Tag Archives: san francisco

Exploring Sequoia with Balta and his cousins

Family Destinations Near San Francisco – Just a Few Hours but Worlds Away from SF

The San Francisco Bay Area offers so many great family activities and unique spots to explore, why would anyone ever leave?

But maybe, just maybe, your family decides to get away for a change of scenery, perhaps to be in a different climate or just take a break from the daily routine. If so, we’ve got some recommendations for you: some of our favorite spots within a half-day’s drive from home.

Monterey: About two hours

You could easily spend a full day enjoying the many exhibits and animals at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It also provides an excellent foundation for future explorations along the California coast. After our son learned at the Aquarium about the sea otters’ habit of floating on their backs in kelp beds, he searched every visible one on the rest of our coastal drive, spotting hundreds of otters in the wild. “Edutainment” at its best!

Our son Baltazar kayaking in Morro Bay

Our son Baltazar kayaking in Morro Bay

Morro Bay: About four hours

Morro Bay is another coastal family favorite and a good home base for a visit to Hearst Castle.  The beautiful bay is capped by giant Morro Rock rock that gets larger and more imposing as you approach it. We took our son for his first sea kayaking experience on the calm waters of the bay and were delighted when a seal swam along side us for a portion of the trip!

Sacramento: Less than two hours

Heading away from the water, Sacramento is much more than a fast-food stop on the way to Tahoe. Visiting the state capitol is a must-do right of passage for kids, and they’ll learn a bit of history at the California State Railroad History Museum. Plus, the Sacramento River offers opportunities for boating, fishing and swimming. You can also head towards the Sierra Nevada Mountains for a family rafting trip on the American River.

Lake Tahoe: Three to four hours

Of course, Lake Tahoe is a great all-season resort for families with skiing in the winter, hiking in the spring and fall, and swimming and boating in the summer. You can choose from different types of resort properties here—many with mid-week and off-season discounts—as well as a huge supply of comfortable vacation rental homes. We like to relax, read and play games for by the fireplace on chilly nights.

Yosemite: About three and a half hours

It’s hard to think of a more awe-inspiring place than Yosemite Valley. While this popular national park can be crowded during the summer, it’s a great place for a spring or fall visit. Enjoy a stay at the historic Ahwahnee Lodge or in one of the tent cabins at Curry Village.  It’s hard not to notice and appreciate the many different ways the sunlight illuminates the canyon walls throughout the day. And even if it rains, you’ll be rewarded with brilliant waterfalls afterwards. If you visit in summer, take a day to explore the less-visited Tuolumne Meadows area (closed in the winter).

Sequoia: About four hours

While many visitors to Sequoia spend just a few hours seeing the highlights, we recommend spending at least a night or two there, either in the Lodgepole Village campground or in a cabin at General Grant Grove. Doing so will give you more time to walk and play among these gentle giants, and to explore some lesser-known sites in the park. We visited with our son and nephews on a summer weekend, and the Crystal Cave tour was a big highlight. The half-day adventure included a short hike into the cave, using flashlights to explore the dark parts, and walking on boardwalks above a running stream once inside.

Exploring Sequoia with Balta and his cousins

Exploring Sequoia with Balta and his cousins

Costanoa: Less than two hours

Finally, closer to home, the Costanoa Resort north of Santa Cruz is an incredible family-friendly spot to get close to nature while enjoying a few vacation comforts, including a restaurant featuring organic local foods. There’s a wide range of accommodations, including lodge rooms, cabins with fireplaces, and comfortable tent cabins. There are no TVs at Costanoa—and the cabins have shared bathhouses—but really nice ones with fireplaces as well! The beach is a short hike away, and you’re far away from the crowds and noise of Santa Cruz’s boardwalk. Once on a spring visit a few years ago, we sat mesmerized for nearly 30 minutes watching a sea lion tend to her newborn cub while waves crashed around them on their rocky perch.

