Are your kids interested in outer space? Bring your budding astronauts to learn about space exploration in a hands-on environment at the Space Station, Novato's free, kid-friendly space museum. Located in a storefront in the newly renovated Pacheco Plaza shopping center, the Space Station is a small but rich little museum that offers families and school groups a chance to explore the history of spaceflight and exploration.
Kid can see, handle, and even try on actual space artifacts, many of which have actually flown in space. Try on a pair of Russian cosmonaut's space suit gloves for size, wear a prototype space helmet designed for the Apollo missions, and sit in a seat from a Soyuz spacecraft.
Objects on view are part of the collection of the W Foundation, a non-profit founded by Ken Winans and his wife Debbie Wreyford-Winans, and include American, Russian, and Soviet-era space equipment, clothing, photographs, a meteorite, and more. The W Foundation also works with organizations and events like Oakland's Chabot Space and Science Center, the USS Hornet Museum in Alameda, and San Francisco Fleet Week to present educational exhibits on the history of space exploration.
Just across its namesake bridge from Marin County lies a perfect day-trip destination for familes: San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. This urban oasis boasts over 1,000 acres of forests, meadows, lakes, gardens, museums, playgrounds, and other attractions. There's so much to do here that you'll probably want to visit several times to take it all in.
Established in the 1870s, Golden Gate Park stretches from Ocean Beach in the west to the city's Haight-Ashbury district in the east, and is bordered by the Sunset and Richmond districts on the south and north, respectively. Whether your family wants to play at an historic playground, visit the penguins at the Cal Academy, take in some art at a world-class museum, or have lunch with a view of the Pacific Ocean, there's something for you to do here.
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.
One 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 nearly a century—99 years to be exact. 2012's Mountain Play production is Meredith Wilson's The Music Man, the musical tale of fast-talking and charming con man Harold Hill and his scheme to sell the citizens of River City, Iowa on a boys' marching band.
The Mountain Play's production of The Music Manfeatures a professional cast including local singer/songwriter and children's performer Susan Zelinsky, AKA Susan Z, as in the starring role of River City's librarian Marian Paroo and Robert Moorhead as Harold Hill. This year's play is the 30th and final production for Marin County theater legend and Mountain Play veteran James Dunn, too.
Performances take place at 2 pm at Mt. Tam's Cushing Memorial Amphitheater on May 20 and 27, and June 3, 10, 16, and 17. General seating ticket prices range from $30–$40. New this year is half-price general seating admission ($15) for children ages 4–13, 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.
Local arts eduction group Youth in Arts presents its new musicl production Photosynthesis—Living Sunlightthis Thursday and Friday at the Marin Center Showcase Theater. This world premiere, created in collaboration with the Marin Carbon Project, explains and illustrates the incredible process of photosynthesis through music and theater. The show provides a powerful message about how living close to the earth can save our global environment.
Photosynthesis—Living Sunlight is recommended for children ages 8–12, and runs just under an hour with no intermission.Two performances for local students will be offered on Thursday, May 3 at 9:30 and 11 am and a family performance takes place Friday evening, May 4, at 7 pm.
Tickets for the family performance are $8.50 each and are available at the Marin Center Box Office online or at (415) 473-6800. Tickets to the Thursday student performances can be reserved here.
L. Frank Baum's classic story The Wizard of Oz comes to life in Masque Unit Junior Theatre’s annual live theater production for young children at Marin Center this weekend. Masque Unit’s production and Jim Eiler and Jeanne Bargy’s musical adaptation of The Wizard of Oz introduces children to this timeless masterpiece and offers an afternoon of delightful entertainment. The colorful characters, fast-paced action, and hysterical humor will please not only children of all ages, but adults as well.
After a tornado whisks Dorothy away from her farm in Kansas to the magical land of Oz, the Munchkins and Glinda the Good Witch send her on an adventure to find the mighty Wizard. On her way, Dorothy meets a brainless Scarecrow, a heartless Tin Woodsman, and a Cowardly Lion. Dorothy must avoid the clutches of the Wicked Witch of the West and find the Wizard who will help her get home.
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.
Children visiting the Bay Area Discovery Museum can become young scientists at Science + Me, the museum's newest special exhibition. Developed by the Kohl Children's Museum in Chicago in conjunction with scientists at global health care company Abbott, this exhibition opened January 17 and runs through April 15, 2012.
Science + You offers a child-sized laboratory where children can explore how scientists impact health and wellness. Learn how science plays a vital role in keeping you and your body healthy through hands-on interactive exhibits and activities. On Saturday afternoons, meet scientists from Abbott Labs who will perform fun, interactive, and age-appropriate science experiments in the exhibition's demonstration area.
Children will enter the 1,200-square-foot exhibition as if they're entering a real laboratory, washing up and wiping their feet before they put on their white lab coats. Once inside, they'll learn about anitbodies, handle materials in a glove box, separate and and mix liquids and solids, view objects on video microscopes, and learn more about healthy foods and lifestyles.