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Archive for the 'Family Entertainment' Category

Parents offer Alameda County fair tips

Hello! I know it’s been a long time (too long) since this Pleasanton mommy of two has blogged, but I’m dusting off the keyboard in honor of my all-time favorite summer family pastime.

This weekend will mark our seventh year of taking our kid (now 2 kids) to the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton.

I posted some tips here last year that still ring true, so here they are again (updated slightly), along with some new ones from readers. Feel free to add yours!

1. Always get the free program at the entrance. Attractions and events vary daily and from year to year. New this year: A farm tour to introduce kids to rural life; kid and adult hot dog-related contests; an India-themed festival on final day.

2. Make sure to venture beyond the carnival rides. There are so many free fun things to do that will stretch your budget further. And if you can’t avoid the rides, buy a wristband. ($25) It will pay for itself quickly.

3. Visit all the furry critters. But bring the hand sanitizer. It’s usually provided but having your own is your best bet.

3. Seek out indoor exhibits when it’s hot. Especially the garden displays. Ahhhh. Cool gurgling water.

4. Bring your own food! Yes, you are allowed to do this, and it gives the belly a nice break from those funnel cakes. Our playgroup used to do a picnic in the central shaded grassy area by the barbecue station, and once someone brought in a whole cake for us to share. (So much for belly breaks). There are several tasty takeout and dine-in restaurants located nearby at the corner of Bernal and Valley avenues. (Or, even better, plan a sidetrip to our quaint/historic downtown Pleasanton — just a short drive away and full of shops and eateries.)

5. Avoid the high parking fees. If you’re from out of town, take BART to the Dublin-Pleasanton station and then the fair shuttle ($2 for those 6 and older; $1 seniors/disabled) from the station and from the Livermore Transit Center.

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Posted on Tuesday, June 30th, 2009
Under: Family Entertainment, Family Outings | No Comments »

FAB Five for the Weekend

 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
1. Bee. B-E-E. Bee. The riotously funny, Tony Award-winning musical “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” lands at Livermore’s Bankhead Theater this weekend for four performances. ($35 and up)

2. The San Francisco Opera and the San Francisco Giants are teaming up for a free live simulcast of Puccini’s “Tosca” Friday, June 5 at 8 pm. at AT&T Park. And yes, you can have ballpark hot dogs, garlic fries and popcorn with your arias. The show is free (the hot dogs require cash, of course), and you can reserve a free early admission pass to nab the best seats.
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Posted on Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009
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BOARD Games: Quelf

Quelf When it comes to board games, “Quelf” was our hands-down favorite this holiday season. No need to even read the directions for this game ($28.90, 3-8 players, ages 12 and up). Gather up your tweens and teens, pick a strange character and move him along the multicolored brick road, according to the roll of the die, then read the card that matches the game board space and prepare for the unexpected. Quelf has been described, variously, as the “weirdest, best game ever” and “Cranium, if the makers of Cranium had been high when they designed it.” That’s as good a description as any of a game that will have you composing poetry about your armpits, orating in a foreign language you don’t know (but will make up), or ending every sentence in “izzle.” There are trivia questions, brain teasers and charade cards, as well as Roolz cards with lasting consequences – you may have to shriek “pizza party!” every time the phone rings, or offer hushed golf-style commentary on other players’ actions for the rest of the game. It’s a fantastic game for family reunions and multi-generational play too.

OK, we’ve dished on our favorite board games. Now it’s your turn. Click “comments” and tell us, what’s your family’s favorite game?

Posted on Friday, April 24th, 2009
Under: Family Entertainment | No Comments »

BOARD GAMES: Ninja-style

Ninja versus Ninja A ninja board game? With teeny tiny, adorable ninjas sneaking from dojo to dojo? What’s not to like? “Ninja vs. Ninja” ($24.99, a two-player game for ages 8 and up) is a fun, fast strategy game, but it’s for two players only, so it may not be the best thing for a family game night. Still, any ninja fan will be tickled and, as far as we know, there aren’t exactly a lot of board games out there for the ninja demographic. This one’s made by Out of the Box, makers of Apples to Apples. Idea is, you roll a cool die that sends one of your little ninjas into enemy territory, but you only have a few moves in which to get him back. The deeper he advances, the more points you get – but the more difficult it is to retrieve the tiny fighter, and the points don’t count unless he gets back safely. Suffice it to say, I scored zero points and lost my entire dojo’s worth of ninjas, while my kid cackled wildly and swept to victory.

