Saturday, November 6, 2010

Child Goes to San Francisco for 27hours

Recently when some friends moved back to San Francisco we decided it was time to pay them and the city a visit. But it would be a very fast trip. Rather than fight the Friday evening commute traffic we drove in Saturday morning. Coming in around lunchtime we immediately needed some substance. And our friends new place located in North Beach made it easy access to many of a child’s favorite of pastas and pizzas. We found ourselves at North Beach Pizza. Recently remodeled it was still perfect for two small children. And we were able to order pizzas with light sauce and other things to their liking.

The weekend turned out to be one of the first rainy ones of the fall season, so we spent the rest of our day in Union Square and enjoying some yummy walking treats from the bottom floor at Macys where there is an array of to go eateries, including one of my daughter's favorites, Ben and Jerry's. Then we hung out watching the Giants clinch their berth to the World Series. Which the kids really enjoyed hearing the city erupt into celebration as we looked out upon Coit Tower awash in orange in support.

With it still raining heavily the next morning we opened the windows to allow the kids to enjoy the parrots of Telegraph Hill. The parrots, a group of cherry-headed conures, which travel every morning and every evening right past our friends’ windows. The kids stood and watched for about 30minutes as they birds circled the neighborhood and eventually went on their way for the day.

A rainy, blustery day in San Fran meant we must plan something indoors. As a young married couple we had visited the Palace of the Fine Arts on numerous occasions. But we had never ventured to the other side of the complex where an incredible museum of art, science, and human perception exists in the Exploratorium. There is a rather large free parking lot close by, but on a rainy weekend you must arrive within about 1 hour of opening as it fills up quickly. Once inside for the cost of $10 (ages 4-12) & $15 for adult (18-64) you are greeted by over 600 exhibits. Most of which were hands on. I don’t know any other word to explain this museum, but amazing for adults and kids alike. I have been to many children’s museums, but this put everything I have been to to shame. Now many scientific explanations were over my children’s heads, like how fog forms & hearing sensory, but my daughter enjoyed standing in the enjoyed standing in the fog machine and helping other children send a ring of mist 30ft high into the air while my son and I sat in a sound room and identified locations based on sound alone.

We spent nearly an hour and a half on the first floor and didn’t even see it all and barely touched the top floor when it was time for my daughter and I to enjoy the tactile dome. We paid extra for this…our admission plus tactile dome was $20 a person. The dome has been open since 1971 and is still a major attraction. Space is limited and only 2 times were left by the time we purchased our tickets less than 1 hour after opening. The dome is just what it sounds like a dome inside the larger Exploratorium. You get to take at least 3 trips through, climbing, crawling, walking the dome in total darkness using only your hands and sometimes you ears via sounds to guide your way through.

After about 4 hours in the museum we had only seen probably 2/3 of the exhibits, but our children were absolutely mentally exhausted. We opted to skip the very crowded cafĂ© and headed to Unwind on Union Street just a few blocks west for lunch. I was a little worried when we entered to wood floors and a rather crowded bar area with the smartly dressed San Francisco crowd. But the kids were quickly greeted at the hostess stand by a hand full of gummy bears and we were led to the greenhouse patio. Here we enjoyed watching Sunday sports while the kids enjoyed hearing the storm raging outside against the glass roof and coloring with my ever present crayons and paper in my purse. Again I was nervous when the very serious waitress approached us to take our orders, but a smile from my son and the ice was broke and we quickly learned she was one of 7 children in her family and she brought us kid-sized everything, extra napkins, etc.. Ahhh…much more relaxing than the fighting for a table for mediocre, overpriced museum food and instead the kids' enjoyed Belgian waffles off the brunch menu and we enjoyed crab cake sliders and sweet potato fries. A stop at the Starbucks on the corner, less than a half a block up, for a little caffeine for the 2hr drive home and we were on our way….

….of course with a little detour at my daughter’s request which we easily obliged as outbound is free…a crossing of the Gold Gate Bridge.