Visiting Puerto Rico with Kids

As a collective gaggle of goslings, we’ve amassed a mad mound of miles even a travel weary salesman would be proud of. Last year, as the devoted among you noted, we took a trip to Puerto Rico, the most populous of US protectorates, and in our opinion, the most interesting and diverse of any of them.

As surely as every day in Seattle is not spent staring at the Space Needle, we never saw anything like this in Puerto Rico, though it is surely there.
As surely as every day in Seattle is not spent staring at the Space Needle, we never saw anything like this in Puerto Rico, though it is surely there.

We saw things so amazing we’d be crazy to forget them, and others so bland we’d be hard pressed to remember them, but every month since our return we’ve looked back fondly on the photos and memories we amassed in our time spent quasi-abroad.

There are the saints who helped us out like Gaby Jr. from Gaby’s World, Carlos from the yummy dive of Carlito’s Bar & Grill and our very favorite guy Abdiel from Fun Valley Park. There were others who were great along the way, but they were too many to mention.

There were also, sadly, the handful who made the trip difficult, like the major hotel chain who set us up with five days in a suite, but cancelled our reservations without notice because the Daddy-Man wrote something comical about the owners’ daughter (an heiress to a hotel fortune, if you will) some years previously… not being cynical or anything, it’s just that they accidentally CC’d us an email they probably most likely meant to keep private.

No matter, that’s no reflection (good, bad or otherwise) on Puerto Rico or the people who live there, but at least we can grow up knowing the notion of conspiracy is alive and well!

I will say they drive something crazy there, but as a non-driving preschooler myself, I suppose I have little room to talk.

There are many more reviews that will be available in coming months, mostly of restaurants and hotels, but they will be limited to our book, which you can look for on shelves near you at some point in the fall, unless it all comes unraveled, which is less and less likely as of today.

In the mean time, please read your fill of the Puerto Rico review articles that made us so famous throughout 2007, thanks in some part to the efforts of Puerto Rico Lifestyle Magazine, and please to continue your enjoyment!

– Categories –

Restaurants

Attractions

Transitology

Self-Discovery

– Restaurants –


Fun Valley Park Café Cuts Visit Costs by Half

One of the most enjoyable things we did in Puerto Rico was our visit to the kooky amusement park near Arecibo called the Fun Valley Park. I guess it was in a valley and I’m pretty sure it was a park, but what I know without a doubt is that it was fun. Only thing that could have made it better was the café, which did make it better, both by price and quality.


McRestaurant McAlmost McReminds McMe of McHome

If you’ve ever traveled, whether it was across town or across the world, the one thing you wanted more than unlimited outgoing calls from your room was something familiar that reminded you of home. In my case I could think of nothing better or more familiar than passage of those golden arches through which kids come out happy and cows come out hamburger.


Pizza Trailers Find Profit in Licensed Cartoon Theft

I love pizza and commercially licensed, protected cartoon characters as much as the next guy, but when it comes to full-price pizza sold at a cost equal to the piracy of the very same cartoon characters who lured me over in the first place, I’ve got a beef, and it ain’t that mystery meat sprinkled liberally between the melted mozzarella.


El Taino Restaurant Fails to Fail Customers Any More

Over the years we’ve gone to places we’ve loved for free and we’ve gone to places we liked well enough without any consideration. Heck, we’ve even gone to places without consideration we’ve hated, but imagine this; we’ve gone to places by invitation and for free that we’ve also strongly disliked… this is one such place.

– Attractions –


Zoo the Only Place Not Run by Monkeys

I’ve traveled far and wide; I’ve seen zoos in four different countries and I’ve loved them all. Nothing surprises me at the zoo any more, but plenty of things delight me. What does surprise me is how poorly visitors are treated in Puerto Rico pretty much everywhere except for at the zoo. Leads me to believe the zoo is the only place in Puerto Rico not run by monkeys.


Lookout for/from Cabo Rojo Lookout Fort

If you’re driving south from Cabo Rojo to the southwest corner of Puerto Rico, also known as Cabo Rojo, which is a bit odd, be on the lookout for the tree fort to end all tree forts. I’m just sure that you, as you read this, are surely on the verge of driving this route, so I’m glad I can offer this great advice at such a timely juncture in your life. Hey man, it’s what I do.


Parque de Bombas, Ponce, Puerto Rico Doesn’t Suck

If you’re ever in Ponce, Puerto Rico and you hit the old downtown area, you’ll find it almost impossible to miss the Parque de Bombas, which is the age-old firehouse which has been converted to a free museum run by the city. It’s an odd spectacle, but at the all-time low price of “free” it’s worth almost every penny for the journey.


