Museums for Kids, Children's Theater

Butterflies and Blooms Abound at San Francisco's Conservatory of Flowers

May 26, 2013

Butterflies and Blooms at the Conservatory of FlowersOne 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!

The Insider's Guide to the 2013 Mountain Play: The Sound of Music

May 13, 2013

Sound of MusicOne of Marin County's most beloved and unique events is the famous Mountain Play—an outdoor theater experience high on the slopes of Mt. Tamalpais that's been going strong for a century! This year's 100th-anniversary Mountain Play production is Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music, the unforgettable story of spirited young governess Maria Rainer, Captain von Trapp and his seven children, and Austria on the eve of the Nazi takeover.

Featuring classic songs like Do-Re-Mi, Edelweiss, and My Favorite Things, the Mountain Play's production of The Sound of Music is directed by Jay Manley, and features Heather Buck as Maria, Ryan Drummond as Georg von Trapp, and Susan Zelinsky (Marin Paroo in last year's production of The Music Man) as Else Schraeder. Musical direction is by Mountain Play veteran Debra Chambliss.

Performances take place at 2 pm at Mt. Tam's Cushing Memorial Amphitheater on May 19 and 26, and June 2, 8, 9, and 16. General seating ticket prices range from $20–$40., and children 3 and under are free. Reserved seats are available for Mountain Play Fan Club members (starting at $56); higher membership levels include perks like reserved parking and special shuttle passes. Order tickets online here or by phone at (415) 383-1100.

Win Tickets to the May 10 Penguins+Pajamas Sleepover at the Cal Academy

May 1, 2013

Penguins + Pajamas at the California Academy of SciencesWe had a blast when we attended 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 Friday, May 10, 2013, 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, and enjoy a special live animal presentation. 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.

A High Energy "Knuffle Bunny" from Bay Area Children's Theatre

April 14, 2013

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary MusicalMy kids have always loved the books by children's author Mo Willems, especially his Knuffle Bunny series, so we were all excited to see the new Bay Area Children's Theatre production of Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley.

This high-energy, fast-moving, and funny production expands upon the Knuffle Bunny story but remains true to the book, thanks to the witty song lyrics and script penned by Willems himself.

Knuffle Bunny tells the story of what happens when Dad (Derek Travis Collard) tries to give Mom (Michelle Drexler) a break and takes tricky toddler Trixie (Allison Johnson) and her stuffed animal Knuffle Bunny with him to the laundromat.

Overconfident Dad thinks the trip will go without a hitch, but stressed-out Mom knows otherwise but agrees with the plan anyhow. All goes well until Trixie realizes something is wrong and tries to tell Dad, who can't understand her babble and thinks she just needs her diaper changed.

Family Day Trip to Sacramento's California State Railroad Museum

April 10, 2013

Gov. Stanford at California State Railroad MuseumLooking for a fun and educational day trip? Why not explore California's railroading past at Sacramento's California State Railroad Museum? Located in the historic Old Sacramento neighborhood, it's an easy day trip from the Bay Area or a convenient stop on the way home from Tahoe. Either way, it's perfect for a family outing at any time of the year.

If you like trains—and really, who doesn't?—the California State Railroad Museum is the place to go. Chronicling the history of California's railroads from the first transcontinental railroad in the 1860s to the modern day, there's really something here for the whole family. Not only can you view two centuries worth of historic locomotives and rolling stock, but you can actually go on board four different railroad cars, one of which is equipped to simulate movement at night.

Also on view in the museum are a huge array of toy trains and model railroad equipment. It's also one of the most family-friendly museums you can visit, full of big machines and fun things for kids to see and do.

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical Opens Saturday at Freight & Salvage in Berkeley

April 9, 2013

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary MusicalOne of my kids' favorite books is Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems. On Saturday, this hilarious Caldecott Honor book comes to life on stage in the Bay Area Children's Theatre production of Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical.

