Welcome sign to the Clarke Swim Center and the All Abilities Playground in Walnut Creek

Play with All Abilities, Walnut Creek

All abilities playground in Walnut Creek, CA.

Last week I posted about the Gardens of Heather Farm. While you are at Heather’s Farm and you have children with you I highly suggest you stop by the all abilities playground. This 30,000 square feet playground has two distinct areas. One for 2-5 year olds, and one for 5 – 12 year olds. It was built in 2014, and according to their website, “intentionally addressing the physical, cognitive, communicative, social/emotional, and sensory needs of all children”.

Playstructure at the all ability playground in Walnut Creek.

The inclusive approach has shock absorbent pathways, wide ramps, ground level play areas, and much more. I like that the design also includes the parking lot and other service areas, by providing ADA approved restrooms, van accessible parking spaces and pathways. 

In the foreground there are two benches shaded by an umbrella, in the background a play structure with multiple slides.

The colorful towers greet you from the parking lot and the structures provide plenty of challenges for all kids. Shade is provided by mature trees, but also large umbrellas.

Overall this playground is well thought out and well liked by the community. 

A climbing wall at the all ability playground in Walnut Creek.

Have your kids played at the all abilities playground?
If you are located in Silicon Valley, there are the Magical Bridge Playgrounds for all abilities. Currently these are in Palo Alto and Redwood City, with four more in the planning state.

Men sitting on a bench overlooking the rose garden at Heather Farm, Walnut Creek.

Get surprised by a multitude of gardens, Heather Farm, Walnut Creek

When I visited Heather Farm I knew this place was well known for its garden. What I did not know was the dimensions and multitudes of them. They have a stunning 27 different garden arrangements! 

Little tunnel with bushes growing on top.

After I entered the centennial grove, 100 trees from around the world, the cuteness of the children’s garden caught my eyes. I’m sure the small, about a yard long, tunnel is loved by many toddlers.The Crowden Rose Garden lures you in by the scent. It features more than 1,000 varieties of roses. 

Bench at the stroll garden, Heather Farm, Walnut Creek.

With names like sensory, stroll, and meadow garden you will likely discover a myriad of plants, and ,of course there are plenty of benches to take in the scenery.  

The name Heather Farm is from a priced race horse, King Heather, of the original ranch owner, John Marchbank. Marchbank bought the 255 acre ranch in 1921 and converted it into a thoroughbred horse training facility. He sold most of the grounds in 1945. Nowadays an independent organization operates the free Heather Farms Garden and education center. Besides the many gardens, the park offers tennis courts, a swim center, an all ability playground, and a fishing lake, to name a few attractions. 

Heather Farms is located at 1540 Marchbanks Dr, Walnut Creek, CA and is open daily during daylight hours.

Have you been to Heather Farm?

While you are in Walnut Creek you might also enjoy the Ruth Bancroft garden with its lavish display of cacti and succulents.

Resources:

A yellow rose.

Walnut Creek Magazine

https://www.walnutcreekmagazine.com/2021/05/27/307676/a-look-back-walnut-creek-s-rich-equestrian-past

Gardens of Heather Farm History

https://gardenshf.org/50-2/

To see a mini tour of the gardens you can watch this YouTube video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mbSlwqtVxc

A couple enjoying the view at the College of San Mateo.

Enjoy the View at the Farmers’ Market, College of San Mateo

Pumpkins at the farmers' market, College of San Mateo.

The farmers’ market at the College of San Mateo is most likely voted for ‘Best View for a Farmers’ Market’. Every Saturday from 9 am – 1 pm you can shop for local produce, grab some lunch, listen to some music, and sign up for your compost class. A list of vendors can be found on the webpage of the Pacific Coast Farmers Market, but they also do a great job updating their facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/CollegeofSanMateoFarmersMarket/, to highlight seasonal produce.

View of the Dumbarton Bridge from the College of San Mateo.

Nothing says fall like huge pumpkins. Other stands sold apples, one had an amazing variety of succulents, and of course there were lots of stands with everything else in season. The Buds contributed their music and had two little girls dance to it. Our discovery was the ramen stand, where you can buy concentrated broth and fresh noodles.

The Buds are playing while two little girls are dancing.

And, like I said, the view is outstanding. Even on a cloudy day you can see San Francisco and the Dumbarton Bridge. The planetarium has an atrium that is perfect for enjoying your lunch. 

The College of San Mateo is located at 1700 West Hillsdale Boulevard. Parking is available at the Galileo parking lot, next to the planetarium. Don’t worry there are signs.  

People eating lunch on the steps to the planetarium.

What is your favorite farmers’ market?

One of the biggest, if not the biggest, farmers’ market in Silicon Valley is in Mountain View. About every town has their own farmers’ market with their own feel. Try them all!

