Tag Archives: San Francisco

Photo Friday: Opening Day

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Team Kids Go West really likes baseball. For us, spring means sunshine, poppies, and baseball. We watch it on TV, we go play it with our Little League team, and we play hooky to go cheer our team at AT&T Park. (Don’t judge.)

It’s opening day here in San Francisco and we’re cracking open our boxes of Cracker Jack to celebrate. Here are a few baseball-inspired photos to get the party started. Go Giants!

Linking up to Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday.

Got Nothing But Love

Dear Stick-in-the-Sand Poet,

I couldn’t agree more.



P.S. This is San Francisco’s Ocean Beach in January.

Linking up to Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday.

Take the Kids to the de Young Museum of Art

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The de Young Museum of Art in San Francisco houses over 25,000 works of art, but most kids will only appreciate a few of these during their visit. That’s fine. It doesn’t take a lot to foster a love of art.

I’ve been taking my son to the de Young since it reopened in its new building in 2005, and we have found new reasons to enjoy our visit each time.

The Works of Art

There are eight major galleries in the museum; housing works of art ranging from Mesoamerican ceramics to Contemporary American art. In other words, there are plenty of opportunities for kids to find a piece they like. Sometimes my son gravitates towards the masks in the Art of Africa gallery, while other times he is drawn to the Superman painting in the modern art wing. You can rent the family audio tours, or just view the art at your own pace.

The Osher Sculpture Garden

Who says that you have to be inside the museum to appreciate art? When he was five years old, my son loved to run around the apples in the sculpture garden and eat cookies at the cafe tables outside. Heck, you wouldn’t even have to pay admission if you just wanted to stroll through the sculpture garden. There will, however, be an additional cost for bribery through cookies.

The Observation Tower

Even if your child isn’t inspired by the works of art, he may be taken in by the views of Golden Gate Park and San Francisco from the observation deck in the North Tower. This is my son’s favorite part of the museum. He comes for the views, while I sneak in some art. There’s no rule for how to get kids to like art museums. Again, there is no admission cost for anyone to take an elevator ride up to the tower.

When You Go

When visiting art museums with kids, it’s always a good idea to go at their pace. Luckily, you won’t feel so bad that you only see half the museum, since the admission is free for children under the age of 12.

The museum hosts special family art programs on Saturdays. Check website for more information. On Friday nights, the museum is open until 8:45 and has some art-making activities for all ages.


Things to Do in California: December Edition

‘Tis the season to take the family to enjoy the Christmas lights, catch a matinee of the Nutcracker, and get that picture with Santa at the mall (unless you have a kid that refuses to get within a foot of the mall Santa). If you’re looking for ways to keep the kids busy this holiday season, you will find plenty of options in California. Here are two of my favorite family-friendly events in California this month. They’re educational too, just don’t tell the kids.

San Francisco

Snow and Reindeer at the California Academy of Sciences from November 23 to January 2.

Kids love to listen for reindeer hooves on their roofs on Christmas Eve, so take them to the east garden of the Academy to meet the reindeer at the Reindeer Rendezvous special exhibit. Then step inside the igloo presentation dome to watch the five-minute video about the North Pole. There are plenty of daily science, animal, and cultural presentations to choose from, but if you go on Wednesdays, you’ll get to meet the scientists that explore the Earth’s coldest regions. Don’t forget to get a picture with Santa Claude, the Academy’s alligator character, and catch the indoor snow flurries.

These special holiday activities are all included with general admission tickets. Check the website for more information and schedules.

Los Angeles

The Science of Gingerbread at the Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana from November 23 to January 3.

Kids know how darn cute (and yummy) houses can be, so take them to the Discovery Science Center this month, so they can see the entries of the gingerbread house competition displayed throughout the center. On weekends, kids get to check out the gingerbread decorating demonstrations, and try their hand at baking at the measure-and-mix learning station. There are also daily shows and presentations, such as the “Matter of Taste” show. If you want to  participate in a special gingerbread house workshop, check out their website for more information.


Linking up to Trekaroo Spotlight Thursday, where other bloggers are sharing their lists of favorite holiday events.

Extreme Mammals at California Academy of Sciences

Did you know that whales once walked on four legs? Don’t worry you’re not alone, I didn’t know either. My son did, and he was happy to tell me all about the walking whale, Ambulocetus, while we toured the new Extreme Mammals exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.

