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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Happy 2nd birthday Frisco Kids

I bet you didn't know it, but today is a very special day. Because you're smart readers, you know what it is already (you saw the subject line, right?). It's Frisco Kids' 2nd birthday. This blog has welcomed visitors from all around California, the United States and countries including Russia, Germany, India, Egypt, Japan, China, Albania, Australia, Brazil, Thailand and more.

I went back to read the initial Welcome Post to see if my mission matched what we ended up doing. I think it does - though through trial and error (and the invention of group buying websites), we also offer a lot of family-friendly deals.

Plus occasional giveaways (like Leapfrog Tag Readers and Leapfrog Tag Jr., luggage, travel books, chick-lit by NYT best selling authors. We've reviewed parent-friendly books and products. We've taken you to Disneyland, Legoland and Carlsbad's Sea Life Aquarium. And a smattering of other places, including Arizona, Las Vegas, New York City, Canyon Ranch Spa and more. We've covered Bay Area museum shows, reviewed everything from Walking with Dinosaurs to King Tut to Tour of Gymnastics Superstars.

And as a bonus, I got threatening emails from PETA after posting about Ringling Brothers Circus coming to town - even though I mentioned the controversy and told my intelligent readers to make decisions for themselves. And guess what, PETA. I'll post about it again.

One of the most popular posts is on Bay Area Birthday Party locations. I invite you to look at it and add your favorite spots. There's no way my list can be all-inclusive - I rely on you for your eyes and experiences.

The other most popular set of posts is on birthday cakes. Favorites include the Bakugan cake, castle princess cake, train cake, race car cake, slumber party cake and caterpillar cake. If you want to feature your cakes on Frisco Kids, let me know ( I'm waiting for Cake Doctor Linda to have some new ones for us in August.

Another milestone is coming up: in the next few months, Frisco Kids will celebrate its 1,000th post. I'd like to do something big, but I need ideas. Anyone?

Thank you, Frisco Kids' readers, for loyally following the blog and sending me your ideas, events and comments. Please continue to do so! If you're not already receiving this by email, consider signing up on the right side of the page. One email a day at most - and it's free. And join us on Facebook - I post exclusive content there.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Volunteer: Science is Elementary

If you're looking for a volunteer program where you can make a difference - in very little time, I've got good news for you! Check out Science is Elementary, an elementary school science program where volunteers go into the classroom to teach fun (but educational) science lessons that kids wouldn't get otherwise. I don't think I have to tell you about the budgetary issues in California. And how kids in the U.S. are thought to be far beyond those in other countries in science education.

The program has really grown over the last two years and they'll be going into six schools, serving 1,000 underprivileged students a month. They only need TWO hours of your time per month, September to May.

Volunteers (1 adult per 5 children) bring "cool" hands-on experiments to the classroom and allow kids to explore on their own while asking directed questions to guide their thought processes and investigations. Experiments draw on children’s everyday experiences to show them that science is all around them and is fun. There are usually 4 volunteers along with one Science is Elementary staff person.

The curriculum is already planned. Please consider signing up and forwarding this to others you know who might be interested - many companies allow employees time off to do this kind of volunteer work.
The schools involved are in Mountain View, Sunnyvale and East Palo Alto. See the FAQ's about the program here. Volunteer sign up is here.

Do you have more questions? Check out their FAQ here.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Coming Up: Renegade Craft Fair - free

Though my husband calls them "Crap Fairs" - I still love to go to "Craft Fairs." And there's a fun one coming up: the Third Annual Renegade Craft Fair at Fort Mason (San Francisco). It features craft, art, design and DIY stuff from more than 225 of awesome indie-crafters.

The folks from Etsy will also be at the fair, guiding you through many quick and simple, make and take projects. Stamping, sewing, printing – etc.

Check out the Scarving Artists Knit-In, coordinated by the St. Anthony Foundation! Do a quick knit and crochet crash-course (you can also bring in scarf donations to benefit the Bay Area homeless population).

