Levi's Stadium: The good, the bad, the ugly.

Levi's Stadium

This weekend Alfie is watching Manchester United play FC Barcelona in the International Champions Cup. I'm green with envy! These are two of the biggest football clubs in the world, and even if only a portion of their first team plays, it's going to be an amazing match. Hopefully he'll get to see the (un)holy trinity of strikers -- Messi, Suarez, and Neymar -- match skills against Van Persie, Rooney, Mata, and more. What's more, they'll be playing in one of the best new stadiums around: Levi's Stadium.

Levi's Stadium is the home of the San Francisco (um, not quite accurate any more!) Forty-Niners football team. The new stadium is located right across the parking lot from the Great America theme park in Santa Clara. I visited Levi's Stadium for the first time early this year for a Monster Truck event, and immediately understood why so many people love this place.  Here are the top 3 reasons I think Levi's Stadium is great:

The stadium is HUGE.  It holds 68,500 people and it's really impressive.

The stadium takes advantage of all the latest technology. Levi's stadium is the first United States professional football stadium to have achieved LEED Gold certification, with many sustainable features like a green roof, solar panels, and reclaimed water irrigation system. People with tickets to a Levi's Stadium event can use their Stadium app to purchase parking passes and order food at the stadium -- you can either pick it up at an express lane or have it delivered to your seat!  Other hi-tech conveniences for fans include charging stations (yes!!) and giant screens that show all the action.

Yes, they serve the usual hot dogs and fries and burgers pretzels, and pizza, but I love that they serve so many other things to eat! You can get fish and chips, curry, German sausages, and more.

Now, on to the dark side. There are two things I dislike about this stadium and the team that runs it: Traffic management and Community Relations. I understand that with 68,000 people descending on a single location, there is bound to be traffic, and I do commend management for attempting to plan ahead. However, traffic is still a mess around the stadium. Despite their best efforts, traffic flow can be really confusing, especially if you're not the kind of person who does online research before the event, or checks Twitter for traffic updates. Parking is expensive, and if you don't buy parking passes well in advance (online), you'll end up parking in a satellite lot miles and miles away.

What's worse, if you aren't attending an event at the stadium but are headed somewhere near it, you'll be redirected to parts unknown without any warning. That happened to me when I picked The Pea up at a dance convention located right across the stadium. I was forced to turn right when I wanted to go straight, and it took me a good twenty minutes (our van doesn't have GPS) and a few panicked touches of my phone (to get GPS) to find my way back.

That brings me to the second problem: being seen as a money-hungry asshole by everyone around you. The 49ers have not exactly endeared themselves to the local community. For example, they've struck a deal with Great America to have the park close down on game night, which is great for Levi's Stadium (more parking) and Great America (more money), but not great for families who want to visit Great America. The team was also involved in a controversy over soccer fields that they promised to build for the local community. Not only did they renege on their promise, they put in a bid to the city to purchase the soccer fields beside the stadium so they could turn it into parking lots, leaving hundreds of youth stranded with no soccer fields to play on.  Fortunately, the local soccer moms got up in arms and convinced the city council not only to vote to reevaluate the proposal, but also to return a donation made by the 49ers to the city, citing "conflict of interest". It's good to see kids and families win against corporate greed for once.  Hopefully the 49ers will get their act together and show everyone that they're as pretty on the inside as they are on the outside.

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Palo Alto's Magical Bridge Playground: a place for everyone

One of the reasons I love living in Palo Alto is that we're living in a place that values innovation and change. Traffic lights and potholes and internet access (hello, city council, when are we getting city-wide free wifi?) notwithstanding, Palo Alto and Silicon Valley is always on the cutting edge. And we're not just talking hi-tech: check out Palo Alto's newest playground, the Magical Bridge Playground. It's the only playground in the Bay Area designed to accommodate kids of all abilities, and one of the few playgrounds in the country that is 100% wheelchair accessible.

I've already published write-ups on the playground on Silicon Valley Mamas, Red Tricycle (the article even got picked up by SF Gate!), and Mommynearest, but I had a few more photos of this wonderful playground that I wanted to share.