Gúanica Dry Forest Has Something for Everybody, Except Humans

Deep in the heart of the bowels of the east, southeastern portion of Puerto Rico lies an unusual place. Not just unusual on the island, but across the world. Puerto Rico is home to one of the exceptionally few “dry forests” and it’s a site to behold, assuming you have the hydration to behold it… which statistically, you don’t.


Fun Valley Park Celebrates 6th Anniversary

It’s been a tough go for the good folks at Fun Valley Park in Puerto Rico, and they’ve weathered the economic and political storms quite well. Most of their local competitors have fallen since they’ve been around, but smart business, and fun business too, has made them a veritable staple of the Puerto Rican landscape of entertainment, despite a most unfortunate beginning.


Ruined Lighthouse Stands as a Beacon for Shipwrecks

When traveling through the southern parts of Puerto Rico, you should take Highway-2 out a little bit further to the town of Gúanica, where you’ll be delighted by the dullness of the dry forest, the remote disappointment of Fort Caprón and, time permitting, the ruins of the lighthouse on Highway 333, which stands today as a beacon for centuries of ruined ships run regrettably aground.


Baby Pony Silent, Technically a Little Horse

We had our third shot at giving our local Puerto Rican hotspot a chance the other day and it went pretty well. We once again enjoyed fine food and a good half-hour on the playground, but this time we upped the auntie’s ante and partook of the diminutive equine staff on hand and enjoyed ourselves a rousing round of pony rides to boot, despite our wearing sandals.


Saunter Ponies-Up Fun, Regardless of Naysaying

Think back, if you’re able, to a time when you were outweighed by a load of groceries. Sure, it was a simpler time, a time when even the littlest things made you happy. I know this because I am myself so unafflicted by the confines of gravity, and the things of greatest minutia indeed delight me in spades. In this case, specifically, it’s a pony.


Municipal Cemetery Offers Wide Selection of Free Bouquets

Fresh flowers are hard to come by, especially when you live in a warm climate, as we ephemerally do. These are that much harder to find when you add on the language barrier and my total unwillingness to pay any amount of money for them, but I’ve found a place that has a wide selection, always fresh, and unless I miss my guess, they’re free.


Puerto Rico Children’s Museum No Place for Kids

We took a trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico last week and we saw a bunch of newsworthy things that really rocked the boat of our ability to take the cake. We’ll cover all of them in uncomfortable detail in coming weeks, but first I have to point out the horrible travesty on child-named attractions that is the Puerto Rico Children’s Museum. All I can say is that it’s no place for kids.


Fort Caprón Perfect for Everything Except a Visit

We’ve traveled far, wide, deep and always shallow, so when we were looking for fun things to do in the humble, seaside town of Gúanica, Puerto Rico, we dug in our research heels as best we were able to find things worth writing up. As it turns out, Fort Caprón should be omitted from this list in every case.


Roadside Zoo Offers… Wait, Roadside?

As you drive the Puerto Rican countryside, it’s not uncommon to see a truck parked off the highway with a huge “Exotic Birds” sign, but the offering is almost zoo-like in variety. They boast chickens, ducks, rabbits, kittens, puppies, pigeons, ponies, land crabs of assorted colors, and even the big draw, exotic birds… but it’s on the side of the road, so um, what gives?


USDA Research Gardens Interesting, Stanky

One of the most interesting, not to mention the most “free” things we ever encountered in Puerto Rico was the USDA research facility located neatly along the Southern coast of the island, snugged cozily against a university full of old people… well, at least they looked old to me. They must have been late teens to early 20s as sure as I was four years old when I saw them.


Despite Appearance, Tribal Native Denies ‘Ninja’ Status

It was the strangest thing. We were having a runaway, rampant day out, doing our darnedest to span the landscape of the Puerto Rican interestosphere, regardless of the locals’ patent refusals to engage us in our media-istic capacities. It was a trouble we’d faced everywhere, but a resistance I hadn’t expected to face was that upon meeting a poorly-wigged tribal re-enactor, who obviously looked like a ninja, that he’d say he wasn’t a ninja.


Gilligan’s Island Discovered During 3-Hour Tour

To our greatest surprise, off the southern coast of Puerto Rico, is a once missed, but since exploited beach just off the coast called Gilligan’s Island. It’s nothing new and check any tour book to verify it, but it’s a pretty interesting place. It was once an uncommonly forgotten grotto just off the coast, but now it’s almost as good place that’s still kind of interesting to attend, assuming you do it on the right day.


