Here are our 2012 top picks for fun in the sun and new, neat Northern California offerings.
1220 Arden Hills Lane
Looking for a cool summer getaway close to home? Imagine a wonderful workout followed by a satisfying brunch -- and maybe even a relaxing massage or other soothing body treatment -- then spending a long and luxurious afternoon lounging poolside. If this sounds like a perfect getaway, consider "Summer Sundays" at Arden Hills Resort Club & Spa! The popular "Summer Sundays" program is available to the community every Sunday from May 27 through September 2, 2012.
During "Summer Sundays" at Arden Hills, guests will have full access all day to the three spectacular pools (along with a water slide and play pools for kids), the 50,000-square foot indoor Fitness Pavilion complete with the latest workout equipment, a full gymnasium, multiple fitness studios for group exercise classes, and an outdoor Tennis Center with 12 courts. And, in the afternoons from 1 to 5 p.m., poolside guests will be treated to live music provided by popular local bands and/or DJs and be served bite-sized appetizers and frozen grapes. As always and including "Summer Sundays" guests, Arden Hills Resort Club & Spa is open to community members for a daily resort fee of $50.
55 Music Concourse Drive
San Francisco, California
EARTHQUAKE - A Major New Exhibit and Planetarium Show
at the California Academy of Sciences! Earthquake takes visitors on a kinetic journey toward understanding these super seismic phenomena and how they fit into the larger story of our ever-changing planet. Opening to the public on May 26, the exhibit features a walk-through model of the Earth, live baby ostriches (yes, there are surprising connections between earthquakes and ostriches!), an earthquake simulator resembling an old Victorian home, and an interactive preparedness arena. Concurrently, a new planetarium show launches audiences on a breathtaking tour through space and time—fly over the San Andreas fault before diving into the planet’s interior, travel back in time to witness both the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the break-up of Pangaea 200 million years ago, and get up to speed on the latest tremors around the world.
reviewed on: December 04 2011
California Academy of Sciences is nothing short of “astonishing-amazing-oh my goodness-magnificent -I can’t wait to visit again-tacular!!”
"California Academy of Sciences Always Delivers"
Now through January 16 2012, the Academy celebrates 'Tis the Season for Science', the science behind some of our most familiar holiday sights, sounds, and traditions.
During our visit, my son enjoyed an up close and personal experience with a pair of live reindeer in the museum’s East Garden!! Did you know lichens and mosses are the reindeers favorite food? One species of lichen is so commonly eaten by Santa’s sleigh-pullers that it’s called “reindeer lichen.”
Outside in the East Garden my son enjoyed the freedom to run around and burn off some energy before we headed to the hot and humid four story rainforest. The rainforest environment is ideal for frogs, not so ideal for kids dressed in winter clothes.
In the rainforest, the sounds of exotic animals transports you to the tropics. We saw parrots, bats, and butterflies as we climbed into the canopy of the living rainforest. My son actually thought he was walking through a jungle and clung to my leg!
The soothing sights of swimming fish at Steinhart Aquarium impressed my son and he happily sat in his stroller while I ogled over the Philippine Coral Reef, one of the deepest exhibits of live corals in the world! At the Northern California Coast Gallery there's a Discovery Tide pool where children and adults can touch and examine a wide variety of ocean creatures.
February 2012 Addendum!
My son and I are huge fans of San Francisco’s California Academy of Sciences. If you’ve never been, it’s the only place on the planet with an aquarium, a four-story rainforest, a planetarium, and a natural history museum all under one roof. An amazing experience for every member of the family.
When I first heard about the opening of Animal Attraction, a new exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences, I instantly cleared my calendar to go! From sex change to cannibalism, The Academy presents some of our world's wild mating strategies in an 18-tank aquarium gallery devoted to the science of courtship and reproduction in the animal kingdom. Meet hermaphroditic banana slugs, cannibalistic praying mantises, and parasitic anglerfish.
The exhibit uses iPads as exhibit labels, allowing visitors to flip through gorgeous images, watch videos of reproductive behaviors in action, and guide their own digital explorations using interactive touch screens throughout the exhibit.
Some parents might see the word “mating”, and wonder if the exhibit is appropriate for young eyes. The exhibit features the animals themselves and is meant for audiences of all ages and focuses on the mating strategies of the animal kingdom in a scientific format geared toward educating museum visitors. Animal attraction is age appropriate for children of all ages so fear not!!
