A group of teachers and parents founded Habitot Children's Museum in 1998 with one specific mission in mind: to foster children up to 6 years old by encouraging their creativity and natural curiosity. Today, the 4,000-square-foot museum backs up this mission with research—gleaned from studies by scientists, psychologists, and educators—positing that healthy play spurs social skills, creative thinking, and problem solving, laying the foundation for kids to succeed later in life and imprison boogeymen in their booby-trapped closet tomorrow.
At Habitot, kids find such opportunities at small-scale exhibits and themed play areas throughout the museum. Aspiring firefighters steer a small-scale truck, race through a pretend burning building, and maneuver the hose and nozzle from a fire hydrant, all while donning coats, boots, and helmets. Young explorers press buttons, turn dials, and issue commands for pretend space launches inside a 13-foot model rocket ship or navigate a vertical floor-to-ceiling maze designed to mimic worm tunnels. At the waterworks table and pumping station, young engineers manipulate water using buckets, funnels, waterwheels, and pitchers to help them understand H2O’s unique properties, such as how it keeps boats afloat on the arms of a thousand mermen. (At different times throughout the year, the staff transforms this area with a different theme; at times it’s been a car wash, a marine-science lab, or the racing grounds for a rubber-ducky regatta.) Visitors can tap into their inner Van Goghs at the art studio, where they play with soft clays and go nuts on a paintable wall. Habitot also hosts year-round children's camps with themes such as beaches, transportation, space, castles, and science.
More than 80 stainless steel Italian fusti containers line the walls at Amphora Nueva, ready to dispense samples and full bottles of aged balsamic vinegar and single-varietal, extra-virgin olive oil harvested from farms in both hemispheres. The shop’s globe-spanning selection process isn’t just for variety—it also ensures freshness year-round, in accordance with the old saying “It’s always olive-oil season somewhere.” The curators of this bounty select Italian white and dark balsamic vinegar as well as unique specialty oils, including roasted butternut squash, pumpkin and Italian truffle.
Once they’ve added them to the casks, they post harvest dates, acidity levels, and polyphenol counts for each product to give an idea of its antioxidant content and flavor strength. Each staff member touts a comprehensive understanding of the chemistry and uses of olive oil and vinegar, always happy to share recipe ideas to jazz up everyday dinners or science fair volcanoes. They’ll also help put together gift sets and wrap any bottle for free.
The business, whose retail shop stands on a sloping street lined with trees and cottage-like storefronts across from the Claremont Hotel, has been in business for nearly a century. Beneath its high ceilings, however, the atmosphere harkens back to far more ancient times, with a marble tasting counter and oil containers balanced atop the rough clay of the giant, authentic amphorae that give the company its name. Guests stop in not just to do some shopping but to take in a laidback learning experience—the San Francisco Chronicle found a visit to the shop “as much fun as it is educational,” and manager Nate Bradley reported to Diablo Magazine that they’ve occasionally “had people spend two hours in here just exploring.”
SF Mixology founder Shawn Refoua blended his experience as program director and a student of behavioral psychology into an academy that brings bartending methodology and cocktail mixology into the 21st century. With an eye toward libation history, the school's interactive classes range from basic and advanced mixology courses to in-depth lessons on specific liquors and the evolution of the cocktail through the 14 years of Prohibition and the decade when swizzle sticks were outlawed. Each class complements the goals of cocktail party hosts, as well as aspiring or continually learning bartenders, who can learn and practice essential behind-the-bar techniques while brushing up on flavor theory and emerging recipe methodologies. Held in a high-profile bar, the laid-back classes include plenty of sample sips and enthusiastic toasts to newfound friends.
The artists at Wine and Canvas awaken their students’ inner Rembrandts and Van Goghs with classes that pair a featured painting with specialty cocktails and wines. The mobile studio’s monthly calendar includes themed classes in which instructors expound on the nuances of painting Parisian street lamps, Japanese flowers, or Venetian cityscapes. The master painters—many of them local artists—provide step-by-step instructions while students mimic each stroke and periodically dip their brushes into glasses filled with crimson cabernet. Each of the studio’s various drink-friendly venues boasts a specialty libation selected to incite creativity or conversations with fellow painters. When the artistic frenzy concludes, students return home with a finished masterpiece large enough to conceal any wall safe or mirror portal.
Eudemonia, open seven days a week, serves as a beacon for button mashers and role players of all interests with an eye-catching array of retail collectibles and gaming opportunities. The entertainment emporium's 40 PCs become virtual portals where gamers dive mouse-first into the fantastical worlds of preinstalled games and use word processors to rewrite the Bill of Rights in pig Latin. Eudemonia's calendar details ongoing weekly events, including tournaments for popular titles such as Magic: The Gathering, World of Warcraft, and Vampire: The Eternal Struggle. Guests can also host their own gaming events and private parties inside Eudemonia’s play space, which remains open until 2 a.m. on Fridays for late-night gamers and owls addicted to Sims 3.
Moe's Books tempts readers with a massive selection of more than 200,000 used, new, and rare books . Named for the firebrand founder Moe Moskowitz, the four-story space sits blocks from the Berkeley campus, a location that's played a significant role in shaping the store's vibe. The shop has sheltered anti-war protestors, hosted readings, and put on events such as midnight Pynchon releases with Pynchon-themed snacks, drinks, and anti-interview shrouds. Today, the spot continues to attract book lovers, who remain free to peruse the ever-changing stock or sell back their own books in order to even out collections or wobbling tables.