and 101 run up the Peninsula from the Silicon Valley to San Francisco, and 101 continues into Marin County across the Golden Gate Bridge. Highways 880 and 580 run the length of the East Bay, and Highway 24 runs out to Contra Costa County. 101 and 880, as well as most bridges, can be pretty heinous at commute times, however.
Bay Area Regional Transit (BART) is a nice regional train system that connects San Francisco to the East Bay and Contra Costa County, as well as parts of the Peninsula, the eastern half of Silicon Valley, and the San Francisco and Oakland airports. BART is also useful for getting around within SF and Oakland. Ticket prices vary by distance travelled, but usually run about $2-5 one way. Trains run about every 10-20 minutes starting around 6AM and closing just after midnight.
Caltrain is a commuter train system running from San Francisco, down the Peninsula, all the way to Gilroy. Ticket prices vary by the distance between stations, but usually run around $3-$6 one way. Trains run about once an hour, on average, with some more trains running during commute hours.
An exhaustive list of Bay Area public transportation agencies can be found at transitinfo.org.
The San Francisco Bay Area has a broad array of cuisines from various countries of Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Europe. While San Francisco probably has the widest variety of any of the Bay Area cities, locals will often tell you to go outside of San Francisco for the best of some cuisines, such as Fremont for Afghan or Indian, or Burlingame for Jewish. The area has also developed its own array of localized Chinese cuisines; this started in San Francisco and has expanded throughout the Bay Area in recent years.