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The majestic redwoods of Muir Woods tend to draw the tourists, but did you know the Bay Area boasts many magical places where you can be wowed the towering effect of our California state tree, but on a much smaller (and and more manageable) scale? From downtown SF to nearby Larkspur to points further north and south, we’ve rounded up eleven of our favorite spots to view redwoods.

San Francisco

Ecology Trail at the Presidio
This 1.4 mile route winds its way through Serpentine grasslands (that in springtime are full of gorgeous wildflowers in bloom) and the Presidio’s largest redwood grove. It leads to Inspiration Point Overlook with sweeping views of San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz, and Angel Island—a perfect way to reflect on afternoon spent with those gentle giants.

The Presidio
San Francisco, CA
Find directions and trail maps at

Redwood Park at the Transamerica Pyramid Center
Nestled between the skyscrapers of San Francisco's Financial District is a unique surprise: a mini park with a whole half-acre of (transplanted) redwoods, smack dab in the middle of the city!  Kiddos will also enjoy the fountain honoring Mark Twain; you’ll enjoy the fact that you still have the whole day to explore the city, and that fresh pasta and red wine in North Beach is just blocks away.

600 Montgomery St.
San Francisco, CA

East Bay

Mather Redwood Grove
You might not think of a college campus as a place to see redwoods, but there's a small grove of them at UC Berkeley's Botanical Garden, with trees varying in height to create the illusion of an enchanted forest.  

200 Centennial Dr.
Berkeley, CA

photo: Kate Loweth

Peninsula/South Bay

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
Just a quick drive over Highway 17 from San Jose (as long as you avoid the beach traffic) you will find Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. As the park’s name will tell you, it is full of gorgeous redwood trees. From the parking lot, head towards the Visitor’s Center (a great stop to learn about the park) and you will see the Redwood Loop Trail—a 0.8 mile flat loop that takes you on a kid-friendly tour of hundreds of massive redwoods. Be sure to check out the famous Fremont tree at the midpoint of the loop. This tree was made famous by General John Fremont who is rumored to have slept inside the burnt-out, hollow redwood tree in 1846. Grab a flashlight from the visitor’s center (or use your iPhone’s flashlight) to fully explore the inside of this massive tree. Insider Tip: Just past the Redwood Loop Trail on the River Trail, you will find access to a great creek so bring your swimsuits to cool off!

101 N. Big Trees Park Rd.
Felton, CA

Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve
For towering redwoods and sweeping coastal views, head to this 4,000-acre open space preserve. The Redwood Trail is an easy flat route that is specially surfaced and almost completely shaded, making it perfect for the little aborists. There are picnic tables and restrooms along this meandering path, and if you’re lucky, you’ll also get a good dose of banana slugs, bubbling creeks and butterflies.

Skyline Blvd., 4.5 miles south of Highway 92
Half Moon Bay, CA
Cost: free to the public 365 days a year from dawn until one-half hour after sunset.
Parking: There is plenty of roadside parking in addition to the lot.

Butano State Park
Editor's note: Currently closed due to CZU Lightning fire damage. If you are looking to combine the best of two worlds—the beach and the forest—then head to Pescadero and check out Butano State Park. Just 15 minutes from the beach, Butano SP boasts beautiful towering redwoods on miles of hiking trails. While most are not stroller-friendly, they are easily walkable and the ever-favorite banana slugs along the trail are sure to delight hikers of all ages.

1500 Cloverdale Rd.
Pescadero, CA

Redwood Grove Nature Preserve
In addition to redwoods, this 6-acre nature preserve has a boardwalk (along Adobe Creek), a rose garden and observation decks, making it the perfect place to explore redwood groves in a family-friendly and natural setting. The preserve connects to Shoup Park, which families (and parents) love for the awesome play areas and crawl tunnels.

482 University Ave.
Los Altos, CA
Parking: Visitor parking is available on University Avenue. No motor vehicles are allowed in the park.

Nestled in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, Villa Montalvo is known for its gorgeous mansion and grounds where artists perform and display their works of art on the property. But just beyond the mansion are hidden hiking trails full of towering, as well as young, redwoods. Follow the Redwood Trail to the Lookout Trail for a view of the Bay Area like no other!