Also, learn to accessorize with toys with emiko oye and Shana Astrachan in their workshop. Learn how to revitalize old toys into bangles, earrings and brooches by using jewelry techniques.

When: July 31 and August 1 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Where: Fort Mason
Cost: Free

Friday, July 23, 2010

Get "Yer Tickets: Beauty and the Beast

Sing it along with me: "Tale as old as time..." - my kids are now telling me to shut up, but when it comes to Beauty and the Beast, I just can't stop singing the tunes!

Lucky me - the Beauty and the Beast is coming to San Francisco's Golden Gate Theater as part of the Best of Broadway series.

Shows are August 17-29, 2010:
Tueday through Saturday at  7:30 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Sunday August 22 at 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday August 25 at 2 p.m.

Tickets cost $30-$99.
Get tickets via Ticketmaster at (415) 512-7770, or at the Orpheum Theatre Box Office (1192 Market at 8th St., Mon-Sat 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.). If you want to go with a group of 15 or more (I'm imagining a playgroup with many little Belles showing up), call Group Sales at (415) 551-2020. Ticket prices range from $30 to $99. To learn more about DISNEY'S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and other SHN shows, please visit

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Coming Up: 7th annual Trains and Planes Show

From July 17 to August 1, 2010, Hiller Aviation Museum hosts its seventh annual Trains and Planes Display

You'll see displays of HO model trains featuring the European scenery and villages. Plus you can see the the  diverse and colorful passenger and freight trains of the current and past models from Germany, Austria, France, Switzerland and other European countries.

On Saturday and Sunday, July 24-25 they'll have special activities from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (until 4 on Sunday) with raffles, kids' activities, contests, videos, and clinics.
Learn more about European Train Enthusiasts by clicking here.

Price: Trains included with museum admission (click here for a coupon)
Where: Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos (601 Skyway Road)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Coming Up: Hiller Kid's Air Faire

Coming up tomorrow: Hiller Aviation Museum's Kid’s Air Faire.

Aviation professionals will bring their aircraft to Hiller for a special show-and-tell session, and there will be an "Open Cockpit" session so you can sit in a Boeing 747, 737 and Super Sonic Transport plus local general aviation aircraft. Build and fly a model glider or Twirly Helicopter and enjoy a rare weekday opening of the Flight Sim Zone to round out this fun-filled day of unique aviation experiences for kids!

When: Wednesday, July 21st, 11 AM to 2 PM
Price: Included with museum admission (get a coupon here)

Congratulations to the Northwest Kid Trips winner

Congratulations to Amy who won Northwest Kid  from Frisco Kids' recent contest. If you're heading to Seattle, Portland, Victoria or Vancouver in the future, do check out Lora Shinn's book- it's packed with great family-friendly advice - and she's visited these places and isn't a shill for them..orthwest Kid Trips

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Coming Up: Friday Nights at Bay Area Discovery Museum

If you're looking for something fun to do with the kids on a Friday night, check out the Bay Area Discovery Museum's summer evening events.

In addition to the usual museum attractions, they'll have special performers baed on a theme (noted below). Bring a picnic dinner or buy one there.

Events will be on July 23 and August 13 from 5-8 p.m.

Tickets: $5 for members, $8 general. This is a separate admission from the daily admission. Buy tickets here.

Friday, July 23 - Arrgh matey, it's the Bloody Scupper Plunder Club, here to sing songs of piracy and general mayhem at 6 p.m. Meet our own Dread Pyrate Gregory and swap tales of the sea all through the night.

Friday, August 13 - One last chance to see Living In Space before it blasts off! Celebrate space travel with a retro evening of fun featuring 60's grooves from DJ Mancub all evening long. The Short Attention Span Circus will delight with comedic juggling, magic, contortions and more all evening long.

