Planning a visit to the Computer History Museum in Mountain View

We've driven by this place dozens of times, usually on our way home from someplace, always saying "we should go visit". Last week my brother-in-law took his kids and posted some really nostalgic pictures. With the weather turning a bit cooler this weekend, it seemed like a good moment to visit finally.

Admission for the under 10-year-old set seems to be free, then there is youth and adult admissions all under $20.  

Looking forward to our first visit.  

I really enjoyed my visit to the museum, but then I am somewhat of a nerd. My kids started with a good visit, asking lots of questions, but after an hour they got bored and tired. I did try and engage them with stories and questions, which worked to a limited extent, but in the end, we had to leave before visiting everything.

My thoughts for when we visit again

I should visit by myself first. Usually, I like to go experience things like this initially with the kids. However, I probably got hung up on quite a few things from the early days of computing that were probably boring for my kids. 

Have an escape plan for the first signs of boredom. There were a few more hands-on exhibits both in the primary exhibition and in side galleries. We probably should have stepped away to play Pong or to see the IBM 1401 Demo Lab rather than just persevere through the exhibit. There is also a small cafe in the front that looks like a nice place for a snack. There are also some nice outdoor tables and chairs to enjoy on warmer days. 

Prep the kids with more stories and computer history. Next time I should find some stories and maybe a couple of old movies to show the kids what these computer workstations used to look like. We had enjoyed Hidden Figures not too long ago, it might have been a good idea to give that one a fresh look. Glass Bottom Boat with Doris Day had some trippy computer scenes too. I'm sure there are other great movies to find using these older computers. Maybe even try some of the old computer games and other software on

All that being said, I really enjoyed the museum. It was surprisingly crowded the Sunday we visited. We saw some very nostalgic history (for me at least), and I would totally go visit again. But do some prep first to make sure everyone stays engaged. 


Check out this swanky kitchen computer!  

Free Day at the Academy of Science

Music For years we had a membership to the Academy of Science in Golden Gate Park. It's been a lifelong favorite of mine, although I miss a lot of what the old museum had to offer. We've been dozens of times, and up until a few years ago, we maintained a membership. In order for the membership to work out financially, you have to go at least 3-4 times a year in order to break even. We ended up having other things to do more often, so eventually, I let our membership lapse. 

Occasionally I'll keep my eye open for a free day. There are neighborhood free days and a general free day. We went to the general free day just to see if it was something we wanted to spend more time doing in the future. A free day typically means the place is going to be a zoo, so keep this in mind if you plan on attending. 

Get There Early

For parking, we entered at the 9th Avenue entrance and took the first right onto Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. I usually have the best luck finding parking here, and it leaves you options for leaving in a sane way. 

We arrived at 10:30, half an hour before the door opened. The line was already completely down Music Concourse Drive, wrapped around Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, and almost wrapping back around Nancy Pelosi Drive at the back of the museum. Ten minutes after arriving I could no longer make out the back of the line. 

Coat Check

Usually entering a museum I'll drop off our bags at the coat check. Often time it's free, and even if it costs a little it's worth every penny. However this time I found out you couldn't check a bag if it had food inside - new rule to me. They said that they had "sensitive exhibits closeby and couldn't allow food in the coat check room." I wasn't really buying it, but I didn't push the matter. 

Grab Planetarium Passes 

As long as you don't have kids under 6 with you, grabbing planetarium passes is a great idea. They are included with admission but will sell out early on most days, especially free days. The line for passes wrapped around to the penguin side of the African Hall. So basically from 10:30 to 11:30 we waited in one line or another. We got passes for the 12:30 show. 


The kids wanted to do the earthquake exhibit first this time. If you haven't been, basically you wait in line to watch a short film on earthquakes in the Bay Area then go stand in a room build on a shake table which will simulate the 1989 and 1906 earthquakes. It's fun but can take some time to wait in line. I wouldn't wait more than 30 minutes (the line has markers with time estimates). 