My Kid’s Picks:

Nothing impresses an eight-year-old more than the extreme, whether it be extreme cannon balls in the swimming pool or extreme mammals at the museum, so this exhibit was right up his alley. As we strolled the nine sections of the exhibit, my son tugged at my sleeve begging me to check out the “freaky” animals. He did stop and read the information behind each display, but seeing the fossils and animal models was the big draw. It’s one thing to learn about prehistoric animals at school, and a whole thing altogether to see them in person. His favorites were the glyptodont-an extinct relative of the armadillo as big as a car-and the live tree shrew in the Reproduction section.

Mom’s Verdict:

I really liked that the prehistoric focus of this exhibit, since this is the one area I found a bit lacking in the new Academy of Sciences. Whenever there is an opportunity to take my son to see some of these fossil and taxidermy displays in person, I will hop at the chance. This exhibit is better suited for school-aged children, but even the younger bunch will enjoy getting a glimpse of the extreme mammals. We saw a few toddlers touring the exhibit, but at a much speedier pace. The timed entry made the exhibit easier to see, without hordes of people trying to push your kid while he checks out that three-horned deer relative. The lighting is a bit darker in this particular hall, so it may be a bit scary to sensitive toddlers.

Useful Tips:

This exhibit requires you get passes for timed entry. Get your passes on the second level once you enter the museum. They are handed out on a first come, first serve basis.

There will be a picture taken of your group in front of two wooly mammoths before you enter. Do tell the photographer you would like to have at least 50% of your group not come out with their eyes closed in the picture. I speak from personal experience.

There is no photography allowed inside the actual exhibit, though, so I wasn’t able to share any with you. But there are a few on the Academy website.

I found my second visit to the new Academy of Science to be much more enjoyable, mostly because the crowds have thinned out. I will have to revisit my previous tips post and will have a more detailed post about the Academy later this month. In the meantime, head down to the Academy of Sciences to check out the Extreme Mammals before they’re gone. The exhibit runs until September 12, 2010.

We received complimentary media passes for this visit to the Academy of Sciences, as always views and opinions shared here are all my own.

San Francisco Family Vacation

San Francisco Cable Car Museum

What: The San Francisco Cable Car Museum

Where: It’s located high up in the Mason and Washington cable car barn in (you guessed it) San Francisco, California.

Why: We wanted to learn more about those famous cable cars, without having to actually stand in one of the long lines to board one.

My Kid’s Picks: The penny machine. Yes, there seems to be one of those wherever we go. He also enjoyed seeing the wheels that turn the cables and checking out all of the maps and grids for each cable car line. In the downstairs viewing area, he checked out the cables that entered the building from the channels under the street. This is a trip underground.

Mom’s Verdict: The museum is often overlooked, mostly because it is not near any other major attraction. You can, of course, ride up in a cable car and then back down. In addition to the behind-the-scenes look at the machinery that keeps those cable cars moving, there are a few antique cars on display. It is worth a stop if your kids are into learning about modes of transport, and if you’ve already seen many of the other attractions in San Francisco. School-aged children will get the most of out of the visit. Oh, and if you can’t guess from watching the video: it’s loud.

Useful Tidbits: Admission is free. There is only street parking so we parked in a garage on California Street (a few blocks away). The whole tour of the museum took less than twenty minutes (including a bathroom break and penny machine session). There is also a small, inexpensive cafe across the street. We stopped there for a panini and Italian soda for lunch.

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San Francisco Family Vacation

Today’s Tip: California Academy of Sciences

IMG_2686Once upon a December, I tried to go to the California Academy of Sciences the week after Christmas. That story didn’t have a a fairytale ending: we didn’t get in, the scene outside the Academy was wicked, so we headed to some quieter places in Golden Gate Park. But I was determined to take my son for a visit, so we made a second attempt this last summer. This time, we came prepared with my plan of attack, and we had a great time. With only one trip under my sleeve, I am not an expert, but I did gain a few insights that I can pass on to you.

1. Buy your tickets online. On very crowded days, the Academy will stop selling tickets soon after it opens. Pre-purchase tickets to save yourself from the disappointment of being turned away or the possibility of standing in another line to purchase them there.