As you might know, the Bay Area Discovery Museum has panoramic views of the San Francisco Bay and is at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge. It's one of my favorite kids' museums - great exhibits, great space, great view and a fabulous playground. It's in Sausalito.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Coming Up: Kids World Events at Serramonte Center

Come to Serramonte Center for "KidsWorld," a free, fun and educational after school monthly program.

According to Serramonte, "KidsWorld events include festive, interactive performances with singing, dancing, games, crafts and fun learning opportunities. Each event teaches students a variety of topics including music, culture, art and even etiquette. The after school program also provides a place for kids to come and socialize in a fun, safe and educational environment. Each monthly event is themed and filled with arts and crafts activities, hands-on fun, festive music and more."

Here's the schedule:
Tuesday, July 20, at 5:30 p.m. – World Under the Sea

Tuesday, August 17, at 5:30 p.m. – Back to School

Tuesday, September 21, at 5:30 p.m. – Spanish Heritage

Tuesday, October 19, at 5:30 p.m. – Halloween

Membership is free, and is good for discounts throughout the shopping center, entry into free monthly events and more.

The event is at the Serramonte Center, between the Elephant Bar and Starbucks (formerly the Mervyn's wing)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Music Schools for Kids in the Bay Area

Someone in one of the groups I'm part of in San Francisco recently posted about music classses for preschoolers. It was such a hot topic I wanted to send some information your way, including a variety of schools and locations. Here's a sampling of classes you and your kid can take!

Lots of people recommended Jon's School of Music in San Francisco. The classes, in the outer Richmond district and Berkeley, is said to be a more open format and less structured. Kids get to play multiple instruments (real ones) and learn music theory even if they don't realize it.

Blue Bear School of Music: This organization actually has classes for all ages, including adults. Their Little Bears program is for kids 4 months to 5 years old, incorporating music, games, instruments storytelling and dance. Classes are broken up by age, and the 4-5 year old groups is a drop-off one. You can find Little Bear classes in a variety of settings, from Fort Mason (and 5 other SF locations), to Marin.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Deal of the Day: Spa Treatments more than Half Off -InterContinental

I love a good spa deal, and this one is too good to pass up. But a $99 certificate at the InterContinental Hotel's Spa in San Francisco. You'll get to choose a package of services worth up to $205, plus a glass of wine, and use of their fitness center, lap pool, steam room, Swiss showers and hot tub.

Sample treatments/costs:
Swedish Massage - 50 minutes/$120
Pregnancy Massage - 50 minutes/$130
Foot Soak Ritual - 15 minutes/$20
Murad Man Facial (I love the sound of MAN FACIAL) - 50 minutes/$125
50 minute Manicure - $50
50 minute Pedicure - $65
Scrub Bar Therapy - 50 minutes/$135

The deal is good through July 21, but you have an entire year to use it (though in California, it's my understanding that gift certificates don't actually expire - don't hold me to that, though). You can buy up to 10 certificates - they'd make great holiday gifts and even Mother's Day gifts, since they're good for a year. Or bring your spouse and have a spa date.

Get the $99 InterContinental deal here.

Small print: Appointments must be made for Mondays-Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. - expires July 21, 2011 (in a year). You pay tax and tip out of pocket.

Don't forget to enter to win a signed copy of Northwest Kid Trips! More info here.

Find Frisco Kids on Facebook!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Free and Cheap Museums for your Seattle Vacation (and a Contest)

Today's guest post is from Lora Shinn, the author of Northwest Kid Trips . She also runs the fabulous site CascadiaKids: Family Travel in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia. Lora is offering to give one signed copy of Northwest Kid Trips to a lucky Frisco Kids reader. Find out details at the bottom. (By the way, I read the book before it was published, and it's a must-have if you plan to go to the Seattle, Victoria, Vancouver or Portland area with kids. She has a wealth of trustwothy information and the writing is entertaining - plus it has MAPS).

