Jewish Community Center - Places For Kids

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Consider these other attractions similar to Jewish Community Center

Asian Art Museum

200 Larkin St.
San Francisco, CA 94102

Unlike some museums, Asian Art incorporates both visual and interactive experiences. Not only will the kids be fascinated by the intricate Buddha statues, they can also take photographs without anyone pointing to printed-out rules of policy. Even the cafe is an interactive experience, and has more choices than just egg rolls and chicken salad. There's miso soup, there's Tokyo Ramen with tree ear mushrooms, there's Korean spicy beef....and Sake Sliders. Two of the only items you could get anywhere else would be the hot dog and french fries option, but it pays to have something that everyone recognizes. Of course, there are teas, and the kids may want to try them just for the names: Three Flower Celebration, Dragon Eyes, Plum Blossom. If you forget your water bottles, there are free cups and water abounding. Really, the cafe choices could describe the rest of the museum experiences, which range from pottery and painted postures to pork belly food samples. There are some standard calligraphy and painting exhibits, scrolls and sculptures, and Ming vases. However, since Asian territory covers many countries, you can view the similarities and differences between displays on Korea, China, Japan, and India – to name a few. Also, the yoga and Mandala cosmic center exhibits also have interactive classes for a reasonable fee. You and the kids can go through the gallery at a leisurely pace, learn postures and stretching, hear storytelling, and make some take-home modern art. Between the three floors, it would be almost impossible to be bored in this place of cultural learning. Most people recommend starting at the top third floor, with many of the standard exhibits, and then going down to the interactive first floor. This is especially important when taking a family tour, because the kids will probably be even more keen on doing their own art after seeing so many great examples.

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Bay Area Discovery Museum

557 McReynolds Rd
Sausalito, CA 94965

This Museum is more of a hands-on center for imagination and creative development, with a lot of Bay Area props, than a more classic outlay like the Asian Art Museum. It's like a huge playground for kids, but it would be hard to find a free playground with this mixture of inside amenities (puppets, full train station) and creative outside features (gravel pit with tow trucks, Golden Gate Bridge replica, toddler water zone with plastic fish). Children are offered objects outside to play with, from the natural elements of sand and water to larger versions of toys that already fascinates them (foam versions of Tinkertoys). The idea is that parents can ask their kids open-ended questions to get the kids involved in play, so that the kids are dreaming and creating things from their imagination rather than coming to a place to be entertained with digested information and ideas from multimedia. Inside at the Art Table, the kids are offered the ability to get more messy with paint and sand than at home – bring extra clothes or a smock. The simulated Bay Hall and Wave Workshop has representations of what they'd see at Fisherman's Wharf and in Oakland, along with trains and tunnels, so that they can start thinking about what they're seeing and how the ocean works. If kids get inspired and want to go outside again, no problem – take them to Lookout Cove where they can get on the Bonnie boat and pretend to be pirates on the sea. The shipwreck hull, the trail, and the sea cave can spark all sorts of survival questions, especially if you start reading Robinson Crusoe to them at night. Other reviewers have commented just as often on the stunning views of the actual Golden Gate Bridge, the number of activities and classes available, and the garden. Since the Discovery Museum is both indoors and outdoors, toddlers may love the streams of water, or they may want to go in and out of the reed maze, giant tree trunk, and climb all over the giant spider web. Themes and activities are geared toward the younger set, so you might not want to push the age limit of 8 years old.

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Children's Creativity Museum

221 4th St., San Francisco, CA 94560

The Children's Creativity Museum is like a multimedia studio left open for the directors' kids to explore. From the Animation studio with clay critters, to the Music studio with a green screen, children and young adults can put their energy and talents to good use here. What you'll really have to worry about is that the children will get spoiled for any other museum. Since they're not only allowed, but encouraged, to touch all of the art....well, use your imagination. In fact, the Imagination Lab, the Movie Studio and the Do It Yourself studio are all very popular. The Mystery Box challenge changes frequently, and requires the kids to think their way around design problems. For a minor fee, you can even take a DVD home with you instead of worrying about capturing a video via iPhone, since the kids' activities, songs, and storytelling can be recorded. Also, the children are no longer restricted to an older age group (6-12). Since the facility got renovated, the younger children (3-5) can play on the train table and busy themselves with crafts, from painting to playing dress-up. (Warning - bring ear plugs for the music room because the drums are popular.) A few parents have said that the toddler toys are rather generic and a little grubby. However, the Early Birdies program is popular, especially with the members who get to go free. (It's $15 for non-members.) If the kids have any energy left, there's a great and free playground outside the museum with grass, a labyrinth, and a sandpit.

