The 1982 animated film The Snowman is one of our favorite holiday classics, and it's even more magical when accompanied by a live orchestra and choir. It's a great way to introduce kids to the symphony, too. This season, The Snowman is part of the San Francisco Symphony's special All is Bright Christmas matinee concert featuring the Pacific Boychoir, directed by Kevin Fox.
The first half of the All is Bright program will feature orchestral holiday favorites and sing-alongs with the Boychoir and soloists. Highlights include A Christmas Festival Overture and Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson, Carol of the Bells, Do You Hear What I Hear?, and more.
The second half of the program includes the 26-minute animated film The Snowman accompanied by the orchestra. All concert-goers will receive a complimentary glowing concert favor from the Symphony. Performances take place on Friday, December 20 and Saturday, December 21 at 2 pm.
When we're in San Francisco, one of our favorite spots for an afternoon of shopping and dining is Japantown. A trip to Japantown, which is located in the city's Western Addition neighborhood, is a great way to take in Japanese culture, and it's certainly less effort than taking the family on a trip to Japan! San Francisco's Japantown is the largest and oldest Japanese neighborhood in the United States.
Japantown, or Nihonmachi, was established in its present location following the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, and flourished in the early years of the 20th century. After suffering a downtown during World War II and the internment of Japanese Americans, the area was rejuvenated in the 1950s and '60s. The centerpiece of this six-square-block enclave is the Japan Center Mall. It and the surrounding area are home to numerous Japanese restaurants, shops, and grocery stores.
The Japan Center Mall is a fun place for a family outing, especially if the weather is cold or rainy (not a rarity in San Francisco). The mall is anchored by the large concrete Peace Pagoda in an outdoor plaza, where it also hosts popular local events like the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival, held over two weekends in April, and the Nihonmachi Street Fair, which takes place in August.
This summer, San Francisco plays host to one of the worlds largest sporting events: the America's Cup races! While high-tech sailboats battle it out on the Bay, local families can take advantage of the fun scheduled at America's Cup Park at Piers 27 and 29.
Throughout the month of August, families can enjoy free outdoor movie screenings at America's Cup Park. This Wednesday, August 14, they'll be showing Shark Tale, on Wednesday, August 21 Pirates of the Caribbean, and on Tuesday, August 27 Jaws (with a special introduction by production designer Joe Alves). All movie screenings start at 6:30 pm, and there are plenty of bean bag chairs on the Plaza where you can snuggle up to take in the show! Snacks, ice cream, and beverages will be available for sale.
One of the Bay Area's favorite family summer outings is a visit to the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. The Cal Academy re-opened in 2008 in a state-of-the-art sustainable building that features amazing attractions like a natural history museum, aquarium, planetarium, two-acre living roof, a four-story rain forest, and even a 3D theater. It's definitely a must-visit family destination!
Currently on view this summer is Built for Speed. This special exhibit, on view through September 29, showcases the sea's fastest denizens, from mako sharks and humboldt squid to a sailboat designed by America's Cup defender Oracle Team USA.
Also on the don't-miss list is the incredible new movie The Last Reef 3D: Cities Beneath the Sea. Put on your 3D glasses and find yourself underwater in some of the earth's most spectacular underwater settings. You'll not only be amazed, but learn how these environments are as vital to the earth as the rainforests. We all kept finding ourselves reaching out towards the screen to touch fish and other sea creatures—it was that real! The Last Reef 3D plays every hour from 11 am to 4 pm, and is included in your Cal Academy admission.
If you grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, you no doubt spent some time as a kid at the Exploratorium. This innovative and influential hands-on museum of science, art, and human perception has been educating and entertaining families for over 40 years. The Exploratorium is a perfect place for an outing for families with children of all ages, from toddlers to teens. Parents, grandparents, and most other grownups will find it a lot of fun, too.
