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Warm Up Your Winter at Our Staff's Favorite Hideaways

coffee and fireplace

Winter in Northern California means cool, bright days and crisp, chilly evenings. It also means always having a great excuse to duck into someplace cozy for a pick-me-up. From fire-lit bars, to brick-oven-warmed bakeries, to restaurants chock-full of cozy ambiance, we asked the staff at our seven Norcal hostels for their favorite local spots to warm up. Read on for their picks, and get ready to settle in for the winter.

Minimal time, maximum impact: drop-in volunteer programs in our national parks

Fort Mason Community Garden

There are a number of things I find myself feeling grateful for this morning: my body's unprecedented cooperation with actually getting out of bed when the alarm went off, despite the heavy darkness outside my bedroom window; the clear passage to the counter at my favorite coffee shop, free from its usual crowds in the still-fuzzy first light of day; and the perfectly timed arrival of the 49 bus, which takes me from the Mission, the San Francisco neighborhood I call home, to Fort Mason, the little national pa

Witness the gray whale migration in Northern California

Gray whale fluke

Every winter and spring, approximately 18,000 Pacific gray whales embark on an annual migration from their summer feeding grounds in the Arctic Bering and Chukchi Seas to warm birthing lagoons off the coast of Baja California. During the epic 10,000+ mile round-trip journey -- one of the longest in the animal kingdom -- gray whales hug the coastline, offering a rare opportunity for land-dwellers to catch a glimpse of these enigmatic creatures.

Hiking SF Bay Area National Parks

point reyes lighthouse

It’s summer in the San Francisco Bay Area! OK, not really. But it sure feels like it these days. The famously foggy City by the Bay and its surrounding areas can get downright chilly during the real summer months. But many of our late-autumn and early-winter days bring the kind of sunshine and clear skies that just make you want to get outdoors. Luckily, the Bay Area has thousands of acres of National Parks to help you do just that.

Walk Among Giants: 7 places to see the majestic California redwoods

redwoods

There are giants in California. They jut out of soil dampened by fog rolling in from the Pacific and reach greater heights than any other living thing on the planet. They are the coast redwoods: the world’s tallest trees. Many of them grow to be over 200 feet tall and the tallest soar to over 350 feet -- higher than a 30 story skyscraper.

"Sleep For Peace" at HI-USA hostels on September 21

Sleep For Peace poster

On September 21, 2013, individuals and organizations from around the world will participate in the annual International Day of Peace through celebrations, ceremonies, a global Peace Wave, and much more. Established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1982, the International Day of Peace -- also known as Peace Day -- serves as a time of collaborative focus on worldwide peace, and encouragement for all of humanity to work in cooperation towards this goal. 

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