EEF33646-832E-47C7-9329-A006153AD436 Fun | Baghdad By The Bay

Posts Tagged 'fun'

Cabrillo Playground

Cabrillo PlaygroundFinding a nice playground for your kids is a bit more difficult today. Kids need more today than the swings and slide that I used to get on what was called a playground. Thankfully there are a few new playgrounds popping up that keep this in mind and today we got to visit the newly renovated Cabrillo Playground.

The main thing with playgrounds is that they have to be fun. That’s pretty much all the kids are interested in while the parents are hoping it will be so much fun that the kids will tire themselves out so they won’t tear up the house when they get home. Well I have to say that our playground tester Rebecca didn’t hesitate when she saw the playground. Autistic children can sometimes have something that sets them off by new places, but there was no problem here.

The second she got inside she was running for the play structures and jumping and sliding around on everything. The biggest thing we noticed was that she was interested in trying everything here. Usually she just focuses on one part of a structure or finds one slide, but here it was everything she had to try out. Granted it was a weekday so it wasn’t super crowded, but there were lots of kids and all of them seemed to understand that running around and crashing into other kids wasn’t what you do in a playground. This was a good thing.

It was fun for Wife and I as well as we got some exercise chasing Rebecca around and the place overall is very nice and kept clean. I’ve often wondered about what thought people put into building playgrounds. Sand just gets everywhere and it seems like other than the occasional boy the sandbox areas are ignored by the kids [I won’t ask how the local feral cats like the sandboxes, but that’s probably part of the reason why you do see many anymore.] Then you have playgrounds shaded by trees. While that’s nice on a hot summer day for some reason they only seem to make playgrounds like that in parts of the City that are normally foggy and cold which causes a large collection of leaves and bark from the tree which break down under foot and create a nice healthy mulch. Well, it would be nice and healthy if anything was supposed to grow there, but it’s a playground, not a forest.

Thankfully, Cabrillo was well thought out since it’s in the middle of a residential block without looking like the old Russian industrial playgrounds as I used to call them. The playgrounds used to have just a depressing look about them and Cabrillo’s redo doesn’t have any of that. There are tennis courts and basketball courts that are separate from the play area along with the brilliant idea of using pavers to form hopscotch areas off to the side. I’m not sure if anyone even plays hopscotch anymore, but it just seemed like an easy addition that might make a retro comeback in the future. There’s also a concrete ping pong table that has very modern look [as opposed to Russian industrial] that I’m surprised no one ever thought of before. The net is made of punctured metal which would let you use it as a table if you were having a party there and afterwards you would just need to hose it off if you spilled anything on it. This would explain the drain holes in the ground around it. Whoever designed this did their thinking.

Around the outside of the playground which is fenced in with about a 20′ high fence are planted areas with lots of annual flowers mixed with a few perennials. It adds a nice touch and is done in such a way that kids would have to work hard to get at them. Inside planting are made up of succulents and other hard to kill plants which also just makes sense in a high traffic area.

If you have a kid, you’ll want to check this place out. The best thing is that it’s free and it’s clean. There’s nice drinking fountains and bathrooms here as well as cans out in front for people walking their dogs to deposit the waste. It’s a big plus for the neighborhood  and if you don’t mind driving to the outer Richmond it’s worth the time. Just be sure to bring some coffee and snacks as you’ll be there for awhile and you’ll have a few blocks walk to get to food and drink. You can see more in the gallery below.

The Purple Mile

The Purple MileI think you kind of have to be kind of old to remember slot cars from the 60’s and 70’s, but our own Playland at the Beach had a famous track built into the original location of Topsy’s Roost that many of us old guys who were kids back then remember.

The Sovereign 220 [The Purple Mile was it’s nickname] was to slot car racers what Mavericks is to surfers. Slot cars were sort of like hot wheels on steroids. They were bigger and had a little pin that stuck down into a slot that received electricity from a hand grip that you squeezed. The tighter you squeezed the more electricity would go to car making it go faster. There were several tracks you could buy for home, but it was never the same as the Sovereign 220. I remember going in their with a friend of mine somewhere between 1965-1969 which was probably towards the end since I would have been about seven when it closed. I remember the smell to this day. Now I know it to be the smell of ozone as the electrons were splitting the oxygen in the air and making it recombine into a not very safe gas.