Cuevas de Camuy: the K-Mart of Puerto Rico Spelunkholes

Especially during summer months, it’s common to arrive at the famous Camuy Caves to find they have already sold out for the day. In such cases, turn that frown about halfway upside-down, kind of into a straight line across your face, because there’s something half as good just around the bend.


Arecibo Lighthouse Museum Is Freaking Awesome

Puerto Rico doesn’t have a lot for kids to do. I’m not being mean I’m being honest and, with as long as I lived there this past summer, I’m sure I’m qualified to say it. One thing it does have a mere hour outside of San Juan is the Arecibo Lighthouse Museum. It’s not really a museum but it’s well run, exceptionally maintained and all kinds of fun like we could hardly believe.


Arecibo Lighthouse Pirate Cave Worth the Trip Itself

Every once and so often there comes around a noun that leaves such an impression on me that it deserves a double-review. Last year, Remlinger Farms got that much and more. The Boudin Bakery in San Francisco got two. For our stay in Puerto Rico not much was deserving of two reviews except for Fun Valley Park and the amazing Pirate Cave at the Arecibo Lighthouse, which is just that good and it gets a second review too.


Cabo Rojo Lighthouse Coolest Thing on Puerto Rico’s Southwest Corner

Of all the things to do on the Southwest corner of the conspicuously small spit of land that is invariably Puerto Rico, one of the — if not the — greatest things to do is check out the Cabo Rojo Lighthouse. Now, I’ll admit I’ve spoken highly in the past on the virtues of the tourist center and the saltiest flatlander areas, but the lighthouse at the tip of it really takes what little cake there is to be had.


When in Puerto Rico, Check out the Camuy Caves

Assuming you are in, or shortly going to be in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and you have enough time to pop out of town for a jiffy and check out whatever sights there may be to see, a not-to-be-missed attraction is the Camuy Caves. They’re rich in bio-diversity (despite the tourists), fun enough for all to enjoy (despite the hike) and well worth your time (assuming you can get in on your first or last try).


Puerto Rican Restaurant Boasts Playground, Pony Rides

Just off Highway-2 in the south of Puerto Rico (about twenty minutes west of Ponce) is the sort of restaurant you read about. I know I read about it on roadside signs in a good 30-mile radius, so when I had the chance to dine at Gaby’s World, I jumped all over it and was rewarded in ways no restaurant has ever even tried.


Arecibo Radio Dish Must Get Like a Billion Channels

When traveling through the parts of Puerto Rico that are not the capital city of San Juan there are many “must see” attractions, but there are only two that really take whatever cake it is that people love so much. One is the caves at Camuy, but the one that’s just about as popular is the radio observatory at Arecibo. I’ve seen satellite dishes before, but this one must get, like, a billion channels.

– Transitology –


Expatriation Rumors Heat Up, Pickup Steam, Verily Smolder

Assorted grumblings have been wafting across the gossip airwaves. I’ve seen boxes packed, tourist guide books perused and luggage equal parts purchased and packed. I’m not sure if it amounts to anything, but I’m guessing probably not. By the way, when is this “Puerto Rico” time period I keep hearing about?


Passports Pointless por Puerto Rico

In my culture we have many customs but, if you ask people who are not from my culture, you’ll find that their experience of American customs is very different. Thing’s like body cavities, racial profiling and all kinds of assorted awkwardyness. What’s odd though is I flew more than half a day, but never crossed these “customs” clowns.


Age Unggeration Aids Airfare Budget by Hundreds

I may be many things, but one I’m not is a liar. Sure, I may fudge when it comes to curiously missing chocolates or point the finger when it comes to my turn in the blame game, but I don’t admit to lying, even when I’m lying down. If not telling the truth is lying, then here’s hoping we all can make a tidy fistful of Benjamins everytime we do it. Tell you one thing, we sure did this time.


3rd Class Citizens Delight in 1st Class Seating

I’ve logged a good 20,000 miles in my fairly airfaring life, and I’ve never had want for more legroom. Sure, my legs are stubby, you may say, but let’s not make this personal. Flying in first, however, is really in a class of its own.


Travelocity Successfully Books Longest Route Possible

Over the course of the past day I’ve enjoyed many firsts. My first trip to the airport, first nightmare through security screening, and even my first flight on an airplane. Thanks to Travelocity, I not only saved a bundle, but also got to experience my second flight and my third flight as well. Who knew saving money could be so sucky?