What to do in Bodega Bay

Bodega Bay is one of those places that people know because of the movies -- it was the setting for Alfred Hitchcock's movie The Birds. Don't worry, unlike the movie, Bodega Bay isn't a creepy place at all! It's a great place for Bay Area families to spend the day.

Practice makes Perfect: Introducing the Skills Bros Jr

Ball control is one of the most basic soccer skills, and my boys have been practicing keepy-ups (kicking the ball up with one or both feet without letting the ball touch the ground) since they were in first grade.  I remember when doing 5 keepy-ups was a challenge. They were so frustrated and impatient to do more, but Alfie and I reminded them of their experiences with the Shred Sled -- that they would only improve with practice.

So they practiced.

Where to find Dole Pineapple Whip in the Bay Area

If you read my blog or follow my Instagram/Twitter/Facebook feed, you'll know that I'm obsessed with the Dole Pineapple Whip Float. It's my favorite Disneyland treat, and I have one every time I visit the park. I love it so much I even searched high and low to find the perfect recipe for homemade Dole Pineapple Whip Float so I can make it myself when I'm craving the taste.

One of the things that makes the Dole Pineapple Whip Float (and the ice-cream-only version, the Dole Pineapple Whip) so special is that it's only available at Disneyland or Walt Disney World. Sure, I've heard of places outside the parks that claim to sell it. Apparently there's even one in San Francisco called Pineapples. But does it really taste like the real thing?

Totoro Claymation Movie

The Pea loves creating stop-motion animation videos, but I think this is one of her best yet.  She filmed during our recent visit to the Children's Creativity Museum. Their Animation Studio lets kids create figures out of clay, and provides sets, backdrops, cameras, and software so they can create a stop-motion video.

This was the longest we've ever spent inside the Animation Studio -- three whole hours! Even though Totoro is a relatively simple character, The Pea took her time and spared no attention to detail, so the results are truly adorable. I'm so proud of her!

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Muir Woods: Best place in the Bay Area for a beginner's hike

Redwood groves are all around Northern California, and they're great places to take family and friends. One of the easiest to get to, is Muir Woods. It's just 12 miles north of San Francisco, but when you get there, it's like entering another world. We spent a couple of hours at Muir Woods over spring break, and it reminded me of how lucky I am to live in this area. The redwoods are truly majestic, amazing, awesome, and every other superlative adjective you can think of.

5 Things Tweens and Teens Will Love about the Children's Creativity Museum

Children's Creativity Museum

Today I took the kids to the Children's Creativity Museum for a blog event. It has been a couple of years since we last visited, so I wasn't sure whether they would be bored. They did want to go to the Animation Studio exhibit, so I figured we could stay for a couple of hours, have lunch, then leave.

We ended up staying at the museum for SIX HOURS.  I guess playing with cool technology never gets old!  It's true that a large portion of the museum appeals to younger kids (the puppet theatre, the soft play area, the art center, the reading nook), but there's still so much that kids of all ages will enjoy. Here are our top 5 choices for exhibits at the Children's Creativity Center for older kids:

Good bye, grade school

Yesterday we said goodbye to the end of an era.  The Pea has graduated from middle school; next year she'll be starting high school.  3Po and Jammy have graduated from grade school; next year they'll be starting middle school.  We've closed the chapter on the elementary school years.

10 Things on my To-Do List for the Disneyland Diamond Celebration

There's never enough time to do everything I want to do at the Disneyland Resort. Next week I'll be there during their 24-Hour Celebration, but even with all that extra time in the parks, there's no way I can experience all the special events and celebrations they have planned.  I have the full list of 24-Hour/Diamond Celebration happenings and goings-on over at Bonggamom Finds, but I have to prioritize and decide which of them I really want to do.

So, after much agonizing, I've come up with a Top 10 List of things I have to do during our visit to the Disneyland Resort next week.  I'm not talking about eating a Dole Whip Float -- that's something I do on every visit.  These are things I'll only get to do during the 24-Hour event and during the Diamond Anniversary Celebration.  Without further ado, here's my list: