Hit the Road: Spring Break Day Trips!

Photo Credit: Pink Sherbet Photography via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Pink Sherbet Photography via Compfight cc

No plans for a family Spring Break vacation this year? No worries.

Check out these super ideas for easy day-trips to entertain you and the kids while school’s out for the week.We’ve included helpful insider tips to get the most of your time together.

San Francisco/Bay Area

It’s a lovely time of year to venture north – just an hour or so from SF – to the Guerneville/Russian River area. On a nice day, hit Sonoma Coast State Beach and if the river is more your speed, visit Johnson’s Beach on the Russian River, which is super family-friendly (i.e., no glass containers, alcohol or dogs allowed).When your kids tire of the beach, but still have energy to burn, head to Armstrong Redwoods State National Reserve to hike through the enormous redwoods. You can always opt to drive through the forest to take in the sights if your crew is too petered out for a hike.

Flavors Unlimited is the perfect stop for an  ice cream treat. It’s conveniently located just off the main road in Guerneville.
Mrs. Grossman's Sticker Factory
Mrs. Grossman’s Sticker Factory

For more to do in the area, include a visit to Mrs. Grossman’s Sticker Factory or the Charles Schultz Museum. Both are fun for kids and adults, too.

Costs: Mrs. Grossman’s Sticker Factory – Adults $7, Kids Under 12 $5, Kids Under 3 – Free. Tours are limited to 15 people and reservations are required. Call  800.429.4549 to book a reservation.
Charles Schultz Museum – Adults $10, Youth 4-18 $5 and Museum Members and Kids Under 3 – Free.

Los Angeles

Photo Credit: TepeyacFarm via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: TepeyacFarm via Compfight cc

If you live in the LA area, the obvious choice for a kid-approved day trip might be Disneyland. But, chances are you’ve been there, done that and would rather find a more affordable day with your kids.

Have you been to the Santa Barbara Zoo? It’s just 90 miles north of Los Angeles, and is considered one of the most beautiful zoos in the world. Where else can you see more than 500 animals while overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Andree Clark Bird Refuge and Santa Ynez Mountains? Gorgeous!

If you go on a holiday weekend, get there early to avoid the lines, but don’t sweat the parking. There is usually plenty of parking near the zoo.  It’s right by the beach so it’s typically chilly – pack a sweater, and don’t forget sunscreen and water.  You might want to bring a picnic, too, as you’ll have no trouble finding a nice spot. Opt for a meal at one of the zoo’s cafe is you need a break from packing lunches. Not to miss  – feeding the giraffes and riding the train, which goes all around the zoo.

Cost: Adults $14, Kids 2-12 $10, Seniors (60+) and children under 2 – free.

San Diego

You can enjoy the journey as much as the destination by taking the train to Historic San Juan Capistrano. For many kids, a train ride is all they need to make the day memorable, but you can easily keep the fun coming after the train stops. The charming town has something for everyone:

  • Head to Zoomars, an eclectic petting zoo with a can’t miss new attraction – Miner’s Gulch. Visitors can relive the Gold Rush, panning for gold, gemstones and fossils. 

Photo from Zoomars

  • A must do for young and old – have lunch in an old train car! The food is fabulous and the experience of eating in a train car will keep the kids occupied long enough for you to enjoy it.

Costs: Zoomars – Adults $8, Children $7.


Spring Break is perfectly timed for a visit to Lamb’s Farm, which opens for the season in late March. The farm is located in Libertyville, Illinois, less than an hour drive from the city. Here you will find a petting area with sheep and goat, mini-golf, a mini-train ride, cow bounce house and an Old World carousel. It’s also loved for its country-style, reasonably restaurants, so no need to bring food.  Their Weekend Breakfast Buffet, Saturday Night BBQ Buffet and Friday Night Fish Fry are highly recommended.

It’s a farm, so dress accordingly!

Cost: $5 for Age 2-Adults with additional, minimal costs for the train ride, mini-golf, carousel and bounce house. All proceeds benefit the non-profit organization that runs the farm. The organization serves adults with developmental disabilities, giving them a home and responsibilities in the community through their work at Lamb’s Farm.