15400 Montalvo Rd.
Saratoga, CA

photo: iStock

Marin County

Dolliver Park
Downtown Larkspur boasts a charming main street full of restaurants and shops.  Why not start there then meander your way over into Dolliver Park—an enchanting little place that the locals call “Dark Park,” which means just the right amount of redwoods. The kiddos will marvel at the windy road that was designed around the redwoods' wandering roots.

Larkspur, CA
Magnolia Ave. at Madrone Ave. in Downtown Larkspur

Roy’s Redwoods
Tucked in the middle of Marin's San Geronimo Valley is a picturesque meadow and some of the largest redwoods in the county. There are shaded trails perfect for even the tiniest of hikers, or for more of an adventure climb along Dickson Fire Road that leads to sweeping views.  (And if those things aren't impressive to your family, make sure to tell them it's also where George Lucas shot "The Ewok Adventure.")

Directions: From Hwy 101 in Larkspur, take the exit for Sir Francis Drake Blvd. west 8.6 miles, turn right onto Nicasio Valley Rd. Gate is approximately 0.5 miles up on the right. Outside of a small kiosk marking the grove, there’s no clear signage so it can be easy to miss.  Just look out for the service road off Nicasio Valley Rd. that leads to the trailhead, about a half-mile north of Sir Francis Drake Blvd.
Parking: With no parking lot, cars typically park along the road.

—Kate Loweth & Mae Respicio


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Bay Area families know how lucky we have it—we’re surrounded by interesting people, beautiful nature and vibrant cities! What better way to introduce young readers to all these wonders than by reading stories set in the Bay. Support a local, independent bookstore and order these books today! 

A is for Activist

By Innosanto Nagara

Get your littles off to the right start in this inspiring, gorgeously illustrated picture book around themes of feminism, environmentalism, workers’ rights, healthy food and LGBTQ rights.

Best for readers ages 4 - 7


ABC Oakland

By Michael Wertz

A is for Aviary, a home for the birds; B is for Broadway, from College to Third. C is for Cranes standing tall in the sky; D is for Dogs, wagging tails, saying “hi!” This enchanting picture book highlights landmarks and themes that exemplify Oakland’s unique culture, from the myriad food trucks on International Boulevard to the giant redwoods that stretch up to the sky.

Best for readers ages 4-8. 


Al Capone Does My Shirts

By Gennifer Choldenko 

Set in 1935 when families lived on Alcatraz Island, this novel follows Moose Flannagan, who moves with his family to Alcatraz so his dad can work as a prison guard and his autistic sister, Natalie, can attend a special school. All the historical references makes the perfect prequel before an in-person visit to Alcatraz, and the theme of finding your place among your family makes this a timely tale.

Best for readers ages 10 - 13


All of Me

By Chris Baron

A move across the country sets Ari on a transformative journey as he navigates the demise of his parents’ marriage and his own self-perception while dealing with fat-shaming. The story, told as a novel-in-verse, is set in Mill Valley and is a beautiful, body-positive, necessary book about accepting the imperfect in oneself and in life.

Best for readers ages 9 - 11


American Born Chinese

By Gene Luen Yang

Three seemingly unrelated tales come together in an unexpected twist in this funny and poignant graphic novel that explores the immigrant experience, life as a Chinese American, and community.

Best for readers ages 7 - 12


The Bay Area Through Time

By Laura Cunningham

Each page of this colorful, fascinating picture book takes readers further back in time, starting with European explorers and working its way back through when Columbian mammoths and saber-toothed pounced and roamed, eventually reaching 400 million years ago, when San Francisco Bay was a watery realm dominated by bizarre invertebrates.

Best for readers ages 6 - 10


Claude: The True Story of a White Alligator

By Emma Bland Smith
Illustrated by Jennifer Potter

Meet San Francisco’s resident celebrity alligator, Claude, whose story started almost 25 years ago in Louisiana when he hatched out of his egg looking very different than the other hatchlings—they were green and he was white. Claude now makes his home in the California Academy of Sciences and has millions of visitors every year, who learn that his differences are exactly what makes him special.

Best for readers ages 4 - 8


photo: Hatchette Book Group

The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish

The shoulders on the drag queen go shimmy, shimmy, shimmy...all through the town.

Fans of Drag Queen Story Hours around the country will love this book from Lil' Miss Hot Mess, one of the first Queens to host DQSH. Bright, playful illustrations by Olga de Dios add the perfect touch to this update on the classic "wheels on the bus" song that aims to teach little kids everywhere...there's nothing wrong with a little swish in your step.