In Knuffle Bunny, Dad learns that it can be tricky to do the laundry with toddler daughter Trixie and her beloved stuffed animal, the titular Knuffle Bunny. See washing machines burst into life and clothes dance up a whirlwind at the laundromat in this delightful production that's fun for the whole family.

We've seen several productions from Bay Area Children's Theatre, and they never disappoint! It's definitely worth the trip over to Berkeley, and the Freight & Salvage is a wonderful intimate venue in which to see a show like this.

The opening performance of Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical takes place at the Freight & Salvage on Saturday, April 13, 2013 at 2 pm. The show plays Saturdays at 2 pm and Sundays at 11 am and 2 pm through May 5.

Win a Family Four-Pack of Tickets to "Ivy + Bean: The Musical" at Marin Theatre Company

March 16, 2013

Ivy and BeanThe fun and fantastic Ivy + Bean: The Musical is coming to Marin Theatre Company in Mill Valley! Produced by Bay Area Children's Theater, Ivy + Bean: The Musical is a fun and faithful adaptation of the first book in the New York Times-best-selling series about two second graders, outgoing Bean and quiet but imaginitive Ivy, who were sure they wouldn't like each other but end up best friends.

You can read our review of Ivy + Bean: The Musical here. It was one of our favorite productions from Bay Area Children's Theater!

While the tickets for the Marin Theatre Company production are already sold out, we're happy to announce that we're giving away a family four-pack of tickets to the opening-day performance to one lucky Marin Mommies reader! Tickets are good for the Saturday, March 23, 10:30 am show only.

To enter the giveaway, send an email with "Ivy + Bean" in the subject line to by 11:59 pm on Sunday, March 17, 2013. We'll choose a winner at random on Monday, March 18. Good luck!

An Enchanting "Ivy + Bean: The Musical"

February 12, 2013

Ivy and BeanMy daughter is a huge fan of the Ivy + Bean book series by local author Annie Barrows, so we were really excited to hear that a new children's theater production of Ivy + Bean: The Musical opening at Berkeley's Freight & Salvage. Produced by Bay Area Children's Theater, Ivy + Bean: The Musical is a fun and faithful adaptation of the first book in the New York Times-best-selling series about two second graders, outgoing Bean and quiet but imaginitive Ivy, who were sure they wouldn't like each other but end up best friends.

We were lucky enough to attend the world premiere performance of this delightful children's musical, and we had a great time. The production follows the plot of the first Ivy + Bean book very closely, and shows how Ivy and Bean—two girls with opposite personalities—become forever friends after Ivy helps Bean out of a bind and manages to help infuriate Bean's bossy older sister, Nancy, in the process.

This fast-paced play lasts approximately an hour with no intermission, and is recommended for kids ages 4 and up. The action moves quickly, keeping little ones entertained and enthralled, and Megan Putnam and Catherine Gloria are perfectly cast as the title characters. The other actors handle multiple roles with aplomb (It took my kids—and my husband—a while to figure out that most of the supporting actors had dual roles!)

Pay a Visit to the Girl with a Pearl Earring at the de Young Museum

January 26, 2013

Girl with a Pearl EarringYou've read the book and seen the movie, now go see the painting that inspired them! Johannes Vermeer's renowned, enigmatic, and alluring painting Girl with a Pearl Earring is now on view at San Francisco's de Young Museum, along with over 30 additional Dutch Golden Age paintings from the prestigious collections of the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague, in the exhibition Girl with a Pearl Earring: Dutch Paintings from the Mauritshuis.

This special exhibition is a fantastic art experience for the whole family. Kids will love works ranging from Fabritius's tiny The Goldfinch to the large and raucous As the Old Sing, so Twitter the Young by Jan Steen. There's even an audio tour ($7/$6 museum members) designed especially for families.

The works on view represent some of the finest examples of 17th-century Dutch painting, but the focus is on the Girl, who gets a whole gallery to herself. Incidentally, the Girl with a Pearl Earring isn't a portrait per se, but a "tronie," an idealized depiction of a person probably intended to be a historical or biblical character.

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