New York City

Just 1-½ hours from NYC you’ll find bucolic Hyde Park on the east bay of the Hudson River. It’s an ideal day trip, not only for its scenic attributes, but also for its options and activities to entertain and feed everyone in the family. There’s the home of Franklin D. Roosevelt for a taste of history, the Culinary Institute of America  for a beautiful campus stroll, tour and amazing meal; and Big Bear Ziplines, which opened earlier this year to give new meaning to leaf peeping.  (The rides are exhilarating, and suitable even for the young, as long as an adult accompanies them!)

If you’re visiting on a weekday, you can stock your picnic basket at the Apple Pie Bakery, before topping the day off with a cinematic throwback: the Hyde Park Drive-In (which has vintage cartoon commercials and a kitschy snack bar). A great day, for everyone, conveniently packaged into one locale!

Costs: FDR –  $14/adult (two-day pass) and kids 15 and under are free. Big Bear Ziplines –  prices vary. You can book reservations on the tour that’s right for your group by calling 888.ZIP.BBZI (947.2294). Check local flash deal sites for coupons and reduced rates.

Extended family or friends in town for Spring Break, leaving you with large crew of kids to entertain? Hire a babysitter to come along and help out on your day-trip!

Fun Activities and Attractions to Entertain Your Kids After-School

Are you looking for a way to pull your kids away from the screen and entertain them after school? We’ve talked to parents in San Francisco, NYC, LA, Chicago and Boston for the inside scoop on some of the coolest after-school picks to register for and some to simply visit with your kids. If you’re working and hate for your kids to miss out on these fun activities, book a babysitter to cover the afternoons and have her take the kids.  These are sure-fire wins!


Row, Row, Row Your Boat

Photo by Steve Took It

How about renting a paddle boat in Golden Gate Park on a sunny afternoon? You and the kids can explore Stow Lake, and likely catch a glimpse of the ducks and turtles that make it their home. It’s a great way to get some fresh air and a bit of exercise, and the perfect excuse to pack a picnic to enjoy lakeside.  You can rent paddleboats and rowboats at Stow Lake Bike & Boat Rentals, located at the northwestern side of the lake. 

Build It! Lego Club

Photo by by eilonwy77

Organized by the San Francisco Public Library, these drop-in sessions provide all the Lego pieces needed to build vehicles, castles and pretty much anything you can dream up. There are numerous drop-in Build It! club sessions throughout the year so be sure to check the library events calendar for upcoming classes.

The Little Art Studio

The Little Art Studio

This Mill Valley studio offers classes for ages 1.5-12. Each class is focused around a specific art medium or technique, and children are encouraged to create in their own way and to freely move about the studio. The Little Art Studio understands how busy life is for parents, and is committed to making it all a bit easier by offering flexible scheduling. You can enroll for complete sessions, drop-ins, can pick and choose classes that accommodate your schedule and travel plans, and try out a class anytime there’s an open spot.


Los Angeles County Museum of Art  Boone’s Children’s Gallery

Arts for NexGen LACMA is a free youth membership program (the only free one in the country, in fact). It gives members free general admission to the LACMA and free admission for one accompanying adult.  Join and check out the multitude of offerings, including The Boone Children’s Gallery where you and your little one can create your own masterpiece; see live performances, tours, and self- guided activities; and participate in after-school workshops .To join, visit the LACMA box office or print the form and mail it in to the address provided.

Dawn Barnes Karate Kids

Photo by Edson Hong

This karate studio bills itself as a Life Skill School. It now offers a Karate Kitties class for the 2 and 3-year old set, and has a progressive series of classes through to the Invitation-Only Black Belt class. Parents love the kids-only, “love-based” approach to martial arts, and the flexible scheduling and Universal Membership make it really easy to fit classes into your weekly schedule. The Universal Membership allows you to take a class at any of their 8 locations, so you can make it to a class (no call required) no matter where you are in town that day.

Pretend City Children’s Museum

Pretend City Map

This place is “in the OC, but worth the drive,” according to more than one LA parent. It’s an incredibly unique place, essentially a microcosm for the real world, using 17 exhibits and activities to compose a small, interconnected city.  The focus is on play, hands-on learning experiences, role playing, and educational programming. They offer a full schedule of workshops and classes http://pretendcity.org/visit/events/, including Lil M Mornings, a program for preschoolers and kindergartners, and programming and assistance to kids with special needs. Sessions are included in the price of admission.  Admission: $12.50 per person. Located in Irvine.