A fuzzy cactus with a bright red flower.

Find What’s in Bloom at the Ruth Bancroft Garden, Walnut Creek

A group of cacti, one with a yellow flower.

At the entrance to the Ruth Bancroft Garden you’ll be handed a map to see what’s in bloom. If you want to come prepared, print it out from their website. The fee to see the succulent garden is $10 for adults with discounts for seniors and children. An amount well spent if you like succulents and drought resistant plants. There are large varieties and they have some in bloom each month.

Two buckets with parasols at the Ruth Bancroft Garden, Walnut Creek.

If you go on a sunny day make sure to pick up a parasol to shade you while exploring. The murals at the entrance are also noteworthy, but inside it is spectacular. Large cacti and palm trees vying for attention together with the huge varieties of succulents. The fruits are interesting as well, but please don’t touch the prickly pear, they have thorns. 

Water lily at the Ruth Bancroft Garden, Walnut Creek.

This is the perfect environment for lizards. They will zip by and then stop to look at you. The koi pond with the water lilies was an added surprise.

Afterwards check out the adjacent nursery. Cute succulents arranged in a pot and, of course, a large variety of sempervivum, cacti and other drought resistant plants.

Bench at the Ruth Bancroft Garden, Walnut Creek.

The Ruth Bancroft Garden with 3.5 acres is larger than the Arizona Garden in Stanford. Both are equally spectacular. On selected evenings between 5:30 and 8:30 pm, November to January, the garden transforms into the Garden of D’Lights and they promise to ‘glow your mind’! Tickets are available at their website and cost $16 – $24 for adults and children between 6 and 15 pay $8 to $12.

Opening hours are:

March – October

Tuesday – Thursday: 9AM to 4PM (last admissions at 3:15pm)

Friday – Sunday: 10AM to 5PM (last admissions at 4:15pm)

November – February

Tuesday – Sunday: 9AM to 4PM (last admissions at 3:15pm)

Do you like seeing blooming succulents?

Ocean of Light: Submergence by Squidsoup at the MAH

Interact with Art, MAH, Santa Cruz

Scene from Continuity at the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco.

We recently went to see teamlab’s Continuity exhibit at the Asian Art Museum. In 2016 teamlab showed off their immersive art in Menlo Park. In San Francisco they expanded their exhibit and I believe the rose smell was an added feature. I highly recommend the experience. It is a new way of connecting with art, by being part of it and even influencing the flow.

Ocean of Light by Squidsoup at the Museum of Art and History in Santa Cruz.

But this blog is for experiences in the Bay Area outside of San Francisco. So, let me point you to another amazing exhibit at the Museum of Art and History (MAH) in Santa Cruz. Before we argue if Santa Cruz is part of the Bay Area, maybe we can agree that sometimes you have to bend the rules, like the immersive art that is displayed. 

I visited Santa Cruz’s MAH in 2017 and was pleasantly surprised about the multiple aspects they offer to their visitors. Recently, I came to see the Ocean of Light: Submergence by Squidsoup, an installation of over 5000 suspended lights.  I felt again satisfied with the different exhibits.This immersive art work lets the viewer walk into the art; it is not only focused on light, but also movement, sound, and the immersive feeling it invokes. 

A giant blue foam hand with a tongue sticking out in front of speed wheel posters.

Besides their ongoing focus on the history of Santa Cruz there are also exhibits on the CZU Lightning Complex Fire, and the Art of Santa Cruz Speed Wheels. To round it up I recommend chilling in the outside sculpture garden on the top floor. 

More information

Continuity at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco just got extended until November.  

Opening hours are:

Thursdays 1 pm – 8 pm, Fridays to Mondays 10 am – 5 pm. 

Tickets for Continuity are sold separately and allow you to see the rest of the museum. Adult admission is $20 weekdays $25 weekends, discounted tickets are $15/$20.

The Museum of Art and History in Santa Cruz is open Thursdays to Sundays 12 pm – 6 pm. General admission is $10, students, teachers, and veterans pay $8.

Would you like to be immersed in art?

PALEOALTO by Marpi Studio at Lytton Plaza

Evolve with art, Code:ART in Palo Alto

PALEOALTO by Marpi Studio at Lytton Plaza, Palo Alto.

I was very excited to see that Code:ART is again happening in Palo Alto. The last time I saw it was 2017. Just this weekend, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, from 5 pm to 10pm; Palo Alto lets you peek into interactive art all around downtown. 

The anchor piece is PALEOALTO by Marpi Studio at Lytton Plaza. This is an interactive time machine. The viewer is transported to a superocean and interacts with strange marine animals and vertebrates on two large screens. 

