Although my daughter is only six, she's dead set on being a fashion designer. She's serious about it, too—she constantly draws pictures of original clothing designs and even makes outfits for her dolls and stuffed animals. When she heard about the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, she decided we had to take her to see it.
I was a little hesitant at first, since the flamboyant Gaultier has the reputation for being edgy and often risqué, and the museum itself put out notices that the show contained "adult content," but I'd also heard great things about it. Rather than pass on what could be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, we decided to go, with the idea that I'd help guide the children through the exhibition.
The show itself is fantastic. Even if you're not into fashion, or if you don't know anything about Jean Paul Gaultier, it's worth going for the spectacle and artistry of it. It's unlike any museum exhibition I've ever been too before, with a musical soundtrack, videos playing in monitors on the walls, and talking mannequins. Yes, that's right: many of the mannequins (including one that represents the designer himself) talk, as well as sing, smile, and even wink. In fact, my son was convinced one of the mannequins actually winked right at him! Even though this effect is accomplished through video projection, it really does seem like the mannequins are interacting with you. It's a little unusual, but it's also fun and mesmerizing and really contributes to the overall atmosphere of the show.
Walking into Golden Gate Park's magnificent Victorian Conservatory of Flowers is always a bit like stepping back in time. But through October 21, 2012, the Conservatory will transport visitors even further back in time than the 19th century with their newest exhibit, Plantosaurus Rex. Visitors to Plantosaurus Rex will encounter realistic model dinosaurs lurking within the Conservatory and surrounded by the plants that they were familiar with back in prehistoric times.
The first sign that something's not quite business as usual is the sight of a Tyrannosaurus Rex's fearsome looking head popping out of the glass Conservatory roof! (Don't worry—it's not really breaking throught the roof, it's just a clever and fun illusion.)
Inside, you'll see numerous examples of ancient plants from the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods, including ferns, horsetails, gingkos, coast redwoods, and orchids, along with the dinosaurs that ate them, like a life-sized baby Stegosaurus. You'll also see models of fearsome carnivores that ate the plant-eating dinosaurs, like the T Rex (or the rest of it, anyhow) and an Allosaurus.
It's not every day that an iconic local landmark turns 75, and the Golden Gate Bridge marks that momentous milestone this Sunday, May 27. Celebrate the span this Sunday at the Golden Gate Festival, a historic birthday party taking place along the San Francisco waterfront. Admission is free for all!
The main Golden Gate Festival activities will be held at Fort Point, Crissy Field, the Presidio, and the Marina Green. Anniversary events will also be held at Fort Mason Center, Ghirardelli Square, San Francisco Maritime Historical National Park, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Pier 39.
Fireworks on Sunday from 9:30–9:50 pm in a spectacular grand finale that showcases the Bridge, the Bay and surrounding national parklands. Optimum viewing spots are along the waterfront from Fort Point to East Marina Green. The hills above the Marina and Cow Hollow also provide stunning views. An accompanying soundtrack wil be aired live on KFOG 104.5/97.7FM. (Note: Fireworks will not be televised and will not be visible from Fisherman’s Wharf south down the Embarcadero; weather permitting, fireworks will be visible from Pier 39.)
International Orange Artists’ Exhibition at Fort Point, 10 am–7 pm.
Crissy Field Stage highlighting dance, music, and local bands, 11 am–11 pm.
Road Trip through History featuring vintage cars and motorcycles from 1937 to the present. East Crissy Field, 11 am–5 pm.
Crissy Field Center Future Fair with activities and demonstrations showcasing sustainability technologies and innovations in the pioneering spirit of the Bridge. East Beach, 11 am–7 pm.
Vintage Maritime Display and Historic Watercraft Parade with classic boats spanning 75 years. St. Francis Yacht Club, 11 am–3 pm.
Marina Green Stage featuring dance and music organizations and local bands. West Marina Green, 11 am–10 pm.
Marina Green, Crissy Field, and Golden Gate Bridge Plaza retail outlets offering official 75th Anniversary souvenir merchandise. Various waterfront locations, 10 am–8 pm.
San Francisco Ballet's 2012 season draws to a close soon, and their final production is the colorful and family friendly three-act story ballet Don Quixote. With spectacular all-new scenery and costumes and a vibrant score by Léon Minkus, it's a lively and exciting interpretation of Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes' famous novel.
Music for Don Quixote is by Léon Minkus, and the production and staging is by Helgi Tomasson and Yuri Possokhov. Approximate program time is two hours and 30 minutes, so this ballet is probably best suited to older children who can suit through the production and appreciate the artistry on stage.
