Celebrating Holi

A couple of years back, one of my colleagues mentioned she was going to a Holi celebration and invited us to come along. Initially, I was a little nervous about this, but I was quickly reassured that it was a really fun celebration. We just needed to wear clothes that were ok to get dirty, the lighter the color the better so that the color really stood out. 

Holi is a Hindu spring festival known at the “festival of colors” to signify the arrival of spring. It’s a day of rebirth, to play and laugh, forgive and forget, or repair broken relationships. A number of organizations here set up Holi events in schoolyards as fundraisers where they provide music and (organic) color, along with inviting food trucks to sell Indian specialties. 

To prepare for the event, choose light colored clothing that you expect will get very dirty. The last time we went, I got my kids white jean cutoffs and some white t-shirts. I had a white t-shirt and some gray shorts. I was pretty ok with getting color left in my car after the event (who doesn’t need more color in their lives), but if that's an issue for you consider some way to wrap your seats for the trip home. It was much easier not to bring anything but camera’s with us, so we didn’t pack any lunches and expected to buy from the food trucks (so bring appropriate cash). Some people wrap their phones and cameras up in plastic, we just went with it and everything was fine. 

At our first event, my youngest daughter was 6. The DJ was pretty loud and seeing all the color fly was a bit intimidating initially. She basically ran away from the whole thing, which is pretty unusual for her. But once I picked her up and carried her back and we threw the first handful of color at each other, she didn’t want to leave. 

Following the event, you can usually pat yourself down and get the excess color powder off of you. It might be good to have some wet wipes in the car for faces. Then once you get home, it’s showers for everyone and all the clothes go in the washer. You’d be surprised at what comes out after a couple of washes. The yellow seemed to stick around the longest. 

1-2-3 Things - Round and Round Stow Lake

Hello Adventurers!

Did you get out for a ride on JFK Drive last week? When we break out the bikes for the season, this is the first place I like to go for a shakedown ride because if something goes wrong, it's an easy stroll back to our car. If you are looking for other good ride opportunities, have a look out for Sunday Streets in San Francisco (although this can get s little crowded depending on the location). We also really enjoy Canada Road down the peninsula, just south of highway 92 which closes on Sunday mornings for cyclists. 

This month we are going to focus on Golden Gate Park, so this week’s adventure finds us at Stow Lake. Having just passed the anniversary of the 1906 earthquake it's interesting to note that Sweeney Observatory used to be on top of Strawberry Hill. Unfortunately it was too damaged and had to be removed, but you can still see the foundation and the reflecting pool at the top and it's a lot of fun to go play urban archeologist liking for the ruins. 

Also let us know if you go, we would love to hear about your trip. Simply reply to this e-mail. And please feel free to forward this to a friend. 


Chief Happiness Officer at kiddiewalks.com 
A project from aSmarterParent.com


1-2-3 Things — Round and Round Stow Lake

Quick inspiration for a day out with the kids around the SF Bay Area

From kiddiewalks.com

  1. Take a boat ride picnic around the lake

  2. Climb the stairs for Huntington Falls

  3. Search for the ruins of Sweeney Observatory

Sweeney Observatory and reflecting pool

Sweeney Observatory and reflecting pool

Strawberry Hill and Stow Lake were man made out of the sand dunes, completed in 1893. Part of the original purpose of building Strawberry was to build an elevated reservoir in order to irrigate the sand dunes and create a park in the “sand district”. The Windmill’s at the western edge would pump water from the ground and push it up to the top of Strawberry Hill (this is now done with electric pumps).  Originally Sweeney Observatory existed at the top of Strawberry Hill, this was more of a vista point than an actual astronomical observatory.  

The Stow Lake Boathouse

The Stow Lake Boathouse

Boat Ride around Stow Lake

We usually like to park by one of the bridges and walk to the Boat House. As you walk along, keep your eye open for larger block stones lining the lake between the outer pedestrian walkway and the waters edge (mostly along the western edge). These stones came from a monastery in Spain (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Mar%C3%ADa_de_%C3%93vila) that William Randolph Hearst purchased with the intention to reassemble at Hearst Castle. Although this plan ended up falling apart the stones found a number of uses in the park (http://www.outsidelands.org/monastery-stones.php), and more recently some of the stones have found a new home in northern California at the Abbey of New Clairvaux where the use of 3D modeling has enabled them to reassemble parts of the original abbey (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abbey_of_New_Clairvaux).

We generally grab a paddle boat for an hour, they also offer row boats. When I was a kid they also had electric boats that were a lot of fun. It takes about an hour to paddle around the lake. They offer life preservers, although the lake is really shallow. Quite often we have a bit of a picnic on the boat and take loads of pictures. The Boathouse has recently gone through renovations and there is an eating area where the workshop used to be. You will also find restrooms here. 

Huntington Falls

Huntington Falls

Climb Huntington Falls

Huntington Falls was completed in 1893 with a $25,000 donation from the railroad tycoon. Its a delight for kids big and small to cross the stepping stones in front of the waterfall, then to climb the stairs next to the falls and cross the bridges that run in front of the falls. To hear all that water roar by is really exhilarating. Once you climb the falls, keep heading up the hill to the top and our next destination. 

There are lots of photo opportunities along the way. I like using my phone fisheye lens attachment at the bottom of the falls on the stepping stones to grab a picture of the my kids in front of the whole thing. Trying to get a picture from the top is also fun.

Sweeney Ruins Today

Sweeney Ruins Today

Search for the ruins of Sweeney Observatory (1891-1906)

For 15 years the Sweeney Observatory sat at the summit of Strawberry Hill overlooking the western edge of the city. Funded by a wealthy landowner on the western side of the city, Thomas Sweeney’s observatory (more of a vista point) looked like a smaller version of an ancient roman coliseum. The observatory could not stand up to the force of the 1906 earthquake, it crumbled and eventually was hauled away. Some effort was offered to restore it, instead those funds were diverted to make a reflecting pool for the de Young Museum. 

Its interesting playing urban archeologist at the top finding ancient footings for the grand building and the reflecting pool opposite. Now there are a lot of tall trees that have grown through the foundation and around the summit of the hill, but at the time the observatory was there the hill was newly made and had only minimal foliage around. 


  • The Chinese Pavilion makes for some nice photo opportunities and is fun to stop and take out the sketchbook for a bit.
  • Take a moment and think about the planning that went into the reservoir here originally. For the windmills to pump water up here - can you see them from the top
  • There are two bridges that connect to Strawberry Hill, the Roman Bridge (the plainer one on the North Side) and the Rustic Bridge (the rocky one on the south side with 2 arches). What are the differences you notice between them? 

Feeling Adventurous 

  • Rainbow Falls and the Prayerbook Cross are just a little northwest of the lake - its almost obscured by the trees, but you can climb up and see it. 


1-2-3 Things - Bike Sunday in Golden Gate Park

Hello Adventurers!

Wow, life can just get the better of you sometimes. I hadn't realized how stressed out I was, until taking a week off to spend spring break with my kids. It was so nice to detach from the computer and take them camping at the Pinnacles, one of our favorite spots. Plus with no cellular service, I really got a chance to unplug and spend quality time with them. I’m still getting back into my groove, almost there...

Sunday it’s supposed to be 75º in Golden Gate Park. Something we enjoy there is riding out bikes on JFK Drive which is closed to traffic on Sunday’s (except for a shuttle bus and service vehicles). It’s kind of a party on wheels and it’s quite fun to just roll up and down here and see what’s going on. The Rose Garden is a nice stop, pull out the picnic blanket and have a snack. Our favorite spot is the Dahlia garden adjacent to the Conservatory of Flowers, and they should be in bloom now. The last time we visited I had some sidewalk chalk with me and the kids drew giant dahlias on the road surrounding the garden. It was delightful seeing them create their own dahlias as they can come in so many shapes and configurations.  

Also let us know if you go, we would love to hear about your trip. Simply reply to this e-mail. And please feel free to forward this to a friend. 


Chief Happiness Officer at kiddiewalks.com 
A project from aSmarterParent.com


1-2-3 Things — Bike Sunday in Golden Gate Park

Quick inspiration for a day out with the kids around the SF Bay Area

From kiddiewalks.com

  1. Ride JFK Drive between Transverse Drive and the Panhandle

  2. Picnic in the Rose Garden

  3. Visit the Dahlia Garden outside of the Conservatory of Flowers

Bike Sunday on JFK Drive 

Sundays and all holidays John F Kennedy Drive (JFK) is closed from the East End (Kezar Drive) to Transverse Drive and on Saturdays from April through September, JFK is closed to vehicle traffic (from 8th Ave to Transverse Drive).

This is not only a lovely opportunity to take a leisurely ride through the park, but also a chance to get your kids on an actual road and talk about how to safely ride your bike (without cars). The route isn’t very long (about a mile and a half each direction, roughly 3 miles round trip) and is quite flat, plus there are some nice places to stop along the way and throw down a picnic blanket, blow some bubbles, read a book, or draw with some sidewalk chalk. 

We usually park on Transverse Drive, that road just south of the 19th avenue crossover. You might consider bringing a lock with you just in case. This is a pretty leisurely ride and there are just a lot of spots you might want to stop end explore a little. 

Picnic in the Rose Garden

We usually enjoy reading all the funny names they have for various roses here, then giving them a sniff. It's nice just to wander through and spend a little time here. Really a nice stop to stop and smell the flowers.

A Visit to the Dahlia Garden

Did you know the dahlia is the official flower of San Francisco. It's little wonder why as dahlias come in such a vibrant array of colors, shapes, and sizes. This is one of our favorite spots, and holds a lot of fond memories. 

Located just east of the Conservatory of Flowers (which is also another fun visit), the Dahlia Garden is located outside and free to visit. You can find it at the end of an access road for service vehicles. The garden itself is fenced off, but you can walk around it. Most flowers have labels so you can find their name. 

You should also consider chatting about bees with your kids before visiting here. There will be a number of them working here in the garden. There is nothing to worry about, but you will see them and it’s best to set expectations.

The last time we visited, I had some sidewalk chalk with me and the kids ended up drawing a giant dahlia garden on the road around the garden. It was quite cute. 


  • With the concourse adjacent, you can stop off and enjoy a bit of music at the bandshell, or check out the various statues, fountains, and tunnels. 
  • The De Young has free areas (and a bathroom) like the cafe, sculpture garden and tower which are all lovely spots to visit. You will have to lock up your bikes though. 
  • The Japanese Tea Garden is always a lovely visit too, stop and draw some pictures, or enjoy a nice cuppa tea. 
  • Taking a detour to Stow Lake is always fun, I’ll be doing a letter on that one soon.
  • Sharon Meadow, Hippy Hill, the Carousel, and Children's Playground are right by the end of JFK Drive (east end). Grab a piece of cardboard and head down the cement slides, or take a turn on the carousel. 
  • Have a peek at the lawn bowling club - its actually fascinating to watch. 
  • The 6th Avenue Skating place is a nice spot to stop and watch people have a lot of fun too.
  • Parking on Transverse Drive just west of the 19th avenue crossover usually works out well for us - it really depends on how nice of a day it is and how early you get there. 


1-2-3 Things - A visit to Alameda and the USS Hornet

Hello Adventurers!

Did you get out to see the Tall Ships last week? I know having rain is great, but the timing was bad. We didn’t get out to see them - maybe next week. Also the last weekend of the month we have plans to visit the Bay Model in Sausalito and the Tall Ships will move up there for a bit. So hopefully it will work out soon… 

This week’s adventure is something new for us. Most of my friends who have been (or even spent the night) have said visiting the USS Hornet is pretty cool, plus there are some really fun spots in Alameda to go check out. I might not want to come home from the High Scores Arcade (or the Pacific Pinball Museum). 

Also let us know if you go, we would love to hear about your trip. Simply reply to this e-mail. And please feel free to forward this to a friend. 

Chief Happiness Officer at kiddiewalks.com 
A project from aSmarterParent.com


1-2-3 Things — A visit to Alameda and the USS Hornet

Quick inspiration for a day out with the kids around the SF Bay Area

From kiddiewalks.com

  1. USS Hornet

  2. High Scores Arcade 

  3. Tuckers Ice Cream

Our plan is to visit The Hornet Saturday morning, eat some lunch, drop by 1 or 2 of the arcades, then grab a little ice cream before heading home. 

USS Hornet


This Essex Class aircraft carrier originally commissioned in November 1943 took part in key battles of the Pacific during WWII (also playing a major part in bringing troops home), Vietnam, and retrieving capsules from the Apollo Program on their return from the moon. Decommissioned in 1970, the Hornet was designated a  National Historic Landmark & California Historic Landmark, opening as a museum in 1998 in Alameda. 

Admission tickets to the Museum may be purchased onboard the ship.
Entry from the pier is via the first gangway.
The Hornet is open daily from 10AM - 5PM. 
$20 Adults
$10 Youth
There is a strict policy on bringing large bags aboard so pack light (check the website for details). 
They also offer flashlight tours and have youth overnights which I hear are really fun. 

High Scores Arcade 

Opening in 2013, this classic arcade focuses on games from the 80's with over 400 playable consoles. Rates are $5/person for an hour of play, or $10 for a whole day. 

Weekend hours:
Saturday 12PM -11PM
Sunday 11AM - 6PM

Tuckers Ice Cream

Having spent over 70 years bringing smiles to the faces of locals and visitors alike, Tuckers is a chance to steal a moment of a time gone by. What a wonderful opportunity to share with your loved ones. 


1-2-3 Things – Ahoy Matey's! All Aboard the Tall Ships!

Hello Adventurers!

We didn't make it out to Mare Island last week, kind of a bummer, but sometime soon. With all the wind advisories going on, I didn't want to be driving over any bridges. Instead we headed over to the Richmond District in San Francisco to the Balboa Theater (celebrating their 90th birthday) and watched Zootopia at their "Popcorn Palace". $10 gets you a ticket, a drink, and popcorn to watch a kids movie with families. From there we wandered across the street to Shanghai House for a little lunch. 

Probably a good reminder to always have a fallback plan (or be ready to create one) for when plans fall through. That's why there are 3 things listed in these newsletters, your primary destination and two fallbacks. Things are shaping up for a good bit of rain this weekend - so keep that in mind as you decide your plans. 

This week’s adventure continues our Nautical month, hopefully this weather let's up a bit. This weekend (and next) you can visit the Tall Ships at the Port of Redwood City (following that you can find them in Sausalito by the Bay Model which we will visit in a couple of weeks). Live out your Pirate adventures on these beautiful sailing ships which tour up and down the west coast. A couple weeks ago I picked up the audiobook for Treasure Island for us to listen to in the car. Although I have to stop occasionally and explain a couple of things, the kids seem to really be enjoying it, especially because the main character is not so different in age from them. 

Also let us know if you go, we would love to hear about your trip. Simply reply to this e-mail. And please feel free to forward this to a friend. 


Chief Happiness Officer at kiddiewalks.com
project from aSmarterParent.com


1-2-3 Things — Ahoy Matey's! All Aboard the Tall ships

Quick inspiration for a day out with the kids around the SF Bay Area

From kiddiewalks.com

  1. Visit the Tall Ships at the Port of Redwood City

  2. Redwood Roller Rink

  3. San Mateo County History Museum

There isn't much else to do around the port of Redwood City since Malibu Grand Prix closed. Although if you continue out to the office complex at the end (Pacific Shores) there is a nice walk along the edge of the water there. We are adding on a couple of indoor options in case of bad weather closer to downtown Redwood City. We've mentioned these before along with the port festival newsletter a few months back, and they are wonderful secondary destinations. 

Visit the Tall Ships at the Port of Redwood City


The Tall Ships make their return to the Port of Redwood City this weekend, and are here the following weekend as well before they take their tour up to Sausalito by the Bay Model at the end of the month (Note: the Bay Model is actually our destination for the last weekend of the month as well, so we will be talking about that in more detail in a couple of weeks). 

Both the Lady Washington and the Hawaiian Chieftain come to dock and are open for tours for a $3 donation. 

The Lady Washington represents American maritime history from the late 1700's to the early 1800's. Build using traditional methods, she has been used in many different TV shows and movies. Ships like this were what brought people to the gold rush in the 1850's, only to be left derelict in the water off Yerba Buena cove. 

The Hawaiian Chieftain is a swift topsail ketch which was built in Hawaii, sailed as far as Hawaii and through the Atlantic Ocean, and once was stationed in Sausalito. 

The volunteers who live aboard tell stories falls offering types, and some we've met in the past taught us little sea shanties to sing. There is always activity going on, and during their visit will conduct some short sails (you have to buy tickets and make reservations) and even a mock naval battle. This is a great visit and a lot of fun, plus they have some great volunteers with a lot of passion for what they do. 

Redwood Roller Rink



Take a step back to a time gone by by popping in here with the kids. Lace up your skates and enjoy the music as you enjoy this institution of fun enjoyed by locals for decades. The rink opens up for sessions, each with it’s own pricing so be sure to check the schedule before you go. 

San Mateo County History Museum


This quiet little museum located in the old courthouse in downtown Redwood City has been beautifully restored. Enjoy the rotunda under the dome with it’s stained glass, create your own mock trial in the courtroom used to film scenes from Mrs. Doubtfire, and explore exhibits celebrating all the remarkable achievements that happened here in San Mateo County. There are often events in the square in front of the old Courthouse so keep your eyes open. 


Feeling Adventurous 

1-2-3 Things – North Bay visit to Mare Island Museum

Hello Adventurers!

Wasn't it lovely out last weekend? We had a great visit to Japan Town (the kids didn't want to leave), a delightful sushi picnic in Lafayette Park (they have quite a play structure there and what beautiful views), and a wonderful tour around the Haas-Lilienthal House (in fact we helped shut the place down with the volunteers). Any one of these spots could easily be a wonderful day out. 

This week’s adventure starts our Nautical Month. Looks like a lot of rain coming in this weekend, so keep that in mind as you make your plans. Heading to the North Bay, our primary destination is the Mare Island Museum and tour of the historical park. This is a new one for us, so all I really know is what I've been researching on the web. It's been on our to-visit list for ages though. 

Note: this weekend looks like a lot of rain, we are a bit on the fence and might make this trip later. Please use your best judgement when going out. 

Also let us know if you go, we would love to hear about your trip. Simply reply to this e-mail. And please feel free to forward this to a friend. 

Chief Happiness Officer at kiddiewalks.com
project from aSmarterParent.com



1-2-3 Things — North Bay visit to Mare Island Museum

Quick inspiration for a day out with the kids around the SF Bay Area

From kiddiewalks.com 

  1. Visit the Mare Island Museum

  2. Tour the Mare Island Historical Park

  3. Vallejo Naval & Historical Museum

Since this trip is a new one for me, I’m sharing what research I’ve done down below. Each one of these letters comes with an accompanying page on kiddiewalks.com, for updates on this trip check back there. 

Some Background on Mare Island


Mare Island Navy Ship Yard (MINSY) was established not long after the Gold Rush in 1853 under the command of Commander David Farragut who was responsible for the phrase “Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead!” during the Civil War Battle of Mobile Bay (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Mobile_Bay#Damn_the_torpedoes). The torpedoes referred to here were actually confederate naval mines (not the fast moving bombs you see in WWII movies). Mare Island served as a naval shipyard for over 150 years building over 500 ships (repairing countless others), manufacturing nuclear submarines, serving from the Civil War all the way through the end of the Cold War.

The island got it’s name from when a ferry transporting General Vallejo’s prized white mare was wrecked and day’s later the mare was found on this peninsula. 

Mare Island ceased naval operations in 1996, and started the decline of Vallejo as it started to fall on hard times. 

Mare Island Museum

Mare Island Historic Park Foundation
1100 Railroad Ave, Vallejo, CA 94592
Hours: 10 am to 2 pm weekdays; and the 1st and 3rd full weekends of the month; 10 am to 4 pm.
Tour of the Museum: $5/Person
Main Number: (707) 557-4646
Tour Reservations: (707) 644-4746 or (707) 280-5742

Tour the Mare Island Historical Park

Monday – Friday: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Weekends: First and third Saturday and Sunday of each month, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Museum (Building 46, 1100 Railroad Avenue) Tour: $5/Person

Full Tours by Reservation
Telephone: (707) 644-4746 or (707) 280-5742
Full Tour Prices: 
Individual Adults: $15/person, Children 6-12:  $5, under 6 years:  free

Vallejo Naval & Historical Museum 

734 Marin Street, Vallejo, Ca 94590
Telephone: (707) 643-0077
Museum Hours: Tuesday through Saturday 12:00 to 4:00
Admission Fees: $5 adults; $3 seniors & students; children under 12 free


1-2-3 Things - Life before the 1906 Earthquake - visit the Haas-Lilienthal House

Hello Adventurers!

I hope you have a chance to walk the Yerba Buena shoreline at some point. I had walked pieces of it before, but walking it from end to end gave me a different perspective of downtown San Francisco. I first visited the plaque on First and Market when I was in 3rd grade, but the idea of the shoreline being there was always abstract. Walking the shoreline, feeling the small elevation changes still present today really brought a lot more of this home. I'm still a bit in awe of the massive undertaking it took to create what we have today. 

We have one more historical stop before we start our nautical month in March. We find ourselves at the newly restored Haas Lilienthal house at the edge of Pacific Heights. Being on the east side of Van Ness, this Victorian survived the fire following the 1906 earthquake. It's one of the few places today that can give us a taste of what a slice of life was like over a hundred years ago. 

Also I wanted to give you an idea of what is planned for our nautical month of March:

Somehow we’ve never been up to Mare Island, but it seems like they have a wonderful museum up there. The Tall Ships visit every year and actually stop at a number of spots around the Bay Area (the Port of Redwood City for this visit), go have a Pirates of the Caribbean adventure with the family. The USS Hornet parked over in Alameda is one I’ve heard a lot about and somehow never visited. And finally the Bay Model I’ve mentioned a couple of other times gives you a nice perspective on the Bay and how vast it actually is. I love that even having spent my entire life here there are still new things to go experience with my kids. 

Also let us know if you go, we would love to hear about your trip. Simply reply to this e-mail. And please feel free to forward this to a friend. 


Chief Happiness Officer at kiddiewalks.com

A project from aSmarterParent.com



1-2-3 Things — Life before the 1906 Earthquake - visit the Haas-Lilienthal House

Quick inspiration for a day out with the kids around the SF Bay Area

From kiddiewalks.com

  1. Wander around Japan Town

  2. Picnic at Lafayette Park

  3. Visit the Haas-Lilienthal House

Trip Note:
We will be heading up on Saturday February 27th.
If you are planning on going, let me know so we can look for you. 
~9:00-10:00 Arrive at Japan Town
~11:30 Picnic at Lafayette Park
~12:30 Haas-Lilienthal House Tour

Our main destination today is the Haas-Lilienthal House for a taste of what life was like prior to the 1906 earthquake. Much of the city we see today was a result from the efforts that went into rebuilding the city after the devastating fire. However this little slice of life from an upper middle class family remains. 

Usually these notes string together one main destination and offer some supplementary locations to support the main one. This is in case your main destination doesn't work out or ends up being a really short visit, you still have a backup plan to make sure your day isn't a failure. Ideally I would have picked two supporting locations that were a bit more in the theme of the primary destination, but I couldn't work that out so I chose some fun ones instead. I’ll probably need to go on one of the Walking Tours offered by the SF Heritage organization to plan something better in the future (http://www.sfheritage.org/walking-tours/) . I hope you enjoy them. 

Japan Town

Parking on the weekend can be a bit tricky, so I'd suggest arriving on the earlier side. You may be lucky and find street parking, but it's likely metered. We've usually headed to the underground parking and have been pretty lucky with that. Still if it's a nice day or there is an event going on, you might have some difficulty. 

It's probably best not to approach your visit with a plan aside from approaching what you encounter with curiosity. A couple of must visit areas for us are

  • May’s Coffee Shop - to pick up some Taiyaki (fish shaped waffle like treats with tasty fillings)
  • Bookstore - to find some of our favorite books to see how they look in Japanese
  • Daiso - Dollar store from Japan - we could spend hours here. 
  • Nijiya market - to pick up some goodies for our picnic
1906 Refugee Camp Lafayette Park

1906 Refugee Camp Lafayette Park

Lafayette Park





Initially while planning out the trip today, I thought oh we can go picnic in the same park as the kids from the Haas-Lilienthal House. And although this is partially true, the current park was built in 1936. However in looking at the history of of this space, the city had set aside this 4 block area to be used as a park in 1855, but was not officially established to be a park till 1867. During this time a prominent San Francisco attorney claimed part of the land and built himself a house on the hill’s summit and successfully defended his property for over 30 years. The house was eventually torn down in 1936 and the park was formally established. A couple of other historical notes:

  • The first astronomical observatory on the west coast was built here in 1879
  • After the 1906 earthquake, refugees camped here. 

You can find some lovely views here. There are tennis courts, playground, restroom, picnic areas, as well as an off leash dog area here. I would suggest finding parking adjacent to both our next destination and the park. 

Haas-Lilienthal House



House Tours
Saturday: 12PM - 3PM
Sundays: 11AM - 4PM
General Admission is $8
Kids under 12 are $5

Designed by Peter R. Schmidt, William and Bertha Haas built it in 1886. This is the only period Queen Anne style victorian house open to the public in the city. It shows what life was like for an upper-middle class family in the latter part of the 19th century. Amazingly the house cost over $18,000 to build, and the land cost them $13,000 (average property costs during this time were between $700 - $2000), a fairly extravagant house for the time. 

William and Bertha Haas moved in with their 3 children: Florine, Charles, and Alice. The children were raised there and eventually Alice married Samuel Lilienthal at the house in 1909. After William Haas died suddenly in 1916, Alice and her husband along with their two children moved in with Bertha (Alice eventually went on to have a third child). In 1973 Alice Haas Lilienthal’s heirs donated the house to the Foundation for San Francisco’s Architectural Heritage and donated many of the furnishings. 


  • Take a stroll along Fillmore Street, lots of wonderful shops and restaurants to see. 
  • Look for May's Coffee Shop in Japan Town and order a couple of Taiyaki. They are filled fish shaped waffles that are delicious. Try a filling you are unfamiliar with. 
  • Have a wander through the Japanese bookstore, it's fascinating to look for familiar books in another language. What does Harry Potter look like in Japan?

Feeling Adventurous 

  • Stop in for a movie at the Kabuki Cinema, a very popular destination. 
  • Find a restaurant for sushi lunch and try something new. 

1-2-3 Things - Walking the Original Yerba Buena Shoreline in Downtown San Francisco

Hello Adventurers!

Did you get out to Mission Dolores last week? We didn't manage to make it to Dolores Park, but we spent a half hour chatting with the charming Nekia playing Tibetan Bells and talking about sound and it's possible healing properties. We met her walking through Clarion Alley on our way to Mission Dolores. 

This week’s adventure is is continuing our historic theme for a stroll along the original waterfront in Downtown San Francisco. It may surprise you that a large number of ships are buried under buildings downtown. When the gold rush struck, thousands of people flocked out here to make their fortunes. Not only that, but the crews manning the ships sailing out here also abandon ship once they got here making it impossible to sail the ships back to their ports of origin. These ships were left sitting for years, eventually being silted in, landlocked, and finally buried in the name of progress. 

Excavations downtown still discover ships today. Like when they were digging the Embarcadero extension for muni to allow the N Judah to go to the Caltrain station. As they were tunneling through, around, and up to the Embarcadero the machine encountered a copper hulled vessel thought to be a ship named the Rome. Some excavations occurred but the Muni tunnel goes through this gold rush era ship today. 


We've done this trip a few times, I like taking the kids on a weekday during spring break so we can stop in at the Wells Fargo Museum too. 

Also let us know if you go, we would love to hear about your trip. Simply reply to this e-mail. And please feel free to forward this to a friend. 

Chief Happiness Officer at kiddiewalks.com
A project from aSmarterParent.com


1-2-3 Things — Walk the original Yerba Buena Shoreline

Quick inspiration for a day out with the kids around the SF Bay Area

From kiddiewalks.com 

  1. Visit the Mechanics Monument

  2. Walk the original San Francisco shoreline

  3. Visit the Wells Fargo Museum (weekdays)


The Mechanics Monument 



The city has been putting new efforts into this plaza. There is now an attendant who puts out cafe tables and chairs, a large scale Checkers or chess set, and maintains the area. They've also installed a public wifi hotspot. 

This Greco-Roman style monument started life as a fountain, amid some controversy as the workers are only covered in aprons “semi-clothed”. The dedication and unveiling were met with great success on May 15th, 1901. Douglas Tilden the sculptor was commissioned to build 3 statues for a Market Street Beautification project by the son of Peter Donahue who came to San Francisco in the midst of the Gold Rush and went on to found the Union Iron Works which built the first railway on the west coast and manufacture the first printing press out here, then went on to found the San Francisco Gas Company which later became PG&E. The Mechanics monument was designed to celebrate the work that went into those endeavors. 

President Theodore Roosevelt visited the monument in 1903, and the statue survived the 1906 earthquake and fire, although the fountain and reflecting pool did not. This statue was an inspiration to rebuild San Francisco after the devastation of the earthquake and fire. Within 10 years the city not only rebuilt and began to thrive, but invited the world to come celebrate at the Pan-Pacific Worlds Fair exhibition in 1915. 

The Original San Francisco Shoreline


Much of this is inspired by a chapter in the book "Stairway Walks of San Francisco" by Adah Bakalinsky. It's a wonderful book if you aren't familiar with it, and you can probably find it at your local library or on Amazon. The walk starts at Market and Battery street. Her walk is a bit different then the one I set out here, she goes a bit further and we cover some different details. Plus her book has dozens of other walks that are pretty remarkable. If you don’t already have it, it’s worth picking up. 

http://bit.ly/kiddiewalks_StairwayWalksOfSF [affiliate link]

Here you will find a plaque adjacent to the Mechanics monument On Battery St near Market. There are actually 2 plaque’s, one on each side of Market. The walk goes north from here. Strolling along this walk  as we venture across the waters edge (dipping down and back out), you will notice slight grading changes still present today. These slight elevation changes are ones you’d never really notice much walking around the financial district, but when you walk the shoreline these small inclines take on a much deeper meaning. 

The details of the walk wouldn’t fit here in this note, but you can follow this link to get more information. 

Wells Fargo Museum


Open (free admission) weekdays the Wells Fargo museum is free offering exhibits featuring artifacts from the time of the gold rush. A stagecoach you can virtually drive, play with a telegraph, try old bank machines, read stories from people of that time, and a lot more history giving you a taste of what it was like during that time. The one drawback is that the museum is only open weekdays, so I’ll save a visit for Spring break. There is also a smaller version of this in Old Town Sacramento that can be a really fun visit too. 

Levi’s Plaza

This is the end of our walk today. It’s interesting to take the steps down to the courtyard and fountain you can walk through. As you descend these steps, you can imagine wading into the water and defending from the shore to the water. 

From here you can call it a day and hop on the F-Line to make you way back around to where you started, you can venture over to the Exploratorium, find a spot along the current shoreline and enjoy the view while having a snack, or just enjoy the small parks here. There is also (during regular business hours) bathroom access in the lobby to the Levi building. 


  • There are a number of Privately Owned Public Open Spaces (POPO’s) around downtown. Stopping in at Empire Park at the base of the Transamerica Pyramid is on our route, but also the rooftop at 343 Sansome is pretty cool. https://www.spur.org/sites/default/files/migrated/anchors/popos-guide.pdf  
  • Lotta's Fountain isn’t far on Kearny and Market street, it also survived the 1906 earthquake and fire, and is where memorial celebrations are still held annually today. 

Feeling Adventurous 

  • Climb the steps up to Coit Tower and see the fresco’s at the base (free), or ride the elevator (paid) to the very top for a wonderful view. 

Yerba Buena Shoreline Walk - Downtown San Francisco

Mechanics Monument
Market & Battery & Bush

You want to start your walk at the mechanics monument. Look for the plaque by the Battery Street curb close to Market street by the bike racks. This marker (and the one like it across market on First Street) denote the original shoreline and the start to our walk today. Turn around and note where the Ferry Building and the current shoreline is today. Everything you see out toward the Ferry Building is fill. When they were digging the BART and MUNI subway tunnels here, they encountered a lot of issues as they passed this point on Market Street. 

Turn away from Market Street, cross Battery and start walking up Bush Street to Sansome.

Notice the slight grade changes here as we walk toward Sansome, we are crossing the waters edge onto land here. 

At Sansome and Bush, take a right and walk 2 blocks to California Street.

Along Sansome at the corner of Pine, you will see the old Pacific Stock Exchange which is now a gym. 

As you walk along Sansome, the shoreline approaches again and we will come to the edge of it as we come to California Street. It's interesting to imagine the Cable Cars are actually dipping below the water line at this point as they travel toward the Embarcadero. 

Take a left on California and walk toward Montgomery on the North side of the street.

As you cross Leidesdorff, look toward the curb in front of the Wells Fargo entrance here for an original hitching post (looks like a brown trash can). I believe this predates the 1906 earthquake and fire, but if not, it's pretty old and really was used to hitch horses to. 

From California, take a right on Montgomery and walk up half a block to the Wells Fargo Museum. 

The Museum (open banking hours on weekdays) has free entrance and is a great spot to take the family for an hour or two. Try your hand at riding in and driving a stagecoach, try out old banking machines, and even a telegraph. Lots of biography's on historic figures also. Well worth a visit if you can manage it. 

As you exit the museum onto Montgomery, take a right, cross Sacramento, turn right and walk down Sacramento to Leidesdorff alley. Turn left into the alley and walk the 2 blocks to the end. 

This is where you will get your first real glimpse of the Transamerica Pyramid. This section of Leidsedorff is below the water line. There are also some horse head hitching posts here, but I believe that these are simply decorative. 

From Leidsedorff, take a left on clay and walk the two blocks up to Chinatown and Portsmouth Square.

Portsmouth Square was the original commercial district in San Francisco, and is now the center of Chinatown. You can see mahjong players here in the park. Also if you are hungry, the Sam Wo's restaurant just reopened across from the park on Clay by Kearny. This San Francisco institution just reopened at this new location, still with plenty of flavor and 100 years of memories from the old location. 

Portsmouth Square 1850's

Portsmouth Square 1850's

Walk back down Clay Street past the Transamerica Pyramid to the Redwood Park and take a left.

This is a really tranquil spot to come unplug and mellow out. During some weekday lunch hours, small jazz concerts will be hosted here. Continue through the park to Washington Street.

On Washington Street, take a left and walk to Montgomery and the foot of Columbus. 

The triangular building in front of you is now a church of Scientology, but was the original Bank of Italy building (later to become the Bank of America). This building actually sits on a little cove we will walk around. 

Walk up Columbus, take a right on Jackson Street, cross Montgomery and take a left on the shortest street in San Francisco, Balance Street. Take a right on Gold Street, continue onto Sansome and take a left walking up Sansome to Pacific. 

Jackson Square is one of the few areas to have survived the earthquake and fire, so keep your eyes on the architecture here. many of the buildings have been updates, but still retain the original facades.

Burned area of the 1906 Earthquake

Burned area of the 1906 Earthquake

Take a right on Pacific, walk to Battery and take a left to walk up Battery Street.

On the corner of Battery and Pacific you will find the Old Ship Saloon. 


Abandon Ships in the Yerba Buena Harbor

A ship called the Arkansas was towed here after running aground at Alcatraz being left unmanned for the Gold Rush as this was originally a beach. The above ground part of the ship became a bar and hotel, to be dismantled in the 1860's to be replaced by a building. It is thought that some of the ship still remains underneath. 

Take a left on Battery Street and continue North for 3 blocks till Green Street. 

At Green and Battery you are back underwater. 

Take a left on Green and walk a block back to Sansome. 

On Green Street across Sansome is a historical marker and a warehouse type of building. This is where Philo T. Farnsworth created an electronic image dissector which became the Television. Read more about him here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philo_Farnsworth#Career.  

Take a left on Sansome and walk a block and a half to Levi's Plaza and take a right down the steps, the end of our route today. 

I found it interesting to descend the steps here, crossing the shoreline one last time. This is a good spot to stop and rest, and during the week, there is a restroom in the lobby of the Levi's building that's accessible. There are a couple of nice parks here with some lovely fountains, and a Starbucks to recharge a bit. 

From here you might hop of the F-Line and return back to where you started, spend some time at the Exploratorium, climb the steps to Coit Tower, or just relax a bit and reflect on our walk today. 

The ship General Harrison excavated in 1968

The ship General Harrison excavated in 1968

1-2-3 Things - Bair Island Bonus

Hello Adventurers! 

This is a little bonus note this week which might be a fun outing to keep in your back pocket for some slow weekend day. 

With my last couple of notes talking about discovering and settling San Francisco, I started thinking about what the bay might have looked like way back then. The bay has changed a considerable amount since that time. Did you know there was an idea floated around fifty years ago to fill the bay? 


A lot of changes have happened around the edges of the bay. You have probably witnessed this flying into San Francisco and seeing things like the salt flats, or treasure island, and of course our various bridges. 

There are a number of spots around the bay that are in the process of being restored to wetlands to support and encourage wildlife to return and thrive. one of these spots is Bair Island in Redwood City. 



Bair Island has a short flat trail in the shape of a U, where you enter from the bottom. You cross a short bridge over the slough and arrive to a windbreak with information about the wildlife here. You can take either the path to the right (east) toward the Bay to an observation platform, or left (west) for a longer walk. We only hiked as far as Whipple, but the trail goes on for a bit longer.

The trail (outlined here) itself is just over a mile, but since you will probably be doubling back I would consider this just over 2 flat miles. It can get a bit windy out here. We found it remarkable how detached you get from all the noise of the city and freeway here, yet still be so close to everything. 

This also seems like an interesting spot to bring the family on bikes. Not many people seemed to be out here and most of the road is either paved or hard packed dirt. It's worth mentioning again that this area can get really windy. 

This is just a nice easy excursion, especially is you live down the peninsula. There are no bathroom or water facilities here, so do keep that in mind. 

And we checked everywhere, but couldn't find one Bair 🐻 😉 

1-2-3 Things - On a Mission (Dolores)

Hello Adventurers!

Did you summit Sweeney Ridge last week? The weather is really interesting right now, I saw that the temperature at the coast Monday was 76°, great weather for a hike like this. Not sure if it will last though. 

This week’s adventure continues our focus on local history. Last week we had a brief history on the foley of finding the San Francisco Bay. It took quite a lot of time and imagination to realize how valuable and important the west coast would be. It's hard today to not think how obvious that fact is now. 

But New Spain (Mexico and the West Coast) was so far away and took such a long and dangerous voyage that this potential sat unused for years and years tempting very few people to come out here. It wasn't until that incredible stroke of luck at Sutters Mill discovering gold and the subsequent Gold Rush that brought throngs of people out here. People with imaginations who didn't manage to strike it rich finding gold, but finding themselves stuck out here to create their own fortunes in different ways. 

This week we find ourselves going to Mission Dolores. This was the first major settlement here in the Bay, and one of the few buildings left standing that dates back to the Spanish settlers. Mission Dolores has watched San Francisco grow up, shake, burn to the ground, rise from the ashes, and shake all over again. 

Side note: there is some controversy surrounding Father Junipero Serra along with recent attempts to canonize him. Our visit is only meant to reflect local history to understand how we got here. This is a good opportunity to talk with your kids about not only the good things that came out of efforts by early settlers along with the issues they faced, but also reflect on bad things that occurred resulting from their arrival. 

Also let us know if you go, we would love to hear about your trip. Simply reply to this e-mail. And please feel free to forward this to a friend. 


Chief Happiness Officer at kiddiewalks.com
A project from aSmarterParent.com


1-2-3 Things — On a Mission (Dolores)

Quick inspiration for a day out with the kids around the SF Bay Area

From kiddiewalks.com

  1. Mission Dolores

  2. Dolores Park

  3. Clarion Alley

Safety: the Mission is a wonderful vibrant place to visit, however the area around the 16th and Mission Bart Station can be a bit sketchy sometimes. Please be aware of your surroundings and exercise your best judgement. 


Mission Dolores


Donation suggested: $5 Adults, $3 kids

The building we see today was dedicated in 1791 but the community that built this structure was founded in 1776, right around the same time the war of independence was being fought on the east coast (recall that New Spain was founded in 1549). A Mission wasn't simply just a church building, but the hub of a community. The Spanish government knew if they didn’t start settling the land that they claimed, that eventually they would loose it. So they made it advantageous to people who wanted to go out and settle there by offering large land grants adjacent or close to an existing settlement like Mission Dolores. Eventually Spain lost their hold here with Mexico becoming independent (with Alta California being a territory), then through their unstable government and issues with territory in Texas the Mexican-American war was fought between 1846-1847 which lead to the annexation of California as a US territory and it subsequent statehood in 1850 following the Gold Rush starting in 1848. During this time Mission Dolores was such an important part of life here that there was a plank road built from Downtown San Francisco to the Mission. 

Dolores Park


Dolores Park was founded in 1905 when the land was purchased from the former Jewish Cemetery, and shortly thereafter the Barnum & Bailey Circus contracted to use the land after the graves were moved to Colma and they did some initial grading on the land. Following that the 1906 earthquake hit and this became a refugee camp till 1908 when the place was filled with earthquake shacks. 

The park has just finished recent renovations and the playground is brand new, very popular on the weekends. 

Clarion Alley


The Clarion Alley Mural Project (CAMP) started in 1992, run by a dedicated group of volunteers creating a vibrant scene with murals that spark conversation and the imagination. Over 700 murals have been created over the past 2 decades. 

Note: There are some murals that have some grown up themes. You should be aware of this if you decide to visit. It's a good opportunity to discuss why this is art with your kids. 

You never know who you might meet. Nekia invited us to learn about her Tibetan bells and all the sounds they can make.

You never know who you might meet. Nekia invited us to learn about her Tibetan bells and all the sounds they can make.


Feeling Adventurous 

  • Go see a movie at the recently re-opened New Mission Theater by Alamo Drafthouse. Order food and drinks from your seat, and they have a tasty looking kids menu. 

1-2-3 Things - An Accidental Expedition & Discovery of a Bay

Hello Adventurers!

Did you get out to the summit of Mt. Diablo last week? We really had a wonderful time surveying so much of whats around us. I'm looking forward to another visit sometime soon. 

This week’s adventure is the start of our focus on local history. This month we are going to visit spots of historical significance, in San Francisco and around the bay. And what better spot to visit, than the spot the bay was discovered for the first time. Surprisingly this wasn't by boat, but by land. 

We find ourselves hiking up to where the Portola Expedition, (very) lost on their way to Monterey found themselves one morning as the fog burned off, looking down into what initially thought was a great inland lake. Upon further investigation they found it was an incredible bay, the likes of which had never been seen before. For sailors, a bay is a very protected and defensible position which is much sought after. Somehow with ships sailing up and down the coast for such a long time, the entrance to the bay was always missed, either covered by fog, or just naturally camouflaged. 

Warning: This hike is pretty steep. We climbed about 64 floors hiking 3 miles up the hill, for a grand total of 6.9 miles when we hiked this early last spring. This is a spectacular hike on a clear day. Pack a nice picnic and make a day of it, take your time and plenty of breaks. This is a significant hike though, something for experienced hikers, and not just one to do on a whim without doing other hikes before this. 

Also let us know if you go, we would love to hear about your trip. Simply reply to this e-mail. And please feel free to forward this to a friend. 

Chief Happiness Officer at kiddiewalks.com
A project from aSmarterParent.com


1-2-3 Things — Hike up Sweeney Ridge, and discover the San Francisco Bay

Quick inspiration for a day out with the kids around the SF Bay Area

From kiddiewalks.com

  1. Hike up Sweeney Ridge
  2. Find the Portola Expedition Marker
  3. Visit the abandon Nike Missile Base SF-51

A couple of important things before we start

  • This is a long strenuous hike, it's one you want to build up to, and take your time with. 
  • It's best to pick a clear day. It's still a wonderful hike if it's not clear, but you won't get the same effect. 
  • There is one pit toilet set up toward the top of the climb, and no water available. So be prepared. 

Hike up to Sweeney Ridge. 


To get here, drive west (uphill) on Sneath Lane. You can pick this up from El Camino, highway 280, or Skyline boulevard. Basically you drive all the way up to the end where there is a small parking area and a gate. You will drive past the San Bruno jail and end up around the northern end of Crystal Springs Reservoir (where we get our drinking water from, part of the Hetch Hetchy system). Park you car, and head through the pedestrian entrance for the gate. This is your 3 mile (~60 flights) climb up. 

You will get some breathtaking views along the way where you will see things like the airport, sign hill (South San Francisco the industrial city), Crystal Springs, Coyote Point, San Bruno Mountain, and so much more. There are a few benches along the way, and toward the top there is a pit toilet (no water available).

When you reach the top there will be an option to go left (south) toward the Portola Monument or right (north) toward the abandon Nike Missile Base. 

Portola Expedition Marker


A short stroll south from the top of your climb is the spot where it is believed that Portola and his expedition who were trying to make their way to Monterey from San Diego. 

A Quick History 

More detailed info here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portol%C3%A1_expedition

The area that is now California was originally claimed by the Spanish in 1542 (with a competing claim by the privateer Francis Drake who explored they area adjacent to the Golden Gate in 1579, missing the San Francisco Bay altogether). However this area was left largely unexplored until the 1760's when the Spanish discovered the Russians had been encroaching south from Alaska (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Ross,_California). Gaspar de Portolá was made governor and was tasked with setting up a settlement at the Port of Monterey as discovered by Sebastián Vizcaíno in 1602. Vizcaíno however gave a very grand description of the Monterey Bay, so that when the Portolá expedition actually found it, they didn't recognize it and kept moving north. 

Once the expedition reached present day Moss Beach and saw Point Reyes off in the distance, Portolá sent out Sargent Ortega to explore because they realized they must have passed Monterey. Ortega found his way north blocked by the entrance to the Golden Gate and reported back where the expedition went up into the hills to get the first view of the SF Bay. The expedition made it to this summit and found themselves encased in fog which luckily enough burned off allowing them to see the bay for the first time. At the time only friar Crespí seemed to grasp the importance of this describing in his diary: "a very large and fine harbor, such that not only all the navy of our Most Catholic Majesty but those of all Europe could take shelter in it."

Set on finding the port of Monterey described by Vizcaíno, the expedition turned around, stumbled back across the Monterey peninsula and into Carmel still not realizing they had found Monterey, eventually returning back to San Diego. It wasn’t until a second expedition to Monterey in 1770 that they finally established a permanent settlement and the Presidio of Monterey. 

Nike Missile Site SF-51


At this point SF-51 is just a collection of derelict buildings, however there are some really great views north of here, and if you squint on a clear day you can see the opening of the Golden Gate. There is the possibility of taking some photos with some cool abandon buildings up here, but that’s not everyone’s thing. Still it’s interesting to see some of whats left. If you are interested in how the Nike Missile System worked, you should head over the Golden Gate Bridge to the SF-88 Site on the first Saturday of the month and learn more (http://www.nps.gov/goga/nike-missile-site.htm). It’s a fascinating system, and quite remarkable how they put it all together with the technology at the time. 

When we last visited, the boarded up guard house had become a bee/wasp hive - please be aware of this in case it’s still there. 


  • Not feeling like hiking up 60 flights of stairs? Sawyer Camp trail is just adjacent a little ways south of here. There is a hill at the northern end, but much flatter overall and you can still get a taste of the Portola Expedition. http://parks.smcgov.org/sawyer-camp-segment

Feeling Adventurous 

  • You can continue past the Missile Site and down the other side of the mountain all the way to Mori Point on the coast. 


1-2-3 Things – Summiting Mt Diablo

Hello Adventurers!

Did you get out to Muir Woods last week? With the Super Bowl approaching, you might find another great opportunity to visit and avoid some of the parking hassles. It really is a step back in time and we are lucky to still have it and not some reservoir in its place. 

This week’s adventure is another hike to wrap up our New Years resolution month. We are headed to the summit of Mt. Diablo for a short hike and some beautiful views. Over the past couple of years, we've been working on hiking the summits of all the major peaks in the Bay Area, and Mt. Diablo completes our circuit of the major ones, we still have a few minor ones to do. 

I like the idea of focusing on the summit first to get some good immediate gratification, and it affords an opportunity to grab some ideas for further adventures as you survey the area on the way to the summit. You are also bound to pass a ranger station along the way to ask questions, get a few tips, and maybe see if there is a Junior Ranger program available (Mt. Diablo didn’t have one though). 

Our destination today is a little remote, and it’s a popular biking destination. Please take your time driving up the mountain roads - and share the road with others. Enjoy the view and relax. 

Next month we are focusing on a few local historic spots - there are so many to choose from. 

Also let us know if you go, we would love to hear about your trip. Simply reply to this e-mail. And please feel free to forward this to a friend. 

Chief Happiness Officer at kiddiewalks.com
A Project from aSmarterParent.com


1-2-3 Things — Summiting Mt. Diablo 

Quick inspiration for a day out with the kids around the SF Bay Area

From kiddiewalks.com

  1. Mt. Diablo Summit & Ranger Station

  2. Identify other parts of the Bay Area from the lookout platform

  3. Hike the Mary Bowerman trail around the summit

Park entry is $10 paid at the gate as you drive in. The day we were there, they were only accepting cash. 

Mt. Diablo Summit & Ranger Station

On the way to the summit, please remember to take your time and share the road. There are a lot of blind curves on your way and the road is a very popular cycling destination. The speed limit through most of the park is 15 mph. So take your time and enjoy the view. 

Once you make your way up to the summit and find some parking, make your way to the edge of the parking lot to enjoy the view. Bathrooms are located down to the right of the Ranger Station as you are facing it from the main parking area. 

You can make your way into the ranger station through the main door at ground level. Here they sell a few assorted souvenirs, some maps and books about the area, and some limited snacks (more geared toward the cyclists). Unfortunately they don't have a Junior Ranger program book, but the ranger mentioned some kind of program they hold once a year that the kids can attend. 

Look for the free pamphlets:

  • The Mary Bowerman Trail
  • The View from Mt. Diablo

Then proceed upstairs to the naturalist center for a quick visit to learn more about the geology and wildlife that live in the area. Be aware that Tarantulas do inhabit the area, but they are some of the coolest spiders anywhere and most likely be more scared of you. The naturalist center also had a nice little seating area and a fireplace to warm up at. 

Identify other parts of the Bay Area from the lookout platform

Being one of the highest points in the area, you have a unique opportunity to see many divergent parts of the Bay Area all at once. The weather here can change fairly rapidly, so if your view isn't great initially give it a few minutes, or maybe go for a hike and try again afterwards. There are lots of spots around the parking area here, or climb the stairs up to the top of the ranger station to the viewing platform. 

On your way up, stop inside the ranger station to see if they have a pamphlet titled "the view from Mt. Diablo". This has a nice overhead view of the Bag Area to help pick out various landmarks, there are bound to be a few familiar ones. 

Hike the Mary Bowerman trail around the summit

As you head down from the Ranger Station through the parking lot, you will see the road split. Go directly into the middle and hike over the mound with the antennas and satellite dishes where you will hit the spot where the road converges again. This is where you will pick up the trail. 

You can go either direction on the loop and end up back here. To follow the brochure though, take a right and cross the street. Keep a look out for numbers on posts along the mile long trail. It’s an easy hike, and there are some spots to sit and enjoy the scenery. The pamphlet points out quite a number of natural and geologic features, and tells you the story about how this used to be on the sea floor and how the seismic shift pushed Mt. Diablo upward to give you what we see today. 


  • You should be aware that tarantula’s are indigenous here. Although they tend to stay in hiding, it’s possible you might see one here. Just remember they don’t bite, and if you’d like to find out more, chat with the ranger at the summit. 
  • Camping spots are available here - I’m curious to give this more investigation. 
  • Rock Climbing is also popular here, although if you want to climb you would need to be experienced and have your own gear. Still it can be fun to go watch. 

Feeling Adventurous 

  • Horseback riding seemed to be available here - I wasn’t able to gather any further information yet. 
  • There are also extensive hikes here on the mountain with fabulous views

1-2-3 Things – A Venture Up To Muir Woods

Hello Adventurers!

Did you get out to Devils Slide last week? Having driven this road so many times it was always a tease. You knew there was a majestic view but in a car you really only ever had a moment to appreciate it. It really is a gorgeous spot to hike. 

This week’s adventure is up over the bridge to Muir Woods. Here you can get the impression of where Dinosaurs lived or pretend you are looking for a Storm Trooper on a Speeder Bike on the forest moon of Endor (although they filmed the Ewok scenes much north of here in Redwood National Park). 

Luckily we are getting some much needed rain, and you might think that it isn't a good idea to go out, but then so so a lot of other people. Muir Woods has very limited parking, and is perhaps one of the most visited parks anywhere. But if you can manage an early start, prepare for weather (and maybe a little mud) you will have a great chance to enjoy an incredible spot. A good deal of the trail is paved or planked, but if you want to venture further there might be some mud. 

Our primary spot this trip is Muir Woods, so options 2 and 3 today are mentioned more for fallbacks in case you cannot find parking or the weather is really too terrible to be out. I'm looking to make a day out of these locations in a later letter, so I'll be brief on the details here. 

Also let us know if you go, we would love to hear about your trip. Simply reply to this e-mail. And please feel free to forward this to a friend. 

Chief Happiness Officer at kiddiewalks.com
A project from aSmarterParent.com


1-2-3 Things — A Venture Up To Muir Woods

Quick inspiration for a day out with the kids around the SF Bay Area

From kiddiewalks.com

  1. Junior Park Rangers Patrolling Muir Woods

  2. The Bay Model

  3. The Discovery Museum

Junior Park Rangers Patrolling Muir Woods

http://www.nps.gov/muwo/ranger-s-tips.htm (Ranger tips for parking an alternatives to driving)

It seems like every time I've taken the kids to Muir Woods, it's been raining. A good thing to know is that in the gift shop you can buy a pretty cheap rain poncho for under $5, but it's best to be prepared. It's going to be a wet winter, so it might be a good opportunity to invest in a raincoat. We also used our Alite Designs Meadow Mat (http://shop.alitedesigns.com/alite-shop.html#blankets - we love this blanket) draped over a bench so we could sit and have lunch along the trail. 

Kids entry is free, adults is $10. There is also a plan to put a parking reservation system in the next couple of years, and I have a feeling visiting the park will get really tough once that's in place. (Have you tried to book an Alcatraz tour recently?) 

When you pay for your entry, be sure to ask about the Junior Ranger Program. This was a longer booklet, but both my kids were able to get through it (with a little help). I love how they get sworn in and receive a lovely laser cut wooden badge by a real ranger. You can get the junior ranger booklet at the visitors center, the first building as you enter the monument, attached to the ticket window. 

Once you walk in a little ways there is a gift shop and cafe which considering where it is, they offer pretty reasonable fare. We picked up a redwood butterfly for my youngest, and some redwood earrings for my oldest on our way out. 

For our hike we started with the main trail and walked up past the 4 bridges. Hiking along the Redwood Creek trail we stopped several times to work on out Junior Ranger books, and we ran into a ranger lead talk at the Pinchot Tree in the Founders Grove. Walking on the short path here behind the tree we saw hundreds of ladybugs wintering. The trail continued on through the Cathedral grove (a great spot for photos, but stay on the trail) and on up to bridge 4. 

At the ranger talk, we learned a few things like this type of forest has been around since the time of the dinosaurs. So you could imagine them stalking around here quite easily. Many of the trees are over 1000 years old, living an average of 500-800 years. The oldest known was 2200 years old. Originally part of the Rancho Sausalito, William Kent purchased the forest in 1905 with his wife. Two years later they had received an eminent domain notice from the North Coast Water Company in order to secure rights to build a dam here. He then worked with Gifford Pinchot to donate the land to the federal government in order to circumvent the water company's plan, and President Theodore Roosevelt declared the valley a National Monument. It takes an act of Congress to create a national park, and the President can use an executive action to create a national monument. They decided to name it after their friend John Muir. Kent later became a congressman and helped establish the National Park Service. 

Once we got to bridge 4, we crossed to the other side and hiked up a bit to a hillside trail which ends around bridge 2. From there we continued through the Bohemian Grove and down to bridge 1 where we crossed back. 

After our stop at the gift shop offering a chance to warm up a little, we headed back out to the visitor center, finished up our junior ranger books, and for sworn in. Overall we were at the park about 3 hours and hiked about 4 miles, climbing 8 flights of stairs. 

The Bay Model (Free)

inter Hours
Tuesday - Saturday 9AM - 4PM
2100 Bridgeway
Sausalito, CA 94965
(415) 332-3871

The Bay Model is a three-dimensional hydraulic model of San Francisco Bay and Delta areas capable of simulating tides and currents. It is over 1.5 acres in size and represents an area from the Pacific Ocean to Sacramento and Stockton, including: the San Francisco, San Pablo and Suisun Bays and a portion of the Sacramento - San Joaquin Delta.

The Discovery Museum

Saturday - Sunday 9AM - 5PM
Tuesday - Friday 9AM - 4PM
Admission ~$14/person

One-of-a-kind location at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge on 7.5 acres of National Park land, the Bay Area Discovery Museum facilitates child-directed, open-ended, inquiry-driven learning through hands-on exhibitions, rich activities and risk- friendly challenges designed to ignite creativity, as well as STEM skills and critical thinking.


  • Sausalito and Mill Valley aren't far away and are lovely spots to stroll around and grab a hot drink. 
  • If you have the time lapse video feature on your phone, it can be pretty fun to follow your kids filming them walk up the trail for a bit. 
  • If you have the Panorama feature in your phone, try turning it perpendicular to get a floor to sky picture of some of the trees. 

Feeling Adventurous 

  • A lot of Mt. Tamalpais trails intersect with the park, and camp Alice Eastwood is a bit further of a hike. Maybe plan a spring or summer camping trip up here and take a daytime hike to Muir Woods. 

1-2-3 Things – Hike Devils Slide

Hello Adventurers!

Did you get out to the Presidio last week? We've done the Goldsworthy loop a number of times and it is by far one of my favorite urban hikes with the kids. The Presidio has changed so much since I was young, I spent a lot of time in scouts doing activities with military kids. We had many events at the scout house tucked away in an attic room of one of the warehouses by Crissy Field. Spent summer day camp there slept overnight at the frigid Rob hill campground when there was still a munitions depot next door. We would constantly be briefed on what to do if we went too close and that we should stay far away. I do miss aspects of the old Presidio, but the trust has done an amazing job bringing this treasure to the 21st century creating a legacy we can all enjoy for years to come.

This week’s adventure used to be one of the most dangerous stretches of road in the Bay Area, aptly named Devils Slide. This treacherous piece of Highway 1 with its beautiful views was so twisty and narrow, a fair number of cars would have some tragic accidents here. Couple that with the tendency for the road to get washed out during extreme weather, this spot has earned its name.

After many initiatives, San Mateo county voters finally approved a tunnel bypass for this stretch of road after one storm damaged the road so badly that it took weeks to repair. The tunnel worked out beautifully. Devils Slide was then turned over to the county of San Mateo to become one of the county parks making for one of the most breathtaking costal hikes anywhere.

The road has been replaced and is in excellent shape, especially now that cars have been removed. There are markings for a cycling path on the inside part, and a wonderful trail on the coast-side with benches along the route.

Also let us know if you go, we would love to hear about your trip. Simply reply to this e-mail. And please feel free to forward this to a friend.


Chief Happiness Officer at kiddiewalks.com
A project from aSmarterParent.com


1-2-3 Things — Hike Devils Slide

Quick inspiration for a day out with the kids around the SF Bay Area

From kiddiewalks.com

  1. Devils Slide Trail

  2. Pillar Point Harbor

  3. Oddyssea in Half Moon bay

I suggest approaching your adventure today from the North. The drive down Highway 1 from San Francisco is breathtaking. Coming from down the peninsula, I usually drive up to Sharps Park road and take that over to the coast, then I’ll take highway 92 home. This way you will pass the norther parking area, go through the new tunnel, and take the immediate first right after you come out of the tunnel. I have not had an issue parking in the southern lot yet, but I’ve read that it can get pretty busy on a nicer day between 11AM - 1PM. SamTrans does make a stop here, and I’ve read there is a shuttle from the Linda Mar parking area on the weekends just north of the tunnel (http://www.cityofpacifica.org/civica/filebank/blobdload.asp?BlobID=5349). You should probably get here on the earlier side.

Devils Slide Trail


The 1.3 mile trail (with a climb of 24 floors according to my fitbit) has small parking areas (with no fee currently) on both the northern and southern ends of the trail, both adjacent to the entrances of the tunnel. It's safest to drive in from the north if you can manage, but the southern lot is the one you want to try and park in. The significant part of the climb is when you take the trail walking north, and it's best with the kids not to leave that to the end of your hike. Wear layers and the weather can change rapidly. There are pit toilets located at each end of the trail, and I believe a water fountain at the southern end in the main parking area.

The trail which opened in 2014 is a nice opportunity to meander high along the coast in this now tranquil corridor. From here you can possibly spot a migrating whale (usually December through May is the best time to try and spot one), see the Farallon islands on the horizon, drop 2 quarters in one of the telescopes along the trail and spot birds nesting in a number of spots, or catch a glimpse of a now off limits military lookout post used in WWII before the invention of radar to spot enemy ships. In the link above there is a video with a lot more information on the area, it’s geology, history, and natural features.

I find this a great spot for some nice candid walking shots. And if you are here on a wet day after a rain, the road looks like something out of a new car commercial. The shape of the road at certain points along the trail is really majestic. I usually dress the kids in something bright so they stand out from the surroundings a bit more.

The weather can change pretty quickly here on the coast, you can go from quiet and overcast to sunny and windy in the time it takes you to hike back and forth. Good occasion to put on some layers and use a windbreaker.

Pillar Point Harbor


One of my earliest memories of Pillar Point was my pop driving us down from the Sunset District along Highway 1 and we stopped off to wander along the docks looking at all the wonderful things the fisherman had brought in. We stopped and talked to one of the fisherman and my uncle who was also with us decided to buy a sizable tuna which we took home and roasted. You can still regularly buy fish from here, but with the algae bloom going on off the coast here I don’t think there is much going on at the moment. On the website there are usually links to postings of boats selling fish, but I’m not sure how up to date this is. Still, Its a great spot to stop off and wander around, plus you can pick up the coastal trail here and have another nice stroll along the waters edge. You can also rent kayaks and other equipment here if you are feeling adventurous.

Oddyssea - Half Moon Bay


This place has been around for a couple of years, yet somehow I’ve just missed it altogether - until this last weekend. We had stopped in downtown Half Moon Bay to warm up with a cocoa and took a stroll, wandering into their side yard where they had remnants of a “pirate” ship, tables, and crafts set out. In the attached shop you could buy doubloon tokens to do any number of crafts, with staff to help you out. The shop attached had quite a selection of curiosities to look through. We ended up buying an air plant with a shell that we could put together into a hanging starfish like thing. We also bought doubloons to make cute little necklaces. They host birthday parties, or you can drop in any time to take part in one of their many crafts.


  • [Serious Tip] Please stay on trail. Yes you will likely see people on the nearby bluffs and cliffs, but the California coast can be quite crumbly and dangerous. Trail markers are not just a suggestion.
  • Someplace I’ve been meaning to visit is the Devils Slide Tap Room http://www.devilsslidetaproom.com/, they seem to have an ok kids menu, and looks like a nice spot to stop.
  • Tres Amigo’s in Half Moon Bay is a great stop for a burrito or some nachos. http://www.yelp.com/biz/tres-amigos-restaurant-half-moon-bay
  • HMB Brewing has a nice selection of beers they brew, and my kids like their fish and chips. http://www.hmbbrewingco.com
  • Sam's Chowder House is a really popular spot just past pillar point on highway 1. It can be quite difficult to find parking on a nice day, but the kids menus are good and they make a nice chowder. http://www.samschowderhouse.com
  • The Moss Beach Distillery is a supposedly haunted location with a fantastic patio overlooking the ocean providing fire pits and blankets for those chillier days. http://www.mossbeachdistillery.com

Feeling Adventurous

1-2-3 Things — Hike the Goldsworthy Loop in the Presidio

Hello Adventurers!

Did you get out and see the Tilden Carousel or any other wonderful holiday sights? We actually didn't manage to go to Tilden, but had some other wonderful days prepping for the New Year. 

For many, New Years resolutions means trying to become more fit or healthy, or to start better habits. So with that in mind, we are going to spend January waking or hiking some wonderful spots, continuing this through the year wherever I can fit it in. 

This week we find ourselves in San Francisco's Presidio for the Goldsworthy Loop. Andy Goldsworthy is a resident artist for the Presidio who uses found objects in the natural habitat of the Presidio to create large scale installations. There are four of them so far: the Spire, the Wood Line, Earth Wall, and Tree Fall (Tree Fall is only accessible on weekends when volunteers can open it up). 

Andy Goldsworthy is quite a remarkable artist. Not only are his pieces breathtaking, but they make for some wonderful photo opportunities with the kids. Below I'll talk about some of his pieces in a bit more detail, but if your are curious to learn more, go have a look at this PDF (and print the map on the last page as that's our walk today). 


The hike itself is just over 3 miles with a climb of about 35 floors according to my Fitbit. A fair amount of the trail is dirt path of different grades. If there has been some rain, you will find some muddy spots. Also many dog owners will walk their dogs off leash, so it's a good idea to review with your kids how to approach a dog (http://petcyclopedia.com/blog/how-to-approach-a-dog-safely/). 

Also let us know if you go, we would love to hear about your trip. Simply reply to this e-mail. And please feel free to forward this to a friend. 

Chief Happiness Officer at kiddiewalks.com
A project from aSmarterParent.com


1-2-3 Things — Hike the Goldsworthy Loop in the Presidio 

Quick inspiration for a day out with the kids around the SF Bay Area

From kiddiewalks.com

  1. Presidio Main Post

  2. Hike the Goldsworthy Loop 

  3. Julius Kahn Playground 


Presidio Main Post


The Hike is a loop, but I think this is probably the best and easiest spot to start your hike. The all day parking fee is $7. You should find a spot easily, unless there is some event going on. You should probably park near the  old munitions magazine (housing the Tree Fall installation) and the Presidio Officers club as two of our stops are really close to here. 

The Presidio Officers Club is a lovely place to stop, and they have free admission. Not only can they answer questions about the Goldsworthy loop (and even provide you with a free map if they have them in stock), but suggest many other activities that might be going on that day. The also have a wonderful drop in art studio offering different crafts every weekend. The historic exhibits about the presidio are quite interesting, and Moraga hall can be a nice place to take a break and warm up by a fire (there is also WiFi). This is also a good bathroom stop. The Arguello Restaurant run by chef Traci Des Jardins is a good spot for a snack too.  

Hike the Goldsworthy Loop


There are 4 installations on the Goldsworthy Loop: the Spire, Wood Line, Earth Wall, and Tree Fall. Earth Wall and Tree Fall are both on the Main Post not far away from each other, the Spire is up by the golf course parking lot, and the Wood Line is just steps away from Lovers Lane. These are all wonderful pieces to see sparking a sense of wonder and amazement, and they also make for some wonderful photo opportunities. 

A foggy day might seem like a bummer for a hike, but the light is nice and even for photos, and if you can catch the golden hour, the light that peaks through the trees is wonderful. 

Tree Fall (usually open on weekends)

Located inside an old munitions magazine mid parking lot away from most of the other buildings you will see some volunteers hanging around (if it's open) the entrance. In my experience they have been quite friendly and full of great information, so strike up a conversation. If there are no volunteers and the weather is decent, the outer door will likely be open and you can still peek inside. 

As you enter the narrow passageway, look up. Try to imagine how they got that giant branch through that little door. The artist built a substructure inside the building as to not damage any part of the historic building, and everything had to come in through the tiny entrance. Once they created the substructure and got the branch installed, they caked the branch and ceiling with a muddy compound that cracked when it dried creating a really cool pattern and texture. We have fun looking for the heart shape (ask one of the volunteers if you can’t find it) and trying to find other shapes created by chance. 

Taking photos in here can be a bit tricky as its a really close space. Having a wide angle or fisheye lens can help quite a lot if you want to get a selfie with your loved ones. Otherwise try and wait till your the only visitor inside and squeeze in nice and close. The ambient light is usually enough to take a decent picture with.

Earth Wall

Located directly behind the Arguello restaurant’s patio, or from the museum it’s just outside of the bathrooms, this installations was created to look like a found object discovered by some archeologist. He found branches from all over the Presidio, wove them into a ball and placed it in the center of a dirt filled block which he then rammed down to compress the whole thing. Once that was set he then excavated the ball to reveal it like it was some found treasure. This exhibit you can pretty much walk up and touch it, but please be respectful as it is art and we should treat it as such. 

When it’s a sunny day you can get some pretty extreme shadows here, but when it’s overcast or foggy it gets a bit easier. There is some nice potential for fun shots here, a prop like a magnify glass or a brush might make for a whimsical shot. 

Inspiration Point

This isn’t a Goldsworthy installation, but it’s a nice stop to stop and enjoy a little packed lunch while enjoying the view of the bay and your surroundings. There are a couple of benches, and the PresidiGo shuttle makes a stop in the parking lot here. 

The Spire

Built with logs that were removed from the Doyle Drive upgrades, the Spire was Goldsworthy’s first installation. It’s one of these things you may have seen poking out of the tree line while driving by, but probably never went in for a closer look.

To get up to the base of it, you have to venture off the trail a little. Also be careful crossing Arguello Blvd, I would suggest using the crosswalk adjacent to the golf course parking lot. After you cross toward the golf course parking area, you will see a sign for the trailhead just off to the right, and from there it’s a short walk. There is a large pile of logs that every kid likes to climb on just outside of the installation

The Wood Line

This is one of those installations you could so easily miss if you weren't looking for it. You could literally be strolling down Lovers Lane (which runs directly beside it) and not even know it's there. But walk over a few steps east from the top of Lovers Lane and look down the hill. There on the ground you will find the Wood Line. A serpentine path of found logs, snaking it's way down the hill under cover of trees. 

This was the first of Goldsworthy's pieces I was introduced to. It's a lovely stroll on its own, not to mention quite a wonderful photo opportunity. Kids love to walk down the logs (although do be careful, the leaves can get really slippery) and if you have a softly lit day the light distilling through the canopy above created quite the setting. 

Julius Kahn Playground

You'll find this playground at the midpoint of the hike, and it's quite a favorite with locals. The play structures are a lot of fun and encourage group activities for both older and younger kids. There are a number of benches, water fountains, and an acceptable bathroom attaches to the rec center. Plus the view isn't shabby being able to see the tops of the Golden Gate Bridge poking out. 


  • The Walt Disney Museum is on the Main Post, there is no entrance fee to go to the cafe or gift shop and isn’t a bad spot to stop to warm up a bit. 
  • The weather can fluctuate quite a bit, be sure to dress in layers. 
  • The Yoda fountain is only a short walk from the end of the hike, and there is a Starbucks nearby if you need to recharge. 

Feeling Adventurous 

  • The bowling alley not far adjacent to the Officers Club can be a fun way to spend a bit of time. 
  • The House of Air is a short drive from here along with Planet Granite if you feel like doing a bit of rock climbing. 

1-2-3 Things — A San Francisco Holiday Stroll

Hello Adventurers!

Did you get out to Lake Merritt last week? Wow it was chilly out! We had some family in town and our plans changed at the last minute to spend a bit more time with them. I promised the kids we would go over the school break. 

This week’s adventure is to the city, a wonderful place to visit during the holidays. It’s changed a lot since I was little, but I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to bring the kids to let them experience all there still is here. One vivid memory I have is that Macy*s would have these amazing animatronic windows they would spend all year making and they would tell a story as you walked down Geary, rounded Stockton, and around on O'Farrell. 


We still enjoy the SPCA window on the corner of Stockton and O'Farrell. It's a good chance to do a little giving by leaving a donation, and all the puppies and kitties are really cute. Also the Winter Walk pedestrian promenade they've set up on Stockton is amazing. This street once overly impacted by too much traffic is now a beautiful wide green space you can stroll up and down. 

Also let us know if you go, we would love to hear about your trip. Simply reply to this e-mail. And please feel free to forward this to a friend. 

Chief Happiness Officer at kiddiewalks.com
project from aSmarterParent.com 


1-2-3 Things — A San Francisco Holiday Stroll

Quick inspiration for a day out with the kids around the SF Bay Area

From kiddiewalks.com 

  1. Winter Walk & Union Square

  2. Velveteen Rabbit by the ODC Dance Company

  3. Historic Looff Carousel at the Children's Creativity Museum, Yerba Buena Center 

Winter Walk on Stockton and lunch at Lefty's 

Winter Walk on Stockton and lunch at Lefty's 

Winter Walk & Union Square


The tree lighting was just after Thanksgiving, but Union Square is an incredibly picturesque and popular visit all month long during the holidays. Last year as construction was shutting down for the winter months on the new transit tunnel under Stockton Street, the adjacent retailers got the idea to open it up as a pedestrian promenade and spent a lot of effort removing construction equipment and barriers, setting up a remarkably lovely open space. This year they have already set it up again and it’s totally worth the visit as this typically busy loud street is now a quiet tranquil spot with holiday flavor. 

We generally take pictures with the tree in the background, although there is also a large menorah too. The palm tree’s all lit up are pretty picturesque too. Stopping in at the St. Francis to see the gingerbread creations is fun (and a good bathroom stop). And a stop at the old City of Paris Department Store (now Neiman Marcus) to see the tree in the rotunda, riding the escalators as far up as we can to see it from all levels. As a kid my father used to ask me how I thought they got the tree in there and we would come up with all kinds of wild stories, which I now do with my kids.

A couple of tree's from the City of Paris Department store (now Neiman Marcus) from the 40's and 50's 

A couple of tree's from the City of Paris Department store (now Neiman Marcus) from the 40's and 50's 

We tend to avoid actually ice skating in the square, the rink is really small and they overcrowd it, plus there is usually a wait (pro tip: check out the indoor rink at Yerba Buena gardens, or is you are really set on the outdoor experience head to Justin Herman Plaza by Embarcadero 4 and the Ferry Building as they have a larger setup). 

Typically we have lunch at Lefty O’Doul’s, a total old school San Francisco classic, this is the kind of spot Dashiell Hammett would have had lunch dreaming up Sam Spade in the Maltese Falcon (although it was founded in 1958 long after he wrote the story - still this place feels like a by-gone time in the City).