Creation Station

Image by Creation Station

Creation Station in Culver City is a wildly creative dance school concept, providing movement based programs for children starting at 18 months of age through teen.  Focus is on fun, and all classes include costumes and props that are provided to help kids let loose and have a good time. Check out the class schedule, which now includes classes 7 days per week, and take advantage of a free trial class if you aren’t sure which class to choose.


Wishcraft Workshop


Here you will find arts and crafts that go beyond basic. This very hands-on, planet-friendly school has a full after-school program, 8-week sessions, mini camps and workshops. Some of the coolest offerings are sewing, doll making and sculpture.

Hubbard Street Dance

Photo by thejbird

School offers a “Dance After-School” program in partnership with area schools for children aged 4 to 12. Children can take ballet, modern jazz and hip-hop. Younger kids, starting at 18-months, can participate in a Creative Movement classes.

McFeteridge Sports Center (MSC)

Photo by by miskan

This complex, located within California Park, is the Chicago Park District’s only indoor ice rink and indoor tennis courts. The center is open 18 hours a day, 7 days a week, and offers lessons and clinics, as well as open skate.  When the weather warms up, it’s worth a visit to check out the outdoor pool, tennis courts and baseball field, as well as a nice playground. Until then, it’s all about ice skating. Open Skate Hours: All ages – Wed. & Fri., 3:30 – 5pm., Sat. & Sun. 4:30 – 6pm.


Urbanity Kids


Urbanity Kids’ classes are an award-winning blend of hip hop, contemporary dance, jazz, modern, music, and yoga. You can find dance and movement classes for infants as young as 6 months old – Baby Movers Open Play Space for ages 6 months to 2 years and a parent – and there are adults classes, too. Many of the younger kids classes require a parent accompany the child.

New England Aquarium

New England Aquarium

The New England Aquarium is always a fun visit, after school or on a rainy day. While you may be no stranger to the wonders of the aquarium, you might not know about Blue Discoveries Family Days. The drop-in programs for the entire family are held on select Saturdays and Sundays throughout the year, between 11 am and 3 pm, and are often free. The programs focus on learning about our planet through art, science and storytelling.

Little Groove Baby Music Classes

Here’s a live musical experience for infants, toddlers and preschoolers and their parents. It’s all about singing, dancing and making music with drums, shakers, and tambourines. Children also interact with puppets, bubbles, balls, pom poms, building blocks and one large parachute. Check out the schedule  for a class near you. Cost is $160 for an 8-week session. Locations throughout Boston and Newburyport.


Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center

It’s hot with tourists for good reason. The indoor and outdoor observation decks at the top of Rockefeller Center provide awe-inspiring views of the city. There’s an extra reason to go this winter: Until April 14th, take advantage of Sky Skate, a combination ticket that gives you admission to two magical winter traditions — The Rockefeller Center Skating Rink and Top of the Rock Observation Deck. Cost is $38, which includes skate rentals and admission to Top of the Rock. You can buy tickets at the Ice Rink Skate House or the Top of the Rock Box Office.

A “warm” winter day is a fantastic time to visit one of the NY Zoos – the Queens Zoo, Central Park Zoo or the Prospect Park Zoo. Each of them offers child and caregiver classes, such as the popular Toddler Time series for 2-3 year olds and Kinder Kritters for 4-5 year olds. You’ll have a chance to touch live animals, engage in movement and song activities, make a craft, and do an activity at a zoo exhibit. There are also Family Days at the Zoo with private exhibit viewings, themed activities, up-close animal encounters, and special celebrations on holidays. You might even sign up for a family overnight adventure, and explore the Zoo after dark!

You know how much Chelsea Piers has to offer, but now is the perfect time to hit the Sky Rink for a fun, wintertime activity for the whole family. Admission is $10 per person (including kids) and for $5 you can rent skates and $4.25 will get you a helmut so you’re fully prepared for a spin on the ice. Check the web site for a schedule, which includes after-school drop-ins. If your kids aren’t so sure on the ice, no worry. You can sign up for Skating School – a once a week 30 minute group – and from there move on to Hockey Prep or Figure Skating Prep programs.
Photo Care of Sky Rink

Need after school childcare help? Search for afternoon babysitters on UrbanSitter.com.

Ultimate Weekend Get-Aways (Without the Kids!)

You got the kids back to school and the family back into a school-time routine. Now it’s time to think about a little R & R time away from it all.