Nightmare Profile – The Search for Lost Luggage

Something woke me up the other night in a cold, hot sweat. It was so disturbing I swore I’d write an article about it, but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was. I should really start keeping a journal or, for that matter, learn how to write but, in the meantime, I’ll tell this story in its stead; that of the tale of lost luggage.


Airlines All Equally Yucky at Cust. Service

With all the articles I spread and share the world over, you’ve got to hold an ounce of doubt about me. I’m young, less-than-seasoned and juvenile in more ways than I’d ever admit short of my own daddy paying it unduly upon me after I’ve already cleared an article to run. Beyond that, a big thing I’ve learned is that there are no good airlines left, not even a single one, and that they’re all just a bunch of clowny-jerks. That’s right, I said it, “Clowny-Jerks!”


Surviving Long, Foodless Flights

Apparently things were different before 9/11, but nowadays, airlines aren’t just cheap, but they’ve reinvented cheapness in ways that really astound. If ever there could be a way to make air travel more inconvenient and uncomfortable, they’ve figured it out. So here’s a couple ways you can make your flight more bearable.


Puerto Ricans Unwilling to Exchange My Money

I knew when we landed in Puerto Rico we’d need money, and we’d need it equal parts “bad” and “fast,” but what I didn’t realize was that nobody would exchange my money for the local currency. The obvious snag in the nylon would be that Puerto Rico isn’t a sovereign nation and uses US currency just like back home, and what I’ve experienced points to a very different problem.


Michel Thomas Spanish Lessons Effective, Hysterical

I know I’m being a bit juvenile here, but we got four different language courses for our big trip to Puerto Rico, and they’re all very different. Some are lousy on a good day, others pretty good (but much too long) and one is really, really great, but it’s still comical to me. What can I say, Spanish is a funny language.


Caribbean Could Benefit from Qualified Exterminator

I know that us beggars are of the sort that we shouldn’t also beg to be “choosers,” but sometimes the shoe fits, the meme matches and (in this case) the bugs just bite too hard. Pardon my begging booty a minute but, is it just me or could the whole island or Puerto Rico benefit significantly from the work of a qualified, competent exterminator?


Waterproof Sunscreen Ineffective Against Crying

When selecting a brand, type and configuration of sunscreen, it’s important to bear in mind your needs, lifestyle and personal habits. For us, it was easy to choose a high SPF rating, opt for the waterproof, and go with a trusted name brand. What I didn’t take into account was my personal propensity for crying, and none of the brands had anything to protect me from that.


Hurridean Cain is Super, Man: Category-3

We’re a bit behind the ball reporting on this one, but Hurricane Dean swept through our Puerto Rican quasi-paradise, and we lived to tell the tale. Sure, you might point out it was barely a category-3 hurricane when it swept across the open ocean some 300-miles to the south of us, but we were pelted with torrential rains, screaming winds, and it was still the sort of thing that makes news, and not just by our own admittedly low thresholds of newsworthiness.


Flight Home from Puerto Rico OK, Not for Others

It’s been longer than I care to even recall since we flew back home from our whelming trip to Puerto Rico (overwhelming? Underwhelming? Demi-whelming? Can’t say for sure). As sure as the flight over there was something to surely log in the docket of unforgettable moments; the trip back home will as surely be remembered for decades to come though perhaps more by the people who had to deal with us than for us ourselves.


Puerto Rico Trip Reports Cut Short by Lack of Interest

Last week our business manager came into our office to gripe about a number of things, principal among them was the severe lack of publication pieces in months of late, but at the very top of the list was the amount of money we spent in Puerto Rico compared to our net output of viable articles from it… meh, whatever.


Want us to review your city, event or attraction?

– Discovery –


We Be Jamón

You thought that jamón was a thing of the past? No, no, we bee jamón, and I think this ham is gonna last. Being in the Caribbean, I think of all other things Caribbean, no matter how loosely associated. So when I see a sign that offers jamón y queso, I know I just have to say the word and we’ll be jamón ’til the morning comes.


Botanists Shocked by Porcupine Tree Discovery

I’ve established my reputation as a discoverer over the past few years to the point where there’s plainly no need to defend myself any further, so when I discovered this latest thing, the Caribbean Porcupine Tree, I expected immediate acceptance and recognition, but it seems those so-called “botanists” are an elitist group, somehow deferring instead to their “existing record of known plants.”


