A Drawing Book for a Rainy Day

This wonderful rainy day has me thinking about indoor activities. I recently found the Usborne Step-by-Step drawing book at Hicklebee's Bookstore, in Willow Glen, and the kids have been loving it. It shows you how to draw everything from castles to bunnies with an easy step by step process. They break down each figure into shapes and lines, and kids can use the process as a basis for experimenting and embellishing. I loved it when I was a kid, and I'm happy to see my kids enjoying it now.

Wine Country with Kids - Sonoma Day Trip Update

Last spring I posted about my favorite spots to take kids in Sonoma, including Sonoma Plaza, Sonoma Traintown, the Larson Family Winery, and Bartholomew Park Winery. We just had a chance to go back this weekend, and I have a few additional recommendations, as well as some updates to my previous post. First, some new kid-friendly spots that we discovered.

Landmark Vineyards: We got up to Sonoma a little earlier than expected, and were able to hit the tasting room at Landmark Vineyards right when it opened at 10AM. Perhaps having the place to ourselves lent to its family friendly vibe, but the welcoming staff, gorgeous gardens, pond, and bocce court didn't hurt either. While the adults sipped tasty chardonnays and pinots, the kids were offered child-sized Fiji waters and cups of crackers. When they got bored, I took them outside into the garden, and we were able to look at the budding grapes, toss a few bocce balls, and check out the fountain and pond. Plenty of picnic tables are available if you bring lunch, and snacks can be purchased in the tasting room. We were there on a Sunday, but if you visit on Saturdays between May 2nd and October 12th, 12pm to 3pm, you can enjoy a complimentary horse draw carriage tour, led by a third generation Sonoma Valley farmer. 


Cline Cellars VineyardWith a free flight of five wines (non-reserve) for the adults, a pond with carp to feed and a bird display (bring quarters for food), the California Missions Museum (free), and plenty of picnic tables, Cline is a no-brainer for families.  When we stopped by in the afternoon the tasting room was hopping, but we had no trouble finding a spot at the bar. Meanwhile, the kids were able to feed the fish and check out the indigenous birds housed on the property. We didn't have time to visit the California Missions Museum, but we're looking forward to seeing the hand crafted models of all 21 missions (built for the 1939 World's Fair at Treasure Island) next time. 

Gardens at Cornerstone Sonoma

Gardens at Cornerstone Sonoma

Cornerstone SonomaOur last stop of the day was at Cornerstone, a complex of tasting rooms, shops, cafes, and sculpture gardens. This was a quick stop for us, but if you don't feel like driving around, you could easily spend an entire afternoon here. The gardens are an ever-changing series of walk-through displays, showcasing new and innovative designs from landscape architects and designers, and include lots of whimsical sculptures. (while the complex is open daily 10AM-5PM, note that the gardens close at 4PM). There are three tasting rooms throughout the garden, including Poseidon Vineyard and Obsidian Ridge, where we tasted. Their tasting room has a comfortable outside deck, and we were able to sit outside for the tasting, which was great for the kids. We enjoyed the wines, and a bocce court was also available next to the deck. Before we headed for home, we stocked up on Blue Bottle coffee and snacks for the kids at Park 121, a restaurant and cafe that serves a local seasonal menu. Don't forget to take a picture of the kids in the giant Adirondack chair before you go!

Deck and Bocce Court Poseidon Vineyard and obsidian ridge tasting Room

Deck and Bocce Court Poseidon Vineyard and obsidian ridge tasting Room

Picnic and Bocce at Larson Family Winery

Picnic and Bocce at Larson Family Winery

Updates: Just a few notes on my old recommendations - first, we just discovered that there is a charge for picnic tables at Larson Family Winery on summer weekends - $10 per person (not including children), even when you purchase wine to drink with your picnic. We usually visit in the spring and winter, so this hadn't come up before. I still recommend Larson as a great picnic spot for kids - we enjoyed a great game of bocce and there are ride on toys and bean bag toss for the kids. But there are many free places to picnic if you buy wine in the valley, so you might want to keep that in mind.

