A Checklist for 2012

Ana Picazo - San Francisco Bay Area
January 11, 2012

At the beginning of every year, people promise to improve themselves, try new things and change for the better, but studies have shown that anywhere from 60 to 80 percent of people who make New Year's resolutions have abandoned them after six months. This year, why not make a resolution you can actually keep: to spend time exploring the Bay Area with your child. With so many cultures and lifestyles, there's no shortage of places to see and things to do. And with the constant influx of people and ideas, things are always changing; whether you have lived here for two years or twenty two, chances are you'll find something new and exciting to discover. Here's a list of must-do activities that will keep you and your child busy all year, exploring and enjoying the place we call home:

1. Catch a performance at the Bay Area Discovery Museum. They've teamed up with World Arts West to feature some of the Bay Area's most talented performing artists in a song and dance showcase. From Indian Bollywood to Caribbean reggae to Mexican folk dance to American Rock 'n Roll, this series will take you and your little one on a colorful worldwide journey.

2. Try some garlic ice cream at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. Gilroy's most famous aromatic crop takes center stage at this internationally reknowned food festival, with garlic featured in bread, fries, almonds, popcorn and yes, ice cream. It's the perfect opportunity for you and little one to try something new.

3. There's nothing as sweet, juicy and tasty as fruit picked straight from the tree, bush or vine. And there's nothing as amusing as catching your little one with berry stains around his mouth and guilt in his eyes. Show him that fruit doesn't come from a store by taking him to pick his own fruit at Gizdich Ranch in Watsonville. This family-run ranch is open for tours every day of the year, and offers Pik-Yor-Self fruit during the summer months.  From strawberies in May to boysenberries in June to apples in September, you'll find the makings of a sweet family day.

4. Explore the natural world at the California Academy of Science's Living Roof. Since its grand reopening in 2008, the California Academy of Sciences has drawn huge crowds, and for good reason. Where else can you trek through a four-story rainforest, watch penguins being fed, touch a scaly snake, see an African savanna, dive into a tropical reef, and visit the stars, all under one roof? Speaking of roofs, don't forget to take a a trip to the top floor to check out the Living Roof, a Teletubbie-like landscape of gently sloping hills and meadows, with round sunroofs popping up between the wildflowers, a testament to the museum's sustainable architecture and commitment to living green.

5. Watch the Los Altos Pet Parade. Show your child that just like people and families, pets come in all shapes and sizes  Held every year in early May, the Pet Parade draws thousands of spectators and participants, both human and animal. It's truly a heart-warming sight with pets of all shapes and sizes—dogs, cats, horses, chickens, and even worms participate. Their proud owners (all pets must be accompanied by their masters, so if you plan to watch, you needn't be too worried about your little one being sniffed or nudged by a curious dog or pig) tag along on foot, on wagons, on bicycles, and on strollers. Bands, youth groups and community groups also participate and add to the festive mood. 

6. Get up close and personal with the marine mammals of the Pacific Coast. The sea lions of Pier 39 and the otters of the Monterey Bay Aquarium are internationally famous, but you don't need to brave the tourists and the crowds to see wild creatures at play. You can kayak among harbor seals across Bolinas Lagoon, take a guided tour of the elephant seal mating ground at Ano Nuevo Preserve, or watch sea lions cavort and gambol in the waters off the Santa Cruz Wharf.

7. See the sights from the heights of Windy Hill. From the parking lot, it's just a short walk on the Anniversary Trail to the summit of Windy Hill where you can spread a picnic blanket on the ground and take in the view of the San Francisco Bay, the Pacific Ocean, San Francisco and San Jose, all from one spot. 

8. Walk among the redwoods at Muir Woods. 
The giant, ancient trees surrounding the Muir Woods National Monument will have your little one gazing up and around with true awe.  Best of all, there are paved trails and boardwalks throughout, making it easy for you, your little one, and your stroller to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of nature.

9. Learn something new by visiting the past at a California Mission. Established by Spanish Catholic priests between 1769 and 1823 to spread the Christian faith,  the Spanish missions are an integral part of California's history and culture. There are no less than six California Missions within an easy drive from anywhere in the Bay Area. From Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma down to Mission Santa Cruz in Santa Cruz, each one is open to visitors and offers a glimpse of life in a bygone era.

10. Grow some community spirit in your child at Full Circle Farm. Sunnyvale's Full Circle Farm is a great place for children to experience growing produce and help put fresh food in Santa Clara Unified School District cafeterias. Their Educational Garden is easily accessible to kids of all ages, and if you become a volunteer Garden Assistant, you're welcome to bring your little helpers along. You'll even get to take some veggies home with you as a thank you!

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