“Free” and “family travel” rarely show up in the same sentence. So if you’re planning a trip to the Pacific Northwest, you’ll want to consult this list of Seattle museums and attractions. You can get into many for free (or at great discount) with your San Francisco museum memberships.

You can also use my list of free museum days in Seattle to save money on your trip.

Here’s a list of ways you can use your reciprocal memberships:

Get free admission to Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Asian Art Museum if you’re a member of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco or the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (deYoung and Legion of Honor - Contributing Member level only) and other members of the North American Reciprocal Membership association.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Free Target Museum Weekend July 16-18 - 7 SF Museums

If you're in town, you won't want miss this free Target Arts & Wonder Free Family Event. It runs all weekend, July 16-18, 2010, at seven San Francisco museums, including:
-de Young Museum
-Asian Art Museum
-San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)
-Contemporary Jewish Museum
-Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD)
-Zeum: San Francisco's Children's Museum
-Yerba Buena Gardens Festival

What's happening? Free general admission, free hands-on art making activities for kids and free special family-friendly performances.

Friday, July 16, 2010: ­ de Young Museum is free from 5-8:45 p.m.
Saturday, July 17, 2010: ­ Asian Art Museum is free from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday, July 18, 2010: ­ SFMOMA, Contemporary Jewish Museum, MoAD, Zeum andYerba Buena Gardens Festival are free from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Sample Activities:
-de Young Museum (Friday night): Turn the Target mascot Bullseye into a work of Andy Warhol-inspired Pup-Art (get-it?). Watch a ballet performance celebrating the Impressionist painter Degas

-Asian Art Museum (Saturday): Journey from India to Japan as you stroll through the galleries. Take a storytelling tour and learn about gods, goddesses, emperors, philosophers and more.

-San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) (Sunday):  See for yourself how larger-than-life artworks transform the ordinary into the EXTRAordinary. Then create your own enormous art -- make an everyday object into something 10 times its size. Like the photo here on the left

-Contemporary Jewish Museum (Sunday): Marvel at the magic of ordinary objects by crafting fabric buttons, decorating bags and watching Sweet Can Productions make brooms dance.

-Museum of the African Diaspora (Sunday): Tour the exhibition African Continuum: Sacred Ceremonies and Rituals. Try your hand at Haitian tooled metal sculpture.

-Zeum: San Francisco's Children's Museum (Sunday): Sculpt and film your own clay animation. Ride the historic Zeum Carousel. See the photo above.

-Yerba Buena Gardens Festival (Sunday): Come in costume and get ready to join the conga line as we celebrate the international spirit of Carnaval with non-stop performances in Yerba Buena Gardens from 12-3 p.m. by Fogo Na Roupa, Sambadá, Loco Bloco, Bahia Bahia,Chelle! and Friends, Pi Clowns, and more.

(All de Young exhibitions are free except Birth of Impressionism. You need special timed tickets (fee). All Asian Art Museum exhibitions are free except Shanghai. Adults need a $5 ticket (under 18 is free)).

Friday, July 9, 2010

Coming Up: Sleepovers at the California Academy of Sciences

This sounds like fun! It's Night at the Museum - but without all the scary stuff.

Spend the night at the California Academy of Sciences - in the Penguins and Pajamas Academy. Here's what they say about the event:

"Doors will open at 6:30 pm, when sleepover guests are invited to come in and explore the Academy after it’s closed to the public. Participants can take in the evening songs of the rainforest birds, sing “twinkle twinkle” to a sea star at the Discovery Tidepool, and watch the fish cruise under the moonlight in the Philippine Coral Reef tank. Then, guests can catch a special penguin talk, and become stargazing gurus during an after-hours planetarium show.

Before bedtime, sleepover guests can grab a snack of cookies and milk and settle in for story time, featuring “Pierre the Penguin,” the true story of the Academy’s famous wetsuit-wearing penguin. When the lights go out, participants can unroll their sleeping bags in African Hall, next to the swaying kelp of the California Coast tank, or even at the Swamp window, face-to-face with Claude, the albino alligator. In the morning, it’s time to rise and shine, then head over to the Academy CafĂ© for breakfast before the sleepover event ends at 8:30 am."

