The San Francisco Presidio's Crissy Field has undergone many changes in its lifetime, from tidal marsh to military airfield to one of the Bay Area's premier recreation areas. Crissy Field is a great place to spend the day with the family, and has a wonderful mix of outdoor attractons, amenities, and local businesses, as well as spectacular views of San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Crissy Field is a fantastic destination for walking, bicycling, kite flying, or playing at the beach. It offers a waterfront promenade and trails that are popular with dog walkers, runners, and cyclists (and parents, judging from the number of strollers we usually see there), as well as a clean stretch of sand along San Francisco Bay.
The water here is perfect for wading and playing in the gently lapping waves. Lawn areas and picnic tables, some with charcoal grills, are available, too, so bring a picnic and your beach blanket and umbrella and spend the day. Torpedo Wharf, a pier on the north end of the field, is a popular spot for fishing and crabbing.
Parents in Marin and the Bay Area looking for a music class for their kids have many options to choose from. One of the more unique resources for musical education for little ones is Little Folkies. Run by Marin parents Irena and Joshua Smith, Little Folkies keeps kids engaged and entertained with classic music in the spirit of folk legends like Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie. Little Folkies' main studio is in San Francisco's Noe Valley, and they offer regular classes at locations in Marin, including San Anselmo and Mill Valley.
We asked Irena to tell us about how Little Folkies came about, and what makes it a unique music experience for children.
What makes Little Folkies different from other music classes?
There are a lot of aspects of Little Folkies which make it distinctly unique. But to what really sets Little Folkies apart from other music classes of its kind are three things… Songs, aesthetic, and the fact that the business is truly independent and locally born and bred right in San Francisco.
Kids can get hands-on with 21st-century technology and the arts at San Francisco's Children's Creativity Museum in the city's Yerba Buena neighborhood. Formerly known as Zeum, this fun and educational resource on the roof of Moscone Center is the perfect place for families with kids of all ages. You can literally spend all day here working on projects and having a blast.
The Children's Creativity Museum offers numerous opportunities for imaginative play and learning, and features a stop-motion animation studio, a music studio, a design studio, an innovation lab, art galleries, and more. The museum also boasts a fantastic 1906 Looff carousel, which is currently undergoing an extensive renovation. It and its hand-carved menagrie of 65 animals is due to re-open on Saturday, April 26, 2014, so you won't have long to wait to ride it again!
Poop. Doo-doo. Dung. Number 2. No matter what you call it, you’ll be able to learn all about it at The Scoop on Poop, the newest special exhibition on view in the Pachyderm Building at the San Francisco Zoo from January 25 to May 11, 2014.
This fun, family-friendly exhibit features large colorful graphic panels, and three-dimensional models, as well as many interactive components where visitors can listen in on an animal’s digestive system, learn the language of poop in countries around the world, compete in dung beetle races, track wild animals by clues left in scat, see how long it takes an elephant to poop its body weight, improve their #2 IQ in “stool school,” and even meet a dinosaur dung detective!
Animals use poop to build homes, hide from enemies, attract mates, send messages, and cool off—some even eat it! Veterinarians, farmers, naturalists, paleontologists, Maasai tribesmen, and power companies use it, too. Poop is a scientific puzzle, and with a little detective work, you can learn a lot about an animal by what it leaves behind.
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.
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.