Here are some favorite local Bay Area attractions, according to people who actually live here. And we should know.
Children's Creativity Museum, San Francisco
An engaging collection of interactive displays. Older kids (like you) enjoy the Animator's Studio, the Musical Production Studio, and the quality gift shop, among other things. Little ones study giant foam blocks in the play lab. Later, they accost the restored old-style merry-go-round outside, where painted ponies, golden lions, psychedelic dragons, and bejeweled chariots sparkle with lights come sundown. An irresistible photo op of the kind kids later find embarrassing. http://creativity.org
Stockton Street In Chinatown, San Francisco
Every day, many thousand San Franciscans wander the length of Stockton Street among hundreds of colorful shops. The inventory is virtually endless, featuring a world of merchandise at bargain prices. High-end luxury items are also available, but people come here mostly (sometimes once a week or more) for dim sum, fresh produce, cool toys, and odd knick-knacks for under three dollars. Parking? Don't even ask.
Marina Green Park, San Francisco
A gigantic swatch of cool, green grass between Fort Mason and the Presidio. Snap-worthy views of the Bay, the bridge, the ocean, and the pretty row houses, not to mention the clouds. Popular activities include jogging, biking, football, kite flying, picnicking, and playing with your dog. However, feel free just lie on your back and scan clouds. The Palace of Fine Arts and Safeway are nearby, yet they seem so far away...
Sun Terrace Rooftop Deck, San Francisco
A grassy public space held high above the din of city traffic, over a Sansome Street parking structure. Many corporate laborers call this the perfect place to read or have a sandwich. Park yourself on a bench near a gurgling waterfall. Sniff the flowers. Eye the topiary creations and patches of cool grass just big enough to lie down on. Pretend you are a million miles away from the stresses of everyday life. Then quit dreaming and get back to work.
U.C. Campus, Berkeley
A hilly local hangout featuring many classical wonders of architectural design. Inside these architectural wonders are bookstores, world-renowned libraries, science exhibits, history museums, and self-serve cafes. Property highlights include a gurgling stream and a tranquil eucalyptus forest where flagrant blue scrub jays hop right up to you and fat gray squirrels come begging for nuts like pampered pets at dinner time. Incidentally, they have classes here too, taught by some of the world's top professors.
Crab Cove, Alameda
A cute little stretch of beach by the Bay in Alameda. Amenities include warm sand, paved trails, barbecue grills, picnic tables, and a splendid view of the San Francisco skyline. Near a good old-fashioned Foster Freeze, famous for its divine dip cones and rich root beer floats. Also nearby, the architecturally charming Neptune Apartments, where the proprietors claim Marilyn Monroe once stayed. Yeah, right. Anyway, for complete details, visit the Visitor Center at Central and McKay.
Marin Headlands, near Sausalito
If you don't like lush hiking trails, gorgeous, dark-sand shorelines and the world's most stunning view of the Golden Gate Bridge, don't go near Sausalito. Marin Headlands may be the Bay Area's most enviable natural setting, featuring enough beaches and hiking itineraries to accommodate all fitness levels. Get a trail map at the visitor center. Dress for windy weather. You won't be disappointed.
Lindsay Wildlife Museum, Walnut Creek
A great way to spend half an afternoon in Walnut Creek. Bald eagles, barn owls, vultures, and other alarmingly large birds stare down at visitors from open air perches just beyond the reach of the tallest person there. Classes, workshops, live presentations, regularly rotating exhibits, and attractive women baby-talking to the animals are what make this museum a popular year-round local favorite activity. There's also a mini petting zoo featuring small underwater creatures such as starfish and baby sharks. Awwww! http://www.wildlife-museum.org
—By Judee Shipman
Judee Shipman authored Top50States.com, prntr.com, countless online articles, and a book called Portable Chess Coach. She's also penned poetry and published crosswords in TV Guide.