Riding the train at Traintown Sonoma

Riding the train at Traintown Sonoma

In addition, prices have increased slightly at Traintown - a ticket now costs $6.25 (up from $5.75). This is a great stop for kids - the ride is about 20 minutes long, and includes a stop at a tiny town (bring quarters if you want to feed the goats). There is also a carousel and a few other rides available.


And it goes without saying, but those tastings can add up! Make sure to bring a designated driver. Cheers!

Trinity Stay N Play

My daughter's preschool schedule has prevented us from going to one of our favorite activities in the South Bay, Calvary Playhouse in Los Gatos.  We were recently invited by a friend to attend Trinity Stay N Play, at Trinity Church located at 477 North Mathilda Avenue in  Sunnyvale, and we were pleasantly surprised that the experience was similar to our experience at Calvary Playhouse.  Trinity Stay N Play is an indoor playtime designed for kids five and under and their moms to connect in a fun, creative environment while the kids play. Each week builds on a theme and includes interactive activity centers, arts and crafts, snacks, a bounce house and a circle time with songs and games.  A $1 donation is suggested to play.  

They have seven distinct, large areas for play:

  • The Nursery: play in the ball pit, build a tower with mega blocks, or create a town with Little People in our nursery targeting the younger crowd.
  • The Lighthouse Room: bounce in the bounce house, play games like soccer or bowling and enjoy yummy snacks.
  • The Pretend Room: create adventures with lots of dress ups and items for imaginative play.
  • The Craft Room: enjoy the play-doh cen­ter, the coloring area, and a craft that relates to the theme of the day.
  • The Builders and Movers Room: play with animals, trucks, and trains and build with blocks of all shapes and sizes.
  • The Gross Motor Room: climb, slide, spin, balance, aim and throw. This room is a favorite for children who like small play structures and balls.
  • The Reading Room: stimulate thought with lots of wonderful books, puzzles and puppets.

On a recent trip to Trinity Stay N Play, my daughter engaged in a variety of fun activities, like bouncing in a bounce house, an age-appropriate craft and, her very favorite, playing with Mr. Potato Heads. (Who knew those still existed!)  There is also a very popular train room!

While the set-up is a bit different from Calvary with activities spread out in different rooms throughout the church, we enjoyed the free play, crafting and engaging circle time songs and highly recommend it to others. 

For more information please check out the Stay-N-Play Facebook Page.  The 2014/15 dates are below, on Thursdays, from 9:30-11:30am:

  • September 11, 25
  • October 9, 23
  • November 6, 20
  • December 4 (Drop N Shop - No SNP), 11 (Christmas story)
  • January 8, 22
  • February 12 (Date Night- No SNP), 26
  • March 12, 26
  • April 9 (Easter Story), 23
  • May 7 (Mother's Day), 21

Maybe I will see you there this Thursday, November 20, from 9:30-11:30am!  

Hand UP Thanksgiving Food Drive

The Hand Up Food Drive is hosting it’s annual Thanksgiving Food Drive for families in need at Almaden Elementary School at 1295 Dentwood Ave, San Jose.  Almaden is a very low income school right here in the south bay.  Of the 390 students, 80% are on the free lunch program.

Last year we delivered a turkey, box of nonperishable groceries, cleaning products, personal hygiene items, fresh produce and a $10 grocery gift card to 130 families.  Hand Up was started by a 6 year old because she noticed her friends at school needed help.  It has turned into a way for concerned families to teach their children about community service from an early age.

This is a safe and fun way for a family to do community service together. We will be gathering at New Creation Church, 7275 Santa Teresa Boulevard, San Jose, CA 95139, on Nov 23, 2014 starting at 11:30. Non perishable groceries will be sorted and packed that day.  We need lots of volunteers to make this a success and please bring your small children.  We will have plenty of work for your children as young as 2 to do decorating and filling the boxes.  

Sheila Gibbons organizes this event with her family.  My girls hold her dear, as she has babysat for them for several years now.  She is kind, compassionate and extremely giving!  We had the pleasure of helping out on packing day last year and we had so much fun!  The girls (aged 3 and 4) loved decorating the boxes and took great care and pride in this work.  They dictated sweet messages to the families and drew loving pictures of turkeys and pumpkins.  It really meant a lot to them to help others!

Every donation adds up to helping families with small children have a happy Thanksgiving.

