San Francisco Bay Area Essentials

Find the best places to go in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Entertainment Essentials: Best Places to ...

ENTERTAIN THE KIDS

Lindsay Wildlife Museum, 1931 First Ave, Walnut Creek (925) 935-1978
Not only is the museum a place to see and learn about wild animals, it also offers volunteer and teaching programs for children and teenagers, with opportunities to interact closely with the animals. It also serves as a wildlife hospital, taking in injured or orphaned animals and rehabilitating them.

Safari West Wildlife Preserve and African Tent Camp, 3115 Porter Creek Rd., Santa Rosa (707) 579-2551
Take a ride on the wild side at this 400-acre outdoor wildlife park. Families can hop into an open-air, Indiana Jones-style vehicle for a three-hour safari tour to see giraffes, gazelles, ostriches and other animals. Reservations required.

California Academy of Sciences, Golden Gate Park, 55 Music Concourse Dr., San Francisco (415) 379-8000
Experience a living rainforest under a 90-foot-diameter glass dome. Watch penguins dive for fish. Gaze at the stars in a state-of-the-art planetarium. The new California Academy of Sciences re-opened in September 2008 and is now home to more than 40,000 animals, including Amazonian piranhas, fruit bats and giant octopuses. The museum's youngest patrons -- infants and toddlers -- can also check out the Early Explorers Cove, where they can play in a tree house.

Exploratorium, The Palace of Fine Arts, 3601 Lyon St., San Francisco (415) 561-0363
Classic exhibits such as the shadow box let children jump and pose in a darkened room and see their shadows captured on the wall. In the tactile dome, they navigate through a maze in complete darkness, using just their sense of touch. The Exploratorium is nothing if not hands-on, in the spirit of making science fun.

CATCH AN INDEPENDENT BAND

Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., San Francisco (415) 621-4455
It's out of the way, but the Bottom of the Hill is known to draw bands about to make it big.

Cafe Du Nord, 2174 Market St., San Francisco (415) 861-5016
Intimate, with a speakeasy feel, Cafe Du Nord is a local favorite to catch an act.

HEAR CLASSICAL MUSIC

San Francisco Opera, War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco (415) 861-4008
Internationally renowned, the San Francisco Opera produces star-studded operas each season. Its stage has been used to premiere new works such as Amy Tan's The Bonesetter's Daughter and it has debuted well-known singers such as Elisabeth Schwarzkopf.

SPEND ZERO MONEY

One day each month, San Francisco's museums are open to the public for free.

First Sunday:

First Tuesday:

First Wednesday:

CATCH A BALLGAME

AT&T Park, 24 Willie Mays Plaza, San Francisco (415) 972-1800
Home to the San Francisco Giants, the ballpark on the waterfront draws capacity crowds each season. And in true Bay Area spirit, it offers wireless Internet access alongside garlic fries sans trans fat.

BUY SOMETHING HIPPIE

Telegraph Avenue, Telegraph Avenue, between Bancroft and Parker, Berkeley
Though some of the shops have made way for mainstream retail chains -- Hot Topic and Athlete's Foot, to name a few -- this corridor still retains its free-spirited feel, with street vendors selling tie-dyed shirts and Che Guevara tchotchkes.

Haight-Ashbury, Haight Street, between Central Avenue and Cole Street, San Francisco
If you're looking for a relic of the 1960s, look no further than Haight-Ashbury, where rockers such as Janis Joplin used to call home. Where else can you find a bookstore dedicated to anarchist literature?

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