IMMERSE YOURSELF IN EGGHEAD
Holy smarty-pants, Batman, there's a ton of intellectually stimulating stuff going down at the Mechanics' Institute. Any given day you might enjoy a screwball comedy from the 1940s, a talk by a famous fantasist-cartographer, a book club discussion centering on the Harlem Renaissance, a class in beginner Excel, or intensive chess instruction at any level. It's also a library! The 1854 Mechanics' Institute building is a mind-blow in itself — but with a wide-ranging and welcoming program of creatively exhilarating (and very inexpensive) events, you may not even notice your intriguing surroundings.
57 Post. # 415, SF. (415) 393-0110, www.milibrary.org
STROKE SOME FUR
Next time you're about to calculate your checkbook in your head or cry because your (ex-)drummer stole your boyfriend, head over to the Little Farm petting zoo in Berkeley's Tilden Regional Park. This fully-loaded snuggle gang of cows, goats, rabbits, chickens, and pigs will have you back to your cute self — because petting zoos are restorative for small, whiny children, but they also work for midsized, whiny adults.
Little Farm petting zoo, Tilden Regional Park, Central Park Drive, Berk. (510) 525-2233, www.ebparks.org
If you want to change your outlook, pay a visit to the Peace Pagoda in Japan Center, an underrated San Francisco landmark. Designed by artist and architect Yoshiro Taniguchi, the pagoda and its subtly Op Art-tinged interpretation of a Buddhist stupa made their debut in the year of the Summer of Love. Walk around and even step inside Taniguchi's 100-foot-high, five-tiered, many-passaged structure to meditate from an infinite variety of angles. Or better yet, play a quick game of hide and seek with someone you love. 24-7.
1704 Post, SF. (415) 775-1817, www.sfjapantown.org
LET YOUR SPIRIT WANDER
Sometimes the best way to refresh yourself is to get a little lost. When things begin to spiral out of control, let the ancient spiritual meditative paths of the three Bay Area labyrinths lead you to a calmer place. Take a natural journey to the mysterious Eagle Point Labyrinth (Lands End, Sutro Heights Park, SF.). Experience transcendence — and a spectacular quiet zone — with the Labyrinth at Grace Cathedral (1100 California, SF. www.gracecathedral.org). Or amble with playful tots along the colorful circle of the Scott Street Labyrinth near Duboce Park (Scott between Duboce and Waller, SF).
MULTITASK YOUR RETRO BEAUTY FIX
If you want to feel new, sometimes there's only one thing to do: get a fresh hairdo at Down at Lulu's. The bass is thumpin', the clothes are cheap and sexy, and the pop culture treasures and creative energy are abundant at this self-described "hair salon-vintage clothing-record store-junk shop" co-owned by Tina Lucchesi and Seth Bogart, where you can get hot highlights, cuckoo color jobs, and perms with panache.
6603 Telegraph, Oakl. (510) 601-0964, www.downatlulus.com.