We are asking for :

        Cash, Checks should be made out to New Creation Church and marked Food Drive in the memo (New Creation Tax ID# 77-0319494), no overhead is taken out of these donations,

        Non-perishable groceries, such as bags of rice, dried beans, flour, sugar and corn meal, powdered milk, canned fruits and vegetables, coffee or tea, peanut butter, soup, pasta and pasta sauces, stuffing mixes, instant potatoes, cooking oil and corn husks,

        Non grocery items including, laundry detergent ( smaller sizes allow us to give to more families), toilet paper, light bulbs, dish soap, hand soap, feminine hygiene products and diapers in any size,

         $10 grocery gift cards. Any grocery store is welcomed but Trader Joe's and Safeway are within walking distance for our clients, most of which do not have cars.

Please consider helping.  Everything collect goes directly to the families.  There are no overhead costs. Just show up on November 23 at 11:30 am to lend a hand to Hand Up.  Like Hand Up on Facebook for more information.  

Westgate Shopping Center Halloween Trick-or-Treat Event


The Halloween Trick-or-Treat Event at Westgate Shopping Center is on Saturday, October 25 from 12PM-4PM.  Come for some spooky fun, trick-or-treating, music and more! Everyone is invited to a free family Halloween event.  Activities include trick-or-treating at participating stores, carnival games and treats with no tricks. Families can enter to win a four-pack of tickets to Kurios - Cabinet of Curiosities, the latest creation from Cirque du Soleil.  We have been to this event in the past and it is fun, safe and the kids LOVE it!

Guests will receive a free trick-or-treat bag and their first piece of candy at the registration table inside of the main entrance near Sushi Boat restaurant.  Activities during the event include live musical entertainment by Andy Z, Let’s Play in Spanish, The Dance Zone, balloon animals and pumpkin decorating. Mark the day by having Halloween photos taken for $10. The event is free and open to the public. Registration begins at noon.

Participating stores include Any Mountain, Buffalo Wild Wings, Chevy’s, Crazy 8, The Dance Zone, Ella, Gymboree, M Beauty, Michael’s, Nordstrom Rack, Old Navy, Party City, Ross, The Salon Professional Academy, Tuxedo Wearhouse and Willow Street Pizza.

Pick of the Patch Pumpkins

A enjoying the GIANT slide!

A enjoying the GIANT slide!

Over the lovely weekend, we checked out the Pick of the Patch Pumpkins, located at Curtner Avenue and 87.  They have locations all over the South Bay.  Click here for a complete list.  Pick of the Patch Pumpkins is a family owned and operated business serving the San Francisco Bay Are for more than 30 years.  They offer a wide variety of inflatable amusements including bounce houses, GIANT slides and an obstacle course for children.  There are three designated inflatables for ages 3 and under, which is great for toddlers.  Play costs $10 for a half hour and $15 for an hour of jump time.  A half hour was plenty of jump time for my three and five-year-old.

M bouncing!

M bouncing!

You can also pick out a small or large-sized pumpkin .  . . the pumpkins are pricey, but no more than other pumpkin patches around the area.  They even have a small selection of the white pumpkins and tiger-striped pumpkins.  They also sell pumpkin carving accessories.  

All in all, the girls had a great time jumping in the inflatables and running through the obstacle courses.  They also liked picking out their own pumpkins for carving.  We, the parents, enjoyed the patch's close proximity and lack of crowds.  A win-win for everyone!

Bay Area Science Festival

Are you ready to unleash your inner scientist? The 4th annual Bay Area Science Festival launches October 23 and runs through November 1. It includes 10 days of amazing events across the Bay Area!  It's free and fun for people of all ages who are interested in science. What a great way to expose your kids to all kinds of science activities and scientists. The big event is on November 1, the Discovery Day at AT&T Park, and there are several other events (field trips, tours, hands-on activities, etc.) that you can sign up to attend. Explorer Days highlights the incredible science resources in the Bay Area by offering a series of tours, hikes and active explorations for Bay Area families. This year, most tours will be on Sunday, October 26th, with locations throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Click here for the calendar of events. 


Our mission is to celebrate the Bay Area’s scientific wonders, resources, and opportunities by exploring the role of science, engineering, and technology locally and in the world.