Posted on Thursday, April 23rd, 2009
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BOARD GAMES: Harry Potter-style

Clue: Harry Potter Expelliarmus! Sure, we all played Clue growing up, and many of us have played some of the other versions put out by Parker Brothers, so we were pretty thrilled when this Harry Potter version landed in our laps ($24.99, for 3-5 players, ages 9 and up). Draco Malfoy in the potions room with the sleeping draught? Secret passages and pathways that change? There was so much promise in this premise, but alas Parker Brothers not only gilded the lily, they dipped it in chocolate, rolled it in nonpareils and then bronzed it too. The game includes not only the standard Clue cards, but a slew of help, disaster, ally and house point cards that get players so confused, they lose focus. The game became instantly better when we threw away the nonessential components and got back to basics – Dolores Umbridge in the Infirmary with the lead pipe, er, Impedimenta Curse.

Posted on Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009
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MORE Great Board Games

Backseat Drawing If you’ve got your TV turned off this week – and even if you don’t – you’re probably busily looking for fun things to do with the fam. So this week, we’re talking about our favorite board games. Have you played “Backseat Drawing“? ($24.99, all ages, 4-10 players) In this goofy game that turns Pictionary on its ear, two teams race to identify sketches drawn by teammates – only problem is, the artists don’t know what they’re doing. No, we don’t mean they’re lousy artists, but every stroke of the marker is directed by a teammate who holds the card. It’s kind of like those Survivor challenges where a blindfolded player is guided through an obstacle course by a teammate’s verbal instructions. Only with whiteboards and markers and no blindfold. Very fun, which is what you’d expect from the company that makes Apples to Apples. The regular version’s cards spell out the object to be drawn. The junior version has a picture of the object. We just wished some of the objects were more bizarre. After a while you get bored drawing trucks and submarines, so we started writing our own… for the other team.

Posted on Tuesday, April 21st, 2009
Under: Family Entertainment | No Comments »

TV Turnoff Week: Day 1.5

Family games (Michelle Hazelwood illustration) Last year during TV turnoff week, we ran a Fab Five round-up of fun family crafts and games, including flower fairies, DIY checkers and bizarre hopscotch games. Let’s see what kinds of fun we can dream up this time, not just for this much-hyped “TVs are evil” week, but all year round.

You remember playing Parcheesi and Sorry as a kid? A few months ago, we set out to find the most entertaining, endlessly replayable board games for teens, with the help of 20 teens, college kids and 20somethings who road-tested 15 different board games. Some games were great, some were snoozers and some … well, they very vastly improved after we tweaked the rules a bit. So this week, we’re going to profile a few of those games and add a few more for the younger set. Ready to Toss Your Cookies?
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Posted on Monday, April 20th, 2009
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FAB Five for the Weekend (& a little bit more)

Mother Goose illustration by Doug Hansen 1. Lawrence Hall of Science is always a fun play date, but next Monday at 1 p.m., the author of a new, gorgeous “Mother Goose” picture book will be on hand too. Fresno artist Doug Hansen added California wildlife to the classic rhymes and set them in iconic California landscapes, including Mt. Lassen and this California mission. (Free with museum admission.)

2. Got a teen musician, stand-up comic or improv artist at home? The City of Pleasanton is hosting a Teen Open Mic Night this Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Veteran’s Memorial Building. Performers must sign up between 6 and 7 p.m. (Tickets $5-10)
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Posted on Wednesday, April 1st, 2009
Under: Books, Family Entertainment | No Comments »

FAB FIVE: Intro to Music

Davies Symphony Hall How do you turn your child into a music lover? All you have to do is expose them to the joy and wonder of the art form. Let them fall asleep to classical music recordings – we loved Mozart’s “Magic Flute,” particularly the CD and beautifully illustrated book set adapted by Anne Gatti. Take your kids to hear your local high school’s orchestra or symphonic band perform, or to catch the school musical. Play Wii Music. Get them a recorder. Start piano lessons. It’s all good. And if you live in the Bay Area, you have a treasure trove of musical opportunities in your very own backyard, including these five upcoming concerts that are perfect for children of all ages:

1. Amazing music and a 3-D extravaganza? The California Symphony’s spring concert features piano prodigy Conrad Tao, age 14, performing Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G, and a stunning, 3-D film that accompanies Mussorgsky’s famous “Pictures at an Exhibition” on May 3 and 5 at Walnut Creek’s Lesher Center for the Arts.
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Posted on Monday, March 23rd, 2009
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FAB FIVE for the Weekend

Vaquero Day 1. Calling all cowboys and little buckaroos! This Saturday is Vaquero Day at the Los Vaqueros Watershed, Kellogg Picnic Area in Brentwood. Hosted by the Alameda County Cattle Women and Contra Costa Water District, this free family fest features horse-drawn wagon rides, farm animals, hands-on cowboy activities, sheep shearing, and calf branding – with paint, not the likely-to-traumatize-small-children kind. (The event is free, but bring $6 for parking.)

2. Celebrate Persian New Year – Norooz – at Berkeley’s Habitot Children’s Museum this Saturday with Norooz-inspired art projects, Iranian children’s stories and a Golden Thread performance. (Children $8, Adults $7)
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Posted on Wednesday, March 18th, 2009
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