Ages: 4-8

$17.99, available here.

A Hitch at the Fairmont

By Jim Averbeck
Illustrated by Nick Bertozzi

A mysterious death, a wicked aunt, and a swanky San Francisco Fairmont Hotel combine for a fun Bay Area book that follows a boy who teams up with Alfred Hitchcock to uncover the mystery behind his aunt’s disappearance—starting with a chocolate ransom note.

Best for readers ages 8 - 12


The House That Lou Built

By Mae Respicio

Lou has a big dream: to build a tiny house. She shares a room with her mom in her grandmother’s house in San Francisco and longs for a place of her own, where she can escape her crazy but lovable extended Filipino family. It’s not so easy to build one, but she won’t give up on her dreams—her friends and family won’t either. This beautiful coming-of-age story is set around the Bay and explores culture and family, forgiveness and friendship, and what makes a true home.

Best for readers ages 8 - 12


Humphrey the Lost Whale: A True Story

by Wendy Tokuda and Richard Hall
Illustrated by Hanako Wakiyama

Parents who grew up in the Bay Area eighties will remember the story of Humphrey, the forty-five-foot long, forty-ton humpback whale who wandered into San Francisco Bay and for twenty-six days struggled to find his way back to the ocean. This true tale with realistic illustrations has been a decades-long beloved book for young readers.

Best for readers ages 5 - 9


Journey Around San Francisco from A to Z

By Martha Day Zschock

Journey Around San Francisco from A to Z takes readers on a beautifully illustrated tour of the City by the Bay.  Hop aboard a cable car and zip up and down steep hills with a friendly pelican as your guide.  Visit Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf, Muir Woods, and the San Francisco Zoo. 


Larry Gets Lost in San Francisco

Written by John Skewes and Michael Mullin
Illustrated by John Skewes

When Larry chases down a donut and accidentally loses his owners, his San Francisco escapades begin. In his quest to reunite with his owners, Larry takes us past all the city’s landmarks and we discover all the places he visits: Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Coit Tower, Ghirardelli Square, Fisherman's Wharf, and Chinatown, to name a few. Fun facts are sprinkled throughout the book amid cool, retro illustrations.

Best for readers ages 3 - 7


Maybelle the Cable Car

By Virginia Lee Burton

By recounting actual events in San Francisco's effort to keep the city's cable cars running, this classic story illustrates how the voice of the people can be heard in the true spirit of democracy.


The Memory Keeper

By Jennifer Camiccia

Twelve-year-old Lulu Rose has Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM), a rare condition where she has the ability to remember almost every moment in her life. Lulu hides this from everyone except for Gram, her grandmother who’s own memory is declining from dementia. Lulu ends up uncovering family secrets and discovering the truth about Gram’s past in this heartfelt tale of hope and family set in Marin, CA.

Best for readers ages 8 - 12


One Crazy Summer

By Rita Williams-Garcia

This Newbery Honor-winning classic takes place in 1968 and tells the story of three sisters who travel to Oakland to meet the mother who abandoned them—and who turns out nothing like they imagined. The sisters end up in a day camp run by the Black Panthers and learn about their family, their country, and themselves during one crazy summer.

Best for readers ages 8 - 12


Pop's Bridge

By Eve Bunting
Illustrated by C.F. Payne

The Golden Gate Bridge. The impossible bridge, some call it. They say it can't be built. But Robert's father is building it. He's a skywalker--a brave, high-climbing ironworker. Robert is convinced his pop has the most important job on the crew . . . until a frightening event makes him see that it takes an entire team to accomplish the impossible.


Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag

Written by Rob Sanders
Illustrated by Steven Salerno

Readers celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Rainbow Pride Flag in this bright, inspiring book that recounts the story of the flag’s beginnings in 1978 with social activist Harvey Milk, and shares how the flag has spanned the globe and what it means to our world today.

Best for readers ages 5 - 8



By Jason Chin

When a young boy discovers a book about redwood forests, an ordinary subway trip is transformed. He finds himself transported all the way to California, climbing into a redwood canopy to begin his adventures.

Best for readers ages 8 - 12


San Francisco, Baby!