The Bay Area Science Festival is an annual 10 day celebration of the unique science and technology of the Bay Area. Scientists from our local universities, companies, and museums will share their stories, passion and science at over 50 events. Programs will feature hundreds of hands-on-activities, provocative conversations, electrifying performances, and tours of cutting-edge facilities. Science is heading out of the lab and into our community!

More updates at: https://www.facebook.com/bayareascience.

Weekend Event Roundup: October 11 - 12

Lots of fun things going on this weekend!  Here are our top picks:

Pumpkins in the Park, Saturday, October 11, from 10am-4pm, at Discovery Meadow in Guadalupe Park:  Pumpkins in the Park is a harvest fair for families with a strong environmental education component. Featuring: Giant Pumpkin Patch, Costume Parade, Carnival Games, Kid-Sized Straw Bale Maze, Great Food, Fresh Apple Cider, Guadalupe River Education, Lots of Free Kid’s Activities, Children’s Concert.

Deer Hollow Farm's Annual Ohlone Day Festival, Saturday, October 11, from 12pm-3pm, at Deer Hollow Farm:  Admission for all events: $7. Cash or checks ONLY. Kids under 1 are free.  Ohlone Day: October 11, 2014. 12-3pm. Located in the Rancho San Antonio County Park. Friends of Deer Hollow Farm’s Ohlone Day is an annual festival which offers a rare chance to spend an afternoon in the Farm’s replica Ohlone Village which is normally closed to the public.  Step into the daily lives of the original Bay Area inhabitants, the Ohlone, who lived here for thousands of years. The underground sweathouse, Tule shade and sleeping structures will be open for exploring. Docents will provide short talks on how the Ohlone lived. Archery and fire-starting demonstrations will be held throughout the afternoon.

Howl at the Moon at Bernal-Gulnac-Joice Ranch, Saturday, October 11, from 7pm-10:30pm:  “Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night may become a wolf when the wolf-bane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.” Join astronomers to peer through their telescopes and learn about lunar effects. Also enjoy the 1940s classic movie “The Wolf Man.” For reservations call(408) 226-5453.

2014 Day on the Bay:  A Multicultural Festival at the Alviso Marina County Park, Sunday, October 12th, from 10 AM to 3 PM:  Held in partnership with the Santa Clara County Parks Department, Day on the Bay is a celebration that brings people together to enjoy activities, rich in diversity and talent, and abundant in ethnic expression. More than that, Day on the Bay is also an informational fair where the local community can meet non-profit, government, and community-based organizations to learn about their services. Free food will be provided to the community and Free pumpkins for the kids (while supplies last). There will also be community groups providing ethnic food booths, arts and crafts and live entertainment on two stages, as well as face painting, fire trucks, kayak trips in the Alviso Slough, girl and boy scout troops, and much more. 
Special Features:
•FREE Flu Shots (while supplies last)
•FREE Hamburgers (while supplies last)
•FREE Pumpkin Patch (while supplies last)
•FREE Kayak Rides
•Arts and Crafts
•Health and Resource Fair
•Live Entertainment
•Raffle items and giveaways

Apple Picking at Gizdich Ranch

We recently spent a beautiful day apple picking at Gizdich Ranch in Watsonville, about an hours drive from San Jose.  It was a lovely day and my girls were very excited to pick apples right off the trees.  

Once we arrived at the ranch, we parked and found the little white hut where we received a huge bucket to collect our fresh apples and information about apple picking. Posted signs explain the best way to pick an apple from the trees:  bend apple back when picking . . . never pull from the tree.  Be careful as there are some roped off areas of the orchard that advise people not to pick from certain rows, perhaps because the apples are not quite ripe enough to pick.   

We were able to pick many different varieties of apples, including Royal Gala, Red Delicious and Golden Delicious. Yum!  The girls' favorite was the Golden Delicious apples, which are perfect for making applesauce.  Click here for the ranch's apple availability.   We ended up with a huge bucket, filled to the brim with apples.  We were also able to pick fresh strawberries which were sweet and juicy. The girls loved sampling the fresh fruit!  Picking fresh fruits and vegetables is such a great way to entice your reluctant eaters to sample new foods.  