Whether you make it a romantic weekend, a girls’ or guys’ trip, or you go solo, this is the perfect time of year to take advantage of a few days away.

The kids will survive without you for a weekend – UrbanSitter can take care of that with babysitters available for overnights – and you’ll return refreshed and ready to jump back into family life.

Where to go? We’ve done the work so you don’t have to spend hours scouring the Web for ideas. Take our word for it. These top spots come highly recommended as ideal get-away spots this fall.

Go ahead, book it… and let us know how it went!

In the NYC Area:

It’s all about fall foliage this time of year. Just a bit more than a two-hour drive from NYC is the Lodge at Woodloch, an adults-only, all-inclusive, luxury spa nestled among the trees in the Poconos.

The resort has a gorgeous spa and offers a multitude of classes, including Mind & Body, water therapies, fitness, and something they call Creative Discovery work (think watercolor painting, drawing, drumming and cooking classes). You can also golf, go horseback riding, hike, and bike or kayak on the spectacular property or just outside of it.

Dining certainly hasn’t been overlooked here. Their TREE Restaurant offers fine, gourmet dining with some of the food grown right on the property at its own Farm-To-Table Garden.

And check out this very nice extra touch – The hotel offers door-to-door transportation in a chauffeured, luxury sedan for guests coming from Manhattan and staying a minimum of two nights.  Check out their website for details and a promo code.

In the San Francisco Area:

You can never go wrong with a Napa/Sonoma weekend escape, especially this time of year, but why not try something new? And it might just be right in your own back yard –  Tiburon. Regardless of where you live in the Bay Area, Tiburon, in Marin County, isn’t far. Stay at the Lodge at Tiburon. It’s recently been remodeled, and makes for a perfect home base for enjoying the area.

You can really get away from it all, hiding in a cabana at the property’s secluded pool. And there’s no need to break the Zen by dealing with your car. Park it when you arrive and never have to use it again. Everything you need is within walking distance.

Have drinks at Sam’s on the water or dine at one of the town’s many fabulous restaurants. If you yearn for a bit of Big City, jump on the ferry and head to San Francisco for a day trip, a bit of shopping or dinner.

In the Los Angeles Area:

A quick trip to the desert to revive, recharge and reconnect is in order. Only a two-hour drive from LA is The Hope Springs Resort in Desert Hot Springs.

This boutique resort is tiny – only 10 rooms (so book fast!) – and all about its gorgeous views and three, stress-zapping mineral water pools.  The property is very minimalist, a bit retro and very serene.

When not hanging poolside or enjoying a hike on one of the many desert trails, head to the Casino Restaurant at the nearby Two Bunch Palms Resort and Spa. They offer a tasty tapas menu that’s perfect for a late afternoon bite to eat in a beautiful setting.

In the Chicago Area:

For an easy pace, head to Galena, Illinois, about 160 miles outside of Chicago. The historic town is known for its beautiful B&Bs, antique shopping, and very quaint atmosphere on the Mississippi River. It’s so pretty that it’s often touted as the only place in the Midwest to consistently appear near the top of every “beautiful places” list in the US.

Our favorite lodging picks are the Farmer’s Guest House, a charming country inn; and the Cloran Mansion, a larger, luxury bed and breakfast with a European feel. Stays at both include generous, award-winning breakfasts .

When not strolling around the restored Main Street or indulging in a big country breakfast, check out the art galleries scattered around the area. You can also try a wine tasting at Galena Cellars Winery and Vineyard or if you’re a history buff, visit the Ulysses Grant House, one of several historic sites in the region.

Looking for something a little more active, bring a bike and explore one of the many bike and hiking trails in the beautiful countryside.

In the San Diego Area:

For wine tasting and a lovely, romantic getaway without having to make a trip all the way up to Napa, head just 45 minutes outside of San Diego to Temecula Valley. The area has more than 35 wineries and a historic town with antique stores, hotels, specialty food shops, boutiques, and antique dealers.

But, really it’s about the wine tasting. Make it easy on yourself by having a plan of attack. You can choose to do a self-guided tour or take a bus tour. The Temecula Winegrowers Association has created a collection of tours that group wineries by categories, such as Reds, Whites, Familiar Favorites, Mediterranean Style, and Off-the-Beaten Path Boutiques. Pick which most appeals to you and you know you won’t be disappointed. You can find them as printable PDFs on their site.