Illustrated by Ward Jenkins

Two babies go on two big-city adventures, and there are so many exciting sights to see! In San Francisco, Baby!, the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Alcatraz are some of the main attractions. Rhyming text and charming illustrations make these picture books perfect for babies—and parents—who are always on the go, or who have big-city dreams!


U is for Unicorn: The ABCs of Silicon Valley

By Loren Girimonte

Illustrations by Jasmine Wibbens

In the spirit of the Silicon Valley, this clever and funny alphabet book follows a team of tech professionals—and one hoodie wearing raccoon—from Angel Investor all the way to Zero-Emissions Vehicle, one letter at a time.

Best for readers ages 4 - 8


—Mae Respicio & Kate Loweth

Featured image: iStock


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It’s a New Year at the Museum of Ice Cream

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Have you seen the brightly painted building in downtown San Francisco that looks like the ice cream flavor Rainbow Sorbet? We’re not talking about the Painted Ladies! Get ready to scream—because we all scream for ice cream at the Museum of Ice Cream! Read on to get the full scoop (get it?) of what new things you can expect this year at the MOIC.

photo: Nella DuBon-Koch

New Year, New MOIC

Museum of Ice Cream’s mission is to “Unite & Inspire the World Through Imagination.” For the turn of the new year they have focused our new installations to reflect just that!

photo: Mae Respicio

Holy Sprinkles!

The interactive art installation is perfect for children and parents with a sweet tooth, an eye for candy and a love of a good photo opp. With themed rooms, such as the sprinkle pool or the gummy bear forest, you’ll be guided through the exhibit and able to interact with each room. Have you always dreamed of swimming in a pool of sprinkles? Jump in—dreams really do come true.

photo: Sandra Lee

Pick a Flavor

Do you have a favorite flavor of ice cream? Look to your child and say it—that’s your new name while visiting the MOIC. The staff has donned these fictional names as well, such as “Vanilla Vanessa” or “Strawberry Bret.” Get your child excited and have them think of what their ice cream name will be for the day.

photo: Sandra Lee

Minted Ticket

Timed tickets are $38 and are purchased online, they cannot be purchased at the door. Kids age two and under are free. Groups of 10+ receive the discounted admission of $29 per person.

Insider tips: The Museum of Ice Cream is located downtown near Market Street, there is some street parking but we recommend either taking public transportation or parking in a nearby garage. Strollers are not permitted inside so if you have a little we suggest a carrier.

Museum of Ice Cream
1 Grant Ave.
San Francisco, CA

—Mae Respecio and Tarah Beaven



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Work/life balance—it’s a thing! At least, it should be. Indoor play spaces around the bay certainly help—fun spaces where the kiddos can run around during open play hours—all while you park yourself and your laptop at a work table. It’s the best of both worlds. . . .just remember to bring the noise-cancelling headphones.

photo: Goodluz via shutterstock

San Francisco

Peek-A-Boo Factory
If you’re in need of computer time to catch up on emails, this indoor playground has café seating in the parents’ lounge, flexible walk-in hours and separate play areas for different aged kids. Bonus: they throw awesome, easy birthdays—a one stop shop!

2 West Portal Ave.
San Francisco, CA

From getting a Powerpoint done to a even little self care (bring a book!), Recess gives you the chance to breathe easy under deadline because they offer a fabulous workspace… with onsite childcare! (Hooray!). Make sure to call ahead since it’s a a smaller setting of 4 desks, but still fast Wifi and (most importantly) coffee and tea. Note that rainy days are reserved for members only.

2226 Taraval
San Francisco, CA

photo: Play Haven

Play Haven
With over 4,000 square feet of space for the entire family, Play Haven has everything to plow through your bullet journal while the littles are kept fully-occupied by an open play area, art studio and rock climbing wall. For you: table seating, an outdoor area (surrounded by lush greens) and free, fast WiFi. Plenty of yummy snacks for the whole family, too!

254 Laguna Honda Blvd.
San Francisco, CA

This play space has everything squeal-worthy: a bounce house, an enormous ball pit, slides, a rope climbing tunnel—even an electronic game and dance floor! And they didn’t forget about the grown-ups with a a huge workspace table, free/fast WiFi, flexible drop-in hours and a cappuccino bar in the works. It’s a hip, bright space for the entire family to enjoy. 