In addition to fresh fruit picked right off the tree or vine, you can buy fresh berry jams, a jug of award-winning apple juice and enjoy delicious pies at the bake shop.  You can sample pies by the slice or try the apple slush that is made with fresh-pressed apple juice.  There are also deli sandwiches and a box lunch that includes a sandwich, a cookie, chips, fruit and a drink.  I recommend that you bring a picnic lunch if you are planning on visiting on a crowded weekend day, as lines can be really long!  

There is also an area where kids can play by climbing on a tractor, crawling through a straw tunnel and playing in the sandbox, so make sure you plan to spend some time there.

Gizdich Ranch is opened 7 days a week, from 9am-5pm.  UPDATE:  Unfortunately, apple picking season is closed for the season, so mark your calendars for next September.  This is a must-do event for your family . . . just make sure you have all of your apple recipes at your fingertips!

Eat: Stumpy's in Willow Glen

I love a good burger and Stumpy's doesn't disappoint!  Stumpy's serves up delicious burgers, hot dogs, fries and tater tots (YES! TATOR TOTS!) at Willow Glen's first curb cafe, located in front of the Garden Theater on Lincoln Avenue.  Order at the counter inside from the short menu and grab a seat at one of the many outdoor tables. Pick up your meal at the window and enjoy!

I enjoyed THE FOSSE burger, which is their basic burger with lettuce, tomato, sweet onions and the sinister sauce.  Yum!  My husband tried the CHI-TOWN hot dog with all the classic Chicago fixings.  He liked it . . . and coming from a guy who grew up a few miles from Chi-town, that means a lot.  My daughter had a bacon-wrapped hot dog.  Yes, it was as good as it sounds.  Our family fought over our order of tater tots, which were crispy on the outside and soft on on the inside.  You must try them! On another trip, I tried the FALAFEL BURGER, the only vegetarian option, and it was deliciously crispy with a tangy tzatziki sauce.  The menu also has soft serve ice cream to top off your meal. Stumpy's is a kid-friendly must try for anyone who loves a good burger or hot dog!


Halloween Scary Boo! at Gilroy Gardens

Halloween festivities start at Gilroy Gardens this weekend, and run weekends through October 26, 10AM to 6PM. Halloween fun includes collecting clues in the "Boo Zones" for a goodie bag, a scarecrow display, a kiddie hay maze and a scary maze, a spider's lair in the Monarch Garden, and a spooky zoo ($5 additional charge). Happy Halloween!

Eat: Shaved Hawaiian Ice in Willow Glen

Shaved Hawaiian Ice opened recently in Willow Glen, at the corner of Hamilton and Meridian.  The kids and I got a chance to check it out when I needed something to cheer them up after the grandparents left.  Two small shaved ices with pink lemonade, strawberry, and lemon-lime syrup did the trick.  I grew up on the East Coast, where the frozen dessert of choice is water ice, so shave ice is pretty new to me, but I loved the fluffy texture of the ice and the colorful syrups.  The menu offers about three dozen flavors, as well as sugar-free syrups and ice creams. There's a menu of ice cream/shave ice combinations, such as the Root beer Float (vanilla ice cream, root beer and vanilla syrup, and a snow cap) or you can choose up to three flavors of just shave ice for $2.50 (small) or $3.50 (large).  

Weekly Event Roundup: September 29 - October 3

Coming up this week: Chinese Knotting for kids on Monday, a Surfing Magician and 3D Printing on Tuesday, Calvary Playhouse on Wednesday, Star Wars Reads Day on Thursday, and Spooky Halloween Science on Friday. See our Events page for more, and have a great week!

Monday: Chinese Knotting for Kids at the Joyce Ellington Branch Library.  Sue Chen will help you learn how to make a meaningful bracelet or decorative artwork with the beautiful Chinese knotting patterns. Monday, September 29, 2014 - 3:00pm.


Magic Show: Surfing Magician Doug Hofkins will amaze and amuse with his comedy magic show. Experience Doug’s unique tricks, sleight of hand, and cool illusions all performed from a surfboard table. At the Rose Garden Branch Library, Tuesday, September 30, 2014 - 3:30pm. 

