Thursday, December 14, 2006

A great place for kids in San Francisco (after you've ridden a cable car and eaten a crab roll on Fisherman's Wharf)

Lookout Cove, Bay Area Discovery Museum, Sausalito, CA

Bay Area Discovery Museum, East Fort Baker, Sausalito, CA
Part 1 of 2

This is a wonderful indoor-outdoor space for children AND their parents. What a luxury: sitting on a park bench, watching my kids have a great time in active play, while over my shoulder is a striking view of the Golden Gate Bridge, the far tower topped with fog.

Two hours after our arrival, the boys hadn't set foot indoors yet; they were busy exploring every foot of Lookout Cove. We found a crow's nest and a real fishing boat to climb in, a "shipwreck" grounded in wood chips where we could dig for buried treasure, "tide pools" and a dark "sea cave" to examine. There's also a small-scale, unfinished Golden Gate bridge waiting for builders, and twisty garden paths perfect for running and hiding.

Adults will find plenty of benches well-sited for observing the fun, plus a cafe serving tasty food and decent coffee. My family could easily spend the day here.

The museum is housed in nine low warehouse-style buildings erected by the U.S. Army in 1903-05 as part of Fort Baker. After an award-winning restoration, the museum opened in 1987. Now the structures contain an art studio, classrooms, a theater, a playspace for the preschool set, and a Wave Workshop that recreates the habitat around the Golden Gate Bridge.

During our visit late last summer we enjoyed a traveling exhibit, an interactive display depicting the Chinese legend of the Monkey King. The videos, murals, and moveable 3-D tableaus kept my sons' attention for quite a while, and the books we brought home continue to be favorites.

There was a sign on the cafe's swinging door that warned against feeding the "aggressive" pigeons. I wanted to laugh; how much aggression could a softball-sized bird deliver? Then one of the feathered rats landed on our picnic table, six inches from C's face, and did its best to make off with an entire oatmeal cookie, while C froze in alarm. We finally managed to shoo it away, after no more than a few pecks at the treat.

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