303 Linden Ave
South San Francisco, CA

photo: The COOP SF

East Bay

KidsGym Berkeley
This massive indoor space has something for everyone from infants to kiddos up to age 11. Ready for this massive list of awesome? Okay: a zip line, climbing wall, a sensory gym for developing kids and kids with special needs, crafts and activities, a quiet room for changing diapers, a family room for nursing, massage chairs and (ready for it?)… onsite childcare services!

2920 Seventh St.
Berkeley, CA

The Rec Room
Plug in while the kids romp, or come during their guided play hours to give them a still fun but more structured experience. Lots of bonuses here with $1/minute massages, free music classes and a relaxing dose of parent yoga.

3222 Adeline St.
Berkeley, CA

photo: Recess

Peninsula/South Bay

It’s café-meets-playspace in this charming, local, organic restaurant with an outdoor patio. It’s the perfect place to give yourself a break to sip and nosh, or to get a few emails taken care of while the kids explore the bright playroom. (Tip: this is a beloved and busy spot, so make a reservation beforehand.)

145 First St.
Los Altos, CA

The Garden by Equal Play
Designed for working parents like you, The Garden by Equal Play is an innovative co-working system located in beautiful downtown San Mateo. They provide fully-equipped office space with all the amenities (from great coffee to lightning-fast WiFi), as well as nurturing, compassionate, play-based childcare in the same building. You can host a client meeting, get a report out the door, and pause for lunch with your child. And The Garden’s flexible memberships and drop-in rates are designed to meet a wide variety of co-working needs.

11 N Ellsworth Ave.
San Mateo, CA

photo: La Petite Playhouse

La Petite Playhouse
When life gets too chaotic to work from home, head to this giant facility that has undersea-themed play structures, a climbing wall, a playhouse (for kids 10 and under), plus two sport courts. There’s plenty to keep the kiddos occupied so that you can catch up on projects while they burn off all their energy. (Bonus: Hello, good night’s sleep!)

1264 Oddstad Dr.
Redwood City, CA

Safari Run
From obstacle courses to jumpy areas, this fun space offers all kinds of ways for your kids to explore while you do you! The play areas are walked through and sanitized hourly (pesky germs begone!). The open play area is for kids ages 3 – 10 though there’s no additional adult supervision or childcare on premises, so if you really need to plug in with minimal interruption, consider this a great spot for the older set.

1180 Kern Ave.
Sunnyvale, CA

341 N Amphlett Blvd.
San Mateo, CA

photo: Mae Respicio

North Bay

This entertainment center is awesome for school-aged kids with its trampolines, video games and the coolest Ninja Warrior course ever. You’ll have the best vantage point since the Parents’ Lounge (tables, massage chairs and free WiFi) is located on the second floor with a view of the trampolines. The minute you enter, the kids will be off and bouncing and you likely won’t hear from them until their video game cards run out. 

555 Rohnert Park Expy West, Suite C
Rohnert Park, CA

What are some of your favorite work/play places around the bay? Give them a shout out in the comments!

—Mae Respicio

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Looking to inspire your little readers this spring? The Bay Area Book Festival comes to Berkeley at the end of April and it is the place to be to let your imagination run wild. There are book giveaways, readings by your favorite local authors, performances and tons of fun for the whole family. Read on to find out what you can expect when you head over!

To Do
There’s no shortage of family-friendly options at the festival. Both days have a long line-up of author panels and discussions with kid-centric activities and programs sprinkled in. The main thing to check out? The Showtime Stage in the Family Fest Zone. The stage is where you’ll find storytelling and live performances for every kind of reader.

As if that wasn’t enough, through a partnership with Half Price Books the festival will give away thousands of free kids’ books to encourage reading. Finally, there’s an epic list of fun stuff and DIY projects throughout the event, sponsored by Bay Area non-profits and service providers, like book-making and jugglers to bounce houses and a kiddie carnival (with rides, natch), making this a perfect festival of fun. Check here to plan your schedule then stop by the Family Fest Zone first thing.

To Learn
This year’s festival includes special focus on “Women Lit,” Native American voices, youth and writing/publishing. YA and children’s programming is especially strong with new middle-grade books from Dave Eggers, Newbery Award winner Katherine Applegate (The One and Only Ivan, Wishtree) and former U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, among many others.

