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Jewish Community Center

3200 California St.
San Francisco, CA 94118

Most people know that the Jewish Community Center has a great gym, but there are more things to do there than just work out. Sure, the facility is clean and there are locker rooms, but the kids also have a place here. However, you may want to check the website before taking a trip there, because there are many days and times when some things are open and some are closed. The fitness center is often open when the front desk is closed, but on many holidays (i.e. Passover and Rosh Hashanah) when everything shuts down at sunset (6 pm). For another example, the second-floor kids' playground is open seasonally on the weekends, between the start of April and the end of August. The library is open at certain hours on Wednesday and Thursday, but there's also a pushcart that can be accessed on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday. However, the Community Center also offers a vast range of programs. The fitness center hosts Pilates and yoga and swim classes. You can even get a spa treatment or massage if the muscles cramp up. The Arts & Ideas theatre hosts concerts and lectures, so you might hear Grease showtunes and the Maccabeats one week, and see cooking shows on hummus and falafel the next week. If the Monday clay and wine classes don't grab you, maybe a photography or driver safety class will. That's just a list of what's geared toward the adults. Your kids can fill in off days by signing up for camps during school breaks, attending an award-winning swimming school, molding clay or sculpting ceramics in art class, dancing through gym class, or combining all of those things by joining the afterschool program. If your older kids really want to stretch themselves, there's always chess club or language arts or cooking classes. The mixture of sports and arts should be enough to keep any family occupied, and if there are any gaps – there's always the Urban Gardening classes.

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Silliman Center

6800 Mowry Ave.
Newark, CA 94560

Somewhat like the Jewish Community Center in San Francisco, the Silliman Activity and Family Aquatic Center is a combination of fitness and community activities. However, that's where the comparisons stop - it would be hard to make the case that air hockey tables and foosball are educational in nature. It would be even harder to pretend that the Wii's are used for anything other than Guitar Hero and Rockband, which are the current favorites with the teen crowd. The computer lab is certainly more used for Facebook and YouTube than for researching World War II history, but parents can always hope that time can change these tastes. That's also the hope of the Teen Coordinators, who are on hand to help out with homework and supervise the gaming equipment. The Aquatic Center is really the place to be. It's not just a pool with a deep end and some foam noodles thrown in for fun. The hot tub is behind the basketball hoop, and between the cool pool and hot tub are two very important elements: the lazy river and water slides. If parents are worried about their kids' safety playing with the bigger teens, they shouldn't have to be. The kids have their own small pool, small slides, and climbing ropes. If the chlorine fumes become overwhelming, you can always watch the kids through a large window while sitting on a comfortable bench. The Silliman Center is a small, indoor version of a water park, complete with a small snack bar serving nachos, hot dogs, and drinks – along with salad and fruit options. If you get inspired and want to take private swim lessons, these generally happen in the mornings for members. Don't get too inspired and bring your beach accessories (kickboards, water guns, beach balls) because it can interfere with the lifeguards seeing unsafe situations. It's an especially good place to go when the weather is grey and cold, because here there's water but it's warm, and indoors. Just remember to bring a little shampoo and maybe an extra bar of soap to help wash off the chlorine before you go, if you come on a weekend – it can get busy and crowded.

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