California Academy of Sciences provided my family with complimentary tickets for this review. California Academy of Sciences did not request that I express any particular point of view and my reviews always reflect my honest opinions.
111 I Street
Railroad Museum Chronicles 150 Years of Passenger Service, Comfort & Style in New "Ticket To Ride" Exhibit - Debuts May 31, 2012. Museum visitors will have the opportunity to view different types of passenger seating from the 1870s to present and to experience sitting in a restored 1930s vintage upholstered passenger car seat and, for comparison, a current model Amtrak double coach seat. Guests will see a variety of vintage train tickets, sleeping accommodations and amenities from different eras and traveling classes. They will also have the opportunity to touch manufacturing materials used to produce passenger seats, read conversations between passengers from different eras and see printed advertisements appealing to different audiences. In addition, Museum visitors will view early traveling comforts such as an original barber chair used in the early 20th century, a bar from a 1930s streamlined lounge car, a coal stove, light fixtures, dining utensils, china and decorated leaded glass.
reviewed on: January 11 2011
Climb on board the Spookomotive train for Halloween bravura in Old Sacramento! On select weekends through the month of October, the California State Railroad Museum offers diesel-powered train rides run by a skeleton crew.
The train's non-scary Halloween decorations are appropriate for children of all ages. Skeletons, bats, cobwebs, and crows jovially adorn the ceilings of the train and I must admit, brought a huge smile to my face. Hats off to the museum for creative décor! The six mile ride from start to finish is 40 minutes in length and departs hourly from 11 am to 4 pm at the Central Pacific Railroad Freight Depot at Front and “K” Streets.
The spook factor of the Spookomotive train is nonexistent which makes this activity fantastic for young children. As for myself, I found the Spookomotive Train slightly boring. I think I expected more than first-rate decorations from the ride since it's a special event ride. With that being said, the train is a pleasant ride staffed with pleasant people. My four year old son fell asleep during the ride, but honestly, he falls asleep in ALL moving vehicles.
Here are some of the highlights of my trip:
• An energetic staff member who posed with my son for a
• Affordable ticket prices ~ $10 for adults, $5 for youths
• The 40 minute ride was ideal for my son's short
While I was onsite, I purchased a Caboose Club membership to the museum for $25. What an amazing deal! With the Caboose Club membership, my son and I will receive free entry into the California State Railroad Museum and will be able to ride the train (there are some blackout dates) for free for a year! WE ALSO GET ADVANCED PURCHASE RIGHTS TO NEXT YEAR'S POLAR EXPRESS!
I received complimentary train tickets to complete this review. My opinions are always my own.
216 O Street
Art Classes at the Crocker Art Museum - Various Dates/Times Throughout the Month
Ranging from a fun children's "Muddy Hands" ceramics class to "Splash of Life, Watercolor for Teens with Developmental Disabilities" and even an experienced adult "Chinese Brush Painting" class (plus everything in between!), the Crocker Art Museum offers an amazing variety of hands-on art classes throughout the month for budding artists of all skill levels. To explore various class options, visit www.crockerartmuseum.org.
reviewed on: October 08 2012
Crocker Art Museum is beautiful. From its lovely white building to its breathtaking artistic treasures, Crocker is both educational and fun. Crocker offers Sacramento families an abundance of free admission days such as free entry every third Sunday of the month, Labor Day, Memorial Day, free museum day, and on certain days over the Holiday Season. That’s a whole lot of free days!
"Family Friendly Art Museum"
Recently, I took my son to the Crocker Art Museum on Little Buckaroo's day on Labor Day 2012. Parking at the museum is $10. I recommend parking on the street and walking over to the museum to save money. There’s plenty of street parking on neighboring streets. On Little Buckaroo’s Day we enjoyed games, a petting zoo, a gold panning station, and a few art and crafts tables. There was also an open area for kids to practice lasso tricks.
After outside play, we headed upstairs to Totland. Totland is a play area created specifically for children 5 and under. You'll find children's books, a crafts table, a play table, and a giant electronic screen resembling an iPad coloring application. Children can draw on the screen with their fingers. Totland also features ride on toys for children to scoot around on.