Following our temblor, we headed straight outside (on the west side) to have a quick bite. I had packed sandwiches and some crackers, so we skipped the cafeteria lines. I'm not as keen on the food offerings currently. The long lines, the drop in quality (from when the originally opened), and the price are all kind of a turn off for me at this point. Typically I'll take the kids here for a snack in the afternoon and save a few bucks bringing my own lunch. 

We had to kind of rush lunch a little in order to get to the Planetarium in time, they close the door at the time of the show and advise you get there 15 minutes early. We barely made it in time, whew!


Getting there late meant we got seats close to the bottom, which isn't optimal, but it's fine. You still see the whole screen and it can be a little less crowded as everyone else is sitting higher up. Planetarium shows are usually pretty awesome, and this one was cool as it was mostly conversational with the guide walking us through "our place in the universe". 

Following the show, you climb the stairs to exit the top of the planetarium so you don't collide with the next group entering. Once you leave, you have some nice options to either visit the living roof or head down to either the rainforest, basement aquarium, or the African Hall (with the penguins). We were running a little short on time, so we opted to go straight down to visit the touch pools in the aquarium. Given a bit more time, we would have headed through the rainforest first as it exits through the aquarium. 

Aquarium LevelYou can head downstairs by the albino alligator pit, and once you are downstairs you can head to the back left corner to visit the touch pool and pet all kinds of invertebrates and learn more about them. Plus you can catch some nifty jellyfish and sand dollars nearby. And if you are really lucky there is a pretty awesome octopus that comes out of hiding on occasion. There is quite a lot to see down here. Some favorites are the tunnel under the rainforest, the flashlight fish in the dark area, and the coral reefs.

Don't leave without visiting the Penguins!

These guys are wonderful to see. Feeding time can be a nice visit, but it's usually mobbed. Give yourself some time and space to see this one. Be sure to check out the Pierre the Penguin book in the gift shop, and keep your eye open for his little wet suite which is on a rotating display around the museum. It's a delightful story. 

We love to see the dioramas in the African Hall, and the replica of the Lucy skeleton.


We left a little after 2 PM this day, and there was still a substantial line waiting for entry going all the way down Music Concourse Drive. Basically, once the museum reaches capacity, entry is delayed till people leave. 

Free day isn't the day I would like to be visiting here, however with the right attitude, an early start, and a little bit of luck you can have a pretty successful visit. Don't expect to visit everything, and remain flexible as the day progresses. 

If you have friends who live in the city, look for the other "Neighborhood" Free days where all you have to do is have someone in your group prove their residence in that neighborhood. I wish I still worked downtown so I could use a bill sent to that address as proof. These types of free days are less crowded. 

This was a good opportunity to try the museum out again in order to see if we wanted to start our membership back up. A nice way to test the waters. 

Setback or Failure?

Sometimes our adventures don't pan out the way we planned. Today's adventure was just going to be a simple bike ride and picnic on JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park (they close the street on Sunday) - and none of this worked out.


One of the bikes had a flat, but we turned that into an important lesson in bike maintenance. Another bike needed a bell transfered, my youngest handled the screwdriver like a champ.

Then we got all the bikes loaded up, only to find my battery was dead. So I had to take all the 🚴🚴🚴 bikes and rack off to open the trunk to get the jumper cables, jumped the car and let it charge. Put the cables away, remounted the rack, and the bikes.

Collected everyone and everything. Buckled up and turned the 🔑 key, only to find a dead battery again. AAA is on their way to replace my battery now.

It's important to not let setbacks make you a failure. We had a constructive lesson in bike repair today, and we didn't get stuck someplace awkward waiting for service. Things could have been a whole lot worse.

My initial tendency is to think of today as a failure, but looking back now I don't think it was.

How do you handle setbacks? It takes work not to let these things fallback into failure.

