Touch a shark and get a sticker to proudly proof it. The Seymour Marine Discovery Center in Santa Cruz is one of my favorite places in the Bay Area. Besides petting a shark – a real swell shark that is! – you are also invited by the great volunteers to get your finger wrapped up by sea creatures like anemones, spot a hermit crab or hold a sea star. The aquarium tanks hold shark babies and jellyfish. Did you know that jellyfish needed a round tank to generate the circular flow keeping them suspended in the tank?
If you talk about the wildlife of the Bay you also need to see the exhibit on the sea otter. There is otter fur to touch, which is the softest fur ever.
Shark Science Week is July 22 – 28. 2018 – to get a deeper understanding of sharks.
Sea Otter Awareness Week is September 22 – 30. 2018 – this is an annual event all around the Bay recognizing the importance of the sea otter for the nearshore ecosystem.
The tour that is included in the entrance fee takes you outside the center. It starts off with the history of the Seymour Marine Discovery Center. An important stop is Ms. Blue, the 87 feet long blue whale skeleton that greets every visitor. You are invited to go into her belly, touch some baleen plate, that is used to filter out food and a glass jar of krill to understand how much food is needed for these giants. The tour might end behind the scene of the Joseph M. Long Laboratory. Here our group got to see two dolphins and a seal that are being studied.
In July and August the Seymour Marine Discovery Center is open every day 10 am – 5 pm. Adults admission is $9, senior, children and students are $7. For the free days you need to check the web site. They also participate in the Discover and Go program.
I remember the times my toddler would stare at everything moving. We enjoyed the trash trucks and the planes in the sky. Trains also fall in this category, big and small.
If you happen to be at the Santa Clara train station either on a Tuesday afternoon, from 5 pm to 8 pm, or on a Saturday, 10 am to 3 pm, go check out the South Bay Historical Railroad Society. Admission is free, with a few opportunities to donate inside.
In the oldest passenger depot still in use volunteers established a museum for all things railroad related. But the real attraction are the model railways that fill most of the depot’s back room.
Young and old volunteers work together on the trains that ride across impressions of Northern California landscapes. I smiled at a mother telling her toddler to slow down. There are step stools for the smaller population to see the trains. I loved the whimsical displays that tell a story of its own.
All the way in the back are aerial photographs of Santa Clara train station were you can imagine the transition this area went through.
The first question our tour guide asked was: did you enjoy your ride up here?
Looks like the motorcyclist and bike riders I saw outside were not here, because everyone agreed that the hilly ride up was quite unpleasant. Build in 1876 for horses and carts the road to the Lick observatory winds up in approximately 365 turns (count if you like) until it reaches the 4,200 feet peak of Mount Hamilton. Now-a-days it takes a solid hour from San Jose. While the place is open Thursdays to Sundays from 12 pm – 5 pm, in the winter time this road might be closed due to snow and icy conditions.
If you want to experience the observatory in the dark you can try to snag a ticket for one of the popular summer events. There are two different events. A music series and lectures by astronomers. As part of the lectures you will be able to glance through the historic 36-inch Great Lick Refractor telescope.
From 1888 till 1897 the Great Lick was Earth’s largest refracting telescope. Currently it is the second largest. Again, think how it got on top of the hill and you would be impressed, too! On opening, they do a free tour of the telescope every hour starting at 12:30 and ending at 4:30.
I was the most impressed with the floor. Beautiful walnut panels laid out in a round pattern. When our tour guide revealed this to be a hydraulic propelled moveable floor, (built before they invented electricity!) I was stunned. It hasn’t be operated for the last five years now, but being in the presence of such inventive engineering left me in awe.
I was glad to have a nice picnic with me and enjoyed the back terrace. By the way, spring water is feeding the water fountain, so make sure to fill up your bottles for the hour long descend to San Jose.
When my son was in third grade ping pong was the ‘in’ sport. Back in Germany, they do have concrete ping pong tables near schools and in parks everywhere. When we go back we usually play a match at least once. Now in my attempt to make this the most-interesting-summer-ever our first outing was to find a ping pong table.
We set off to Sunnyvale and checked out the PPC Swan Ping Pong Club. But it turns out they currently hosts summer camps and all tables are taken. I think with a little preparation we could reserve a table.
Anyway, I knew of a park that does have one of those concrete ping pong tables. The Del Monte Park in San Jose, a tribute to the old cannery that stood nearby, is a brand new park with a playground and a dog park. Wedged in between the kids and the dogs is the ping pong table.
We played a while and had fun until we both stepped on the two balls we brought. That’s a quick way to halt the game. In a nearby store we not only found new ping pong balls but a huge green ball, we then invented our own game.
As an extra bonus the playground still had some challenges for a teenager. This was a great start into the summer!
Do you know of any opportunities to play ping pong in the Bay Area?
The rules are simple and the holes are 21 inches wide. You can rent the #5 balls at the front desk.
Call them ahead and book your tee time. You will be mixed in with other golfers. Sunken Garden is a smaller nine hole course so watch out for flying golf balls. We almost got hit but then it flew over us and hit the house behind us!
