Now that the presents have been unwrapped and the kids are coming down from their candy cane high, it's time to take a deep breath, slow down, and recharge your batteries for the upcoming new year. Finding some quiet amidst all the holiday hustle and bustle can be challenging, so we've done the work for you. Here are some places you can take the kids for a bit of rest and reflection. They've got all the space your little ones need to keep the wiggles away, and all the serenity you need to start working on those resolutions for 2012.
Strawberry Hill: Golden Gate Park, San Francisco
San Franciscans head to Golden Gate Park to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, and locals in the know head to Strawberry Hill to escape the hustle and bustle of Golden Gate Park. This little island, right in the middle of Stow Lake, is the perfect place to breathe in some fresh air and forget for a moment that you're still in a city. Once you cross the bridge to get to the island, you'll be treated to trickling waterfalls, singing birds and a charming Asian pagoda; the panoramic views of Ocean Beach, the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco's neighborhoods are well worth the short, steep hike to the top.
Land's End Trail, San Francisco
San Francisco's wildest, rockiest coast offers miles of hiking through shadowy cypress, with scenic overlooks and coastal views. On this windswept trail, looking down at the craggy cliffs and crashing waves, you truly feel as though you're standing on the edge of the world. What could be more invigorating that breathing in the sea air and drinking in the breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and the Golden Gate bridge?
Redwood Bowl: Roberts Regional Recreation Area, Oakland
When you're inside the Redwood Bowl, a lush grove of redwoods off Oakland's Skyline Boulevard, it's hard to believe that cars and cellphones ever existed (the lack of cellphone service in the area certainly helps!). The fragrant scents and abundance of green will soothe the senses, and the towering, ancient trees give the place a majestic, cathedral-like aura. It's the perfect place to enjoy the sounds of silence—and best of all, it's close enough to the parking area for little legs to hike to.
Rodin Sculpture Garden: Stanford University, Palo Alto
Located next to the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University, the Rodin Sculpture Garden houses the largest collection of Auguste Rodin sculptures outside of Paris. Twenty bronze Rodin sculptures are scattered throughout the area, including the famous Gates of Hell, on which Rodin worked for two decades. With so many solemn sculptures staring down at him, your little one may feel quite timid at first, but in no time he'll be running around them, playing hide-and-go-seek, and running his hands on their smooth, cool surfaces. Once his little legs need a rest, give his imagination a chance to run around as you sit and ponder the stories behind those expressive faces.
Japanese Friendship Garden: Kelley Park, San Jose
Finding your zen is easy when you're at San Jose's Japanese Friendship Garden. Its winding pathways, still ponds, quaint bridges and artistically pruned bonsai make you feel like you've taken a trip to the Land of the Rising Sun. Its quiet beauty makes this the perfect place to marvel at nature's wonders (and point them out to your little one). This hidden gem of a place is located at Kelley Park, right next to the Happy Hollow Zoo.
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