The package includes parking at the music concourse garage, next day admission to the academy, breakfast, snacks and a special commemorative gift.

During July and August, the Academy is offering a Summer Sleepover Sweepstakes. Every visit in July and August gives you a chance to win tickets for four, to a sleepover. After entering the building, past the ticket area, there's an Enter To Win display, and cards to fill out to enter. You can enter by snail mail by sending a 3/x5 card with the word "PENGUIN” along with your name, mailing address, and email address. Mail the card to Summer Sleepover Sweepstakes, California Academy of Sciences, 55 Music Concourse Drive, San Francisco CA 94118. It must be received by August 31, 2010. The three winners will be notified by email on September 7, 2010.
What: “Penguins and Pajamas” sleepover program
Who: Open to children ages 6 and over; an adult chaperone must accompany every group of up to five children.
Where: California Academy of Sciences, 55 Music Concourse Drive, San Francisco, 94118
When: 6:30pm – 8:30am starting on Friday, July 16, and August 13
Tickets: $119 ($99 for Academy members), at

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Coming Up: Sunday Streets

There's a popular San Francisco Sunday Streets this Sunday, July 11th in the Mission!

Get out and walk, run, bike, skate - all without cars on the road. Check out the schedule here.
When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Where: Mission
Cost: free

Future Sunday Streets:
August 22 - Great Highway, Golden Gate Park
September 19 - Western Addition
October 24 - Civic Center, Tenderloin

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Coming Up: Day out with Thomas the Train - Roaring Camp in Felton

Thomas the Train is making a Bay Area appearance. Welcome him at Felton's Roaring Camp. Lots of great photo opporunties. The day includes storytelling, visits with Sir Topham Hatt, music, building with blocks, crafts and more. Warning - when we went the line was so long to get a photo with Sir Topham Hatt the kids got really bored waiting.

We did this a few years ago, when Zachary was younger and very into Thomas. We had a great time there. We didn't know at the time, but you can go to the event for free (you pay $8 for parking), and skip the expensive train ride if you want. We did the 25 minute train ride, which was uneventful - especially since you can't actually see Thomas while you're on the train. You can take pictures with your own camera at no cost. The kids didn't seem all that interested in the train ride.

My favorite part of Roaring Camp is Henry Cowell State Park, which you can walk to from Roaring Camp (even a short stroll through the redwoods is worth it).

Bring a picnic or buy food there - they have BBQ.

When: July 30-August 1st and August 6-8, 2010
Where: Felton's Roaring Camp Railroad
Cost: $18 to ride the train - get tickets in advance. Parking is $8.
Tickets: Get them here or call 866-468-7630

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Magnetic Art Wall

Figuring out what to do with kids' art work is a big topic. After all, the kids come home with tons of projects, all of which are awe-inspiring and MUST be hung up - at least according to the kids. For those of us without lots of gallery space, there are several options.

We initially hung a line in Dori's room - using metal picture-hanging wire attached at both ends with cute hooks (we bought ours at Target). We hug the art with butterfly office-binder clips - we found some in pinks and purples. If the art didn't fit on the line, it didn't go up in the house. That way she had some control over it.

We now have a dedicated space - a magnetic wall. We painted two wall panels - one for each kid, with three or four coats of magnetic paint (you can buy it at Home Depot or any paint store - we used Rust-Oleum brand). The paint cost about $25 for a quart and we ended up using two quarts to make sure it was strong enough. (They also have chalkboard paint and dry-erase paint, which would be fun projects too).
Looks lovely, huh? Well we painted over it with yellow paint to match the walls. Then we added the border. I got the trim at the hardware store, already primed. Then I painted it to match the door trim. The pieces cost $13 total (and we had some left over). You can nail it in yourself using a nail gun or hammer and nails or hire a handyman to do it for you..
Not all magnets will work on this paint. They have to be pretty strong magnets. You can try these pushpin magnets, rare earth magnets, or neodymium magnets. Some of our pictures just won't stick on the walls - the pictures on thicker paper.