Surprisingly, my son enjoyed viewing the art at the museum; an activity I would have assumed was too mature for him. I was blown away by his interest and am now motivated to take him to the museum more often. Perhaps we’ll take advantage of some of the many year-round family friendly program's that Crocker offers.
3901 Land Park Drive
Fairytale Town's popular annual Puppet Festival will kick off its 16th season on May 3. During the eight-week series, four original puppet shows will be presented by Art Grueneberger's award-winning Puppet Art Theater Company.
This year's lineup features artful and hilarious adaptations of four classic fairytales: "Little Red Riding Hood" from May 3 - 13; "The Three Billy Goats Gruff" from May 17 - 27; "Hansel & Gretel" from May 31 - June 10; and the premiere of "Cinderella" from June 14 - 30.
"The Puppet Festival is an experience the whole family will enjoy, and it is a great opportunity to introduce live theater to children," said Kathy Fleming, executive director of Fairytale Town.
Performances are offered Thursdays through Sundays. Weekday show times are: 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Weekend show times are: 12:30, 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. All performances take place in the indoor Children's Theater at Fairytale Town.
Tickets are $2 for nonmembers in addition to park admission, and $1 for members. Tickets can be purchased at the Fairytale Town box office or at the entrance to the Children's Theater 15 minutes prior to show time.
reviewed on: January 10 2011
Fairytale Town is a magical place for children and families to imagine, play and absorb. With 25 play areas built around nursery rhymes and fairytales, exhibits with gentle farm animals, and two performing arts stages, Fairytale Town is the jewel of Sacramento.
A recently constructed Yellow Brick Road leads to the facility’s main gates. This unique atttraction aims to imitate the legendary Yellow Brick Road traveled by Dorothy and her friends to the Emerald City in L. Frank Baum’s classic book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. In order to raise funds for the construction of the road, Fairytale Town allowed individuals a chance to donate funds by purchasing a brick. Once purchased, brick owners were able to have a personal message imprinted on their brick.
Somewhere in that road is a brick with my son’s name on it. I like to think that someday when my son grown with children of his own, he’ll take my grandchild to Fairytale Town and show them his brick in the road that grandma helped build.
I last visited Fairytale Town the weekend of Easter for the Spring Eggstravaganza. Fairytale Town offered a full day of fun Spring and Easter themed activities for the kids. Every child who participated in an Easter egg hunt received a prize! We received some Spiderman candy. Since Spidey is my son’s hero, he was beyond ecstatic. We enjoyed puppet shows, pictures with the Easter Bunny, and best of all, a baby dance party! It was one of those days where you wish you could freeze time to prevent your child from growing any older.
Fairytown Town is conveniently located across the street from The Sacramento Zoo and Funderland. I guess you could call this small area within William Land Park “The Toddler Trifecta.” Finding parking is difficult but not impossible. Though, one really can’t complain because at least it’s free.
Downtown Paso Robles City Park
Paso Robles, California
June 1 - 3, 2012. Get ready for the First Annual BBQ Fun Fest and Kids Day in the Park, a three-day event filled with mouthwatering BBQ, including pulled pork, turkey legs, chicken, tri-tip and sausage available for purchase as well as beer and wine. On Friday night guests can enjoy live music from Steve Sturgis & Roadhouse, with a special introduction by the Paso Robles High School Jazz Bank, followed by a BBQ Cook Off Contest on Saturday. Fun for the whole family, there will a giant bounce house for the kids to enjoy and a “Kahuna Kids’ Kids Day in the Park” on Saturday, featuring vendors, crafts and youth demonstrations.
823 Sutter St
"Then and Now Antique Quilt and Vintage Fashion" Exhibit at the Folsom History Museum - Debuts May 26
The community is invited to visit the Folsom History Museum to see a visually enticing exhibit filled with antique-1800s and contemporary quilts with timeless patterns that will be on display from May 26 through September 2 and complemented by impressive and fun vintage fashions. For more information, call 916-985-2707.
Paso Robles Event Center
Paso Robles, California
May 25-28, 2012, Gather some friends, hop on your bikes and get ready for a thrilling weekend of bicycling through the rolling hills of stunning Paso Robles. A variety of routes are geared for all levels of riders so everyone can join in. This is a fun and reasonably priced family vacation option.