Over-Promising Junior Editor Found Lounging at Café

It was over two weeks ago when I was browsing the congealed tubes of the internet that I read a news report that was most disturbing to me. I saw an article on the daily, syndicated parenting advice column Perplexing Times, which read that the publication schedule was being increased by 40%. On the surface it doesn’t sound bad, but I happen to be the editor-in-chief so I was alarmed and dismayed by this claim.


Beloved Bear Celebrates First Bearthday

It’s been a good year or so since I first followed in the ever-covetable footshadows of my older brother and picked a favorite stuffed animal as my own best friend. I know I have to emulate the heck out of him, usually to his great annoyance, but also that I have to kick it up a bit and reinvent, so where his well-traveled “Dog” is his best friend, my bear is my “baby” and today is his first bearthday.


Butcher Ponce de Leon Still Revered in Slaughto Rico

I’m new to the history game, having only recently learned that things happened before I was born. As an American, I prefer the narrow view, believing instead that everything important throughout all of history happened since I was born, specifically to me. This respect for Ponce de Leon, however, defies my limited comprehension. I thought he was kind of a bad guy, but just goes to show what I know.


Staff Videographer Struggles w/ Basic Principles

We all have our jobs to do around the Perplexing Times offices, and we all do them, time permitting, to the best of our ability. Well, maybe not the best of our abilities, but certainly to the best of our interest in doing so. This staff Videographer we hired, however, is really mooking up the works with his inattention to detail.


Crush on Dora of Explorer Fame Finally Realized

Like any good American, I watch an inordinate, almost embarrassing amount of television. Personally, I’m partial to cartoons and shows involving adults dressed as oversized animals, typically dancing around while pretending to teach some lesson or other, but what I’m most partial to is that most alluring of child-centric starlets, Dora the Explorer.


Tourist Assaulted in Puerto Rico by Rogue Wall

On a pretty normal day, a day not unlike today, I expressed midway through a movie-film that it was time for me to take my leave and empty my teeniest, tiniest bladder against the best chronological conveniences of those around me. Mind you, we’ve had all kinds of problems with movie theaters in Puerto Rico, but none compared in my mind to the assault I suffered unto the face upon merely not paying attention to where I was walking.


Puerto Rico Gimmes the Best Summer Birthday Ever

Poor Patrick. Him and his fellow summer-baby brethren have no idea what it’s like to enjoy a during-the-school-year birthday the likes of which me and my other (non-Patrick) brother so consistently enjoy. The parents have always done their best, but it’s never been so much as “good,” at least until this year.


Chaseable Pigeons Revel in Survival-Based Fitness

Unbeknownst to most animals, they are among the chaseable creations. I have proven that even scavenger and parasite species that require our presence to survive are never more than a few rapid steps away from being chased. Research further proves that these chased critters just love being pursued.


Syndication Deal Inked with Puerto Rico Lifestyle Magazine

I probably could be more excited about it but I’m not sure how. Maybe if I knew I was a journalist, what a magazine is or how to read, but no matter what, we at Perplexing Times are very excited about this latest arrangement to spread our young, timeless wisdom to a handful more of the myriad masses.


Spiderman Collectible Trumps Other Tourist Glory

If there’s one thing I love more than anything, it’s a “thing”. Can’t tell you what it is, but it’s probably something, and something I really, really love. What I can tell you is what I love more than that, and it’s another thing. Not just “another thing” but the other thing, which is the joy of a random toy, regardless of where it is. This article is in edification of that random, second thing.

And if you’re looking to see more of the triple-clever brilliance that most probably is our travel reviews, please check out our selection of write-ups on cities like Shanghai, Vancouver BC, Seattle, San Francisco, Longbeach and Eureka, or just browse and choose by way of our Archives or Best-Of pages.

Our next trip will be to Montana, and as sure as there’s a Big Sky out there (must be true, even says it on the license plates,) we’re sure the hearts and welcomes will likewise be big enough to match.

 

 

S.C.U.B.A. the Best Dry Underwater Puppet Adventure

This spring Spyglass Theater presented a short run at Northwest Puppet Center of their S.C.U.B.A. show. Now you may be thinking scuba doesn’t require periods or capitalization, but that’s where you’re mistaken. In this case it stands for Super Cool Underwater Blacklight Adventure, and what an adventure it was.

These are just some of the many fantisticreatures you may encounter.
These are just some of the many fantisticreatures you may encounter.

