Monday, July 28, 2008

The best events and activities to do in your city for under $5

Take a big city, combine with a lot of small cities bubbling with activity, add some year round good weather, throw in a couple of nice beaches for good measure, toss it all up with multi-cultural potpourri, stir-fry with a sizzling culinary scenario, the heady mix you get is what we know as San Francisco bay area. Listing just 10 activities in this region is going to be difficult (although the $5 limit does help). Here's what my list got down to:

Farmer's markets
Since bay area has a great climate, it is rich in produce and every town has its own brand of Farmer's Market. Santa Clara, Sunnyvale farmer's markets are small and very family friendly, especially in Santa Clara, on a Saturday you'll see a lot of kids playing around the fountain on Franklin Square, while their parents sample the delicacies and shop for produce.
Go there with some time on your hands as you won't want to leave the scene soon. Sample the spinach crepe from the Russian stall or taste the Samosa from Indian, or buy delicious organic produce.
If you just mean business, go to a rather big Mountain View Market. Adjacent to Mountain View light rail station, it has a lot of vendors coming to sell produce as well as baked goods. It doesn't have a lot of seating area around it, but it has a lot of variety in produce.

Flea market
San Jose's flea market is where you go when you want to shop but don't want to spend money (well ok, lot of money). For two bucks you could get a big pineapple, or for 5 bucks you can take home a spaghetti top. Located in Berryesa, San Jose. The flea market has maintained its own identity against all the malls that have popped up everywhere. I could buy some nice satin cloth for just 2$ a yard. Whatever you're interested in buying, just give flea market a try. You will keep coming back to it, if only for the eclectic atmosphere.

Bay area has miles and miles of trails for joggers and bikers. With the sunny Californian weather they're nice place to workout for free and have fun at the same time. Go along with bike strollers and pets in the tow. Some easy family trails around bay area are West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz, Point Reyes - Bear Valley Trai and Calaveras Big Trees South Grov . To learn more about the level of difficulty and uniqueness of these trails visit two heel drive, a comprehensive resource about the bay area trails.

Gay parade
An annual event at San Francisco, it is an spectacle in itself. You can share the glee and joy as hundreds of gay and lesbians express themselves in their very own parade.

Mystery spot and Redwood Forests
Located near Santa Cruz Redwood forests, mystery spot is a must see because this place doesn't follow the laws of gravity. 5$ would buy you a ticket to the tour where you would see amazing things happening that would happen when you take gravity out of the equation. Children below 3 get free admission here.

San Jose Tech Museum
San Jose Tech Museum offers hands on learning experience for students and some very good exhibits that would interest adults and children alike. The general admission ticket is 8$ per person but the museum offers a number of discounts to enable everyone to access its exhibits. For those who cannot afford this price on tickets they have open access policy where you can go and talk to the museum staff to get the fee waived. Besides this they also offer passes through San Jose and Santa Clara libraries, from the museum website it seems that they are hugely discounted, although the final price is not mentioned here. The best option for parents with school going kids is to have the school participate in the "Free field trips to tech museum" and volunteer as an adult chaperon.

Golden Gate bridge
A major landmark of San Francisco, this bridge is free to walk on for pedestrians and you will get yourself some really cool views of San Francisco skyline and Pacific ocean.

If going to a scenic place and doing nothing for the rest of the day relaxes you, you will feel at home in Sausalito. Located to the north of San Francisco, this sleepy town on the shore gives you fantastic views of Golden Gate Bridge. You could spend your day sipping coffee at the deck of a restaurant here, or sit near the fountain at the downtown and watch the hustle and bustle of the tourists.

Cherry picking, Brentwood
Brentwood is about 2 hours drive from San Francisco. The best time to visit Brentwood is May-June, when the cherry trees are laden with fresh, ripe, delicious cherries. Although Brentwood boasts a healthy produce of Peaches, Nectarines, Corn, Strawberries and many other fruits and vegetables, Cherries seem to be the most popular among the visitors. Bring along your straw hats and sunscreens and spend the day sampling fresh ripe Bing and Rainier cherries. You can eat all you want, although you'll make the farmers happy if you buy some too. At 2$ a pound, its difficult to leave Brentwood without your hand-picked cherries. This will also be a fun way of showing your little ones that fruits don't grow on grocery store shelves after all.

Open air movies
At courthouse square in redwood city every Thursday around 8:45 pm, Redwood City organizes "movie under the stars" movie showing. You have to just be there to experience the atmosphere, sharing your movie watching experience with hundreds of other viewers under the skies.
If you live near San Jose, you don't have to go all the way up to Redwood city, because Santana Row hosts Picnic, Popcorn & Picture Show every Wednesday during summers ( through sept 24). You'll have to bring your own popcorn though.

Santana Row
This high end mall may be selling stuff that's way beyond your frugal lifestyle, but if you can ignore those pricey items, there's a lot of activity going on at Santana Row that doesn't really cost you anything. Besides the snazzy ambiance and the glamor, Santana Row is bursting at it seams with frugal fun activities like Free Music, stand up comedy shows, culinary demonstrations.

Intel Museum
For the geeks this could be a really interesting journey through the history of Intel as well as Silicon Valley Admission is free here.

Maker Faire, San Mateo
Held annually in bay area, this fair offers an eclectic potpourri of various things made by human beings, and gives visitors a chance to witness the makers in action. The fair is free for children under 3 and youths can obtain a day pass for $5 by ordering their tickets early.

Santa Cruz beach and Half Moon bay
Take a leisurely walk along the sunny beaches of Santa Cruz or half moon bay. You could even witness para-sailing and para-gliding activities. Santa Cruz beach has a boardwalk which offers a number of fun-rides starting from 2.25$ each. Jump into the oncoming waves or take a joy-ride or two or both.

Pier 39, San Francisco
If the hustle-bustle of a city is more your kind and you enjoy the glitz and glamor of city, hang out at Pier 39 on San Francisco. Take a peek at the ever noisy Sea Lions or window shop or just sit and get soaked in the verve and energy around you.

17 mile drive
17 mile drive near Monterey Bay is famous for its beautiful views and scenic route. You need to pay $9 per car so its still way less than $5 per person. This buys you great views of the coast and nature's splendor with seals, deers and pelicans along the route.

Santa Clara county fair
Santa Clara county fair has recently waived its admission and parking fees and now its completely free! The fair boasts of live performers, pony rides, livestock auctions and animal judging among other activities. There's also interactive booths and petting zoo to get your little ones familiar with the animals.

Free activity with strings attached:
Bank Of America offers this freebie almost every year, its called Museums on Us. If you're a bank of America customer (i.e. have a credit or check card), you can go to the featured museums on certain days and get a free admission. San Jose Tech Museum and San Jose Museum of Art and many museums in San Francisco offer free admissions on certain weekends. With the big client base of Bank of America, I figure that a lot of people would qualify for this promotion.

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