To Watch
No doubt, the stars of this event are the books and their creators. All-star artists and illustrators including popular children’s authors like Dan Santat and Aaron Reynolds (authors of the new book, Dude!)—among many others—will be sharing their stories with kids in a big tent on the grass. It’s sure to get your family reading all the books.

To Inspire
For the older readers in your family there’s a poetry slam, a performance workshop and many panels featuring their favorite YA and middle grade authors. Lots here to get the gears turning for your future authors-in-training.

To Know
This event is two full days featuring nearly 250 authors. The festival will be clustered in Berkeley’s Civic Center Park and adjacent blocks. All outdoor venues have free admission. For indoor programs, the prices vary from a $10 guaranteed seat for a single event to a $15 general wristband that gets you into all events for both days (first-come first-served). Everyone under 18 gets in free to all indoor events, no wristbands needed. Expect some lines, but crowds aren’t bad when they’re full of happy readers. And, all events at the Showtime Stage in the Family Fest Zone are FREE!

Bay Area Book Festival
In and around Berkeley’s Civic Center Park
2151 Martin Luther King Jr Way.
Berkeley, CA
When: April 28-29, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Have you attended this literary extravaganza? What was your favorite part?

—Kate Loweth & Mae Respicio

Photos courtesy of the Bay Area Book Festival

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This February marks a huge milestone for the Bay Area International Children’s Film Festival as they celebrate 10 years of throwing the most awesome, imaginative playdate around! For a decade, the BAICFF has been the hottest family ticket in town to watch diverse, family-friendly films from all around the globe. This year’s event is no exception with three jam-packed days full of flicks and workshops all taking place at Oakland’s amazing Chabot Space and Science Center, and all tailored to mini movie buffs. This is definitely the type of screen time you can get behind.  


The festival kicks off on Friday, February 23 from 7-9 p.m. with a special event: “The Fantastic Films: Short Films” and a discussion with BAICFF co-founder Jim Capobianco. The talk explores questions about the secrets of animation and participants also get to enjoy short films. Bonus: Chabot telescope viewing after the event (weather permitting). 

You can find opening night ticketing info here (note that Friday tickets are limited). 


Saturday and Sunday are broken down into two sets of films: morning and afternoon. The morning movies are great for kids of all ages (and attention spans). The afternoon features shorts as well as a feature length film, and is recommended for the older set (7+ for the shorts and 8+ for the feature). Some of this year’s film highlights includes Fingerprints, the story of two groups of kids—one from Haiti and the other from the Bay Area—who come together virtually to record two songs. In Doctor of Monsters, a boy has to face his fears of becoming a doctor to monsters. Are You Volleyball? is a film from Tehran is about a group of refugees who arrive at the border of Iran where the soldiers and guards are hostile to them, but end up finding friendship and connection through a game of volleyball. A View from the Window looks at a school day through the eyes of deaf children.

Visit the 2018 program schedule for the full scoop.

photo: from the film Negative Space, France


For all of your pint-sized auteurs-in-training, the festival offers fun, hands-on workshops in clay puppeting, found objects and pixilation. After the workshops, students get to premiere their work on the big screen! How cool is that?

Learn more about the workshops here.


A few helpful details: Museum parking is (drumroll, please)… FREE! Options for lunch and snacks include the museum café and food trucks. (Foodie pro tip: if you pay for a whole day pass get stamped—you can always leave for lunch and return.) Finally, the price of your admission ticket also includes museum entry, so make sure to take advantage of all the cool exhibits before and after the films.

Find directions to the event and easy parking info here.

photo: from the film A Film of Cinema, Brazil


WhenFriday, February 23 (7-9 p.m.); Saturday, February 24 (10 a.m.–8 p.m.); Sunday, February 25 (10 a.m.-5 p.m.)
Where: Chabot Space & Science Center, 10000 Skyline Blvd. Oakland, CA
General Admission: Adult/$25, Youth/$14; Two-Day Weekend Pass: Adult/$35, Youth/$20
Member Admission: Adult/$15, Youth/$7; Two-Day Weekend Pass: Adult/$21, Youth/$10
Note: Tickets can also be purchased at the front desk on the day of the event. All tickets include General Admission to the Chabot Space and Science Center so be sure to explore. (Basically, this is the best kind of whole-day affair!)

photo: from the film A View from the Window, USA

Have you attended this awesome film festival? What was your favorite part? Share in the comments!