In this performance, Professor Nautilus, inventor and marine biologist, has invented an ingenious contraption that allows him to explore the ocean depths. To me it looked more like puppets on a stage with fluorescent accents provided by the blacklight, but I’ve never been under the ocean, so what do I know?

At Professor Nautilus’ command, his clever, albeit imaginary contraption (patent pending) takes him to the kelp forest, coral reef and further beyond. He even goes from the bright surface to the dark and mysterious deep sea trenches.

We got to join Professor Nautilus as he spied on seahorses, observed sea turtles, witnessed an underwater battle and got swept down a trench by a forceful underwater earthquake. There he was surprised to find an eerie landscape of black smoke lava chimneys and red-plumed giant tube worms.

And mind you, you never even get wet along the way, so it’s pretty spectacular. There are few uncharted reaches in the world of puppetry, so a departure from the norm as radical as this was a welcome change. S.C.U.B.A really showed off the innovation and cleverness of the Spyglass Theater players, and we rate them five thumbs out of six.

They would have had perfect marks but when we did the count Dominic was distracted so I’m not sure he knew what he was doing.

Northwest Puppet Center is located just north of downtown Seattle in the Maple Leaf neighborhood. Class and group rates are always available, and advance ticketing is strongly recommended. Visit them online at www.nwpuppet.org. Or to see some of our past reviews of them check out these pages: Madeline, Pied Piper, Puss in Boots, Aesop’s Fables, Crane & Turtle: Images of China, Babar & Father Christmas.

scuba-wide

 

Bay Discovery Museum Just Huge Playground/Classroom

Just across the bay from San Francisco lies a thousand acres of what was once a military installation, but now there’s so much more over there, things that are more critical to the everyday survival of people like me and everyone I know. Yes, I am of course talking about the Bay Area Discovery Museum, which is less of a museum and more of a ridiculously fancy playground that somehow manages to teach kids a bunch of things while we think we’re just playing.

Here you can see Patrick testing the hands-on theory while Dominic discovers a rock.
Here you can see Patrick testing the hands-on theory while Dominic discovers a rock.

It’s a great place in that it’s quietly out of the way, easy to find (from the first exit northbound across the Golden Gate Bridge, assuming you follow the many road signs from there) and the parking is always free. From the front gate it doesn’t look like much, but that’s the sort of thing that’s immediately forgotten once inside.

It almost offends me the way I can play for four admittedly exhausting hours (exhausting for me as well as my attending parents) but somehow come away from it smarter for the journey. Playtime isn’t supposed to be work, but without even realizing it I was back on the old education job the whole time, which is crazy because this was supposed to be my vacation.

How do they do it? Oh, they’re crafty.

bay-area-discovery2Left – Outside of all the buildings of attraction was a fun tidal simulator fountain that splashes out a fake tide every minute or so. There were all kinds of starfish, crab, lobster and other fishy toys to enjoy too, but here you can see me in the midst of discovering whatever it was that was behind me.

First of all, they’ve got a half dozen different buildings, each of which is completely different, though they’re all interactive, interesting for the juniors and seniors, and run the curious to rags from constant excitement.

We started off in what I call the seafood exploitation room. We spent way too much time in there with the life-sized trawler complete with cranky knobs to draw up our fish and crab that floor level kids would put on our hooks. There’s a tunnel we can hide inside of to pretend we’re fish, an elaborate wooden train set for lessons in physics and sharing, and a bunch of exhibits where we can learn about the regional heritage of fishing, conservation, and… wait a minute, learn? I didn’t sign up for this, I’m here to play. Forget it, I’m off to the next building.

The next building was what I called the aqua-dynamic ascertainium, where kids and parents could study wave and wind dynamics, see how fish and boats interact with surroundings, and all while playing with splashy water and wicked whirls of wafting wind. It was fun to me because they had all sorts of Beanie Baby representations of all the indigenous critters in custom Beanie habitats where we could stuff them, swap them, make them bark like dogs and learn all about how they… wait a second, this is learning again, isn’t it?

Forget it, I’m off to the next big thing.

We got outside and what I saw boggled my precious, childish mind. They have a regionally themed playground the likes of which that puts to shame any other regionally themed playground I’ve ever seen or even imagined. It must be a half acre of boats, bridges, periodically flooding tidal fountains, bulldozers, and assorted climbable apparatii. It’s not even like a normal playground, no, it’s got themed toys there too. It’s got hard hats, rubber fish, yellow construction trucks and all other kinds of stuff. It’s like a playground (literally) that also has relevant play toys too (also literally).