No matter which tour you choose, make sure and visit Wilson Creek Winery & Vineyards. It’s one of our insider favorites.

There are many choices for lodging, including small bed and breakfasts, the Inn at Churon Winery for a bigger, grander b&b feel, and the South Coast Winery Resort & Spa for a luxury resort experience with all the extras.

In the Denver Area:

Fall is a superb time to visit Ouray, where the area flora is dressed in its gold-hued best. To add to the experience, there are a number of unique ways to see the fall colors in Ouray, including Jeep tours, scenic drives, hiking trails, hot air balloon rides, and hot tub perches. Be sure to pack a camera – there are many frame-able moments to be had! Check out Box Canyon Lodge and Hot Springs for decent rates.

If your foliage drive takes you to Estes Park, try the Estes Park Massage while you’re there. They happen to be running autumn specials now, including a 120-minute Cinnamon and Nutmeg Scrub with an hour Hot Stone Massage. Ahhhhhh.

Just outside of Steamboat Springs nestled alongside Hot Springs Creek lies one of the most spectacular mineral springs in the world. Imagine relaxing in 104-degree mineral water after hiking or biking trails the nearby in Routt National Forest. Strawberry Park Hot Springs is truly an unforgettable experience. The blending of pure natural beauty and the unique stone masonry of the pools is unlike anything you’ve seen before.

No matter where you go or how you choose to spend your weekend away, we hope you enjoy every minute of it!

Need a babysitter who’s available overnight? Browse sitters on UrbanSitter.

Super Cool After-School Activities You Won’t Want to Miss

We’ve surveyed the afterschool landscape in search of the hippest, hottest, most fun extracurricular activities for your preschool and early elementary-aged children. And we’ve scored! Some of these activities look so thrilling, you’ll want to check out their adult classes, too!

Classes fill quickly, so take your pick and get your kid on the roster ASAP. Remember, even if you can’t swing afternoon carpool, there’s a babysitter out there that’s just right for the job. Log onto UrbanSitter and search by the days and times you need. It’s as easy as that!

In the San Francisco area:


A very groovy play studio in Hayes Valley with great workshops and classes for after school up to age 10, and something throughout the day for kids as young as one.  They offer a range of classes, including toddler play time, language and music lessons,  arts and crafts, yoga and emotional and social skill building.

House of Air

This trampoline gym offers a “Junior Geronimo” program for ages 3-6, giving little ones a safe, supervised jump space and parents an onsite café where they can take advantage of some free time.

In the New York City area:

Trapeze School New York

Really. The school claims children as young as four often have the coordination to attend classes here, but our insider mom recommends 6 as the starting age.

Brooklyn Robot Foundry

A very cool place that blends designing, building and playing, while teaching kids about electricity, gears, motors, and how things work. The DIT (Do It Together) class concludes with the kids bringing home their own robot. Fall classes start in October.

In the Chicago area:

Menomonee Club

Awesome indoor center with activities to spark the interest of any kid, including sports and fitness, cooking, science and engineering labs, arts, music and dance, theater and martial arts. Most are geared toward the TK and up crowd, but they do have a few selections for preschoolers.

Common Threads

After-school cooking and nutrition classes for elementary-aged children, focusing on basic cooking skills, healthy eating and world cuisine. Students are taught by real chefs, and prepare healthy meals to share with their classmates. The school also offers an outdoor gardening class (Spring and Fall) where kids learn to grow and harvest their own healthy eats, and then incorporate them into recipes.

In the Los Angeles area:

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art

The LACMA has several offerings for kids, including an intergenerational art class for kids at least 3 ½  years old and their families. It’s a chance for kids, parents and grandparents to learn about and make art together at the museum.

Los Angeles School of Gymnastics

It’s more than just gymnastics here – although you can’t find a better place to learn the basics and team level sport. Let your kids pick what speaks to them – tumbling, trampoline, karate, All Star Cheer, parent and tot classes, and Rhythmic Gymnastics (think gymnastics blended with dance and ballet with twirling ribbons and hula hoops!).

In the San Diego area:


Drop-in art studio for kids age 2 to 14. Tons for your kids to sink their hands into at this open studio, which includes a VW Bug as a canvas, glass and chalk walls, activity tables, a 20K brick Lego Castle, and a stocked, self-serve craft bar.