CODED ARCHITECTURES 0.3 by Amor Muñoz

Once again, the alley next to Bell’s Books hosts a mural: CODED ARCHITECTURES 0.3 by Amor Muñoz. The black and white mural is binary code and spells out a message of connectivity. The viewer can decode the message by using a binary alphabet postcard. Fun and games! 

I/O by Ben Faltau

More interaction is at 555 Ramona St with I/O by Ben Faltau. A hidden message, that changes throughout the day, is on one side of this wall (output). The output gets displayed by the input on the opposite site.

Can we work together to find the answer? I really liked the sound of the output display, the letters moved like old destination boards. 

Jeffery Yip’s Cosmic Cannon on Bryan, Palo Alto.

Jeffery Yip’s Cosmic Cannon on Bryan is an installation with sound and light experience. While Cory Barr with his Color Currents on Florence St created an interactive mural. By now it is clear that most of these Code:ARTs are best experienced when it’s dark. LUMINOUS GROWTH by Liz Hickok, Jamie Banes, and Phil Spitler uses the AT&T parking lot on Hamilton to illuminate a large-scale projection and a sculpture installation of crystals in a cityscape.

LUMINOUS GROWTH by Liz Hickok, Jamie Banes, and Phil Spitler

HYDRALA by Dan Tran and Nick Sowers, in front of the Palo Alto City Hall, is a sound-sculpture. Again we are invited to play with the four channels of audio.

HYDRALA by Dan Tran and Nick Sowers

Not only is the art interactive, at each station you might meet the artists and chat with them about their intentions. 

Code:ART info

Code:ART, the interactive new media festival illuminates Palo Alto’s downtown October 7-9 2021, each day from 5pm to 10pm.

The locations can be found on this virtual map: https://viewer.mapme.com/codeart2021/ or you can pick up a postcard map at each station.

During Code:ART Bell’s Books has extended opening hours. On Friday the Pace Gallery and the Pamela Walsh Gallery hosts public receptions and on Saturday the Qualia Contemporary Art also hosts an opening reception.

What is your favorite way to interact with art?

Are you planning on visiting Code:ART?

Touch station. The sign reads: Reach your hands inside these boxes and touch the secret item. Use what you feel and the photos as clues to figure out what's inside!

Smell, Touch, and See

The Guadalupe Park & Gardens Visitor Center, San Jose

Turtle sunbathing at the Guadalupe Park and Visitor Center, San Jose.

The Visitor and Education Center for the Guadalupe River Park is open Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5 pm. It says on the door to ring the bell when the door is locked, so I did. 

Right now during COVID there are no field trips, but you can imagine little kids will love this place. The room is not expansive, and probably hard to social distance with more than 20 kids.The center hosts a large aquarium and five terrariums. The volunteer asked me to watch my step, but when she looked over her shoulder, she saw that the turtle was still enjoying the sun, only turning slightly to me to get its picture taken. 

Snake skin. The sign says: Feel free to touch on this shelf gently.
Raccoon fur at the Guadalupe Visitor Center, San Jose

I was also surprised to see such a large garter snake in one of the terrariums. The snake just shed its skin and you are allowed to touch the remains. It feels fragile but not brittle. I was informed by the volunteer that this skin was just a few days old.

Speaking of touching, there is a large raccoon fur hanging next to the snake skins to diversify your sensory experience. This is a room for all senses. The far wall has touch, smell, and sight stations. I hope the visitor center will be filled with kids again soon, enjoying it with all senses.

Smell container. Sign reads: Please return the scent containers to this bin once you have finished guessing.

The Guadalupe Park & Gardens Visitor & Education Center is located 

438 Coleman Ave, San Jose

Current open hours are 9 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday.
Mark your calendars. Pumpkins in the Park 2021 is October 9th, 10 am to 4 pm. Experience Guadalupe River Education, free pumpkins (while supplies last), a giant slide and obstacle course, and much more at Guadalupe River Park.

If you want your children to have sensory experiences, try the Sensory Garden of the Gardens of Lake Merritt, Oakland or Charles Street Gardens in Sunnyvale.

The entrance of the children's bookstore Hicklebee's in San Jose.

Excited by children’s books’ artifacts, Hickelbee’s in San Jose

Hicklebee's where books come alive sign.

Exit through the gift shop, is not only an experimental documentary by street artist Bansky but the strategic reality of most museums. At Hicklebee’s, a quaint children’s bookstore in the lovely Willow Glen neighborhood of San Jose, that idea is turned on its head: a museum in a bookstore. 

The wall with authors and books artifacts at Hicklebee's, San Jose.

Hickelbee’s employee Carol Schweppe and her husband Steve brought their vision of children’s books alive with artifacts sprinkled around the store. Over the cash register a sign with their motto: Hicklebee’s – where books come alive. When I spotted the Nimbus 2000 I knew exactly what they meant. 