My next project is to get some a few frames to put a few select pieces of artwork in. That will be the rotating gallery and we'll only have limited spot available for that.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Free Kids Book from Borders and Barnes & Noble this summer

If you're like us, your kids are already signed up for the reading program at the library. Well, here's a way to extend those benefits. Borders and Barnes & Noble are offering kids a free book after reading a set number of books.

Borders' program is for kids 12 and under, and they get a free book after they read 10 books. You just have to print out their form and write down the books your kids read. Then bring it to the store for your free book. The books they're offering are from some of my kids' favorite authors, like Dan Gutman and Beverly Cleary. And others as well - check out the list and download the form here. You have until August 26, 2010 to read the books and turn in the form.

Barnes & Noble will give the kids a free book after they read 8 books by September 7, 2010. They also offer free books by Dan Gutman and Beverly Cleary, along with Judy Blume, Roald Dahl and Arnold Lobel. Learn more about the program and download its form here.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Coming Up: Reopening of Paxton's Gate - Fun Free Events all Week

Paxton Gates Curiosities for Kids looks like a VERY cool store for kids' toys, games and decor. Take a look at the store photos on their website and you'll see what I mean.

They're celebrating a reopening with a week of special entertainment, free activities and big discounts starting Monday, July 5 and ending with a big party on Sunday, July 11. (address at the bottom)
Here's what's going on:

Monday, July 5th, from 2 to 4 pm
Mask-making with local mixed media artist Michele Menard. They supply the paper, yarn and repurposed craft scraps and let the kids take their imagination out for nice test drive as they design and make masks that are fun, scary, happy, or any other mood that might strike them. And best of all, they can take the masks home afterwards.
Daily Discount Special: 15% off all craft kits and supplies

Coming Up: July 4 Festivities in the Bay Area

If you missed the previous post, check out Frisco Kids' list of fabulous kid-friendly July 4th offerings.

And Travel is More Fun with Kids has a completely different list.

Have a safe, and happy holiday!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Coming Up: Stern Grove Kids Days - Free

Stern Grove Sundays were one of my favorite things to do before kids. We'd bring a blanket, picnic and the newspaper and grab our spot in the (hopefully) sunny area to await the fabulous free concerts. I know some people bring their kids to these events, but my kids aren't so good at sitting still in a crowded area and waiting for the show to start. It turns out there are activities for kids from noon to 1:00 for these Sunday concerts. Crafts, dance lessons, singing and hands-on music..Look at the Stern Grove Sunday schedule here, with kids activities included.

But there's also Stern Grove Kids Days. These are free workshops with dance, music, drumming and more. You just have to sign up ahead of time.

Look below for the schedule info:

Presto! Interactive Opera Kids Day with Kristen Jones and Jennifer Ashworth
When: June 29, June 30, and July 1
Time: 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Where: Stern Grove, 19th Avenue and Sloat Boulevard, San Francisco

World Dance Kids Day featuring Bomba dance with Shefali Shah and Hector Lugo, Salsa/Merengue with Mario Luis Alabi and Swing Dance with Hep Jen
When: July 13, July 14, and July 15
Time: 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Where: Stern Grove, 19th Avenue and Sloat Boulevard, San Francisco

World Dance Kids Day with Stacey Blakeman of the San Francisco Ballet Center for Dance Education
When: August 3, August 4, and August 5
Time: 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Where: Stern Grove, 19th Avenue and Sloat Boulevard, San Francisco

Thanks to Linda for reminding me about these!
And don't forget to join Frisco Kids on Facebook for even more great info!