Alma Latina Dance Company

For a low monthly price, your child can take unlimited classes, attending a favorite class or two or choosing to try something new each week.  Offerings range from ballet and hip hop to Latin dance and yoga.

If you like our picks, let us know and we’ll keep’em coming with new selections for your kids to mix it up this school year!

UrbanSitter Round-Up: Kid-Friendly Fourth of July Activities

photo by Symic

We’ve gathered the best of the best family activities to help you plan a fun-filled July 4th holiday. There’s something for everyone, whether you’re looking for a fitness run, a pancake breakfast, a carnival or a nostalgic parade. And, of course, fireworks!

Unless otherwise stated, all activities are held Wednesday, July 4th.

San Francisco Bay Area

  • Marin County Fair (June 30-July 4): Classic fair activities, carnival rides, farm events, Chinese acrobats, and fireworks every night of the fair.
  • Berkeley Marina 4th of July: Food, live music and lots of activities for kids, including Adventure Playground, face painting, a giant slide and fireworks. 12 pm – 10 pm.
  • Orinda 4th of July Parade & Events: Events for every age group starting with the annual Pancake Breakfast, flag raising ceremony, fun run, parade, live music, food, games and booths in the park.
  • Jack London Square’s July 4th Family Fun Festival: Festival includes many activities for the whole family, including a giant slide, bounce houses, hands-on arts and crafts, magicians, hula hoops, a petting zoo, jugglers, food and shopping. 11 am – 4 pm.

NYC and Surrounding Area

  • Declare Independence in Prospect Park: Audubon Center and Lefferts Historic House? at the Imagination Playground are offering special events for the holiday. Kids can sign their own replica of the Declaration of Independence.


  • Family Fun Festival in Millennium Park (July 2 – September 2): The Family Fun Tent offers family performances and hands-on activities from 10 am – 3 pm. Free!
  • Navy Pier Fireworks: Spectacular fireworks perfectly synchronized to music on Lake Michigan. Fireworks every Wednesday and Saturday from Memorial Day through Labor Day, with a special July 4th show at 9 pm. View from the dock or onboard an evening cruise.
  • Independence Day Play at Pump It Up: $10/child provides for four hours of climate controlled inflatable fun! Includes a complimentary popsicle for each child. Reserve tickets online in advance.
  • Chicago History Museum 53rd Annual Fourth of 4th of July Celebration: Highlights include patriotic musical performances, a reading of the Declaration of Independence, and a children’s costume parade led by the World’s Tallest Uncle Sam. Free admission to the outdoor event on Uihlein Plaza; free Museum admission for Illinois residents all day. 10 am–12 pm.

Los Angeles

  • Marina Del Rey Fireworks: Burton Chace Park and Fisherman’s Village are ideal spots for watching the firework’s display, shot from a barge across from the Marina’s main channel.

After the festivities are over, wind down with a night off from the kids with the help of UrbanSitter, where you can book babysitters online instantly.

Rainy Day Activities

Rainy days with children can definitely instill a feeling of panic. Gone are thoughts of going to the park or playing in the backyard. So, what’s a mom or dad to do? Here’s a list of places and activities that can ease your mind on cold and wet days — and hopefully keep your little ones from crawling the walls.

And remember, UrbanSitter is always available to rescue you when you just can’t take another game of CandyLand. Book a sitter and let her take the reigns!



Yes, the art is sophisticated, but the colors are also brilliant and the sculptural installations (not all art is on walls?) are amazing for little eyes to behold. It’s a chance to teach your children to respect art (no touching) and other people (no yelling or running), but for those who can handle it, a museum such as this can spark a lifetime love of all things beautiful. Don’t miss the cafe and gift shop on the first floor.


It’s been around for decades, but  this SF institution still offers amazing exhibits specifically for kids. Try the shadow box, echo chamber, or one of the many hands-on activities meant to be touched and tinkered with.