Until recently, the Exploratorium was located at the iconic Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco's Marina District, but it recently moved to an all-new, much larger facility at Pier 15 on the Embarcadero. This new building features all the old favorite exhibits along with 150 new ones, as well as a Bay Observatory that allows visitors to explore the environment of adjacent San Francisco Bay. The new location is spacious and stunning and worth checking out.
This summer San Francisco's Ghirardelli Square transforms itself into the Bay Area's largest playground for kids and families for its fourth annual KidsBash, taking place on Saturday, June 15 from 11 am to 3 pm. Hosted by Ghirardelli Square and presented by Plum Organics, KidsBash will present activities for all ages, with events expanding onto Beach Street adjacent to the Square and Aquatic Park, guaranteeing even more fun by the Bay!
KidsBash proceeds supports Plum Organics' social impact program The Full Effect, which donates organic baby food meals to children in need across the US, so you and your family can have a blast and know you're making a difference, too.
At this street festival for kids, families are invited to explore historic Ghirardelli Square, discover unique boutiques and restaurants, and enjoy family-friendly activities that are sure to bring out the kid in everyone. KidsBash attractions and activities include a pirate ship ride, a climbing wall, face painting, bounce house, games with prizes, a Flax art booth, science experiments, temporary and henna tattoos, a special visit from the San Francisco Fire Department and much more, including a few new surprises for 2013. KidsBash is geared for children 10 years old and younger.
We can't think of a better way to spend Father's Day weekend than at the California Academy of Sciences' Penguins + Pajamas sleepover—it's a fantastic family experience that's both fun and educational. The next Penguins+Pajamas sleepover is scheduled for Saturday, June 15, and we're giving away a pair of tickets to a lucky Marin Mommies reader!
Experience your own "night at the museum" as you explore the exhibits after-hours, stargaze at a planetarium show, enjoy a special live animal presentation, explore the fastest fish and swiftest sailboats in the Academy's Built for Speed special exhibit, and dance and sing along to your favorite tunes from the Radio Disney AM 1310 Road Crew. Before bedtime, settle in for story time with cookies and milk to learn about Pierre—the Academy’s famous wetsuit-wearing penguin.
When the lights go out, unroll your sleeping bag in African Hall, next to the swaying kelp of the aquarium's California Coast tank, or even at the Swamp window, face-to-face with Claude, the albino alligator. In the morning, rise and shine, then head over to the Academy Café for a continental breakfast.
One of our favorite destinations in San Francisco is the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, especially when they're presenting a special exhibit. This spring and summer, visitors to the Conservatory can get eye to eye with a butterfly in Butterflies & Blooms, in the special exhibits gallery through October 20, 2013.
Butterflies & Blooms transforms the Conservatory's special exhibits gallery into an intimate cottage garden that plays host to hundreds of butterflies! You'll see over 20 species of North American butterflies, including monarchs, western swallowtails, red admirals, and more, as well as several giant moths like the colorful cecropia moth.
We paid a visit to Butterflies & Blooms last week. When you first walk into the room, you realize you're walking into the butterflies' habitat. The gallery is draped in a giant white net that contains the fluttering inhabitants. The hundreds of butterflies are free to fly around the room and land on the butterfly-friendly plants and flowers like daisies, sunflowers, and zinnias, and the effect is magical. Some will even land on you—we were told it's good luck!
Come to the San Francisco Zoo this Memorial Day Weekend, May 25–27, to see the animals (including the Zoo's adorable baby Sumatran tiger who now has a name—Jillian). Then make sure you stick around for a Hullabuzoo!
What's a Hullabuzoo? It's what you get when you bring a performing circus group, an inflatable obstacle course, and a climbing wall challenge to the zoo! Bring the kids to the zoo's Pachyderm Building to blow off a little steam in the free inflatable playhouse, where they can climb, play, and shoot baskets. Then relax and re-energize with a picnic on the Patas Lawn as you watch a circus group perform.
Kids can also test their skills on the climbing wall ($3). Every time someone rings the bell at the top of the wall, the zoo will donate $1 to animal conservation programs!