So you've finally made it to the west coast, and either before or after ALA you have a day or so to spare. Lucky for you, there are lots of things to do within an easy day's drive of the Bay Area!
1. Avenue of the Giants. You've heard of the giant redwood trees that grow in California, but you haven't really seen them until you've driven this fifteen-mile stretch of old highway that goes through the redwood forests. You will see tall trees, old trees, wide trees, trees that by themselves have been made into cabins, trees you can drive through. There are many places to pull off the road and just walk in the forest among trees that are hundreds of feet tall and very, very old.
2. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Big Sur is at the lower end of the range of redwood forest, and the drive down to the park is absolutely breathtaking. The park itself boasts numerous hiking trails and is located very near the beach with purple sand. It's definitely worth visiting.
3. Gilroy. The town of Gilroy is the garlic capital of the world, but it is also home to a very large outlet mall as well as numerous roadside fruit stands. It's worth a drive to Gilroy just to stop at a fruit stand and eat fresh-picked strawberries or try chocolate garlic ice cream.
4. Jelly Belly Factory. I would be remiss if I did not mention the Jelly Belly Factory. There is a free tour available where you can learn about the process of making jelly beans, and there's also a sample bar where you can try any flavor of jelly bean that Jelly Belly produces.
5. Hillmar Cheese Company. The Hillmar Cheese company offers a tour and also cheese tasting at their factory, and they are located in a beautiful area surrounded by farms.
6. Cavern Tours. If you like caves, this is a great place to visit. It's far enough from the Bay Area that you will feel like you are in your own world and you'll get to commune with nature in a nice, cool cave.
7. Eureka. Eureka is a beautiful small town in Northern California which plays host to the Kinetic Sculpture Races every year. The races have already passed this year, but the town still has lots of cute shops and a beautiful waterfront.
8. Ghirardelli Factory. If you can't get enough chocolate, visit the Ghirardelli Factory in San Leandro. There is a small outlet store attached to the factory where you can purchase Ghirardelli chocolate at extremely low cost. This is a great opportunity to stock up on gifts.