When hiking with kids of different ages, you have to calibrate it to how long the youngest (or the weakest or the slowest) is going to last. I learned this the hard way when I ended up trudging down a mountain with my five-year-old on my back, the older girls skipped well ahead of us.
But in the city, adventures are less about physical stamina and more about retaining interest. I recently discovered a few excellent day treks on the Rooftop at Yerba Buena Gardens perfect for the whole family.
The Children’s Creativity Museum (formerly The Zeum)
Before you tell me no museum can hold the attention of varying ages, let me assure you–this is a museum for the 21st-century kid. Teenagers, not strangely uptight adults, run many of the activities. there are opportunities to create projects and productions like Claymation movies. There are play stations catering to the emerging tech-savvy youth or uncomplicated creative fun for the youngest family members. Do keep in mind that the projects can get a bit time-intensive, so make sure you have time to let creative juices flow.
Children’s Garden and Carousel: If you don’t have the whole day to spend or if you don’t want to be indoors, you could just opt for the playgrounds, gardens, fountains and Carousel outside the Children’s Museum.
The Carousel itself is a wonder, especial for kids who’ve had to settle for more modern versions that service the county-fair circuit. It’s a real antique from 1906, designed for Playland at the Beach in 1912, where it turned around and around for 60 years. The horses and benches are hand-carved, and it’s hard not to appreciate the careful craftsmanship.
You’ll also find a Play Circle with interactive features designed by M. Paul Friedberg, a master architect of the intellectual playground. Features like the sand circle, a play stream (of water), a xylophone, and 25-foot tube slide made me wonder whether Friedberg ever really grew up, designing something he wished for as a kid.
After all that, there is no way your kids will have enough stamina for the nearby Bowling Alley, Ice Skating Rink, or Cho-En Butterfly Garden. But come back another day and there will be more left to be desired by the youngest and the oldest.