Be sure to stop by the SPCA corner Macy*s set up, on the corner of Stockton and O’Farrell, and have the kids leave a donation for them. Be aware that the pets are up for adoption and you might want to be ready to face the question “Papa, can we have a dog!?"  

Waiting for the show to start

Waiting for the show to start

Velveteen Rabbit


I mentioned a couple weeks ago (in the Jet Playground letter) about the Velveteen Rabbit performance. The ODC Dance company. Its a big fundraiser for their efforts during the year, and this year they are also making a donation to aid Syrian Refugee’s. 

This performance was created with families in mind and is really a wonderful show for all ages. The first act runs about 40 minutes and the second act about 20 minutes with a nice intermission between. And since the audience is mostly families, if someone starts to cry you won’t get those glaring angry stares from people around you. We have the book at home and will usually read it all together before the show, and the kids will dig out their rabbit ears from Easter and wear them to the show (you can also buy them there too). This has become a holiday tradition for us, and we are all looking forward to the performance. Above there is also a link to a PDF you can color, cut out, and wear to the performance too to receive a special button and 10% off bunny ears. 

Looff Carousel - originally at Playland at the Beach till 1972

Looff Carousel - originally at Playland at the Beach till 1972

Historic Looff Carousel at the Children's Creativity Museum, Yerba Buena Center 


Constructed in 1906 the Looff Carousel originally intended to be installed in San Francisco, resided at Luna Park in Seattle due to the 1906 earthquake,moving down the coast a bit later. From 1913 to 1972, the Looff Carousel was at Playland at the Beach over on the western end of the city. In 1998 the City of San Francisco bought the carousel, restored it and opened it in its current location, again being restored in 2014. 

This is a lovely place to visit thats bound to put a smile on your face. $4 for 2 rides (per person). Next door there is also a pretty fun playground, Childrens Creativity Museum, bowling alley, and an ice rink. 



  • We love going to Lefty’s for a bite, make sure you check out all the paraphernalia on the walls, and the bar stools made of baseball bats. The corned beef is pretty good http://www.yelp.com/biz/lefty-o-douls-san-francisco-2
  • Bring some single dollar bills to let the kids donate to the SPCA and Salvation Army bell ringers you’ll find all over.
  • Take some time to work your way up to the rotunda in Neiman Marcus, the tree seen from all the different levels is really fascinating. 

Feeling Adventurous 

1-2-3 Things – A Walk Around Lake Merritt

Hello Adventurers!

Did you get out to see the new Jet Playground and take a hike through Stern Grove last week? We arrived at the Jet a little after it had the dedication ceremony, and man it was mobbed. We got around for a little peek but then took off for our hike through Stern Grove. Walking down into the the grove the noise from 19th avenue quickly faded away and we sat down to have some picnic lunch by the lake at the Trocadero. From there we strolled through the concert meadow and down to the end of Pine Lake and back. We walked about 6 miles and climbed 25 floors (according to my fitbit). When we got back to the Jet where we parked, things had cleared out a bit and we got a chance to play for a while. 

It's certainly not the old jet, but the group who planned out the new playground really put a lot of time and effort paying homage to the original and their attention to details across the entire thing. From steps that are sculpted like suitcases, to being able to crawl through the plane, and the rubber floor surface looks like a runway. Next time you are driving down 19th avenue, maybe take a pit stop for some play time here. We highly suggest it. 

This week’s adventure is a chance to walk off some of that Thanksgiving dinner around Lake Merritt. The walk around the lake is just over 3 miles, and a nice way to walk off some off all that food. 

Also let us know if you go, we would love to hear about your trip. Simply reply to this e-mail. And please feel free to forward this to a friend. 

Chief Happiness Officer at kiddiewalks.com
A project from aSmarterParent.com 


1-2-3 Things — A Walk Around Lake Merritt

Quick inspiration for a day out with the kids around the SF Bay Area

From kiddiewalks.com 

  1. Walk around Lake Merritt

  2. Visit the Gardens at Lake Merritt

  3. Take a trip to Fairyland 

Walk around Lake Merritt 


At just over 3 miles, this is a lovely spot to walk off some of that indulgence most of us took part in for Thanksgiving, it's also a lovely walk year round. With spots like the Lake Chalet, Fairyland, and the Gardens to stop off and spend a little time, this is a great spot to spend a day. 

Visit the Gardens at Lake Merritt


We haven't actually visited the gardens, and only recently read about them. There seem to be a number of gardens here (Bonsai, Mediterranean, Rhododendron, sensory, palm, pollinator, and many more). The spring is probably a better time to visit, but I'd expect the garden to still be a pretty nice visit. 

Take a trip to Fairyland


You are probably already familiar with this spot, but since 1950 Fairyland has been entertaining families with a visit into fairytales. It does close for inclement weather, so be aware. 


  • The Lake Chalet is a nice spot to visit for a quick bite with the family. They are owned by the company who runs the Beach and Park Chalets in Golden Gate Park. Grab a house brewed root beer, an appetizer, and kick back and relax.  http://www.thelakechalet.com/ 
  • The Oakland Museum isn't very far and an engaging spot to visit with the kids (or duck into during bad weather) http://museumca.org/

Feeling Adventurous 

1-2-3 Things — Jet to Stern Grove

Hello Adventurers!

Did you get out to Coyote Point last week? We were there Sunday afternoon and wow was it windy.  I had forgotten to mention the wildlife shows the museum puts on in their little theater during the day. We got to meet an opossum, barn owl, a tarantula, and even pet a garter snake. The river otters were a lot I fun to visit too. What were your highlights? 

This week’s adventure is in San Francisco. One of my favorite playgrounds from when I was a kid is re-opening. The Larsen Playground hosted a series of retired fighter jets for kids to play on, however some years back it was deemed unsafe to continue this, even though it was really awesome sitting in the cockpit or crawling through the fuselage. The new playground is actually across the street from the original spot, but has a cool airplane theme to salute earlier efforts. 

Since we find ourselves here, it's a good opportunity to take a stroll through Stern Grove a couple blocks away, and if you are feeling energetic you can hike all the way down to Pine Lake Park. 

On a side note, I'd like to mention one of our holiday traditions, which I'll be going into more detail in a couple of weeks. The Velveteen Rabbit put on by the ODC Dance Company is a delightful alternative to the Nutcracker (a holiday tradition for many). 
I love the Nutcracker having performed in it many times, but it's an incredibly long performance. I wish they would offer some abridged matinee's. The Velveteen Rabbit is a wonderful performance created with families in mind. The first act is about 40 minutes, followed by a decent intermission, then the second act runs about 20 minutes. Just right for those with shorter attention spans, and such a touching story that it will leave you with a tear in your eye. We've bought tickets for the December 5th show, and prices for the cheap seats start at $15/$25 Kids/Adults. http://www.odcdance.org/performance.php?param=2

Also let us know if you go, we would love to hear about your trip. Simply reply to this e-mail. And please feel free to forward this to a friend. 

Chief Happiness Officer at kiddiewalks.com
A project from aSmarterParent.com

1-2-3 Things — Jet to Stern Grove  

Quick inspiration for a day out with the kids around the SF Bay Area

From kiddiewalks.com 

  1. Larsen playground opening

  2. Stern grove

  3. Pine lake park

Larsen Playground Opening


I can only recall a single jet here, but from what I've read there have been at least 3 jets stationed here since WWII. The model I recall had an open cockpit (canopy removed) and you could climb through the fuselage from front to back. There was a slide attached, but mostly kids would climb all over the thing and jump off. It was removed in the early 90's due to a combination of vandalism and worries over toxic substances. The final plane is actually in the process of getting restored for flight amazingly. 

3rd and final Jet at the Larsen Playground

3rd and final Jet at the Larsen Playground

The new playground is located directly across the street from the original location and the parks department and a neighborhood association have worked diligently to pay homage to the original playground, this update has been years in the making. Ask anyone who grew up in the city before the 90's and I'm sure they have a memory of this playground. 

The opening and dedication is between 11AM - 1PM, but come when you want. This playground should be here for years to come. 

Stern Grove


Stern Grove is probably best known these days as a summer concert venue. Since 1938 free weekly concerts and performances have gone on during the summer months. Stern Grove is a tranquil hidden spot containing Pine Lake Park, one of only 3 natural lakes in San Francisco. This a a great spot in any weather to take a hike into a tranquil spot and just let the stress of the city around fade away. I have fond memories of going to Cub Scout camp here in the 80’s, and is a charming spot for any number of events. One of my favorite weddings I’ve attended took place here. It can get cold and foggy, so do come prepared. 

Originally the homestead of Alfred Green who settled here in 1847, who started a family farm here extending all the way to the beach, growing potatoes and barley. In 1876 David Mahoney obtained a land grant for the Rancho Laguna de la Merced tried to extend his holdings to include the Green Homestead and tried unsuccessfully to evict the Greens with federal marshals. The Green family fortified their property and held authorities off for 3 months till the case could be heard before the supreme court, where the Green family won. In 1892 George Green built the Trocadero Inn Roadhouse that attracted the Bay Area Elite, a remote escape from city life without a long journey. There are many stories about this place, including some rowdy episodes which you can still see evidence of by bullet holes in the front door of the Inn. The Inn was closed in 1916 and became the Green family home. 

In 1931 Rosalie Stern purchased 12 acres from the Green family which included the Trocadero Inn, donating the land to the city for a park named after her late husband Sigmund Stern (a nephew of Levi Strauss). The WPA did much of the original landscaping here. 

Trocadero Clubhouse at Stern Grove

Trocadero Clubhouse at Stern Grove

Pine Lake Park


Following the donation of Stern Grove by Rosalie Stern, San Francisco went ahead and purchased the 50 more acres from the Green Family to include Pine Lake Park. Growing up here, I had never thought of this as a separate park, but just a hidden forest hidden behind houses that went from 19th avenue down to Sunset Boulevard. We walked through here many times on our way down to our home at 45th and Moraga, and it was always a delightful escape from the bustle of city life. 

Fun Fact: George Green started planting the non-native eucalyptus trees here starting in 1871. Look how big they’ve gotten. 

Another Fun Fact: The small manmade lake in the grove wasn’t well taken care of until 1986 when filming the movie Jumpin’ Jack Flash with Whoopi Goldberg needed her to take a plunge into the lake as part of the plot. We watched crews drain and clean the lake at Cub Scout camp leading up to the filming of this scene.  


  • During the summer there is a popular concert series in Stern Grove. It's fun to come find a spot, throw down a blanket and spans the day listening to various artists. It can get crowded an the weather is unpredictable.  
  • The SF Zoo is just down the road if your plans aren't working out, great place to spend the day. 
  • West Portal is a quick drive from here. Nice spot to stroll by the shops, grab a bite, or even watch a movie. 

Feeling Adventurous 

  • Ocean beach is a short dive away, go dip your toes into the frigid water, watch the surfers, and collect some sand dollars.