Lawrence Hall of Science

High up in the Berkeley hills, this museum offers much to touch and see, including an insect zoo, a 3-D projection of the planet where actual real-time weather patterns can be observed, and a room full of building blocks, ramps, and vehicles.


toy store

Pair this one with a trip to the food court for lunch and your day is looking up. Of course, after your child man-handles the train table or doll stroller, you may want to buy something. Perhaps a new book, lunch box, or birthday gift? As long as your children are respectful, the staff is pleasant (and sympathetic).

book store

Same as above. There’s usually a train table as well as kid-sized tables and chairs where you can sit and enjoy the latest Olivia or David book with your little one. You can even grab a coffee or treat before (or bribe your child with it in order to leave) at the cafe inside.

pet store

Who doesn’t love gazing at rats, tropical fish, and lizards? If you get lucky, perhaps an employee will let your children “help” feed such a beast. Sometimes, too, there is a “Beauty Salon” on the premises where you can watch the animals get a good scrubbing and blow-out.



Lots of jumpy houses, ride-on cars, arts and crafts, and a little counter that sells snacks: What could be better? Located in Sausalito, Playland is really easy to find and offers just what every kid (and parent) wants, for a fee that’s reasonable.

Studio Grow

With soft ramps, blocks, and tunnels, as well as arts and crafts and open spaces to run and jump, Studio Grow (several locations in the e.bay) is an oasis of cushy fun on a stormy day. Snacks and coffee are available.


In Menlo Park, this is truly a kid wonderland with the usual soft spaces and climbing structures, but also a kid-size stage, art and reading room, and trampoline. Get a $5 printable coupon when you visit the website.


play dough

If you just can’t bring yourself to lug out the umbrellas and rain boots and brave the elements, stay home and entertain your children with a new recipe or project. How about home-made play dough?  Yes, you can buy it, but the process is half the fun…right?


Your little one will love helping with these Apple Stuffin’ Muffins, and when they sneak a little apple sauce along the way, you won’t mind. It’s a great healthy snack for a rainy day.

Top Ten Tahoe Date Ideas

lake tahoeWhen you find yourself on a family trip to Tahoe, after a few days, your “vacation mom” self is not quite the laid-back, relaxed, happy self you’d like to be. Sometimes you just need a break.

Book a sitter and try our Top 10 Tahoe Date Ideas for a much-needed hiatus.

10. Hula-Mud Pie at Sunnyside. Who can resist this precipice of deliciousness: cocoa cookie crust, macadamia nut ice cream, fudge topping, with whipped cream on the very peak. Go for dinner or just pop in for dessert — Sunnyside is beautiful, whatever the season. In summer, sit outside and enjoy an amazing sunset. In winter, the cozy dining room makes for a very romantic dinner for two.

9. For something different, book a daytime date. Get sandwiches at PDQ in Homewood (6890 West Lake Blvd.) and take them up to the summit of Eagle Falls. PDQ sandwiches have a sort of cult-like following, so the line can be long, but it’s worth it! And, the Eagle Falls hike is not strenuous, but offers enough incline to get your heart racing before you settle in to enjoy the view and eat lunch. Park at highway 89 across from Emerald Bay.

8. Your date doesn’t have to be complicated. Head to Fanny Bridge at the crux of Hwy. 89 in Tahoe City. How did it get its name? I’ll let you decide as you hang over the side to check out all the big fish and rushing water. Then, get a table at The Bridgetender (65 West Lake Blvd.) and enjoy one of Tahoe’s best burgers while taking in great apres-ski /rafting people watching.

7. Historic Truckee can be the perfect afternoon escape. Go early enough to peruse the quaint shops and old-town sights. Then, stay for dinner and a drink at Pianeta Restaurant, a stellar Italian restaurant that offers delectable food and a great wine list.

6. It might be obvious, but the Gondola at Heavenly is still one of Tahoe’s gems. Going without the kids can feel like a true escape. Start at the base, where you can shop in Heavenly Village and grab a coffee or lunch before getting on the gondola. Revel in the pure quiet as you climb up and up and take in the view. You can get out half-way up to take photos, and once you get to the very top, enjoy a moment of serenity when you realize just why that long drive to Tahoe is worth it. It’s truly breathtaking.

5. Pretend you’re in college again and head to Chambers Landing Bar and Grill for some punch and people watching. This one definitely works better in Summer, but you can’t beat the throngs of beach bodies, budding romances, and children’s cries of joy when they catch a crab or two with a homemade pole and bait.

4. For some real fun, go someplace where you’re guaranteed not to see anybody under 21 — a casino. The Hyatt Regency in Incline Village  has a great restaurant, the Lone Eagle Grill, where you can dine and enjoy the lake view before heading in to give your luck a try. The casino is actually pretty classy if you can handle the wafts of cigarette smoke and desperation. Craps or slots, you’re guaranteed to leave with at least a good story, if not a windfall.

