Thursday, January 27, 2011

Feb 6th - mark your calendar

Whether you're a football fan or not, it's worth making note of Sunday, February 6th. Yes, it is Super Bowl Sunday, pretty much the biggest sporting day of the year here in the US. (Last year's game drew a record shattering 106.5 million TV viewers.) People will gather in restaurants, bars and homes to watch the Green Bay Packers take on the Pittsburgh Steelers and while the game itself is of interest to many, it is, quite simply, a uniquely American event - the pre-game show, the half time show, the hype, the food, the buzzed about ads. The NFL's website ( will bring neophytes up to speed quickly so you can join in the water cooler talk.

If however, football is just not your thing, Super Bowl Sunday is also a great day. Why? Because with everyone hunkered down in front of the big screen, there are no crowds. So if you've been meaning to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the California Academy of Sciences or any one of a number of other popular, touristy spots, Feb 6th is the perfect day to go! Last year we hit the Exploratorium in San Francisco and practically had the place to ourselves.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Half Moon Bay

Taking advantage of the lovely weather, we ventured across highway 92 to Half Moon Bay this weekend, and were rewarded with a stunning day at the January! At this time of year, the Half Moon Bay area is perhaps best known for the Mavericks Surf competition, which draws an international crowd of top tier surfers to its beaches each February. It was not hard to understand why - the surf was incredible even on a sunny and calm day. But do not be deceived, the currents are extremely strong and anything beyond dipping a toe in the rather chilly waters is not recommended.

Happily, there are a great many other ways to stay occupied: the large sandy beach offers a wonderful spot to play, read or wander; there are trails for walking and biking along the coast; we took advantage of the BBQ grills and enjoyed lunch overlooking the beach at Half Moon Bay State Beach, which also has a small Nature Centre to explore; and, of course, there is Half Moon Bay itself, with its charming old Main Street of shops and restaurants. On our drive in we stopped at one of the many produce stalls and picked up some local honey.

We ran out of time (and energy!) to check it out this trip, but about 5 miles north of Half Moon Bay is the community of Moss Beach. The Moss Beach Distillery provides a lovely spot to sit and watch the sunset (they even provide blankets and a fire pit for those hardy enough to sit on the patio!)

Tip: If you don't have too much gear to lug, park on the road, walk to the Half Moon Bay State Beach and save yourself $10 for parking. Or even better, purchase a State Parks pass and save all year long!

Friday, January 7, 2011

State Parks sampler pack

So many parks, so little time. California has more than 200 state parks, and it would be a shame not to visit at least a few. The California State Parks Foundation makes it easy with several levels of membership, which include some great benefits not available when simply purchasing a pass from the State Parks website. I bought our family a sampler pack - a great deal at an introductory rate of just $25, this provides entry to any 7 parks, plus discounts on camping and other materials.

Check out

Rainy Day Ideas - Kid Friendly

From April through October, our family really tries to spend as much time outside as possible. But the rainy season offers up perfect opportunity for us to shift our focus to the many indoor attractions on offer in the Bay Area.

Our two boys (ages 7 & 9) love the Exploratorium in San Francisco for all the hands-on activities; Zeum's claymation gallery was a huge hit; and our membership to the Tech in San Jose has been a good investment. The relaxed atmosphere at Berkley's Lawrence Hall of Science seemed to encourage our kids to take their time, and we spent the better part of the day at this small gem.

For the six and under set, two well-regarded children's museums - the Discovery in San Jose and the Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito provide good indoor diversions. The Randall Museum in the City and Palo Alto's Junior Museum and Zoo are both small and geared to the pre-school set; the Palo Alto Children's Theatre is right beside the Museum.

Next on our list - the Museum of Children's Art ( and, just down the street, the newly renovated Oakland Museum of California (, plus the Chabot Space and Science Center (

Dine About Town 2011

Just in time for a post-holiday pick me up, the 10th annual Dine About Town is set for January 15-31st. San Francisco is known internationally for its food scene, and Dine About Town provides a perfect opportunity to sample some of the city’s best restaurants at great prices: 2 course lunches for $18 and 3 course dinners for $35.

Taste SF’s website ( provides a handy breakdown of the 90+ participating restaurants by cuisine type, and can also be sorted by neighborhood. Hot spots book up early, so make your plans now!