2. Queue up early. I don’t need to tell you that the early bird gets the worm. There will be a line at the entrance before the museum opens. You need to be in that line, so that you can be one of the first groups to get inside and enjoy some of the exhibits before it gets unbearably crowded.

3. Get your tickets for the shows as soon as you walk in. From the entrance, go left to the planetarium and snatch your tickets. You can choose which show time you prefer, so you don’t necessarily have to go to the first show. You will want to see the aquarium or the rainforest exhibit early, so opt for a later showtime. We were not able to see the 3-D Bug Show, but they do sell out of those tickets early as well.

4. The fishes don’t mind the crowds, but you might. After you get your tickets, head directly to the Steinhart aquarium. It is dark in that section and the design makes the crowds seem even more unbearable. This is the section where you want to especially hold on to your toddlers so that they don’t get lost. I know you want to enjoy some quality time with the jellyfish and not the museum security, so go to the aquarium early.

IMG_27395. Ready, set, go: Rainforest. The rainforest exhibit opens an hour after the museum, and although museum employees discourage people from queueing up too early, people do anyway. For us, this was the highlight of the museum, so I don’t recommend you skip this. The butterflies are the main attraction, and they are more plentiful in the higher levels of the dome. They will land on you, so don’t go if you get queasy about insects. My son stood there for about ten minutes, waiting for the butterflies to land on him. One finally did. IMG_2725

6. Bring your own lunch and seat. The meals are pricey and the dining areas are small. It’s common to see families eating their lunch on the floor of the Academy Cafe. We bought a snack, and had a bigger meal outside the museum afterwards.

7. The penguins are as crowded as the people gawking at them. After you hit the three main areas, head over to Africa Hall for a stroll through a very quiet African savannah. This is the retro part of the museum and the home of the penguins. They are cute, even I’ll admit it.

8. Take a breath on the Living Roof. If you need a break, go up to the trademark plant-covered roof. It is a lesson in green design and offers some good views of the plaza. IMG_2743

Family Travel Tips
San Francisco

The Boys of Summer at AT&T Park

b.gameThis weekend we went to our first Giants baseball game of the season at AT&T Park here in foggy San Francisco. Well actually it was actually quite sunny and unusually hot this weekend, so we thought there would be no better way to spend our Saturday than by eating garlic fries and watching some baseball.

This isn’t just one of my son’s favorite summer pastimes, but mine as well. We both love the game, the food, and this fabulous stadium. AT&T Park is one of those newer, fancier stadiums with some great view of the San Francisco skyline and the bay. Don’t worry if you can’t afford the club seats either, I think some of the best views are from the top seats. Another good place to sit with kids is in either the arcade or bleacher section. Both of these sections make it easy to get up during the game and take a break at the trolley car or the kids’ area by the Coca-Cola bottle.


Most of the cheap seats go for between $20 and $25 dollars and on Monday through Thursday they have some $10 outfield tickets available. You’re allowed to bring in your own food and drinks to the park (no glass allowed). If you’re just passing through town as a tourist and want to check in on a game without actually having to buy tickets, walk up to the open archways of the right field wall and watch the game free of charge.

The Recycled Chinatown Gate

Chinatown Gate

Lunar New Year celebrations are underway, and I hear the sounds of firecrackers almost nightly around our neighborhood. This is a great time of year to go visit the Asian communities out west to eat, shop, and learn more about the rich and varied Asian cultures. Earlier this week, I posted a list of some of the many, many events being held throughout California.

This is a photo of a miniature San Francisco’s Chinatown Gate. It is part of the Golden Gate Railway Garden Exhibit featured at the Golden Gate Park Conservatory of Flowers through April 19. The model railway has replicas of all the San Francisco landmarks made out of recycled materials. So you’ll get to see the ferry building made out of cheese graters,  or the Golden Gate Bridge made out of strings of beads.

This is a great stop if you have a train-obsessed child, and if you love to feel as if you’re in a warm, tropical jungle even when the bay fog is creeping up outside.

Another excellent reason to visit the Conservatory before February 8, is to see their Lunar New Year inspired flower displays. Of course, when you’re done, you will want to go and check out the real Chinatown Gate. It has a lot less computer chip and a lot more dragon.

This post is linked up to Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday. Go there to check out all the other photo fun.