Mae Respicio

All photos courtesy of BAICFF.

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If the soundtracks from “Trolls” and “Sing” have been on repeat for months in your house, you’re probably ready to change the tune. So how about something with a little more classical flair? The Bay Area is home to some incredible orchestras and symphonies. And many offer up special concerts and programs just for families. Read on for all-ages fun that’ll be music to your ears!

Photo Courtesy:  Melissa Bouse

San Francisco
San Francisco Symphony

The beloved San Francisco Symphony is offering up a variety of family-friendly shows this summer. First up is the music of John Williams, one of Hollywood’s most epic film score composers. You’ll recognize the orchestra’s take on his songs from “Star Wars,” “Indiana Jones” and “Harry Potter.” In mid-July, the Symphony will perform popular songs from Disney’s Pixar movies. And the best part is, some tickets are half price for kids. Be sure to check their calendar for more details.

201 Van Ness Ave
San Francisco, Ca

San Francisco Chamber Orchestra
The price is right for these concerts featuring professional and youth musicians. They put on free shows throughout the summer all over the Bay Area, including San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Palo Alto and Vallejo. Keep an eye on their website as summer concert dates and locations are usually posted in July.

Various locations

Photo Courtesy: Oakland Youth Symphony

East Bay
Oakland Symphony 
Celebrate Independence Day Eve with a special performance, Monday, July 3rd. This family-friendly show will include sing-alongs, Sousa marches, and music from popular movies, all led by the orchestra. And of course, it will all end with a bang! Fireworks will follow the festivities around 9 pm.
The Oakland Symphony also hosts a variety of community events throughout Oakland. Check out their calendar for dates and locations. You won’t want to miss their ever-popular instrument petting zoo!

1440 Broadway, Suite 405
Oakland, Ca

Marin Symphony Orchestra
Symphonic music comes alive for families through the Marin Symphony’s Youth Orchestra, which hosts family-friendly and holiday concerts with an up-front view of all the action onstage.

4340 Redwood Hwy
San Rafael, Ca

Photo Courtesy: Peninsula Symphony Orchestra

Peninsula Symphony Orchestra
Each spring, this Orchestra puts on a special family concert in San Mateo. Children get in free as part of their Bridges to Music program. Accompanying adults are just $10. The program gives kids the opportunity not only to hear amazing music, but also to get up close and personal with the instruments afterwards. Details will be announced this fall.

146 Main St #102
Los Altos, Ca

California Youth Symphony
This group truly provides something for everyone: young conductors and musicians get the invaluable practice of playing for live audiences, while you and your family will be treated to some world class talent. Stay tuned for their 2017– 2018 season line-up of youth concerts.

441 California Ave # 5
Palo Alto, Ca

South Bay
Symphony Silicon Valley

What was once the San Jose Symphony has been reinvented and now offers the area an exciting array of performances. The Movies in Concert series is especially popular with families. This past season they performed music from “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” The symphony also offers free matinee performances to area schools during the school year. They’ll even pick up the tab for bussing.

325 South First St.
San Jose, Ca

Have your kids enjoyed any classical concerts? Tell us about it in the comments below! 

–Melissa Bouse and Mae Respicio


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School’s out for summer, and if you’re looking for a fun – and relatively budget-friendly – activity for your family, chances are a day at an amusement park is at the top of your list. But depending on the ages of your kids, it can be hard to find parks that are as fun for the tiny tykes as they are for the older thrill-seekers.

We’ve narrowed down the list of awesome parks across the U.S. to highlight the eight best amusement parks for all ages – plus new rides and attractions to look forward to this summer.

Cedar Point (Sandusky, OH)

For Youngsters: Plenty of rides for those under three feet tall, and two Family Care Centers for a comfortable place to nurse and change diapers.

For Thrill-Seekers: With seventeen coasters to choose from, there’s plenty to scream about in the “Roller Coaster Capital of the World” – including Valravn, the tallest, fastest and longest dive coaster in the world.

What’s New: Cedar Point Shores, an 18-acre waterpark with water attractions for all ages, VIP cabanas, restaurants and live entertainment.


Photo Credit: Cedar Point

What’s your family’s favorite amusement park? What other destinations should Family Vacation Critic add to their best-of list?