Planning outings for a school break

Planning outings for a school break

 I'm taking the kids for 3 straight weeks this summer. It's probably one of the longest vacations away from work that I've taken (aside from being between jobs).

In getting organized for this, I've had a calendar printed out and sitting on my desk for the last month. Some dates were pretty firm (we have a camping trip planned on Angel Island for the second week), and others were flexible. For the flexible days I had cut down post-it notes to fit the calendar boxes.  

Plan for retreat - in stages

Plan for retreat - in stages

As a parent we all face that meltdown moment. Sometimes it's us, sometimes it's a kid. Sometimes we are at home, and others we are out.

When you are home, you have options and tools that aren't always at hand when you are out. What do you do when you can't "send a kid to their room"?

Sometimes it's best to start your way backwards from "the nuclear option", which in most circumstances would be just to call it a day and go home. Once you identify the most drastic solution, you can find something a little less drastic, then a little less so you can find an effective solution without becoming a tyrant issuing threats.

Scheduling adventures

Scheduling adventures

There are no absolute rules about this,. It typically I try to schedule Saturday with an adventure, then Sunday is a down day to catch up on things around the house.

If we have had a really successful day out (and by successful I mean tiring), this makes Sunday a great recovery day. Being tired with good reason after bonding on a successful day out can set you up for a pretty stellar day at home.

SFMoMA - fun for the whole family!

The SFMoMA is one of the more entertaining museums to take the kids to. Things are a bit  wacky here and can spark some interesting conversations. its really interesting to take the kids here after visiting a more traditional museum to see the less conservative side of art. 

Here are a few things to pay attention to in order to create a fun experience

  • What color is your bathroom? Each floors bathroom has been painted some pretty intense colors. Don't tell the kids ahead of time.  
  • Family day. Several times a year they put on family events where the staff lead craft projects based on art you can find in the museum.  
  • Free admission for those under 18
  • Affordablly interesting unique items in the museum store
  • Take a rest overlooking Richard Serrs's sequence sculpture without even paying entrance fees (no food allowed though). Then go walk through the sculpture yourself.  
  • Stop off at one of the cafes for a slice of Mondrion cake!  

Make sure you take advantage of the coat check. If you take your backpack into the museum, they will make you wear it up front.  

Also the Edvard Munch exhibition (known for the scream) is really cool, but there is some nudity. So be sure you are Ready to chat about those things. 

 This bathroom matches my shirt! 

This bathroom matches my shirt! 


Celebrating San Francisco's Birthday

Celebrating San Francisco's Birthday

This weekend, the 241st birthday of San Francisco is a wonderful opportunity to visit the Presidio. You can enjoy the activities at the Main Post or take a wonderful hike around this former military installation. There is also opportunity to go indoor rock climbing or spend some time bouncing around the House of Air. Regardless if your interest is history, exercise, or excitement, this is a wonderful spot to spend the day. The museum at the main post is always a lovely stop.

Excursion to Santa Cruz

Excursion to Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz seems to be one of those annual rights of summer for many families. A little time for some sun and relaxation on the beach, scare yourself on a couple of rides up on the boardwalk, watch the taffy pulling machine make salt water goodness, and maybe a round of mini-golf. On Monday and Tuesday nights they usually have discounted rides after 5, then other nights they have movies on the beach and free concerts. What could be a more quintessential experience for summer than seeing the boardwalk all lit up at night?

Summer Solstice

Summer Solstice

From the Summer Solstice through Labor Day, my plan is to publish something daily - at least a little something. Ideas around where to go, how to make planning go smoother, get the kids out of the house without a fight, arrive home happy and not frustrated. 

My hope is that you will be inspired to go out and try things - but also to let me know too. I’d love to hear your stories. 

Happy Summer, and let the adventuring begin! 

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 
A project from

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

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


  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 ( 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 (, 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 (

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 
A project from

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

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


  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 
A project from

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


  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.