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5 things to do in the Bay Area this weekend

Presidio Community Day & Grand Opening
The opening of the Presidio Welcome Center is the reason behind an all-day extravaganza of performances, ranger-led walks and family fun activities. The full slate of performers includes lion dancers and taiko drummers, with food trucks on hand. Under construction for a few years, the renovated former guard house dates to 1900, and will include interactive exhibits and information on the Presidio. Saturday, 2/25, 10am-4pm.

Hayao Miyazaki-inspired art show
Famed Japanese filmmaker and animator Hayao Miyazaki is the mastermind behind beloved animated films such as My Neighbor Totoro, Ponyo and Spirited Away, inspiring a generation of artists and animators. Over 50 artists have contributed works for an exhibit in honor Miyazaki, ranging from prints to sculptures and paintings. Dress as your favorite Miyazaki character, and remember Saturday is the last day. Saturday, 2/25, Spoke Art, 816 Sutter Street, SF.

Mardi Gras Second Line Parade
If you can’t make it to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, you can get a tiny taste of the annual Crescent City party buffet in North Beach. Hurricanes, cajun fare and a second line band (North Beach Brass Band) marching through the streets and Washington Square Park from North Star Cafe to Tupelo’s is all part of the festivities. Saturday, 2/25, 2pm.

Lucha Libre Art Show
No wrestling is scheduled at this Lucha Libre-inspired art show, though maybe by the end of the night you’ll get a few art geeks to don their masks for a tussle. 30+ artists will have their works on display, and free drinks and music. Saturday, 2/25, 6-9pm, Wonderland SF, 2929 24th St.

Oscar Parties Everywhere
It’s the Academy Awards time and Oscar parties are happening all over the Bay Area. The Black Cat, Novela, the Balboa Theater, and The Knockout are a just a few venues hosting Oscar soirees. Jimmy Kimmel is this year’s emcee, so maybe a few laughs, along with probably lots of politically wrought thank you speeches. Sunday, 2/26, various times.

5 things to do in the Bay Area this weekend

Lunar New Year Lion Dancing
Chinese New Year comes early this year. And with a break in our local monsoon, it’s a great time to get out and celebrate this year of the chicken with a visit to your local library. That’s right, SF librarians will be doing the funky chicken dance through the nonfiction aisles. Okay, that’s only after closing (you have no idea what goes on after storytime). Like every year at this time, library branches all over the city play host to Chinese lion dance and martial arts performances. It’s yet another only-in-SF happenings. The first dance kicks off at the Main Library at 10:30am on Saturday, then hits the other 16 locations over the weekend and following Saturday, 1/21. Check SFPL for schedules.

SF Sketchfest
The question is, are San Franciscans funny? Doesn’t matter, since the two-week laughathon known as SF Sketchfest brings in boatloads of talented funny people to yuck it up in a long and impressive list of events in every format imaginable: Improv, sketch comedy, radio/talk shows, film/tv events, musical comedy, variety, stand-up. Local comediennes like Dhaya Lakshminaranayan will appear as well as some of the funniest people on the planet (Christopher Guest, Fred Willard), along with a slew of emerging comics. The fest kicks off Thursday, 1/12, with scheduled events all throughout the city.

FOG Design + Art 2017
Check out the contemporary art at Fort Mason where 45 galleries from around the world assemble this weekend for an annual show in support of SFMOMA’s educational programs and statewide exhibitions. A number of forums and talks are included in each day of the 4-day fest with leading Bay Area artists and designers. Thursday – Sunday, 1/12-15.

Free National Park Day
For MLK Day, every National Park in the country is free to enter, which of course includes the national parks in the Bay Area, such as Muir Woods and Alcatraz. For early risers, you can join a sunrise tour of Muir Woods on Sunday, 1/15, at 7:30.

SFJAZZ Center Anniversary Celebration
In celebration of its 5-year anniversary, SFJAZZ Center opens its doors for an MLK Day family-friendly open house. Choose one of three tour times, which includes a performance in the Miner Auditorium from the SFJAZZ High School All-Stars Big Band, and the Jazz Mafia Brass Band. Monday, 1/16.

5 ways to celebrate Christmas in the Bay Area this holiday season

Christmas time is here! While we may not have one-horse open sleighs through snow-covered lanes, the Bay Area offers plenty of things to do and see to get in the holiday spirit and celebrate the season. So don your gay apparel and venture out for a slice of Christmas Norcal style.

Union Square
Union Square in downtown is holiday central in San Francisco each year, with a 40-foot Christmas tree, an ice rink, random carolers and a café serving up hot cocoa and coffee. Macy’s and the other stores that surround the block have their windows festooned in the best displays of the season, while hotels have their own elaborate lobby displays, like the Westin St. Francis 12-foot-tall enchanted sugar castle. For the past several years, two blocks of nearby Stockton Street have been blocked off for pedestrians with food vendors, live performances, appearances by the Macy’s SPCA window puppies, amongst other attractions.

Christmas in the Park
Not to be overlooked by its neighbor to the north, San Jose’s downtown Cesar de Chavez Plaza park has a holiday attraction of its own. Walk through a field of Christmas trees sponsored and trimmed by local organizations as a path winds past animatronic dioramas, such as elves busy in their workshop. Visit with Santa in his house, or catch one of the full schedule of performances on the stage next to the 40-foot tree. Ice skate at a rink across the street, then warm up with the insanely decadent special hot chocolate.

Fantasy of Lights
Down south in Los Gatos, Vasona Park is decked out each December in a panoply of lights. Something of a Christmas tradition for folks in these parts, drive through the very large county park past 50-plus light displays with music accompanying through your car radio. Stop for hot chocolate and carolers at the end of the drive. The event has become a bit of a victim of its popularity, so you’ll need to buy tickets ahead of time and be patient as you wait for the line of cars to move through.

24 Holidays on 24th
Noe Valley’s merchants have teamed up to offer a full month of holiday events on and around 24th Street. Check their schedule for specific events, but you can see live reindeer, listen to live music, visit with Santa or enjoy a hayride. And of course, you know, shop.

Christmas Tree Farms
I’m not talking about the parking lot variety near the entrance at Home Depot. Whether or not you’re in the market for a tree, head to the Santa Cruz mountains or the wilds of Marin for some fresh pine-scented air and a gulp of Christmas cheer. Many of these farms host various activities and a chance to meet Santa, as well as bonfires, hot cider and a world far removed from concrete and shopping malls.

Lick Observatory and the best show in the Bay Area

Lick Observatory atop Mt. Hamilton east of San Jose

I was going to suggest driving up to Lick Observatory to watch the Perseids meteor shower, but I saw they’re not doing anything special for the event, and then realized it’s best to just go to your nearest unclouded mountain for a good view. But this brought up the subject of a post I’ve wanted to do for a while: The Lick Observatory. If you don’t know, Lick Observatory is pretty significant in the world of astronomy, starting with this fact: world’s first permanently occupied mountain-top observatory. Continue reading Lick Observatory and the best show in the Bay Area