Oakland Zoo was first established in 1922, but it didn’t find its permanent home until 1939, when it was thoughtfully constructed amid the rolling hills of Knowland Park. Today, Oakland Zoo is home to more than 660 animals, who thrive in biomes designed to mimic their natural environments.
The sprawling African savannah is one of the zoo’s largest habitats, housing hyenas, zebras, elephants, and giraffes. The centerpiece is a 1.5-acre lion exhibit called Simba Pori, which translates to lion county in Swahili. Inside, a pride of lions freely roam an enclosure outfitted with kopje rock structures, a pond, and a booth where the king can sign autographs.
Over in the rainforest habitat, chimpanzees and white-handed gibbons swing through the treetops. Emus and wallaroos—a cousin of the wallaby and the kangaroo—roam freely in the Wild Australia exhibit, accessible via one of the zoo’s rides, Outback Express Adventure Train. Other rides include the Endangered Species Carousel and Sky Ride, a chairlift that soars above the habitats and offers Bay Area skyline views.
When the San Francisco Giants won the World Series in October 2012, they did it with the unlikeliest of good luck charms: a baby françois’ langur. The tiny monkey had been born at the San Francisco Zoo, and its arrival coincided with a winning streak for the Giants. In honor of this serendipitous connection, the zoo named the orange-headed monkey Romo, after the relief pitcher who clinched the World Series championship. Today, guests to the San Francisco Zoo can visit Romo and several of her monkey buddies at the Doelger Primate Discovery Center, which is just one of dozens of meticulously crafted animal exhibits.
Amid verdant city parks and overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the zoo has been a part of the San Francisco community since it opened in 1929. Nearly 700 species of animals crawl, swim, and fly over its nearly 100 acres. Visitors traversing the space can explore elaborate exhibits and attempt to telepathically communicate with anything from birds and reptiles to invertebrates and mammals, including hippos, polar bears, and big cats.
One of the zoo’s most impressive habitats is the 3-acre African Savanna, which recreates a sprawling natural environment for free-roaming giraffes, zebras, kudu, and ostriches. Nearby, lemurs swing and leap through the treetops inside one of the country’s largest outdoor lemur habitats. In the Hearst Grizzly Gulch, panes of transparent plexiglas separate visitors from enormous Montana-born grizzly bear sisters Kachina and Kiona.
Winchester Mystery House is an imposing Victorian mansion built by Winchester Rifle heiress Sarah Winchester. The house's floor plan is a study in eccentricity, boasting details including twisting hallways, secret passages, and stairways that lead nowhere. Sarah Winchester built her profoundly odd home in an effort to drive away bad spirits, including that of her late husband, whom she believed cursed her upon his death. While Sarah compulsively remodeled the house until her death in 1922, historians estimate there must have been between 500 and 600 rooms built in total. Due to the extensive remodeling and the ravages of time, only 160 rooms remain—though, by any standard, the house remains a sprawling homage to Sarah Winchester's tormented mind.
Today, visitors make their pilgrimage to the house to witness in person all its peculiar glory. The home is lovingly restored and now plays host to a number of fun, bone-chilling excursions each day. Thrill seekers can stalk through the halls by flashlight during guided tours that divulge the sordid details of Sarah Winchester's nightly séances. History buffs can explore rooms dedicated to period furniture, antique trinkets, and vintage firearms found in the home. A gift shop and café onsite give guests the opportunity to purchase souvenirs, some more edible than others.
Allison Gonzalez spent two decades as a ballerina, and more than half of that time using Pilates as a cross-training method. Eventually, Allison earned her instructor certification and began teaching Pilates professionally, utilizing her dancer's grace on Pilates mats and reformers. Nowadays, she helms a studio--Purely Pilates--that stays true to Joseph Pilates' original vision.
Joe, who was a boxer and gymnast, developed his exercise regime in the 1920s with the goal of strengthening the body's "powerhouse"--which includes the abs, lower back and butt, but not the coal furnace at the back of our skulls. His roster of more than 500 exercises, plus his five signature pieces of resistance equipment, continue to influence Purely Pilates' intimate classes today--regardless of which fully-certified instructor leads them and if they are group-style or private lessons.
What started as a creative way to pay a debt led to the founding of Lemos Farm. Owner Bob Lemos' grandfather was repaid with a cow, so he bought land for the cow and her new calf in 1942, and over the years, the property morphed into a dairy farm, an alien robot, back into a dairy farm, and then a space for horses. Eventually Bob and his father, Arnold, peppered the land with Christmas trees, pumpkins, pony rides, and haunted houses, beckoning families to the sprawling grounds.
Visitors escape urban drudgery and revel in the decidedly country ambience, whether aboard hayrides or visiting the petting zoo for an introductory course in farm-animal massage therapy. During the holiday season, families wander the aromatic rows of the Christmas tree farm, where Douglas fir, incense cedar, and other pines await.
More than 50 years ago, Italian-born Enrico Pastorino and his wife, Lorraine, established Pastorino Farms in the Half Moon Bay region. The farm first operated as a wholesale flower nursery, but it later expanded to include a seasonal pumpkin patch, petting zoo, and gift barn. Today, Enrico and Lorraine’s son Hank—along with the third generation of Pastorinos—maintains the family farm, which still sells plants and flowers year-round. Each October, the farm transforms into a harvest wonderland, replete with a pumpkin patch, hayrides, face painting, and scarecrows modeling the season’s hottest overalls.