The track was big. It was the largest slot car track ever built and being a small kid I could barely see the end of it so you’d sort of lose track of where your car was on the track. I can’t remember how much it cost to run your slot cars on the track, but being seven I didn’t really care about money back then. I was still having adults pay for the penny candy I was eating all day long to fuel  me up to run around like a madman.

Unfortunately slot cars were starting to be old news by the late 60’s just like Whitney’s Playland at the Beach. It was closed down and the track was sold to someone in Texas and it was sold again and probably again until it wound up being bought by a hobbyist in Ashland, Massachusetts who restored it to it’s former glory. I managed to find a video of the track as it looks and operates today which isn’t much different than it was back in the 60’s now go grab some electrical wire and a 9-volt battery to click the wires together to make sparks so you can get that same smell in your room just like the old days at the slot car track.

Sunset Spring Festival

20130427-093443.jpgJust a quick message to let you all know if you’re looking for something to do today that Sunset Elementary will be holding their Sunset Spring Festival at 40th and Ortega. Doors open at noon and there will be lots of games, things to see, people to meet and of course food.

I’m about to head out the door to run down and prep the corn dogs to sell and there will also be Vietnamese food and iced coffee available as well as lots of other things. Note to foodies my famous cinnamon buns will be on sale to help out the PTA. Be sure to bring the kids.

Barbary Coast Bunny

Barbary Coast BunnyI figured this would be a fun one to start the weekend off with. While I was looking for movies filmed in San Francisco I actually found a cartoon that was based in San Francisco and it was none other than Bugs Bunny himself. While they do use a few very NOT San Francisco phrases like calling it ‘Frisco it’s still a fun look at how cartoons viewed old San Francisco.

Here’s the story behind the cartoon according to Wikipedia:

Bugs is tunneling cross country to meet his cousin, only to run head first into a boulder which is a large nugget of gold. Bugs is considering keeping the gold safe, while Nasty Canasta sees this and sets up a simple stand claiming to be a banker who can safely store Bugs’ gold. The rabbit falls for the ruse. When Bugs decides to ask for his gold back, Canasta claims the bank is closing and traps the rabbit in the folded up stand while he rides away with the gold. Furious, Bugs vows revenge.

Six months later, Canasta has used his ill-gotten gains to start a casino in San Francisco which is shamelessly rigged in the house’s favor. Bugs enters the casino in the role, playing a hopelessly naive country boy who confuses a slot machine for a telephone. When Bugs uses it to phone his mother for some money, he hits the jackpot much to Canasta’s shock. Hoping to recoup this loss, Canasta convinces Bugs to stay for a game and thinks he is maneuvering the apparently easy mark into playing a game of roulette on the pretense of it being a game of marbles. To build his would-be victim’s confidence, Canasta arranges for Bugs to win on his first spin, but Bugs develops a winning streak on the same number (#23). Having nearly lost everything, Canasta covers #23 with a block of wood and sets the wheel up for the marble to stop on #00, but when it does his subsequent striking the table in triumph causes the ball to accidentally bounce and hammer into the knot of the block of wood, thus Bugs wins again.

Now desperate to win back Bugs’ now massive winnings, Canasta convinces Bugs to try playing draw poker and Bugs literally draws a picture of a fireplace poker. Bugs then pretends to misinterpret Canasta’s description of the importance of having the biggest hand to win by blowing up his glove into a giant balloon. Canasta loses his temper at his would-be victim’s obtuseness. Bugs threatens to walk out, forcing Canasta to grovel in order to coax Bugs to return to the game. Canasta soon regrets that when Bugs, after staking all his money, promptly wins with a Four of a Kind consisting of Aces (Two pair. A pair of ones, and another pair of ones), trumping Canasta’s Full House.

Now with his casino’s bank irreparably broken at the hands of this simpleton who seems physically incapable of losing, Canasta decides to rob Bugs at gunpoint on the pretense of it being another game of chance. Bugs, still keeping in character, naively spins the revolver bullet cylinder like a slot machine and a mass of coins inexplicably pours out the gun’s barrel.

As Bugs’ departs with all the casino’s funds and more, Canasta greedily tries to win money from his gun, only to shoot himself in the attempt and collapses. Bugs pops in and says to the audience (in his normal voice): “The moral of this story is: ‘Don’t try to steal no 18 karats [carrots] from no rabbit.'”

I was able to find a copy of it on youtube so here’s what Warner Bros. thought about old San Francisco. Enjoy!

Stow Lake

How I managed to leave out the largest manmade lake in Golden Gate Park is beyond me, so it gets it’s own spot today. Stow lake offers many things to people who visit the park. Joggers can be seen looping around it in the morning. You’ll find a few elderly people walking around with their grandchildren feeding scraps of bread to the ducks and turtles or you might find people renting boats to paddle around the lake watching urban hikers make the trip up to the top of the centerpiece Strawberry Hill.

Stow lake has come under fire recently because the Stow Lake Corp, a family run business that has owned the boathouse for over 60 years may be ousted from its roost by a company run by Alex Tourk a former aide to our old friend Gavin Newsom. Now I have to say it’s been awhile since I bothered eating any of the standard fare offered by the boathouse, but I do admit I have fond memories as a kid of eating that possibly carcinogenic pink popcorn and drink a half flat coke that they served up while walking around the lake. I’m going to have to stradle the fence on this one because while the boathouse and boat rentals need a major make over, I’m not sure that what would replace it while looking better would better serve the public. I’m not sure I want to see a pricey yuppified expensive cafe going in there, but things can’t always stay the same.

Around back from the boat rentals and boathouse is where you can rent bikes to cruise around the park which does an especially good business on Sundays when that part of the park is closed to car traffic. These are your regular bikes, but recombinant tricycles and four wheeled surrey type bikes that you can fill up with the whole family. While being the main focus of Stow Lake if you walk ar0und you’ll find there is more to be had at this stop.

As a kid I remember hearing stories about piranhas living in Stow Lake. This was one of those urban myths that actually had a bit of truth to it. There was a time period when I was a kid that every kid had a fish tank. As the family got tired of changing water and taking care of the fish you had two choices, flush the fish down the toilet or be more humane and release your tropical water based fish into the cold Stow Lake. I guess no one ever thought of bringing them back to the fish store and just giving them back to the owners of the store, but that was the early 70’s.

Now one of the interesting things about tropical fish is that they don’t all need 80° water to survive. Some can actually acclimate to colder water and one of these fish is a vegetarian version of the piranha called the pacu. I have seen pacu in the lake in the past and you can’t miss them because they’re about four times the size of a piranha and can be found snapping up bits of bread that people would throw to feed the ducks. I remember throwing fishing nets into the water and seeing what kind of fish you would find there. After sticklebacks and minnows we did find quite a few aquarium fish that had been dumped there, mostly goldfish. The pacu was always the goal to catch, but I never caught one.

As you’re walking around the lake you can hike up the top of Strawberry Hill passing over Huntington Falls. It’s a pretty easy hike and the pay off at the topic isn’t exactly the most spectacular. You get to see the remains of a house who’s owner I can’t find anymore, but the rocks have been made into a circle that has been used for campfires and it sits next to a pond that serves as an emergency water supply to fire hydrants around the city. I’m not sure if they’ve tested this any time recently, but I’m not going to hold my breath if it needs to be used in the future. The best part about being up high here is the views of the city. It really is one of those wow moments when you feel like you’re kind of out in the wild and then when you get to the top you see that you’re surrounded by the city.

As you travel back down don’t forget to stop by the Chinese Pavillion. It looks great from a distance, but after construction they didn’t take into account the water spray from the falls would collect on the clay based soil and now drain so it is a bit mucky when you walk up to it.

If you travel off to the side of the boathouse you’ll find several large picnic spots complete with grills. These are rather nice if you want to have a party and don’t want your friends destroying your house. The especially nice part about this picnic spot is that you’re walking distance from the boathouse and the nicely refinished bathrooms. Public restrooms I have no problem with them being changed and updated every few years. I think we can all agree on that!

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How to Practice Your Camping Skills in San Francisco

You have to love the Presidio. When it was used by the military it must have been great for training exercises because of all the dense growth of trees and brush and the sheer size makes it a great place to take a walk around and explore.

One of the few hidden secrets is that it has the only location within San Francisco where you can legally camp. Yep, you read that right, camping in San Francisco. It’s called the Rob Hill Campground and I and a few friends used the place before it was remodeled last year. It now has four campgrounds up from two when we used it and the price has increased a little bit to $100/site. Each site can hold up to 30 campers so if you’ve got a group then the price is more reasonable.

