I know this doesn't usually stop us, but we have hiked muddy areas of Las Trampas before, and while Nicholas would adore it, it would be a lot more 'stopping to pull hiking boots out of ground every five minutes while gloppy mud tries to hold onto shoe and massive sucking sounds emanate from said ground' than hiking. For that reason, and that reason only, we decided to find a semi-indoor activity.
I recently heard of the Oakland Museum of California, though I constantly screwed up the name and kept calling it the California Museum of Oakland. Really not much of a difference, and Peter had no idea what I was talking about, so really a moot point. It's a museum (I know, shocking!) in Oakland about California (honestly!). I read about the 2 year, $58 million renovation, and decided it was worth seeing that afternoon.
Apparently the rest of California read the very same article and had the same reaction, as the line was out the door when we arrived. We contemplated buying a membership, but since they only charge for ages 9 and above, we would have to go several times to make it worth it. As soon as the kids found a place to play (waiting areas with rocks for piling get two thumbs up), the line started moving quickly. I freaked out and thought perhaps OMCA was part of the reciprocity deal with the science centers and museums, but no such luck. This turned out to be a good thing, since my Lindsay Wildlife Card (and free pass) were sitting safely in a drawer at home.
We ended up only having an hour, and decided to start with the history hall. We were stopped by a Welcome to California sign, and I took the first of many bad pictures. I will blame it on the banning of flash photos and poor lighting. I completely understand why such rules are necessary, but it doesn't change the fact that the pictures* are terrible. However, not a good enough reason for me to not torture my readers with several!
After we took the requisite photo with the sign, we hit the map of the world. There had been an assortment of red dot stickers on the table and each person/family was supposed to put one on the map to indicate where they came from. As usual, we went with Iceland (we did move from there....). Sadly, all of the stickers appeared to have been used. I was happy to find an extra dangling on the wall above the map (sorry if someone really came from northern Greenland) and plopped it down around Reykjavik.
The dad-like guy of the family standing next to us wondered where I found a sticker, and I mentioned it was just lolling about on the wall, so I put it to better use. He then gave me my favorite quote of the day (maybe the weekend),
"You Icelanders certainly are resourceful!"
I explained the situation, and the father agreed with me that "where you hail from" could encompass many different areas for many people. We helped him find another wayward sticker, and moved on to view the rest of the History section.
To say the area was jam-packed with information is an understatement. I won't detail every little thing, as I think it is definitely worth seeing and don't want to spoil any surprises. I will say that active toddlers may not find it as enchanting as older children.
Nicholas enjoyed the museum (especially the airplane seats), but it is not a "please touch" children's museum by any stretch of the imagination. While there were certain items that could be touched, most were "eyes only". He didn't have a hard time, but I would have completely understood if he had. Realistically, this is probably more for the 5 and up set, though I would plan on interspersing outdoor breaks if we were there for a longer visit.
I thought we dawdled quite a bit, but even so managed to depart the history area within an hour. We checked on the Science section (yes, it really is closed until 2012 due to renovations) and had a brief tour of the gardens before departing.
Overall review? Best for older kids, and I would allot at least 2-3 hours. We didn't get to view the art collection, and possible that could be more extensive than I imagine. Once the science section reopens, I would think this would be at least half a day or maybe something you revisit. If we had any plans to be here when the science hall opens again, I would consider joining. I think not only would we enjoy a few visits, but out of town folks might like to take a look, too.
*Don't worry, pictures will be coming soon. Our internet is barely chugging along these days, so all I could do to eke out this post. Oh, and *technically* I am supposed to be tidying the garage right now so that the movers doing the pre-pack out survey tomorrow don't freak and think we are trying to move the entire state. I exaggerate, though, it really isn't that bad. I have de-cluttered quite a bit over the years, so I am hoping we will be pleasantly surprised by their estimate.