Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Living in the Bay Area

Last year, we had the opportunity to go to the Bay Area for almost 3 weeks and it was a wonderful experience for the whole family to live in a new place for awhile. Andrew had the chance to go for a work trip and he was able to work it out so that we could all come. It was incredibly last minute and we ended up finding out about the possibly of a solo trip to actually leaving for a family trip in under a week.

The green space at our hotel was small, but much appreciated

We packed up and road tripped the 12+ hours to the heart of Silicon Valley to stay in an extended stay suite. Thank goodness our kids are great with long car rides. It would have been a lot more painful than it was. Having a family of 4 living out a suitcase and a couple duffle bags in a one bedroom suite was pretty rough on us all. Andrew's hotel choice was mainly contributed to its proximity to the office, but it really wasn't super family friendly. There was no pool and it was in a very business heavy area so finding a park wasn't exactly the easiest thing to do. I will not forget how refreshing it was for me and the kids to find the green space at the hotel (a week after being there) with a nice gazebo and sitting area. Despite not being ideal for a family, they had a great continental breakfast complete with samosas and complimentary dinner appetizers that we were so happy to have. Next time around, we will definitely need to be more careful of where our hotel is and what amenities it has for the kids. Here we had to make do and we even purchased folding kid chairs so that the kids had a place to sit for meals.

Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge and appeasing Andrew's love of bridges

During the week, I took the kids around to explore while Andrew was at work. If we weren't out exploring, we were home watching the million of DVDs we brought while I worked on making product for the craft show I had coming up. (We planned the trip so that I would be back just in time to set up for the show. Talk about craziness.) We had very little time to prepare for this trip so we continually researched about the things we could do there. It was very out of the norm for us considering how much I like to over-research all our trips. Here's a little summary of some of the great things we did in the Bay Area:

Muir Woods

Muir Woods
We thought you had to go a lot further north in California in order to see some Redwood trees, but we were wrong. Muir Woods is only 12 miles away from San Francisco but it took us about 2 hours to travel there in the horrible traffic. Andrew did get to finally cross the Golden Gate Bridge though so he enjoyed at least some of the time driving while I napped. We arrived with only an hour or so left before they closed, but it was plenty of time for us to get our fill. There were self guided pamphlet tours available and we followed one to help us through everything. Cathedral Grove was my favorite there. It was a short distance where they asked visitors to remain quiet while walking through. In the middle of the area was a plaque to commemorate the gathering of delegates from 50 countries to draft and sign the United Nations Charter. It was pretty cool to be there knowing that something huge happened there a long time ago.

Viansa Winery

Sonoma Valley
We couldn't visit this area without a stop in Wine Country to explore and purchase gifts. Coincidentally, we ended up stopping in the same winery that my family and I stopped in when we traveled to San Francisco when I was younger. Probably because it was one of the first ones we came across heading north. Viansa was a very pretty place to visit and they had a shop where we bought wine and some food to take home.

Happy Hollow Park and Zoo

Happy Hollow Park and Zoo
Our hotel was only 20 minutes outside of San Jose which made it easy for me to take the kids there for the day and be back in time to pick Andrew up for dinner. Sadly, Andrew never even made it to San Jose because we had so many other things to keep us busy. Happy Hollow was probably my most favorite thing we did outside of San Francisco. It's basically a mini zoo and mini theme park combined. They had just about everything a kid could want including a petting zoo,  rides, and playgrounds throughout. Isabelle even got to pet a hedgehog. This is one of the best planned places for kids I've ever been to and I was very sad to leave upon closing. We will definitely come back here next time around.

More San Jose sights

Tech Museum of Innovation
Again located in San Jose, this museum was calling to me because it was an interactive science museum which we've always enjoyed going to. We opted to visit this over the children's museum because of its proximity to where I decided to park. I came to San Jose with no plan this day so I just parked somewhere and wandered around. We ended up leaving here with my phone with just enough power to tell me how to get back to the hotel. This was one of my very first outings alone with the kids and the sheer terror of being lost in a new city with no phone, no way to find my car, and no idea how to get back was enough for Andrew to purchase a GPS for me that night. (I was pretty happy since I've been wanting one for awhile.)

Our day at the Tech Museum

The Tech Museum was uncrowded since it was the middle of the day in the middle of the week. They had a really fun gift store that we wondered through for a long time. Jadon got to try out a flight simulator and participate in a computer guided experiment involving DNA. There was a lot of interactive things for the kids to play with and we got to try out an earthquake simulator too. One of the coolest things they had was a computer controlled sketch machine. It takes your picture and then it draws it for you while you watch. Because it was so uncrowded and we made it up to this level before the others, we were able to get several sketches done before there were many others in line.
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