The Bay Area abounds with fantastic family attractions. However, they aren’t always appropriate for the whole family. Children who have just learned to walk often run the risk of getting jostled by older kids, and won’t understand most museum exhibits. Fortunately, there are places that cater specifically to small tots. These venues allow toddlers to play, test their walking (and grabbing) skills, and most importantly, explore in safety. I can personally vouch for the five spots below—or rather, my 18-month-old daughter Isabelle can. Though some of these attractions do allow older children, they all have spaces set aside for guests aged 4 and younger. Some of them have areas for infants, too! Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose 180 Woz Way, San Jose It’s impossible to miss this big purple building from the highway. Head to the upper floor to find the Wonder Cabinet, a play area designed for toddlers aged 4 and younger, with attractions such as a dress-up closet, a sand play area, and ball machines. There’s even a separate Crawl Space in the back for very young babies. The ever-popular Waterways exhibit on the ground floor also has a section for toddlers, with water features scaled down to their size. Baby Belle’s Pick: Little toddlers seem irresistibly attracted to balls they can throw, and Isabelle is no exception. She loved the Wonder Cabinet’s ball funnel table, where you could toss a ball in, watch it spiral down, and pick it up at the bottom before starting all over. Admission: $12 for adults and children older than 1 Junior Museum and Zoo of Palo Alto 1451 Middlefield Rd., Palo Alto As its name implies, this little gem in Palo Alto is geared toward the toddler set. The museum grounds look small to a grownup, but they’re just the right size for children who may be overwhelmed by larger parks. Inside, the museum has interactive science and nature exhibits, plus the Babies’ Bramble, a gated area with toys and books for small crawlers. The outdoor zoo, meanwhile, has more than 50 species of small animals, including raccoons, peacocks, bats, and a tortoise. Baby Belle’s Pick: Belle was fascinated by the Clean Energy Green Machines—an exhibit where you (surprise) load balls into systems made of pulleys and springs, then watch the balls rise, fall, and spin around. It was a fun way for her to learn how her actions cause reactions. Admission: Free, although there’s a $5 suggested donation per person Bay Area Discovery Museum 557 McReynolds Rd., Sausalito Located just north of San Francisco at an old Army site, this museum affords some of the most gorgeous views of the Golden Gate Bridge. For toddlers, there’s the Tot Spot, an indoor play area with two rooms themed around the wetlands and woodlands. The space serves as a haven away from the big kids, and lets little ones crawl, climb, and bounce over the scenery. Outside, a cleverly constructed “stream” invites them to indulge in water play. Pro tip: bring layers. Many of the activities are outdoors, and it can be chilly on foggy days. Baby Belle’s Pick: The Tot Spot was a huge hit, but the outdoor stream won the battle for Belle’s affections. She could have splashed around all afternoon, pushing the toy fish and frogs downstream and just watching the water flow by. Admission: $12 for adults, $11 for children older than 6 months Diddalidoo 544 San Mateo Ave., San Bruno Although this play center is essentially one room, it’s big enough for its target demographic. Toddlers play with its bountiful toys and navigate a giant padded play structure, while parents remain confident that no one will get bowled over or dirty. There’s a small café in the back, but families can bring their own food, too. The private nursing rooms are a nice bonus for guests with infants. Baby Belle’s Pick: It’s a tossup between the dishes and fake food inside the well-stocked play kitchen, and the numerous ride-on vehicles that she happily pushed around and around. Admission: $13 per child (with a discounted rate for any siblings after that), or $8 after 5 p.m. Habitot Children’s Museum 2065 Kittredge St., Berkeley With a focus on playing pretend and crafting, Habitot features a rocket ship, a grocery store, and a fire station, as well as art areas with paint, clay, and other materials. The space is geared toward children younger than 6, but infants and early walkers get their own gated area with padded climbing blocks and soft toys. Visit while you can—Habitot’s website notes that they have outgrown their space and are actively searching for a larger facility. Baby Belle’s Pick: Like all toddlers, Belle loves making a mess. Habitot’s painting wall allowed her to scribble and paint to her heart’s content; she couldn’t spend enough time there. Admission: $8 for adults and $10 for children older than 1 Photos by Anita Chu; bottom photo courtesy of Habitot Children's MuseumRead More
Hip-Hop Chess Federation
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Hip-Hop Chess Federation
Hip-Hop Chess Federation
Hip-Hop Chess Federation
