By now you’ve heard Dana and Brennan give you their top five(ish) places to spend time around here. And they’re both wonderful people, but I know you’ve been craving another perspective: My perspective. So without further ado, here are my five favorite places around PUC.
1. Napa Riverfront
I’m a free spirit. I like to have options when it comes to my spare time. So when I heard about a place where I could find authentic gelato, mouthwatering tri tip, stage plays in the park, and an opera house within walking distance of each other, I was sold. Even if you’re broke, Napa’s Riverfront is a beautiful place to walk around, whether you’re down by the river or on the lawns by the courthouse. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the mood for grub, culture, or a simple afternoon at the park; the riverfront is the place to be. Feed the geese at your own peril.
2. San Francisco
I may have been born in Los Angeles, and Southern California will always be the best. But I have to admit that San Francisco is a great place to visit. (Please don’t tell my family.) If you’re a diehard chocolate fan, Ghirardelli Square deserves a pilgrimage. From there, you can walk down to Pier 39 to get food, play some arcade games, and see a bunch of harbor seals tanning on the docks. If I’m itching for a day at the museum, the Exploratorium and the Academy of the Sciences are a blast. And there’s always the Warfield Theater if you’re in the mood to catch a show. In short, San Francisco has something for everyone, and it’s right in our backyard. Catch the BART train into Union Station if you don’t want to hassle with traffic or parking.
3. Albion Retreat and Learning Center
PUC owns a marine research facility up near the Mendocino coast, with cabins lined up along the river. Students are welcome to reserve cabins or camping spots for a weekend. “But Jordan,” you say, “I have virtually no knowledge of tide pools or marine ecosystems. What will I do at a research field station?” Fear not! The Albion Retreat and Learning Center is open to all, even if you can’t tell a turtle from a tortoise. You can take a kayak up the river and see all kinds of wildlife along the way. Downtown Mendocino is a short drive up the road, with dozens of old shops to duck into. The bookstore and the toy shop are mandatory stops for me whenever I’m in town. Or you can just pick a spot on the beach and enjoy the rugged beauty of the Northern California coast. Albion is a bit of a commute at about two and a half hours away from campus, but even the drive is spectacular, since it takes you through the Redwoods and along the cliffs by the sea. If you can spare a weekend, I highly recommend a trip up to our little field station.
4. Himalayan Sherpa Kitchen
I was skeptical when I visited this newer restaurant on Main Street St. Helena, mostly because I fear the unknown and am uncomfortable with change. I’d always thought the Himalayas were a place where people went to get frostbite and have a hard time breathing, not a destination for fine dining but my cultural ignorance was crushed by a stack of buttered naan. I may not be able to pronounce all the dishes I like, but I have yet to be disappointed. It’s an authentic Himalayan experience without the expensive air fare and risk of death from exposure.
5. Cameo Cinema
The Cameo Cinema is tucked between the storefronts of Main Street, Saint Helena. It’s easy to miss in passing but I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve spent the afternoon at this 140-seat movie theater. They play all the hits, and they also show a lot of cool movies you might not see at the franchised theaters. There was one week during my senior year when we saw The Avengers, and then followed it up with an award-winning independent film the next day. After all the years I’ve been up here, the Cameo is still my go-to place to catch a movie.
There’s more stuff do around here than you could ever hope to accomplish in four years, but these are the five places I keep coming back to above all the others. I’m sure you’ll develop your own list of favorite places after visiting PUC and the beautiful Napa Valley.