Tuesday, August 22, 2017

California Day 1: San Francisco -- the Color Factory, Embarcadero, and Fisherman's Wharf



We just arrived home from an amazing, super-fun 10-day trip to California—we did pretty much an even split of time between San Francisco and Yosemite. I find planning vacations almost as much fun as going on them. Well, not really. But I do love researching, coordinating, organizing, and refining travel plans (and I always do a Pinterest board for each trip as a starting point to gather ideas). I generally start by putting together several lists: must-dos, if we have time activities, backup plans, and dining/drinking for neighborhoods around all three (arguably the most important list). But I had the hardest time picking and choosing for this trip! And it didn’t get much better when we arrived as I kept spotting more and more things I wanted to do. All of which is a long way of saying we’ll have to go back (and we will because my brother-in-law Steve is getting married next spring in Calistoga!).

While the Mr. and I have been to SanFran several times, we had yet to take the kids for a visit. Mainly because it drives me nuts to take such a long flight and still stay in the United States. But we were long overdue to schlep the kids out there so we made it our main summer vacation. The night before we left I remembered that our annual August trips tend to coincide with the arrival of seasonal allergies and I dumped a bunch of allergy and cold medicine in my carryon. But between that, our 4 a.m. wake up time, and all the pressure changes that come with flying, Kane and I were a total mess on the flight out. It was all I could do to stave off a threatening migraine. But I knew I had to push through because we had a day of activities ahead of us!


First up on my list was the Color Factory pop-up! Brainchild of one of my favorite bloggers, Oh Happy Day and in collaboration with other local artists, the Color Factory is a fun temporary art experience that I knew the kids would LOVE! After we checked in to our hotel (we started out at the Kimpton Buchannan hotel in Japantown, which was reasonably-priced for San Francisco and within walking distance of everything on my list for the beginning of our trip), we set out in the direction of Union Square with an intention to eat at Swan Oyster Depot for lunch. The Depot is a teeny tiny lunch counter with lines around the block, but it’s only open for lunch and was high up on my list. We arrived right around opening time, but there was already a 2-hour wait line. We had timed tickets for the Color Factory so that wasn’t going to happen!


So we kept on moving and walked by a corner cafe that was dishing up delicious-looking food to sidewalk diners. We popped in to Mymy and had a super yummy, quick lunch. And it turns out that it's basically around the corner from Steve and Leslie's (our future SIL) apartment and is one of their brunch faves! Destiny. 



We made it down to the Color Factory with a little time to spare, so we walked the kids around Union Square a bit. But we'd passed the pop up on the way down and the kids were anxious to get in there, so we quickly looped back. Once inside, we went through a bit of an elaborate waiver and selfie sign up process. But once we saw the fun selfies stationed throughout the factory (and immediately emailed to you), it was worth it. While I did that, the kids had fun checking out the scratch n'sniff wall (it was amazing!) and grabbed a sprinkle cookie off the rotating conveyer belt. It really sets up visitors up for sensory exploration! 




We followed that up with a little taste of charcoal lemonade—a palate cleanser, if you will—and started to make our way through bright, color-coated rooms full of random items to explore. The kids didn't spend much time in the first orange room because they wanted in the purple room full of enormous bouncy balloons. Then we danced, slid, and shimmied our way under disco balls upon a psychedelic floor to get to an enormous Lite Brite! 




The green room was set up with coloring book walls and an oversized marker (only one, so you can imagine how that went with two kids). Cami loved the ribbon installation and reminded me so much of an exhibit at the Hirshhorn from when she was just an itty bitty gal. 






But if the first floor was awesome, the second floor was AMAZING. We spent what felt like forever in the confetti room alongside millennials instagramming the perfect shot (the natural light in there was fabulous). Pretty sure we photobombed a lot of those. When the kids joy finally devolved into confetti smashing each other in the face, I knew it was time to move on. 




We finally made it to the room they were really waiting for: THE YELLOW BALL PIT. The kids went bananas over the enormous pit, but given my total anxiety attack during a ball-pit-centered exhibit in DC a few years ago, I was not similarly amped. But, I'd read up and knew that was also the room where you got a teeny tiny soft serve cone, so I was still pretty excited. 




Between the sound, smells, and lights though, my migraine was really starting to kick it into high gear. I needed to either take a nap or some fresh air. I'm sure you know which option won. I'd purchased a CityPASS which covered several of the museums we wanted to visit as well as a three-day muni pass. So we set out to walk down to the Piers (generally fairly touristy areas) and check those off our list. We started at the Ferry Building Marketplace, but that was mobbed and we continued on outside. I'd heard great things about the Exploratorium, which has an awesome cardboard creation exhibit right now, but the kids wanted to stay outside. The Aquarium of the Bay is down there too, but they wanted to roam. So Joel and I strolled while the kids parkoured their way down the Embarcadero. 





We stopped for a visit to the sea lions at Pier 39, because how could we not, and then stopped in the Mechanical Museum. Joel and I had been there before and I knew it would be just random enough and filled with all kinds of bizarre antique arcade machines to help the kids push through their jet lag. Plus it's across the street from Boudin Bakery and I'd promised Kane the first night's dinner would be clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. We played for a while and then met Steve for din. I barely made it through dinner though and by the Uber ride home, the kids and I were both crying. I downed my migraine medicine and went down hard. And it was still a fantastic first day!

p.s. The Museum of Ice Cream is opening in SanFran in September -- I'm bummed we missed it, but it's first on our list for the next visit! 

 

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