Don and Audrey Wood - Smoking Hot Pens - Original art created following a Hicklebee's signing in 1985.

In a display case on the left from the entrance, you can find more examples of literate artifacts. There is Harold’s purple crayon and an oversized acorn from Chicken Little. And, the authors themselves left their marks. Pictures of smoking pens from a signing by Don and Audrey Wood for example. In every nook you can find autographs and caricatures.

A wall of Hicklebee's with signatures and caricatures from authors.

With this much attention to detail it is no surprise that Hickelbee’s is a well stocked independent children’s bookstore. 

Have you spotted interesting artifacts at Hicklebee’s?

Another independent bookstore with a fascinating history, gives space to the counterculture of the 60s. See my blog post on Kepler’s in Menlo Park.

Paintings by Natasha Kramskaya

Celebrate ‘An American Mosaic’ in San Jose

Different salsas at the Chili Mole Pozole Festival.

The gallery exhibit from Works ‘An American Mosaic’ celebrates many firsts, first live gallery exhibit for this year, first collaboration with Mosaic America and School of Arts & Culture at Mexican Heritage Plaza. For me this was also my first time at the Mexican Heritage Plaza in San Jose. Last Sunday I enjoyed the Chili Mole Pozole Festival with live music, artisan vendors, and, of course, the exhibit of ‘An American Mosaic’. 

RGB by Tulio Flores at the 'An American Mosaic'.

The $10 entry fee was for the festival and it came with a bag of tortilla chips and a choice of salsas. My two salsas were both pretty spicy.  

Fourteen San Jose artists express their creativity and love for the Bay Area. As diverse as the artists are their works, with sculptures, painted bottles, and many different painting styles. It felt good to be experiencing art again and I enjoyed the multitudes of ideas and approaches. My favorite was Tulio Flores RGB.

This exhibit will tie in with the upcoming free Mosaic Festival on October 2. Mosaic America celebrates the diversity of America through art, performance, movement, and food. So, maybe this will be your first festival of the year? 

Artisan vendors at the Chili Mole Pozole Festival, School of Arts & Culture at Mexican Heritage Plaza.

If you are still a bit hesitant about festivals you can view the exhibit the next two weekends (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) from 12 – 4: except October 2nd.

The Silicon Valley Mosaic Festival is Saturday, October 2nd, from 12 – 6pm at the School of Arts & Culture Gallery at Mexican Heritage Plaza, 1700 Alum Rock Ave at King Road, San José

Admission is free.

How do you celebrate diversity?

artists:

Fco1980

'An American Mosaic' exhibit view.

Dan Fenstermacher

Tulio Flores

Force129

Richard Hoffman

Natasha Kramskaya

Jennifer Lay

Johanne Marion

Elizabeth Jiménez Montelongo

Betty Proper

Ally Spray

Kenneth Tan, The Lola x Kenneth Collaboration

Roan Victor

Yxaya

If you need more inspiration from San Jose artists try the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art (ISA) or the galleries at SJSU.

Stairs to Esplanade Beach, Pacifica.

Step down to Esplanade Beach, Pacifica

Shoes on Esplanade Beach with Pacific in the back.

Esplanade Beach was our most recent discovery. We grabbed some lunch from Rosalind’s Bakery (recently featured on a post about my favorite sweet treats) and drove down to Esplanade Beach. Street parking was plentiful. The first impression from above was not too thrilling. We parked near a chain linked fence that was obstructing our ocean view and left us with an uneasy feeling about the safety of these cliffs. The entrance to the beach is on Esplanade Ave, which has multiple apartment complexes. There were a few benches on a lookout above. 

Stairs to the Esplanade Beach in Pacifica

The real treat is the stairs leading down to the beach. This is quite a workout! I did not count how many steps or switchbacks there were but they kept on going. I would recommend slowing down for the last part because the sand on the stairs makes them slippery. 

Looking up at the stairs cliff side with sparse plants and netting.

You can tell that the stairs have gotten an overhaul recently. The plants to minimize erosion haven’t filled out the netting yet.
This is Pacifia’s only official off leash dog beach. We saw a few dogs enjoying the run. Visit Pacifica warns to check out the tide schedule since the beach can be narrow at high tide.  For the same reason,  you should probably refrain from walking here during stormy weather.

Looking up the cliff at Esplanade Beach, Pacifica.

If you are looking for a volunteer opportunity, September 18th is Coastal Cleanup Day. A great way to beautify these beaches and remove plastic pollution. If you’re really enjoying this you can help clean Esplanade Beach every 3rd Saturday of the month.

How do you step up for your local beaches?

If you relish an outdoor steps workout also consider Communication Hill in San Jose, or the Trailhead stairs in Saratoga.