Former Californians now living in Austin, Texas, Steve and his husband Carmine have an adopted son Baltazar (18). The great family travel memories they’ve built together inspired Steve to start gayfamilytrips.com, a website devoted to the topic of gay family travel.

 

5 Pride Pro-tips for Pride-Rookie Parents

Polly at Pride

Polly at Pride

If this your first Pride with your family, you’re probably wondering how you’re going to get through the day with your good humor — and your wee charges – intact. And for good reason!

The downside of pride-as-a-parent: it’s not the same as when you were a footloose, fancy-free non-parent. The parade route covers nearly a mile and a half, which amounts to a half-hour walk on hard pavement even before you factor in the pre-parade wait and the stop-and-go of parading.

The pride-as-a-parent upside, especially if you march with the OFC contingent: it’s nothing short of transcendent, walking up Market Street with your whole family, watching your children be cheered on by rainbow flag-waving strangers like they’re astronauts returning from the moon.  The supply of pride from that s/hero’s welcome lasts a year, and is well worth what you go through to enable your kids to experience it.

If you make it to the Family Garden (or go there directly), you’ll be greeted by a veritable sea of our families, safely frolicking inside our very own playground.  We’ll have healthy snacks and beverages inside there, plus our own port-a-potties (not to be underestimated!). Also: balloon animals, face painting, story time, and play structure fun.

So! For all pride-rookie parents, here are five essential things to remember:

  1. Bring food and water.

  2. Bring wheels, if you can.

  3. Remember sun protection.

  4. Attach an ID to the little ones.

  5. Create an exit strategy and end on a good note.

1. Bring food and water. This one’s close to a parental no-brainier: it’s a warm, sunny June day, and even in the most minimalist of scenarios you’ll be out in the elements for hours plural. We’ll be distributing some water at the contingent gathering spot, but even so, be sure to bring enough water to hydrate yourself and your little ones. Plus do bring easy-to-carry healthy snacks to curb the hunger pangs.  We’ll be selling healthy snacks and smoothies at cost in the Family Garden, so just hold it together ‘til you get there!

2. Bring wheels, if you can. The only thing nearly as important as food & water are wheels, any wheels, whatever wheels you’re able bring to the parade site & schlepp back home: stroller (no big kid is too big if they can jam into it!), wagon, scooter, tricycle, skateboard, roller blades, bikes: whatever conveyance you can bring that will ease the mile, bring it! I even saw a family with a custom rig: someone attached wheels to the bottom of a crib, and they rolled that ’til it gave up the ghost half-way up the street.

3. Remember sun protection. It’ll be sunny, and sun protection of any & all sorts is in order: wide-brimmed hat; sunglasses; sunscreen. Again: it’s going to be hours in the sun on a fine June day. Don’t overheat or burn.

4. Attach an ID to the little ones. Whether you go low-tech and write your name (not the kids’ name) and cell phone number on their little forearms, or you affix one of those ID wristbands on ’em, or you somehow securely attach a laminated card to your kid’s person, be sure there is a super-clear way for someone to know to contact you in the unlikely yet very upsetting event you’re separated.

5. Create an exit strategy and end on a good note.  Talk together as a family about what to expect from Pride, and how much is going to feel like enough. Reading through Gayle Pitman’s fantastic new book This Day in June would be fantastic prep; she’ll be in the Family Garden this year reading from the book and hanging out with families. Agree in advance how you’ll decide when it’s time to go, whether it’s the grown ups or the kids who are supersaturated. It’s a thrilling day, but for years, my own family simply marched up Market Street and then dropped down into BART at Civic Center, as full as we could manage. One of the key tenets of dog training is “End on a good note!” so that the most recent memory is a positive one. That goes for Pride, too.

Together we can make this the Best! Pride! Ever!

By Polly Pagenhart, Family Programs Director at Our Family Coalition
Polly also blogs at Lesbian Dad

Wedding in a Week

Post by Maria Iorillo of San Francisco Midwife

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Dina and I have been together for 19 years. She is amazing, wonderful, marriage-material-from-day-one! A few years back, I really can’t remember, I asked her to marry me. She knew that marriage was actually a difficult topic for me, so she had said, “I won’t pressure you, I won’t even ask. But someday, you are going to ask me. Even if I have to wait until I am 65, I know someday you will ask.” So, a few years back, after working through my own self doubts and hesitations, I asked.