735 Main Street Half Moon Bay, California
Holy Ghost Festival (free!)
May 25-28, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
The Holy Ghost Festival, also known as “Chamarita,” recalls 16th Century Portuguese Queen Isabella, the famine that blighted her people and the arrival of a ship with food that saved them. The grateful queen took her crown to her church altar and centuries later Portuguese communities celebrate this with a festival and parades to church, led by a young woman portraying the queen and carrying a crown.The weekend celebration includes a colorful parade and marching bands, a carnival, equestrian groups, a barbeque and more. Free to the public.
Half Moon Bay, California
Rock the Block - Coastside Block Party (free!)
May 19, 4 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Half Moon Bay will get their groove on at the annual “Rock the Block - Coastside Block Party.” Delicious cuisine, live music and entertainment will fill the streets. Entrance to the event is free and open to the public. Downtown Main Street. For more information, contact the Half Moon Bay Coastside Chamber of Commerce & Visitors’ Bureau, (650) 726-8380 or visit www.rocktheblockhmb.com.
Half Moon Bay, California
On Sunday, August 5 from 2 p.m. – 5 p.m., the “Summer Art Stroll” down Main Street will boast over 45 artists, live music and refreshments.
North Lake Tahoe
Tahoe City, California
May 25 - 28, 2012. Opening Day at the Lake events include deck opening celebrations at Sunnyside Resort (celebrating its 25th anniversary), West Shore Café & Inn, Chambers Landing Bar & Restaurant and Bridgetender (celebrating its 35th anniversary); Granlibakken Resort’s Contractors Home Improvement/Repair Fair; the opening of Meeks Bay Resort & Marina; openings and tours of historical Vikingsholm Castle, Sugar Pine Point Hellman-Ehrman Mansion, the Gatekeeper’s Museum and the Tahoe Maritime Museum with its new “Tahoe Twenties” exhibit; as well as the popular Mike Brown Seaplane Splash-In and BBQ at Obexer’s General Store.
Downtown Paso Robles
Paso Robles, California
May 25-27, 2012. Celebrate summer with this magical three-day event for families. New this year is a Plein Air Masters exhibition, two-day workshops (taking place the week prior to the main events), guest lectures and an Art Tour.
The Saturday Main Event is free
Pescadero IDES Hall
2012 Steelhead Festival (free!)
May 26, Festival 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Cocktails 6 p.m.; Dinner 6:30 p.m.
Fishingenthusiasts, outdoors loversand families will have fun while feeling good at the Steelhead Festival. Organized by The Coastal Alliance for Species, guests will enjoy live music, special exhibits and presentations, guest speakers, special kids’ activities,food, beer and wine while helping to the preserve Pescadero Marsh. A special celebration seafood dinner and live auction follows. Admittance to the festival is free; dinner tickets are $35 per person.
101 I Street
Sacramento's I Street Bridge Photo Display at the Sacramento History Museum -- Continues Through December
In honor of the 100th anniversary of the completion of Sacramento's I Street bridge, the Sacramento History Museum is showcasing a special exhibit of photographs of the beloved bridge. The Sacramento History Museum invites the community to visit the photo display and learn more about the history of this enduring landmark that was built by the Southern Pacific in 1912. Also, For the third consecutive season, popular Old Sacramento Underground tours resume on Saturday, March 31, and continue through Fall 2012. Old Sacramento has the distinction of being the only city in California to raise its streets in the 1860s through the 1870s to protect the city from devastating flooding. Tour participants explore excavated foundations, an open archeological site and enclosed pathways -- all while entertaining and knowledgeable tour guides recount the tales of the devastation, perseverance, and determination that led to California's only successful street-raising project.
reviewed on: June 12 2012
The Sacramento History Museum in Old Sacramento has recently unveiled a commemorative photo display following the history of the I Street Bridge for the last 100 years. I took my preschooler and we had WAY more fun than I guessed we would have.
"My Toddler Caught Gold Fever!"
Here's the scoop on the bridge:
Sacramento’s I Street Bridge is rusty and narrow. She’s the ugly best friend of the Tower Bridge and she’s California’s oldest swinger. That’s right; she swings! Although, I’m not sure which way.
