Operated by Silicon Valley Sports & Entertainment, the parent company of the NHL's San Jose Sharks, Sharks Ice skating centers professionally maintain solid-water rinks and facilities to accommodate a full range of activities. Each Friday night (7:30–9:30 p.m. in San Jose; 7:15–9:15 p.m. in Oakland) customers have full run of the centers' Olympic-sized rinks for public skating and fashionable displays of warm, Cosby-inspired outerwear. In addition to skating amenities, each Sharks Ice center features a full-service pro shop that sells NHL athletic apparel and other skate supplies and accessories. The centers also feature public snack bars and spacious public areas for socializing and frigid recitations of 18th-century Russian poetry. Sharks Ice San Jose also houses Stanley's Sports Bar, a full bar and restaurant overlooking the three rinks. Skate rental is included, but if you prefer to bring your own foot-blades, the general admission price without today's Groupon is $8, which still makes the Groupon the better deal. Hours are subject to change, so please call ahead to confirm.
The Museum of Children’s Art's staff provides learning experiences for children and adults with hands-on activities, summer camps, and exhibits. Good for two children and a backup team of any number of adults, this one-year family pass gives mini Picassos access to unlimited drop-in art sessions, which are led by a professional teaching artist and boldly explored by children and parents together. An artillery of materials lies within growing fingers’ grasp, allowing creative minds to wield fabric, clay, or paint in the struggle to create life-size replicas of their inner adults. Memberships also equip families with a 10% discount on camps, which are based on different themes and culminate with a gallery exhibition, allowing campers to show off their work to parents while attracting future commissions from refrigerator art collectors. Check out the website for additional member benefits.
Your ticket includes a mind-expanding movie about the cosmos, some live music you can dance to, and access to the observatory and all of Chabot's exhibits. Current exhibits delve into the scientific achievements and cosmology of the Maya, give you a most likely dehydrated taste of the life of an astronaut, and take you on a journey to the farthest reaches of the cosmos, among other things. And—weather permitting—you'll get to spy on other planets from either Nellie, the 36" reflector telescope that allows access to 180 degrees of night sky, or Rachel, the largest refractor in the western U.S. You'll have four hours to amble through the science center with a celestial concoction in one hand (drinks are $3–$5 at the cash bar) and your date in the other. After staring into the depths of distant galaxies, you can stare into the depths of each other's eyes over dinner at the Starlight Bistro or Celestial Café (not included in Groupon; reservations required).
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.
Sacred Cross Horse Services founder Ashley Mason has transformed her extensive background in horseback riding and show jumping into a unique training program. At stables tucked away in redwood forests, students attend English-style riding lessons that focus on basic fundamentals such as grooming, tacking, and learning how to bond with horses. The lessons cater to students' individual needs and skill levels while simultaneously prioritizing their education and enjoyment. Sacred Cross also leads horse camps for children, as well as lessons designed to impart a sense of responsibility, teach empathy, and stop them from trying to lead the dog into a canter. Students are required to wear long pants and heeled shoes while riding.
Established in 1968 in honor of Ernest Orlando Lawrence, UC-Berkeley's first Nobel laureate, The Lawrence Hall of Science aims to inspire the scientists and innovators of the future. Their hands-on exhibits allow children and adults to see and touch a fascinating variety of displays and projects. The animated, interactive Science On a Sphere globe, for example, uses actual scientific data to depict the expanding wave patterns of tsunamis and the massive storms triggered by thoughtless butterflies. To learn more about seismic activity, guests head to the Forces That Shape the Bay outdoor park to ride an earthquake simulator. Kids can climb atop a life-size model whale or through the double helix of a huge DNA sculpture, or work with students from the Berkeley Engineers and Mentors program to design and build a prototype in the Ingenuity Lab.
The museum also sparks imaginations with an interactive planetarium and 3-D theater. Its affiliation with the university makes it an ideal spot for educational camps and classes, as well as community events, including robotics competitions.