Of course, she said yes.

But what did it really mean? It was a sentiment from my heart. I want to marry you. But, there really was nothing else to do at that point. I didn’t want to get married in a different state and then come back to California. So, we waited. Between then and now, I probably asked her to marry me again a couple dozen times.

On June 26th, 2013, Prop 8 and DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) went down in flames. I watched, riveted, to my television at 7am (which I usually never do). I texted my son that love conquers hate. He asked me if we were gonna go for it. I said, “I think so. Wanna be there?” He said, “Don’t you dare do it without me!”

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I imagined Dina and me waiting on line with hundreds of other couples and us tweeting as we were getting closer to our turn. “Marriage in 2 hours.” “Meet us in 15.” Truth be told, we didn’t even know HOW to get married. It was Gay Pride weekend, so that Saturday, we asked another couple who had recently partaken in this ancient ritual, how it was done.

Go online.

On the City and County of San Francisco website, they announced that they would be marrying couples all weekend. City Hall is usually closed to the public on Saturday and Sunday but they knew the time was now.

LineOn Sunday, we got on line with hundreds of other giddy, in love couples. There were families with children, two men, two women, some in tuxes, some in sneakers and jeans. As each couple passed with their marriage certificate, the crowd cheered. Dina and I filled out our application for a marriage certificate and after 2 and a half hours, we were done with part A of getting married. We needed to wait for Tyler for part B, the ceremony.

Fortunately, Tyler, who is 21, came home from college the next day. We went online. We made an appointment. July 9th, 1:30pm, County Clerk’s office.

By Tuesday, July 2nd, we were starting to plan, but I was dreaming of a bigger venue in City Hall. I skimmed over a wedding package on the San Francisco county website where more people could come. Then, I found it. Weekday Balcony rentals. Click. I called to the City’s Events Planning Office and asked what they had available, as soon as possible. Tuesday, July 9th would work on the 4th-floor balcony. You can have 120 people. I’ll take it!

Dina and I went down that afternoon to look at the balcony. It is on the fourth floor with beautiful natural light and white marble everywhere — certainly a gorgeous place to have a wedding.

July 4th. Potluck at Stephanie Forster’s. Which shirt do you like the best? What shoes should we wear? Stephanie, Sam and Liz took us under their wings and coached us for 3 hours about what we needed, from girlie undergarments to make-up and hair. Dina and I came home overwhelmed, excited, and maybe a little nauseous. This was really happening.

The 8th. The Day Before Our Wedding. We still didn’t have rings. Down at City Hall, checking out the venue. Here’s the plan: 93 in the Bridal party! 15 midwife bridesmaids with 17 babes-in-arms will follow, announcing the baby’s name and age. Dina and I proceed in. 53 flower girls and boys follow, each announcing their name and age and giving Dina and I one flower each. Obviously, these are all “my babies”, from 9-day-old Micah to 22-year-old Natasha.

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Rings. Yeah, those. Okay, we make one last ditch effort to find rings in our sizes before we will have to order them and just use stand-ins for the wedding. We go to the back of REI to the Diamond Center on a tip from Kevin Ehrenrich, Oliver’s Dad (Baby 1001). There we find a man who says he can make our rings, to size, with engraving, by 11am tomorrow. Really? It’s GO time!

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July 9th. Wedding Day. Excitement, beauty, joyful ruckus, happy chaos. Kate Holcombe (mother of Calder, Hayes and Sam) came up to us at the last moment and gave us both something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. We loved it! All went perfectly and beyond our wildest dreams. We felt so much love and support from this amazing community. We feel blessed, grateful, giddy, overjoyed, lucky.

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Read the full article on Wisewoman Childbirth Traditions Newsletter: Wedding in a Week!