Introduction to 3D Printing at Los Altos LibraryLearn about 3D printing for the home hobbyist with industrial artist and designer Ellie Lawson. This two hour program is an overview of 3D printing options for hacker to housewife. View a demonstration of the 3D printing workflow from 3D file to printed object using Los Altos Library's own MakerBot printer. Learn about the science of fused deposition modeling (FDM) and other 3D printing technologies, and how 3D printing is used in industry, medical and in the classroom. Tuesday, September 30, 2014, 7:00pm – 9:00pm, at the Los Altos Public Library.


Calvary Playhouse (Kids 5 and Under)Playhouse Calvary is an indoor playtime located in Calvary’s Family Life Center Gym, kids under 5 are welcome. It’s also a great time for parents and caregivers to connect in a fun and creative environment. Each week there are arts & crafts and a circle time that connect to a special theme, interactive activity centers, a bounce house and snacks. $2 per child, Wednesday, October 1, 2014, 9:30am – 11:30am, at Calvary Church.

Go Wild! Nature Program for Kids at the West Valley Library.  Ever wonder about the San Francisco Bay wetlands and the wildlife in your very own backyard? Join us for an adventure here at your local library. You’ll get up close and personal with real feet and beaks of birds while you play bird games and create your very own wild craft!  Best suited for ages 5-9. West Valley Branch Library, Wednesday, October 1, 2014 - 4:00pm.

Thursday:  Star Wars Reads Day at the Edenvale Library.  Join us in celebrating the third annual Star Wars Reads Day! We’ll read star wars stories and participate in activities together.  Feel the power of the force! We’ll make star wars thumbprint doodles, and participate in other Jedi activities. Edenvale Branch Library, Thursday, October 2, 2014 - 3:30pm.


Festival on the Plaza in Mountain ViewThe City of Mountain View is pleased to present a series of events on the downtown Mountain View Civic Center Plaza.  The first Friday of each month, join local musicians and entertainers for 90 minutes of sounds, sites, and Bean Scene bites and/or beverages at Mountain View’s Plaza Palooza.  This FREE entertainment is brought to you by the City of Mountain View Community Services Department.  This event will be held rain or shine.  Bring a chair or blanket and enjoy! Friday, October 3rd: 12:00 noon – 1:00 p.m. - Children's Entertainment by Puppet Art Theatre Company featuring a "Puppet Performance of the Boy Who Cried Wolf."  6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. - Family Entertainment by Jonathan Devoto, solo performer on clean electric guitar.

Spooky Halloween ScienceGet ready for Spooky Halloween Science Fun! In this workshop, you will handle slimy worms and learn about their role in decomposition, turn your lab partner into a "mummy", make a witch’s potion, concoct Oger boogers, create a skull mask, and observe a real sheep’s brain.  If you like disgusting, nasty, scary, creepy-crawly things, this is the workshop for you!!! This workshop is presented by Science Smart Kids (www.ScienceSmartKids.com) and is appropriate for children ages 5-12. Pearl Avenue Branch Library, Friday, October 3, 2014 - 4:00pm.

Children's Fairyland

We recently went on a family adventure to Children's Fairyland in Oakland.  Children's Fairyland is a small amusement park with a children's storybook theme.  It is about an hour drive from downtown San Jose and well worth the trip, especially if you have a book-loving child.  All of my children's favorite fairy tales and nursery rhymes were featured and they were so excited to experience the storybook themes.  Since the 1950s, Children's Fairyland has delighted children and their parents with whimsical storybook sets, gentle rides, friendly animals and inspired live entertainment, at an affordable cost!  Tickets cost $8 and children under 1 are free.  My girls highly recommend that you purchase the $3 magic key that unlocks stories and songs around Fairyland.  It is a great souvenir, too!

There were several highlights for our family . . . we enjoyed riding the rides.  The rides encouraged independence, as the girls got on by themselves and rode independent of us adults.  In fact, adults can't really ride on any of the rides, which was fine by me!  The girls were thrilled to do everything by themselves.  They especially enjoyed the Ferris wheel. Another highlight was the marionette puppet show.  We watched beautiful puppets reenact the story of Peter Pan. The girls were mesmerized.  It is a rather short show, just perfect for short attention spans.  Finally, they enjoyed a sliding down a grassy hill on cardboard boxes!  Tons of fun!  