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Children's Fairyland

699 Bellevue Ave., Oakland, CA 94610

Ever wish for an old-time magical kingdom to go with younger kids, that didn't cost as much as Disneyland? Welcome to Children's Fairyland, the place where the Bubble Man dwells and puppet masters rule. Anyone who remembers the story of the Three Little Pigs will want to go inside their house, and of course the short train ride is too short, so you'll have to go again. Some of the older fairytales aren't known to the kids, or even some of the younger parents, so it can be a good reason to break out a copy of Grimms' Fairy Stories on the next trip to the library. The rides are low-key, from the Ferris Wheel to the Jolly Trolley, which is perfect for kids under the age of seven. There's even a merry-go-round for the younger and older kids, because of height restrictions. The puppet show can bring to life Goldilocks and the Three Bears, or the City Mouse and the Country Mouse. The crooked house is just the place for pretending, especially after the Alice in Wonderland tunnel and maze, and kids have a blast sliding down Jack and Jill Hill. If the kids want to see and touch something more warm and personal, well, fairy tales always have animals in them. There are soft bunnies and guinea pigs, three little cackling hens, baby doll sheep, donkeys and goats, an alpaca – and a pony. Visitors during summer get to see something really unique: Children's Community Theatre. Kids get to dress up and put on shows for other kids, so it could be a Western about a cowgirl out to conquer the bull-riding circuit, it could be a fantasy about an orphan who meets a dragon princess disguised as a fish. Watch the calendar to see what the kids and directors thought up this year. Of course, fairy wonderlands can sometimes show warts. Some parents have commented on how the paint needs to be re-done in spots, and that some of the kids get disappointed when they don't meet the height or weight requirements. It's true that Fairyland has more gardens than new equipment, but that's what gives it an old-time feel – and the kids enjoy themselves anyway.

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Gilroy Gardens

3050 Hecker Pass Hwy.
Gilroy, CA 95020

When the Gilroy Garden Park reopens on March 30th, the child world and plant world will again collide for good. The Garden Park is a good mix of education and fun, and can help kids think through conservation issues – especially if they're looking at the living Circus Trees that look like sculptures. During the summer, you can even go down a water slide through one of the trees, and pretend you're on a Jungle Book adventure with Mowgli. The rock maze is also a cool retreat from the sun, and there are shady trees all around the complex. Bring your bathing suit for walking behind the waterfalls, and tipping buckets onto the kids' heads at the Splash Garden. This is one of the best features of the park, not just because of the huge treehouse and twisty slide, but also because the kids can either shoot water at each other with super soakers, or use a water pump as a see-saw. The spinning water wheel may be as close as a city kid can get to seeing wheels and water other than in a movie. However, if you and the kids prefer to observe the beauty of water rather than interact with it, watching ducks while imitating them on paddle boats can be a lot of fun. The second great feature is not the rides, which are definitely mild to moderate on the thrill scale. The teacups, flying mushrooms, and little fire engines will probably thrill the toddler to four-year-old crowd. It's the gardens that are truly amazing. One of the really worthwhile rides is when you get to meander down a backroads area on a motorized antique car, going past a barn and a small pond with a tiny dock. You can see the Rainbow Gardens on a boat ride that goes around a small lazy river, and chase butterflies through the Monarch Garden greenhouse. Claudia's Carousel is especially good for toddlers, because then you get to slowly look at the amazing trees in all their twisty shapes – this could be a horticulture session for the older kids.