I also learned about basic golf course etiquette. Be quiet when someone tees off, yell ‘FOUR’ when your golf ball strays towards other people and don’t walk on the green if your game is foot golf.
Overall it took us about an hour and a half. We were surprised how tricky, in a good way, some holes were. All the hills made for an interesting strategic game.
Someone at the front desk was asking what the appeal was since in soccer you shot pretty straight. I guess it is more like golf with less equipment and a ball that doesn’t go enough astray that you have to worry about the people around you.
I am always open for free art museums. Burlingame has the Peninsula Museum of Art. Turning right instead of taking the museum entrance you can also check out the artist studios. In some of the studios you can see creativity working, but I did not want to interrupt.
The hallways are used as exhibit space. On two floors you can see everythingfrom paintings to jewelry, over furnishing, millinery and sculptures. These hallways are already a glimpse in the artistic world of the Peninsula.
The museum currently hosts “Art Between the Lines” an exhibit from the San Francisco Chapter of the California Art Club. Until July 8th, 2018, 65 artists show a wide range of mediums: oil, watercolor, acrylic, pastel and sculptures.
Another exhibit shows “Seeking Story” by Deborah Rumer, until July 29, 2018. These pieces really touched me. Recycled books that through paint and found objects tell a new story. Each unique piece draws you in and in a snap of a moment your imagination creates a story around the artwork.
The museum is free but has a donation box. Also if you purchase something from the gift shop it helps the museum and the artist.
If you stand in front of the office building at 3350 Thomas Rd you have to follow the signs to go around and enter the metal door at the side. That is if you want to visit the Hacker Dojo. Once inside you will be greeted by murals and a laptop that’ll ask you to sign in.
The Hacker Dojo is an institution in Silicon Valley. Since 2009 it allowed its members to share ideas, workspaces and party together. By now in its third location, you can use it for collaborate workspaces, check out the maker space, and tinker with the 3D printer or laser cutter. The classrooms on the side and the main space are also used for workshops and social events, like game nights. Membership fees start at $100/month and give you access to all events.
This is a great place to network, and you might even score a job (check out the job board in the back).
There is table tennis to release some steam or to play a round with your new co-worker.
It’s round, it’s new, it’s a spaceship – well because of its roundness it’s call spaceship – it’s actually a large office building. But you can’t go in, unless you are working for Apple.
To get a peek, of the roof line, drop by the nearby visitor center. Yes, a visitor center to get you closer to the Apple headquarters. And while you’re there it’s also an Apple Store, with a few gift shop items, and a cafe.
From the underground parking lot, steps take you to the cafe entrance. Two large glass doors open perpendicular to let in the breeze and the customers. The cafe only seemed to offer espresso drinks and chocolate. In the next room is the Apple Store. I was surprised to see bags and t-shirts, this merchandize can only be bought at the visitor center.
The last room in the complex hosts the augmented reality model. Geniuses hand out iPads which augment the 3D model and you can swipeoff the roof of the buildings to look inside. The staff also is very cheerful and answers any questions.
The rooftop is the highlight of the center. A serene space that has a view of Apple Park.
If you are looking for nerdy fun, this place should be on the tour. It is open 7 days a week.
The recently opened Action Sports Park on Lake Cunningham in San Jose has a bike and a skate park. The skate park was built in 2011 and it’s California’s largest with 68,000 square feet. In fact there are two world’s largest pipes, namely: full pipe and cradle. The vert wall is the world’s tallest.
Watch Tony Hawk and other experts in this 3 minute video on their sneak-peek opening experience:
The brand new bike park surrounds the skatepark with some impressive hills and ramps. They have a small fleet of bikes for rent. Also the very important helmets and pads can be rented. There are no age restrictions, if you are under 6 you need an adult with you. Allowed are all kinds of bikes, even unicycles!
Different skill levels guide you through the seven riding zones. Spectators can hang out and enjoy the free wifi.
For $7 per person, you can ride all day (annual membership available), but there is also a $6 parking fee (and an option to buy a annual parking pass). The Action Sports Park allows outside food, but they also have a concession stand and a BBQ area.
Gardening is always the top tip of every happiness blog. If you don’t have the opportunity to work in your own garden you can volunteer at the Forge Garden, which is part of the Santa Clara University. Volunteer hours are Wednesdays 1 pm – 4:30 pm or Fridays 9 am – 11 am, just drop in. You should be prepared to get your cloth dirty, wear sturdy shoes and bring water and sunscreen. The monthly Forge Fridays Cooking in the Garden is designed to bring the community together by harvesting, cooking and eating together. Check out their website on all upcoming events.
They also let you wander around the grounds Monday – Friday 9 am to 5 pm. Check out what’s growing, say ‘hi’ to the chickens, admire the beehives and the aquaponic system. The farm stand is open on Fridays between 11:30 and 1:30.
If you like to learn more about gardening you can attend one of their workshops. Up front you can find a book and seed exchange.