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 
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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 
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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. 


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
project from

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


  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
project from

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


  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, 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 ( 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

A project from


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


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

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


  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. [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.  
  • 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:  

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

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


  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
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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


  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:

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 (,_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 ( 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.

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.