3. If you’re the active type, rent bicycles at one of the many rental shops dotted along the lake (Olympic, Tahoe Bike & Ski, etc.) and head out for an adventure. You can ride around the whole lake — most likely a 4-6 hour ride for most non-pros. Or, keep it local and ride along West Lake Blvd. or South Shore. Be sure to end with a hearty lunch or picnic in order to connect and bond over your awesome physical achievement.

2. Dinner at Christy Hill is some of Tahoe’s finest. Located in Tahoe City, Christy Hill is a small restaurant (note: make reservations), which makes for a very customized, romantic experience. Recently written up by The New York Times and Bon Appetit, it’s sure to meet (or exceed) your standards. And a traditional date can sometimes be the best kind.

1. How about this for a change-up? Tell your sitter to take the children OUT of the house or hotel room and take advantage of being home alone. A sitter can easily haul everybody down to the beach and grab an early dinner at West Side Pizza or Rosie’s. Don’t forget to give her a specific time to be home. Meanwhile, you and your hubby can have a cocktail, enjoy each other’s company while cooking, or even take a walk or watch a movie. There are real joys in being somewhere familiar without the interruption of the kids’ demands.

Hit the slopes! UrbanSitter is now in Tahoe and Reno

lake tahoeWinter has finally arrived here in the Bay Area…in January! It’s time to pack the kids in the AWD and head to Tahoe or Reno for fun in the snow!

Luckily, UrbanSitter has just opened up in the Lake Tahoe area with over 40 local babysitters, many of whom are students at nearby colleges.

Book a sitter and take off for a full day of “adults-only” skiing or a romantic evening out. Here are a few ideas that will get you snowsuited up and ready for fresh powder:

  • Liftopia has great deals on lift tickets and kids packages to lure you into the powder.
  • KidZone Museum in Truckee has a jungle gym and plenty of interactive activities to keep the kids entertained while learning.
  • Sip fine wines at Uncorked in Tahoe City’s charming Cobblestone Center, then catch a movie at the theater.


Top 10 Tips: Visiting Sonoma with the Kids

Wine country vacation WITH the kids? Yes, it can be done! Here are UrbanSitter’s top 10 travel tips for visiting California’s beautiful Sonoma Valley with the family.

1. On the way into town, visit Traintown with the kids. Located one mile south of the Plaza in Sonoma, Traintown features a quarter-scale railroad. Each train ride lasts 20 minutes and makes a stop in Lakeview, a miniature town with petting zoo.

2. Check into The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, a luxurious yet kid-friendly hotel with large rooms and mini suites, kid menus, and an outdoor swimming pool. Or, try the moderately priced Best Western Sonoma Valley Inn, which also has a pool and cribs by request.

3. Hire a babysitter for the afternoon and head out to taste fabulous wines at tucked away vineyards: Gundlach Bundschu and Bartholomew Park.

4. Then, indulge in an early dinner at The Girl and the Fig near the Sonoma Square. Taste from an award-winning wine list, seasonal local menu, and relax outdoors on the patio.

5. Pack lots of snacks and equally fun beverages for the kids to enjoy (juice boxes). If you run out, the historic Dry Creek General Store is a fun place to stock up.

6. If bringing the kids along to a winery, choose a kid-friendly location with lots of activities. At Francis Ford Coppola Winery, kids can check out the movie memorabilia, play bocce ball, or even swim at the pool.

7. Sneak in a little education. That’s right, wine country is a wonderful place for kids to learn about farming. Just take them for a ride on the Benziger Family Winery’s vineyard tractor-powered tram to learn about what it means to be green.

8. Grab a set of shatterproof recyclable wine glasses to ward off potential accidents and spills at your picnic.

9. Go on a safari! Believe it or not, wine country is also home to an African safari park called Safari West with roaming cheetahs, zebras, giraffes and more! You and the kids can observe safely from your open-hatch 4×4.

10. Head outdoors for a hike at Shiloh Ranch Park just off of 101. The easy, 3.7-mile loop trail is flat and not very crowded, plus there are picnic areas, restrooms and parking.

Did we mention UrbanSitter is now in Sonoma and Napa?  It’s easier than ever to find & book a sitter you trust — even for a vacation in wine country!