There’s really no better place to celebrate your birthday than the Bay Area. Our region offers all the urban attractions of San Francisco, the quirkiness of Oakland and Berkeley, peaceful getaways in Marin County and the Peninsula, and epic excursions to California’s wine country.
So, if you’re looking for something outside of traditional restaurants and bars, you’re in the right place. We rounded up a handful of the most fun and interesting options in San Francisco, the East Bay and other nearby communities. There are enough experiences here for your next 15 birthdays!
This haunting and historic tour begins by ferry with a guided tour around Alcatraz Island while the guide points out hidden spots used for attempted escapes and prison structures that are unreachable by foot. Once docked, you’ll see highlights of the exterior and explore the Cellhouse—including solitary confinement cells, stories from real prisoners and tales of attempted breakouts. Buy your tickets online!
On Friday and Saturday nights, The Hot Boxxx Girls take the stage at Aunt Charlie’s Lounge for one of the best drag shows in the city. And the cover is just $5 per person! A fun destination for anyone and everyone, you’ll find riotous entertainment, danceable songs, a diverse group of performers and stiff cocktails.
Avital is a food tour company like no other. Built by locals for locals, their San Francisco tours take guests into the kitchens to spend time chatting with chefs, owners and culinary experts while they create unique food and alcohol pairings. And along the way, you’ll also learn about the neighborhood you’re exploring! Each map begins with an introduction to the neighborhood’s culinary history and continues with an appetizer, an iconic landmark, another appetizer, a neighborhood story, the entree and then dessert. Options include a Mission District food tour, a North Beach food tour and a Union Square cocktail tour. You can learn more here.
Photo courtesy of Anna Marks via Hog Island Oyster Co.
In the city, you can get a taste for Hog Island Oyster Co.’s famous, locally farmed oysters inside their Embarcadero restaurant. But if you want an even more special experience, we recommend making the trip to the Hog Island Oyster Farm in Marshall. There, you’ll find The Boat Oyster Bar, a reservation-only outdoor cafe where you can spend an hour and a half enjoying shucked and grilled oysters right beside the bay where they were grown. Additionally, the team offers a selection of local cheese, charcuterie, wine, beer and house-made seasonal fare.
Other experiences at the Hog Island Oyster Farm include shuck-your-own picnics, shellfish to go and farm tours. You can get more information on all three here. And, for even more amazing fare, you can head to Tony’s Seafood, a new eatery in Marshall which is also brought to us by the Hog Island Oyster Co. team.
Photo courtesy of The Cheese School
The only independent institution of its kind in the nation, The Cheese School in Ghirardelli Square focuses on everything cheese, from the classes to the cafe. Their educational tasting events come in options suitable for every skill level whether you’re a novice or an old pro. For example, cheese and cider pairings, pizza making classes and mozzarella making classes could be suitable for beginners while the three-day intensive cheese education program would be more suitable for cheesemongers, chefs, caterers and other food professionals. For more information on booking private classes, click here.
This funky roller rink is set inside an old church and offers public skate hours for both kids and adults. For just $10 to enter and $5 to rent skates, you’re invited to adult only hours every Friday and Saturday night! These include live DJ sets that mix old school funk and disco with modern jams. Need to practice before your big day? Church of 8 Wheels offers lessons every Saturday!
Headquartered in San Francisco’s Mission District, Dandelion Chocolate is a bean-to-bar chocolate factory. In the factory, the team roasts, cracks, sorts, winnows, grinds and tempers small batches of beans then molds and packages each bar by hand. And you can see it all because the factory and café is open to the public seven days a week! Special experiences include tours, classes, special events, private events and even trips to cacao farms across the globe.
General tours cost just $5 per person and offer an introductory look into bean-to-bar chocolate making. You can get more information here.
Oakland’s Diving Dog Brewhouse is both a great brewery to visit and one of the only places you can brew your own beer with the guidance of professional brewers. The team’s Brew on Premises program invites guests to brew with Diving Dog recipes, ingredients and instruction, then return a couple weeks later to bottle your beer with your own customized label. For more details, click here.
Photo courtesy of House of Air
House of Air opened its first facility in 2010 in San Francisco and today they have four locations (with one in Poland!). Their original location here in the city boasts open trampoline jump time, aerial and physical training on trampolines, trampoline dodgeball, a trampoline basketball dunk zone, rock climbing, dedicated kid play zones, ninja obstacle courses and fitness classes.
Incredible Adventures is an outdoor travel company that specializes in small group tours both in San Francisco and embarking from the city. Available adventures include food tours through San Francisco neighborhoods, Alcatraz tours and cruises, inside looks at Silicon Valley, trips to Yosemite, Muir Woods and Napa, and even whitewater rafting excursions. In addition to these otherworldly expeditions, Incredible Adventures promotes green business practices and sustainability so they travel using eco-friendly renewable alternative biofuels!
A boutique bowling alley is always a good idea for a birthday celebration, but combining that with award-winning food, craft beer and specialty cocktails is an even better idea. The space offers six regulation bowling lanes with automatic scoring as well as leather sofas and a lounge vibe for fun between games. You can make dining and bowling reservations on the website.
Photo courtesy of Museum of Ice Cream
What began as a touring, interactive pop-up experience in Manhattan has turned into a permanent museum right here in San Francisco. The bright, Instagram-worthy exhibits are set up as a maze of rooms containing things like a cookie carousel, a unicorn and a swimming pool of rainbow sprinkles. And along the way, you’ll get multiple tastings of ice cream!
Tickets are $38 for groups of 10 or more or $29 per person, but kids 2 years and under are admitted for free. You can get yours here.
SPiN | San Francisco
Photo courtesy of SPiN
This now international business began humbly in New York and quickly exploded in popularity. The team now has venues in Chicago, San Francisco, Toronto, Philadelphia, Seattle and Austin. The reason SPIN is so popular is simple; they’ve combined an upscale bar experience with ping pong. At the San Francisco location, vintage decor, gourmet eats, artisan cocktails and world-class ping-pong combine to create a truly one-of-a-kind venue with two play areas, three separated courts, the main bar and a full kitchen.
St. George Spirits was founded in 1982 and has grown into a 65,000-square-foot hangar complete with a tasting room, laboratory and a lineup of stunning copper stills. In those stills, they make gins, vodkas, absinthe, single malt and whiskey, brandies, liqueurs and more. To celebrate your birthday, we recommend scheduling a guided tasting or a distillery tour. Both are available for $20 or less per person and can be booked online here.
Wild SF Walking Tours offers some of the city’s best and most interesting experiences—including the Street Art Tour through the Mission, the Haunted San Francisco Ghost Tour, the Food Crawl through Chinatown and North Beach, the Free Love Tour through Haight-Ashbury, Radical SF in The Castro and Mission, and even a free tour offered everyday at 10 a.m.
If you have a favorite birthday experience in San Francisco, tell us about it in the comments below.