Guide: Planning your tour of the Bay Area's Green Day history
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You've seen the photos, you've heard the songs, maybe you've watched Turn It Around – now you want to go to the Bay Area and see it all for yourself. And you should. Green Day's roots are everywhere. It's a must for anyone wanting to immerse themselves in the band's history.
I’ve heard from fans who think it’s impossible because they’re too poor, they can’t drive, they can’t get time off, or planning such a huge trip is just too confusing and intimidating. That’s where this guide comes in! We’ll cover the cheapest flights, the Bay Area’s excellent public transport system, how long to stay, how much money you’ll need and more. Now let’s get you to the Bay Area!
Flights to California aren't as expensive as they used to be. From Europe, you can now fly to San Francisco with Norwegian for as little as £240 (€285) return.
There are three major airports: San Francisco (SFO), Oakland (OAK) and San Jose (SJC). The closest out-of-town airports are Los Angeles (LAX), Las Vegas (LAS) and Seattle (SEA). From those you can drive or take a Megabus, Flixbus or Greyhound.
Wherever you are in the world, there are search engines to help you find the best deals:
If you have no specific dates in mind, try Skyscanner’s ‘cheapest month’ and 'whole month' options.
In countries with multiple major airports, try searching by country instead of city.
Another way to find bargains is to sign up or search for alerts on airline sales and error fares:
It might be a long wait until you find a deal to the Bay Area.
If you find a great deal outside of your city, consider taking a bus, train or another cheap flight (like Ryanair if you're in Europe, or Spirit in the US) to connect. Just make sure you have travel insurance in case anything goes wrong!
When to visit
There’s no especially bad time to visit Oakland in terms of weather and crowds. It’s not a tourist hotspot like San Francisco, so you won’t have to share the sights. Consider:
Flight and accommodation prices
Day length, especially if you’re using public transport
Combining your visit with a Green Day or side project show
Flights and accommodation prices go up during the summer and school holidays.
Summer is obviously warmer with longer days, so that’s ideal if you’re using public transport. However, you might find it uncomfortably hot if you hate the heat as much as I do and your flights will probably cost more. If you do want to visit San Francisco (the Golden Gate Bridge is definitely worth seeing), summer is always more crowded.
Combining your visit with a Green Day or side project show makes for an especially amazing trip. The cheapest option is to plan your trip around a tour date announced months in advance. If you want to plan it around a last-minute club show, it’ll be more expensive. The best thing to do in that case is to have a Green Day fund ready for the next announcement. I have my main bank account, one for my car and a basic savings account for trips, which I've found really helpful.
Where to stay
Oakland and Berkeley are your ideal bases. Even if you want to spend a while in San Francisco, everything – accommodation, public transport, food – is cheaper in Oakland and it’s easy to take the BART. As long as you're near a bus stop or BART station, it doesn't really matter where in Oakland or Berkeley you stay.
For solo travellers on a tight budget, try Couchsurfing. You may be able to stay with a local for free in exchange for sharing a bit of your own culture with them.
Airbnb is usually the cheapest option. If you’re new to Airbnb, use this link to get £34 off your first stay.
For hotels and motels, there are plenty of search engines:
Ryanair Rooms (just a search engine, not a Ryanair experience)
I’ve stayed at the Bay Bridge Inn (MacArthur), Civic Center Motel (Lake Merritt) and House of Curries (Berkeley, Airbnb). They were all fine.
Getting around: Do I need a car?
Unless you want to see absolutely everything within a week or less, not at all! Everything is accessible by public transport, except Christie Road which can be reached by Uber for around $30 return from Oakland, or $23 return from Hercules or Rodeo. Buses are clean, safe and most drivers are friendly.
Day passes on AC Transit, the bus company serving Oakland, are $5.50 or $5 with a Clipper Card. On WestCAT, which will take you to Pinole, Rodeo and Crockett, day passes are $5. The final bus company you’ll need to consider is SolTrans, to get to Vallejo, Benicia and Concord. Their day passes are $4.50 - $5.50. Bus drivers do not carry change.
The BART from Oakland to San Francisco costs a maximum of $5. Once you’re there, single rides on Muni buses are $2.50 with a Clipper Card, or $3 without one. Single rides on cable cars are $8. Day passes can only be purchased on the MuniMobile app and cost $5. A Visitor Passport, which allows unlimited bus and cable car rides, is also an option starting at $13.
The main downside of public transport is that it’s much slower. It can take over two hours to get from Oakland to Rodeo or Vallejo, so to see everything you’ll need to stay longer. If you have time, however, spending more time forces you to truly take in each landmark and can be an interesting insight into local life.
How long to stay
You don’t need to stay a long time to have an amazing trip. The main landmarks can be seen in three days, even on public transport. So first of all, have a look at my list of the Bay Area's Green Day landmarks and decide how much of it you want to see. You'll also need to consider:
Whether you’ll ever make another trip
Car or public transport
Non-Green Day things you want to see
If you're driving, 10 days would give you time to relax, but you could cram everything in within a week.