It’s a wonderful place to go and camp and you get to fall asleep to the roar of the Ocean nearby and because of all the trees when the wind picks up in the afternoon it’s not as bad as it could be. When the sun sets is when the fun begins. We were all sitting by the campfire when we started to hear noises. We started to see raccoons, skunks and one coyote sniffing around for scraps. You’ll usually here them rifling through the garbage cans at night so any food you have with you that you haven’t used you might want to pack up in your car or a very secure ice chest. Raccoons and coyotes are notorious for getting into places you wouldn’t expect them to.

A nice addition to the campground is the real bathrooms. When my wife and I went to inspect the place prior to our get together they had the bathrooms locked down and a large badly needed to be cleaned porta-potty. A quick email off to the local city officials and parks department suddenly had not just that bathroom, but every bathroom in the Presidio and Golden Gate Park scrubbed down and refurbished. You can thank me for that.

The only downside, if you can call it a downside is that the Presidio Trust runs the CAP [Camping at the Presidio] program for kids that gets priority over anyone else. That could be a bad thing, but for most kids in San Francisco camping isn’t something you get to do very often without having to drive for about an hour. Here’s what the Presidio Trust has to say about the new campground:

Rob Hill Campground is a hidden Presidio gem and is the only camping facility in San Francisco. The site is a fantastic venue for outdoor learning and fun. To provide children and youth who traditionally have not visited national parks with overnight camping experiences, the Crissy Field Center (operated by the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy and the National Park Service), the Presidio Trust, and Bay Area Wilderness Training have developed the Camping at the Presidio (CAP) program.

Designed for community organizations and schools, CAP provides a dynamic and affordable way to enrich the lives of young people. CAP trains group leaders with the skills and resources they need to plan and lead a youth camping trip. After program leaders complete an Outdoor Leadership Training program they can begin to prepare for their camping trip to the park. Eligible community and school groups can reserve the campground between March and October.

[mappress mapid=”27″]I have to say that the redo is nice work. The bathrooms are nicer, but don’t have showers still. They’ve developed hiking trails that last time I was there had what looked like some construction work and piles of logs in a muddy area. Now it really looks like a real camping spot. New picnic tables and grills have been installed. We can thank the Haas family for the donations that made this possible. Plus the big bonus is that you have regular park patrols to keep the homeless campers in Golden Gate Park from moving to a new zip code. Check it out some day even if you’re not going to camp. It’s a fun place to hike around. Plus if you do decide to camp you’re not too far away from any needed amenities you forgot to bring with you at the last minute.

Daly City Party Playhouse

You’ll notice Daly City keeps popping up in my blog. That’s because I consider it the San Francisco Annex. If you want a nice chain store like Home Depot, Target or Walmart you have to go outside SF and that usually means the peninsula or in this case, Daly City. Today was another one of those, “What to we do with our daughter?” kind of days. We decided to go the Party Playhouse with a friend of our daughter’s so they could have fun together.

First off, this place is AWESOME! I think I’m saying that because they encourage the parents to explore the large structure with their kids. For $6 you get an hour, but they don’t have party playhouse police coming to tell you that you have to leave or pay up again after an hour. There’s lots to climb around in as the structure from my estimate is about 40′ long by 20′ wide by 20′ high.

20′ high? Who’d let their kid climb to that kind of height? Well, that’s where this was very well thought out. If your kid falls inside they have at most 1.5′ to fall and it’s all padded. REALLY padded. There’s ball pits, big balls, things that swing into you ropes to crawl across the padded rooms and slides, slides, slides. It has just about everything a kid could want and if they get tired inside they have a few games like skee-ball and cars and trucks to ride for the smaller ones. For older kids they have an arcade that’s open on weekends. Out in front there are comfy couches for the adults to sit and watch or read one of the numerous magazines or newspapers they have. There’s also an adult getaway room with a pool table, foosball and Tulley’s coffee available. All in all it was a blast.

Now that our daughter has used up her energy we had to feed her and so we took a trip to In-N-Out burger with a stop by [mappress mapid=”12″]Krispy Kreme for some doughnuts to take home. What I always love about Krispy Kreme is when you order a dozen doughnuts they always ask, “For here or to go?” I don’t know about you, but I have never sat down and eaten a dozen doughnuts at one time, but thanks for asking. While this wasn’t the healthiest trip out for us I’m sure my daughter has burned off all the calories she got from the 100% trans-fat free junk food she had for lunch.

Total cost for 3 people: Just over $20. Yet another deal. Check out the party playhouse even if you have to borrow someone’s kid to go there.