The Fourth of July has come and gone, but there’s plenty left to celebrate—the power of pony friendship, for instance. This week, get close to some bronies, support local hip-hop artists, watch artists as they draw, judge air-guitar performances, and drop by Petaluma for an outdoor festival. Of course, you can also check Groupon for more things to do in San Francisco. A Brony Tale Pacific Heights | Tuesday, July 8, 7 p.m. A Brony Tale follows Ashleigh Ball, who voices Rainbow Dash and Applejack on My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, on her visit to the world’s largest My Little Pony fan convention: BronyCon. Attend the documentary’s premiere screening to see how the world’s preconceptions about bronies—men who are devotees of the cartoon—get thoroughly challenged. (Clay Theatre, 2261 Fillmore St.; $12.50; buy tickets here) 2Racks Rap Contest SoMa | Wednesday, July 9 The 2Racks Rap Contest is just one way that Bay Area rapper and producer Sellassie is trying to “Stop Hatin’ in the Bay.” The live song competition awards its winner a $2,000 prize, but more importantly, it brings independent hip-hop artists together for a chance to support one another’s work. The lineup includes Democritus, Dush Tray, Way 2 Saucy, and more. (1015 Folsom, 1015 Folsom St.; $20; buy tickets here) Monster Drawing Rally Mission | Friday, July 11 At the 11th annual Monster Drawing Rally, audiences can watch more than 120 artists sketch new pieces from start to finish. The artists draw in shifts while DJs provide background music, and each work is put up for sale immediately upon completion, priced at $60. All of those proceeds then go toward art programs at Southern Exposure. (The Verdi Club, 2424 Mariposa St.; free) US Air Guitar Championships Semifinals NoPa | Saturday, July 12, 8:30 p.m. Playing professional air guitar involves more rules than you might think. No air-drumming is allowed, for example, and guitarists are evaluated on three criteria: technical merit, stage presence, and “airness,” or the degree to which you embody the art’s unique spirit. Learn the rest of the rules and see who will proceed to the finals at the competition this weekend. (The Independent, 628 Divisadero St.; $20; buy tickets here) Petaluma’s Art & Garden Festival Historic Downtown Petaluma | Sunday, July 13, 11 a.m.–5 p.m. More than 100 vendors of artisanal goods will make the drive up to Petaluma more than worth it on Sunday. In addition to the arts and crafts on sale, the festival will have drinks from local wineries, a kid zone with a climbing wall, and live music from bands such as Danny Click and the Hell Yeahs!. Guests with green thumbs can even consult expert gardeners for growing tips. (4th Street and Kentucky Street, Petaluma; free) Monster Drawing Rally photo by Catherine McElhone, courtesy of Southern Exposure; Petaluma’s Art & Garden Festival photo courtesy of Petaluma Downtown Association & Visitors CenterRead More
This week: John Waters chats about riding in cars with strangers, Aimee Mann and Ted Leo rock out, and outdoor festivals fill up the weekend. The Green Arcade Presents: A Conversation with John Waters About Carsick McRoskey Mattress Factory, 3rd Floor | 1687 Market St. Monday, June 9, 7 p.m. (doors open at 6:15) How many cars does it take for John Waters to get across the country? The answer is 21—all driven by good samaritans who picked up the director as he hitchhiked from his home in Baltimore to his apartment in San Francisco. On Monday, Waters will sit down with Patrick Marks, owner of The Green Arcade, to talk about the memorable on-the-road moments that led to his new book, Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America. ($10, or free with purchase of Carsick from The Green Arcade; buy advance tickets at The Green Arcade) The Both Great American Music Hall | 859 O’Farrell St. Thursday, June 12, 8 p.m. (doors open at 7) Aimee Mann and Ted Leo have long since proven themselves to be strong solo artists, so their new collaborative effort, The Both, is promising quite a lot. Expect punchy, heartfelt rock songs with droll banter in between. ($26 for admission, $50.95 for dinner and admission; buy tickets here) Mortified Live DNA Lounge | 375 11th St. Friday, June 13th, 7:30 p.m. (doors open at 6:30) Jonesing for some schadenfreude? Film producer and writer Stephen Scaia (Jericho, Human Target) will join other performers in reading examples of cringeworthy writing from their teenage years—letters, diary entries, poetry, and anything else embarrassing—for this Mortified show. ($14 in advance, $21 at the door; buy tickets here) Sunset Island Electronic Music Picnic The Great Lawn | Treasure Island Saturday, June 14, noon to 9 p.m. Original Phuture members DJ Pierre and Spanky have reunited and returned to their acid-house roots to headline the fest, where guests can barbecue when they aren’t dancing on the lawn. Kids and pets (on a leash) get in free. ($10–$25; buy tickets here) North Beach Festival North Beach District Saturday and Sunday, June 13–14, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Art will be everywhere at the 60th annual North Beach Festival, including on the ground. Be sure to look down at the Italian street paintings, and if your kids get inspired, buy them a square in the chalk-art area for their own masterpiece. The festival will also have live music on two stages, more than 125 craft booths, and 20 gourmet food booths. (free) Check Groupon for even more things to do in San Francisco. Mortified photo courtesy of Todd Hartman. North Beach Festival photo courtesy of Christina Spicuzza.Read More
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