We're giving away a pair of tickets to the Saturday, May 5 2 pm matinee performance of Don Quixote. Simply send an email to email@example.com with "Don Q" in the subject line by 11:59 pm PST on Friday, April 27, 2012. We'll choose a random winner on Saturday. Many thanks to San Francisco Ballet for sponsoring this giveaway. Read our contest and giveaway rules here.
Everyone's been telling us how much fun they've had at the House of Air, San Francisco's indoor trampoline park, so we decided that it was high time we paid it a visit. House of Air is located in an historic airplane hangar at Crissy Field in the Presidio of San Francisco, and features 8,000 square feet of trampolines that allow you to jump, fly, flip, and have a blast.
We booked our session online (always a good idea at this busy place, it turns out), and headed south across the Golden Gate Bridge. Unlike some places in San Francisco, there's plenty of free parking in the area, especially in the large lot adjacent to the beach.
When you go in, sign the waiver if you haven't already, then check in and get your bracelet. You either jump barefoot, or you can buy a pair of special House of Air trampoline socks to wear for $2. You'll jump in the Matrix, a large area of 42 interconnected trampolines, which includes the 2X Bowl, a special freestyle trampoline area modeled after a skate park. The House of Air's staff of Air Traffic Controllers give you a short briefing before your session, and then you're good to go. You also have access to the smaller Collosseum, a space with 22 conjoined trampolines that's used for organized sports like trampoline dodgeball.
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.
Located at the iconic Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco's Marina District, 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.
Founded by physicist and university professor Frank Oppenheimer, the younger brother of the Manhattan Project's J. Robert Oppenheimer, the Exploratorium is renowned for its hands-on experiments and demonstrations, which are facilitated by orange-vested "Explainers" who are on hand to teach and encourage visitors. Exhibits are created in the museum's own shop, and many are designed by artists-in-residence. Exhibits change frequently, so you may see some that you remember from when you were a kid as well as some that are totally new to you.
Instead of a cake for your next birthday party, why not try offering custom sugar cookies? Sugar Mama Cookies, based in San Francisco, was started by mom Roxanne Pangilinan, whose unique, hand-decorated cookies are the highlight of many parties throughout the Bay Area.
All her cookies are made from scratch and baked to order and she offers gluten- and dairy-free cookies on requested. Pricing starts at $30 per dozen with an average price of $3–6 per cookie.
Popular designs include characters like Lightning McQueen from Pixar's Cars, Thomas the Tank Engine, Dora the Explorer, the Cookie Monster, and Elmo. Other shapes and themes are available of course—from a tutu/ballerina theme to a pirate theme party. Roxanne can even match an image from an invitation—customers will email her with their invitation or theme, and she'll get back to them with a few design options in a range of prices.
When we head into the city for some fun, one of the places we like to stop for a bite to eat is the Beach Chalet at the western end of Golden Gate Park. Housed in a historic building, decorated with amazing WPA murals from the 1930s, that's also home to the Golden Gate Park visitor center, the Beach Chalet and its downstairs sibling the Park Chalet are both well worth checking out if you're in the area visiting the park, Ocean Beach, or on your way to or from the San Francisco Zoo.
Since the weather has been so amazing, we jumped at the chance to dine upstairs at the Beach Chalet with its amazing views of Ocean Beach and the Pacific Ocean. With its exquisite view, the Park Chalet is popular with tourists and out-of-town visitors, and can get pretty busy at mealtimes, so get there early to grab a table by the windows.
Many families opt for the more laid back Park Chalet, with its unique indoor/outdoor configuration. The Park Chalet features a big fireplace and an expansive lawn where kids can run around while mom and dad sample one of the Chalet's house-made beers, each of which is named after a San Francisco landmark.
I haven't been to Golden Gate Park's Conservatory of Flowers since I was a kid, so I was very excited to have the chance to take my kids to see the Playland exhibit that's currently on view there. We had a great time checking out the garden railway setup, the Playland memorabila, and the many exotic plants housed in the Conservatory.
This version of the Conservatory's garden railway celebrates San Francisco's legendary bygone Playland at the Beach amusement park, which was located along the Great Highway across from Ocean Beach and closed (and was subsequently torn down to make way for condos back in the 1970s). The garden railway display is landscaped with hundreds of dwarf plants, and model trains and trolleys travel past miniature versions of old San Francisco landmarks like the Sutro Baths, the Victorian-era Cliff House and of course Playland.