The playground was great for the parents too because they got to pull up a bench with the other parents and take their needed breather while we ran around all crazy. They raved about the uncommon view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the less common side of it, but I didn’t see any of that, I had stuff to do and kids to meet.

fun in the other shadow of the Golden Gate bridge Above - While the junior folks enjoyed the boats and forts on which we were permitted almost unending play, the parents sat back and took in the amazing and uncommon view of the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge.
fun in the other shadow of the Golden Gate bridge
Above – While the junior folks enjoyed the boats and forts on which we were permitted almost unending play, the parents sat back and took in the amazing and uncommon view of the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge.

 

They also have a toddler specific playground with a maximum entry height (to keep the climbables size-relevant and bully-free) and so much other stuff I can’t possibly explain it all in a single article, so I won’t even try, but for the below average admission price, we got an above average play experience. Besides that, we even learned a bunch of stuff about fish, fishing, boats, boating, science and… wait a minute, there it is again. Darn it, I’m not here to learn stuff!

As our day wound down we were glad we took the time to discover what the Bay Area Discovery Museum had to offer. The sun was fading but my energy level was fading faster and we had to call it a day. Good thing too because I imagine they close at some point, and if I hadn’t run out of steam along the way, I’d have found out when and shut them down kicking and screaming in sadness for having to go.

The Bay Area Discovery Museum is located at East Fort Baker, 557 McReynolds Rd, (technically) in Sausalito, CA (across the bridge), with working hours of Tuesday – Friday, 9am – 4pm and Saturday & Sunday, 10am – 5pm. The museum is target for kids 0 to 8 and their families with current admission rates of $8.50 for adults; $7.50 for children. Children under 1 and members getting in for free. Check them out online at www.badm.org for more information and seasonal adjustments to hours, rates and attractions.

Above - As much as you may doubt it, this is in fact a family portrait. Sure, you can only see the backs of me and Baby-D, you can also see Patrick and Miss Mama-Lady in the picture too... don't believe it? It's easy, just click here to see the much bigger version of this photograph, complete with arrows pointing out who is who and where they are... you'll see, there's an arrow pointing to every member of our party, except for Daddy-O, but he was busy shooting the shot, so there you go.
Above – As much as you may doubt it, this is in fact a family portrait. Sure, you can only see the backs of me and Baby-D, you can also see Patrick and Miss Mama-Lady in the picture too… don’t believe it? It’s easy, just click here to see the much bigger version of this photograph, complete with arrows pointing out who is who and where they are… you’ll see, there’s an arrow pointing to every member of our party, except for Daddy-O, but he was busy shooting the shot, so there you go.

 

Aquarium Emboddies `Under the Sea` Despite Absence of Riffy Lobster

On the San Francisco waterfront is the most grand of trap de la tourist, and it’s called Pier 39. It’s nothing to shy away from, it’s popular for a reason with all its specialty shops, unique eateries and uncommon attractions of interest, but the one that took me in the most was the Aquarium of the Bay.

Here you can see Patrick looking up at a swarm of anchovies swarming as if atop a pizza.
Here you can see Patrick looking up at a swarm of anchovies swarming as if atop a pizza.

The Aquarium of the Bay was once called “Undersea World” but changed their name some time back. I guess it sounded more like a silly novelty (which it isn’t) or a distant cousin to that terrible film Waterworld (which it also is not.) Far from being a money-suckling attraction strictly for tourists, the place is one of a kind and well worth the visit. I’d argue they changed the name because the old one didn’t include the word “aquarium”, which it needs because that’s really what it is.

I come from Seattle, so I know my seafood and my aquaria, and this place didn’t tell me much in advance to make me want to see it. They pride themselves on featuring all the most interesting of the indigenous aqualife, such as starfish, sturgeons and itty-bitty sharks (which still look monstrous to me) and who wants to see that?

I wanted to see genetically mutated glow fish and face-devouring abyssian creatures, but I was along for the ride so I kept an open mind.

The Aquarium of the Bay has three stages of interest. The entrance level has some exotic fish in interesting tanks, including the unendingly swirling cloud of salty sardines and some Nemo fish too. It’s a fun entrance alright, but I’ve seen my fair share of aquariums (three in three years of life) so it was interesting, but nothing to write away from home about.

undersea2Left – From the basement where you can see more schools than the Pac-10, fish swim happily around face, over head, and even under the walkway. It’s creepy, almost, the way us people are almost the ones on exhibit… And please, Mr. Fishies, don’t tap on the glass.