A swing bridge can be compared to a pinball flipper; when a large water vessel needs to pass the bridge, car traffic is stopped and the bridge rotates horizontally at a pivot point to let the boat through (it swings.) Never heard of one? I'm not surprised. This type of bridge is old school, or in other words:
Yo bridge is so old, when she was built her lanes were still carrying horse and wagon traffic.
Yo bridge is so old; she’s older than the Titanic.
Yo bridge is so old; she's the last of her kind in California.
The Sacramento History Museum invites the community to visit the photo display and learn more about the history of this enduring landmark. Sacramento's I Street Bridge Photo Display runs every Saturday, April 28, 2012 thru Monday, December 31, 2012 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Children will also enjoy panning for gold, weighing fruits and veggies on a food scale, and petting fur pelts. The building itself is a replica of Sacramento's 1854 City Hall and Waterworks building.
$6 for adults; $4 for youth ages 6-17; free for children five and under.
This review is based on a complimentary visit to the Sacramento History Museum. I received no other compensation and was not asked to express a particular point of view. My opinions are entirely my own.
2701 L Street
Beginning on Saturday, May 12, and continuing on the second Saturday each month, Sutter's Fort State Historic Park (SHP) with support from Friends of Sutter's Fort (FOSF) is proud to present a fun and interactive new program titled "Scouts at the Fort." Designed to help Girl Scouts earn their "Playing the Past" skill building badges, docents and staff at Sutter's Fort will help students re-create and experience daily life in the mid-1800s.
Initially developed by a dedicated 10-year old docent at Sutter's Fort SHP who is also an active Girl Scout, the specially designed program lasts from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and includes hands-on crafts and activities such as toy making, daily chores and cooking activities, and period-appropriate games that engage juniors in understanding the life of a young pioneer living in 1846 at Sutter's Fort.
Although initially designed to meet the requirements for the Girl Scout badge, "Scouts at the Fort" is an outstanding learning opportunity that can be tailored for all youth groups (for kids ages eight and older) who are interested in expanding their knowledge of California history in a fun, unique and interactive way.
Even when "Scouts at the Fort" activities are underway, the Fort is still open to the community as usual.
"Scouts at the Fort" group reservations are required at least two weeks prior. The cost for this special program is $15 per scout, which includes admission to the Fort and admission for one adult per scout.
5205 West Lake Blvd
Opening day May 26, 2012. At the beginning of the 1920s, Lake Tahoe residents were entering into a time of incredible change. The end of WWI and the beginning of prohibition brought out a spirit of rebellion and innovation in people and industries across the nation. The maritime world used this energy to bring about a new period in boating: the era of the speedboat. Meanwhile, Lake Tahoe residents faced uncertainty as they sought to make tourism their main industry. The beauty of the lake, easing transportation sources, luxurious accommodation, and invigorating activities combined to make Lake Tahoe a first class destination.
In Tahoe Twenties: A Story of Boats, Booze & Business, the Tahoe Maritime Museum examines the many interests, social forces, and developments of the 1920s through the lens of its maritime vessels.
Downtown City Park
Paso Robles, California
Trading Day and Kids Flea Market
June 23, 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Downtown City Park
Find that coveted antique table or discover the perfect piece of artwork at this popular outdoor yard sale filled with collectibles and curiosities. Not be left out, children between third and eighth grades will learn the basics of entrepreneurship by selling their own items at the Kids Flea Market.
560 North Lake Boulevard
Tahoe Vista, California
Re-opens May 2012!
The Watson Cabin still stands on the original site where the Robert Montgomery Watson built it in 1909, and remains an outstanding example of turn-of-the-century construction. It is the oldest building in Tahoe City that still sits where it was built, in the heart of Tahoe City, above Commons Beach, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The first residents of the Cabin were Watson’s son Robert, his wife Stella and their daughter, Mildred. While the cabin is a testament to the simplicity of pioneer life, it was one of the first in Tahoe City to have indoor plumbing! Originally, the cabin contained a living room, kitchen and an outdoor porch. Upstairs there were 2 bedrooms, a sewing room, and amazingly, indoor plumbing in the bathroom! Eventually, the outdoor porch was extended and enclosed to make room for the family of three who for many years lived here year ‘round.
The other house of note that Robert M. Watson built was the Gatekeeper’s Cabin next to Fanny Bridge, now the Gatekeeper’s Museum.