There is food for sale there, but I highly recommend bringing your own picnic . . . as we spent nearly 30 minutes waiting in line and then another 10 minutes waiting for food. Luckily the girls were entertained by the many pigeons hanging around looking for crumbs.  Children's Storyland is a wonderful destination for toddlers and young children!  I felt like my five year old was a little on the old side for some of the rides and exhibits, but she had a blast anyway!  

Redwood Grove Nature Preserve in Los Altos

The first time I drove by the sign for the Redwood Grove Nature Preserve in Los Altos, I did a double take. The preserve is located in an unlikely spot - tucked behind a residential street near downtown Los Altos.  The 6 acre preserve features a native habitat including second-growth redwoods and a seasonal creek.  When we went last week, the creek bed was dry (very dry), but it made a great place for the kids to explore.  My 5 year old had a great time running along the boardwalk path between the trees, exploring the short trail along the hillside, and climbing across fallen logs.  

The trails here aren't really long enough to qualify as a hike - it's more of a great, safe place for young children to explore a redwood habitat.  We had a great time collecting leaves and bird feathers and completing a forest scavenger hunt.  New walkers and toddlers will especially enjoy running along the boardwalk path.  And the best part? You don't have to drive to the coast or mountains to enjoy these redwoods, so you're free to pop in for a half hour or so of peaceful nature exploration.  When the kids have finished investigating the creek bed and the trails, head over to Shoup Park, practically next door, and enjoy the playground.

The boardwalk though the Redwood Grove Nature Preserve in Los Altos

The boardwalk though the Redwood Grove Nature Preserve in Los Altos

Walking across fallen logs at the Redwood Nature Preserve in Los Altos

Walking across fallen logs at the Redwood Nature Preserve in Los Altos

Mysteries of the Unseen World at the Tech Museum IMAX

Mysteries of the Unseen World at the Tech Museum IMAX Theater provided one of those rare parenting moments - an activity that I enjoyed as much as the kids. This movie, from National Geographic, uses sweeping film and animation to bring the unseen world of things that are too slow, too fast, too small, and invisible to see into brilliant focus.  The movie uses high speed and time lapse photography, infrared and UV cameras, and electron microscopes to show us how vines grow, what organisms live on your eyelashes, how raindrops bounce off of puddles, what the world looks like to a bee, and how a dragonfly's wings move through the air, plus much more.  The 5 years olds in our group loved it, and even my almost three year old found the images beautiful enough to hold her attention. Mysteries of the Unseen World is playing at the Tech at 4PM every day this month (and it looks like through October as well), but make sure to check the schedule before you go.  Tickets are $10/adult, $8/kid, free under 3 (members are $5/adult, $4/kid).  You don't need to buy an entry to the museum to attend a show at the IMAX Theater.

Pumpkins in the Park

Mark your calendars!  Guadalupe River Park Conservancy presents Pumpkins in the Park on Saturday, October 11, 2014, from 10 AM to 4 PM at Guadalupe River Park / Discovery Meadow, (Woz Way & San Carlos).  This event features carnival games, free kids’ activities, giant pumpkin patch, food, a children's concert and a kid-sized straw maze.  Costume Parades are at 10:20 am, 11:50 am and 2:30 pm.  

Pumpkins in the Park is a harvest fair for families with a strong environmental education component. It is designed to promote awareness of the Guadalupe River Park and celebrate the fall season. Pumpkins in the Park is held to raise funds and enlist supporters for Guadalupe River Park Conservancy. But, just as importantly, its purpose is to create awareness of the park and gardens and to bring families into the park for a day of learning and fun. 

Weekly Event Roundup: September 22-26

Need something to do this week? Check out Music & Movement at the San Pedro Square Market on Tuesday, then stay for lunch at the market; Laugh Your Head Off with humorous stories at the Los Altos Library on Wednesday; join the Global Cardboard Challenge at the Edenvale Library on Thursday; or learn how to make LED circuits with play-doh at the Almaden Library on Friday. Have a great week!

Weekend Event Roundup: September 20-21

Check out what is going on this weekend!