On public transport, you need at least 10 days to see absolutely everything, but consider how much time you're willing to spend on buses. I'm used to it because I live in a remote village and learned to drive later in life, but if that's not you, cramming it all in to 10 days could feel very intense. 14-20 days is ideal. Depending on your schedule it may be better to make two separate trips or to skip some of the more obscure landmarks.
How much money should I take?
Not going to lie, California is expensive. Don't panic! There are options. These rough estimates cover one person's food and transport. They don't include the costs of accommodation, car rental, booze or coffee. If you're renting a car, you can ignore the costs of public transport.
Extremely tight budget: $16.50 per day
AC Transit Day Pass: $5
Optional, one-time extras: $10 to visit San Francisco, $5 for a WestCAT or SolTrans day pass, $23 - $30 for an Uber to Christie Road, $10 for souvenirs
To get the most out of this option, book accommodation with a microwave and take some cutlery with you. Your first stop will need to be a supermarket like Target, Trader Joe's, FoodMaxx or Walmart (click for directions), where you can stock up on $3 ready meals and big bags of snacks.
This is what I usually do and I've always really enjoyed it. The ready meals are alright. If I find myself with leftover cash, I buy something like a shirt at 1-2-3-4 GO! Records or a 'proper' meal at Rudy's (Mike's café) or Homeroom.
If you can't find a place to stay with a microwave or even ready meals are too expensive, making sandwiches and existing on snacks or plain bread are options. I've done all of those things before and still enjoyed those trips too, although you might want to take some Imodium if your digestive system is anything like mine!
Low budget: $30 per day
AC Transit Day Pass: $5
Optional, one-time extras: $20 to visit San Francisco, $5 for a WestCAT or SolTrans day pass, $23 - $30 for an Uber to Christie Road, $20 for souvenirs
This one assumes you eat store-bought stuff for breakfast and dinner, but eat lunch at a place like McDonald's or The Halal Guys. There's an extra $10 for souvenirs and another $10 to explore San Francisco.
Medium budget: $85 per day
Optional, one-time extras: $50 to visit San Francisco, $5 for a WestCAT or SolTrans day pass, $23 - $30 for an Uber to Christie Road, $50 for souvenirs
The $15 for transport here assumes you'll take an Uber from time to time. $15 for breakfast assumes breakfast in a café, whilst $20 for lunch and $30 for dinner should cover meals in a decent restaurant or café. There's an extra $30 for additional activities in San Francisco and another $30 for souvenirs like shirts or records.
For a high budget: $190 per day
Optional, one-time extras: $100 to visit San Francisco, $100 for your taxis north of Oakland, $23 - $30 for an Uber to Christie Road, $300 for souvenirs
$50 should cover travelling exclusively by taxi (although you might as well just rent a car if you can). Meals at good restaurants will start in the $30 - $50 price range. Snacks are snacks, so I've just doubled the medium estimate for them, assuming you might want something a bit more fancy like fruit or kale chips. With $100 to explore San Francisco, you should be able to do plenty of things beyond the Green Day sights. One of the most expensive souvenirs I've heard of fans buying is the Dookie guitar pedal from Broken Guitars, which was around $250 in 2019, so your $300 for souvenirs will cover something like that and extras like shirts or a hoodie.
I haven't included coffee or alcohol in any of these estimates since I don't drink either so can't give recommendations. You're better off looking up bars and cafés around your accommodation or the sights than taking recommendations from someone like me! Google Maps is your friend.
Is Oakland safe?
I’ve been asked this, even by crusty punks, more than any other question. The answer is that yes, Oakland is statistically one of the most dangerous cities in the US. Opinions vary on quite how high it ranks. On Safewise, it's #10, whilst on EscapeHere it's #16, but then on NeighbourhoodScout's 2020 list it comes in at #30, behind more popular cities like Memphis, Anchorage and Albuquerque.
My experience is that as female tourists, my mum and I have never felt threatened in Oakland. In general, I feel less anxious than I do walking from work to the bus station in England at night. I've also been physically attacked at Green Day shows in other American cities and in England but never in the Bay Area. That isn’t to say your safety is guaranteed, but crime isn’t guaranteed, either.
For a resident’s point of view, here’s what a friend who’s lived in the East Bay all their life has to say: ‘Don’t do drugs, don’t get too drunk, take extra care in West Oakland and head back before dark. Lock your car. Don’t flash money around and don’t wear obnoxious jewelry. Be mindful that many people in Oakland are poor and can’t afford mental healthcare. Not everyone who seems like a weirdo means harm. If someone’s bothering you, don’t engage. Just keep walking. If it's on public transport, tell the driver. Buy a cat keyring or walk with your keys between your fingers if you're worried. The East Bay might be dangerous, but it’s also filled with wonderful people who’ll help and look out for you.’
Hopefully you've now got an idea of how you might get to the Bay Area and how long you want to stay. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to comment or email me. I'll be writing up some example itineraries next, so keep an eye out for those. I'm also happy to put together a personalised itinerary for you in return for a charity donation, so let me know if this is something you're interested in. Safe travels!