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Gymboree Play & Music

1501 Sloat Blvd.
San Francisco, CA 94132

Foam tunnels. The 10 Little Bubbles Song. Slides and ladders. Building blocks. Puppets and parachutes. These are a few of Gymboree's kids' favorite things. Parents get to let their kids roam within grabbing distance, and talk to other adults. Kids aged 5 and under get to wear themselves out with all the toys and activities, and also learn some pre-school socialization skills along with the activities: song and dance, art and multimedia, sports and team-building. Age-appropriate classes greatly vary, since they're based on child development stages and include more as the kids grow. Most of the available classes are Play and Learn. Toddlers can build some early Sudoku solving abilities by going through patterns and sequences, or language development in a level 5 class. School skills add on some science and group cooperation concepts, which can be a real advantage when the kids are old enough to go to school. Art classes go beyond just finger painting and songs; there may be clay, there may be murals. Prepare to hang Gymboree art on the fridge, or display it on curio cabinets. There have been some negative reviews about parents not watching their children properly, which is outlined in the membership agreement under 'within a hug's reach'. There are available teachers, but parental involvement is necessary. At the same time, the kids will be intrigued by the mixture of consistency and variety, since classes and themes are changed every few weeks. Parents may be reassured that if they move across states or cities, there are many Gymborees to be accessed. This location is great, with a Lucky Supermarket and a Chipotle nearby. There shouldn't be any trouble with finding last-minute snacks or lunch if you've forgotten the goldfish crackers and dried apples. There's a current promotion on the Gymboree website for a first month's membership ($59) without a new members' fee, with a free class added on. Also, some parents have found Groupon deals that make the low cost even better. All in all, Gymboree is an affordable and clean place to go to get the young kids out of the rain, out of the house, and with other kids to work out their energy.

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House of Air

926 Old Mason St.
San Francisco, CA 94129

Just hearing the words “Trampoline Park” and “Bounce House” may make your kids start – literally – bouncing off the walls. Why not dress them up in Lycra and bring them to the House of Air so they can get all that energy out without damaging the house? This isn't just one of those places with one trampoline and one bounce house, and a bunch of bored kids asking when they can go home. First, you have to find the right place in Presidio near Crissy Field Avenue, and NOT get distracted by going to Mason and California street (GPS can get confused). Second, you don't want to show up on a weekend without a reservation, because even though it's not a black tie affair and people can jump barefooted, most weekends and holidays fill up fast. You've got to plan ahead to take advantage of the Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year extended jump times. Third, as an adult, don't get confused and try to take over the tots' trampoline park and dodgeball – you have your own grown-up area. If you're over 16, you can even schedule an 'air conditioning' workout session or a training class after 7 on weeknights, and find out all those muscles that the gym doesn't get to. If you're an early bird type, try the 8 am Saturday class. Those in skiing and snowboarding training can perfect their moves on Wednesdays. The GoPro cameras can be rented. For $4 or $12, you can come home with an SD card with all of your cool moves ready to be laughed at by posterity. (If not, try the private sessions.) If you're dying to be part of the team, Tuesdays from 7 to 9 pm are the Trampoline Dodgeball League championships. It costs $800 for a team of 8. For $12.50 per week per person, it's almost guaranteed that you'll attend more often than if you paid for a gym membership. If your office needs a little more air and a lot fewer board meetings, think about getting a team together for corporate bonding. Alternatively, come as a group and get challenged by birthday kids.

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Junior Gym

811 S B St.
San Mateo, CA 94401

Since Junior Gym is a family-run business, they know how important it is to have a blend of structure and variety – from the equipment and activities, to the music played during gym time. There are basketballs to dunk in the nets, trampolines for doing the splits, a balance beam, and a zip line – and the gym is padded for extra safety. Equipment is frequently rearranged so that kids don't get bored doing the same thing all the time. There's also a coffee bar with steaming lattes, so that parents don't get bored and lose focus. Classes are structured based on the children's ages, so that they will be engaged but not overwhelmed. For 45 minutes, toddlers and three-year-olds can attend classes with their parents. That means they'll learn to sing songs, do parachutes, go through an obstacle course, play with bubbles, learn some basic gymnastics skills, and get a hand stamp. From ages 3 to 8, kids can join hour-long non-competitive gymnastics classes, ballet, or sports skills. This is where they can learn to follow a lesson plan with the instructor, and socialize with their peers in classes broken up by age groups. Since kids also need unstructured time, members can come to the twice-daily Open Gym sessions during the week. Parents have commented on the cleanliness of the facility. A professional cleaning service takes care of the equipment and surfaces with non-toxic, earth-friendly disinfectant, while the staff does daily cleaning and spot checks on the doorknobs and bucket of 'tasted' toys. A number of reviewers have said that the owners are very accomodating about missed classes that can be made up on the honor system, and there's a personal feel here that's lacking in some of the chain activity centers geared toward children.

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