Then we took the elevator, and I just love taking elevators… but wait a second, why would I need to take an elevator? Where am I going? Oh my goodness, I got it just then, I was going under the sea, and even though I wasn’t greeted by an offensively racially stereotyped cartoon crustacean, what greeted me upon arrival was even better.

As it turns out, this bottom floor, the “dive” as they call it, is the reason they were once called Underwater World. What awaits you is the most peculiar fish tank you’ve ever encountered, and it was the first of its kind. The fish aren’t in the tank, you are in the tank and the fish surround you and look in at you. You get to walk through a safe, dry tube of acrylic glass that puts the exhibited fish all around you, and you can see them on all sides, above you, everywhere you look, really.

Did I say you can walk through it? Well, you don’t have to walk through it if you don’t want to because they have, get this, a meandering sidewalk that languidly saunters you throw it automatically if you prefer. Seriously, you can just step onto the sidewalk and let it patiently drag you through the exhibit. If your patience is as limited as mine, you can always step off it to stop in your tracks, and much like me, you can run like hell to go back to the beginning and see it all again.

The weirdest thing about it to me was that I finally understood how the fish feel with the whole “no tapping on the glass” thing, it’s a bit unsettling when you’re checking out the sturgeon and a dog fish bumps his snout against the glass right in front of you. Oh my!

And don’t feel like you have to go backwards through it — as me and the brothers couldn’t be stopped from doing repeatedly — because at the end of the walk is a doorway with a sign pointing out to you that you can just walk through it and go back through the undersea portion of the bay exhibit again. Dominic wanted to do it, but his memory is so poor I don’t think he knew that we’d already been through it.

petting aquarium Above - Here you can see Baby-D pawing away at a friendly Starfish. His arm had to be held, of course, because if he was left to his own devices he'd have crawled right in and splashed around like he was a fish himself... which he isn't, I promise.
petting aquarium
Above – Here you can see Baby-D pawing away at a friendly Starfish. His arm had to be held, of course, because if he was left to his own devices he’d have crawled right in and splashed around like he was a fish himself… which he isn’t, I promise.

Then we replaned the elevator and went upstairs and it just got weirder from there. Imagine a petting zoo that’s also an aquarium. It’s not just starfish poking, though you’re invited to do that too. No, up here you can see anemones, flounder, teeny sharkies (or dog fish, I guess), bat rays, leopard sharks and tide pool animals galore; all of it thanks to a throng and a half of knowledgeable attendants.

By the time we left, I couldn’t even remember that silly animated classic, but in all fairness, I was a bit hungry. I get a bit goofy with my low blood sugar, but that’s no discredit.

But here’s the real testament to how much fun it was. Since we spent half our days in San Francisco in the general area of Pier 39, we had plenty of exposure to the place. Every single time we went back down there, brother Patrick asked if we’d be able to go back and see the animals again. Sometimes he got upset that we couldn’t do it, no matter what other fun stuff we had on the roster. The fact that he liked it enough to beg we go back tells me it made quite an impact on him, and I think that’s the highest compliment an attraction can attain.

They even have a guided behind-the-scenes tour with one of their naturalists for those fish loving spectators like my brother Patrick who cannot get enough fishy morsals of knowledge by visiting the aquarium alone. To find out what goes on behind-the-scenes make your reservation at 415-623-5376. And as if that wasn’t enough they’ve got a private aquarium party room and host sleepovers under the sea!

Aquarium of the Bay is located in San Francisco at Pier 39 with summer hours of 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Hours may change seasonly so call 1-888-SEA-DIVE. Also, you can buy your tickets online or at the door for individuals or groups so check them out online at their website for seasonal adjustments and updates.

Above - Unlike traditional petting Aquaria, not only can you pet the starfish, but also the spotty sharks. Not just that but there are people dedicated entirely to standing by with you so you don't do it improperly and lose a leg or anything crazy like that Just like with Baby-D petting the Starfish, though, Daddy-O had to hold me fast so I wouldn't take my own mini liberties with the friendly fishfolk.
Above – Unlike traditional petting Aquaria, not only can you pet the starfish, but also the spotty sharks. Not just that but there are people dedicated entirely to standing by with you so you don’t do it improperly and lose a leg or anything crazy like that Just like with Baby-D petting the Starfish, though, Daddy-O had to hold me fast so I wouldn’t take my own mini liberties with the friendly fishfolk.