Willow Glen Founders' Day Parade, Saturday, September 20, at 10:30am, in downtown Willow Glen:  We will be marching in this parade on Saturday and we can't wait!  The Founders’ Day Parade will be held on Saturday, September 20, 2014 starting at 10:30 am ending at approximately noon .  The Parade will consist of approximately 70 entries  — from local schools, organizations, businesses, cultural groups, bands and much more!   For more parade information visit www.willowglen.org or call (408) 298-2100.

Creekside Discovery Walk at Hellyer County Park, Saturday, September 20, 10-11am:  Enjoy a leisurely walk along the paved Coyote Creek Trail. Discover the many different animals that live in or near the creek habitat. Meet live snakes and feel the real animal fur of raccoons, bobcats, foxes and rabbits. Wear comfortable walking shoes and clothes appropriate for the day’s weather. Meet at the visitor center. (408) 225-0225.

WERC at Morgan Hill Library, Saturday, September 20, at 1-2:30pm:  Get up close with local wildlife from the Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation Center.

100 Year Anniversary Celebration at Morgan Hill Library, Saturday, September 20, at 1:30pm: 1:30 PM:  Visit with the famous mouse author, Geronimo Stilton, and bring a book for him to sign!  As part of our 100 Year Anniversary Extravaganza, local Morgan Hill band "Undercover" will be playing 1980s throwback tunes! Get ready to dance and have fun as we relive the 80s!  As part of our 100 Year Anniversary Extravaganza, we will be making vintage paper wreaths. This craft is geared towards teens, but all ages are welcome. Children under 12 must have an adult present to assist with this craft. All supplies are free and provided while they last.  3:00 PM:  Enjoy a hilarious magic show with Germar the Magician.  As part of our 100 Year Anniversary Extravaganza, we will be vintage decoupage vases. This craft is geared towards adults, but all ages are welcome. Children under 12 must have an adult present to assist with this craft. All supplies are free and provided while they last.  4:30 PM:  As part of our 100 Year Anniversary Extravaganza, the Live Oak Emerald Regime Marching Band and Colorguard will be performing exciting music from their fall show! Get ready to be dazzled by these young and talented Morgan Hill musicians.

Helix Los Altos Sundays:  DIY Circuits, Sunday, September 21, 2-3pm:  Sundays in September at 2:00 PM, explore circuits in new and interesting ways!  We’ll use conductive thread and copper tape to light up LEDs attached to paper or fabric.  Create a glowing greeting card, a light up patch and more.Recommended for ages 10+.

Check our Events page for more things to do.  Have a great weekend!

Playground: Seven Seas Park in Sunnyvale

Pirate ship at Seven Seas Park

Pirate ship at Seven Seas Park

The kids and I finally got a chance to check out the new Seven Seas Park in Sunnyvale, and it was fantastic. It takes play to the next level with a sprawling playground that includes a water feature (running when we were there last week), a larger pirate ship themed structure, a fenced toddler playground and sand box, lots of rocks and ropes for climbing, instruments for playing, and even scavenger and treasure hunts throughout the playground. The playground surface is rubberized, and there is a long path that loops around a grassy field with smaller play stations along the way - great for  keeping kids running from place to place.  There are plenty of benches, a bathroom, and much of the playground is shaded from the sun by large sails.  The only drawback is that there are only a few parking spots - although we had no problem getting one on a weekday afternoon, it's probably more difficult on the weekend. The city website warns against parking illegally in nearby private lots, and states that "visitors can park on Borregas Avenue located to the west of the park off Weddell Drive and then walk along the John Christian Greenbelt Pathway back to Morse Avenue."  But don't let the parking situation deter you! This was a really fun, imaginative playground - definitely a "destination playground" in my book. 

Seven Seas Park in Sunnyvale

Seven Seas Park in Sunnyvale

Scavenger Hunt - look for the symbols hidden around the play structure at Seven Seas Park

Scavenger Hunt - look for the symbols hidden around the play structure at Seven Seas Park

Seven Seas Park in Sunnyvale

Seven Seas Park in Sunnyvale

Water spray area at Seven Seas Park in Sunnyvale

Water spray area at Seven Seas Park in Sunnyvale