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Best of The Bay: Recreation

Our attempt to compartmentalize the best new wild spaces, parks, spas, parties and more. Here is the best...

Wilderness Training In Our Own Backyard

“People go all the way to Africa for excursions they can actually do right here,” says Chris Van Loan, whose Bay Area Expeditions is designed to make good on that claim. After kicking into full gear in 2010, Van Loan decided to bring some trailblazer know-how to the city by off ering a backpacking cooking class in Golden Gate Park. Other courses around the Bay Area have city slickers building friction fires, transforming tree bark fiber into fishing nets, and heading to Healdsburg to butcher and cook a whole pig, while two-day excursions let the brave test their survival skills in the Big Sur wilderness. 415-496-6698, bayareaexpeditions.com — Jenna A. Scatena

 

Adrenaline-friendly Camera

The next time you ride the half-pipes at Squaw or hit the breaks at Mavericks, you can come back with proof, thanks to GoPro HD Hero, a high-quality waterproof digital video camera that can be strapped to your body, helmet, handlebars, surfboard, or hang glider. The idea came to Half Moon Bay’s nick Woodman on an Australia surf trip: Why shouldn’t all adventurers be able to shoot Warren Miller–worthy footage of their quest for a thrill? Starting at $200, 888-600-4659, Gopro.Com —E.B. Boyd

 

Multi-culti Detoxing Station

Its location right on the water in Hunters Point is only the first unlikely but wonderful thing about the new, international Archimedes Banya spa. It’s open until 2 a.m. on weekends, and it houses a rooftop lounge with a view of the city skyline, a bar, and a café serving Eastern European delicacies (post-massage piroshki, anyone?). a $30 pass gives you access to the saunas, steam room, and cold plunge, plus a spine-tingling Turkish hammam soap scrub. For another $30, you can get thrashed with eucalyptus leaves in a classic Russian platza treatment. Trust us: It feels good. 748 Innes Ave., 415-206-9000, Banyasf.com —Nan Wiener

 

Daredevil Playground

Dolores Park’s new Helen Diller Playground makes certain parents nervous—as sure a mark of its awesomeness as the crowds that have swarmed it since opening day in April. Testing kids’ gravity-defying mettle and helicopter parents’ susceptibility to queasiness, this is a playground that urges kids to fl ail, fall, dust themselves off, and go back for more. The landing pad at the bottom of the extra-wide, extra-slippery slide is the scene of more carnage than an Insane Clown Posse concert. And the only sounds louder than kids’ squeals of delight are those of kids’ elbows thwacking other kids’ skulls as everyone scrambles to the top of a 40-foot-high, boulder-strewn mini-mountain. Bring ice packs and Band-Aids, parents, and turn your worried heads to the skyline. Dolores St. at 19th St., 415-831-2700, SFrecpark.org —Jon Steinberg

 

Open Spaces Where The Wild Things Are

Good news for avid Bay area hikers who think they’ve exhausted all the local trails: For the first time in more than 50 years, you now have access to the 12-acre swath of the Interior Greenbelt Park on Mount Sutro. You can also scale the mountain via a newly restored trail that passes a creek bed and several varieties of rare native flora. For those looking for something a little wilder, Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve in Santa Clara County offers over six new miles primed for trekking along the Bay area Ridge Trail. Turkeys, bobcats, and rare butterflies— plus 360-degree views of rolling green hills—will make it hard to believe you’re just a few miles from downtown San Jose. Stanyan St. At 17th St., 415-831-2700, SFrecpark.org; 408-224-7476, Openspaceauthority.org—G.S.

 

Next Best Thing To Rebuilding The Sutro Baths

For generations of San Franciscans, the Sutro Baths was a weekend of fun; for us it’s been rubble with an ocean view. But now, EHDD architects has designed a stunning new visitors center with floor-to-ceiling windows that rises out of the rugged landscape on the bluffs above the baths, offering an un - spoiled view of the area. The Lands End Lookout houses exhibitions on the Ohlones, Playland, and the age-old mystery of why the Sutro Baths burned to the ground in 1966. 680 Point Lobos Ave., 415-426-5240, Parksconservancy.org —Joanne Furio

 

Best in theory: The no-work workout

It’s hard not to be seduced by Zaaz fitness studio’s bold claim about its dazzling gyration machine. Relying on something called Whole Body Vibration technology (not unlike that rubber band thingie that jiggled your grandma’s waistline), the company promises that 10 minutes on one of its machines is equal to one hour of fat-burning and muscle-building exercise. But ask yourself: Did it work for Grandma? 599 Bridgeway, Sausalito, 415-887-9370 —A.T.

 

READERS’ POLL: THE CLASSICS

Gym - Crunch

Spa - Nob Hill Spa

Place To Volunteer - Salvation Army

City Park - Golden Gate Park

Dog Park - Dolores Park

Playground - Golden Gate Park

Local Trail/hike - Lands End